Thursday 28 February 2013

Beyond Boundaries

It seems I've got myself into some more trouble again, this time at Thinking Anglicans, after I decided to make some increasingly rare comments (that were accepted). I'm not in trouble with the blog owners, as far as I can tell, but with one of the normally broad comment-makers who dismissed my making any comment at all.

It started with the matter of entryism all over again, coming to Sheffield, and I commented because I've had this as a main feature of my own blogging and comment making in years past. I'd taken the time to transcribe a video of the entryism strategy which, by the existence then of text, promoted my blog and comments in the public sphere among other blogs. But perhaps I went too far, because then at Thinking Anglicans came a more 'devotional' entry which did have questions built in that I answered from my perspective using history or its absence. Thus creating debate, with Erika Baker debating me again, someone referred to the pointlessness of such historical scrutiny as just the resultant all-too-familiar denial of Christ and so I answered Erika and then added that no I don't follow Christ. To which the normally broad minded 'Father Ron Smith' wondered why I bothered to comment and regarded me as necessarily adverserial. But (as I hope will appear) I am not adverserial as the questions within were open to access by anyone using history, but I am not a follower of Christ. What makes this more interesting is that the first blog on entryism turned into the apparent heresies of The Episcopal Church and its leaders, and Martin Reynolds (who once telephoned me!) regarded the views as within Anglican diverse opinion. So I asked what's that and then 'Helen' refers to the Jesus of the Gospels as distinct from the Jesus of Paul (which I think is not quite right: the Jesus of the Gospels is still the Jesus of Paul, it's the Jesus of history that is the issue).

So having bowed out earlier thanks to Rev. Ron Smith, I make a comment that the boundaries could be the incarnation (that somehow the definitiveness of Jesus tells us something about the world) and the resurrection (that Jesus returns in some sense that defines the future).

This is obviously very loose, and on reflection would have been considered Unitarian in the nineteenth century if not largely so in the first half of the twentieth century. I suppose I should add a focus upon these, but that would still be the case for Unitarianism over that time. Although I could add 'The Trinity' the fact is that despite the liturgy many an Anglican is Unitarian in the old theological sense or possibly Arian in some sense. (Pure Arianism is as supernaturalist as anything else: but there is a kind of acquisition of subordinate divinity that some believe.)

I'm not a follower of anyone, that's all. It doesn't make me hostile to Christian sources, and I still use them. I also use Buddhist, Humanist and Pagan. There are no boundaries. I am not limited to any particular book of scriptures. Jesus is not definitive for me, but there are ethical arguments and investigations about how ethics have possibly been lived, just as there are claims about religious and ethical pathways. We are not forced to accept one package or another, but can mix and match where there is a join. When the chips are down I am a religious humanist, but draw from various sources. At the moment I'm looking again at a book on liturgy and all its relationships, and thinking how these relate to service construction. There are areas to consider of processing through, of exchange and gift, of sorry and thanks and carrying on. I might chat about these ideas with friends going on a Unitarian worship course, and I might add an analysis of liturgy on my website. But it is not Christian as such, and it's a matter of clarity that it is not.

Here is a very interesting 'first impressions' of someone at a Unitarian church and meeting someone who says she's Unitarian but not Christian.

Pluralist Website

Wednesday 27 February 2013

Roman Catholic Meltdown

The Daily Telegraph report of 26 February has Prof Tom Devine, a Roman Catholic academic, saying that there is an absence of proof and absence of denial in the resignation of Cardinal Keith O'Brien as Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh is thus presenting Scotland with its biggest crisis regarding Roman Catholicism since the Reformation. Certainly, Benedict XVI acted fast before his own resignation took effect.

What we are seeing surely is something far greater than an event in Scotland. We are seeing the unravelling of an authoritarian institution because that authoritarianism allowed it to be riddled with practices of a distrustful kine, whether it be boys, trainee priests or girls affected by pregnancy. The Church more broadly has exploited and has been cruel.

It is rotten in the same way as the selling of undulgences was rotten, but this is directly unethical whereas that was supernaturalism used for profit. This is probably why Benedict XVI threw in the towel: the job to sort out the mess is simply too big for him to do. The problem is if it is too big for any Pope to do. The institution needs reform so thoroughly that it can become accountable. It needs significant lay involvement, priests that marry and have other consenting relationships, and women in the clergy. In other words it needs a revolution, but the sort a Pope can bring - the authoritarian hand that opens things up.

Now we know what happens when an authoritarian hand opens things up to scrutiny. Not so many decades ago, a chap decided, initially that it was consistent with Lenin to introduce Glasnost and Perestroika. Later he dropped that highly doubtful association for legitimacy and regarded it as, more simply, democratic. Gorbachev and the Sovient Union was a history of openness and change, dodging and weaving, going to the right again, being taken over, being rescued by the forces he'd released, and then disintegration, followed by a slow return to authoritarianism on the smaller body but not as ideological or complete as before.

