Wednesday 20 December 2023

Broadcasting Limitation

 Channel 4 in the UK is hiding nothing. One documentary is about Aldi, a single retailer, known for being cheap, commissioning some sort of dessert, basically something when I bothered to look  that appears like a female breast fake style. Well done Penny Lane bakery and what publicity, and then other hopefuls include Wigston Deli, who pitch Pigs in Blankets Samosas; a festive themed steamed pudding from Worcestershire based The Pudding Shop, and Pigs in Blankets Ice Cream from Yorkshire dairy farm Yorvale. It's all about Aldi, of course, cheap and yet sophisticated.

Another documentary is about McVities biscuits. They're producing a not quite so new white chocolate digestive. In the past ITV would have banned these documentaries as too close to commercial products. Too close?

Once upon a time cameras came with limitations and directors moved them about. Lights or strong reflected sun were needed. Nowadays you get saturated colour and pinpoint accuracy, and so cameras stay still. The focus is on individuals and what they wear, where they are placed, as they drone on. They can be in an office or go dogging - it doesn't matter.

Saturday 9 December 2023

Basic Liberal Religious Position


I came into religion through the liberal route, starting with sociology of religion research that showed the unawareness of theology by churchgoers, and that this was deliberate. Those intending for ministry learnt liberal Christian theology and then in general went on to ignore it as they went into pastoral ministry.

I was told by one Methodist minister that Honest to God from 1962 by Bishop J A T Robinson was "old hat" but then too dangerous to introduce. He was minister of one of the groups I studied using participant observation. I found a liberal Methodist minister to interview. He recommended I read Hans Kùng's 1973 brick called On Being a Christian and indeed I acquired my own copy. Kùng is an ecumenically-minded marginalised Roman Catholic theologian.

My background was as an agnostic encountering the University of Essex chaplaincy in 1982. It's chaplain went on to be known for his Animal Theology and less so for his interesting treatment of Karl Barth - had he focussed on The Spirit as he had on Christ. His daughter Clair grew up to be a chip off the block as she promotes Animal Theology on liberation, ecological, and contextual theologies and her theologian of choice (comparative disappointment) was liberationist Leonardo Boff. Both father and daughter assume a trinitarian theology but run the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics concerning sentient animals on a multi-faiths basis.

Today's theological language has narrowed, so that people like the Linzeys, Colin Coward and even myself are counted as 'Progressive' despite huge differences between us. I would not count as Christian despite sharing many concerns and some methods of Christian progressives. I'm looking for a religious humanist theology, one that does extend to sentient animals.

Too much of revisionism is based on opposing literalists of the Bible. I don't really care about them. They are easy targets. So many American Deconstructionists come from one-time fundamentalists who've become secular and saddled with personal burdens of history. This has never been true for me. I'm more interested in why so few take on the likes of Rowan Williams and their sophisticated mythology. I recall Rowan Williams telling disc jockey Simon Mayo that the advent and Christian narratives are indeed historical, when Williams knew perfectly well that they are not. As Williams became Archbishop of Canterbury, the Virgin Birth increased in importance, whatever that meant. Williams gets so stuck in the detail that he forgets the detail of tradition is not the same as historical; it has historical expression but does not have an historical basis. In other words, he deals in lies rather than truths. I bought Williams's recent Looking East in Winter and read his methodology of getting stuck into comparative obscurity, as if being obscure passes a test of credibility. Well, it does not. Rules of communicating still apply and a purpose of writing and speaking is to be understood.

I'm as capable of doing Christian theology as anyone else. My preferred route is the more historical. The whole nativity matter is about when Jesus is apparently God acquiring humanity or a human becoming God. Some said or say it is at his resurrection, others that it was at his baptism by John, others at his birth, and then they are supposed to maintain that Christ was eternally divine (although John's Gospel refers to the beginning - this is not quite the same thing).

John's Gospel is most explicit that Jesus had divinity, with all of the 'I Am' statements, although there are also God the Father only type statements. As for the other Synoptic Gospels, the most 'divine' is arguably Mark where others failed to understand Jesus's mission. However, Mark's possible divinity and Jesus as Messiah is in the context of a coming new reality that would eject Roman rule in place of the Son of Man, the King of the Jews, establishing the twelve tribes of Israel and the Kingdom of God within which even Gentiles would experience the benefits.

