Thursday, July 30, 2009

Tesco, sex, and what it really means to live as a Christian

Go read this (via Tim - also read that - and David, so read that too).

I was recently asked to be more explicit about what Christians can do to go further in their faith; to not just talk about the why and the what, but the how. Yet when I have done this, eg in saying Christians should not shop at Tesco, I meet great resistance. People simply don't want to be told this. It is seen as a curious quirk of the Rector's, not realistic, and certainly not much to do with Christianity. Christianity, after all, is about becoming a better person, more spiritually centred - and, in many cases, a rather obsessive and Levitical attitude to sexual practices.

I really don't think that God cares half as much as we do about human sexuality, most especially now that procreation is separable from it. Of course, there are ways of becoming wicked through the pursuit of disordered sexuality, but such a risk is vastly overestimated. The wickedness that is casually acceptable in Western society through the systematic exploitation of the poor and vulnerable in this country and worldwide is of far more concern to the God of justice and compassion who was incarnated in Christ. How often does Jesus speak about sexuality? As much as a whole column of a standard Bible at most? Yet concern for the poor and criticism of the rich runs throughout his ministry, as it does throughout the Bible as a whole. It is simply not possible to be a faithful Christian and not be concerned about issues of economic justice - indeed, to be much more concerned about such questions than about questions of human sexuality about which so much fuss is presently being made. That is simply one more example of how our church community has been captured by worldly idolatries - the world is presently obsessed with sex, and the church falls in with that emphasis. No wonder the church is seen as being irrelevant and out of touch. If this is all the Christianity in general, and the Church of England in particular, is capable of being, then it deserves a fate on the scrapheap of history.
/rant

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A shameless plug and self-advertisement

That reminds me... I've been invited to be the lead speaker at the Christian-Ecology link conference in Scarborough next February - details here.

Do come along if you're interested in exploring a theological response to our present crisis!

I'm so excited!! (Theology and Peak Oil)

Following a failed attempt of mine three years ago some of the lead figures in on-line Peak Oil research and writing have started up a Yahoo Group to explore Peak Oil from a religious perspective. What bliss!

The home page is here: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/peakoilinterfaith/
To subscribe, send an email to peakoilinterfaith-subscribe@yahoogroups.com.

TBTM20090728


Interesting and very sharp comment here, about Rowan's latest missive: "The argument he made (that changes must be grounded in thorough and convincing biblical exegesis and accepted by the Church at large after that has been done) apply as well to the issue of women priests and certainly to women bishops, an issue very current for the Church of England."

Quite. Either we're an autonomous church/communion (part of the Church Catholic) or we're not. Either we have decided that the ordination of women to the priesthood is legitimate, or we have not (leaving aside questions like divorce and the status of the Queen).

The logic of Rowan's argument is (ultimately) that we should accept papal primacy, because the Roman Church doesn't recognise us as legitimate.

Bonkers. One thing that has changed in me over the last several years is a realisation that in this sense (and in this sense only) I am a Protestant.

UPDATE: thought this was good (via Tim C).

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Once upon a time in Mexico


A teenage boy given the keys to Daddy's car; not even as good as Desperado. I actually think I could do a better job myself. 3/5

The Love Guru


Very silly, but did make me think that I have an alternative career in California.
3/5 (just)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Spotify is excellent!!

A plug for the excellent spotify service. I haven't bothered to shift all my music files from my back-up back to a PC because I'm using this instead - currently indulging my new romantic nostalgia, tho' wikipedia doesn't know what a quiff meant in those days. For a real one see this.

Awful day


Got up with all sorts of good intentions as I was beginning to feel normal again - even managed to take Ollie for a walk for the first time since Sunday morning - but then discovered that my computer was going wrong, in that I was immediately logged off as soon as I entered Windows XP. I have since spent almost all day trying to fix it, going to the extreme of installing Ubuntu (which, frankly, is easy to put on to the PC and then absolutely awful to try and run anything on, or connect to the internet, so I'm giving up on that idea) only to find, after trying a complete re-install of WinXP that my hard disk is non-functioning. All that the machine can cope with now is Ubuntu run from the CD-Rom.

