Monthly Archives: May 2010

How Christopher Booker Works

Liberal Use Of The Vocabulary Of Psychiatric Illness

Scientific theories are “Batty”, energy policy belongs to the “higher realms of lunacy”, we can choose to commit “economic suicide”,  Chris Huhne suffers from “delusions” and will shut down the economy for “no sane reason at all”.  The first of Booker’s tricks is to convince that his opponents are mad.

Heroic Ephithets For Climate Deniers

In this article, climate sceptic Christian Gerondeau is “hard-headed” and “much-respected”.  Where Booker takes this from is unclear.  A glance at Gerondeau’s French Wikipedia entry does not reveal when he received his Nobel prize, or a give a list of articles in Nature.  Instead we discover a career in building transport infrastructure, employment by the world bank and his future appointment as the president of the French federation of automobile clubs and road users.  This is not the CV of a climate scientist, but as Booker admits an “engineer”.  Here”engineer” should be taken in its most literal sense.  Gerondeau is a lover of engines.  This Gallic Jeremy Clarkson is not the first person I would look to for an impartial analysis of the science of climate change.  Then again, neither is Christopher Booker.

Unmoderated Use of Generalised Hyperbole

Ever since Booker referred to the “hockey stick” as “the most discredited artefact in the history of science” I realised his flamboyant exageration was a trick for magicking away subtley, nuance and doubt.   This was the point at which I lost any trust, he had outed hiimself as propagandist rather than an impartial chronicler, he had broken any commitment to truth-telling, he had shamed himself with the hypocrisy of jumping over small errors in the IPCC report whilst failing to come close to such standards himself, the righteous facade had revealed its rotten underbelly of shameless distortion.

The key conclusions of the “hockey stick” have been corroborated by later studies – check out New Scientist and Fred Pearce.  Booker has no interest in paying the slightest attention to this.

Enough of past crimes, what of the article on Chris Huhne and the Mammoths.

Here the generalations are applied to the French and Germans (who are to a citizen “horrified” at any thought of carbon reduction), the Indians and Chinese are pressing ahead with development regardless of climate damage (there is some truth to this, but takes no heed of the climate lobby in either of those nations.  With regard to India, respect for the environment is more deeply embedded in the national consciousness than in Western societies).

Also, Gerondeau now agrees with a wide range of “eminent” scientists who conclude that climate change has wholly naturalistic causes.  Booker is hand waving at these point, not even bothering with a reference.  Who are this band of distinguished scientists who happen to agree with our noble columnist and Monsieur Automobile? 

My guess is that they might be the group of scientists who signed an open letter questioning some IPCC processes whilst remaining convinced the global warming has human causes.  Alternatively they might be the members of the Royal Society who wanted a more nuanced report from the Royal Society – these were headed by electrical engineer Alan Rudge (those engineers again) who admitted that few of his fellow protestors had worked directly in climate change and many were retired.  Or they could be the scientists listed in this Wikipedia page – who include such discredited sceptics as Sallie Baliunas, Willie Soon and our old friend Ian Plimer.

Once again Booker does not need to tell us.  He only needs to reassure us that the warmists have been smitten by some strange collective delusion, and that we are at liberty to destroy the planet.  Beneath his confident patter lies distortion and half-truth.  How he can live with this I cannot fathom.  The only explanation is that the first victim of this verbal sorcery was Christopher Booker himself.

Wrong

Wrong

2nd September 2009

 

Len notes that everybody got it wrong, nobody gets it all entirely right.

 

John Wesley was behind a whole religious and social revolution and awakening, but his relationships with women were so dysfunctional.

He could not have a positive and lasting relationship with a woman.

 

A lot of smart people flunked life.

 

Clement and Theophilus thought that the earth was flat, against Plato who knew it was a sphere.

Martin Luther wrote an attack on Copernicus’ view of the solar system

John Donne was convinced that there some unnamed compound of human flesh, that could cure all things.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, super-rational Sherlock Holmes, height of enlightenment thinking, believed in fairies.

