Tuesday, 22 November 2011

The Need For Equality "

Not long after I post about the need for equality (http://brainatthedoor.blogspot.com/2011/10/need-for-equality.html) along comes this:


Is There Such A Thing As A Scientific Fact? 2

Every now and then (OK - most days) I look at the stats for this blog and find, to my surprise, that the most viewed blogs in the last week aren't usually the recent ones.  My post Is There Such A Thing As A Scientific Fact? (http://brainatthedoor.blogspot.com/2009/11/is-there-such-thing-as-scientific-fact.html) is a case in point as it shows up in the top 6 most weeks despite being 2 years old and only having 5 comments; two of which are mine.

This came back to me this week when I read an article on the BBC site which raises one of the issues I was trying to discuss.  It starts with the conclusive statement:

"Subatomic particles called neutrinos cannot move faster than the speed of light, according to a new report. "

but when you read down the basis for this is "says that because the neutrinos sent from Cern do not appear to lose energy on their journey, they must not have exceeded the speed of light along the way."

Now given that we have never before witnessed particles that exceed the speed of light (or may still have not - but that is another issue) I do not know how the categorical statement about them not losing energy can be made as a proof of experimental error.  If they had said "that because the neutrinos sent from Cern do not appear to lose energy on their journey, they must not have exceeded the speed of light along the way or are behaving in a way that does not fit into any of our current theories" that would have been correct.  However it appears that scientists who have spent years postulating theories have mistaken them for facts.

Do Not Be Afraid

I was reading another blog ( http://sallysjourney.typepad.com/sallys_journey/ - well worth a visit) and the words "Do not be Afraid" jumped out at me and almost immediately gave me the form for this poem.  However it wasn't complete as I couldn't work out where the poem was going and how to get it to a conclusion.  Slowly the words sank in and I knew it was taking me to areas I'd rather avoid.


“Do not be afraid” said the Lord
To the traveller with no land

“Do not be afraid” said the Lord
To the young mother
Cast out for having her owner's son

“Do not be afraid” said the Lord
To the young man
Threshing wheat in a winepress
So the enemies wouldn’t see him

“Do not be afraid” said the Lord
To the prophet invited to meet the despot

“Do not be afraid” said the angel in all her glory
To the startled young woman

“Do not be afraid” said the angel
In the dream of the young man
Puzzling over his beloved’s betrayal

“Do not be afraid” said the angel
To the startled shepherds on the hillside

“Do not be afraid, little flock,” said Jesus,
“for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom”

“Do not be afraid” said the angel
To the women whose love drove them to the tomb of their Lord

“Do not be afraid” said Jesus
To the women puzzled by the angel’s news

“Do not be afraid” said the Lamb in all His glory
To the disciple exiled for his faith

“Do not be afraid”
But I am

Afraid to let go
The things of this world

Afraid to let go
And trust only you

Because my faith is weak

Lord, I believe;
Help thou mine unbelief.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

The Parable of the Tree

Back in May this year I was walking through a local park when a voice told me to "Turn aside and look at that tree."  I stopped in my tracks and turned round and this is what I saw:

All the trees were in full leaf except this one.  I walked over to it to get a closer look and I noticed that there were green leaves and life in a small part of the tree:

However most of the tree showed no sign of life:

Since then I have looked at this tree every time I've gone that way and there has been no sign of life spreading to the bare branches.  Then, this week, I noticed it had been cut down so I went over to look at where it had been when the man watering some nearby flowerbeds said "They had to cut it down as the core was rotten."

Now I am sure this is a warning from God about the church but what in particular.  The church I was attending, any church which is rotten to the core or all the western church?  I don't know but I suspect it is more a warning to be careful about which church you attend.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

The Need For Equality

This post could well be titled Greenbelt 2011 Part 2 as it is about a talk I went to at Greenbelt and the book I have just read as a result.  It was a talk I attended by accident but one that I found most worthwhile.  The accident was that I read the surname of the speaker and assumed that it was the same person I had heard the day before - but being stupid can have its advantages.

I want to start with a quotation that is in book from someone who had read an earlier edition and at the end I will tell you who it is!

"that among the richest countries, it's the more equal ones that do worse according to almost every quality of life indicator ... per capita GDP is much less significant for a country's life expectancy, crime levels, literacy and health than the size of the gap between the richest and the poorest in the population ... We all know, in our hearts, that as long as there is deep poverty living systematically side by side with great riches, we all remain the poorer for it."

The book is The Spirit Level, subtitle Why Equality is Better for Everyone, and it was written by Richard Wilkinson, who I heard speak, and Kate Pickett.  This, I have to admit, is my kind of book, a book full of graphs and the inferences that can be drawn from them; I didn't do Applied Statistics all those years ago because I didn't like it!  The main theme of the book is that once a country or state reaches a certain level of affluence it doesn't social problems such as teen pregnancy, drug addiction, crime, violence, bad health etc are not related to the level of affluence but to the distribution of the affluence within that country or state.

