Friday, August 25, 2006

Politics and Communities

Lunch on Weds with an influential MP and two female aspiring Tory candidates - both brilliant and from ethnic minorities and one a Doctor. Inspiring the sheer level of talent and dedication of people who want to make a difference.

Mary Ann writes in the Times about voters having fallen out of love with Labour. Psychology is bang on, but I think she's still a bit over-trusting about Government Statistics. Realistic assessments of National Debt (incl Pensions Deficit and other off-balance sheet trickery) and Inflation (remember that RPI was 3% when CPI was 1.5%) discount Labour's supposed economic competence. Cheap holidays and clothes are no thanks to Labour. And it is perfecly possible for average UK household income to be up and for the majority of British individuals to be worse off, especially since City earnings (now bigger than manufacturing) are paid to many non-British UK residents.

Ginny Dougary
writes in The Times: "If the Muslims who choose to live in our society, with all its so-called tempting freedoms, do not protest against those who wish to destroy it, then how can they expect our tolerance? Why are the moderates not, in their hundreds and thousands, standing outside those mosques that are known to preach hatred, shouting “Not in our name” down their megaphones or “One, two, three, four, no more terror anymore”?

And where are the voices of the ordinary mothers and daughters and aunts from the Muslim community saying, “Enough. No more violence. No more deaths”, as did all those courageous women who helped to bring peace to Ireland? And if they, our Muslim sisters, are mute slaves to — or, worse, themselves in thrall to — the siren call of the death-wish culture, is there any hope for the rest of us?"

This Commission on Integration and Cohesion should have Sen's Violence and Identity as required reading.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Job, Wright & Sen

Daughter back last night from another very inspiring Christian camp, run by CPAS. Had a long discussion about the fact that the Book of Job is a play (near enough). It's not just that Job has no genealogy and lives "in the land of Uz". He's perfect before the LORD - sinless indeed - clearly impossible and theologically v bad if it were a "fact".

Tom Wright's Simply Christian continues to delight and inform. Just a few snippets:
  • "Jesus did not see his healings simply as a pre-modern kind of travelling hospital ... the world's Creator was at work through him... the whole point of Jesus' work was to bring heaven to earth and join them together for ever... but when God's future arrives at the present when folk are still asleep, there will be explosions. There were."
  • "like an optician putting several different lenses in front of our eyes until at last we can read the screen in front of us, we need to have all these themes and images in mind if we are to understand what Jesus believed he was called to do, and why."
  • "the death of Jesus ... is either the most stupid, senseless waste and misunderstanding the world has ever seen, or it is the fulcrum around which world history turns."
  • "As CS Lewis once pointed out, many of our questions are, from God's point of view, rather like someone asking "is yellow square or round" "
  • "St Paul... speaks of the Spirit as the guarantee or the down-payment of what is to come. the Greek word he uses is arrabwn which in modern Greek means an engagement-ring"
  • "this vision of the Holy Spirit coming to live within human beings, making them temples of the living God ... ought to make us shiver in our shoes"
Good article in the FT by Aramrtya Sen about the pitfalls of "multicuturalism". Must get his new book.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Shostahovich, Wright and Burleigh

Took Fri pm off to vist Grandchildren - such a delight! Sat even went to Proms - arrived late so no idea what the first piece was till afterwards - I had thought it was some Shostakovich but couldn't believe he'd have written such tosh even on a very off day, and indeed it was Lyadov. Fine performance by Vadim Repin of the Sibelius Violin Concerto (opening and 3rd movement esp impressive) . I'd love to hear Ruth Palmer do this though! Then wonderful account of the amazing and shattering Babi Yar Symphony (#13) with Mikhail Petrenko as stand-in soloist. This must be the greatest Symphony of the last 50 years. It would probably have got Shostakovich shot had it come out much sooner - indeed the original conductor apparently backed out. The searing denunciation of anti-semitism:

And I became a long soundless scream
above the thousands and thousands buried here
I am each old man who was shot here
I am each child who was shot here.

Nothing in me will ever forget about this
Let the 'Internationale' ring out
when the last anti-Semite on earth
is buried forever.

Is terribly topical. It's frightening how Soviet Communism, Nazi-ism and Isalam-ism all have anti-Semitism at their heart. Can poetry, music and humour do what they did then? For this burying cannot be accomplished mainly by violence, but by changes in the hearts of men, women and children. The reference to Mullah Nasradeen in the 2nd movement may point a way.

Tom Wright continues to delight in Simply Christian. He makes the fascinating point that one of the many reasons why we can be confident that the Early Church did not make up stories about the Resurrection is that Jesus resurrected body did not "shine like a star" which according to Daniel is what the resurrected bodies of the righteous would do.