Hugh Trevor-Roper, a fantastic writer, put his own personal reputation on the line to authenticate the Hitler diaries

Dietrich Bonhoeffer could not abide polyphonic singing in anyway.

 

There are lots of passengers on this wrong ship of fools

And some passengers on this ship are saints.

 

And then there are occasions when people are worse than wrong.

 

Aristotle not only condoned institutional slavery and refused to instruct women

And Aquinas said that women were defective and misbegotten

This is crazy, and yet do we not quote summa theologicae because of these views

Luther’s views on the Jews were abhorrent – Jews are our pestilence, our plague, our misfortune.  This was the guy who led the protestant doctrine of justification by grace through faith

Calvin’s Geneva if you want to see a Christian version of Sharia Law

Pierre Tielhard de Chardin thought the Germans ought to win the Second World War because they had Spirit

Robert Frost believed that slavery was not wrong as long as it wasn’t organised along racial lines.

 

80% of my theology is right; 20% is wrong; I just don’t know which is which.

 

We are yelling and screaming at each other, and we ought to tone it down a bit.

The notion that you do not agree with me on the atonement, then you have not business being a creature – one of the most popular preachers of our time.

 

We have four gospels, you can’t just take one look at Jesus

There are two creation stories

More than one view of the atonement, then we don’t need a full orbed view of the atonement.

And yet this person still has some important things to say, which the body of Christ needs to hear.

 

We are disciples, we are learn, let us learn from each other.

Smart Things Christians Did on Election Day – Part 2

There is something odd going on here.  It’s like folk are addicted to the precipice, or rather convinced that we are always there, and glad that  evidence has finally come to light.  It’s some sort of need for crisis.  In a crisis you don’t need to think.  What you do there is obvious.  It gets you away from the confusion of choice, where judgement rather than panic has to be exercised.

So the thing itself was scary.  The second scary thing is that folk passed this on.  I guess you are scared not to.  That you will be guilty of desertion if you show doubt in the heat of battle.  But we damage ourselves so badly by our naivety.  We have to convince people that we believe because we the arguments are strong, not because we are the kind of people that are easily bought.  We should have a reputation for incredulity, and that should not be sold lightly.

Fortunately, the policy officer from Evangelical Alliance in Scotland realised this was nonsense (there were no riots on the news, closed polling stations do not invalidate an election) and one of the original forwarders was good enough to send out a retraction.

Kindness Is The New Taboo

Talks about the modern anomaly that is kindness, it is seen as a failing, as a cover story, as a moral weakness, as a failure of nerve.  Prioritising the needs of others may be praiseworthy but it is not normal.  It is moralistic or sentimental, and that Nelson Mandela and Princess Diana are deliberately anonymous.  And we love to unmask these people.

Adam Phillips and Barbara Taylor talk about this in “On Kindness”.

They note that the Christians were amongst the first to practice kindness outside their kin-group.

He notes that the one group of people that this is missing from is Clergy, and tells the story of a student of his who showed great unkindness.

Politeness is pants, and you don’t go out in public without your pants, and the world is catching Christians with their pants down all the time.

I want everyone to bring a book

“As of tomorrow, I want everybody on this bus to bring a book” – here’s a thought provoking story for us in priority areas of Rosemary Peterson (‘Ms Kookyi’), the school bus driver who recognised there was a discipline problem with the kids travelling in her bus and decided to take charge. Enjoy the clip at www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3032619/ns/nightly_news#36802449. A thought-provoking example of seeing a need and not waiting for the professionals to attend to it!

– Thanks to the Priority Areas Newsletter

The Older Brother

We’ll Leave The Light On For You – Week 2; 20th April 2010

Depthful, close reading of the second part of the story of the Prodigal Son.

Audience

The audience to this encounter are very important.  There are three groups of people: there is Jesus, there are the followers of Jesus (very often with dubious backgrounds) and there are the Pharisees.

This talk looks at the older brother, and what he suffers from:

Chronic Resentment

The way that the brother has never appreciated what the Father has given him, even though he is the one who is going to inherit the whole rest of the land.  He has never learned to appreciate the grace of the Father, and it has eaten away at him, and destroyed him.

