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Friday, 27 May 2016

The Beaker view on the Guardian: Suppose it's Gone Forever?

Is the end of the Guardian in sight? The most recent ABC data shows that its circulation is down 3.8% year on year. It is very nearly half of one percent of the adult population; far less than that of the Telegraph, Mail or any other non-smug newspaper..

The study also shows that the Guardian is extremely bad at either making converts or retaining cradle readers. It can no longer depend on its heartland of moderate leftist voters. The two big left-wing parties, the LibDems and Labour, lost vast numbers of votes late year. It is only the smallest and most self-consciously left-wing forms of Socialism (Corbynisn) that manage to retain believers, in part no doubt because they feel cut off from the society around them.

This decline in self-identification probably has very little to do with belief. Guardian readers have always been heretics, with only the vaguest notion of what progressive views are, and still less of an allegiance to them. The difference is now that they don't even bother reading articles by Giles Fraser, even if they still hold the same vague convictions about being nice to people or the idea that Waitrose is somehow right.
The entire Guardian readership at an Owen Jones
talk on "how to be a really rich socialist"

Over the last 50 years “Polly Toynbee” has come to stand for the opposite of logic and reason. This is partly an outcome of the sheer drivel she writes, and her overwhelming belief that she is right about everything. “The Guardian” now appears to young people as pretentious ageing hippies, whose main purpose is to pretend to be really right-on in their sexuality, in the service of aspiring to some kind of sixties hipness. Supporting the Labour party was always going to be a high-risk strategy for a newspaper that tries to appeal to middle-class people. But the Guardian was so much a part of the old liberal state that life in post-liberal England was never going to be easy.

It’s hard to see a route back for the Guardian. One of the most striking features of the ABC data is that the only people reading newspapers just want to read about the weather, health scares and Princess Di conspiracies. Meanwhile, most new Guardian readers are just people who wonder where the Independent went. “Market Share” turns out to be a game that newspapers play with each other, and not with the outside world. The Guardian, which used to be as straightforward a route into liberalism as the Telegraph was for conservatism, has become very much alien and utterly irrational. All it now has is the people who comment BTL on "Comment is Free", in between shouting at Question Time and eating quinoa. Time is running out.

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Liturgy for the Introduction of the Psychoactive Substances Act

A tea light is lit.

All: Ah! Chamomile! So relaxing.

ARP Hodges: Put that light out, Napoleon! Don't you know there's a war against legal highs on?

A tea light is extinguished.

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

The Platonic Ideal of a Polar Bear

Reporting that a polar bear / grizzly cross has been discovered, the Telegraph tells us that global warming is bad news for the polar bear.

In fact, faced with so-far unproven evidence that one grizzly has mated with one polar bear, expert Dr Andrew Derocher says,

"I hate to say it, but from a genetic perspective, it’s quite likely grizzly bears will eat polar bears up, genetically."

I'm sorry?

Is there a way in which the polar bear community is looking at the grizzly community thinking, "if we're not careful we'll all be grizzlies"? No. It's humans that do that sometimes. But if a human expressed that fear, it would be called racism.

What happened is that a grizzly met a polar bear of an alternative gender, sweet bear-love ensued, and the union was blessed. That the fruit of that union was subsequently shot by a hunter who was a member of North America's First Nations is a dilemma that requires a doctorate in Progressive Attitudes to resolve.

If the good doctor is concerned about individual bears rather than bearkind as a whole, then he should worry that a bear has been shot.  If he is concerned for the future of polar bear genes, he should be grateful that this kind of mating is occurring. Because only by hitching a ride on grizzly bear genes will polar bear genes survive in the world that is apparently before us.

If the doctor is worried about polar bears as a concept - as a whole - then he needs to investigate his assumptions. Why is the concept of "polar bear" important? Is it a Platonic Ideal, to which all earthly polar bears are merely approximations? If so - is this a scientific concept? Doesn't strike me as one.

Strikes me the doctor's comment:

“I hate to say it, but from a genetic perspective, it’s quite likely grizzly bears will eat polar bears up, genetically"

is pretty much blaming an innocent. Did grizzlies cause this? What the doctor should be saying is,

“I hate to say it, but the world is warming and EVERYBODY IS GOING TO DROWN.”

