Sunday, 25 December 2011

When Islam met the diversity industry…

[...] Islam has a long history of accommodating itself to its host culture without watering down its tenets. In 21st-century Britain, that means pressing the Islamophobia button, and pressing it hard.

Would conservative Christians be allowed to extol the beauty of the Gospel in secular primary schools and hospitals? Don’t be silly. The public sector knows which stereotypes it’s happy to challenge and those it would rather leave undisturbed.

The IDC is a “non-judgmental place”, according to its advertisements. No doubt that’s true – so long as you don’t count the stuff on its website about the unrighteous burning forever in “the fire of hell”. But somehow I doubt that the subject crops up in diversity workshops. Read more

Friday, 23 December 2011

Bishop of Chelmsford's 'sharp sense of humour'

THE Bishop of Chelmsford's sharp sense of humour was apparent when he said enjoying Christmas without going to church is like gate-crashing a wedding and simply indulging in an orgy of eating and drinking.

His mischievous, forthright outlook is important as the church attempts to modernise and appeal to future generations.

The statement raised a few chuckles, but also raised an intriguing argument.

We wanted to find out if our readers agree with the Bishop, so we took to the streets and asked a cross-section of Essex residents what Christmas means to them.

Many of the people we asked agreed with him, claiming that Christmas has become too commercial and should be stripped back to the religious event that spawned it. Read more

Why the Scots want independence from the English

[...] The truth is, however, that differences between Scotland and England are fewer than they used to be. The strongest institution in 19th- and early 20th-century Scotland was the Presbyterian Kirk. It set the tone of the nation. Its values – thrift, self-restraint, self-help, hard work – were thought to characterise the Scottish people. The Kirk was very different from the Church of England, its morality narrower and more demanding. Now it is a pale shadow of what it used to be. Religion plays no greater a part in Scottish than in English life. Both countries have been secularised. For years, too, the Church and Nation Committee of the Kirk produced reports on socio-economic matters that were little different from Labour Party handouts. When Margaret Thatcher was invited to address the general assembly of the Kirk, she infuriated her audience by speaking, from her Methodist background, much as ministers of the Kirk might have done a couple of generations previously.

Assimilation is evident in other visible ways. Shopping centres in Scotland are just like shopping centres in England; the same may be said of what is left of our high streets. We mostly watch the same television programmes, see the same movies, and respond to the same popular music. Football is Scotland’s national game, but Scottish newspapers give far more coverage to English football than they used to, and if a boy is not wearing a Rangers or Celtic replica shirt, he is more likely to wear a Manchester United one than that of another Scottish club. Our postman was early one Saturday. When I asked why, he said he had arranged his shift to get to Old Trafford.

The more life in Scotland is like life in England, the more the need is felt to assert our distinct identity. There is another factor not perhaps given sufficient weight. This is the gravitational pull exerted by London – and increasingly resented. Read more

How can we remain silent while Christians are being persecuted?

Father Immanuel Dabaghian, one of Baghdad’s last surviving priests, is expecting a quiet Christmas. To join him in the Church of the Virgin Mary means two hours of security checks and a body search at the door, and even then there’s no guarantee of survival. Islamist gunmen massacred 58 people in a nearby church last year, and fresh graffiti warns remaining worshippers that they could be next.

The Americans have gone now, and Iraq’s Christian communities – some of the world’s oldest – are undergoing an exodus on a biblical scale.

Of the country’s 1.4 million Christians, about two thirds have now fled. Although the British Government is reluctant to recognise it, a new evil is sweeping the Middle East: religious cleansing. The attacks, which peak at Christmas, have already spread to Egypt, where Coptic Christians have seen their churches firebombed by Islamic fundamentalists. In Tunisia, priests are being murdered. Maronite Christians in Lebanon have, for the first time, become targets of bombing campaigns. Christians in Syria, who have suffered as much as anyone from the Assad regime, now pray for its survival. If it falls, and the Islamists triumph, persecution may begin in earnest. Read more

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Nativity scene tradition in Santa Monica threatened by atheists

Every Christmas season the sprawling, life-size displays are put up by local Christian congregations on a bluff at Palisades Park, overlooking Santa Monica Pier and the Pacific.