Michael Burleigh in the Sunday Times Culture is very good on What Terrorists Want by Louise Richardson and Dying to Win: Why Suicide Terrorists Do It by Robert A Pape. These books are the product of secular academic distaste for talk of “evil-doers”. Richardson claims to convince her Harvard students that Hamas are not Terrorists because they provide creches (well Hitler made the trains run on time!) and Pape makes no mention of anti-Semitism in his entire book. As Burleigh says "we are back with the mystery of human evil and should turn to our Dostoevsky and Conrad, leaving the modern academy to its moral confusions."

Friday, August 18, 2006

Economist, Polkinghorne, James, Schiff

Very irresposible Economist front page claiming that Hezbollah won. The argument seems to be that anything other than annihilation is a win. Sadly there is some political truth in this - but having The Economist proclaim it on its front page is just going to make a bad situation worse. There is a real danger that the disarmament of Hezbollah will be a sham, esp. if France's "Leadership" of the international force amounts to sending just 400 troops.

For once I agree with something by Yasmin Allabi Brown who writes against the idea that Sharia Law could be used in the UK "An Evil Law, made by men for men".

Interesting set of questions for John Polkinghorne from one of the people I sat next to at the Church event on Monday - so it did bear fruit.

Reading James in Greek for the first time. Luther apparently considered it to be "of straw" but it's a really important rounding of the NT teaching.

Was planning to go to the Schiff/Mozart Prom but the 11:30 finish put me off and listened to it on the Radio. Fascinating - a compelling performance and he ignores many of Mozart's Urtext markings. Having my first lesson on Shostakovich Preludes and Fugues next week. Scary!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Science, Religion, Lebanon

Went to Cafe-style talk last night on Christianity and Science, given at St Pauls Hammersmith by a Reader in Engineering at IC and church member. He was pleased with the Polkinghorne.org link.

Interesting tothesource email which points to this entry in an intruiging blog.

Lebanon cease-fire seems to be holding although fragile, and the absurd claims that Hizbollah 'won' are risking undermining their disarmament. French diplomacy seems to be on the up - their Foreign Minister was Mayor of Lourdes and miracles have apparently rubbed off on him.

In saying that the government has not done enough to tackle Islamist Extremism David Cameron is stating the obvious - for Prescott & co to attack him for saying so just makes them look ridiculous.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Peace that only God can give

Shahid Malik back-pedals furiously in today's Times from the ill-judged Muslim Leaders letter This is welcome, but there are still many distortions. For example he says "Is it a sane response to kill more than 1,000 civilians in Lebanon — mainly women and children — for the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers?" But the Hizbollah attack that started this also killed 3 Israeli soliders; the total killed has been 791 in Lebanon and 155 on the Israeli side. And one of the worst aspects of Malik & co's letter was that, since Hizbolllah are "civillians" and use civilians as human shields, they equate any attack on Hizbollah's fighters with the 7/7 and 9/11 attacks. No-one really knows how many of the 791 were Hizbollah fighters but it must have been a few hundred. The deaths of any innocent civillians are indeed deplorable, but in Israel's case they are an un-looked-for by-product of their attempts to defeat Hizbollah. Hizbollah tries to kill Israeli civillians and rejoices when it succeeds. Ultimately supporting a terrorist state-within-a-state is bound to lead to civillian casualties, and that is why a disarming of Hizbollah in accordance with the UNSC resolutions is so necessary. In the meantime we should all join the Archbishop of York in praying for the peace which untimately only God can give.

Bp Nazir-Ali is very good in today's Telegraph (headling "Multiculturalism is to blame for perverting young Muslims") I also came across a superb piece in Haaretz from an American Jew working in Lebanon arguing that In the name of peace, U.S. Jews should fund Lebanon rehabilitation, basing this in part on "Love thy Neighbour as thyself" (from Leviticus of course) but giving it the wider interpretation that Jesus gave it.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Streams of Living Water

I'm very encouraged by a book called Streams of Living Water by Richard Foster that I bought at church last night. "Today a mighty river of the Spirit is bursting forth ... God is bringing together streams of life that have been isolated from one another for a long time." He's referring to the confluence of what he calls:
  • The Contemplative Tradition (the prayer-filled life)
  • The Holiness Tradition (the virtuous life)
  • The Charismatic Tradition (the spirit-empowered life)
  • The Social Justice Tradition (the compassionate life)
  • The Evangelical Tradition (the Word-centred life)
  • The Incarnational Tradition (the sacramental life)
The way in which the Catholic and Evangelical traditions are making contact with each other has been very encouraging to me for a while - the fact that this book was written (by an Evangelical, in 1999) and sold in Evangelical churches, is great!

Great also that the Lebanon ceasefire seems to be holding. Of course early days yet. We have had sermons on Judges at St Paul's and the resonances are uncanny and slightly disturbing. The BBC of course puts up former Marxism Today editor Martin Jacques as an expert "from the LSE" (we'll he's a visiting fellow) and calls the killing and kidnapping of Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah a "pretext". Ugh!