Reading the book 2 things kept going through my mind.  The first was how obvious the conclusions were when you saw the data and the second was that Christians shouldn't behave in the ways described for the most unequal countries.  I say shouldn't because two of the most unequal countries are the UK and USA, both of which claim, to some extent, to be Christian countries.

Have you worked out who was been quoted in the book? It was David Cameron.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

This week I read 2 stories and I immediately saw that they were linked.  Not that the authors had any intention of collaborating it's just that they both wrote, in very different ways, about what happens if you take the Bible at face value.

The first story is a brief article about a woman whole lived for a year following the Bibles instruction to / about woman at face value.  You can read the article here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/the-womens-blog-with-jane-martinson/2011/oct/06/woman-year-living-biblically

The second article was entitled "How can it be fair to say I can't be saved by God if I'm gay?" and it is written by someone with a personal experience of God in their life who just happens to be gay.  It includes this sentence "Every Sunday I walk into church to pray and receive disgusted looks from brothers and sisters." which, every time I read it makes something inside me hurt.  I hurt because it just doesn't fit with Jesus' words to us "By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."  How much love is being shown to the author of the article?   She then poses the following question "Are the 12 mentions of homosexuality in the holy book due to cultural and historical mistranslations and misinterpretations?" which, for me, gets to the heart of the matter.  Which is more important following Jesus' command or insisting that the Bible has to be read literally.  You can read the whole article here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2011/oct/05/god-gay-christian-bible

For me, the Bible is very important but it has to be read remembering that we don't have a single original text and that we need to know the social context in which each part was written.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

The Problem with Drink 3

Since I posted the The Problem with Drink back in June something has bugged me, something I didn't feel was quite correct or honest.  It was this phrase:

I wasn’t an alcoholic (I would stop for periods when I wanted to)

 You see I'm not sure that it's correct because I don't know when I last stopped drinking for anything but a medical reason.  I had managed to give alcohol up for Lent in the past but then when someone pointed out that you shouldn't fast on Holy Days I was 'allowed' to have a drink on Sunday. 

This leaves me both with and without a problem.  I have a problem because I shouldn't, in all honesty, say I'm not an alcoholic as I don't know if I could stop drinking whenever I wanted to.  It isn't a problem because not knowing means I have to proceed as if I am an alcoholic.  Under tightly controlled conditions (birthday meals, weddings, Christmas etc) I will still allow myself a small glass of wine but that is all.  Even this may prove to be too much in the longer term and I'll have to give up alcohol totally; I just don't know.

So, for now, my answer to the question "Are you an alcoholic" has to be "I don't know, I may well be."

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Greenbelt 2011

Better later than never I thought I'd post my comments on Greenbelt 2011 so I'll start with the pictures I took:

Yes I did take my camera but I didn't take any photos.  To make up for that here are a couple my wife took:

Our trailer tent complete with bunting made by my wife
Me wearing my new hat and hoodie standing by my son-in-law

 This year the only music we went to was Billy Bragg who, as usual, sang it as he saw it.

I'm not sure why but I wasn't as organised as last year so I didn't get to as many talks as I would have liked. Of the talks that I attended the highlights were:

Paula Gooder on what happens when we die, I may well blog more about this once I've read the book.

Rob Bell to me didn't live up to the hype. There was nothing wrong with what he had to say but it sounded more like a motivational talk about 'being yourslf' and he was 15 minutes into his talk before he mentioned God.

Brian McLaren was excellent but I didn't take notes so may well blog about his book once I've read it.

Yonatan Shapira is an Israeli pilot who refused to carry out orders to take part in attacks on the Palestinian Territories.  He is a co-founder of Combatants for Peace and campaigns against what he sees as the illegal suppression of the Palestinians by Israel - he used the word 'apparthied' to describe what is happening. I felt that I was in the presence of a genuine hero.

Barbara Gleeson whose talk about how the church must transform itself in order to reach out to the rest of society included what, for me, was the phrase of the weekend: "Butterflies are not caterpillars with wings"  This is a rallying call to the church to look at itself and to be prepared to be completely transformed.  Again I may well blog about this again when I've read her book.

Finally two things touched me more than any music or talks. Firstly there was the Sunday morning communion with several thousand people sharing the peace, breaking bread and drinking wine together.  I won't try and describe it but suffice to say it was a special time.  The other is closely related and that is the atmosphere of the whole event; it feels peaceful and safe and you find yourself talking to complete strangers in a way that you wouldn't normally dream of doing.  It's a special time and place where God's Spirit seems to gently break through; I think our Celtic forebears would call it a Thin Place.

So that's it for Greenbelt 2011.  I'm already looking forward to Greenbelt 2012 where I may, or may not, be more organised.