Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Larkin About

Larking about for potential use in the Hull Unitarian Magazine, and from newly re-examined archives, these are new pages on my website:

https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/28120070/pluralist/learning/relthink/beardleaflet.html
Charles Beard's views - a progressive theologian and historian.

https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/28120070/pluralist/learning/relthink/welcoming.html
Speeches to welcome Rev. Perris to the Hull Unitarian Church in 1883 (same year as Beard's Reformation book).

https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/28120070/pluralist/learning/relthink/wicksteedleaflet.html
Philip Henry Wicksteed's views.

https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/28120070/pluralist/learning/business/wicksteedeconomics.html
I don't think Wicksteed did very well explaining Marginal Utility in economics.

https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/28120070/pluralist/learning/relthink/hullreligious1909.html
The so-called Marcus Faithful seems to use a long tongue when impressed by Whitaker's preaching.

https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/28120070/pluralist/learning/relthink/whitakergrace.html
And the above with this shows Whitaker to be quite conservative (others had become more progressive than this - indeed, look at Charles Beard so much earlier).

And

For a bit of fun, these 'poems' were bashed out on Facebook after my friends and I went and ate at Larkins in Newland Avenue, Hull. It uses the poet's name but makes no reference to him at all. So I have been Larkin about, with a little revision to the first and second 'poems':

They fuck you up
Those meals you had
But not these eaten
From this pad.


Light rays darkly downly from the high
Custards of lights over filled up chairs
That face each other, coloured yellow same.
Through open vistas, the pubbing area shares
A larger fun doubting of knaves and folks
With noises given like chatting. See menus read
And devices viewed. Hours chalked,
And all the food ones have come from the dead.


I work part day, and get rat-arsed at night.
Waking at five to World Service bare.
In time the car runs, its beams give light,
And then I see what’s really working, there:
Unending death, a half day plus going,
Since they cut the hours down: but then
And now and here I do myself die
Amid warehousing: yet the dread
Of retail, and serve the dead,
Montages characters stale, to mortify.

This latter nonsense refers to a friend who works early hours but, like so many under this despicable government's economics policy, has had his hours cut.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Canadian Response Suggestion

All right. I'll do one.

The Congregatio pro Doctrina Fidei Anglicano - oops there's no such thing, yes there is - it's the
Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order (IASCUFO): Yes.

This body urges the Canadian Anglicans not to change its Canon 21 and allow approval of same sex marriages.

I know it's an old joke I've made before, but the Canadian response should be based on the initials of the CDFA. No, not CDFA. IASCUFO.

I ASC U FO - I ask you fuck off.

The point being there is no doctrinal body for Anglicanism as there is no Anglican worldwide Church. But we'll leave this to them. Nevertheless, time to catch up with reality, time to be pastoral even, make a difference.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Talk and Action: U Turning U Turns

Apparently an ICM poll puts the Liberal Democrats at a 'high' of 14%, this since their talk that criticises the Conservatives. Tim Farron is a left-leaning Liberal Democrat and he might pick up the pieces should the Lib Dems do the decent thing and kick out Nick Clegg (or the electorate in Sheffield - one of his earliest betrayals - do it for them).

The argument surely is not what the Liberal Democrats say, but what they do. Tim Farron and the bunch of them have just voted to keep the Bedroom Tax. Enough done, enough said.

Some might wonder, meanwhile, why in this one-time religious blog, I didn't add a voice about the bishoping of Elizabeth Lane to a suffragan post. Why should I, some 110 years after the full ministry achieved  of Gertrude von Petzold? (And she had opposition - then came the difficulties for her of the First World War). Or why respond when the C of E acts decades after many main denominations? Furthermore, this comes when they've created a Bishop of Maidstone to be a reserved designer Conservative Evangelical and The Society under the Patronage of Saint Wilfrid and Saint Hilda is encouraging its Register so that there is an instant list of male only bishops who themselves have been ordained by only a line of male ordained bishops. Oh and never mind the wider issues of gender inclusion.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Poetry Corner

If you don't want to read my effort at a magazine, read my latest poems:

My throat did burn
With phlegm and roar
As I went down
To Flamborough -
To breath fresh air
(And ions the key)
And get all fresh
Into the sea.
But then with towel
It was like a breeze -
I began to shudder
And I started to freeze.
And before I knew it,
With a pain in my head,
I keeled over plainly
And then I was dead.

And yet as if
To continue for more,
It's odd what happens
In Flamborough.
The tides they do remove the dead:
A transformation ahead instead.
See, the boulder clay is so full of nutrition
That in suspension it makes all addition.
So a body, yes human, even one that had died
Is made in the richness to recover, revive;
The later tide, then, returned me with love
And left me resting inside a cove.
I awoke somewhat puzzled about how I'd arrived,
But returned to the beach, simply revived.
And yes, of course, I was so glad:
Glad to be so fully alive.



We took a day trip to Hornsea:
It was so early in the morn, see;
And in the car played some James Blunt -
Kept us happy up to the sea front,
Took less than half hour to get there.
And all the people? Nowhere!
And what were we to do, after looking at some ships
On the horizon?
Go and get some fish and chips, son:
Can't keep eating them or would get the shits, mum!
But then to me, said Denny,
"I'm going to spend a penny."
Like toilets she choose hence?
No, she meant the amusements.
At the penny falls she with me joins,
And true to say we won some coins;
And off we went with smiles that did beam,
To see a van and buy some ice cream.
But on the beach only some people old,
For with the east wind it was too cold.
So we called it a day and went for a beer,
And then went inland and looked at the Mere;
The wind whipped up and the water was slopping,
So it was off to the Freeport and we did some shopping.
So what else to do when we'd spent to the bone?
We got in the car and damn well went home.
And so we enjoyed some more of James Blunt
That continued until a rear end shunt:
The breakdown came as slow as a mouse
And took us to arrive late back at our house.



We once took a trip to Withernsea
Which some will call 'Witherensea'.
Arrived a man from the telly
Who said it is smelly
Yes, it's a given, see,
And smothering, it be
Interviewing were we:
Thank you ITV - in full,
Watched when we got back to Hull.



We started out from Brough,
The dog, and me, and my bruv;
We had a day at Aldbrough,
And the dog went Grrr
('Cause there's no uff
In Aldbrough
If you don't say it wrong.)
But there's rough in Brough's dosh
Where the people go posh;
But for Aldbrough I'd hint
The folk are quite skint
And down to earth like me,
(Or more down to the sea):
Unless they go west
And settle like pests
Who whine and huff
When they reside in Brough
(As did bruv
When he found his love).
Oh they complain and ring
As they go all right wing,
Unlike them in Aldbrough
Who might still vote Labour,
Or like the last cat
Vote Lib Democrat,
Eating its Kipper
Now Going UKIPper.
Compare Brough's Henry Hoorays
Being a bunch of convert Tories -
LIke bruv
Who's above
Himself
As a too-high shelf!
Though, I bet my right slipper
That he too goes UKIPper,
Because in the fascination
He lacks imagination
As all that turn toff
When they go live in Brough.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

The Objective Turn


One of my stranger journeys by car some years ago was to travel from Unitarian College to Matlock and visit Rachel Marszalek, before she and family discovered their move to London. It was like going from the most liberal to, well not quite the most evangelical.

I first knew of her through her appearances into the Internet in fashionable self-presentations, a sort of alternative to the dowdy reputation of female clergy. However, very quickly I was interested in her writing output, and what was a sort of a postmodern (conservative-type) theological writing that had an internal logic but seemed to have the seed of its own contradiction, its own destruction even.


It's of the 'internal logic of the Church' approach seen in George Lindbeck and ecumenical Protestantism, and constitutes 'mediums of interpretation' without privilege but from within some institutional and cultural set position. The Anglo-Catholic equivalent is Radical Orthodoxy, and another variant on both is Rowan Williams's narrative-detail theology.


I contend that these positions adopted are voluntary, that is one just chooses to be within a Church logic of performance, or this bubble of Platonic perfection or this one part of multicultural group-talk (Rowan Williams).


The other pole of this cultural freezing and wall-building is liberal postmodernism, of the kind of Don Cupitt and Lloyd Geering - that is sometimes called theological nihilism. That there are no objective anchors means that one may as well take from Buddhism as well as Christianity, or from humanism especially.


Now, Rachel, as an ex-English teacher might, had a very strong style of writing that is economical and dry, but adds to the whole 'performance-literary' nature of her approach. Deriving her material from an evangelical resource, she had a built-in conflict with that source's own conflict: she is in favour of women's ordained ministry, including her own.