This is the important part: Jesus is not simply some ethical teacher and healer, even if this is all that can be extracted from him by today's sociology of knowledge: he was a supernaturalist and holder of eschatological beliefs we would find strange to hear.

Thus I do not follow Jesus, and see no reason to extract ethical beliefs from him in particular. I see the point of a life lived, and Jesus does it well, but the result here is a kind of league table without the necessary evidence. Where does Gandhi go, and what about Baha'u'llah of the Baha'is (as one digs down into a group that likes to control its own history inside its own vaults and rules of publishing). Where is the evidence of the dharma result of the Buddha's Middle Way?

Like Colin Coward I revise the ontological essence of God, God as ultimate being. I'm aware that this God my way is so high and so thin it barely exists at all. Much are signals of transcendence rather than transcendence itself - the quality of art, the beauty of equations. I can also use the language of Holy Spirit in the sense of this thin God doing things. I'm not a deist, not really, but I beware of anything beyond evolution's own cruel processes of adding complexity to life on earth.

I ally with those Christians wanting equality and justice. It's a better life. It's fairly simple stuff, this.

In a serious behavioural way (attending, getting involved less or more) I have mixed with Methodists, Anglicans, Quakers, Western Buddhists and Baha'is. However, the main group has been Unitarians.

Let us be clear. The Unitarians are at a point of history where they are pretty much defunct. This means there are some congregations where they are actually doing well. There are paid  ministers. There is still, just about, a General Assembly structure. But its numbers are so low (two and a half thousand in Great Britain) that it has had it. Locally, and like many, I fell out with the minister here, and the local congregation was wrecked by 'the man with a plan' and a bureaucrat with documents. It has hobbled on since with a handful, if that, with much more money  than people, but the Methodists would have closed it down decades back. It went downwards when I was in it, and I observed no agreement over definitions local or national. There was no point or purpose, other than a choice of existence, for a creedless gathering for doing religion. Yes, there was a Puritan-Presbyterian communal memory, a long shadow, and all its developments institutionally embedded, and my experienced minister-led example showed a pathetic lack of substance in the New Age material.

Thus I remain fairly central in how I draw in material for being religious. Oddly, I'm less likely to be Buddhist, less likely to be purely secularist, but I am very marginal in religion. I give more attention to the left wing of the Reformation and East Europe as a place of early toleration. i am more religious than spiritual, still.

I am interested in the effects of Romanticism over rationality: rationality alone cannot exist in religion. Some tradition is invented but others are tramlines so far. Some confined theology, teaching and practice that enshrine prejudice, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia and racism put me off associating with institutions of religion. Evangelical theology is pointless; radical Orthodoxy is an exercise in being uncommunicative. Creating a postmodern space for premodern content is another form of indulgence, a religious masturbation.

I'm inactive. Resting is preferable. I'd still join with those who are part of today's sociology of knowledge. We think today along the lines of expecting technology to solve problems. Maths is pure thought but crucial as applied, followed by experimental physics, chemistry and biology, by deductive social science in Economics, politics and sociology, and inductive social anthropology, and then inductive but evidence-rules history, and on to the subjective arts like painting and creative writing. Religion should be less supernatural and slot into these ways of thinking and behaving.

Rare Blogging


I used to write blogs regularly. I had plenty to put in writing, so this is what I did. I recommend that, when there is nothing particularly to say, then don't state it. Someone will; let them.

I did get into video editing to add to my story-making skills. One was a criticism of Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon, especially the first four (of nine, a tenth to come) books and the first four television series, although I have watched five through. She's a highly imaginative, very popular author, but there is much in the novel construction open to negative criticism.

Then I did an analysis of trams (on to trolleybuses), cars and trains all to do with optimistic travel claims of private transport back in 1963 between and into towns. We are still living with this rejection of the rationality of public transport provision.

I happen to be opposed to HS 2, the high speed rail line, but only because it's yesterday's solution today. We should be thinking of Maglev motion with rare regional stops and a basic extended letter H. Very expensive but of the highest speed. Then we should be having replacement rail and some out of town railway stops. If we can build bypass roads we can build bypass rails - or even use what is available, such as shortening and speeding up rail links going past (using Park and Ride) Swansea/ Abertawe.

The blog was once about liberal religion, a real passion, but later was motivated by politics; and its collapse was my defence of staying in the European Union. All I wrote has been vindicated since but a defeat is simply that and its life again depends on new circumstances still to arise to bring back the relevance of its arguments.