This Pope now resigning had himself decided on a policy of making a smaller, purer, and as authoritarian Church. It would be Eurocentric as before: doctrinal, theological, dogmatic and priestly. But it didn't involve tackling the rot; he tackled the rot separately and reluctantly - "behind the curve". And it has undermined everything.

Imagine a pope soon that opens the institution up. So first it would unleash a relief and responsiveness on the ground. Secondly it would get a backlash from conservative forces still in power. The reforming Pope would have to duck and weave. If he was overcome, he'd need the forces unleashed to insist on and restore the openness that most had started to enjoy. If they did restore openness, the instuitution could crash down about itself - bishops being accountable, in paticular, and undergoing severe loss and sharing of power, with less pyramdal power. The Church might shatter into different Roman Catholic Churches around the world.

Perhaps a start would be other accused Cardinals not turning up to elect the next pope.On its own choosing a new pope is nothing, but to choose reform does have the danger of the lid blowing off. Not much then rides on the near future.

Pluralist Website

Sunday 24 February 2013

Protestant and Proud?

Today's service at Hull was presented by a once member now located well west of Hull and on the subject of Protestantism. The quip was made that over in Ireland the Dublin church was able to expand its numbers so well because a Catholic country allowed more free thinking. I think the answer is simpler: it has a residual attending church culture at a time of modernisation, so a Unitarian church might well touch both that change and yet draw on a still greater propensity to attend. But no doubt the more 'magical' views of causality of its recent now minister suited Ireland quite well. Plus it matters that Dublin was and is Unitarian rather than the Non-Subscribing Presbyterianism of the rest of the island of Ireland, where only a Belfast church and only now seems to be advancing its message and reach (towards gay tolerance in a rather intolerant region).

I like the services as today's, with a confident and informal and skilled conversational presentation. My own tend to be more 'newsreader' like in style. He raises interesting questions but some times and including today I get the sense they go unanswered. So as well as the question of whether Unitarians are Protestant and proud of it, we had music from the Protestant break out period (I also threw in some English madrigals, a reference to Anne Boleyn and Protestant-affected music).We had a bit about Luther, but not the point that Luther was the most Catholic of Protestants, as is the Church (think of consubstantiation, for example). As for the Bible being supreme, but a Catholic pointing out that the Church chose the Bible, there was again nothing on higher Church Protestants: some Protestants do have a strong view of Church (and I'm not talking about Anglo-Catholics). We seemed to jump, for a Unitarian stance, from that straight to Martineau and individual authority. But that is post-biblical, even post-Church. There was nothing on the Bible and 'ordinary comprehension' as practised by the Reformation Socinians and Unitarians too. In other words, although yes the Bible was chosen by the Church, the Bible is then subject to individual reading and making sense of what is on the page (this is prior to biblical criticism).

The answer to the Church chose the Bible conundrum is that of Revelation. The Church is faithful to revelation (via the Holy Spirit) to the proper reception of the Bible. The Church rightly creates Articles and Creeds so that the chosen Bible is regulated in its reading. Such is Protestantism, and the Church has its very important role of gathering and ordering.

That's where the Unitarians eventually parted company, because to have ordinary comprehension is to start to undo things from below. You notice the inconsistencies that the trinitarian Church filter glosses over or simply refuses to see. The biggest is the Trinity itself: its doctrine is missing from the Bible, and indeed to have it calls for the Church to be that filter. If one goes by the synoptic gospels, Jesus is quite human if God's chosen prophet, with only hints of divinity from Mark; the Gospel of John with its subordinate passages about Jesus is thus Arian, and Paul has Jesus as God's chosen sole worker, the means through which salvation is gained as well as the person who will bring in the Kingdom and (at first) soon. The Bible also veers between God knowing all and saving believers, and God responding to faith and loving to save all.

Much of this is obvious just by reading it, but Martineau writes after biblical criticism comes in (and in Germany too - many Unitarians went to Germany to learn first hand). Biblical criticism is about the why and how these passages vary, and why there is such internal variety in the biblical accounts, and about the dating that shows how Paul affects pretty much everything of significance in the gospels and beyond.

Martineau also writes after it is established that Unitarianism changes over time, and that this is how it now understands its creedlessness. He also writes from the perspective of the broad Church Unitarian, dismissive of the denominationalism of the older biblical Unitarian. Yet the liturgical, conservative Martineau could not give up the Jesus-using basis of much worship. Others around him saw the implications of a religious humanism and multi-faith approach, as with the theist Francis William Newman.

For someone like me, the compulsion of collective liturgy collapses under the individualism, as does the Church. The broad 'pantheistic' Church ceases to be Church, in the end. The binary opposite of Church-individual undergoes a collapse. The Church can only survive as a canvas on to which individuals and groups can paint their own liturgies and be inspired from across the religious, artistic, social-scientific and scientific universe. This is post-Protstant and also Post-Catholic. It is the category Ernst Troeltsch called Mysticism (alongside Church and Sect) and it is inhabited by Unitarians, Quakers and off-the-edge post-Christians.

So the answer is that Unitarians are not Protestant any more, whether or not they are proud of it.