The problem is that she can draw this from feminism, and issues of liberal equality. But such would start a slippery slope towards a broader non-realism in her logic.


In any case, the very theology expressed was itself potentially its own gravedigger. There are no guarantees with performance theology of staying within any of its artificial boundaries.


One conflictual way of keeping boundaries is to experience a largely non-Anglican entertainment spirituality of the big neo-Pentecostal gathering. It is conflictual because the theology of cultural boundaries is opposed to the experiential-expressive. This is another road to liberalism, to the subjective 'I prefer' and it is indeed another internal conflict in Rachel's system, as she describes it. I suspect there is some magical thinking in this, and it is not pure experience for experience sake. In fact she has some aspects of being a medium, once asking me about the significance of a green garage door... Revelation and magic are rather close together, just as is the Catholic approach to eucharist even when they insist it is supernatural rather than magical (reference here to Liberal Catholicism in the Theosophical mode that is magic at the altar, and Catholicism in the general mode that claims the supernatural at the altar: in the first the 'man' is the key to the repeated performance and in the second the 'man' is the communicative means of the performance that relates back to the apparent Christ event).

As Rachel encountered me and others - like those sympathetic to full female ministry - she realised the ideological dangers chose to dig herself into the more pure evangelical theology. After all, she knows it is one snake on the Snakes and Ladders board that can take her all the way from her position to outright humanist Unitarianism. She can throw one number to avoid it and another number to go on the slide. Other numbers have shorter snakes. Of course I am happy to oblige because from my side the snakes are ladders.

She associated herself with the likes of John Richardson, the Ugley Vicar, the one-time next door neighbour of Unitarian minister turned Anglican vicar... Richardson is opposed to women in ordained authority over men; Rachel therefore is forced to go into some convoluted biblical theology to justify women's headship - forced as well to accept that Paul wrote Timothy and Titus, which any reasonable liberal and not-so-liberal scholar will dismiss as the work of some later traditionalist.


Now I know where this next goes. She'll say she is digging into a resource with its own form of objectivity, its own deep well - this is also the Rowan Williams approach. Except, of course, Rowan Williams as a speak of many different languages can also give a resourced lecture on the Bhagavad Gita and the Qu'ran; he can talk about Sharia Law as an additional law for another community. Evangelicals keep the blinkers on, in contrast.


Yet behind this approach is still the cultural choice, the apparent absence of wider objectivity and she says, "I'm not daft," and, "You're not daft," when it comes to wider scientific and social scientific findings about the natural of reality and her choice to use the logic of the church.

She further is saying that there is no neutrality, so I pick my humanism as she picks her Christianity, and Christianity led to humanism anyway.


Here is the exchange via Facebook that led to this blog entry:


Rachel Marszalek But it's *church* making decisions regarding Bishops, hence your bringing a secular world view to bear is simply that- bringing a secular world view to bear. I understand that world view, I'm not daft, the church makes it's decisions within another set of parameters, you know that, you're not daft either.

..


Adrian Worsfold I knew you'd say that, but there is a price that follows - the price of divorce from the world and sectarianism. Divorce and the turn into your own private world. You are not daft, but the price again is to be daft in order to follow a logic that has no bearing outside. And that is unacceptable to me. Theology wanders off into its own world.


..


Rachel Marszalek All world views are constructs including the secular one, you know that - the great thing is we are given a choice regarding which becomes the one in which we live and move and have our being - the Christian one has, of course, been the shaper of the secular one you think you neutrally inhabit - you don't.


..


Adrian Worsfold No no. This is the postmodern get-out that won't do. There is a hierarchy of knowledge, starting with maths as form and physics as object. This is important because one requires discipline and is realised in the physics of experiment. Chemistry builds on that physics, and then biology. Social science also uses experiment but has more handling of the subjective - the validity argument as opposed to regularity. Then we get to the arts and the problem of 'what is a good painting' just as is the problem of 'what is a correct religious belief'. As you can tell, I understand but no longer go along with the postmodern view, liberal or conservative. Once you expose the unhinged radical orthodox view, it has to apply to the liberal view. Just why does the religious liberal follow general narratives of meaning today? Is it because it is today's running fiction, a sort of ongoing working meaning, or because it might actually deliver results. These results (that can land a craft on a comet) are real and objective and often defy one's own wishes. So there is not an issue here of neutrality, but one narrative that is towards the correct and one that is part of a replaced world view. In the evangelical logic, many wheels go round but nothing actually explains the cosmos as it exists.


..


Rachel Marszalek Why those of us who live by faith need explanation all the time - it is not that the one requires a dispensing with the other, it's just that there is that that can not be explained: revelation and the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit - these are perceived by faith and can not be studied under a microscope ....


..


Adrian Worsfold Now you are jumping around again. When the cultural argument breaks down, you hop across to the experiential. But (as we are indeed not daft) you know that this is at conflict with the cultural argument - the one that has its chosen boundaries of expression and for you is an institutional Church one. 'Perceived by faith' is a jump both to individualism and to a supreme objectivity (except you can't find that but via subjective experience). If this is your line, then it is nothing to do with non-neutralities, bur rather that I am wrong. And on this basis I will discuss maths, physics and all manner of naturalistic truths and pitch them against Christianity any day. It's a difference argument.


The blog entry by Rachel this responds to is here: http://hrht-revisingreform.blogspot.co.uk/2014/11/slippery-slopes-and-political-hills.html


I used to include the postmodern in my theology, but I was never entirely happy with it. I tried it regarding a Christian narrative while at Barton (2004-2010), but it underwent a kind of decay of parts and then large parts - a sort of theological dementia. I participated less and less, said less and less. The priest was sympathetic, he had his 'whole tradition' approach rather than me being a selective liberal chopping out the unethical. He too was postmodern, cultural, and added in a bit of the Anglo-Saxon for good measure. The high point was the bones eucharist in the other Barton church held by English heritage, in which the bishop allowed some prior to 1662 material as well as the Old English Lord's Prayer. Fantasy and Phantasm.


An interesting part of this was reading Don Cupitt and disagreeing. His book Jesus and Philosophy was a remarkable turn towards objective history and, I thought, bizarrely wrong - the notion that a sayings Jesus was more credible than the (very problematic) narrative Jesus of the gospels. It was apparently earlier and more primitive, it even brought the fifth Gospel into more credibility as containing earlier material. It was also a homage to the Jesus Seminar - historians doing history from the secondary sources of the Gospels. How odd for a non-realist to go this way! OK, he was soon back to the usual global non-realism, but then asserting a choice of general narratives rather than neither deriving from the narrowness of the Church as the premodern postmoderns of Radical Orthodoxy were doing nor inhabiting the magical worlds of the New Age. This raises a question. Why?


Why these narratives? Why the general humanist ones of science and technology as explanations? Might it be because they are true or truer?


Yes, the point about liberal religion is to make a faith that is consistent with contemporary narratives. To this extent, I'm with Cupitt, though for him to be with me he's had to stop presiding at Anglican services and even attending. He can be quiet in a Quaker gathering, and might (but doesn't) throw in some programmatic Buddhism.


I'm aware of Thomas Kuhn and paradigm shifts; I'm aware of explanations undergoing shifts of perspective as the falsifications move on. I'm aware of insights that get tested, first mathematically and then objectively.


But here is my stance now. What's wrong with Platonist Radical Orthodoxy calling sociology 'secular theology' is that sociology does research and that research produces answers we don't like as well as ones we do. Sociology is not some chosen alternative world view as credible as bubble Platonism. It actually is rooted in reality.The same is true with evangelical resource theology. It might delve into its own history, or the twists and turns of biblical content (I can do that for a touch of unitarianism - small u - and Arianism too). But in the end it is superseded. Its cosmic arguments are wrong: it tells us nothing about science, little about history as it lacks sound method, bad on ethics, destructive of social organising (gender, gays etc.)... It is mythological, so Jesus the end-time rabbi is turned into a subject of early Christian communities.


Just as the weather is a chaos that becomes a system, and is no longer prayed for like the ancients supposed, so is indeed much of our evolved reality: from simplicity to interactive complexity: where intelligence is late and not at the beginning. This applies to all equilibrium systems, from nature to economics. We have a mathematics with (real!) virtual numbers that produces complexity out of simplicity, and we have the beauty of simple equations that describe reality and are balanced.


Paul Dirac is a modern prophet more than equal to anyone within Christianity. He says an equation to describe reality ought to be simple and beautiful.


