Thursday, May 29, 2008
This led to many in chaplaincy saying things like "You really can't cook, can you?" and commiserating whenever I told them I was going home to make dinner.
So to redress the balance:
It's got greens and a lovely tomato sauce. It was very tasty thank you very much.
Yes I was following someone else's instruction.
Sunday, May 25, 2008
At least it is the one night of the year, when Armenia and Ukraine become the fleeting focus of international attention, just by clever usage of incredibly short skirts.
But of course let's not forget Finland.
You're probably wondering what that's all about. Well I hear the lyrics sort of go:
May the storm and chill exist
And in a cabin a stove so warm
There's honor and manlyhood
To do what must be done
The world is cold regardless
Of the fact that warmth has it's place
Fields call out to heroes
Not cowards at all
Where men ride
There no sheep can herd
Where men ride
There you can hear the wolves howling
Huh – hah – huh – hah
There may be destruction ahead
And the passion of love behind
A man has a duty
To remember bravery
No one can avoid the pain
And just float in the stream of life
Fields call out to heroes
Not cowards at all
Where men, where men ride
Where men, where men ride
Where men hah - huh - hah
Where men hah - huh - hah
If that doesn't make you want to strip to the waist, suck on a piece of raw meat and interfere sexually with small woodland creatures...
...well then, frankly, I don't know what will.
Saturday, May 24, 2008
I sit here pondering the world. Trying to work out what's going on. With the economy, and in politics.
All the news coming out at the moment seems to be bad, but I still don't know anyone who is greatly affected. The stock market seems to have taken a battering in the last few months (although still not enough to wipe out the gains of the last five years). By the same token property prices have taken a slide also, but still if you bought a house for £200,000 a year ago then you would lose about £2,000 if you sold it tomorrow.
Unemployment has risen but only by 14,000 which is not much in a country of 60 million.
So petrol prices are up and food and energy is up.
Basically people are slightly out of pocket at the moment however I cannot really detect any more than that. I haven't had a single conversation on the subject of the country going to the dogs.
If you look at the polls, or indeed read the election result from Crewe it is clear something is up. The PM seems to think this is as a result of people's economic woes I am far from sure it is. Mr Cameron seems to think that people are ready for a conservative government and yet I have not noticed a sizable shift to the right. As I listened to Cameron's speech following the by-election he focused on crime and giving more control locally in the NHS, all solidly right wing agenda stuff, yet I think he was on much stronger ground when he spoke about aspiration.
What I am detecting is a 'time for change' feeling that is generally sick of the government. Perhaps also a feeling that this government has run out of ideas. Which is why if Cameron wants to win the next election he has to present his party as the party of ideas rather than of policy.
So what has Mr Brown to do if he wants to win the election? The answer here is obvious. There isn't much appetite for the right wing agenda but one of the frustrations of people over the last 10 years has been that they have voted Labour and have consistently not got Labour, but rather a slightly left wing conservative party. This is why the 10p tax thing had so much resonance.
If Mr Brown wants to win the next election he needs to take his party slightly to the left. This puts clear blue water between him and the conservatives but also crucially between him and Blair.
I expected him to do this when first elected. The fact that he didn't showed he missed a trick and now it may be too late for yet another re-launch.
At the heart of Cameron's strategy is the idea that he is in tune with Britain, that he stands for something while Labour just want to stay in government. The answer is for Gordon Brown to stand for something. So far all he has offered is pragmatism. "I can do the job, I will get us through."
Pragmatism was what got Blair elected, but it's an old idea now.
Friday, May 23, 2008
Generally the last two years I have gone a bit mad really! Now we are at the end of my third year here I am taking things a bit easier. I think I have worked on average about 8 hours a day this week which is what most normal people do. So I recon I have done about 56 hours this week,but now it's the bank holiday so I get 3 days off.
Except Sunday. I'll work Sunday, obviously.
I often find it quite difficult to take a bank holiday. Often local Vicars like to have this time off, and since most bank holidays are in term time, they generally ask me to help out. Well I guess that's only fair after all I do get Christmas day and Easter day off.
Last bank holiday I ended up doing a wedding on Saturday and a couple of services on Sunday, but this time I haven't had a day off for quite a while so I thought I would actually try and actually take some time off.
So that's what I'm doing.
