Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Transsexual Jesus sparks protests

Ed: The best bit has to be this: Festival organisers described the [protest] banners as "fairly provocative" and said they could be viewed as inciting homophobia.

About 300 protesters held a candlelit protest outside a Glasgow theatre over the staging of a play which portrays Jesus as a transsexual.

The protest was held outside the Tron Theatre, where Jesus Queen of Heaven, in which Christ is a man who wants to become a woman, is being staged.

It is part of the Glasgay! arts festival, a celebration of Scotland's gay, bi-sexual and transsexual culture.

Festival organisers said it had not intended to incite or offend anyone. Read more
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Comment is Free: Is there an atheist schism?

As a professional philosopher my first question naturally is: "What or who is an atheist?" If you mean someone who absolutely and utterly does not believe there is any God or meaning then I doubt there are many in this group. Richard Dawkins denies being such a person. If you mean someone who agrees that logically there could be a god, but who doesn't think that the logical possibility is terribly likely, or at least not something that should keep us awake at night, then I guess a lot of us are atheists. But there is certainly a split, a schism, in our ranks. I am not whining (in fact I am rather proud) when I point out that a rather loud group of my fellow atheists, generally today known as the "new atheists", loathe and detest my thinking. Richard Dawkins has likened me to the pusillanimous appeaser at Munich, Neville Chamberlain. Jerry Coyne, author of Why Evolution is True, says (echoing Orwell) that only someone with pretensions to the intelligentsia could believe the silly things I believe. And energetic blogger PZ Myers refers to me as a "clueless gobshite" because I confessed to seeing why true believers might find the Kentucky Creationist Museum convincing. I will spare you what my fellow philosopher Dan Dennett has to say about me.

There are several reasons why we atheists are squabbling – I will speak only for myself but I doubt I am atypical. First, non-believer though I may be, I do not think (as do the new atheists) that all religion is necessarily evil and corrupting. This claim is on a par with golden plates in upstate New York. The Quakers and the Evangelicals were inspired and driven by their religion to oppose slavery, and a good thing too. Of course there has been evil in the name of religion – the pope telling Africans not to use condoms in the face of Aids – but as often as not religion is not the only or even the primary force for evil. The troubles in Northern Ireland were surely about socio-economic issues also, and the young men who flew into the World Trade Centre towers were infected by the alienation and despair of the young in Muslim countries in the face of poverty and inequalities. Read more
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Tuesday, 3 November 2009

20 Incredible iPhone Apps for Christian Evangelists

With more problems and followers than time, many Christian evangelists are finding out that their iPhone can be used for much more than phone calls. Below are the top 20 incredible iPhone Apps for Christian evangelists. The apps can help with prayer, Bible study, productivity, and much more. Read more (an advert, but you might enjoy it)
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Monday, 2 November 2009

A New Anglicanism

Just this past term I have had the great pleasure of co-teaching – with Professor Ashley Null, the renowned Cranmer scholar - a MA unit offered here at Moore College entitled ‘Anglican Identity’. In it we made careful study of the development of the English reformation and the works of leading figures like Fisher, Cranmer and Hooker.

A highlight was reading the moving testimony of Catherine Parr, last wife of Henry VIII, to her conversion to the gospel of justification by faith.

I was curious, however, as to why so few Sydney clergy thought this was a subject that might interest them, or that the study of the founding documents of our denomination might be well worth their while.

This was confirmed by casual conversations with Moore students. I asked them ‘how do you understand your identity as an Anglican?’ – and was met with baffled looks and shrugs. The denomination is a ‘good boat to fish from’, mostly, but there is (it seems to me) no great passion for Anglicanism itself and no great commitment to study its formularies and its history.

Perhaps it is because the international controversies have become wearisome and even a source of embarrassment. Perhaps it is because the denomination changes at glacial speed – and we in our time are addicted to change, even for its own sake. Perhaps we are also in the grip of the ‘lone ranger’ vision of the brave church planter, unencumbered by denominational vagaries. Perhaps the baby-boomer generation have so scrubbed away any outward signs of Anglican distinctiveness that it is hard to see what it is anymore.

