Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Still Easter

Sometimes you just have to hold your hands up and say that the opposition were better. That was certainly my experience on Saturday night, and I guess it was true for many other Manchester United supporters, as we watched Barcelona give a master class in man u bus the beautiful game. At least we could console ourselves with seeing the team parade the Premier League trophy through the streets of Manchester yesterday, having overtaken Liverpool as the most successful team in the football league with a 19th title.

One quote has stayed in my mind over the last few days and it comes from Sir Alex Ferguson the Man Utd manager:
Only true champions come out and show their worth after defeat- and I expect us to do that.
Ferguson spoke those words in 2006 following a defeat to Arsenal and United went on to win the league in the following three seasons.

Bishop Stephen Cottrell, preaching at my Institution service a couple of Sundays ago, mentioned this quote from Sir Alex in his sermon. He reminded us that the death and resurrection of Jesus remain at the heart of our theology and everything else that happens takes place in the light of this great event.

So, whether you’ve just taken a hammering or are feeling on top of the world (or open top bus) it’s still Easter.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Faith in the surgery

A young man was riding pillion on a motorbike one evening in Belfast. The bike was hit by another vehicle and the rider on the front of the bike was killed instantly. The passenger was thrown into a petrol station and landed on his head. So serious were his injuries that those attending him expected he would die, in fact the medics did not think there was any more they could do for him. A nurse,  quietly and gently, asked him if he knew Jesus. The young man lived and remembered the question he had been asked by the nurse.

That young man celebrated his 80th birthday this year. He is my father and if it had not been for that nurse’s willingness to share her faith and hope in the Lord Jesus Christ I doubt he would have spent the last fifty years serving God as a missioner, vicar and prison chaplain. I also doubt I would be doing what I am doing today if it had not been for his love, witness and encouragement.

I wonder whether that nurse would have felt able to share her faith so readily today and if she had would she expect to find herself in front of a medical disciplinary council?

I’ve written this brief post as I’ve been reflecting on the issues raised by the latest case of a Christian doctor facing disciplinary proceedings for offering to speak to a patient about his faith. You can read more about the story over at Church Mouse’s blog.

Every Grain of Sand

To celebrate the 70th birthday of the world’s greatest minstrel I am posting one of my favourite Bob Dylan songs. Every Grain of Sand comes from the overlooked Shot of Love album and its lyrics are profoundly devotional. Happy Birthday Bob.
In the time of my confession, in the hour of my deepest need
When the pool of tears beneath my feet flood every newborn seed
There's a dying voice within me reaching out somewhere
Toiling in the danger and in the morals of despair.
Don't have the inclination to look back on any mistake
Like Cain, I now behold this chain of events that I must break
In the fury of the moment I can see the master's hand
In every leaf that trembles, in every grain of sand.
Oh, the flowers of indulgence and the weeds of yesteryear
Like criminals, they have choked the breath of conscience and good cheer
The sun beat down upon the steps of time to light the way
To ease the pain of idleness and the memory of decay.
I gaze into the doorway of temptation's angry flame
And every time I pass that way I always hear my name
Then onward in my journey I come to understand
That every hair is numbered like every grain of sand.
I have gone from rags to riches in the sorrow of the night
In the violence of a summer's dream, in the chill of a wintry light
In the bitter dance of loneliness fading into space
In the broken mirror of innocence on each forgotten face.
I hear the ancient footsteps like the motion of the sea
Sometimes I turn, there's someone there, other time it's only me
I am hanging in the balance of the reality of man
Like every sparrow falling, like every grain of sand.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Hawking heaven