These are of form. They make real predictions and physics has turned them into objective pursuits. Chemistry has physics into mixture. Biology turns chemistry into evolving life - no God at the tiller. Social science analyses intelligent life - psychology being partly scientific but also partly an argument, economics using maths but arguing over human behaviour, sociology using regularity and small group validity, politics using arguments of organising for outcomes. History has rules of primary source evidence. Geography borrows from science and social science as well as surveying. The arts become oh so subjective - what is a good painting, what music is beautiful (but is it regular only?), and then of course there is theology - what you choose is up to you, or your group. It is as subjective as the arts.


Is there a power game involved here? Yes, there is. There is because one is saying, this is true - this involves truth methodology - and is set against older forms of mythological thinking.


Again, aware of the critiques of the philosophers of language, never the less language even as a rich filter of meaning, a distorter perhaps of some meaning, is not the be all and end all, forcing a view that all is within a dictionary. No it is not - language is a servant, and if language distorts then the answer is to know it (and we do) and to refine it. And that's my other argument against Don Cupitt. Just as when he tried to make (wrong in direction) positive claims about Jesus the soothsayer, so he is wrong (yes, wrong) to say we live within the dictionary, simply moving from one meaning to another.


That way we may as well be Radical Orthodox or Evangelical or New Age or anything you like. But it is not so, thanks to research, thanks to the maths and physics that can land a spacecraft on a moving comet.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

On Printing A5s on A4 Landscape...

I've been busy recently, having taken on the voluntary working task of doing the Hull Unitarian Magazine, and learning just how constraining is A5 as a format. It is half the size of A4, retaining the width to height square root of 2 dimensions. Text has to be readable, but the problem with a big screen and A5 is the text turns out to be tiny. I've been using games software (crossword maker, maze), image software (for layers of image and text), Desk Top Publishing (to fit texts in shapes and flow the text through different shapes and pages), text processing (for throwing text around, forcing line endings), and Word Processing (for columns, emphases).

Each of these are saved to A5 .PDFs. Some are single pages, some double pages. I've been working on the principle of odd pages have superiority and the double paged spread. I'm at 20 pages, and no filler like jokes. The result evolving in page order can be viewed but I should say as I wait for the article of the Chair of the congregation, I am making parts easier to read. This includes the picture on page 2, the inside front cover. That's on its side, to turn the booklet to view the picture. I may use instead a Unitarian poster picture of Stonehenge in which one adds poster text - I may add feature article text, if it fits. There are ways and means. It is already at the correct dimensions for a .PDF (if at A4). I could convert it and text to an image and have text relaid over the top a second time for clarity if needed and involve a fade out of the image under the text.

All these .PDFs at A5 each get merged into one document of 20 pages.

The printer business receives the .PDF in page order and makes the A5 booklet up. So it runs in multiples of 4, and they do the donkey work. Otherwise, for 20 pages, the arrangement would have to be:

Outer: 20, 01; 18, 03; 16, 05; 14, 07; 12, 09. Inner: 02, 19; 04,17; 06, 15; 08, 13; 10, 11.

So 10 and 11 are the centre-pages. The commercial printer business used insists on A5 with a 10mm margin all round so it is not possible to have 10 and 11 as a landscape A4. I haven't asked, however. I'm sure it is possible, but likely to be out of automatic arrangements.

If you want an early read, and a read before it is finished, it is here:
https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/28120070/pluralist/learning/relthink/DecJanMagazineFull.pdf
but it will change. The finished version will go on the Hull Unitarian website.

Well, what about some home testing with printing out? One would not believe how difficult this is. Apparently Adobe Reader does have a facility for a booklet print, where A5 doubles up to landscape A4 on a print out, but many (like iPrint) simply shrink the A5 further.

I don't want to have Adobe Reader. It is large, cumbersome and domineering. It's like Real Player - get rid of it. But one needs to have the software that somehow recognises the problem.

A solution is to make at A4 and then shrink. Print that to .PDF when shrunk. It is not the answer, as everything will be too small having used A4 and of course it is no good for the commercial printer. Another solution is to use MS Word and print with its facility. Guess what? I don't have MS Word on my main computer. Nor do I want to be constrained to a Word Processor. Another solution is using a Desk Top Publisher - after all, they are designed for posters, booklets and leaflets. I have a Serif DTP but this would mean doing everything via DTP. Well, it is possible but not by first choice: games software I use with image software together but using DTP would be just one further stage. Serif irritates me too, having to shove things out of the way to bring from the back to the front (and so on).

It's a .PDF issue. Look around the Internet forums and you see the only answer is Adobe Reader.

Well, not so, because I have a similar solution based on Nitro Reader. You do choose A4 size to print, but use its facilities for a side by side printout.

So whatever printer is used (including to .PDFs!) one selects A4 paper. This is the Epson irritating printer dialog (American spelling) box that forever tries to trick the user into buying Epson ink or freezing the printer. Be careful what is pressed when the ink goes in. Then comes the main Nitro dialog box, the one from this software and differs from other .PDF readers/ semi-editors.


It says All in the dialog box because the .PDF used has two pages, the minimum. In a larger .PDF document, the pages to print must be selected. Multiple pages (to show) is selected. Look at the view - it may be unnecessary to select Auto-rotate and centre. By the way, the OK is just visible because I doggedly use 800 by 600 screen.

That does the job. Nitro Reader is free. Its extra pay-for facilities are provided by other free software. This is rather like Foxit Reader sticking an evaluation mark on. I still use it because PDF-XChange will take it off. And I prefer the older version of PDF-XChange as it isn't trying to flog a pay-for version and does all I want.

So there we are. I'm already building up material for the February-March issue, but it is not certain I'll be doing it. If it doesn't work I'll lose the task.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Drunken GDP Expansion: Hull's Prostitutes

My friend insists I should. No, he is wrong. This is bad self-advice and advice to me. What is said in the car should stay in the car.

Ideally he wants his talented artistic son to videotape his pub rantings on the world and everything, and this can include the car journeys back from the pub - back because that is when the alcohol is doing its narrating. I worry about him because a real tension-busting outpouring happens every week no matter what the topic; I hope it is tension-busting, but it could also be dam wall breaking and I once knew someone called Buster Bloodvessel. No I didn't, but making that claim is the kind of dodgy historical recall that might be wrapped up in one of these rants.

My friend likes cheese and this would be an alternative to booze. To paraphrase that "cunt", the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he should, 'Cheese life. Cheese a job. Cheese his shop. Cheese his fucking Sky Television, cheese the late night disaster meal, cheese the bog for the necessities, pissing your last in an extended home, nothing more than an embarrassment to the talented offspring brats you've spawned to replace yourself.'

What happened tonight is five of us met up. Usually it is four, but a baby sitter was found so it was the three plus two this time. The two had 'preloaded' and were merry from the off. I stay alcohol free.

This leads to a dilemma when the doctor told me to lose weight by drinking less alcohol. Seeing as hardly any ever touches my lips, I'm not sure what I should do - throw up alcohol?

I normally leave that to others, but constitutions are well-built by now. 20 years since the couple of the five first met, and my friend in the car worked out that it's been 35 years since who became his wife and another woman had him covered in shaving foam with a picture taken by the bloke there and then. More years have passed of consistent and persistent alcoholic consumption, paying towards the NHS via taxes on beer. By the way, 35 years must be wrong. The events are likely to be not later than 1982 and cannot be earlier than 1980. I wasn't there when the naked shaving foam incident happened as the relationship building was semi-independent of the historical friends. Scarborough, apparently. The persistent alcohol, though, goes back to 1977.

I can drive home with all others dropped off, and the other local friend having taken an earlier bus to get up for early part time work, and so my friend can twitter away like a self-powered bird as the car powers us home. All I need say is, "I see, I see," just to keep things rolling. So the other night I discovered the price list of prostitutes.


The full fuck is £77, and £40 for a blow job, and a hand job is less... Still, I said, if traffic is low. Oh no. He recalled when up a ladder painting the shop and the lass below appeared and disappeared eight times within the early hour. How does he know the price, when he never visits these? Ah, the shop is the in and out of information. And the prostitutes - as we saw this week and last on our travels - gather close to the shop. Indeed the rubber throaways have to be removed from the barbed wire at the back of the shop, dribbling on his neck (he says) as he reaches up to get them.

