Friday, 30 August 2013

RIP Liberal Democrats

Surely the final demise of any credibility of the Liberal Democrats is their stance on Syria. Their one remaining moral high ground was the memory of opposition to the war in Iraq. Now, however, their metamorphosis into a right wing party of absence of analysis is demonstrated in not asking what an attack on Syria would actually achieve. This is a party that now attacks the poor in this country and would escalate conflict abroad. We who voted for them were duped: the manifesto was rapidly dumped and much of it never intended anyway, and now the right wing merger with the Tory leadership has become complete.

Ed Miliband, subject to whispering and attacks from former Blairite types, has come out of this well after a dodgy start. The authority of the coalition government is crumbling. We need an election soon and to change the leadership, and refresh the body politic.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Core Beliefs?

Justin Welby as Archbishop of Canterbury seems to be doing some creative fence-sitting in his new role. According to the Yorkshire Post (which obviously sees a need to report this) he has said, in Mexico:

"On one side is the steep fall into an absence of any core beliefs, a chasm where we lose touch with God, and thus we rely only on ourselves and our own message.

"On the other side there is a vast fall into a ravine of intolerance and cruel exclusion. It is for those who claim all truth, and exclude any who question."

The quotation is accurate enough if in reversed order and stripped of context but ought to be read as given:

It is a dangerous place, a narrow path we walk as Anglicans at present. On one side is the steep fall into an absence of any core beliefs, a chasm where we lose touch with God, and thus we rely only on ourselves and our own message. On the other side there is a vast fall into a ravine of intolerance and cruel exclusion. It is for those who claim all truth, and exclude any who question. When we fall into this place, we lose touch with human beings and create a small church, or rather many small churches – divided, ineffective in serving the poor, the hungry and the suffering, incapable of living with each other, and incomprehensible to those outside the church.

We struggle with each other at a time when the Anglican Communion's great vocation as bridge builder is more needed than ever.

The context is the Anglican Communion, and the reference to cruel exclusion could be a reference to some African Anglican Churches. The first danger then of no core beliefs might be a reference to Western Anglicans. In Mexico he was giving a sermon on a certain Jeremy Taylor, who was ducking and weaving during Cromwell's time, and who apparently promoted the notion of tolerance. According to the Archbishop, Taylor had said:

"It is unnatural and unreasonable to persecute disagreeing opinions: ... you may as well cure the colic by brushing another man's clothes. Force in matters of opinion can do no good, but is very apt to do hurt..."

The tolerance Taylor advocated was lost in the context of Presbyterians in the north of Ireland when in fact he forced the Restoration to the Anglican Church (and forced Roman Catholics to attend too).
The emphasis of this Archbishop seems to be on those current appalling African Churches and other intolerant institutional expressions. But, taking what looks like an aside, why should an absence of core beliefs be the same as losing touch with God?

Walking in the Light, which he commends, is also a Quaker concept. And whilst Quakers might have core actions, they arguably no longer have core beliefs. If one has a notion of transcendence, or transcendent values, then these are bound to be situational and reflective and of some considerable potential breadth.

So far Justin Welby is tolerated himself for being a clearer talker than his strained 'turncoat' predecessor, but it seems to me it's the same codewords and nods and winks, fence sitting and the like. His greater problem faced is Anglican irrelevance but that is not due to an absence of core beliefs but something that in some places produces a Church of enormous arrogance and cruelty and in another place a Church that cannot adapt. Perhaps the Anglican one that has (not, actually) lost its core beliefs in the United States is the one that is most coherent and tolerant. It just was never that large at its beginning. It is noticable that in the USA, if not in Britain, the Unitarian Universalist Association is maintaining slow growth, and it deliberately does not subscribe to core beliefs.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Cameron inspired by Jesus (in Coalition)