I went to work today feeling a bit knackered and really wanting to be at home. I am more tired than usual because I have been doing loads of admin of late. We decided to employ a chaplaincy assistant next year and this has generated loads of admin. I've written a job descriotion, a report on this for the Bishop, even designed the application form.
I hate admin.
Still today I got to spend some time with the CU president and Vice President. They came in to discuss...wait for it...the Doctrinal Basis. We had a lovely long chat. I asked for clarification about the whole 'infallible' thing and it turns out the President and I agree about the Bible.
I also told them I had actually signed the D.B. on at least 4 different occasions previously (which probably surprised them) and they assured me that actually they do not want to see the D.B. as binding on their members (which surprised me).
Tom, the CU Pres, is very keen for people who don't accept the D.B. to become part of the CU, and to consider themselves very much part of the CU. I think this brilliant! There is room in the CU for discussion and those who want to find out more are warmly invited, this is exactly what a CU should be all about.
We ended the meeting by discussing ways in which the CU and Chaplaincy can work together.
We've come a long way from the days when CU and Chaplaincy faced each other accross the theological equivient of Berlin Wall.
Working together...discussion...welcome to outsiders....sounds remarkably Christian!
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
I have to state at the start that this was not me stirring things up, far from it. This started when CU wrote to chaplaincy requesting we sign the Doctrinal Basis. They have never done this before so this issue has never come up before.
We could have ignored the letter since it is primarily concerned as to whether chaplaincy would be included in the Churches bun fight, which is an annual event, in which CU advertise local Churches. Chaplaincy has never taken part in this because we aren't a church. Also when it happens we are always busy in the main bun fight in which all the societies have a stand and chaplaincy has a stand there. This might seem a more logical place for us to be.
However the Catholic chaplain thought it would be great to be in the church's thingy as well.
The problem of course is that there are several clauses of the Doctrinal Basis which Catholics do not agree with. Such as:
“The one holy universal church is the Body of Christ, to which all true believers belong.”
Once upon a time Roman Catholics believed there was only one Church and that all believers belonged to it. Now they still believe there is only one Church but that there are numerous believers who do not belong to it, namely Orthodox Christians and Protestants. So clearly they can't sign this one.
The Chaplaincy at the University of Southampton is sponsored by 5 denominational churches. These are, in no particular order:
The Baptist Union
The Church of England
The Methodist Church
The Roman Catholic Church and
The United Reformed Church.
Two of these Churches (The Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church) provide a full time chaplain. The other three provide one part time chaplain and share the cost between them.
This of course could mean that it can be quite difficult to work out exactly what chaplaincy stands for and there is the particular emphasis that particular chaplains have, like individual church ministers. However just because there are differences within the chaplaincy does not mean that chaplaincy doesn't believe anything. Often chaplaincies have been seen by some CUs as not really believing anything and being slightly sub Christian. We wanted to counter that.
In the end we decided to write a letter to CU because we wanted to actually state what chaplaincy stood for.
So we said that the chaplaincy doctrinal basis is the Nicene Creed. That this is the doctrinal standard for all orthodox Christians. This does not preclude individual chaplains holding views in addition to this. So the Catholic chaplain will have to agree with Catholic doctrine while the Anglican Chaplain will have to affirm his or her belief in the faith revealed in the Holy Scriptures and set forth in the creeds and the historic formularies of the Church of England (Basically the 39 Articles - which I accept), and at ordination the Anglican Chaplain would have affirmed that Holy Scripture contains all things necessary for salvation.
So we said that the current Anglican Chaplain was in agreement with the Doctrinal Basis (given that infallible doesn't appear to mean literally true but rather spiritually trustworthy).
I think that sort of explains where we are at as a chaplaincy. It's not that we don't believe anything but rather that agree on the basics and then allow for some freedom to believe things in adition to that and allow denominational emphasis.
We then proposed to CU that while we wouldn't be going to the bun-fight to ask that they advertise chaplaincy to freshers and if they were not happy advertising catholic services could they at least advertise those offered by the chaplain who was in sympathy with the DB.
I think that just about covers it. What do you think?
Thursday, May 15, 2008
The word as I have previously said is "Infallible". Used in connection with the word "Biblical" I think this affirms a belief in a six day creation which I do not hold. I believe that the world is billions of years old and that humans evolved from other primates, therefore I do not believe that there really was once a man that was actually called "Adam" and his wife who was really called "Eve" and that we are all entirely descended from them in the same way that I am literally descended from my great grand parents. So there were more than just two 'first humans' in fact it is very hard to measure when the first humans actually were since there were sort-of-very-nearly humans who gave birth to actually-quite-almost-very-humans and so on.