Pluralist Website

Deep Scandals

Oh dear. The Pope resigns and a whole load of allegations swirl around in Scotland and to the Vatican about senior clerics covering up not only the abuse of boys by priests, girls in laundries treated with cruelty, but priests in training given the once-over by more senior colleagues. Perhaps that's why he resigned: he realised the system was rotten to the core and needs someone with the energy to clean up the mess.

Meanwhile, over to those Liberal Democrats again. I care less about scandal than I do seeing Steve Webb trying to justify the Bedroom Tax. Swear words and violent-like responses well up. But how is that a senior woman close to Nick Clegg 'took action' regarding all these allegations and yet Nick Clegg knew nothing about them? A case of the Pope being the last person to know what is going on?

Anyway, bye bye Pope and good riddance, and hopefully one might say the same too of Nick Clegg and a good number of others called Liberal Democrat.

Update: Ah. So the answer to my question is that Nick Clegg now says he did know, but only sort of, and Danny Alexander did approach the accused to warn him about his behaviour. But there was never anything specific. Clegg blathers on about people seeking to damage the reputation of the Liberal Democrats. Yeah, don't worry on that score, mate - it's the stand on your head policies that have damaged the reputation of the Liberal Democrats. Lies and being misled at the election.

In the pub friends referred to an uncomfortable looking (a body language that contradicted his words) Vince Cable giving the denials that Nick Clegg knew. I likened the Liberal Democrats to being like some family - they all know each other - so they go to conference and it's like, for some, seek out some nookie time, but some don't know how to observe the boundaries. Now they are in power it suddenly matters. Friends said, rather, think of Prescott and his secretary, and that often it is men of power who put themselves about and the woman who thinks she finds a means to climb the ladder (and some who don't).

Pluralist Website

Monday 18 February 2013

Entryism Active in the Church of England

So, here we go, and outside London: entryism inside the Church of England.

Entryism is where a small body that keeps a tight control of itself invades and uses a host of a more mdoerate body because that body has a wider outreach than the small group could ever hope to acquire, despite the fact that the small body can attract to a limited extent larger numbers of its own fanatical types and some newer marginal people under its wing. The small group also takes opportunities to go out into the larger body and take over, bit by bit, as the opportunities present, units of the larger body's operation. The usual channels of decision making become subverted under the entryists' often informal and preplanned means of control. The model is trotskyite, and was shown with the actions of the Militant Tendency inside the Labour Party.

The larger body is usually undergoing weaknesses and transition, and is ripe for actions taken against it: and the small body seeks to weaken the host further as it takes to itself the hosts' shell institutions and acquire them to itself.

Near the Unitarian church at Fulwood is the Reform based Church of England Christ Church. Already this church planted Christ Church Central in Sheffield, in 2003, without diocesan support, and now both are planting Christ Church Walkley. The difference now is that this Church of England congregation is ordaining its own deacon via the actions of GAFCON.

Trained appropriately at the 'approved' Oak Hill Theological College, Peter Jackson has been an associate unordained leader at the Christ Church Central, and the congregations wanted him ordained. They didn't ask the Church of England locally or nationally, or the diocesan bishop, but the Anglican Mission in England, their own body, part of GAFCON and the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, and so he was ordained out in Kenya. Thus foreign, international, bishops are providing the entryism. Archbishop of Kenya, Eliud Wabukala and the Bishop of Kitui, Josephat Mule, ordained him as deacon: it just so happens that the Archbishop is chairman of the GAFCON Primates’ Council.

More than this, Christ Church Central has a trustee who is also a Diocese of Sheffield General Synod member and a member of the Crown Nominations Commission.

So the question is, what is the Church of England, now under new management, or even the diocese going to do about it? We know what the last Archbishop of Canterbury did - precisely nothing other than appeasement with his Advent statement of 2007. This one, well: he's a Holy Trinity Brompton man, so might even be an enthusiast for all this! But, really, ordaining a deacon abroad, and circumventing the given structures in the locality, cannot be the method of the managerial Archbishop.

The argument of Christ Church, starting at Fulwood, is that such a small percentage of Sheffield is Christian in any recognisable sense. But imagine if Christ Church, its ministry, its trustees and those ordained by bishops abroad, were to become 'successful' in outreach, unlike the rest of the Church of England. Who'd then be in charge in Sheffield and the region? There'd be a Church of England on the one hand, and an AMiE Church in/ of England on the other, with bishops provided under different management and in Africa, with the AMiE body thus invading the Church of England in terms of its parishes taken over and deciding its own bishops and personnel and present into its highest institutions.

Ultimately this action builds a different 'power centre' or indeed third province with its own rules of ordination; the equivalent would be if some retired liberal-leaning bishops got together and started consecrating women priests into bishops and they started their own operations but still called themselves Church of England. Everyone for themselves then!

So says me, of a happy English Presbyterian, a body that was always reluctantly congregationalist in polity. But then Unitarians organise themselves and it is quite clear who they are not.