One bit of good news - I've got all my files backed up. What's going to be a pain is re-establishing all my settings on a new PC. Still, for now I can steal my wife's as she's not going to be needing it for a week or two. And I might just be tempted to upgrade my system....

Not a nice way to spend a day (but thanks to PB for some key assistance half way through).

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Incarnational worship

Joe and Peter took issue in the comments with the previous post and I wanted to expand on my perspective (ie why I liked the article I linked to).

On the one hand we have worship that is centred on holiness, the mysterium tremendens et fascinans, the provoking of awe and (in the strict sense) ecstasy. This is more associated with the Anglo-Catholic style of worship.

On the other hand we have worship that is centred on being human, relational, relaxed and informal. This is more associated with the Evangelical style of worship.

Pushed to an extreme, is this not a failure (on both sides) to be incarnational? In other words, the Anglo-Catholic tendency is to err in losing the humanity, the evangelical tendency is to err in losing the divinity in worship?

Whereas Jesus unites the two; and therefore so must our worship.

My worry with what Peter and Joe argue is that when we are worshipping, we are specifically worshipping God, and our relationship to Jesus must contain - I suggest - more of the woman clutching his cloak or Thomas exclaiming 'My Lord and my God!' than simply gathering to share a glass of wine with a community of friends (and it is that, of course). We need to find the place of balance, the sweet spot of the Spirit.

Peter said "The assumption in the article is God/Jesus is only present in church, specifically at every communion..." - it's not so much that God/Jesus is ONLY present in church, but that he is indeed especially present in communion, there is a real presence which is significant. That is what lay behind my comment about the place of Old Testament worship (on which topic John Richardson has an excellent point here).

In other words, I think there is a further permutation of the evangelical error above, which is to flatten our experience of God. To say that God can be encountered everywhere and worshipped anywhere is true. Yet it is also true that we are a) sinful, b) therefore need to be taught how to worship and relate to God, and c) need to take account of the Scriptural witness that God is to be found and worshipped in particular places at particular times in particular ways. What has in fact happened, as a result of that evangelical emphasis (Protestant emphasis) upon God being worshippable anywhere, is that God ends up being worshipped nowhere - because we no longer know how to worship. The historic desire to avoid sacerdotalism has eviscerated the holy and we now live in a culture full of the spiritually starving who see what goes on in church as irrelevant to their hunger. The one leads inexorably to the other.

It is indeed possible to be mystically united with God at all times and in all places. Yet I suspect that any human beings like me need training and assistance (the what, the why and the how) in order to attain such an exalted spiritual state. This is exactly what communion does - it is our principal spiritual medicine which heals us and enables us to share in Christ's life. After all, Jesus didn't just come to abolish the Temple; he came to abolish it and replace it, with his Body. If we fail to take that seriously, ie with sufficient awe and reverence, then I believe that we are not keeping the faith, and we are not growing in the Spirit.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince


What Doug said. (and +Alan, and David...) Took my eldest to see it, and he said (unprompted) "Good, but not as good as the book". That's my boy!
4/5

Friday, July 17, 2009

An "interesting" problem with Outlook Express

Every so often Outlook Express compacts messages. It would appear as though some time last week, when it was doing so, it wiped several of my e-mail folders down to nothing. I do have a back-up - a couple of months old - but I was just wondering if anyone knew of a way to merge the back up with the existing folder files, so that I don't lose the material accumulated since I did the back-up. All help gratefully received.

And yes, it's another hint to take me off Microsoft completely.


UPDATE: found this, which (hopefully) will do most of the work:

The BAK files your OE folders before compacting. They are copied there
as a precaution in case something goes wrong with the compacting.

1) Look in OE at Tools, Options, Maintenance, Store Folder for the
location of your Store Folder. Then close OE.

2) Go to Recycle Bin and restore the most recent Sent Items.bak file.
That will put it in OE Store folder, but still as a BAK file.

3) Open the Windows File Explorer and look at the store folder you found
in step 1. (You may need to enable the the display Hidden and System
files in Tools, Folder Options, View as well as uncheck the option to
Hide extensions of known file types. You should see both a Sent
Items.dbx file as well as the Sent Items.bak. Rename the Sent Items.DBX
to Sentold.dbx and then rename Sent Items.Bak to Sent Items.DBX. When
you open OE, your Sent Items messages should be restored.

