Saturday, 25 October 2014
Friday, 24 October 2014
"At that time King Hazael of Aram went up, fought against Gath, and took it. But when Hazael set his face to go up against Jerusalem, King Jehoash of Judah took all the votive gifts that Jehoshaphat, Jehoram, and Ahaziah, his ancestors, the kings of Judah, had dedicated, as well as his own votive gifts, all the gold that was found in the treasuries of the house of the Lord and of the king’s house, and sent these to King Hazael of Aram. Then Hazael withdrew from Jerusalem."
The Book of Kings has quite a resemblance to modern matters - bloodthirsty men claiming to rule in the name of God, kinglets running amok around the Middle East and King Jehoash playing the part of the Iraqi army.
Thomas Hardy was scathing about the way Religion looks forward to peace, while the opposite happens:
"After 2,000 years of mass
We've got as far as poison-gas."
But the Great War was about nationalism. And the scientific modernism Hardy lived gave us tanks and Hiroshima. Then atheist politics gave us Stalin's purges and the Chinese Cultural Revolution and Year Zero.
Then just a quarter of a century ago, Francis Fukuyama promised us that liberal democracy would bring us the End of History.
Yeah, that went well. Between Russian nationalism and radical islamism, we've got far more history than we can deal with. Whenever anybody tells you they've got a brilliant plan for how everything's going to be good from now on - check whether that person's philosophy is balanced like a bus on an Alpine peak.
And so we come full-circle, with Putin cast as Nebuchadnezzar and al-Baghdadi playing Hazael.
There's a special psalm for thoughts like these. As I sit in my comfortable Home Counties conservatory, watching the leaves on the Virginia Creeper glow red under an autumn sky, maybe it's not for me just now.
But for those where there's no hope; those fighting bravely in a hopeless cause, doomed to be forgotten; they're very powerful words. And they're brave, honest, shocking words to have been written in a book of religion, when everything is supposed to turn out nice again in the end. It's Psalm 88.
Ready? Here's the last bit.
"Lord, why castest thou off my soul? why hidest thou thy face from me?
I am afflicted and ready to die from my youth up: while I suffer thy terrors I am distracted.
Thy fierce wrath goeth over me; thy terrors have cut me off.
They came round about me daily like water; they compassed me about together.
Lover and friend hast thou put far from me, and mine acquaintance into darkness."
It ends there.
Thursday, 23 October 2014
All: "And with Your spirit"
Leader: "Morning everybody. Nice to see you. If you've not got tea or coffee it's over there - have a bun. If your kids run around don't worry. The hymn is...."
Wednesday, 22 October 2014
"Oscar Pistorius was guilty. However gripped by anger, it’s difficult to accept he didn’t know whom he was likely to kill. He had a violent history and his claim that he thought he was shooting a burglar stretches credulity."
"He killed his girlfriend"
"Given the leniency South African courts used to show towards white people killing black people, it is hard to see how the court could show leniency to a white person killing another white person."
"Beyond the cause of consistency, imprisoning Pistorius can serve no purpose."
"The purpose of depriving wrongdoers of their liberty, now that we no longer hang or flog, should be to rehabilitate them and, if not, keep them from further crime."
"That it should be “retributive”, a mere expression of society’s rage, is primitive theology. It is trotted out when no other reason for imprisonment can be imagined."
"Imprisonment is brutalism, reflecting society’s inability to police antisocial acts"
"Men such as Pistorius have had their lives ruined, their failings exposed and chance enough to reflect on their crimes and what they can do to atone for them."
"No one will be more or less “deterred” by the length of his jail sentence."
That's the problem with designating groups of anything with a letter - based scheme. It did for car registrations in the UK a few years ago.
When the concept of Generation X - the social cohort, not the short-lived British punk rockers - was invented, they were so named for being the 10th generation since the American revolution.
Why this then took in we English and other Europeans is beyond me. Even in England, the American revolution was little more than "in other news", as a bunch of plucky Brits fought off a largely-German colonial army.
But Gen X was a number - 10 - not a letter. So to call the people born after that Generation Y, rather than XI, was silly. Small wonder we now instead refer to "Millennials", not least as this science-fictiony term perfectly captures the alien appearance of the young-men-in-whiskers currently plaguing London and similar locations.
But if we'd continued with the X-Y pattern originally established, then we're currently about halfway through Generation Z being born.
Generation Z will be a troubled and troubling bunch. Half of them will be dedicated apocalyptics, convinced that - if they are "Z" - there is nothing to come after them. They will reject the previous 50 years of environmental angst, gleefully consuming whatever we leave them of this world's resources in the belief that after them, the Flood. The other Generation Z-ers, convinced that they are the generation that all the previous ages have been in preparation for, will just act like teenagers for their entire lives.
Meanwhile, the offspring of the Millennials will be being born. Having run out of Latin letters, they will be Generation α.
Generation Alpha will, I predict, be the ones that bring it all to an end. Addicted to small-group meetings and dinner parties, they will spend their lives deepening their spiritual awareness and driving 7-seater cars. They will know that Generation Z are sending the world to hell on a Segway but they won't care. They'll have a home in glory land that outshines the Sun - which will be a great consolation as Generation Z declares war on the Moon.
Generation α will be like an extended edition of the Great British Bake-off, set to Matt Redman music, while global nuclear meltdown occurs outside the force-fields of suburbia. Nobody else will be born in the West - Gen Z will be too busy consuming and destroying, while Gen α will never get away from finger buffets and prayer triangles.
It'll be a shame to miss it.
Tuesday, 21 October 2014
Quite a shocker, this morning's "Power of Storm" liturgy. The idea was that we'd get the walls of the Moot House opened - they rotate on a hinge to point outwards. Then, as we could see outside through the windows, we would be awed by the awe-ful awesomeness of this awful weather.
Turns out if you do this on all sides of the Moot House, you convert the entire place into a giant anemometer. On the down side, the Beaker Folk aren't going to be much use for the rest of the day. On the plus side, quite a few of them think they've had a spiritual experience.
Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to lay down.