I am always bemused at the seriousness with which certain people’s words are taken when they are talking about subjects outside their own particular discipline. Richard Dawkins opens his mouth about religion and the media goes into a frenzy, unable or unwilling to spot the weaknesses and at times blatant ignorancehawking beneath the froth of the headline quotes.  Another media favourite is the eminent cosmologist Stephen Hawking. A couple of days ago The Guardian reported an interview with Hawking covering a wide range of issues. The quote that got the headlines was when Hawking declared that heaven is just ‘a fairy story for people afraid of the dark’. Here is the full quote:
"I have lived with the prospect of an early death for the last 49 years. I'm not afraid of death, but I'm in no hurry to die. I have so much I want to do first," he said.
"I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark," he added.
wenham An excellent response to Hawking was offered by Michael Wenham, a fellow sufferer of motor neurone disease, again published in The Guardian. Wenham challenged Hawking’s comment about the brain as a computer:
It's unarguably true that there's no heaven for broken down computers, as I have found to my cost when I poured fruit juice over my laptop. The brain may be nothing but a most remarkable computer, yet there's something generically different from a computer in a brain which, when it starts to malfunction as happens in MND, can begin to love Wagner's music and "enjoy life more". That, I would say, is irrational, but not uncommon. Human beings, it would appear, are something more than machines. Maybe science will one day describe what the difference is.
And with regard to Hawking’s remarks about heaven Wenham comments:
Finally, Stephen Hawking's headlined observation about death, that an after-life "is a fairy-story for people afraid of the dark" is both sad and misinformed. Openness to the theoretical possibility of there being 11 dimensions and fundamental particles "as yet undiscovered" shows an intellectual humility strangely at odds with writing off the possibility of other dimensions of existence.
For someone "facing the prospect of an early death", with probably an unpleasant prelude, the idea of extinction holds no more fear than sleep. It really is insulting to accuse me of believing there might be life after death because I'm afraid of the dark. On the contrary, sad though I shall be to leave behind those I love, I suspect the end of life, whatever happens, will be a relief. And, like Pascal making his wager, if it is dark, I really won't mind, because, of course, there won't be a me to mind.
Wenham’s response continued with an affirmation of his own faith, founded on his belief in the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ, before concluding:
As for the idea that belief in an afterlife is a consolation, it is not just about heaven. Most faiths in fact have a notion of judgment, which is hardly comfortable for anyone, although it does focus the motivation not to waste one's life. Moreover in our situation Professor Hawking surely knows better than that some notion in your head, whatever that notion might be, makes the frustrations and pains of a terminal illness somehow more bearable. That's the nonsense of those who have not been there. I can't prove it of course, but on good grounds I'd stake my life on it, that beyond death will be another great adventure; but first I have to get finish this one.
Another response to Hawking’s views about heaven and the afterlife was offered today by Tom Wright in the Washington Post.
It’s depressing to see Stephen Hawking, one of the most brilliant minds in his field, trying to speak as an expert on things he sadly seems to know rather less about than many averagely intelligent Christians. Of course there are people who think of ‘heaven’ as a kind of pie-in-the-sky dream of an afterlife to make the thought of dying less awful. No doubt that’s a problem as old as the human race. But in the Bible ‘heaven’ isn’t ‘the place where people go when they die.’ In the Bible heaven is God’s space while earth (or, if you like, ‘the cosmos’ or ‘creation’) is our space. And the Bible makes it clear that the two overlap and interlock. For the ancient Jews, the place where this happened was the temple; for the Christians, the place where this happened was Jesus himself, and then, astonishingly, the persons of Christians because they, too, were ‘temples’ of God’s own spirit.
Hawking is working with a very low-grade and sub-biblical view of ‘going to heaven.’ Of course, if faced with the fully Christian two-stage view of what happens after death -- first, a time ‘with Christ’ in ‘heaven’ or ‘paradise,’and then, when God renews the whole creation, bodily resurrection -- he would no doubt dismiss that as incredible. But I wonder if he has ever even stopped to look properly, with his high-octane intellect, at the evidence for Jesus and the resurrection? I doubt it -- most people in England haven’t. Until he has, his opinion about all this is worth about the same as mine on nuclear physics, i.e. not much.
Wright goes on to a more general critique of Hawking and others who share his worldview:
As for the creation being self-caused: I wonder if he realises that he is simply repeating a version of ancient Epicureanism? i.e. the gods are out of the picture, a long way away, so the world/human life/etc has to get on under its own steam. This is hardly a ‘conclusion’ from his study of the evidence; it’s simply a well known worldview shared by most post-Enlightenment westerners…
The depressing thing is that Hawking doesn’t seem to realize this and so hasn’t even stopped to think that there might be quite sophisticated critiques of Epicureanism, ancient and modern, which he should work through. Not least the Christian one, which again focuses on Jesus.
My own comment is this: I do wish that those who clearly have a brain (computer or not) would use it to think through what they say about faith with the same measure of rigour that they apply to their own areas of expertise.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

