Thursday, 24 April 2008

Age a blessing?

We celebrated one of our church member's 100th birthday this week. Churches sometimes beat themselves up over having such a high average age, but hey : a 100-year old pushes the average up a bit!

I was struck how in Isaiah 65:17ff old age is seen as a sign of blessing, and that when the 'kingdom' fully comes, people who die younger than that will be deemed unlucky. Not that old age isn't a real struggle for many : but that our society is such that people can live to that age is something to give thanks for. What's the average life expectancy in Zimbabwe? Under 40, isn't it?

Monday, 21 April 2008

Recent goings-on

Recently back from Venice where Karen & I have been celebrating our Silver Wedding. Seen enough frescoes of the "Purity & Truth defeat Grubby Mercantilism (or whatever) in the clouds" variety (together with double-buttocked cherubs) to last a lifetime - yes, I know it's great art, but . . I was left not knowing whether such images were intended as a moral reminder to those inclined to lapse, or an opportunity to portray your wife as a great beauty and pillar of virtue. However, the history book said that the cult of celebrity was greatly discouraged in Venice. Went to some great concerts . . and what an interesting political history Venice has. In the 14th century, they had an elected Doge with greatly restricted personal power but important representative role. (OK, he was only elected by the aristocracy, but it's a start) He wasn't allowed out of Venice much, and that only with an escort. One wonders what would have become of Britain if Charles 1st had been similarly constrained.

We went by overnight train. Magical to walk straight out of the station on to a landing stage on the Grand Canal, even if the splendid building opposite did have an enormous Calvin Klein advert all over it (how could they?)

Went to see recent Mike Leigh film 'Happy Go Lucky' on Saturday. Is it like a rather dull episode of 'East Enders' or is there more to it than that? I find my thoughts continually drifting back to it, so I think there is. The central character, Poppy, is irritatingly flippant and shallow most of the time, yet reveals moments of depth and firm principle. She's both (apparently) self-indulgent and clueless about the impact she's having on people, yet at other times forgiving, compassionate and risk-taking for the sake of others. Both irresponsible and irresponsible. Reviews have suggested it's little more than a 'feel-good' film. I'm not so sure. I felt it was an astute observation on much of contemporary British society. I'm left wondering where she's going to end up - married, with a crushing mortgage like her sister? Or single, disillusioned and in a rut? Or still a joyous free spirit in old age, whatever happens? Go see it, see what you make of it.

Saturday, 5 April 2008

Blair does God

Plenty of cynical comment in the media about the 'Bliar - sorry, Blair Faith Foundation' but Tony's address on Faith & Globalisation needs to be read before reading other people's sniping at it. The text is up at :

Seems to me like a concise, helpful statement of where faith fits in the globalised world. It says nothing that people working in the field haven't been saying (and acting on) for decades; but the trouble is that nobody (including Tony) listens to *those* people. (In Oxford, Christian and Muslim leaders have been engaging with one another intensely since 11/9 addressing practical issues of peacemaking.)

Will they listen to Blair, though, or is he 'damaged goods'? First, let's acknowledge that bad people can do good things, and good people can do bad things : there's a smug self-righteousness around that allows people to be lazy. Just because Iraq was a huge political, moral, religious, legal mistake doesn't mean Tony has nothing to say on 'faith and globalisation'.

The problem is that he hasn't acknowledged it - he still defends it. He is still tainted with the suspicion that he just believed, in the teeth of the evidence, that "it was the right thing to do". As Menzies Campbell commented: "You just can't argue with someone who 'just knows' what is right." The people tried to argue - especially the people he now commends in his speech - but he knew better.

I don't know where this leaves me. I welcome the high-profile raising of the 'faith and globalisation' initiative, but really wish it wasn't him doing it.