Thursday, 30 April 2009

Whistleblowing nurses

Following the Panorama programme in 2005 (which I didn't see) in which neglect and abuse of vulnerable elderly residents in a nursing home was exposed with the help of nurse Margaret Haywood, she was disciplined by the Nursing & Midwifery Council and struck off.

The Royal College of Nursing has launched an online petition to support their appeal against what they consider to be an unnecessarily harsh 'sentence'.

I do not know all the facts of the case - the RCN presumably aren't publishing these because they are 'sub judice' - but according to Jenni Murray writing in the Guardian this week, the residents and their families (with one exception) had given permission for the filming, and all appropriate routes for raising concerns had already been taken.

Seems to me that when all you have left to bring any quality to your life is human relationships and your dignity, nothing is more important than treating people with dignity, and any such treatment should automatically be right at the top of any institution's priorities.

Alma Mater?

An excellent short service of welcome for the new Ecumenical Chaplain (Andy Markey) to Oxford Brookes University yesterday included a concise expression of the university's hopes of the Chaplaincy from Mike Ratcliffe, the Director of Academic & Student Affairs. I was struck by his quotation from an 1854 volume of lectures by John Henry Newman on The Idea of a University in which he argues that a university training

aims at raising the intellectual tone of society, at cultivating the public mind, at purifying the national taste, at supplying true principles to popular enthusiasm and fixed aims to popular aspirations, at giving enlargement and sobriety to the ideas of the age, at facilitating the exercise of political powers, and refining the intercourse of private life.

I'm not sure I entirely understand all of that, or necessarily agree with it, but it's 'full of meat' to say the least. Although clearly 'of its time' it does present a challenge to contemporary universities which, in Newman's words, are in danger of becoming "a foundry, or a mint, or a treadmill" rather than "an Alma Mater, knowing her children one by one".

Monday, 27 April 2009

Paul on Redemption

Brondos's book (see reading list, right) might cause a bit of a stir if left on the shelves at your neighbourhood Evangelical church, but it's a clear, thoroughgoing attempt to read Paul and the synoptic gospels without imposing later doctrines on the text. To whet the appetite, here's a paragraph from the introduction :

For Paul, Jesus' death did not save anyone or reconcile anyone to God; it did not have "redemptive effects." According to his letters, while Paul regarded Jesus' death as sacrificial, he did not teach that it expiated sins, propitiated God, or exhausted God's wrath at sin, or that human sin was judged, taken away or atoned for on the cross. Nor did Paul maintain that Jesus' death liberated humanity from sin, death, the devil, or the power of evil. Paul did not regard Jesus as as corporate or representative figure who summed up or included others, so that what was true of him was thereby true of them as well. Nor did he believe that Jesus had died as humanity's substitute or representative, or in order to make it possible for God to forgive sins while remaining righteous. Jesus' death, for Paul, was not the basis upon which people were justified or their sins forgiven; neither was it some kind of cosmic event that put an end to the world as it was and ushered in a new age. Our sinful humanity was not destroyed, put to death, renewed or transformed when Jesus was crucified. In Paul's thought, Jesus did not die for the purpose of setting an example for others to follow; revealing some truth about God, humanity or the world; enabling people to participate in his death and resurrection; or providing them with a means of transfer from this age into the new one. Believers are not saved by trusting in the efficacy of Christ's death for their salvation. All of these ideas are foreign to Paul's thought, and they lead to a distorted image of the apostle.

You might wonder whether there is anything left once that is all stripped away, but . . well, you'd have to read to find out!

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Should the taxpayer fund hospital chaplains?

Ekklesia reports on the National Secular Society's recent call for hospital chaplains to be funded by churches, not the taxpayer. See

They have an interesting point. The Scottish Roman Catholic spokesman seems to suggest that their church wouldn't want their priests to be state employees - (because it might compromise them somehow?) Free Churches, especially 'gathered churches' such as those of my tradition, have tended to stress the importance of practical commitment to, and engagement with, a church congregation as a mark of a Christian, as opposed to a general faith stance that's independent of church membership. "You can't be a Christian in isolation", it is sometimes said. Certainly I would expect to provide 'chaplaincy support' to my own members.

So should baptised non-church attenders who claim Christian faith receive an equivalent support at the taxpayers' expense? Hmm. That's not to say that hospital chaplains don't do an excellent job.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Stephen Law : The War for Children's Minds

Last Friday, I attended a debate on "Is Britain becoming too secular?" organised by the Oxford Literary Festival, and was impressed by Stephen Law from Heythrop College, London. Bought his book (see right), dipped into it, and found I wanted to keep going to the end.

It's a clear, concise and readable defence of 'liberalism', and he is at pains to argue that liberalism (whose clearest exponent, he argues, is Kant) is the only true challenge to relativism - despite the fact that liberalism is frequently accused of being relativist. He challenges the importance other commonly assumed 'opposites', such as theism versus atheism, (he cites research demonstrating that what distinguished those Germans who opposed Hitler, harboured Jews etc. was not their religiosity but their liberalism - the fact that they thought for themselves) and draws a clear distinction between free thinking and freedom of action. (He strongly challenges the idea that liberals are laissez-faire in the political realm). The opposite of liberalism is authoritarianism, and he works through many arguments that authoritarians (religious or otherwise) use to suggest that liberalism inevitably leads to moral and political chaos, demonstrating that the opposite is true.

He is, in keeping with his message, respectful of religion and religious thought (but not of authoritarian religion of course) despite, probably, being atheist himself. However, like so many people he is inclined to see a religion as basically a 'set of philosophical propositions', when (in my view) a religion is more like a language - you can argue pretty much anything with that language if you really want, but before you can use it properly you do actually have to know the texts and the stories - all of them. This has implications for religious formation of children. He's also (at one point) rather too inclined to assume that religion is inherently tribal. Of course, it often is, but there is also evidence that those most secure and confident within their own religious framework are not thereby likely to see people of other religious traditions as 'other'.

It's an excellent book, however, and particularly instructive for my own United Reformed Church I would have thought. It suggests that the URC is inherently liberal - within our structure Evangelicals also have to be Liberal (responsible for their own Evangelicalism, and not autocratic).