See Thinking Anglicans. Pluralist Website

Sunday 17 February 2013

The Bedroom Tax: We'll End Up Eating Horses

There is a lot of confusion around about this Bedroom Tax. I understand I will not be affected. Those that are will be because they live in registered social housing or council housing - social housing being the privatised (or otherwise) substitute for council housing. This is where the Housing Benefit is paid to those that rent out the property. Those who receive Local Housing Allowance and then pay it to their landlord are not affected, as it is already based on the number of bedrooms.

I have heard that charity housing is affected - well, yes, if it is as social housing and no if it is not. I have heard that the private rented sector is affected, but then this does not explain how the bill for Housing Benefit can go up as a result of this legislation, not down. People forced out of social housing who then rent privately may well find themselves receiving more in LHA than used to be paid within the social housing sector, thus forcing the overall bill up. There has been conversation about housing providers outside social housing who can shuffle their tenants around into one and two bedroomed properties: but the LHA paid is already based on bedrooms needed.

I have looked at the same websites as other people, and there is an absence of explanation. What also is the case is a lot of ostrich-like activity. Ahead of this appalling tax, people are sticking their heads in the sand.

The deduction in direct benefit is discriminatory. It is so because it does not affect pensioners. Incidentally, after his mother died my (divorced from mother) father occupied a London council house. He was at pension age. They managed to move him out to pensioner-suitable accommodation and released the house to a family. There is nothing new in this. It is the manner in which it is being done. It is also discriminatory because it only affects those in social and council housing.

It is against human rights because it denies people a family life. The extra room is a necessity because that is where the grandparents stay, where the children of extended families come to stay and also, for people with various disabilities, where the carer can stay. There are also married couples who need to sleep in separate rooms because one of them has a medical condition that affects the peace of the other. So this is a horrible, vindictive law.

On BBC 1 Question Time on Thursday 14th, George Galloway MP said this is Cameron's Poll Tax. The reason he said it is because he is in touch with what people are saying. Whatever one thinks of him, he is someone who keeps in touch via social media and mass media. He knows what people are talking about, and the political class is yet to catch up - as they also have their head in the sands.

Now I could be wrong about who gets affected, and this level of uncertainty is what is driving some of the worry. But not to be included is almost as guilt-making as being included, in simply asking why. Indeed, as the courts start to slap this down, if popular reaction doesn't do it first, the danger is that the discrimination is answered by its extension not by its removal. People, though, right at the bottom, have little to live on as it is and this massive cut into their money (added by the new Council Tax claims on the very same people) is going to leave many destitute. They are being given the private sector as a kind of escape, to release social housing, but the escape route could be removed.

On that same programme the Liberal Democrat was more right wing than the Tory. She was generally sickening in tone and content. This Bedroom Tax is just one more reason why we were fooled by the Liberal Democrats at the last election. I voted for them on the basis of their manifesto, but they turned out not just to compromise with the Tories but have enthusiastically joined in. Who'd have thought it that Liberal Democrats would have come up with something like this Bedroom Tax? I shall never vote for them again unless there is root and branch removal of key personnel and a policy overhaul, and significant apologies. I voted for them to keep the Tores out, not to have the worst Tories with Liberal Democrats ever seen.

Nigel Farage decided he had other things on his mind, so Eastleigh at best is likely to grind itself down into a stalemate. If you were a Lib Dem like me, you'd vote Labour or Green now. Other Lib Dems might vote Tory, to have the real version. But then the Liberal Democrats are now real version Tories, too much and too often, so it really is Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee. I don't even think the Tories and Lib Dems will scrap that much in Eastleigh in the by-election. Politics is sort of dying as they attack the poor and bless the rich.

For example, everyone knows that this cap of £75,000 on elderly care (but not including accommodation and food - when it is the house that gets sold off!) is an upper middle class policiy. If you are poorer, your money will still disappear. The cap is for the benefit of the rich. This is utterly different from removing what is needed to survive from the poorest.

And also the economic effect of the Bedroom Tax will be massively deflationary. We need people at the bottom end spending, but this will limit many to food and much else will be impossible to pay. There will be bad debts rising. To cap something that might happen, paid for by inheritance tax that will happen, that nevertheless tells the wealthier what they will have and keep, is simply to play around with savings and property (at the margin - almost no effect, if slightly deflationary); but to introduce a Bedroom Tax is to crash the economy yet again. We'll all end up eating horses.

Sunday 10 February 2013

Vicious Government Against Family Life

The movement against is growing. This attack on the poorest must be challenged in the courts: it denies such people a family life because separated parents cannot call and stay, children in extended families cannot stay, partners including married couples cannot have separate rooms when one has a medical condition, carers cannot stay. It stands against basic human rights. It is a vicious discriminatory 'tax' on the least who can afford it, and never has anything as bad as this been pressed upon the population since the workhouse. It is forcing people with nowhere to go to move, and is disrupting lives, and comes on top of having to pay towards council tax when the very same people cannot afford that. At the same time millionaires are getting a tax cut. This is the policy of a Liberal Democrat and Conservative government and both parties need putting out of government for good at the earliest opportunity.