Peter Levite: Tell me, Mr Cameron, on your tour of soft-interviewing local radio stations: you're an active member of the Church of England, so how do you understand the gospel of Christianity?
David Cameron, Prime Minister: Well it is a source of morals and life, among others. I'd admit that for me it's a bit like local radio reception in some places.
Peter Levite: It's digital at least on the Internet Mr Cameron and our Radio Chatterbox can be received all around the world. You've starved the BBC and so it's unlikely local radio will get to Freeview, satellite and other non-hissy platforms. So what about your take on the Sermon on the Mount?
David Cameron: Yes, I recommend hill walking.
Peter Levite: There's the Sermon on the Plain.
David Cameron: Come down again or have a picnic.
Peter Levite: I mean, do you agree with him?
David Cameron: I agree with Nick. He's been on the plain, the plain in Spain and I think he's got it.
Peter Levite: What has he got?
David Cameron: Tory policies. He's a good Tory, is Nick Clegg - why the people voted for him.
Peter Levite: I thought people regarded the party - his Liberal Democrat party - as anti-Tory, and an alternative to Labour that had ignored its core vote. Students voted for him, people in the inner city voted for him, people who came first perhaps in the eyes of Jesus - that chap you worship through never mind agree with.
David Cameron: Well, I think between the end of the voting and the beginning of forming the government, the Liberal Democrats switched between being for one set of voters and then being for another set. So it's as if Jesus was invited into Pontius Pilate's government and was asked to form a coalition.
Peter Levite: That or presumably having himself crucified.
David Cameron: That comes later for Nick Clegg. Unless he does the decent and final thing and join the Tory party. He's so obviously one of us.
Peter Levite: Like Jesus becoming a Roman citizen and in the ruling coalition.
David Cameron: Paul was a Roman citizen.
Peter Levite: Quite, and we know the changes there. But back to this Jesus chap and what about the camel and the eye of the needle?
David Cameron: Well, in order to get the economy going we'd introduce investment in infrastructure that widens the eye of the needle.
Peter Levite: To what size?
David Cameron: Roughly the dimensions of a camel.
Peter Levite: One lump or two?
David Cameron: Two lumps - the full high speed thing.
Peter Levite: So what would Jesus do?
David Cameron: He doesn't need a camel train - he'd walk on water.
Peter Levite: I mean in terms of social policy and economics. Think of the new Pope and his first statements.
David Cameron: I'm sure that, in government, Jesus would take benefits away from the poor and force them to face up to the existence of unemployment. The disabled really ought to do what Jesus did say - "Get up and walk." The poor are always with us, so we have to reduce the cost of their burden on others. The lower paid ought to be paid less too, because then they might die earlier and be less of a charge on the pension system, which we can also raise in age away from the poor. And just as Nick is fully on board, so would Jesus be. I mean, once the money changers are back trading, we can sell them off and they'd spread out from the temple.
Peter Levite: And so who is your neighbour, Mr Cameron?
David Cameron: I've a few good neighbours off to court presently defending themselves.
Peter Levite: You really do have bad reception. I mean in the sense as in the parable.
David Cameron: Well the good lady has answered that.
Peter Levite: Mary the mother of Jesus?
David Cameron: No, no. Margaret Thatcher. Remember, she said the guy had to have the money in his wallet to start with before he could give it to the Samaritan. And so I'm all in favour of charity, though if food banks are going to give to the poor we might have to calculate a reduction in benefits. We can't have people living for nothing.
Peter Levite: You mention her: not even Margaret Thatcher or John Major has stooped as low and as brutal as you when it has come to capitalism and social divisions. Major wrecked the railways but none of them touched the Post Office; but you will. You really have the poorer and the workless downtrodden. You and the Liberal Democrats.
David Cameron: Well, as I say, they'll be crucified but the Conservatives will no doubt go on for hundreds of years like the Romans. Oh and I've a telephone number for people to call if they want rid of people speaking other languages like the Samaritan did.
Peter Levite: I think we'll have the weather.
George Hudson: Here at the approaches to Manchester Piccadilly it is pissing down on the poor, the students, and anyone else in these urban parts, but the outer suburbs are doing well, particularly into Cheshire where the footballers' wives live. As for where you are, no chance. Ice age.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

A. Frame Reader Cracks It

Same-Sex Marriage Is Still Naughty; And It’s Getting Naughtier Every Day

Written by: Rev. Dr. A. Frame Reader
With nothing else to do

Unexpectedly people are saying "Ah it's all right, really," about same-sex marriage which, with the overwhelming flood of changed public opinion, has put us traditional Christians into step aside mode now.

