Thursday, 12 January 2017

On Work Not Grace

The argument that unemployed, sick, disabled, or aged persons aren’t worthy of government support, even where their taxes have filled government coffers, isn’t a financial but a theological view. Just because people seem atheistical, ignorant, secular, or indifferent doesn’t mean they have no theology. Indeed they may be more influenced by it than those who take a conscious position.
            In this 500th anniversary year of the Reformation, politics provides ongoing evidence of the pervasiveness of work over grace. Where the signs of salvation (a limited quantity) are shown in hard work, frugality, and self-discipline, those who are born to fail display other qualities. The theology is of a judging God, a judging State. United States culture, due to Puritan influence, is vulnerable to this view.
            Where this is secularised, you get judgements such as: you should’ve saved against misfortune; shouldn’t have taken drugs; shouldn’t have lost your job; shouldn’t have married a violent man. Grace, which is the unmerited favour of God, would say: so this has happened; we will help you.

            We’re about to be living in a post-work world, as robotics advances. What then? Will peace be then on earth, to those of good will?

Thursday, 5 January 2017

On Plutocracy

‘If religion was a thing that money could buy the rich would live and the poor would die.’ I couldn’t find a name for the original writer of these lyrics, but versions were around throughout the latter 20th century. Version, itself a word that scares people. Version implies at least two views, with its meaning of ‘variant’ offering diversity, difference, mutability. That translation varies deeply threatens some. Who dares vary?
     The word plutocracy, first noted in the 17th century, links wealth and power. The reign of the rich. The three Magi, or kings, brought their precious offerings to the King, thus keeping their treasures within the circle of authority. This King had a variant view of the poor.
     From the worldly rich in their states of power we see the poor: disorganised, feckless, profligate, decadent. They fail the test of virtue: they fail to be rich. Plutocracy has no room for the poor.

     King Herod was troubled when the Magi appeared. Where is this treasure going? To the Benefactor of the poor, of women, cripples, sex workers, tax collectors. Tax collectors? Yes, we need to pay more tax. And it needs to go down, not up, into plutocracy. 

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

On 2016

It was the centenary of the Battle of the Somme, a synonym for mass slaughter. World memory of history was so poor that fanatics of all kinds arose, finding advancement and comfort. In 2016, Britain became an island, cut off from the main, although the bells were ringing continually. New epidemics blossomed. Governments were set in place without the consent of the governed. Musicians and actors, carriers of the culture, departed taking with them the genius of their times. Wars and rumours of war produced fleets of refugees.
             In 2016, liberation of the captives: 21 of 276 Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped by terrorists in 2014 returning home to their families. A few, but to those few everything. Terrorists, in spite of discovering new means of mass murder (especially trucks used in Nice and Berlin) must suffer more failures than success. Recovery of sight to the blind: Fred Hollows Foundation gave more than 890,000 sight-restoring operations, throughout poverty, war, and oppression. Medical miracles appearing. Acts of kindness and bravery. What gets reported is more often of fear than of hope.

Who proclaims the acceptable year of the Lord? We do. You want to find meaning and purpose in life? Get up every day, determining to do as you must to make today an acceptable day of the acceptable year: 2017.

Monday, 14 November 2016

On Facts

We live in a post-facts world, so I hear. Certainly facts are widely ignored. Or is that statement actually true? Science has processes for determining facts about nature. Philosophy examines ways to identify facts and verify them. Anti-facts appear, sometimes called lies: statements presented in opposition to objective reality. Subjective reality becomes fact. We see a lot of subjective reality in social and political life.
            Note that subjective reality is subject to proof. The proof is: I say it is so. The proof then becomes the person saying it. The person is thus a fact. Definitions of fact include: something that really happened, a real situation, something we know is actually going on. A lot of facts in politics are anti-facts in science and philosophy.
            We could return to the Latin, where ‘fact’ means ‘deed’. A fact has already been performed. We live in a post-fact world, where the fact (science: climate change) meets the anti-fact (politics: no climate change). We do not live in a post-truth world. For Christians, Jesus Christ is the Truth, where word (already a deed) meets fact: homo factus est. It is therefore deeds of compassion and mercy we must perform, following truth in fact.

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

On Internet Dating

When looking for a partner, or even a date, people can search for someone appealing on internet sites: sometimes rewarding; sometimes discouraging. Like the young woman looking for men who are tall, good-looking, good income, good personality. What about honest, intelligent, kind, sincere?
            Looking for a dog is similar. Dog rescue sites, mainly discouraging, I find. There’s an art to responding to rejection, when the only cause is someone else got there first. Not an overwhelming number of homeless dogs around. Lots of actively bored cattle dogs, actively determined huskies, actively mischievous staffies with various crosses of these, but what if something sweet and fluffy would be more suitable? Gone already!
            Or am I like the buyer at the slave market in classical antiquity, ‘I’ve seen enough Caucasians; I’d rather have a Gaul.’    Stereotypes were big in the ancient world (‘all Cretans are liars’) and I’ve just stereotyped a whole set of dogs. Maybe the most charming and desirable dogs rarely find themselves in dog rescue shelters.
            Is the answer to go somewhere and look someone in the eye? Eye to eye can’t be stereotyped. Surely the virtues of patience and resilience are developed on internet searches.

Monday, 24 October 2016

On Outside History

The candidates are leaping, twisting, tossing like fish on the line. Welcome to democracy: can it endure? Are we mere players in the fantasies of omnipotent children? Are we outside history?

So many want to become citizens of no mean country. Greatness (nationalism) meets smallness. Does smallness keep you out of trouble? Unlikely. We know how greatness gets you into it. We’re standing waist-deep in history all the time.

Witnesses have been talking: the Russian Revolution, the dregs of the Reformation, the American Civil War. Outside history, we buy and sell, take baby to the doctor, measure up wedding shoes, worry about the body: weight, style, height and class. Jobs, money, travel; housing, transport, votes. Meanwhile, states are overturned, religions change colour, populations flee or are drowned in the sea.

The Greeks knew how strengths and even more flaws, afflictions of the powerful, cause transformations. The great to be downfallen, the small to be brought high. It can happen in our time. We are careful, and troubled about many things.

Ecclesiastes knows about vain worldly pursuits. Sit under the olive tree while it yet remains; eat good bread; drink fine wine. Fear God: honest fear is wholesome.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

On Concerned Citizens

Loss is felt more keenly than gain. Thus the dragon, confronted with disappearance of the smallest coin from its hoard, is more distracted than by the gain of wagonloads of gold.
            So with intangibles, like respect, admiration, love: the antique idea that all goods (worldly and otherwise) are in limited supply, so that your gain is my loss, is still alive and rhetorical in parliaments today. Concerned citizens complaining.
            Currently we hear of ‘hate speech’. Anyone who disputes my presentation of truth ‘hates’ me and the category to which I belong. ‘Preaching hate’ is the latest manifestation of this cant. One might, for example, belong like some on the Right of politics, to the rich, privileged, or superior category. One might belong like some on the Left to the poor, disadvantaged, or even, God help us, the gay category. Naturally enough, some of the rich are secure enough not to miss a filament of respect; some of the poor leap at the chance to keep bits of respect for themselves alone. As with the dragon, the loss of a fragment of privilege or exclusivity is felt deeply.
            The concepts ‘first’, ‘most excellent’, ‘unique’ are honorifics predicated on exclusivity. What I keep you can’t have.
            Of course, nobody is preaching anything. ‘Preaching’ refers to making known the Gospel, like John the Baptist, who said, ‘He must increase; I must decrease.’ Or as Luke insists in so many ways, the Lord raises the lowly, but casts down the proud.