#EasterLIVE my reflections

During Holy Week I took part in EasterLIVE, a Twitter stream telling the story of Easter through the eyes of different characters. Here is how the people behind the project described the idea:
It’s Passover week in 1st Century Jerusalem. A bustling throng of Jewish pilgrims have gathered in the city. But this year a preacher/carpenter from Nazareth is set to turn the tables of history – right before their eyes. This is the Easter story and this is your cue.
By Tweeting your story, the Easter(LIVE) website allows you to showcase your very own Passion Play. Be it a historical and Biblical account or a poetic, visual, musical or creative retelling – it’s up to you. It’s a chance to explore, to learn and be creative. Give it your personal stamp, bring it to life and share it with everyone.
A good number of people signed up to take part in EasterLIVE, there were 154 profiles registered, though not everyone was in favour of the project. On Palm Sunday Richard Rew wrote a blog questioning EasterLIVE and raising some pertinent questions and he followed this up with a reflection as an observer on Easter Monday. Both Richard’s posts are worth a read.

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been thinking about my own experience of the project and these are my own thoughts as a participant.

EasterLIVE took a different approach to the Natwivity where the Christmas story was told through the tweets of different characters with a story line created by one organisation. With EasterLIVE lots of people were invited to create their own characters and narratives. Some saw this as potentially confusing but I didn’t have a problem with the idea of a multi-faceted approach to tweeting the Easter story. I saw the twitter stream of different characters and narratives as being like small pieces of coloured tiles coming together to build up a mosaic of the story.

I also felt that the fragmented, at times confusing and non-linear developing twitter stream reflected something of the disturbing and confusing nature of the Easter story as it would have been experienced by the original participants. It is only later that a more harmonised, systematic telling of the story has tidied up the pieces of the experiences and I fear lost something in the retelling.

Neither did I have a problem with apparent contradictions between different tellings of the story. Check out the Four Gospels and see the differences in the accounts of Holy Week and Easter. The early church was happy to let these sit side by side rather than to smooth out the apparent inconsistencies and I happen to think this gives them a ring of authenticity rather than the feel of propaganda.

I developed a character to use through the EasterLIVE project; a pub landlord whose upper room was let out to a bunch of Galileans. I wanted a slightly off stage character who could give a different perspective on events. However, during the week I also ended up spontaneously tweeting as the cursed fig tree and surprisingly this attracted more response. I had hoped to use a more multi-media approach, however, an immanent house and job move and Easter commitments limited the time I had for this. It is fair to say, as Richard Rew has observed, that there was much less multi-media and more text based material on the twitter stream.

One criticism of the project was that people had been encouraged to develop as many characters as they liked. Some people went to town on this and had a multitude of characters, while others developed one or two. This meant that someone’s carefully developed character was on occasions suddenly replicated by others. Some people seemed to commandeer nearly every character in the story leaving little room for anyone else. This approach was more like the Natwivity than what I understood to be the intention of EasterLIVE. It did suggest to me that some tweeters were churning out their story and not really taking account of how others were engaging with the enterprise.