Don't believe it for a minute. It's all been a bait-and-switch set of tactics, of wanting more and more. The slippery slope has been well-lubricated with a water-based gel, so the advocates slip it in and slip it out all pleasurably from civil partnerships to whatever next, and where will it orgasm? Marrying gays in church by openly gay ministers?

Let's face it: the liturgists are doing it with their pens, poking away with their splashes of reproductive ink in rainbow colours. The rest of us get confined to turning the pages to short conscience clauses. Conscience clauses? I'm not getting into bed with this one.

When did these advocates of bedtime at churchtime ever deliver a cogent argument, other than the consensual will of the people like the lawyers do? I've been an advocate of long, windy and verbose arguments all my life, and no one pays any attention to them, while others have made demands based on the impermissability of practical wants and needs made symbolic and sacred. So instead of reading to the end of what I put, people get together for an orgy of institutional policy-making based on their own institutionalised polyamorous ethic of everyone loving each other and then having services with dogs and cats being blessed. Struth. The arguments I have put, and continue to put, meanwhile, remain unaddressed.

And because the arguments have been unaddressed, they also remain potentially open to even longer repersuasive ordering. So, in response, we need to keep banging away with the same argument against the heap of unsubstantiated claims of sexual abuse hurled at us. In other words, she the Church needs to stay where she is and become receptive again to our powerful thrust.

1. Scripture

Actually, forceful assertion unaccompanied by convincing argument has proved to be the modus operandi for the advocates of change. They are the intellectual rapists in contrast to the Bible. Like a good sexual advice manual, the Bible is suffused with a rich, vast, and interconnected weave of heterosexual marriage imagery, and give-us-some-of-that explicit discussion, much of it electrically charged (AC-DC) theologically. That's on top of all the stuff about fathers handing over daughters to gang rape, of course, because of what the brother did, which you get at the back of the manual. Who said anything about consent?

But do the advocates of change follow the restrictions of the Bible? Do they give a toss? Well, their ability to give a toss would improve if they could use the Bible as a sexual manual filled with all of its deep theological implications. No, rather, and here let me be intellectual: they are advocates of historical discontinuities and cultural relativism. To be in their briefs: it means for them the Bible is irrelevant about sex and couplings because it is shaped by cultural outlooks and social practices that are distant from us and from our understandings. This is the historico-anthropological non-argument argument put to us by those on the other side of the bed.

How do they make their non-arguments (when contrasted with my arguments)? One can engage in historical word studies that purport to relocate the meaning used in the Bible into contexts that alter word referents from apparent contemporary meanings. So, for instance, porn in the Bible no longer refers to just gay porn but blokes banging away uncontrollably in the Greek temples. You can do detailed surveys of the past to show how alien their culture is to ours. One can say ah we agree about today much better because we know about today and the past is another cuntry.

Now see how we can get back in to what is our rightful tube of truth. This is nothing but speculumism. You put the instrument in and when you open it up it's no longer in the imagination for the tongue but the source of the received theology of the Word. We go in forwards and find the thinnest of evidence, if any, knowing nothing of who has been there before as in the "authors" of the Bible, the "cultures" grown in there and how people "think" or talk when the tongue is busy - and that's about people we do know! The cunnilingus of biblical anthropology is a task fraught with irresolvable difficulties, and such confined wordplay is wildly misleading. She doesn't know what you are saying. I could go on and indeed I go on and on. And notice the basis of this is deeply, theologically, heterosexualist, although it concedes a bit of the lesbian tongue. And so I have, in fewer and shorter words than I might, and did in the original, proven the argument against the same-sex issue on the basis of human discontinuities, especially those purportedly evident in the biblical text, as methodologically bogus. Well done me.

Ah, but have they not argued on behalf of profound continuities not discontinuities in human sexual orientation? Yes indeed they have. It's a sort of runny, sticky biology, culture-cum-natural theology. Lots of gays there were, but how this conviction lines up with scriptural-cultural relativism is not clear to me as I start to tie myself in some BDSM ropes and knots. Loosen up will you? I suppose, unlike the master with his whips, today we are more compassionate, more open, just, and the rest is sexual abuse in Roman Catholic vestries and schools. We've cum a long way since the "authors" of Leviticus or Paul, whoever they were according to those who've cum furthest.