This does not mean that there is no truth in Genesis 1-3. Indeed we all face temptations. Often these are slightly malignant and external to us like the serpent, some times the serpent is within us but we turn away from life (the tree that was at the centre) and turn instead to what we want symbolised by the other tree. This is a true picture of right and wrong and human life, in my opinion. So Genesis 1-3 is true, without being literally true.
So essentially because I believe that the Bible is the supreme source of Christian doctrine (after all I am a Christian albeit a bad one) I essentially believe the same as UCCF. But they are using the word 'Infallible' (admittedly they are using it in a way I wouldn't) so should I sign it?
If you want me to agree with you that 2 +2 = 5, I can't. What then if you count: 1,2,3,5,4,6 what if you say "look this is 5" and do a series of dots on a piece of paper like this . . . .
Clearly you are using the word '5' to mean '4' so for you 2+2 = 5. Perhaps I should agree with you after all if I bang on about two and two being four that's only going to lead us into an argument, what with you being a nutter who doesn't know what number comes after 3 and all. Since I want to work with UCCF and Southampton Christian Union, who are their group here, surely it would be better to sign, even though I would never use the word 'infallible'.
Would this lack integrity?
Then there is the business of signing. After all we're friends aren't we? What if I said to you,
"Look Steve/Debbi/Bloke/Mrs Bloke/Dara/Barak/Hilary/Rowan/Benedict* do you think it's wrong to rob a Bank?"
"Why of course, Yellow!" you reply.
"OK" I say "As we're friends, do you mind just signing this to say you agree with me on all ethical issues, only we can't really be friends if you don't agree with me, can you?"
How would you feel?
I want to be more than friends with UCCF I want to be their brother in Christ I don't think that signing bit of paper is what being someone's brother is all about. It is important to them so perhaps I should.
What do you think?
*delete as applicable
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
I have been sent a thing by the Christian Union asking me if I want my 'church' to be advertised to next years freshers by them. Unlike previous years, this year the CU are asking all churches (and it seems also the chaplaincy) if they would sign a piece of paper to say they agree with everything the CU believes. This is known in the trade as the 'Doctrinal Basis'
As I flick through it though I have a problem:
It doesn't say anything.
There is stuff there like “There is one God in three persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.” and “The one holy universal church is the Body of Christ, to which all true believers belong.” which is just stuff that every Christian believes.
Sometimes it is very badly phrased so that it is actually difficult to ascertain quite a lot of the time what it is claiming to believe. Sometimes the tone is spectacularly unhelpful such as:
“The Lord Jesus Christ will return in person, to judge everyone, to execute God's just condemnation on those who have not repented and to receive the redeemed to eternal glory.”
The idea of a last judgement goes back to Jesus himself who talked about sheep and goats but while nearly every Christian affirms the idea of a last judgement most of us like to be quite vague about who is in and out because it is not nice to condemn people and also Jesus told us not to judge other people. This line just seems to gloat a bit.
However the bit that everyone has a problem with is this:
“The Bible, as originally given, is the inspired and infallible Word of God”
What does that mean?
Does it mean every single word is true? Does it mean for example that evolution did not happen during the six day creation? That interpretation is exactly what most people understand by Biblical infallibility, but I'm far from sure that creationalism is the official doctrine of UCCF.
Does it therefore mean that doctrinally the Bible is sound but that certain sections such as Genesis 1-3 are not meant to be taken literally? I think is quite mainstream albeit at the protestant end of the spectrum, but the Doctrinal Basis doesn't say. To be honest if UCCF are not saying “there was a literal Adam and a literal Eve and they lived 6,000 years ago and used to hang out with dinosaurs” then they are stretching the English language a bit.
When Catholics use the word infallible (with reference to the Bishop of Rome) they are very clear to establish exactly what they mean and when and how said Bishop is infallible. The basic problem here is that the Doctrinal Basis is so short it does not have space to clarify things. So we are left with a statement which ends up being vacuous since the reader essentially has to decide for him or herself what it means. Therefore my contention that UCCF doesn't “officially” believe anything apart from basic mainstream Christian theology.