This brings me to my main criticism of EasterLIVE. People were encouraged to develop a script in advance and it was clear that quite a few had also written their tweets which were then scheduled for release at various times during the week. The problem with this approach was that it cut off the possibility of interaction with other tweeters’ characters. Interaction is at the heart of Twitter, it is a conversation, and there is nothing more frustrating than tweeters who don’t engage with others. Some of the EasterLIVE characters and tweets never seemed to be part of the wider experience, failing to engage with other characters, perspectives and events.

Overall, I thought EasterLIVE was an imaginative idea and produced some interesting and at times even challenging insights but I do wonder whether heavily pre-scripted non-interactive tweeting is what Twitter is all about.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

In defence of aid

It was one of the decisions of the Coalition government that I could wholeheartedly support, the commitment to secure 0.7% of gross national income for overseas aid. This commitment was made in the Conservative’s 2010 election manifesto which stated:
A new Conservative government will be fully committed to achieving, by 2013, the UN target of spending 0.7 per cent of national income as aid.
We will stick to the rules laid down by the OECD about what spending counts as aid. We will legislate in the first session of a new Parliament to lock in this level of spending for every year from 2013.
To give the Tories credit, they did not use the excuse of coalition government to renege on this promise and have reaffirmed their commitment to legislate.

Today news has ‘leaked out’ that Liam Fox the Secretary of State for Defence has written to David Cameron opposing this proposal in the following terms:
Dear David Cameron,
I have considered the issue carefully, and discussed it with Andrew [Mitchell] and William Hague, but I cannot support the proposal in its current form.
In 2009 the proportion of national income spent on ODA [official development assistance] was only 0.52 per cent.
The Bill could limit HMG's ability to change its mind about the pace at which it reaches the target in order to direct more resources towards other activities or programmes rather than aid.
Furthermore, as a result of the wider drive to improve the transparency and accountability of international development work, the Government's own monitoring and reporting requirements for ODA are likely to become more stringent.
This may present risks to my department's ability to both report certain priority activities as ODA and, therefore, to receive funding for them from the Conflict Pool.
However, my primary concern is one akin to the internal debate we had over the Armed Forces covenant.
I believe that creating a statutory requirement to spend 0.7 per cent ODA carried more risk in terms of potential future legal challenges than, as we have for the covenant, putting into statute recognition of the target and a commitment to an annual report against it.
The latter would be my preferred way to proceed.
Liam Fox
Let’s consider Fox’s argument for a moment. Firstly he is worried that legislation will prevent the government’s ability to ‘change its mind’. That’s the point of the legislation, because it is precisely when the pressure is on that it is most convenient to look at soft targets like overseas aid as a place to save money. Those of us in parish ministry know how, particularly when the financial heat is turned up, there are always siren voices calling for us to reconsider our mission / charitable giving.

Secondly, Fox is worried that monitoring and reporting are becoming more stringent and this may limit the Defence Department’s ability to claim funds as overseas aid. Good, the legislation should prevent the government using money set aside for overseas aid for purposes that clearly are not aid. In January 2010 the Conservatives announced that they planned to use money designated for international aid for a military ‘stabilisation’ force. If legislation puts a stop to this sort of practice then that is to be welcomed.

Fox wants to water down the legislation because he is worried that the government might be held accountable for the promises and commitments it has made. Instead, Fox would prefer ‘targets’ and a ‘commitment to reporting’ rather than legally binding obligations. I hope this particular fox is shot before it gets too far out of its hole.

I’ll leave the last word on this matter to Cranmer who wrote a superb blog post in defence of overseas aid back in the autumn 2010 titled Man does not live by Trident alone. In a powerful, clear and sustained argument, Cranmer argued against reducing commitment to overseas aid and concluded with the following:
The freedom and fraternity which constitute our social fabric are fragile entities. But, insofar as these persist and are considered good, it is incumbent upon us to manifest them to those who have neither. Jesus did not only preach to the crowds, he fed them. He understood that you can’t talk about micro-credit to those with empty bellies…
If charity begins at home, our community and nation are deprived.
When we prioritise the world’s poorest and most destitute, justice may flow like a river.
The decision to increase the budget for International Development is a fundamentally Christian ethic.
It is about feeding the starving, healing the sick, housing the poor and educating the illiterate.
If any Conservative would rather hug a Harrier than help the destitute, he or she must be devoid of conscience.
George Osborne said: “Britons can hold their heads up high and say even in these difficult times, we will honour the promises made to some of the poorest people on our planet.”
The extra aid will halve the deaths from malaria, save the lives of 50,000 pregnant women and 250,000 babies.
We should be proud that George Osborne has made the UK the first country in the world to hit the United Nations target of donating 0.7 per cent of its national income to the world’s poor by 2013.
Righteousness exalts a nation.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Championes #19