Illustration of hunters in the North who catch wolves by putting some meat onto a knife.  When the wolf comes along it begins to eat the meat, and nicks its own mouth on the blade of the knife.  However, the wolf is so consumed by the need for meat, by the cold, that it does not notice that it is eating and destroying itself with its own blood.

Chronic Judgmentalism

The brother has exageratted the sins of the younger brother.  Tim Keller writes (28 minutes)

“It is natural for younger brothers to think Older Brotherness and Christianity are the same thing”

They can look so similar to each other, but actually they are so similar to each other.  The difference is that Elder Brotherism has no grace.  Every time we do something good, the very next thing that can happen inside me is “What a good big brother I am”

Chronic Blindness

The older brother does not see the way that he is.

Talks about the Father taking the shame of the Older Brother behaving in this way.

Plays out two possible endings to the story.

One – The Formation Of Dundee United

Formation Of Dundee United

John 17:20-26

No One Has Seen God

I want to remind us what we have been thinking about the last few weeks.

Two weeks ago remember we had the heater here, and we talked about how many heaters there are in the universe.

2,945 million million million million million million million heaters in the universe.

And the level of protective clothing you would need to see God, would be too much.

So there are two way that we see God,

In Jesus,

And in the love for each other.

And remember we said there are two places in John where the writer says

“No one has ever seen God.”

No one has ever seen God, John 1:18

It is God the only son who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

No one has ever seen God, 1 John 4:12

If we love one another, God abides in us, and his love is perfected in us.

And we suggested that this is how we see God,

In Jesus

In people, God in them, loving each other.

Cambodia

And then last week we had Dave and Fiona talking to us about the Church in Cambodia,

And you remember the way that people turned to God in the dark days when so many of them were being killed.

Remember Dave got us all to stand up, and say if we were like the Church in Cambodia, then the number of believers in the Church left after Pol Pot would be the front few rows here.

And you are wondering how did that happen, the courage, the truthfulness of the Christians, God must have been in them, loving.

That verse must have been happening.

No one has ever seen God,

But if we love on another, God is in us, and his love is perfected in us.

Fiona, said a kind of throwaway remark when she was showing the pictures of Cambodia.

Remember there was a Buddhist temple, and Fiona said,

People have this yearning to know God,

And even if they don’t know him, they make temples to try and reach out to him.

So these things are all here:

The love that that we have for each other

God in us

And that temple, the reaching out for God.

All there.

Jesus In The Garden

The passage that we read this morning comes from the last hours of Jesus life.

Jesus is about to die, but he has some things that he must utter to his Father,

Before the torture and pain of their separation.

And he is on his knees,

And he prays for himself,

And he prays for his disciples.

And then he prays for those who will believe through the word that the disciples pass on.

In other words, us.

Every single thing that we have heard about Jesus, can be traced back at some point to these 12 men and many more women,

We are the ones that believe

So in that Garden, Jesus is praying for us.

And what he prays, is kind of hard to grasp,

It is prayer that becomes from deep within Jesus,

Not the part of him that sorts everything out into easy to understand, intelligible sentences, no a deeper place than that.

And he starts to pray.

“And now I ask not for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word.  Than they may all be one…”

And then you get a huge mix of things, which keep coming again and again:

That we may be one

And the Father and Son are united, are in each other

And that we would be in the Father and the Son

And that we would love

And that we would know the glory of the Son

And that the world would know that the Jesus has been sent by the Father

And that we would know God.

All that is there, in this deep prayer

Uttered for us,

When Jesus’ life is just about to end.

And to help us think about that mix of things

The Father and Son united in each other

We united in each other, and in the Father and Son

And we are One

And that we would love

And that we would know the glory of the Father of the Son – the power, the heaters

And that we would know that Jesus has been sent by the Father and the Son

And that we would know God.

To help us think about these things,

I want us to think about the formation of Dundee United.

Formation Of Dundee United

I have been thinking about the way that football teams are named this week.