TBTM20090717


Some British plans for the fuel emergencies.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Another glorious cartoon from ASBO Jesus


I should add, in the interests of accuracy, that lots of people have been asking how I am recently. That's because there is a rumour going around that I am mentally ill :)

I've taken a day off today, partly because I'm severely knackered, partly because I've got a fairly major meeting tomorrow night. You probably noticed that the number of blog posts has risen!

An unoriginal thought about human sexuality

Prompted to write this by Doug's post.

The wider social group has historically had an intense involvement in the regulation of human sexuality.

The justifiable reason for this is that human sexuality has (predominantly) had the consequence of reproduction - and the wider society has a major stake in the raising of children. Given that (by and large) stable relationships are the best way to raise children it seems legitimate for society to support stable relationships.

The advent of cheap, reliable and widely available contraception changes this.

Now the expression of human sexuality has no _necessary_ link with reproduction.

This puts humanity into a new place, and we are still working through all the implications. (In particular, just because the mind knows conception will not follow, the body has its own reasons, and may not ever adjust to the new situation. I suspect men find the consequences easier than women - but perhaps I'm just thinking of Julie Gianni.)

At an early stage - the 1930's - the Anglican Communion decided that contraception was not against the will of God, and the matrimonial service was adjusted to reflect this.

Now sexuality is seen as not simply about reproduction but about mutual affection and the development of relationships.

As Rowan Williams has previously argued, once you accept this, there is no argument against homosexual relationships as such - after all, even Adam was given the final choice of mate by God.

I suspect that - in a hundred years or so - we will end up with two different institutions, one which is centred on reproduction and the provision of the best possible environment for the raising of children; the other based around the mutual giving and receiving of affection. Society will regulate the first but have nothing to do with the second. (Sometimes, of course, they may overlap.)

Final thought: people who comment blithely about a 'biblical understanding of sexuality' don't seem to read the same bible as me.

And here's something I obtained earlier:

What sort of future for the Church of England?

One of the things that I talk about in my LUBH talks is exponential growth, ie what it actually means when something grows consistently at a certain percentage per year. In sum, consistent annual growth (eg 7.5%) means that the entity doubles in size in a particular time frame (10 years for 7.5%), when that continues then stupendous consequences follow, eg fold a piece of paper 40 times and it will touch the moon!

The same principles apply in reverse of course, which brings me to the future of the Church of England:


What this means is that, unless something dramatic changes, the Church of England will have around 80,000 members at the end of this century. I think that there are all sorts of reasons for this decline (not least George Herbert syndrome) and here I just want to draw attention to it as the context for some other things happening at the moment. (I should say that there is a very large difference between 'the Church' and 'the Church of England' - I have immense confidence in the long-term future of the former, whereas I am quite pragmatically pessimistic about the long-term future of the latter.)

Now we can all point to pockets of growth and new life that spring up here and there - there are several in this patch - and we can come up with all sorts of wonderful reasons why the Church of England is a lovely institution that deserves to continue... but I suspect that, in anything like its present form, the CofE is in the process of dying, in an oh-so-genteel way. The inertia of establishment will prop it up for quite some time before it properly enters its rest however.

Two other factors to bring in: first, all the faction-fighting, especially over women and homosexuality. It does look as if TEC is prepared to go its own way, and this will have implications for how the CofE carries on. I can't see the split being exclusively outside England and, as I've said before if it is the ultra-conservative biblicists that split away (as in previous centuries) then the CofE will be able to muddle along for a bit longer; if, however, it is the (much larger) progressive side that ends up splitting away - leaving the biblicists in a much stronger position - then I suspect the decline will be much swifter.