This price information ought to be recorded by the Office of National Statistics because in the desperate bid to expand the economy the Gross Domestic Product (and boy is it gross) now includes prostitution and illegal drug dealing. When I commented today on the reasonable appearance of two prostitutes stood together, near the shop, my friend said "never, ever go to them" because it is always a disappointment. So, I said, well, last week it was a price list and now we're having a survey of the quality of the product.

This is why our fucking cunt the Chancellor stole Irvine Welsh's word-use, because as Chancellor he now includes the drugged up and the semen
extracted as part of the economy's supply and demand.

That MP, who sent pictures of his knob to some reporter in a sting. Suppose it had been a genuine woman? What's that worth when added to the Gross Domestic Product?

And why re-introduce the unemployment version of the truck system, so that not only is the dole measly and desperately inadequate, especially with the Tory/ Lib Dem Bedroom Tax and 20% Council Tax [don't forget that one, Mr. Miliband], but will by Tory intent come in prepayment card form so you can only buy food and transport. I mean, if you can't pay the occasional prostitute, what will that do for the GDP? What a vicious fucking cunt is the Work and Pensions Secretary as well as the Chancellor. Talk about the Nasty Party. It's all coming out now, like barren semen mixed with blood.

Apparently back in 1977 my two friends, the same ones, paid £12.50 for me to receive the experience of a prostitute but I "ran away" and missed my chance. I would prefer to wait for such experience, and did a long long time. Although he varies as to the precise price, one can pass this inflation information to the ONS as well.

I am not going to turn this blog into a record of trips home. I have a diary to do that, and often the conversation doesn't even feature. It is but a piss into the wind. Otherwise it is dodgy memoirs of girls when at school, sexual encounters long gone, and more up to date comments that really ought to go no further than their echoes. Tonight, for example, was in part about arses and blood, and coughing up blood, and that really isn't a topic for the public.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

The Constitutional Mess

I'm pro-European and a confederalist - that's to say, pool sovereignty practically in the European Union but ultimate sovereignty is held by the nation state via reserved unanimity votes. This was why I was instinctively a Yes voter, if I lived in Scotland, plus I hate the Tories and dismiss the turncoat Liberal Demcorats. Oh to be rid of them forever. However, I drifted towards No and only at the end saw the Yes as a definite revolutionary step to shift reform into the constitution of countries in the British Isles.

However, I think we knew that the Noes were relatively silent and the 10% gap wasn't a surprise. However, we are now in a constitutional mess, and had politicians been more generous in tone we might have had a neater outcome via a Yes than we have now.

We are in a constitutional mess. David Cameron has linked the newer promised Scottish powers with English purity over those powers, probably because Tory back benchers started saying they wouldn't back the three party leader commitment towards maximum devolution.

Cameron's simplest solution won't work. Imagine a government elected on a mandate where it has an overall majority but with Scottish (and Welsh and Northern/ North of Irish too) MPs excluded on certain voting areas, the government would not command a majority and be unable to govern its domestic agenda. The government where it did have rights to bring in the Scots, Gaels, Ulsters and Celts would frustrate the finances of the domestic majority voting. So there would be a government that couldn't govern, and a domestic vote that would be held up by the government.

The problem with an English Parliament - the clean federalist solution - is that it would frustrate the people of the north whose culture is closer to the Scottish. Leave neo-liberalism to Essex, Kent and London! Regional government is an alternative, but it couldn't have the powers of the Scots.

On a historical basis we could have three English Parliaments. One would be north of the Danelaw, one south of the Danelaw and one in Cornwall. Assemblies like Yorkshire and the Humber don't make sense from the point of view of identity. Newcastle voted No and the idea was dropped.

How simpler it would have been for the Scots to be independent and then have a Council of the British Isles. We could even bring Ireland in proper, and reassure the Northern Irish, who might consider Independence and the Welsh too might see its potential. The Council would meet to agree on matters of currency, foreign policy stances and mutual defence.

Labour wants a term in office and a constitutional conversation (presumably after delivery to Scotland making the West Lothian question even more begging). If it took power, once more, it would probably introduce proper proportional representation, thus making government coalition based - but do we really want UKIP replacing right-wing Tories? Look how neo-liberal is the Scottish UKIP MEP. We almost have to devolve to an English Parliament with an English government, and then devolve again to the regions.

Better surely to have them all independent and then devolve?

If the Tories welch on the deal with Scotland because Labour won't address the West Lothian question until after the next election (the assumption being it wins because of the electoral bias, the effect of UKIP on the Tories and the demise of the turncoat Liberal Democrats), the demand will grow for another referendum in Scotland.

The Gordon Brown plan, endorsed by three leaders, could have swayed 5%. If it did, that's neck and neck for independence without it. Welch on the deal and expect another referendum. Expect the return then of Alex Salmond to say they were all cheated.

What a mess.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Puzzles and a Picture

I'd be the editor of the Hull church bimonthly (i.e. once every two months) rag. It needs to be of a format and appearance for the outsider. I did a working out of 12 pages that observed the rule of odd number pages primacy and some facing pages features. Page 1 (cover) I'd have a local map and service time, simple as that. On the back page I'd put a map of the remaining eight Yorkshire Unitarian Union churches - doesn't include Doncaster and Sheffield. That's page 12. I can fill every page; indeed I could do it monthly.

Problem is, I'm too controversial. It needs a safer pair of hands, although recently one issue had some words scrubbed out and the last one was pulped because of unusual events - why it was late and a bit filled-up with web chat. I didn't know that, and it was why I offered.

So instead I've offered content. Plus I was asked to contribute an autumnal picture as a cover. I've done that, and provided various forms of content. Two of these pasttime pages have been put on my website.

First is a crossword, which outsiders via Facebook Unitarians have found too hard. That's because it relies on local knowledge, or an online map for around Hull, and perhaps read my more historical pieces in Learning / Religion / Unitarian via the menus on my website. But it relies on wider denominational knowledge too. Surely these are bleeding obvious, and if you don't know the first minister at Hull (Presbyterian then) you know the heir. One is a surname and one a first name...
  1. No priest he and to Jean Michelle Jarre's countryman with discovery.
  2. House bird - no! of Hugenot 'dissent'.
  3. First minister and heir.
You can find out about Melsa online - via a very significant Latin and English book. And this minister at Nottingham had a first name Gerald.

So the crossword is one item. It's using software installed, not a website. Also using software is a great maze-maker Amaze and by processing the picture result I can make it into bendy tipsy images. The result in a .PDF incorporates a sign from the old chapel building that I have processed to be correctly horizontal and the verticals to be parallel. That sort of processing used to be expensive but now is available free and plugs into a free Irfan View. A maze is really filler. I do have some old word searches software that actually does them within shapes.

The final product of the magazine editor is 12 pages in .PDF format. The present editor does things in MS Word and then makes it into .PDF, but my .PDF would come from many software directions and then be plugged together either in page order or in 12 page booklet order, which I'm guessing here now is 1, 2, 11,12, 3, 4, 9, 10, 5, 6, 7, 8. That'll be the professional printer's order. If they're done at A4 then the conversion to A5 is easy at the printing stage, but I think one has to consider the reader's ability to see. I would thus have all text at 14 point arial to make it easier to read.

Recently updated was a piece on Liberal Catholics that was in The Inquirer but became out of date. This is an example of  adding .PDF pages to others and making a new document.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Best Wishes Scotland

I've made my mind up. Oops, I don't have a vote. I was always sympathetic to Scottish Independence, simply on the grounds that an identifiable people should run their own affairs, so long as they were easily part of other unions, and this means the Europen Union.

Then more recently I was less in favour on the same principle, as in what is wrong with the United Kingdom. Actually, there is plenty wrong with the United Kingdom, including its inability to devolve to the English. Westminster could reduce itself if there was an England-wide Parliament; I'm not in favour of regional devolution. I'm in favour of what emerged out of Wessex and Mercia, from Alfred and Aethelstan, and of the Celts before them and continuing. The Normans afterwards plastered their rule over the rest of us, like a ready-built hierarchy, and England has been class-ridden ever since, from feudal power and monarch to capitalism, including inviting the Dutch to invade and get rid of the Stuarts.

Scotland is complex. It is silly for Scotland to have a welcome sign in Gaelic in Aberdeen. Gaelic was never spoken in Aberdeen among the ordinary population. Gaelic was always part of Scotland, to its west, and of course suffered ethnic cleansing at the hands of the English and the tut tut of modernist Scots. It was an English power that could take kilts from the Gaels, ban them culturally, and then pop them on to royals, while people had to leave and sheep took their place.