Manchester United Premier League Champions 2010-2011. Made all the sweeter by taking Liverpool’s record with a 19th League title.


Shallow home group

If you are fed up being part of a group trying to get you to share your feelings, build relationships, discuss your past, study theology or confess your sins then this is for you: Shallow Small Group Bible Study. Putting the ‘super’ back into superficial!

h/t Will Taylor aka @bigdaddywhale

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

O ye of Little Pea faith

I have so far resisted gloating about Manchester United’s masterful evisceration of the Russian multi-millionaire playboy’s toy aka Chel$ki, however, I happened to catch The Guardian Football Weekly podcast and was pleasantly surprised by the discussion.

The podcast kicked off with some banter about United’s opening goal scorer Javier Hernandez who is known as Chicharito or ‘Little  Pea’. Before each match Chicharito kneels in the ceManchester United v Chelseantre circle and prays and last Sunday he then went on to score 37 seconds into the game! The comments began rather cynically with Barry Glendenning suggesting it was ‘an ostentatious display of piety’ but one of the others chipped in with:
‘What’s your problem with piety? In a world where footballers are routinely accused of being impure surely for them to prostrate themselves before the Lord and ask for his blessing sets a very good example to young people who often wear their trousers too low.’
Perhaps it was a tongue in cheek comment but then James ‘AC Jimbo’ Richardson, one of the best pundits in the game said this:
‘… actually, maybe what he’s doing, rather than saying “I’m special look at me chat to my pal God, maybe what he is saying is “Look I do believe and it’s not silly to have faith” which is an interesting and very positive message to send out…’
All rather refreshing and a great deal more edifying than discussing Chicharito’s fellow striker Wayne Rooney swearing down the camera lens or flicking a V sign at the baying Chel$ki fans.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Love Wins in the pub #ashmedia

Took time out from unpacking after the house move to meet up with some social media pals to discuss Rob Bell’s book Love Wins and Pete Rollins’ Pyro Theology. Looking back I realise that despite enjoying a stimulating conversation I found it a frustrating experience. In part my frustration was simply the constraint of time  which meant that I could only stay for just over an hour and didn’t  really get into discussion of Rollins’ theology. Primarily, however, my frustration was because of the material we were discussing. I felt that most of our conversation highIMG00513-20110509-1317lighted the weaknesses of Love Wins in that the book raises lots of questions that it never really gets round to answering and so our conversation was less about the book and more about our own soteriologies.

One of the most interesting questions raised came from Johanna Clare who wanted to ask why the book has caused such a stir? This is a good question because Bell is not saying anything new and what he does say is not very clear. One person commented that Bell is resisting the temptation to reduce his position to sound bites, fair enough but he should be able to articulate what he does believe in clearer and more unambiguous terms. Another commented that Bell is more theologically astute and literate than we given him credit IMG00512-20110509-1317 for. I’m not so sure. Bell does seek to give theological weight to his arguments by drawing on the Church Fathers for example, but they are never referenced properly nor their arguments set in context or developed and explored in any depth and so I am left wondering whether he just lifted a few patristic quotes that seemed to beef up his position. In the same way I think Bell has dipped in to Tom Wright (Surprised by Hope rather than The Resurrection of the Son of God) and C.S. Lewis (The Great Divorce) without really understanding what they are saying.