Meanwhile I read the blogs of others, and one is by Colin Coward a campaigning Anglican of the progressive side. I largely agree with him except his view of evolution that reflects optimistic process theology - whereas I think evolution works via comparative death and is a cruel process. Evolution is a local chaotic series of comparative benefits, that then goes on to interact as a system in and across a locality. Improvements and complexity overall are at a cost of suffering.

I'm more likely to blog when the Tory party at last disintegrates, as it seems to be doing over its own policy and structural contradictions. We need a General Election. I remain a member but hardly an enthusiast for the Liberal Democrats.

Next along then is a statement of my current religious position.

Monday 24 October 2022

The Hindu to See the King

 So the Conservatives have not made the same mistake twice. (See the previous entry.)

Sunak has won among the MPs and that was good enough. He will present a more substantial leader for Keir Starmer and Ed Davey to tackle electorally, though at first glance Sunak lacks communication skills in front of a television camera.

He could be - we'll have to see - at the Social Democratic end of the Conservative Party - a bit like Johnson, but Johnson also threw red meat tit bits to his right wingers and was a Nationalist with it.

He'll be a Hindu charged with deciding between two Church of England bishops for appointments.

He is untested, of course, with the broad-brush management of ministers who are to do the specific delivery. Many Liz Truss 'yes people' will now be bundled out from the Cabinet.

Thus, regardless of public statements of best intentions, right wingers will add to those disgruntled. We remain at the end of a political cycle where the body politic is desperate for renewal that comes with a sea-change General Election. Pity that the opposition leaders lack charisma. Capable and tested ones are in devolved government. Unless Truss, who ignored them, Sunak would do well to call upon them in a positive manner.

Same Again?

Johnson has gone. Whatever his reason, it's sensible from a Tory Party point of view. He became divisive. His 'time' will probably be to head up the opposition, if the Tories lose the next General Election.

However, imagine the scenario now. Penny Mordaunt gets over a hundred MPs, many from Johnson, many anti-Sunak.

Two go to the membership. Sunak with the overwhelming backing of MPs again loses to the other one.

It would be just like how Truss won, the Tories' own Jeremy Corbyn, the ideologue who lacked the support of most MPs. (The difference is: he was genuine and she was fake, a recreation several times.)

The Tory Party in the House of Commons would explode. They might even hold their own vote afterwards and have Sunak (almost) command a majority in the House of Commons.

Or, more likely, the Mordaunt faction would make Sunak unable to get legislation through.

So, unless she backs down, the risk is that the Tory Party self-destructs.

Saturday 22 October 2022

Stupid Politics (Continued)

 The Tory calculation is that Boris Johnson will prevent an electoral wipeout. The problem is that he will now divide opinion.

Yes, some electors will vote for him, but equally those anti-Johnson who are not attracted positively to 'Soporific Starmer' or 'Disappointing Davey' will be motivated to vote for who can remove their constituency Tory MP.

But, before we ever get there, imagine Sunak getting the vast majority of Conservative MPs only for it to go to the membership and find that they select Johnson. It'll be back to the same issue again, as with Truss.

Plus, if Johnson wins, several Conservative MPs will go independent or even join an opposition party.

Rely on the Conservatives to get it wrong again!

Thursday 20 October 2022

If Johnson Stands

 If Boris Johnson wants to stand for Conservative Party leader, the Conservative Party will descend into chaos like the present chaos has been a little difficulty.

He commands support and wishes to restore what was lost, but too many have learnt the lesson of his unsuitability as Prime Minister.

So, far from there being a unity candidate, there'd be (with a week?) sharp division with massive infighting. A placed-in Prime Minister would not be able to command the House of Commons.

I'm not very good at predictions but I can see the trends and movements. My predictions sort of work their way through perhaps in a different way. I was right that Truss had lost authority, but she (for a while) decided to dig in. However, nothing she said had lasting power and so she has gone.

Some want Johnson in as the only charismatic leader to face a General Election. The price is huge.

The problem for others is that they would be a leader up to defeat at the polls and then would be replaced, especially after a bloodbath. If I was a Tory MP with leadership ambitions, I'd become leader in a period of coming opposition to have a manifesto and policy aims and identity. What's the point of a short period in office, when defeat is almost guaranteed?

The Tories cannot do a leadership stitch-up within a week if Boris Johnson stands.