That's the difference between the Gaels and the Welsh, in that Welsh is of the whole of Wales. Indeed, properly speaking, Welsh is part of the whole of England too and up to the Scottish border. Celtic is continuous with Welsh - old manuscripts can be read today in Cymraeg but try and get the English to read Anglo-Saxon. Anglo-Saxon may as well be a foreign language - it is, through time.

I'm in favour of Scottish independence and here's why, and despite losing left-leaning votes (though these days Labour is so right wing and compromised it's hardly worth the loss). Set against the nastiest, most right wing government we have ever had in modern times, including those turncoats called Liberal Democrats (who'd have thought it - I didn't but I will at the ballot box next time), the Scots seem civilised, collective, communal. They properly believe in communities and responsibility, one to the other.

What we have is a London that is a casino, and notions that Liverpool to Leeds should be another urban casino. Somewhere in between is Birmingham. Gone are the real notions of manufacturing, serving, craft, skill and career; it's all instrumentalism from school and college to mobile CV. If you are not a profit centre individual, you will exist on the margins in a no-world of meagre benefits with a system to force you to become one of those individuals. It's a dog eat dog world of liberal economics and Tory self-satisfaction.

What Scotland will become, independent, is a beacon of decency. It might not be quite as rich as a dog eat dog land, but it won't be as unequal either. It will consider things as a community, across complex populations and a rich inheritance. The English surely won't stand for it, to see the Scots enjoy a decent life while we are run by class-soaked right wing boys. The English gwerin can't be the losers all the time, to see the collective protections at work dismantled, and forced into the trough. They'll rise again, but it will take the Scots to show them how, and the Scots need their own power to do it.

Here's the contrast: English politics has Douglas Carswell defecting to UKIP on the usual narrow-minded agenda that has Cameron promising a referendum on in-out once he has negotiated a narrative to claim to stay in. This is about the British elite divided, uncomfortable with the European political elites but some more practical than others. The Scots are somewhere else: this politics is irrelevant. It should be irrelevant (although the democratic deficit in Europe is not irrelevant: but positive reform not removals).

Given the situation in Ukraine, we need the European Union more than ever - not politicking about how to leave.

The right wing Tory nutjobs will be with us for some time, unfortunately, because of a de-politicised South East gives them their space. The rest of us, also English, have to wake up. Otherwise we could lose Wales too, and even the Cornish. But then they might also teach the English how to behave.

Or, another idea, why not just dump London and let the rest of us organise our lives better?

Sunday, 24 August 2014

A Contemporary Religious Realism

I don't know Ian Paul. He's probably a very nice chap. He doesn't appear to be a very nice chap in his writing, however. He seems narrow-minded and authoritarian. If you expect self-defined Christians to come across as warm, pleasant, engaging types - well, he doesn't. He may be quite different in reality. He's just combative. I can be combtive too, in words, though I'm really a fluffy bunny.

He's been arguing with me, and many, on Facebook. He seems to enjoy it.

As I understand it, his position is that the Bible taken as a whole (the usual evangelical priorities and inclusions) is not an inclusive document, so that we take a text, and try to discern the original meaning, pr its context, then relate it to how we live, with our societies, then relate it to the revelation of God and the identification of God, and then have the ethical result.

So on the gay inclusion issue, the texts are blunt in their own context (but blunt about much else too). We live differently, now, but the texts won't stretch to say what was black is now white. Unlike with the authority of women, there are no contradictory texts when it comes to sex. There might be friendships, even close ajd loyal same sex ones, there might be relationships today that are not covered by Paul referring to Pagan same sex encounters as one of a list of sins. Jesus says nothing on homosexuality but then upholds strict views on marriage and divorce. The ethic which derives is therefore, no matter how much one pushes a different society, the maintenance of the biblical text means the exclusion of same sex and therefore the exclusion of same sex marriage. It means, in contemporary terms, the Church is forced to be homophobic, and it means the ethic derived clashes with contemporary inclusive ethics.

All this is to uphold the status of the Bible. But why so? Well, because they say so, because part of a Church has said so, the Church that made the canon has people who uphold the canon as the privileged source of revelatory text.

Now my sympathies are with the people who are for inclusion. I hope Colin Coward, recognised by the State with his MBE, succeeds in changing the Church of England. But I note how he does it. He does it by regarding the Bible as a flawed document and has an expansive view of the love of God. He gets this view from, I think, natural theology, and he is a critic of authoritarian Church and Bible. He is a critical participant and user of both. Others, however, stretch the text via the heremeneutical divide between then and now to include present loving, sexual relationships whilst maintaining the authority of the Bible, but not obsessed by sex. In contrast evangelicals appear to be obsessed with sex, which may be because that's the bit that remains off-limits by texts that mention sex by those who focus on the sex question.

The critical matter is the then and now divide, and the now divide has become all the greater: a time when they believed in a supernatural world, some of them in its last days (something that periodically affected ourselves in the past in times of weather and economic and conflict stress), and where we have believed in a world of its own regularity and now in a world of mathematical chaos (accompanied by some with a kind of philosophical chaos). The latter two positions have, for most thinking, God as a transcendent extra, not something that pushes up crops or allows the birds to fly. In terms of direct believing, a one time sacred canopy is replaced by choice and its loss, a working class resistance to organised religion in Europe and similar followed by just about anyone. Decline is affecting choice based America now and so active religion is still associated with magical and supernatural cultures, and with fear, and economic sub-development, or nationalism.

Thus the Ian Pauls of this world have to become defenders of identities, of rules of association, and in his case via the privileged Bible. And it's more than Bultmann's 'it's in the text' ahistoricism about how to understand 'the kerygma' of what was the basis of grasping the gospel. It is real information about understanding who Christ is.

Bultmann was aware of the problem of history, and the difference with science and other subject specialities. He and the anti-cultural revelationists, like Barth, and Bonhoeffer, whilst different from each other in so many ways, were searching for that space to organise biblical religion when the culture is not just hostile but urban, technological and indifferent. Others, like Tillich, created systemic parallel systems by which Christianity retained its systematic interrelated nature, but not as accessible from the outside as it tried to appear.

They were theological managers of decline. The fact is that history in its various historiographical schools has rules of procedure, and particularly regarding primary sources. Christianity doesn't have primary sources. The New Testament would be primary sources of the early Christians, and that's about as close as it gets to making Christ out of Jesus. They are their own, if related, supernaturalists and magicians. They are involved in the switch from end-time tribal leader of some Jews with a universalist Christian faith that focuses upon the messianic figure.

The closest we can get to them is imaginatively via the texts, if we want to. Why do we want to? I don't. I see no need to follow this 'cult of an individual' who is as evolved and mistaken and time-limited as anyone else. The rest is mythology of that time, and adapted since into traditional religion.

Religionists in the manner of evangelicals like to fashion themselves on the universality of text and communication and the 'linguistic turn' (until it comes to supernaturalism again - that Christ is really Christ as he always was, rather than accept the price of the linguistic turn). They'll blab on philosophically about language, but not like the liberal postmodernists for whom such text leads to a kind of non-realism regarding all religion. Once again it is pre-selected performance-text, just as some postmodern conservatives have reinvented a performance-Church, an identity that for some is Protestant and others is Catholic, all based on selecting and freezing past cultures. It's a game of preservation again.

My final Anglican minister of religion said to me he was not a liberal but followed the whole tradition Catholic-style because he wanted to gain the whole benefit from the discipline of doing it all and whole. At the same time he'd say he agreed with Dawkins on biology and contemporary physics and all the rest. His package was a kind of doing, based on former times and inherited. This to me, in the end, is a cop out because it says religion is impossible in contemporary times. It is like Chasssidic Jews who'd return to the older, better times, and try at least to culture themselves accordingly.

It's like the Rochdale bus driver who does his day job, but his home is full of the civil war society memorabelia that guides his life-view in between re-enacting battles with his wife in some smoky hut doing some weaving.

I used to be 'story-based' in doing religion, one as a Christian-dharma, a path, with some consistency, but was still selective. The trouble with the 'whole tradition' is that it carries harm along with the benefits. It isn't ethically checked first.

Unlike with Ian Paul, ethics must come first, ethics decided by collective debate and individual conscience. But then comes knowledge, and how we know, even in the context of talking communities of friendship (in the MacMurray sense). The issue of language has captured even liberal postmodernists into a kind of language fundamentalism that I find misleading, misleading because research delivers back results that show language as a filter only when dealing with results. We make progress through these results.