Will anyone care, or even notice? I'm sure most people in the congregation don't - they'll keep turning up and worshipping and supporting the wider life for as long as they can. However, there is the second factor to consider - which is the increasingly straitened financial circumstances that we find ourselves in. The Church is having to shed jobs continuously, and more and more stipendiary posts are vanishing, to be more-or-less replaced by non-stipendiaries and lay workers. This is all well and good - and, I believe, part of God's secret plan to renew his people in this country - but it has the inevitable side-effect of accelerating the financial crisis. As Bob Jackson has pointed out in his research, the most effective way to precipitate a decline in membership and giving is to not have an incumbent in post.

In this situation I see two main alternatives: the first is a 'managed decline', where at each point anyone in authority can say, looking locally, 'we're doing alright, it's not so bad, we've slowed the decline - or even stabilised our numbers! etc etc'. This is the apocryphal boiled-frog option in reverse - we haven't been boiled alive yet!!

The second is that we bet the house on a different way of doing things (after all, if we lose the bet, we have simply embraced the expected future consciously rather than backing into it out of fear and denial) - and it could work. What do I mean by this? I mean things like:
- setting the parishes free of the parish share system, with each parish paying for it's own minister and housing etc (to the charge 'what about the poor areas?' I respond 'what about the actions that free and faithful Christians will take?!');
- passing ownership - and therefore the cost of upkeep - of most church buildings to the state, to be cared for as part of our national heritage;
- abandoning establishment, eg Bishops in the House of Lords, which has all sorts of pernicious consequences, one example being the canon law requiring priests to baptise any children whose parents request it;
- abandoning the parish system and reverting to the minster model for church organisation - in effect we become the Anglican church in England, just one denomination, not the Church OF England - so it would be much more like the situation in North America.

I think we need to set ourselves free, to shed the skin of establishment that has become constraining, suffocating and distancing from our environment. I believe it is what God wants - and all the travails we are presently suffering are the ways in which God is trying to get us to change our patterns of life. Bring home the revolution!

The art of constructive criticism

Last weekend I went up to the Peterborough Diocese to lead a study day on 'Transforming the World' using my LUBH material, which I thought went well, and the feedback has been solidly positive. Along with the positive feedback, however, came two bits of 'criticism', ie that I ask 'is that clear?' or 'does that make sense?' a bit too often, and I have a tendency to smile too much (something of a nervous tic) which might suggest that I don't take the material as seriously as might be expected. This I felt was an excellent example of constructive criticism - things that I can do something about to continually improve my presentation skills so that the message gets across ever more effectively.

I do think that our culture as a whole, and clergy in particular, need training in how to give constructive criticism; it's an incredibly useful art and would probably lead to many fewer of the conflicts now afflicting us if we were able to practise it more effectively. I suppose it's a way of 'speaking the truth in love', which is something I need to work on myself (that is, I think I've got the 'speaking the truth' bit down OK, it's the latter that needs attention....)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

On not wanting to be a Bishop

Every so often, someone who knows me reasonably well - as opposed to extremely well - will either ask me if I want to be, or suggest that I will end up being, a bishop. The trouble comes when they don't take my denials at face value and think I'm coming on all Heseltiney, but I really don't think it's an attractive job, and I don't feel any particular vocational call in that direction (for which I am most grateful, thanks boss). I am an ambitious person, but my ambitions lie in different directions, partly all the material associated with my book, partly in (and this is my real deep dark secret) a desire to one day run a theological college and train priests for the ministry. The sort of priests I most admire tend to be like John Keble who turned down a Bishopric (and whose feast we celebrate today - which partly provoked this post) and David Hope who gave up being an Archbishop in order to return to parish ministry.

However....

Having said all that, I do occasionally see things that make me question my certainty on the topic - and this post from Nick Baines is one such. Perhaps being a Bishop is not the muzzle that I perceive it to be!!

On disagreeing with Mrs Palin

Sarah Palin has an op-ed piece in the Washington Post here. It would be fair to say that she hasn't 'got it' about the need to abandon growth. If I'm right that she is basically a pragmatist, then she will.

Now, as this isn't really a Palin-centric blog, I'll shut up about her again for a while.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Our image of Palin

Erik's comment got two 'bravos' from NMMNG and Al, so I guess it's worth saying something about it up front. After all, as Erik says "as a priest, you [sh]ould find such hypocrisy, used as it is to violate the trust of the duty she has to the people of Alaska, to be utterly appalling". Clearly if I did believe that Palin was hypocritical and corrupt I certainly would find it appalling. What I want to dig out by going through Erik's comment is the way in which Palin is carrying the burden of all sorts of projections (including my own, no doubt) - which to my makes her a more interesting figure, not less.