Pluralist Website

Friday 8 February 2013

The Spiritual Death of the Church of England

My own position in the Church of England was a long declining one, of realising I could never repeat the promises clergy make (I believe in a unity of membership - laity should not be a sort of second-class hang-on to a clericalised Church). I then flipped back to the Unitarians and it is as much a permanent outcome as it can be. There are many grumbles, but the overall ethical situation is sound. It is not good enough to be in a friendly congregation when the Church has beliefs and policies that I cannot accept. In any congregation one tries to be friendly - it's a spiritual discipline - but a church is not the place of one's main friends, necessarily.
It is not as bad, potentially, surely, as a workplace, where you do what you don't want to do, and the politicking is based on that compulsion. Volunteer, and you ought to be in overall ideological agreement on what is significant.

So what do I make of this, a chap's withdrawal from some public writing?

...his [Archbishop Justin Welby's] moral opposition to homosexuality remains a massive problem for me - as was that of his predecessor. I do not want to spend my time getting angry with him, or continually being ashamed at the Church of which I am, and will always try to remain, a part.

But the C of E is travelling in a different direction now. And there is something spiritually deadening about being in a state of permanent opposition to all of this.

... I go on, I find myself having less and less respect for the leadership (for want of a better word) of an organisation that often seems to do little more than seek its own perpetuation.

Well, why are you still there then, Giles Fraser? Is it the pay? There are other Christian denominations, like the United Reformed Church, and it may be the one to cross the line to inclusion first. Presumably as a known person Giles Fraser will continue to write for other newspapers. Perhaps the secular world only sees the Church of England (I'm as guilty of that over-focus as anyone) and he gets asked to write.

The answer to exclusivity and prejudice is not to disappear and keep quiet. That seems to have been the liberal strategy for far too long - Carry On and Don't Be Noticed.

Coffee morning this morning, and an important social congregation, and the issue that really matters came up in chat. The stress, someone said to me, being caused by the coming Bedroom Tax. Now that is something to write about. The Church of England, I note, has said bugger all, but then so have all the other Churches including the one I'm in. This matter is what is really concerning far too many people, and those right at the bottom. One (he) said the government does not think it through. She mentioned riots; I said we hope not but London's big estates have erupted over far less. This is where religious leaders need to be: talking about the people at the bottom getting a clobbering. These folks deserve a co-ordinating voice. People need a spare bedroom for a visiting family life, for carers, he said for adults who can no longer sleep in the same room (for all sorts of reasons).

Pluralist Website

On Inclusion

Rev. Chris Hudson ministers where Unitarianism is indeed Christian as a result of the surrounding culture. On Channel 4 he has a positive view of religion in Northern Ireland (I don't).
This television exposure follows Newington Green church appearing as a backdrop in a BBC 2 Newsnight report this last week. Unitarians were mentioned on BBC 1 Question Time several times, as they were in the House of Commons during the inclusive marriage debate.

A new blog on inclusion in Unitarianism, written by Louise Rogers. I've added it to the reading list.

Unfortunately, for Changing Attitude, and its idea for inclusion, Church of England bishops will only admit women participant observers after the C of E decides in favour of women bishops. The equivalent now is that gay bishops already in the House stay in the closet.

Thursday 7 February 2013

This Vicious Government

It is a trick of government not to explain legislation. It comes towards people and heads go into the sand. Then it comes, apparently sorted, and it is too late. It impacts. You then get social disorder and backtracking happens.

The Conservative Party and Liberal Democrats together are not just the nasty parties - they are vicious. The Bedroom Tax is nearly upon people and it is going to cause social destruction across large groups of the poorest. There are large estates in places like London and other major cities that can react to tipping points far less than this, and this will hurt. This one is a Poll Tax Plus big time, on top of making the Council Tax a localised form of Poll Tax all over again.

In the past governments knew that there was a social contract. It went something like this. Capitalism works most of the time but not all of the time. With the best will in the world, the market fails to employ everyone and fails to fit the best people to the best jobs. So you make life just possible for the people who are left unemployed and try and make things more fluid to get a job. Everyone knows that a place like South East Wales does not have a geography that causes more depression: it is unemployment, and the need to live on more than the minimum that leads to depression and disability and at least a little more money to cope. The Tories in the 1980s created mass unemployment and just dumped people, but at least they could live even if the figures were fiddled. Of course everything should be done to assist those who should and can work when the work is available.

This government now is led by a bone-headed Chancellor, an air-head Prime Minister and an arrogant over-promoted Deputy Prime Minister. They are all privileged posh boys and have little insight into where so many people exist. They have forgotten the social contract, and the Work Programme involves no work and no programme but just adds repetitive pressure. The firms involved park the difficult cases while trying to claim the job seeking efforts of the successful as their own work. It becomes more private profit. Well that's all OK if it is surrounded by a practical realism, but these political lightweights deceive themselves. They believe their own propaganda. The strength of their politics has been shown once again, today, by the reverse gear use by Michael Gove the Education Secretary (who has been promoting himself to take over from Cameron). He is another hopeless case, a shambolic prejudice-run individual.