But the pratice has come under attack from non-believers who this year applied to use the land to deliver their own message.

Santa Monica, which is well known for its liberal politics, decided to institute a lottery to ensure everyone's constitutional rights to frees speech under the First Amendment were protected.

A flood of entries to the lotyter from atheist groups led to them winning 18 of the 21 display spots. Instead of scenes depicting the manger in Bethlehem the area is now staked with signs referring to Christianity as "fables and mythology." One poster depicts God and says "37 million Americans know myths when they see them." Read more

Friday, 16 December 2011

The childless generation: How one in five women aged 45 are now childless as they choose not to go down the aisle

One in five women aged 45 has no children, new figures show, putting childlessness for women born in 1965 at a 45-year-high.

A fifth of women born in the mid 1960s remain childless by the end of their childbearing years, considered to be 45-years-old, compared with one in nine women born in 1938.

Reasons for this drop include falling numbers of women choosing to walk down the aisle, changes in the perceived cost and benefits of bringing up children, and greater social acceptability of a child-free lifestyle.

Some women also leave decisions about starting a family too late, the Office of National Statistics said.

Read more:

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Call of booty: Channel 4 computer game featuring condom-wearing soldiers shooting sperm wins Bafta

(Ed: If you check the actual video, linked from the article, it is marked 14+ and includes references to oral and anal sex.)

A cheeky Channel 4 computer game which features soldiers wearing condom hats, barking out references to genitalia and firing lasers at sperm has won a Bafta despite being banned by Xbox.

The cartoon-style game called Privates, which is designed to teach teenagers about sexually transmitted diseases, won the children's award in the secondary school education category.

Developer Dan Marshall, of Size Five Games in Norbiton, who was commissioned by Channel 4 to build the game said: 'I was completely and utterly gobsmacked.

Read more:

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Death of the traditional family

Only one in six people in Britain think they live as part of a traditional family, according to claims by a new think-tank yesterday.

Apparently, only a small minority come from ‘traditional nuclear families’ with married parents and two or more children, the Centre for the Modern Family said.

Its report said the traditional family is out of date and that the Government should consider ways to support alternative family forms that are adopted by the majority.

But the group’s research and findings were criticised by analysts who said that according to official statistics, six out of ten of all families with children are led by two married parents.

Chelmsford Bishop's love of writing

WITH the second largest diocese in the country to look after and a hectic schedule to go with it, the Bishop of Chelmsford needs to escape the daily pressures of life and unwind.

But you may be surprised to hear that, rather than putting his feet up in front of the TV, the Rt Rev Stephen Cottrell spends a lot of his spare time penning stories in his kitchen and writing poetry.

He describes the hobby as a “compulsive joy” and writes most days, inspired by his day-to-day experiences, as well as by other authors and poets.

A number of his works have been published, including a book of children’s stories and books specifically for non-churchgoers.

His latest offering, the Nail, is out now.

The story is a reflective account of the crucifixion of Jesus. It features perspectives from seven characters, including Pontius Pilate and Judas Iscariot. Each justifies the part they played and blame is passed between them to a degree, but the reader is invited to ask themselves if they would have behaved any differently. Read more

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Why We Don't Need "Women's" Ministry

Dear Women's Ministry:

The world can give me cute cupcake designs and decorating tips, scrapbooking parties, casserole recipes, and other ways to pass the time. But truly, with my respect and love, may I be honest? If I wanted to learn how to decorate cupcakes, I would take a class in it. If I wanted to be educated on strategies for decorating my home inexpensively from Winners, I would just, you know, go to Winners. Or Pinterest.

But I'm here with you now because I want what the world cannot give me. We're choking on cutesy things and crafty bits, safe lady topics, and if one more person says that modest is hottest with a straight face, I may throw up. We are hungry for authenticity and vulnerability, not churchified life hacks from lady magazines. Some of us are drowning, suffocating, dying of thirst for want of the cold water of real community. We're trying really hard--after all, we keep showing up to your lady events, and we leave feeling just a bit empty. It's just more of the same every time. Read more