But I was surprised that even the GAFCON movement, with its bold and remarkable vision for an global Anglican movement, has not caught the local imagination. It has been perceived as a political rather than a spiritual movement.

More than ever, we need to renew our vision of what it means to be an evangelical Anglican. My conviction is that not only is being evangelical the most authentic way of being Anglican – we’ve been saying that for years - but also that being Anglican is a great way of being evangelical. Read more
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Sunday, 1 November 2009

Government "longed for" an immigration boom

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London's role as a magnet for immigration busted wide open the stale 1990s clich├ęs about multiculturalism: it's a question of genuine diversity now, not just tacking a few Afro-Caribbean and Bengali events on to a white British mainstream. It's one of the reasons Paris now tends to look parochial to us.

So why is it that ministers have been so very bad at communicating this? I wonder because I wrote the landmark speech given by then immigration minister Barbara Roche in September 2000, calling for a loosening of controls. It marked a major shift from the policy of previous governments: from 1971 onwards, only foreigners joining relatives already in the UK had been permitted to settle here.

That speech was based largely on a report by the Performance and Innovation Unit, Tony Blair's Cabinet Office think-tank.

The PIU's reports were legendarily tedious within Whitehall but their big immigration report was surrounded by an unusual air of both anticipation and secrecy.

Drafts were handed out in summer 2000 only with extreme reluctance: there was a paranoia about it reaching the media.

Eventually published in January 2001, the innocuously labelled "RDS Occasional Paper no. 67", "Migration: an economic and social analysis" focused heavily on the labour market case.

But the earlier drafts I saw also included a driving political purpose: that mass immigration was the way that the Government was going to make the UK truly multicultural.

I remember coming away from some discussions with the clear sense that the policy was intended - even if this wasn't its main purpose - to rub the Right's nose in diversity and render their arguments out of date. That seemed to me to be a manoeuvre too far.

Ministers were very nervous about the whole thing. For despite Roche's keenness to make her big speech and to be upfront, there was a reluctance elsewhere in government to discuss what increased immigration would mean, above all for Labour's core white working-class vote.

This shone through even in the published report: the "social outcomes" it talks about are solely those for immigrants.

And this first-term immigration policy got no mention among the platitudes on the subject in Labour's 1997 manifesto, headed Faster, Firmer, Fairer.

The results were dramatic. In 1995, 55,000 foreigners were granted the right to settle in the UK. By 2005 that had risen to 179,000; last year, with immigration falling thanks to the recession, it was 148,000.

In addition, hundreds of thousands of migrants have come from the new EU member states since 2004, most requiring neither visas nor permission to work or settle. The UK welcomed an estimated net 1.5 million immigrants in the decade to 2008.

Part by accident, part by design, the Government had created its longed-for immigration boom. Read more

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Labour’s secret scheme to build multicultural Britain

Can the recent success of the British National party be explained by the misguided immigration policy of the government? That was the killer question from the floor during the notorious episode of Question Time 10 days ago. Four times it was put to Jack Straw, the justice secretary, and four times he avoided answering it. Until that evening I had thought Straw was a fairly decent sort of bloke, for a politician. No longer. In a man so central to the new Labour project, who has served in cabinet under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, who has been home secretary and foreign secretary, evasion on such an important subject is shocking.

In his first evasion Straw waffled about Enoch Powell’s recruitment of immigrants to work for the National Health Service. But that was more than 40 years ago and, as David Dimbleby pointed out, Labour has been in power for the past 12 years and Straw should answer the question. Again he waffled irrelevantly, this time about identity.

Dimbleby challenged him for a third time: “Are you saying there is no worry about the scale of immigration in this country? Is that the point you’re making? I can’t get out what you’re saying.” Straw responded by saying that new figures show a reduction in the rate of increase in migration and added something about the new points system, all of which was offensively irrelevant.

So, for a fourth time, Dimbleby pressed him to answer the question. Again Straw failed to do so, but concluded by saying: “I don’t believe it is.”

It was a farce. As Baroness Warsi, the Muslim peer, protested: “That answer is not an honest answer.” Watching Straw’s face, I was puzzled about what he was thinking. Was he knowingly dishonest or had he somehow blinded himself to all the facts about the mass immigration of the past 10 years and its consequences? Read more
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