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Lebanon, Iraq and the MCB

Great that the UNSC has unanimously adopted the resolution on Lebanon. Let's hope and pray that it has the desired results.

Depressing conversation yesterday with someone I know well who has some military experience. He seems to swallow Fisk and Chomsky whole, says that Israel faces no strategic threat, that the Muslim/Muslim violence in Iraq may well be organised by Mossad, and that the whole Iraq war was a device to make money for George Bush Senior who is a "major investor" in Carlyle Group! He says he knows no-one who doesn't think the whole Iraq war was a sham (well he knows me!) There's no doubt that there have been serious mistakes made in Iraq but if extremists on both sides want to murder each other it is remarkably difficult to stop them. And the millions who voted in Iraq's elections in the face of massive intimidation and terror suggest that there is a deep longing for democracy. It's worrying that people live in their hermetically-sealed opinion worlds.

British Muslim leaders have publicly stated that "British foreign policy is endangering all of us" - I haven't been able to find the text of their open letter but it apparently says, in effect, "we are utterly against terrorism but British Foregn Policy makes it more likely that the terrorists will attack British targets. " This may well be so - if we hadn't stood up to Hitler we wouldn't have been bombed. But we cannot allow British foreign policy to be dictated to by fanatics who threaten to bomb us into submission - and I really think it is unwise for British Muslim leaders to take this stance.

I have now found the text, and I'm afraid it's rather worse that I thought. William Shawcross was in good form demolishing Baroness Uddin (a "strident advocate") on the BBC Radio. Talking about "the debacle of Iraq" is a bit ill-judged. They want the PM to "fight against all who target civilians with violence, whenever and wherever this happens." Apart from the ludicrous idea that it's the responsibility of the UK PM to deal with eg street crime in Brazil, this erases the distinction between police and criminals. Armed police "target civilians with violence". They talk of a "failure to do more to secure an immediate end to attacks on civilians in the Middle East." What on earth do they think the PM could have done? The UN resolution was held up for a week by Arab objections. Of course what they mean is he should have "condemned Israel" - futile gesture politics and in my view quite wrong. "Attacking civilians is never justified. This message is a global one." Sadly this is utter tosh. Criminals and Terrorists are generally civillians - must they never be attacked? If Terrorists hide themselves amongst a civilian population does this give them complete immunity?

Basically they seem to be saying that there is no moral difference between Israel and Al Quaida. A deeply un-helpful contribution, but at least it shows their true colours.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Islamic Terror and Simply Christian

What has gone wrong with this country that apparently 20 of our citizens can seriously contemplate blowing up so many planes in mid-air? If any of these plotters are found guilty they should surely be deprived of their UK Citizenship: "Human Rights" Act notwithstanding. This is an utterly evil perversion of religion - how Islamic it is I cannot tell: most Muslims say that it is not Islamic but some seem to say that it is. And other Islamic spokemen say that it is a cynical ploy by the Government aimed at ''diverting attention away from its policy in the Middle East''

As Fahad Ansari of the "Islamic Human Rights Commission" puts it: "The sacred book of the Muslims, the Qu’ran, and certain statements of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) discuss the issues of fighting oppression in much depth. Ultimately, those who fight against oppression are exalted and praised as heroes and promised Paradise in return for their blood. For anyone to even give a Qu’ran as a gift to another may be likely to fall foul of this provision [against Glorification of Terrorism] as it glorifies those who die fighting in the way of Allah against injustice.
There is a deep concern that this law will stifle the honourable traditions of freedom of speech and debate within the Muslim world where issues of politics and jihad are often discussed. In particular, this will have a very chilling effect on Islamic bookstores and distributors who publish and sell a variety of literature including those which discuss Islamic politics and warfare." (of course it's not "fighting opression" that is commended but fighting for Islam against non-Islam. The opression of Jews and Christians is specifically commended in the Koran - see eg the discussion here)

Reading Tom Wright's Simply Christian - fascinating. Brilliant and as always a splendid turn of phrase! For example, in discussing the importance of Beauty but the danger of the 'Keats Equation' (Beuaty is Truth and Truth Beauty): "If, without previous zoological knowledge, you came face to face with a male tiger in prime condition, you might be tempted to fall down and worship such a glorious example of form, colour, grace and power. Few examples of idolatory would be so swiftly self-refuting"

New vicar came to lunch yesterday with my piano teacher. He was a cathedral musician for many years so interesting points of contact.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Ephesians 5:24

I've been looking at Ephesians 5:24.

I think the point here is rather different from what might be thought.

In Paul's culture it was obvious and axiomatic that wives were to be subject to their husbands. What he is saying is that this relationship should not be as the World has it, based on arbitrary power and authority, but should be a 'subjection' based on loving service. Fundamentally the two shall become one flesh.