So first we have mathematics, with form and structure. These are realised in physics, in pure falsified knowledge, and then expanded into chemistry. Then comes biology, or chemistry coming to life (where it does) and then we are led to psychology (some theories are speculative!) and anthropology (animals and humans). So into sociology, and economics (and politics even) and then the houses of history. So much geography seems derived from economics and social science, applied spatially. Then you get to the arts, where objectivity and subjectivity are merged, as is the case with religion pure.

I no longer attempt to apply a non-objective-subjective merged language postmodernism across the board. Its relevance in religion, as in art, maintains where objectivity and subjectivity have merged and collapsed. In physics, subjectivity is part of the objective system - the observer principle. In religion, this principle is far more pervasive.

Buddhism understands the individual observer-participant principle, and it is at the core of its activity. So is the mixing, at the deepest level, of the objective and subjective, and yet Buddhism didn't pay the price of Western continental philosophy with its anti-realism. Buddhism held to the real and the transitory nature of all things. At the deepest samsara and nirvana meet, and nirvana or nothing is also real, real if away, the transitory state itself at its ultimate. There is not a meeting of Western non-realism and Buddhism, and indeed the Stephen Batchelor's of this world realise that Buddhism is yet another package, but one of insight.

I don't agree with Don Cupitt and his pervasive non-realism and the application of the philosophical sweep. Rather I think there is a hierarchy of knowledge where theories are speculative and guiding as underpinned by the best falsified tests and research. It's not all language when social science delivers results we'd rather not see, and this is the answer to the Radical Orthodoxy's tripe that sociology is but secular theology. Not when there is research.

And I don't agree with Ian Paul about the privilege of a text. Why? He says the move of liberal religionists to history and science was disastrous. To whom? To people like him, to a religion based on past world views. As for the disaster, well tough. No wonder he appears combative. A number of his inclusionist Church friends are going down the liberal route - usually sticking and compromising at some awkward and artificial point. Peter Berger (the sociologist) could see the gravediggers in action, and the awkwardness of the compromisers over the sectarian traditionalists.

I'm interested, instead, not in gurus but in forms, like fractals and beautiful equations, like signals of transcendence (another Berger insight), where behind complexity is simplicity. Chaos theory now is seen throughout reality, from weather and climate to economics and evolution. Evolution and chaos almost forbids a designer God - it just is so that the copied mutate, and the mutated gain advantage in localities. Out of these chaotic growths come interactions that prove systemic, and systems give stability until they crash.

At the moment our link with dinosaurs are a few reptiles like crocs, aligators and, oh, bird life. Birds are dinosaurs! But the big meteorite 65 million years ago wiped out the big reptiles and gave space for the mammals including us to grow. Those who follow an 'incarnation of God' realism regarding Christianity have to account not just for the accident of the meteorite so that 'the Christ' didn't have a lizard skin but the outcome of mutations good and proper that led to us being the most self-reflective ones on this blue dot.

Oh I'm being silly. No I am not being silly. It's how people used to believe. If it is now 'text' and 'story' then say so, but the world is not the equivalent of a novel, even if your religion is so. I'd like religion to be more than a novel, to use cultural resources and means of reflection (yes, dragged from the past in some extent - there is method in its madness) to reflect on what there is - in terms of human misbehaviour, science, history, chaos, systems, space, time.

By the way, I don't agree with Colin Coward's natural theology. I think nature is cruel, nasty: evolution operates via death, and much of life has been just transitory. What is good has to be made good. The transcendent, if it exists, is not simply good, but gives a capacity for beauty and the good. Nor do I think he and liberals like him will necessarily succeed. I think his Church, despite the ordination of women -and women use experience, that alternative to 'text' - is struggling and the money and suburban churches are going the way of definition. Inside sects the old supernatural and magical universe lives on, unless otherwise organised.

My view of Christianity is - thanks for the introduction. The graveyard you built is over there.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

My Unitarian Sermon

So a service for the folks at home base and then on the Internet. There is the service structure, which can be used for different hymns, readings and sermon, although there is still a reference to the hierarchy of knowledge in which maths as relational and structural comes first, and then the sermon on Beautiful Equations (including Fractals). The CD is for the service, so I jump several tracks even in the service given. For example, there's either Don McLean Waters of Babylon or Queen Is This the World We Created (shorter) for a Lament, so the CD has both. As for the sermon, I'm venturing into an area at the boundary of my knowledge and there were several partial rewrites to get what I was saying passably accurate - whereas the main point is  - well, yes - the proof of mathematics but the theological speculation that lying behind much complexity is a transcendence in the simpler iterating or balancing equation, just as many scientists insist on the beautiful equation as a filter to connect fully to explaining nature (including space and time).

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Death of the Denominations

I wonder which will be the first denomination to collapse.

It could well be the Unitarians. I don't know how long locally the weekly service can continue with such low attendances. There is a body of people to draw upon who could sustain it if they only attended each week, but each week already people like me are coming by obligation to keep the show on the road. In the past a church like this would have closed. Now we keep it going, hoping one day for a 'bounce' as has happened in other places - the random two or three that come and stay, and eventually more attend.

The problem is that there are plenty of people out there who used to attend, but now do not any more.

Recruitment is random, and we are addressing now the sense of drift. There was a time when we liked variety and different preachers every week. However, it obviously hasn't sustained interest and the need now is for more co-ordination, and a leadership from the front rather than from behind. It needs co-ordinated ministry.

I don't think for a minute that this is unique. The church, like many, is now badly located. I would go west, young man, because one feature of the more successful Unitarian churches is that they have parishes locally, that they can form communities within communities. You can't do that in a city centre.

Another success type is in the metropolis where there is enough choice for a church to specialise - either humanist, or Christian, or Pagan, or Eastern. The big umbrella has much to commend it, but if the rumour going around is that my church is 'humanist' then perhaps it should develop this identity. A preacher we find very acceptable, because he thinks, is theologically competent and gives personal reflection, was warned that certain features of his presentation might not be appropriate because we are 'humanist'. Not so, in fact, but the 'humanist' label is only comparative to other Yorkshire congregations. And when your congregation is so low in number, what is it to have such an identity anyway? Two of us who attend are Masters level in Theology and Religion anyway.

The other churches in Yorkshire are not exactly doing brilliantly either. One closed last year, and others have handfuls attending. The tradition is historical, and often I think is presently irrelevant. As gay friendly we could be a gay inclusive church, but no effort has been made to register for rites of passage.

Hull is also very secular in surroundings; I would challenge any of those so-called successful ministers to come to Hull and build the church. Any success of course would be considerable in terms of a lifeline of a future, but this territory is more than tough. I live in the largest parish in England for the Church of England in terms of population - and 80,000 people provide 80 people attending each week across a number of churches. This is indeed residual religion.

Let's not get the idea either that, say, Baha'is and Buddhists are doing any better. Their numbers are insignificant. The Baha'is thinking they are the next world faith are a pinprick of membership in the UK and many of them when signing up simply leave because of the monetary and bureaucratic burden heaped upon them. New religions are as troubled as old. Pagans manage things because they keep flexible and associative. Buddhists have regional centres and classes, and these are their own pay-centres.

By and large Unitarians have plenty of money, no people and lack imagination about how to gather. Unitarian regional and national meetings are always more creative and exciting and interesting than the weekly fayre in badly attended chapels.

Unitarians are now so used to bobbing along at the bottom that they seem to go on an on regardless. But it is a denomination in the winter of its life.

My bet is that the United Reformed Church is the first main Church to collapse. I suspect this is the main reason why it has become the one gay friendly mainstream Church. It maintained numbers by taking over Scottish denominations, even at the cost of theological conflict over adult baptism, but its congregationalist inheritance gives internal flexibility for difference - as over the gay issue, even if consensus wasn't achieved at the top for variation within regarding gay marriage.

But the much bigger Methodist Church is tumbling down the numbers too. After all, if it has the same top-heavy age range, it collapses by the same proportion and speed as others. As I understand it, the Methodists have actively closed surplus churches (something the Unitarians cannot do) and moved people together. It does have a younger element, but a tiny portion, and no doubt they (if they continue, and most don't) will give it a bit longer than the URC. But, in the end, the disappearing disappear proportionately.

Inevitably the Methodists won't die but will absorb into the C of E. It has missing bishops so that's relatively easy to sort out, whereas the URC has no bishops and cannot re-absorb. To absorb the ex-Puritans, the C of E would need not just theological bishops for existing minority groups but leaders that were not bishops at all and not recognised as such. Either that or the URC starts calling ministers bishops on some new and convenient New Testament re-reading.