Erik's comments in italic:
I find your attachment to Gov. Palin very strange, as she evinces none of the honesty or forthrightness that you yourself do.

Thanks.

Her resignation is a strange mish-mash of motives, all of them mercurial and, apparently, obfuscatory at the least. First, she declared that she would not run for governor again, thus making herself a "lame duck" -- one of the more enduring and not-at-all factually-based myths of American politics: that an exiting executive cannot get anything done. And then, citing her self-inflicted lame duckness, she stated that she would resign her term as governor 18 months early. This is nothing if not the political equivalent of "I'm taking my ball and going home!"

I don't believe that's a fair characterisation of her actions. I think she found herself drowning and unable to do the job she was elected to do; at the same time she has become a national figure and finds all sorts of opportunities for furthering her argument opening up there. I take her statement at face value, and I certainly don't think that she's finished as a political figure, rather the opposite. The 'mercurial' charge is an interesting one, as I don't see her as being mercurial at all - on the contrary, this action seems entirely consistent with her publicly stated principles. It says something interesting about the perspective from which she is viewed that this action can be perceived as mercurial.

The citation of the ethics complaints by "outsiders" that "cost the state millions of dollars and thousands of employee hours" are likewise false or, when not false, exaggerations of a deliberately mendacious nature. Of the 15 ethics complaints filed against her in her tenure, only one was filed against her by non-Alaskans (a watchdog group arguing that the $150,000 worth of clothes and such given to her and her family by the RNC during the 2008 election constituted an illegal contribution under Alaska law). Likewise, the majority of complaints were filed by Alaskan Republican Party members.

To deal with this latter point briefly, it is unsurprising that the establishment Republican Party in Alaska (aka the Corrupt Bastards Club) has been fighting her and trying to diminish her - they were the ones who were ousted when she took charge.

The ethics investigations' total cost to the state were just over US$275,000 -- money that was owed by contract to the legal firms conducting the investigations whether they performed work during that time or not. Please allow me to reiterate that -- outside auditors performed the actual investigations, not state employees, costing the state absolutely no work-hours from its employees whatsoever, for a total cost of a fraction of that Palin cites, and that from moneys that would have been paid no matter what.

This doesn't seem to be true, see eg here, but I'm happy to explore it further. I would say, however, that it wouldn't faze me if a politician maximised the 'cost' figure for political purposes, using the hourly cost of wages paid to public servants, as it is an absolutely standard practice. Whatever the true figure might be, the substantial point that Palin is making seems unarguable - much of her time, and her administration's time, was being taken up with politically motivated "ethics" investigations. Again we have a sort of Rorschach test - there is enough material to compose a plausible-sounding case one way or another - and which way it is spun reveals the character of the person doing the spinning.

The most involved of the ethics complaints that was investigated was the one Palin filed against herself regarding "Troopergate" -- whether or not she abused the power of her office in harassing her brother-in-law, a state trooper. She filed this complaint because, in so doing, the ethics investigation by statute superseded an investigation by the Alaska State Legislature that found she had indeed abused her office in this matter.

This seems a good example of a pejorative reading: the Alaska State Legislature pursued a politically motivated investigation of "Troopergate" which whilst finding that she had broken no law said that she had 'abused her power' (which was about as strong as could conceivably be defensible); the more thorough investigation gave her a totally clean bill of health. Seems like an astute and thoroughly defensible move to me.

In spending hundreds of thousands of dollars defending herself, it is revealed that Palin did so unnecessarily -- most of the complaints, according to the ethics board, could have been addressed by her simply drafting a letter in response to each one detailing her position and reasoning on each decision called into question. She chose to hire an expensive, out-of-state lawyer -- hardly a fiscally responsible act, unless one ascribes to the maxim that a politician with national ambitions must never explain oneself.