So if the Doctrinal Basis is so vague why is it so important?
I think that it does not serve to state what UCCF or anyone in the organisation actually believes but rather by chucking in a few well chosen words it serves to exclude people. So the word infallible is important as it scares off the liberals. Most liberals aren't creationists so they refuse to sign.
I'm sure that if anyone from UCCF read this (which of course they wont) they would think an attack on their DB for being vacuous and woolly was a bit left field but this does give me a slight ethical dilemma. This rather lengthy post is a preamble to that...which I shall share with you next.
Wednesday, May 07, 2008
Actually your father didn’t want you to have this lightsabre I stole it off his near dead corpse as he lay falling into an ocean of molten lava screaming with pain after I severed all his limbs. To be brutally honest he’s not really dead, but rather living this strange machine enhanced half life, full of bitterness and rage because of the massive injuries I inflicted on him. Taking out all that anger on the rest of humanity. Really, all the bad stuff that has happened over the last 19 years is down to me.
Oh...and he doesn’t even know he has a son.
But, being as I now need you to risk your life taking me to Alderaan, I probably shouldn’t have told you any of this shit.
Tuesday, May 06, 2008
Well never let it be said that I don't deliver:
You know that thing Alex....well...you know....like you thought....and well....yeah...
all on facebook.
The trouble is since facebook....there's really nothing left to talk about.
Friday, May 02, 2008
This is Vincenzo Capozzoli,
And where I currently sit, on University Road, he has just been elected councillor. It is also here that Vincenzo is, coincidentally, a student.
I've met Vincenzo, I like him. I like him a lot, I even considered posting a positive blog about him just before the election but decided that as a complete commie pinko that probably wouldn't be a good idea. I should have done though, since to blog about someone after they have been elected just makes it look like you are sucking up to them.
The fact that the Tories put a student up for election might indicate a lack of confidence. The fact that he was up against the leader of the Liberal Democrats would lend credence to that view. However looking at the local press to see the result I was struck by the number young Tory faces looking back at me. It seems that Vincenzo is not the only young Tory elected in Southampton last night. It is not just local election either, in the constituency where I live the local Tory candidate is both young and female (with a concern for Breast cancer or so I'm told) Of course when I turned on the BBC parliament I was struck by how different actual Tory MPs look. Where the Tories need to win they put up very untory looking candidates but it the heartlands it seems to me the average MP is still a late middle aged ex-public school boy with a bad case of gout and a penchant for pin-stripped suits, silk ties and S&M.
Clearly though last night was a major turn around for Southampton Conservatives. Not many years ago I was chatting to one of the few Conservative Councilors in the City about how much easy it was to be a Tory in Southampton. He concluded that because the Tories were never going to be in opposition locally, let alone in power, they never actually had to come up with any policies but could just sit in the corner and blow raspberries at the other two parties.
How things have changed!
Southampton wasn't always a safe Labour seat, once upon a time the Southampton Itchen constituency was a major swing seat which was always won by the victor on election night. Then boundary changes made it into two seats one safe Labour the other safe Tory. 1997 rendered that into a very safe Labour seat next to a Liberal Democrat one. Then Conservatives were never going to win in Southampton any more than they were going to win in London.
Now we are living in a radically changed political landscape. After all this is the longest serving Labour Government in history. The last time Labour did this bad was 40 years ago. 1968 when Harold Wilson was leading the second longest serving Labour government in history. That could also explain why I am meeting a lot more young conservatives on campus. Students will always be drawn to change, after all they want to make their mark on the world and do thing differently from their parents. With the Labour Party having been in power since young Vincenzo was 11, it is natural for him and others to gravitate Cameron's way.
Perhaps something has happened to Southampton. The city has always been, what one high ranking member of the University recently described to me as, a “Northern City stuck on the South coast”. Maybe Southampton is starting to think of itself as a bit more like the rest of Hampshire. Southampton Docks haven't been a mass employer for years and certainly house prices have added wealth to the average Southampton resident. Gordon Brown will undoubtedly pick up more votes at the General Election, but if I'm right about Southampton realigning then both our local MPs are in real trouble.
I wish Vincenzo well, I think he'll do a good job. Whether his election is a blip or the start of something more significant depends on how much his party has changed, and how much Southampton and the rest of the UK have changed too.