I think it is between those two as to which dies first, but my money is on the URC.


Saturday, 5 July 2014

ROFL SHARIR

First, let's get the jokes out of the way.

Before: It took a while to bring Rolf Harris to justice. Police initially stated that Rolf Harris has an extra leg to stand on.

But later: Judge: Members of the Jury, have you reached your verdict?
Jury Foreman: Yes, your honour, we have. Can you guess what it is yet?

And afterwards: It's such a shame to hear about Rolf Harris being found guilty of sexual offences. He touched so many people in so many different ways.

At the Animal Hospital. "How long do you reckon, doc?" "Five years and nine months, half that if fortunate."



My pub-going friends being into football, unlike me, would tell me about listening to Stuart Hall's commentary and that it was brilliant and surreal with his literary asides. And then before the crown court case he pleaded guilty. Suddenly they had to revise their view of someone who was something of a hero to them.

(To me, Stuart Hall was a sociologist and multiculturalist. He died fairly recently. He was something of a hero too via the Open University.)

I've had to do similar revision regarding Rolf Harris, partly because I didn't like the sneers long directed at his artwork. Now his artwork is apparently at ten per cent of its former value, from originally tens of thousands of pounds per picture, and the existence of the 2005 picture of the Queen he painted is unknown. Well, it's still public money and someone ought to know where it has gone.

Rolf Harris never pleaded guilty, and so with the evidence against him thought his reputation and replies might win over a jury not to convict; but in that the evidence was delivered forensically they did convict and thus Harris has put his victims through the court forcing them to relive what he did. This surely adds to his sentence. His evidence was like a gamble of their word against his, and his word carried reputation - until Cambridge came along with a video undermining his 'never went to Cambridge' claim.

I remember being a witness at a court in a property dispute. When the verdict came, from the judge, the sense of winner takes all (on our side) and loser loses was incredible. The loser lost and there'd be no more bad behaviour from him. He lost. Verdicts are crushing and they really do deliver justice, when they do. Because a court carries absolute power - you must do what it determines - it acts as an alternative to violence and uncertainty. It allows decisions to be made and they are crushing to the loser.

The media that cannot say this and that suddenly has open season on the convicted. And so his work as an entertainer is being trashed.

The first thought must be to his victims. He clearly thought he could get away with momentary dives into young women's flesh in their most space-invading manner. It was far more than being touchy-feely and the wise person is not so-called touchy-feely. Far worse was the grooming and invasiveness that shattered the life of his daughter's friend, which was pure exploitation and taking advantage to someone trapped and made confused. Like with Stuart Hall, the past has caught up with him.

The court should give these people justice. When it comes to notions of forgivenness, the people to do the forgiving are his victims. Nevertheless, the rest of us should not be jumping all over him.

He was an oddball entertainer and carved a space out for himself. Nothing wrong in that. His big cartoons of course used television techniques of bright lights that left nothing to chance. But were his paintings that bad?

We've just had Traci Ermin's bed sell for £2.2 million. This is like someone having a joke. In so much modern art, the art is "exhausted by the description". Rolf Harris's art had some craft to it. But the question is whether it is good art.

We can't do objectively good art, because art is always going to be individual in preference. Rolf Harris's art might be equated with that of Jack Vettriano, who continues to be despised in serious art circles. I can see what is not liked in Vettriano's style and approach, but nevertheless his art has a kind of message and one that has populist connection. Rolf Harris's art does not have a message, and any one that comes is more by accident than design. His portrait of the Queen with her teethy smile suggests an ordinary grandmother type figure, but this is by accident not intention. He tried hard as possible to get a likeness and he ended up with that.

When I do a painting or drawing, the need to get a likeness forces the art into whatever direction it goes because of that - my art has a style but it is frustrated. Plus anyone can see that I struggle to get arms and hands right and often do not. But then I've looked at some photos and realised that if I painted those as seen they'd be unbelievable - too long, misshaped, hands too small/ big, fingers odd. I need to paint people several times to get the 'look' but it doesn't get the rest and additions to the figure are often in peril. A lot of my output is cartoonish and sexy; it does have a style. But while I was better than many in art classes I was within that limitation.

And that's how I'd view Rolf Harris. He was like a good adult education-level painter. He could, with preparation and several goes, tackle difficult subjects, and produce likenesses, but he never produced art that could transcend that level. He was good in terms of the ordinary.

None of this is altered by his conviction. What is altered by his conviction is insight into his choices, particularly his advice to children about not being touched in notions about your body being your own body and not someone else's. What was behind that? Well, that secretly he knew he was doing wrong, and his habit and opportunity overtook any caution or moral restraint, and of course by fronting such a campaign he deflected attention from himself as a possible doer of the same. Clever, but after a conviction, disturbing.

Some of my best pictures, where something starts to transcend the product, are quick ones, like Rev. Trevor Jones playing the violin, or silver goblets, or some landscapes. But most don't transcend the paint or computer colours arranged. They are limited to themselves. The best we do is learn and express, into a limited space of limited talent.

I'm saying then let's not trash a person for everything they did. There is a reason that people found Jimmy Saville creepy in a way Stuart Hall and Rolf Harris were not. Hall was football knowledgable and had a style. But these latter two were holding secrets, secrets that had affected others badly and would come back to them. Celebrity gave opportunity and power, and whereas others who might make a mistake of space-invasion and learn from it, they didn't and reckoned they could carry on largely as they did. What was for them gratifying left a trail of destruction for the others they involved, and the others have come back for justice, and justice they have. As the judge said, there's no one else to blame.

Monday, 26 May 2014

Liberal Democrats Get What They Deserve

I have been waiting for this day. The local elections gave a taste, but this was the reality, and this is closer to the truth of the next General Election as well.

I voted Liberal Democrat on the basis of its manifesto, and on the basis of its stance during the Labour government. During that time the Liberal Democrats were to the left of a hollowing-out Labour Party and took much of its urban vote. The student vote obliged too, with a promise of no fees and other politicians not telling the truth. Then Nick Clegg not only propped up the Tories, but did so with enthusiasm, thus stealing the votes from people like me who voted Liberal Democrat to keep the Tories out.

If the Tories were put in for stability, it should have been for no more than economic reasons, and not on the basis of Tory only economics but also the different approach of the Liberal Democrats at the election - closer to Labour. Fanciful Tory policies should have been ditched to when they win an election.

Instead, the Liberal Democrats have gone far further than any Coalition Agreement, and thus introduced the Bedroom Tax and Council Tax to the poorest. Who'd have thought it - the Liberal Democrats introducing poverty to the poorest? Their tax cuts for the 'hard working families' - that nasty mantra - one would expect from the Tories while making life easy for the wealthy, which the Tories were able to do.

During the election UKIP was clever. It made a play for the white working class. I saw it during the election broadcasts. Thus Labour has been damaged, because the poorer voters were given somewhere else to go, even while Ed Miliband tacked slightly to the left on essentials. Such folk ought to read the UKIP manifesto, which as well as being anti-EU is pure right wing Toryism. But at least they are not parading as one thing, and doing another.

Clegg ought to go, and take the rest with him. This means Laws and Alexander in particular. They are all political crooks. Hopefully the electorate will remove them, especially Clegg in Sheffield. They all went native, ditching what they argued for at the General Election.

It's a bad day for those of us who are pro-European. I voted Green, and I know there are contradictions in that vote for me, but I vote for the package as a whole nearest me as a whole. I'm sceptical regarding climate change and the Greens have my vote! The Greens are not pro-European Union as I am, although they co-operate among themselves and are constructive. Plus they have a refreshing democratic internal polity, rather as the Liberal Democrats have had and need to use now to unseat Clegg.

I will not vote Liberal Democrat again until Clegg is gone, and this 'orange book' bunch of pseudo-Tories is removed from power. Cable is acceptable - but barely as he privatised the Post Office. Who'd have thought that? No wonder the Royal Mail is moaning about having to deliver to rural and distant areas: that's why it was nationalised and once within the Civil Service. Let's have it back then, and the railways (a Green policy). One has to give some escape route from the present disaster, regarding Vince Cable and party remains.

Anyway, oh so disciplined, the disaster is so great for the Liberal Democrats that they are now surely having to do what they did to previous leaders in recent times. They won't, beyond the damage of chatter, but the blade is coming down now and the blood on the floor now will be thick and runny at the next election.

Lesson: Do not steal votes.