Pete Phillips offered some incisive comments about Bell’s linguistic and hermeneutical deficiencies which undermine the book’s use of scripture. I share Pete’s questioning of Bell’s exposition of Dives and Lazarus, though again others were more positive.

A few of the group had seen Bell on his recent tour in the U.K. and several said how surprised they were by the brevity of his presentation of the book and its themes. Bell is an engaging and charismatic speaker and the style of the book reflects the way he speaks and preaches. The impact he has had on thousands of people cannot be lightly dismissed and Bell has a passion for communicating the faith that puts many of us to shame. Nevertheless, I am left with a feeling that there is less to the book and Bell’s argument than meets the eye. Though I was frustrated at leaving the conversation early, I wonder whether there was much more to say about the book?

Monday, 9 May 2011



I first came across this picture Consider the Lillies by Stanley Spencer when Stephen Cottrell (now Bishop of Chelmsford) led a meditation on it as part of a Springboard day at the end of the 90s. It is one of a series of paintings by Spencer on the theme of Christ in the Wilderness. Spencer had planned to create forty paintings on the theme but in the end only finished eight, having sketched out twenty.

I have a print of the painting in my Bible and every now and then find myself considering Consider the Lillies (Matthew 6:28-29). This morning as I sat in the conservatory of our new Rectory for my prayers I looked at the painting and then began to look again through the windows at the garden surrounding the house. The garden has been carefully tended while the house was vacant, just one of many things we are so grateful to the church for, but then there is the gift of the glorious bird songs and the plants beginning to poke through in unplanned places. The grass is gradually being carpeted with daisies suggesting I need to cut the grass. I think I’ll wait, not just because there is so much else to do, but because it might just remind me to take time to get down on my hands and needs and wonder at the graciousness of God.

And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lillies of the field grow. They do not labour or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

In the Garden

When they came for Him in the garden, did they know?
When they came for Him in the garden, did they know?
Did they know He was the Son of God, did they know that He was Lord?
Did they hear when He told Peter, "Peter, put up your sword"?
When they came for Him in the garden, did they know?
When they came for Him in the garden, did they know?

When He spoke to them in the city, did they hear?
When He spoke to them in the city, did they hear?
Nicodemus came at night so he wouldn't be seen by men
Saying, “Master, tell me why a man must be born again?”
When He spoke to them in the city, did they hear?
When He spoke to them in the city, did they hear?

When He healed the blind and crippled, did they see?
When He healed the blind and crippled, did they see?
When He said, "Pick up your bed and walk, why must you criticize?
Same thing My Father do, I can do likewise"
When He healed the blind and crippled, did they see?
When He healed the blind and crippled, did they see?

Did they speak out against Him, did they dare?
Did they speak out against Him, did they dare?
The multitude wanted to make Him king, put a crown upon His head
Why did He slip away to a quiet place instead?
Did they speak out against Him, did they dare?
Did they speak out against Him, did they dare?

When He rose from the dead, did they believe?
When He rose from the dead, did they believe?
He said, "All power is given to Me in heaven and on earth"
Did they know right then and there what that power was worth?
When He rose from the dead, did they believe?
When He rose from the dead, did they believe?

Bob Dylan: In the Garden

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Williams and Wright are right

Part of the role of church leaders is to speak truth to power and to raise moral and ethical concerns about public policy and action at national and international level. It was therefore no surprise when Archbishop Rowan Williams was asked to comment on the death/execution of Osama bin Laden last week at a press conference. The Telegraph reported ++Rowan’s response to the question of whether he thought it was right for the United States to kill the al-Qaeda leader:
I think the killing of an unarmed man is always going to leave a very uncomfortable feeling, because it doesn’t look as if justice is seen to be done in those circumstances.
I think it’s also true that the different versions of events that have emerged in recent days have not done a great deal to help here.
Critics have weighed in, including Cristina Odone again in The Telegraph:
Archbishop Williams is a fine man, a good man. But he is dead wrong here. Summary execution, ie killing without trial, is just desserts for some tyrants. And Osama, the hate merchant and death peddler, was a tyrant to rank with some of the worst. His fate should be no better than theirs.
…when he (Williams) addresses the nation, as he did this morning, he should not speak as a Guardian reader but as a religious leader. And as such, surely he sees that drawing parallels between Osama and any other unarmed man is a mistake.
I would suggest to Odone that ++Rowan did exactly as she had requested, he had spoken as a religious leader raising moral questions about justice and perception. Actions have ethical implications and unless these implications are carefully thought through then the action may simply exacerbate a situation.