Well, this is her own money being spent, not the state's, and if she felt, given the amount of flak being sent her way (and the scrutiny that she was under) that she wanted to be properly advised, I can't see that as a problem. It's certainly not something that is either hypocritical or dishonest.

Rather than manage the transition of power, Palin has been fishing. She behaves at no time like a statewoman and always like a rather petulant country aristocrat. The wounds she complains about are self-inflicted, from making herself a lame-duck governor to choosing to abrogate her duty to her electorate to choosing to instigate the financial costs to her family.

This seems a bizarre comment to me. One of the things that I find admirable about Palin is her refusal to sling mud at people - which is surely stateswoman-like? Given that all of this brouhaha was triggered by her agreeing to a request to be the VP candidate, in what way was all this self-inflicted? It seems to me that her accession to VP ruined any possibility of her continuing as governor. Her resignation a) acknowledges the new reality; b) establishes Parnell as a sympathetic successor with time to build up an incumbency advantage; and c) liberates her to take her agenda and message into the wider US political scene. The idea that Palin is a 'petulant country aristocrat' I find mind-boggling.

Palin gives lip-service to ideals you hold dear. But in all ways, her conduct gives the lie to her rhetoric. I would think that, as a priest, you would find such hypocrisy, used as it is to violate the trust of the duty she has to the people of Alaska, to be utterly appalling.

Well, I just don't see the hypocrisy, rather the opposite. I see someone who believes in ethically sound and small government who - within pragmatic constraints - has achieved that. (And NMMNG I don't see her record in Wasilla as much of a counter-argument to that, the increased debt was primarily to develop the sports centre, ie it was a mortgage supported by a referendum. Wikipedia seems balanced on this.)

Thing is, Palin does seem to be a hook for all sorts of projections and neuroses (not to suggest the commenters here are neurotic even if the blog-author is) and bits and pieces of evidence can be scraped together to justify all sorts of calumnies. Some assert that Palin is a brain-dead, trailer-trash, slutty and incompetent waste of space. Some assert that Palin is a machiavellian careerist hard-hearted psycho-bitch who is only in it for publicity and personal advancement. Others - like me - see her as being someone who is making it up as she goes along, but who is guided by a normal and well-grounded set of values pursued with integrity and character. Obviously time will tell which of these caricatures is closest to the truth. Yet there is one thing that everyone (except for the lunatic fringe, eg Andrew Sullivan) agrees on - she chose not to have an abortion when she could have, and now there is Trig Palin. That seems more in line with my characterisation of her personality than the other two.

TBTM20090713


Some Hypocrisies Are Not Hypocrisies

Thursday, July 09, 2009

TBTM20090709


Fascinating article at the Technium which, inter alia, explores why Wendell Berry can't have the last word on technology. Excellent stuff.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Go Sarah!


I wasn't going to comment on this, but....

The other day my therapist told me I was "different". Obviously everyone is different, and he did say - reassuringly explicitly - that I wasn't "different" in the sense of being dysfunctional (along the lines of, eg, crack addicts or something like that); another thing that my therapist said is that I'm not someone who needs therapy, I just want to grow as a person. It put me in mind of a comment from a friend in church about the recent unpleasantness in the parish (on which topic I might write something before too long - in brief, as it is no longer in any way a secret, I asked the Director of Music here to retire) who wrote to me - objecting to what I'd done - but did so in a really nice way, listing my various eccentricities, such as growing a ponytail and taking a service whilst wearing a Hawaiian shirt. That's what the therapist had in mind - I'm an eccentric. Which is fine, I probably am.

I think that one of the reasons why people find me a bit eccentric is that, to borrow the cliche, I march to the sound of a different drum. I would say (I would wouldn't I?) that I'm trying, more or less successfully, to follow what God is telling me to do, and that, inevitably, leads to conflict with the consensus of a particular community - any community. I also suspect that I'm keener on the truth - possibly to a pathological degree - than is comfortable for most people. (I should add that sometimes my pursuit of truth is a tilting at windmills; one example would be the 9/11 truth movement which I spent some time having sympathy for, but mostly don't any more. Thing is, having explored the issue in a great deal of depth I end up in a place which is much more solidly grounded than before, even if where I end up is basically where conventional opinion is - to leave a place and return and know it for the first time - but that's what happens when you grow.)