OK, maybe not all of them. I'm sort of losing my thread here, as my argument gets a bit queer - I don't know what I am on about. Queer Theology is different from public consensus and so isn't part of my argument that we are being overridden by public consensus when it comes to the absence of argument as in Queer Theology. But it is a deeply anarchic moral project as I discuss it incoherently set against most Scriptural arguments made on behalf of same-sexuality, if there are any, what, producing an altogether alternative path from that of those pressing for same-sex marriage. What?

What about the bisexuals? Hah! They can hardly be called stable along the lines of the present consensualism when it comes to having sex and sexual relations. One hop and no sin, one hop and sinning - man to woman, man to man, woman to man, woman to woman. What's going on and how can we join in?

In any case, the claims of the historical relativists are simply unsupported by any commonly accepted rhythm method. There is no pregnant argument offered. Tough, because in Anglicanism we are (or were) agreed that Scripture is the prophylactic rule and ultimate standard of faith, unaddressed by the risky same-sex advocates in any common fashion, if in any fashion at all. Oh yes they offer theories (not arguments, remember, unlike me), which range from the political text to some ascetic translations of pneumatic character - that is putting in cold instruments and trying to blow her up with hot breath. Don't be fooled: the exegetical job simply has not been done by advocates of the water container and long tube. On yer knees, luv.

2. Science

Ah, science they say, contrasted with biblical superstition, but what has "science" ever done for us? Scientific studies about sexuality have in fact offered little of solid or commonly accepted evidence for single theories. Genetics? Zilch. Psychological theories, obviously, are wildly divergent and now politically unpopular. Freud had you on his couch all right. Scientists admit that social location is deeply important. As one adolescent psychiatrist (aged 14) told me, "We are in the scientific Dark Ages" on this topic, but you wouldn't think so from the consensualists.

And social science is equally up the stick. We just don't know any more, even about families. Who brings up children the best? Two lagers and a packet of crisps.

The notion that "science shows us" is, frankly, ludicrous at this point. But we can ask, in getting back to the Bible instead, "how can we responsibly make sense of the scientific data we do have within a Christian framework?". That question has yet to be posed, although I have just posed it, let alone answered, and I don't propose to answer it despite proposing it, although I might.

3. Philosophy

When it cums to same-sexuality, including same-sex marriage, there are no doubt many informing philosophies at work. I don't know what they are so I will use words like historical-cultural relativism and stable sexual human nature and continue to repeat myself via mentioning Queer theory's constructivism as people develop philosophies of life.

Let me invent "benign individualism" to be joined with the religious gloss of "therapeutic deism". Kant was a kant as well all know. You can see it's all a bit Unitarian and so we kan rule out that sin-denying notion of permitting, encouraging, and protecting this affirmation as it transmutes into politics. Anybody can be anything they want to be as long as it "doesn't hurt anybody else". Typical Unitarianism - a minimalist mixed-dregs of a pot-pourri of inherited cultural-political attitudes. But there it is on Facebook and YouTube. Watch me play the guitar (poorly)! See how I can say the most silly things and get away with it! Listen to my poetry (please)! Come to a Unitarian service - what do they do (like the lesbian question)? Notice the funny things I'm doing with my body!

This is my argument to knock down the Facebook-riddled consensualists. Cum on!

Of course, we can always turn the computer switch off but then who would read my extended theological drivel? My 8 year-old might, which would be better than peddling his signature on eBay and pretending he was Winston Churchill, the nodding insurance dog. Ah yes.

What happens when it comes to paedophilia then? Our society might reject it but not the previous ones. Put that in your consensualist mouth and smoke it. We can rightly ask: what age is appropriate for "reason" or "responsible" freedom of sexual self-expression? What makes "sex" "consensual"? Where is this argument taking me? Well, at some point there is a pair of clamps and a cut-off: the bottom line or thereabouts is that, however much self-expression is valued, all societies impose order on these matters. Where does the prevention of the super-soprano adult cum from? Some larger meta-philosophy?