However, the article that really stirred up the hornets nest was N.T. Wright’s comment piece in The Guardian. Wright raised the question of whether the United States seemed to apply different standards to its own behaviour in the international arena to those applied to everyone else. Again this seems to me to be a perfectly reasonable question to raise because the killing of bin Laden involved an incursion into another country, Pakistan, without that country’s knowledge or permission. Wright asked how the United States would feel if the British SAS had run covert operations into its territory to kill IRA terrorists using the U.S. as a haven?

Wright describes U.S. international policy as:
American exceptionalism. America is subject to different rules to the rest of the world. By what right? Who says?
The former Bishop of Durham suggests that this approach reflects the acting out of the Myth of the American Super Hero. The U.S. as the world’s self appointed saviour battling injustice and sorting out the bad guys. In this scenario the U.S. is free therefore to take the law into its own hands to execute justice in its own best interest.

The problem with such an approach which, if operating in disregard of international law, can be seen as little more that vigilantism is that it removes the moral basis for challenging others countries that decide to operate in a similar way:
Of course, proper justice is hard to come by internationally. America regularly casts the UN (and the international criminal court) as the hapless sheriff, and so continues to play the world's undercover policeman. The UK has gone along for the ride. What will we do when new superpowers arise and try the same trick on us?
As far as I am aware neither Williams or Wright were excusing or apologising for bin Laden or denying that he should be brought to account for his actions. Rather they were highlighting the legitimate moral concerns of executing a terrorist in another sovereign territory without due process and drawing attention to the potential consequences of such an action which might create more problems that it solves.

Friday, 6 May 2011

Because He is Risen

Because He is risen
Spring is possible
In all the cold hard places
Gripped by winter
And freedom jumps the queue
To take fear’s place
as our focus
Because He is risen
Because He is risen
My future is an epic novel
Where once it was a mere short story
My contract on life is renewed in perpetuity
My options are open-ended
My travel plans are cosmic
Because He is risen
Because He is risen
Healing is on order and assured
And every disability will bow
Before the endless dance of his ability
And my grave too will open
When my life is restored
For this frail and fragile body
Will not be the final word
on my condition
Because He is risen
Because He is risen
Hunger will go begging in the streets
For want of a home
And selfishness will have a shortened shelf-life
And we will throng to the funeral of famine
And dance on the callous grave of war
And poverty will be history
In our history
Because He is risen
And because He is risen
A fire burns in my bones
And my eyes see possibilities
And my heart hears hope
Like a whisper on the wind
And the song that rises in me
Will not be silenced
As life disrupts
This shadowed place of death
Like a butterfly under the skin
And death itself
Runs terrified to hide
Because He is risen
Gerard Kelly: Spoken Worship

Sunday, 1 May 2011


As I had always known
he would come, unannounced,
remarkable merely for the absence
of clamour. So truth must appear
to the thinker; so, at a stage
of the experiment, the answer
must quietly emerge. I looked
at him, not with the eye
only, but with the whole
of my being, overflowing with
him as a chalice would
with the sea. Yet was he
no more there than before,
his area occupied
by the unhaloed presences.
You could put your hand
in him without consciousness
of his wounds. The gamblers
at the foot of the unnoticed
cross went on with
their dicing; yet the invisible
garment for which they played
was no longer at stake, but worn
by him in this risen existence.
R. S. Thomas Collected Poems 1945-1990