What the Bedroom Tax does is lead hundreds of thousands who can just about make ends meet fall into continuous debt. But it won't work, if the aim is to cut welfare payments. It only affects people in England, so that is one discrimination, as with the Council Tax becoming the new Poll Tax. It only affects people in listed social housing. It also denies those people a broader family life or social assisted life, because the extra bedroom is the means by which the wider family can come and stay, or carers can stay over. There must be a human rights challenge on that basis if nothing else.

So imagine what happens as large numbers of people get a cut to their housing benefit. It will soon be real. They must do something about it, because they are living on so little. Many cannot move and will suffer. So say they pay £75 a week rent and get that in benefit. It then drops by 14% or just under £5 every week. If they have two rooms 'spare' it drops by just under £19. This is money that went on heat, clothes and food. So the government starts to save money. But then many couples or individuals move into the private rented sector, where, up to certain limits, the full housing benefit for an area is paid. Before market pressure and rising rents, they might pay say £85 a week rent, even for flats and small houses. So the housing benefit that was £75 paid becomes £85 paid under the new system.

At the same time, people in private rented accommodation, receiving their housing benefit, will not want to move into vacated social housing. So the effect is that the benefit bill goes up. There becomes a surplus of two and three bedroom social housing, which no one wants except larger families on a waiting list, but these days many families are small and fragmented and the housing stock reflects the benefits system as has been.

But then let's not be fooled about even this. Social housing makes up some of the smallest units of housing going. Many of these two bedroomed houses are with a tiny so-called double room and then a box room. Europeans and Americans are often surprised at just how small are British houses and flats. The tax is an excuse; it does not reflect the nature of social housing.

So the policy is vicious and stupid at the same time. It is another example of (at the very best) cocked-up inadequate government, where people in administration and control have no insight and are clueless so that they come up with grand ideas that turn out to be disasters in practice. No one thinks things through. Either that or the Tories and Liberal Democrats really do believe in rubbing the poor into the gutter.

There was a lot of parliamentary gnashing of teeth over the removal of the social mix from posh London. But this is far, far worse. This hits so many people, causes so much disturbance, and leads to widespread worry and stress. People will be pulling their hair out over this change and once it hits it will be very nasty. British people are also a strange people. They mutter a lot and stay quiet, but when the shit hits them they often react big time.

Last night there was a party political broadcast by the Liberal Democrats. I only caught a part of it. It was Nick Clegg mouthing off something or other. I have never felt such rage when a politician has appeared on TV. This man is a charlatan, very toxic, and a lying politician of self-serving nastiness and incompetence combined.

I don't give a toss about the Chris Huhne story any further, but I am interested in the Eastleigh by-election. I really do want to know what is happening in the south, because even in the south the figures are fiddled and the economically underperforming exists in large numbers. We've had the public sector and major private employers sacking people with frequency while the unemployment figures have gone down. They are a joke. For example, if you are unemployed and receive a sanction, you are no longer counted as unemployed for the duration of that sanction. Lots of people seeking work are not counted as undemployed. It is rumoured that Job Seekers Allowance could be linked to how many vacancies have been examined or jobs applied for: that would itself be a pernicious system.

The sooner the coalition crumbles the better: I hope Eastleigh helps. The Liberal Democrats deserve nothing but destruction. The Conservatives deserve to divide and fall. Let them obsess over Europe. The economic policy has failed and the social policy is anti-social and incompetent at the same time. The electorate has been sitting and waiting to exert a bloody nose on them, but the Bedroom Tax and new Poll Tax may more than try its patience.

The authorities are stupid as well as vile. These people like Gove, Osborne, Cameron and Clegg should not be running the country and should not be anywhere near the levers of power.

Wednesday 6 February 2013

Marriage and the Broader Politics

The gay equality issue in the House of Commons second reading to introduce marriage for all couples is like a necessary unfinished business in the life of parliament, but one I suspect that remains unfinished even as and when passed. The fact is it isn't equal, even at this point. This is what has given the antis their argument, that it is a "redefinition of marriage". The heterosexuals who marry still have to consummate; failure to do so and then adultery remain grounds for divorce. The homosexuals who marry do not have to consummate and have to commit "unreasonable behaviour" in order to divorce. Thus there ceases to be a unity in marriage. Furthermore, there is a division without accepting it between marriage of the State and marriage of religion including by the Church of the State. On the first matter the question is how do gay people consummate the marriage, when authorities won't tackle the matter of gay sex (and how would lesbians consummate the marriage?) and on the second should there not be State marriage which Churches can bless if they want?

So a better piece of legislation would have been that, yes, marriage is redefined, but as a unity: unreasonable behaviour, which is what heterosexuals use anyway, becomes the basis for divorce, and consummation ceases to be a maker of marriage. After all, many who perhaps could (under certain cirumstances) don't consummate or can't and don't tell. On the State and Churches, a better piece of legislation would require the official of the State to be present and that provide the basis of the marriage: this might be the same person as a religious celebrant or someone else present, and the established Church cease to have privileges and duties in this matter. It would have the freedom to turn down any marriage and indeed only do the marriages it wants. Disestablishment seems to be knocking at the door now - Church and State are themselves undergoing a separation.