It's not from consensualism. It's not what is driven by largely commercial dynamics on t'interweb (just how far can I extend this verbose drivel?). It's a self-lubricated slippery slope defined by a set of socially formed and peer-received shapes like pears and cucumbers. As I waffle on, this diatribe weakens philosophy's claims to integrity from the ground up to approximately the crotch. So-called "progressive" sexual claims are located there: in the cravenly toadying to the potentates of Capital.

I am being slightly facetious in my last observation. But only slightly. Just a little bit. Teensy weensy. About that much. No, smaller. It's to do with formation, as Scripture confirms, where Eli does not escape the judgment God brings upon his sons! And Eli is like the market place, t'interweb style. It's so easy to download too, just pressing the over-eighteen button, except for Eli's sons that is.

"I am a gay man. I love another man. I want to be married to this other man. Gay marriage doesn't hurt anybody." Oh really? Who says? How do we know? Back to science and social science: we don't! Money then. Charge our young people and their sexual spokespersons with being patsies of "the Man"; here more than anywhere else I would frankly agree.

Isaiah (not the one in the Bible) Berlin (not the city) can be mentioned here, but to what relevance I've no real idea. "Philosophy" (more inverted commas) involved here, I've tried to argue, isn't philosophy but suspiciously a front for already embedded interests, which have seemingly conspired with some of the most involuted of human motives. Ideas have been marginalised, and in fact have slipped out the back door altogether, as would be with gay sex once complete.

4. A Christian Understanding of Sexuality

First, we might ask, is there a "Christian" perspective here? We have disagreements about scriptural exegesis, the thinness of science, and the contestability of informing philosophies. Given such sweeping statements, should we not then just leave it all to random views and the mysterious manipulations of the levers of social power? And I've not mentioned that the begetting of children is dismissed as but one outdated social idiosyncrasy. So I will.

As we have seen, it's appropriate to exit and enter from the other end. Entering that way, is it not an idea after Zygmunt Bauman to begin with death? Aren't kids a way to achieve immortality, and to put Christianity into that matrix (bit of jargon there) despite having its own views of immortality? But, modern man says, immortality in the West has become now, of pleasure, self-expression, and so on. Such realised eschatology was never part of Christian theology, after all. It leads to sexual immediate gratification. Simply take your pick. Open the box. Spread your legs. Take the money. And social dynamics will see to it that one is more pickable than the other.

Perhaps this overall sense of arbitrariness is true. Or, maybe it isn't. How many more words can I add? It is difficult for me to know how to prove it one way or another, as I keep getting lost and suffering from a combination of intellectual constipation and verbose diarrhoea.

To be fair, perhaps the distinctiveness of the traditional Christian outlook on sexuality must be evaluated on its own terms of expression, hopefully clear. Indeed it must. It is my conviction that its persuasiveness will be compelling, separate from any argument. It will certainly be far more compelling than the flaccid alternatives that we have been told are the given future of our race. After all, you can't have a future of our race with a soft knob. Adam was erect when he entered Eve and not Steve.

Let me be clear: for Christians have never understood their necessary encounter with mortality as resolved through procreation as an escape or genetic necessity. No indeed. Just the opposite in fact. Procreation, given within the primordial shape of our humanness, leads us more fully into the reality of mortality and into its divine meaning and outcome. Yes, this benefits from clear expression. You see, to be a mortal human being is to be born to parents, and to die in the wake of the struggle for familial generativity.

But it is how one does this that determines the character of a life. Personally, I prefer to be on top.

So, we are like the creatures that die to regenerate. We are as the butterfly or Doctor Who, or is it Jesus? Oh for the woman who dies in childbirth and brings the suffering into one timeslot! Is this not being like Jesus on the cross, dying to give life, and creating immortality, or as Doctor Who when time is up? Tell that to the gay man, who can't do it, or the lesbian who shouldn't. Tell that to the heterosexual male, who can't do it either, or the heterosexual woman, who goes from legitimised penile penetration to extraction of the child. Yes, this is the creation, the fall, the pain, the suffering, the joy, the change from Matt Smith to Peter Capaldi, and it is all to do with heterosexual marriage but not sure how that quite fits in. But, gosh I surprise myself, linking sexual coupling and the body of that single bloke Jesus, crucified and risen, and Peter Capaldi regenerate (who is married, I believe).