What he actually says, as far as I can see is something like this: "Be subject to one another in the fear of Christ. The wives to their husbands as to the Lord. For the husband's headship of the wife is like Christ's headship of the church, as he is himself the saviour of the body, and as the church is subject to Christ, so also wives to their husbands, in everything. Husbands, love your wives as also Christ loved the church and gave himself up on behalf of her ... so ought husbands to love their wives as their own bodies... the two shall become one flesh."

Interestingly Barclay (writing in 1958 long before Feminist Theology) makes much the same points at greater length and eloquence. He devotes 5 sections (9pp) to Eph 5:22-33 and his concluding section begins:

"Sometimes the emphasis of this passage is entirely misplaced. Sometimes the passage is read as if the essence of it was the subordination of the wife to the husband ... but the basis of this passage is not control; it is love. In this passage Paul says certain things about the love that a
husband must bear his wife."

He also quotes John Chrystostom (even less influenced by feminisim and liberalism) "Hast thou seen the measure of obedience? Hear also the measure of love. Wouldest thou have thy wife obedient unto thee, as the Church is to Christ? Take then thyself the same provident care for her, as Christ takes for the Church. Yea, even if it shall be needful for thee to give thy life for her, yea, and to be cut into pieces ten thousand times, yea, and to endure and undergo any suffering whatever,--refuse it not. Though thou shouldest undergo all this, yet wilt thou not, no, not even then, have done anything like Christ. ... He brought the Church to His feet ... by his unwearied affection; so also do thou behave thyself toward thy wife."

Monday, August 07, 2006

Blown away

On Sat the boat was coming back to our normal club so I had to go down to receive it. This meant that I couldn't get to Ruth Palmer's Kenwood concert - doubly ultra-frustating as Ruth had rung offering us 2 free tickets. However I did get to listen to her CD in the car going down - I was completely blown away, it is even more brilliant than I had expected. I had to listen again on the way up and even Daughter, who doesn't like classical music, was amazed. I played her the cadenza and she said she was particularly impressed by the 2nd Violin that came in with loud chords. She was astonished when I explained that there was no 2nd violin.

So on Sun we drove down early and were all ready to race for the first time with our Gennekar. However I was not tough enough about getting on the water early, we realised when we had hoisted the mainsail that we had rigged the Spinnaker halyard wrong, rushed to correct this, got on the water and found another error which I corrected afloat so missed the start of the first race, and got the direction wrong. Still we did some practice runs and managed to sail the Gennekar well. Daughter was helming brilliantly and then we came towards the start line while the second race was about to start. A Firefly tacked in front of us, we had to get out of the way but Daughter couldn't pull the helm hard enough, we crashed, bent our pole and were out of the race.

However everyone at the club was very nice about it afterwards - they helped un-bend the pole and I have high hopes that we'll have some decent races next Sunday.

Sun evening we went to St Paul's Hammersmith - great sermon from the new curate about Judges, comparing the situation then with now. He was very good about not making compromises with evil within ourselves.

The Lebanon situation is depressing: the truth is that the more Lebanese civillians are killed the better for Hezbollah. Presumably all those criticising Israel as a rogue state and war criminals would say that Churchill was a war criminal and that England should have surrendered when the Nazis fired rockets at us. Hezbollah have fired far more rockets at Israel than Hitler did on England during WW2, and our bombing killed far more German civillians. Israel are trying much harder to minimise civillian casualities than we did. As Olmert pointed out, if they had been trying to kill Lebanese civiliians and destroy Lebanon's infrastructure, the country would have gone dark by day 4.

Cornwall and back

Back from lovely holiday in Cornwall. With all family incl grandchildren from Thurs to Sun am and then we stayed till Thurs. Had boat shipped down, 3 1-hour lessons (gennekar, sail-around and then a session with just me trapezing and the instructor helming in a F5 on Sun pm - I rang her to say "weather forecast 21 knots" -- "fantasitic" was her reply! Heavy weather Mon and Tues meant that we weren't able to sail then or do our long trips. We had a good sail out to the Quies on Weds but there was quite a swell and not that much wind, so we went back and practiced trapezing and gennekar. On Thurs there was more wind (18-20kts) but I was able to helm and Daughter trapezed and we did very well incl some Gennekar runs. However at about 12:00 as we were running up a shroud snapped and our mast fell down! Thank God this was in the Estuary and not on Weds by the Quies! One Rib came to try to help ineffectually but then another came manned by young sailors who got us back. Unknown to us the first Rib had called the (inshore) lifeboat who came to see us when we were back on shore. So boat packed up early and went back home.

Fri we drove back stopping off at John Lucas which was a delight. He had just been given a book (on Jeremiah) by a splendidly-named former pupil of his: John B Job! Traffic v bad so went up to Marlborough and had supper there, got home 11:30 :-(.