British legislation always seems to be messy. Surely nothing is messier or nastier than the bedroom tax, which attacks the poorest the most and denies a wider, visiting, family life of extended children and grandparents, and lives in denial that people can sublet to pay the loss of income, which would be counted as a form of income anyway regarding other benefits. Any sensible approach to this (if possible at all) would have always allowed at least a spare bedroom, starting thus at two and not one. This is a most vicious tax, and comes on top of creating a poll tax out of the council tax. People simply won't be able to budget. And this has been introduced with Liberal Democrats in office, which is extraordinary, and becomes another, indeed the most serious reason, why they should not only be removed from office but vanish as a result of the utter betrayal of their electorate since taking office. They haven't just been the Tories's wooden leg, but have done it with enthusiasm. They've joined in with the clueless and incompetent person that passes for a Chancellor these days and the inadequate PR man that passes for a Prime Minister.

It's unfortunate but I conclude that an important piece of legislation regarding marriage has been a sop to try to maintain Prime Minister Cameron's 'radical' side, especially as the Green agenda has been largely parked. It is a good thing, and you'd vote for it, but it is still incompetent legislation when thinking it through. The House of Lords might straighten some of it out (excusing the pun).

The fundamental error the Liberal Democrats have made is believing the statistics. There is nothing significantly different between our economy and some other middle and weaker players in Europe. We have huge numbers of economically inactive people; we also have very large numbers of underemployed people (which is all that is achieved by a 'flexible labour market'). The unemployment figures are a sham, a lie, and no one trying to get a job believes them for a minute. Ramming the economy into the wall and then doing it again and again does not get us out of recession, it just adds to the woe. Then reducing benefits will reduce purchasing in the economy and deepen the recession.

After the bubble burst the curves of LM and IS shifted towards a more Keynesian shape. The answer to the economic conundrum is to spend and invest. The answer they have come up with is 'money cheap' - no result - and then 'money flood' as in quantitative easing. Result - nothing. Take the old fashioned MV = PT equation. M is money and V is velocity, and it equals Prices times Transactions. Quantitative easing represents more M but there is no V to speak of in this recession. So money gets made, but it gets parked. So nothing happens. What is needed is T to be increased. Quantitative easing is proof that the State can do this for next to no cost. Furthermore, States have the power to simply wipe debt: tough on creditors but it was always this way. That's part of their risk.

At the least debt could have been paid while maintaining some spending. I seem to remember that this was the policy of the Liberal Democrats. They agreed with Labour. But they went in with the Conservatives and decided a wholesale change of policy. As with just about everything else. Left with constitutional change as their only significant likely contribution, the Conservatives saw that off too and the Liberal Democrats finished by denying them their constituencies' gerrymandering.

Apparently down in Eastleigh the Tory versus Lib Dem battle has favoured the Lib Dems. This somewhat disappoints me as I want the Lib Dems to pay dearly for what they have done: the contempt in which they have used their electoral votes. In the north of England and in Wales the Lib Dems will be wiped out, I would think. But isn't Eastleigh Nigel Farage's (UKIP) best chance to get a seat in the House of Commons? My friends say he'll calculate on what if he loses. Just about everything he stands for I don't, but I can imagine the disgruntled Tories going to him and the protest-based and oppositional vote in the Lib Dems going to him. I'd have to vote Labour - I could not vote for him. There is an anti-European tide for Farage to use. But I look forward to this campaign in general because it will add to the weakening of the coalition and if the coalition fell apart then all the better.

But let's bring it down to brass tacks: how the Liberal Democrats can support this bedroom tax beats me. Somebody has to stop this: beating people into poverty, denying them a family life, is not a way to encourage yet more underemployment, if it can be found. This is nasty stuff. We might expect it from the Conservatives, which is why they weren't elected, but we don't expect the Conservatives to still be able to do these things thanks to a party that got itself elected on an entirely different basis. Well, we won't get fooled again.

Sunday 3 February 2013

A Reply to David Usher

The only reason David Usher's article in the 2nd Feburary edition of The Inquirer should be controversial is in his direct use of language. For one part he uses a a kind of pseudo-biblicalese about the Unitarians not reaching the promised land, another a bunch of elders producing 'The Document' amidst decline, but later on he says it like it is directly, which may annoy one or two. Well, it's often the one or two that matters:

We cling to old forms, old customs, because their familiarity comforts us. They suit us, and we prefer to do what suits us, even though the world is telling us it does not suit them. (David Usher, The Inquirer, 7811, 2 February 2013, 10)

Indeed, the service today included a colourful reference to those who won't light a chalice, or candles, or have others light same. Describing such resisters as "ignorant", because candles were once a practical way to see... well, I would not use that language because it is a legitimate Puritan shadow of the denomination. But I would say that the Puritan shadow is very damaging. (This is my attempt to see both sides of the argument; contrary to popular and unread myth, I am the most uncontroversial of bloggers.)