See, I told you I could counter all this consensualism and individualism. It's all there in the good book. You can see where the Tardis has landed. It was there when Peter Capaldi was Roman. It is provable textually in biblical and traditional terms, and synthetic and coherent of Scriptural and ecclesial realities over the centuries and just a journey away. It has made sense, not just of the world, for this or that people in this or that time, thanks to the Time Lords, but it has done so for a "catholic" range of life, and in doing so has made sense of the Christian Gospel in book and in Churchill, ah yes.

It's yes to heterosexual marriage, then, with the demand for fidelity and stability, the begetting and raising of children, the responsibilities of husbands and wives, and of parents for their children, and so on blah di blah. They permit suffering: the suffering of infidelities, abandonments, childless marriages, divorce, and the rest and Who Knows Where the Time Goes? Sandy Denny did.

But now I am going to get clever. Read slowly. This heterosexual framework can contain elements that gay advocates early in the movement sought: civil protections of various kinds. But not when marriage is extended, not when "procreation", "suffering", and "love" is removed. Love is confined here of course. None of this can be reconstituted in homosexual relationships, as if it some dried potato in a bag. Not when you need a double-thick condom and substitute it with anal suffering. It is not part of Genesis to Revelation after all. Gays can do friendship if they want, but it doesn't extend to sexual attraction and engagement, and procreation, as from Genesis to Revelation.

How can I keep this going? Tell an old Vaudeville joke: What's red, hangs on a wall and whistles when you squeeze it? The answer is: "a herring". It's like the racist joke, isn't it, where a dog can be born in a stable but it doesn't turn it into a horse, especially when there is no room at the inn.

Members of the same sex can and indeed do sleep with each other (sexually); can and do indeed love each other. The imprecisions and porousness of experiential logic allow for all this. What? But the concluding qualifier is possible to assert only as a form of enforced trickery. Yes it's not Adam and Steve but Adam and Eve and you may laugh but we are born of a mother and father, suffer being unable to choose our parents, and enter into the AC-DC of life within the grace of God.

Keep going, keep going. Can I get Augustine in? Hah, only if it's a threesome. He said marriage was about begetting children, faith, and the sacrament, and in that order. Certainly makes an interesting Sunday morning! "Before Holy Communion, Mattins is replaced by Mrs G. giving birth. If she can die during childbirth, this will be all the better. Now I shall read the Banns." We all come from Adam and Eve, though what does science know when it says there was never a defined moment of dual-parented human birth, but an evolutionary slippage from more ape to more human? I bet they didn't bugger each other? Oh, apparently they did. I hate bonobos. But get married and it's a husband and wife, suffering in love for their generation and mortal fate, that reflects a "shadow" or figure of God's act in creating us and redeeming us. But when a gay person stands in front of a mirror, there is no one there, not even a shadow.

There we are. I've said it. I could and indeed do go on and on with this. I have given a coherent defence of Christianity. It is natural law and scripturally demanded. It's a jigsaw that fits, the male bit being surrounded by the female bit when he's got a wooden one. It's not the arbitrariness of science, social science and the consensual basis of law, all of which represent nothing.

For a different perspective, take it from the child's view, that he should come from a suffering mother and father. In contrast, the civil permission of same-sex marriage, with all the protections it offers for child-conception, bearing, and parenting by same-sex partners, must represent an assault on the "rights" of children of the deepest theological and other kinds. And from a Christian perspective, this assault must be resisted with all our vigour, even after we've lost.

This is a strong conclusion. Traditional Christians cannot and must not consign themselves to an easy acceptance of the shifting status quo on same-sex marriage like they did on slavery in the 1500s only to leave it to the 1800s for evangelicals to resist. Yes, I can retell history to suit. I know it is a conclusion but I cannot stop introducing more new material as it enters my head and perhaps I should invest in a word processor. Oops I've reached the word limit. I must get it extended.