Oh this says it better:

Julian Critchley 25th May '14 - 11:26pm
@Radical LIberal

It’s not about Clegg. It’s really important that the remainder of the party don’t allow this to become some sort of Clegg-focused issue.

The 2010 party hasn’t shed two-thirds of its support because of Clegg. It’s shed two-thirds of its support because two-thirds of us didn’t want the Orange Book, didn’t vote for the Orange Book, and have been appalled to see the LibDem Parliamentary Party implementing the Orange Book. It’s far too late now for the MPs to try and “differentiate” with the Tories. They were elected standing on a manifesto, and ten years of policy platforms, which did not adopt a “public=bad/private = good” default position, which did not back massive public spending cuts in a recession, which did not support the hammering of the poorest and the feather-bedding of the richest, which did not support the further fragmentation and selling off of our health and education services. We already had two right-wing Thatcherite parties in 2010, and we didn’t vote for them. So why on earth the leadership expected to retain our votes when they decided to become a third right-wing Thatcherite party remains an utter mystery to me.

It’s not Clegg. It’s the policies which they have supported and implemented. Unless the rump party members realise that, then there is no way back. To be honest, I don’t see a way back anyway. The building of a viable third party, which took thirty years from 1981 to 2010, has been utterly destroyed in 4 years by the catastrophic political miscalculation of the current party leadership. It’s a tragedy for British politics, an absolute tragedy. But it’s not Clegg. Every single LibDem Parliamentarian who voted for NHS privatisation, for the bedroom tax, for Gove’s giveaway of our schools to his chums, and for the prolonging of the depression through masochistic economic illiteracy, is to blame.

This isn’t the worst yet. The leadership and MPs are still kidding themselves that 2015 won’t be as bad as this at Westminster. Yes it will. If the LibDems still have double figures of MPs, they’ll be lucky.


Sunday, 25 May 2014

Service with a Funeral Hymn

Perhaps I'm a little depressed! This service is about death as a perspective on life as a biography, but it tackles death itself. It's also a little creatively strange, with a section on 'Althea' and a bit on the sun (but it all, kind of, overlaps). One biography given is the of Jesus, in the sermon, recognised as strange in beliefs. I wrote the final hymn, given now in the detail from my list of hymn resources.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Doing Theology Via Thinking Animals

Recently the BBC has shown Zoologist and Professor George McGavin examine primates and their capabilities. He joined research teams in ther observations and occasional interventions for further observations. The three part series is called Monkey Planet.

I must admit I found it all fascinating and compulsive viewing, plus he is a very good presenter. All the time it has confirmed my view that we humans must leave our cousins to flourish in habitats we should also present. There is a good case that killers of these creatures can be charged with murder.

The reason is sentience and self-understanding, but also simply the right to be. The primates vary in what they can and cannot do, but they also socialise, have their own politics and have conditions of independent existence and even contemplative thought.

Sometimes a test of the residual value of theology is to apply it to such creatures. The usual Western Christian view is that animals do not sin and do not need salvation, and that they may well 'go to heaven'.

To make progress with any of this one has to suspend a lot of disbelief. By heaven I would not mean a place but, given the rest of the theology, a final arrival point at fulfilment. I am also assuming no need or reality in returning as different creatures in a cycle where only humans of good karma end up in a condition of no return. I'm assuming linear time and fulfilment.

If this is so (and I am suspending disbelief) then it seems to me to be nothing but speciesism to say that humans sin and need saving, but animals don't - why a dog might be blessed but is never invited to take communion.

Let's take the primate who is down the social pecking order and knows it. Researchers raise up a raft of bananas and watch. The senior monkeys get there first and gorge on the grub, but the poor one at the bottom of the monkey pile can only watch. It then hatches a strategy and delivers a false warning of predators. The monkeys on the raft scatter, and the lone creature is able to get at the remaining bananas.

George McGavin said that the monkey doing this strategy of deception won't be able to do it often. Well, why not? The monkey has had to think - what will cause them to get off that raft? It then impersonates. It views the result and acts on it. But are the others aware that they have been had? Do they know who did it. Do they have the capacity of supiscion? Do they act on it or realise it's fair? In amongst this is a debate about sinful behaviour.

We don't have that debate if monkey social order is by violence and we assume they know no other way. We do though look at our closest ape kind, the bonobo, and find that they make love not war, and shag like the best of them in making alliances and seeking comfort. Let's hear it for polyamoury.

Of course to be religious and act out exchange and gift rituals in excess of necessary exchange is to take matters a stage further. It is human trait for some of us to do the extra standing-back and making 'universal' gift-exchange rituals that intend to bind us as a people or community. Except, of course, many a monkey will sit and contemplate, and many will save time in one necessary activity in order to to enjoy extended grooming.

The difference between humans and other animals isn't language either. It is becoming clear that many higher animals have capacity for effective language. Complexity of language is not an issue. It turns out that the bee's dance for the location of food sources is not only highly complex but based on it being felt not seen. Its message of direction and distance is given to others in the dark. But regarding primates and higher creatures of the sea: they also learn, and part of the learning is done through language. Strategies for gathering and killing fish and the odd seal by killer whales varies across oceans and they tell and make their strategies around the group through language.

What they don't have, and we do, is a library. We store the information we learn and it can be accessed by anyone.

We also restrict via money, another universal symbolic device. Scarcity and value is reflected in the promise contained in coinage, or the electronic equivalent.

George McGavin introduced one primate who had 'crossed the line' into human company, which was part of his upbringing (and an ethical question there). The bonobo had been introduced to a language-based symbolic manipulation device to communicate its desires, wants and choices. Whilst humans sat about minding their own business, the bonobo made choices about food that were subsequently delivered, a bit like retarded people who use Tesco online. [Pictured: another kind of primate]

But it crossed the line in that whilst people sat about, it gathered up and broke and threw down woody material, then took a box of matches and lit a fire so that it could enjoy toasted marshmallows. Thus a bonobo used fire. No doubt it could teach other bonobos how to use fire, although it would still need to go to Tesco online to get boxes of matches. Nevertheless, there was a glimpse into one or more of species of human who learned that friction on a stick (they didn't have Specsavers and so no lenses) made fire and that fire transformed meat into digestible protein when on the plain.

Cooking is all about planning and preparation, which is why I have reverted to ready meals and the microwave. I bet the bonobo would love to use a microwave (I have two).

Now I don't believe in original sin, but I do think we live less well for others than we might (including animals), and all this planning and thinking strategies is about inviting us to live less well than we might. I don't think there is a final fulfilment (and certainly not reincarnation) but the gift-exchange is a chance to meet fulfilment, to bind further and contemplate a better way. Bonobos and others are not that far away from doing this.

If there are theological intellectual tools still worth using, try them out in relevance to animal life when it is social and not simply programmatic. The rescue of theology away from supernatural sillinesses may well come by its application in relevance to animal life along with us on this small planet.

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Summer Conference Excitement


Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics
Helping people to think differently about animals
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The Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics
We are on the cusp of holding the most important event on religion and animals ever held.

The response to our first Oxford Summer School on Religion and Animal Protection has been terrific.

More than 60 speakers from around the globe representing all the major religions will be presenting from 21-23 July 2014.

Already we are almost sold out even though the programme has not been formally published. But it is now. See here for the three packed days of intellectual exchange and debate.

We are delighted to announce that the Most Revd Metropolitan Kallistos Ware of Diokleia will give the opening presentation on ‘Compassion for Animals in the Orthodox Church’.

We have done all this on a very limited budget, but it will undoubtedly have a big impact on religious thought about animals.

In addition, the latest book in the Palgrave Macmillan Series on Animal Ethics is Christian Theology and the Status of Animals by Centre Associate Fellow Ryan Patrick McLaughlin. Dr McLaughlin’s book is a tremendous accomplishment – one of the very best to highlight the resources within Christianity for a positive view of animals. More details are available here.

We are also delighted to announce that Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s foreword to The Global Guide to Animal Protection has received international coverage and acres of comment on the web. It has really helped to put animals on the agenda of the churches. Details of the book are available here. Please help us ensure that every library in the world has a copy of these books.

All this adds to our core mission which is to change the world for animals by helping people to see animals differently. Without this intellectual change there can be no lasting improvement in the way they are treated. But there is so much that needs to be done, and we have so few resources. We work flat out here, seven days a week.

Every gift, no matter how small, is greatly appreciated. For details of how you can help see here.



With every good wish

andrew_sig
The Revd Professor Andrew Linzey
Director of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics
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