So, all that is by way of preamble, and why I mention it is because of all the crap that is being hurled at Palin over her decision to resign from being Governor - which is, of course, not much changed from all the crap that has been sent her way for most of the last year. She is marching to the sound of her own drum, she is an independent eccentric and it scares the willies out of conventional consensus opinion - because she has the capacity to be a game changer. First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.

She said "Energy independence and national security, fiscal restraint, smaller government, and local control have been my priorities and will remain my priorities." That's a genuinely conservative statement of principles - and a statement of genuinely conservative principles which I'd support. In the context of the utter FUBAR of Obama's economic policies I can well imagine her becoming the head of a revolutionary movement that takes her into higher reaches of power, not least given the three years of mounting disaster that the US will endure in the meantime. But maybe that's just me tilting at windmills again.

Anyhow, I recognise, respect and admire her independence of character. Even if she never runs for political office again (and I wouldn't blame her for making that decision): Go Sarah!

TBTM20090708


(The Vikings are coming!)

One of the things the disturbed character knows very well about relatively well-adjusted or “neurotic” individuals is that they hate to see someone else suffer. Not only that, they hate it more to think of themselves as the cause of someone else’s suffering. That’s why playing the victim role is such an effective tactic. Especially when they’re confronted about their own malicious behavior, disordered characters will try and turn the tables by trying to get you to see them as the injured party.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

TBTM20090701


The Great American Bubble Machine.

Climate change as - at best - a secondary issue

Climate change (and Peak Oil) are two symptoms of a much deeper problem, the Limits to Growth. That problem can be simply stated: in a finite environment, the exponential growth of one element within that environment is unsustainable. Our western industrial capitalist system has been growing exponentially for some two hundred and fifty years - accelerating over the last sixty or so - and this is unsustainable; in other words, it will come to an end. I believe that it will come to an end over the next twenty or thirty years or so, not by our own conscious choice but because we have gone into 'overshoot' and we are presently crashing into the wall at 100mph.

The original Limits to Growth report outlined the various problems that would manifest themselves and cause the system to break down: resource limits, pollution, overpopulation etc. These can all be understood as symptoms of the underlying problem, the idolatry of growth. Peak Oil, for example, is only one example of a resource constraint; other fossil fuels (and uranium) also go through a peaking cycle, but there are also very significant issues related to the availability of potable water, fish stocks and many others. Climate change is one form of pollution, but again there are others, less global but no less significant for those affected by them.

With all of these single issues it is possible to address and solve that particular issue. The force of the Limits to Growth argument is that even when one is solved, the others then become more acute. In other words, there is a systemic issue to be addressed: we need to tackle the root problem of growth itself; we need to shift to a steady-state economy. If this is done then all the subsidiary problems will be dealt with. Even if climate change is true, and - marvellously! - action is taken to address the problem and it is "solved" - the underlying issue remains. The same applies to the problem of Peak Oil. All it would mean is that we have dodged one bullet; if we don't address the root causes then we will simply have to keep dodging more and more as time goes on, until one day one hits us and kills us.

Sometimes, I have the sense those who advocate radical action to deal with climate change miss this bigger picture (that's certainly true of any politician who talks about climate change whilst also talking about 'growth' for example). The risk is two-fold: first, that the wider issues fail to be addressed through an over-emphasis upon one subsidiary aspect; second, that if too much weight is placed on climate change as the dominant problem - and it turns out that the issue is either false or not as bad as presently thought - then not only will effort have been wasted but those who may have been persuaded to address important problems on the back of climate change will become disillusioned and sceptical about the wider issues as a whole.

More fundamentally, as a Christian, my concern is with the habits of life that are bound up with the ideology of growth; the systematic cultivation of deadly sins by the advertising industry, for example. The problem of growth is, at root, a spiritual problem; it is a dislocation of our values, a distortion of our human nature. That is what the church needs to address - our human sinfulness which gives rise to these problems. We must be wary of jumping on particular band-wagons, stick to what we know best, and do the job that Jesus commanded us to do, remembering that “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
(2 Chron 7.13-14)