You can blame that on human beings, if you think global warming is human-caused. If you think it's natural, you can blame it on God. Or, if an AGW-denying atheist, on solar cycles or Catholics or it's one of those things.

But you can't blame the grizzlies.  It was an Arctic evening. The Northern Lights were shining. And there - pale of complexion and black of nose - was a polar bear. They just did what came naturally. The grizzlies are innocent.

Eating Blue Lobsters - For Their Own Good

I am, I will admit, concerned about the discovery by fishers of bright blue lobsters. Blue lobsters, while quite rare, are by no means unheard of, and do not necessarily mean the end of the world.

No, what worries me is that the blue lobsters in the BBC story are being put back. You see, if we eat all the greeny-gray lobsters but put back the blue ones, we are giving blue lobsters an evolutionary advantage. In the end, all lobsters will be blue.

And then what? Cockles, clams and cod, noticing that bright blue seafood is safer, will start going bright blue as well. Eventually we will have nothing to eat.

And there's a reason why lobsters are dull-coloured in general. Probably, I would think, camouflage. If we encourage blue lobsters eventually all the lobsters will be bright blue, but eaten by bright blue predators.

Which leads me to this counterintuitive conclusion.Eat blue lobsters. It's good for them.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Property Committee Update

Good news on the Property Committee, whom we had given up as lost.

In fact, they're merely in a meeting which started three weeks ago. The subcommittee on painting the shed had reported back with options and they're trying to decide between duck egg and teal.

Monday, 23 May 2016

Soon-to-be Ministers

All over the country, the soon-to-be ministers are under starter's orders. Ready to head out into the world to serve God, their congregations and their supervisors/superintendents/incumbents according to denomination.

But who are these new ministers? Do you know what sort of people they are? Can they, in short, be stereotyped?

Of course they can.

Charisma Kate: Charisma Kate will be dropped into a Charismatic church in a medium-sized town for her probation / curacy / trainee minister appointment. She will be great. In three years time she'll be in a cold Church at 8am, sharing bread and wine with two other people and wondering what on earth happened there. The Spirit will still be there. But she'll wonder sometimes.

Chronic Introvert: In many ways, on wonders how Chronic Introvert ever got through the selection and training process. How could anybody interview somebody who, at any point, was more likely to be looking out the window and wondering what it was like on the inside of a raindrop? How could they engage in group work when they just wanted to be outside looking like a leaf? Well, here they are now, ready to go. And the only question is this: will Chronic Introvert be found constantly dripping round the graveyard wondering what being dead feels like? Or will they take up a cricket bat, express their inner warrior, and beat the congregation into submission? The hot money's on the cricket bat.

Doing Their Best: Having followed a rather unexpected call through three years of discernment and another three of training, Doing Their Best is relieved to discover that it will be another three years before they are allowed to run a church all on their own. They will go out to a first church training placement, keen on doing their best. They will then go out to their own place, and keep on doing their best. Most clergy trainees, and clergy, are Doing Their Best.

Earnest Earnest: Earnest is very earnest. He is earnest about his calling, earnest about his work, earnest about the future. Earnest is going to hold a church together very successfully for quite a while without anything much that is spectacular happening. People like Earnest.

Formerly Working Class Bloke: Holds his former working class status and dropped aitches like war medals. Despite the Oxbridge degree and job in the city. Will be baffled to discover that the "poor" to whom he plans to bring the Good News aren't as working class as he thought, and drive into the parish from the middle-class parts of town where he himself now lives. Will soon become frustrated that the real working class don't seem to be so interested in church, outside of baptisms.

God is in Everything: Hazelnuts, veganism, voile, tea lights, bodhrans, Tibetan bells, liturgical dance, Coldplay, Teilhard de Chardin. All things nobody wants to know about in St Bogwald's. Mithering in the Mould. Good luck, God in Everything,

Keen Dean: Has been up every day for 2-3 years at 7am for "prayers for the community". Up for late-night-worship. Doing extra modules. Reading the Early Fathers in the original Greek. Looking forward to serving in a church where he can lead other people who have his interests and enthusiasm.....

Liturgist: Convinced that all the Church needs, if it is going to grow and bring the Good News to the nation, is to do Mass better. May have a point, you might think.