Always there is mention of place.

Sometimes it is quite baldly stated

Motherwell  nothing else, just Motherwell

Arbroath

Aberdeen

Dundee.

Or a place that you have associations with

Celtic, or Hibernian

And maybe because the name Dundee was already taken, you know they needed to tweak it, so there wouldn’t be brand confusion.

But why Dundee United.

Well partly because Dundee City was taken,

And partly because in 1923, the businessmen that were rescuing the club wanted something with broad appeal (the previous name Dundee Hibernian was too limited), they went for Dundee United.

And then you might say, what are you going to do.

And it’s interesting that more recent names for teams, often in sports like Rugby,

Are About what you are going to do the opposition.

Leicester Tigers – we are going to devour you

Sale Sharks – we are rip you to pieces

Glasgow Warriors – not for us the subtle elegant mechanisms of the shark, not for us the finely honed predation of the tiger,

No will just batter you.

But earlier names for teams, reflected something different:

We are not just good at football, you know, we are also a bit brainy.

Said Hamilton Academicals – footballs on a Saturday, but the rest of the week its Latin and Calculus.

And other teams it is about an adventure:

Rovers, is about that, we are going to rove, we are just going to go about the place, having adventures:

So the men from Kircaldy, from Raith, they are going to Rove, all over Fife, and maybe when daring into Tayside and Central,

And the men of Doncaster, and the men of Bristol, And the men of Melchester, roving

And the rovers, would be joined by like minded souls, would be the Rangers,

And you would get the Glasgow Rangers, and the Cambuslang Rangers,

And the Rovers, and the Rangers, might bump into the Crusaders from Belfast,

Who are Roving and Ranging but with a cause in mind.

But the folks forming Dundee, they didn’t want to rip you apart with teeth, like the Sale Sharks

Or Batter you like Glasgow Warriors

Or be quite clever like the guys from Hamilton

Or Rove  or Range like the ones from Doncaster, or Bristol

They wanted to Unite.

And that is something that they shared, with folk from

Manchester – Manchester United

Newcastle – Newcastle United

Ayr – Ayr United

And I think that this captures something about success,

United we stand, divided we fall,

The people of Portsmouth will stand a better chance if they unite

So they will be Portsmouth United.

But there is something else going on,

That being united, is something precious,

Something sacred,

That there is something going on here which is about more than football,

We have this deep, deep craving to be united,

To be one.

Aliens Thinking Sex As Pleasure

If a group of aliens landed from another galaxy, and by some mis-setting of the GPS co-ordinates, they landed on a Newsagents,

What would deduce about this planet from newspapers and magazines.

They would conclude perhaps that the most important person in Britain

Was a young lady from Essex called Katie Price

And that, existed on a diet of sugar and potato

And that sex was all about pleasure.

For that is what the magazines would be telling them.

Sex is about pleasure.

And sex as pleasure is not alien to the Bible, although it is concentrated in one place, in a book called Song of Solomon,

But when the Bible normally wants to talk about sex, it doesn’t talk about fun or even satisfaction, it talks about knowing.

Abraham knew Sarah, and they had a son

Jacob knew Rebecca and they had twins

The aliens in the newsagent would say that you have sex with someone and then you get to know them

In the Bible, the you can’t do one without the other.

And what is this knowing about

This knowing, in the Bible, critical verse, is about two becoming one.

The Spice Girls had a point, when they sang “Two become one”

That is what is going on.

New Politics

When Nick Clegg and David Cameron stood on the Downing Street lawn, they were not only announcing a new politics, because this is how we get laws through the house of commons,

Somehow they were rejoicing that it was better to be one.

One

Possible, in some people’s ears, the best song that U2 have ever produced is a song called One.

It’s a song which on the face of it is about the break up of a relationship.