What David Usher says here though is where he will cause trouble, and is bang on the button (including his choice of gender):

And some women of the Unitarians did protest: 'We cannot go now to the Promised Land,' said they.' For it would upset our traditions. We are few and weary, yet we have taken some small comfort here, and we have organised a raffle and the drawing for the prizes is not yet. And we shall die soon anyway, and we would prefer to die in the sure comforts of the past than to live in the uncertainties of the future.' (David Usher, The Inquirer, 7811, 2 February 2013, 9)

As was discovered in the recent General Synod of the Church of England, you get two groups of women in the Churches today: one, and larger now, that is progressive and making changes, but just as you pursue those changes then up arises another group that prefers the patriarchy that settles the universe.

I actually do not think it is necessarily about old ways that are well known. They become a means to an end. As new folks come in, the old cliques use ideology as a means to an end - the end is to retain control. The issue here is the problem of liberalism pure, and the descent of the power centre to the lowest collective point, where there is an absence of checks and balances. It's the chapel committee or the trustees.

So often an individual congregation under the clique has to fall into disrepair, but it is amazing that so many can experience 'the bounce'. When the old guard realises that the tradition locally could end, they do often give way, and the new influence then gets going. That's when the bounce happens, because the spirit at large is at last positive and is recognised by the newcomer. The old guard find they weren't as attached to the past as once they were when they had a critical mass.

Now where is David Usher's article inadequate? He compares the Unitarian worship experience with a charismatic one, probably a Vineyard church. These churches have grown from nothing over the last decades and are now quite busy. Their theology is awful but they are highly entertaining and involving. He fails to mention that they also provide an outlet for bands, so simple tunes allow for composers and lyricists.

Unitarians should indeed have audio-visuals as he describes. But this is not the answer as such.

I am not as despairing at present, as he might be. I was nearly thirty years ago, when I was around too early for my own good saying what he is saying in similar fashion and was booted out of Unitarian College for upsetting all the local cliques he otherwise describes. But I did have a fresh PhD examining the way Churches were dividing up and which did give specialist Churches, like the Unitarians, a future.

He should know that it is social movements that restore Churches, as indeed the liberal capitalists and ideological Unitarians did, filling the Presbyterian husks where newer biblical ideas had watered down old Calvinism to a point where even the Trinity was regarded as - well, rather like in much of the mainstream today. Nobody knows what it is any more. But it took a bunch of ideologues to re-read Bibles with more certainty to come out of the academies and preach Unitarianism, along with the spirit of the age - the end of mercantilism and the rise of the middle class. The demand of the Presbyerians for freedom for themselves and similar Protestants became a demand for political freedom and influence for themselves, Jews, and Catholics leading to the 1832 Reform Act and beyond.

The social movement that is serving Unitarianism well now is that of gender equality. The Quakers will benefit, but you have to do their form of worship. Liberal Jews still require one to be Jewish in basic identity. Unitarians can adapt as they wish. There is no doubt that with the gender equality comes drawing on the transcendental tradition - neo-Paganism if you like. The old liberal Christian tradition is pretty well exhausted now. It had nowhere to go in the mainstream from the late 1970s on, replaced by identity Christianity of a non-objective kind and quite conserving. This is no future for Unitarians. Look at the Cambridge website and the absurdity of a Unitarian minister in freedom trying to preseve a postliberal Christianity. The one word to use in that example is "Why?" It is intellectually difficult and utterly pointless: the only reason is 'to look like a church' or try and find a way to flog a dead horse after the God of the gaps has been closed.

Emerson, Thoreau and Parker were kicked out or inhabited the edges of the American Unitarians at the time because it was well assessed that their transcendentalism was not Christian as such. It drew on the environment, and that is what the religion of the senses will do and now. They were ahead of their time, and their argument was just the same - against a cold, clique-ridden system of chapel religion. People like Francis Newman were attached to Vegetarianism and new social movements.

The mainstream Churches have handed it to Unitarianism on a plate. They are making some of the biggest mistakes they can regarding equality and diversity. For out of this social movement of change comes a minority of people who wish to express themselves religiously, for which the Unitarians have at last grabbed an identity and can carve a future. The future will be more symbolic in character, and a huge rejection of the Puritan shadow. Plus the cliques are a lot older now than they were when I was bashing away.

Now, the Unitarian Univeralists have a lot of charismatic style singing - I played a piece at the end of my service last week which was from their General Assembly in 2012. The content of their charismatic content is justice and peace, the context being the ruthless social situation in America. Let's hope we don't need that in the UK, though the prospects are not good at present with this Conservative/ Liberal Democrat sham of a government: right wing and incompetent, liars and cheats, attacking the poorest as they go, and hopefully cleared out at the next election. I love the fact that the same equality and diversity agenda is wrecking the Tory party at its roots, so that UKIP can do its work at one end while the Liberal Democrats get destroyed for their misadvertising and betrayal at the other.

So see the folks coming in - they are doing. They've read the publicity and seen the news. The promised land may always be an ideal, but a better future is not far away. And that's me saying it. Pluralist Website