Moses; Nearly always a bloke. With a big long beard. Like a more-intelligent Jeremy Corbyn. Confident in his demeanour, his learning, his wisdom and, above all, his beard, Moses is looking forward to inspiring his congregation with quiet words and an unshakeable belief in his own rightness.

Person Who Knows Everything: Despite knowing everything, the Person Who Knows Everything has not had this fact acknowledged by those around them. However, with a dog collar around the neck, the Person Who Knows Everything will now be in the perfect position to explain to anything up to eight people at one time that they know everything.

Pioneer Minister in Training: About to be launched into a Christendom paradigm with the aim of doing radical things. Probably about to discover how good Christendom is at colonising an new work of the Church by ensuring that things are done "properly". Pray for them. Some may sneak through the gaps to be successful. The Church needs that.

Squire in a Spire: Already being a member of the County Set, the Squire in a Spire will now be well on the way to shoring up their position as Lord of the Manor with the additional responsibilities of Self-Supporting Minister. Once all the levers of power have been seized, the village will be in thrall to the Big House in a manner not known since before the Black Death.

University of the Third Age Person: Having seen the whole process of discernment and training as basically a mid-life theology qualification, U3AP is shocked to discover that they will be responsible for other people's spiritual care shortly. They walk out of the college "final hugs and tears" service, and immediately start researching the best institution for their MA.

Woman with Spiky Gray Hair: Armed with buckets of enthusiasm and limitless energy, the Woman with Spiky Gray Hair is all set to turn some congregation's life upside down. And if she doesn't, the 27 grandchildren almost certainly will.

Worship Leader: Plays the Strat at the final farewell leaving do. Knows that three years in a traditional church is going to be hard work. Wonders if this is what is meant by "taking up one's cross".

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Heresy Watch for Trinity Sunday

A correspondent tells me that he saw this at a service this morning. I issue it as a stern warning

If you are ever tempted to describe God in terms of an apple, don't. Firstly you're dividing the substance. And secondly, you'll give me the pip.

God's Satnav

The problem with Trinity Sunday, dear Reader, is that Eileen decides she would like other people to preach.

She stresses that this is not because she struggles for the right words to say, or feels her intellect and spiritual state are insufficient to explain the Holy Mysteries to me It is rather, she says, because she can use the day to judge the theological orthodoxy of other members of the Beaker community.

I need hardly say that this is a Beaker community of such orthodoxy that we were last week feeding jellied eels to the water nymphs of the Lost River Fleet.

However, as is usual on these occasions, Eileen chose the preacher for Trinity Sunday by what she calls "the arrow of God's love". In other words, she threw a Brussels sprout randomly across the dining room last Wednesday to see who it struck. And, alas, it was my eye that received the divinely appointed missile. I suppose at least she has stopped using a dart for this purpose. I believe she may be mellowing.

I have just returned from the sermon debriefing.

Apparently, my analogy that God the Father is like a car taking you on a journey, Jesus is like a friend to talk to on the way, and the Holy Spirit is the satnav, showing you the way was - well, she pondered some fairly technical terms like "tritheism", "subordinationism" and "economic Trinity".  Then instead decided that the word she was really looking for was "drivel".

How, she asked, can the Spirit be God's satnav? For, given the choice, does the satnav not always send you down the wide road that leadeth unto destruction, and does it not moan like anything if instead you take the narrow way less travelled? Does it not land people up Yorkshire dale lanes that you cannot get a lorry through? Did I not once spend three hours driving round Stevenage because the satnav could not understand the roads system? If we trust to the satnav do we not run the risk of landing up in a lake? Are we not, she says, actually more sensible to trust to human wisdom and the Book (eg the AA Road Atlas) and to human wisdom rather than to a satnav?

She may well have a point. Although I confess that if I am lost I would rather the satnav drove me into a lake than that I should stop and ask a passer-by for directions.

But it was Young Keith who gave me the clinching argument. If the Holy Spirit were God's satnav, he said, then wouldn't that imply that the Spirit has the voice of Darth Vader?

I stand corrected.

Saturday, 21 May 2016

Trinity "Just a Minute"

The usual excitement.

As usual, Beaker Folk had one minute to preach on the Doctrine of the Trinity without subordinationism, Arianism or modalism.

As usual, they all failed.

Anybody want a giant omelette?