The video has a disillusioned Bono sitting along in a restaurant, smoking cigarettes and bemoaning of the absence of a woman who he loved once, but who is now guilt-ridden actress with a misplaced sense of importance:

Have you come here for forgiveness?
Have you come to raise the dead?
Have you come here to play Jesus?
To the lepers in your head

Did I ask too much?
More than a lot.
You gave me nothing,
Now it’s all I got
We’re one
But we’re not the same
Well we
Hurt each other
Then we do it again

But then something overtakes, there is a possibility that something can be better than this:

We’re one, but we’re not the same
We get to
Carry each other
Carry each other
One

What is interesting about that song, is that a decade later,

This is the song that allowed people so sing about 9/11

U2 had a song that might have had better lyrics for this, they had a song called New York

But this is the song that captured the imagination

And as they sang the song

And people sang One

Up on the stage would be names, names of people.

Because the backdrop to the pain of a breakup

And the bitterness of rewriting history

And the sharpness of betrayal

And horror of death

Is the hope, the yearning, the deep deep hunger

In the Buddhist temples of Cambodia

And the naming of Dundee United

And the powerful emotions of sexual attraction,

Is the hope, the conviction, that we might be one.

In The Garden…

And so in the garden, Jesus sinks to knees

And what does he pray for us

He prays that we might be one.

We are so different

We are from many different generations

We have different levels of pay

We have different abilities with our brains, with our hands, with our ears, with our tongues

We have different experiences of God

Some of us are committed, firm believers, with a solid knowledge of the ancient documents of Protestant Faith, some of us are new in the door,

Some of us live in families, some of us are alone

Some of us have histories of excess and depress

Some of us nurse the bitterness of things that we wish we had done

Some of us feel like passengers, some of us like drivers,

Some of us like old songs, and some of us like knew

Some of us make others here come alive, some would struggle to hold a conversation

With the exception of Jesus.

Not one single person here, knows every other person’s name;

And he it is that prays

That they may be one….

It can be done.

And two reasons swirl around the passage

One, that the world might believe-

That was the great pray of the South Indian Church,

Whose logo is on the front of the Order of service,

In our one-ness, and that Church was made up of Presbyterians, Methodists and Anglicans, through our bickering the world disbelieves, through our unity lies the hope of our transformation.

And through our one-ness

We come to be like God

Who is One, Father, Son and Spirit.

That is the hankering, the hunger, yearning that is in the cry “one”

It is the cry to be found in God.

And because Jesus prayed – it must be hard, you don’t pray for things that happen anyway, you don’t pray for gravity to work, or for Tesco to keep expanding

But because Jesus prayed, it can be done

In our time, in our eating, in our prayers,

In our love

We can, we can

Become one.

AMEN

The Big Society Was Always Going To Be Hard

Christian AidThere are two reasons why the Big Society was never going to work.

The first is because David Cameron was never going to be able to defend it within a week of taking office.  The Big Society was the centrepiece of the Conservative Manifesto (this I know because I had to read the thing, was about to say “wretched thing”, but actually it wasn’t that bad) – pages of attractive graphics and slogans like “Small Government – Big Society”.  But it didn’t even last four weeks on the campaign.  It hardly lasted a week on the campaign.  How bad must your judgement be if your big idea, your central philosophy, doesn’t even last a week in the campaign?  And if it can’t last a week on the campaign, it won’t last a day in government.

So the first reason it wasn’t going to work was that David Cameron was defending it like an injured Rio Ferdinand.

Secondly, David Cameron has clearly never tried to organise a volunteers rota.  James Delingpole (I hate to quote Delingpole approvingly) characterises the “Big Society” as

Dave’s bouncy new “Big Society” plan for teenagers and grandmothers to be compelled every other week to whitewash their local community centre.

In our Church, when there are strong faith-based reasons to do big things voluntarily, like collect for Christian Aid, we struggle for volunteers.  What chance was Dave going to have cajoling a chronologically-impoverished, disinvested populace to replace paid carers with voluntary labour.  It was crazy.  Getting volunteers is tough when you’re fishing in a warm pool.  What chance in the frozen ice-lakes of stress-dense dormitory towns?  Dave never had a chance.  It was only ever going to be way of Dave being able to live with himself when he had just shut down 200 day-care centres.