Thursday, 29 September 2011

Has failed to meet expectations

If you have ever attended a parents' evening - and I've sat on both sides of the table at different times, you'll be amused by this cartoon! However, it is more than just simple humour - many people must have felt this way!  Many were expecting the Messiah to be a great military leader, who would restore Israel to a position of power. What they had not expected was a lowly carpenter with  no weapons, no army, no status. Finally, being crucified is perhaps not what most people would see as the greatest measure of a successful life and career!

We should never forget that Jesus was a failure and that he didn't meet the standard. It is important because we can start to think more carefully about all the things we are told are worthwhile and rethink all our expectations.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Losing my religion


You may have heard that the band R.E.M have announced they are going to split. This was certainly news to me as I didn't know they were still together (!) but I immediately thought of some of their songs and in particular, "Losing my religion", a wonderful track full of  anguished lyrics such as, "That's me in the corner, that's me in the spotlight, losing my religion." Losing my religion is apparently an idiomatic phrase which means something like "at my wits end" and, according to the Internet, was inspired by attempts to grapple with a guitar chord rather than a Jacob-like wrestling match with the maker of the universe. However, there has to be more to it than that as a whole generation found a mystical focus in the song - yes, it said so on the Internet (who needs religion anyhow with such a source of infallible knowledge and wisdom at the click of a mouse...)
Well, I've done a little bit of questioning, doubting and journeying in terms of faith and religion over the years, so I decided to have a look at the lyrics. I couldn't quite make my mind up if they were  "profound" (the Internet told me so...) or " complete bollocks" (the humble opinion of a commenter on one thread I looked at), but they did seem to me to be about more than just breaking a nail on a guitar string. I felt there were two key strands in the song. The first is that our faith becomes poisoned when we cannot be ourselves with God, or when we think that we can hide from him,
"Every whisper, every waking hour, I'm choosing my confessions."
The idea that we can hide ourselves from God goes right back to Genesis when Adam first sins and is aware of his nakedness and tries to hide from God. Of course, it is futile to try to hide from God because he is all seeing, but I am not sure that is the point, the point is more that shame can cause us to hide from ourselves and to hide from God and it is only when we can be open and vulnerable with God  that we can understand ourselves to be loved completely and that we can have faith in ourselves and our potential for goodness as made in the divine image (I'm not saying REM was saying all that, you know, most of that is me being profound...)
The second idea that I noticed was very similar - the idea that to have faith we have to be able to trust that  God is good.  This is by no means as easy as it seems. The concluding lyrics of the song show a desire to believe in  a benevolent God, but a doubt and suspicion that overcome this:
" I thought that I heard you laughing, I thought that I heard you sing, I think I thought I heard you try... but that was just a dream... just a dream."
Does God laugh with us, or at us? Is his response to human suffering one of compassion - tears - or the laughter of a cruel or capricious deity? Given all the horrors of human existence, is the belief in a God of love a pipe dream that only the most misguided cling onto? It always affects me when I hear stories of people who have suffered great tragedy - the death of a child  is the most poignant example- who lose their faith. It affects me because I know that I cannot say, hand on heart, that I would not be the same, that I would not blame God and feel angry and disbelieving rather than cling to my faith.   I wonder how many of us could say the same?

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Alpha

I've just discovered, through Revising Reform blog,  this rather interesting weblog detailing one man's journey through the Alpha course. I think we are going to be doing a smaller scale version of  this course in church soon, but during services rather than as a separate event. The author of the blog I've linked to certainly approached it all with an equiring mind and a fighting spirit. After reading a few of his posts I'm a bit worried that I might have to watch video clips with Nicky Gumbel in them...

Friday, 23 September 2011

Giles Fraser and Substitutionary Atonement

 I heard Giles Fraser talking about justice and retribution on  thought for the day this morning. I like Fraser's ideas and I wasn't surprised to hear that he rejects the whole idea of a wrathful God who must be appeased by his son paying the price for sin, or as Fraser says,
" retribution is the model of justice which underpins the way many Christians have understood Christ's death on the cross, or as the hymn says "there was no other good enough to pay the price of sin."
Fraser then goes on to reject this model as "wrongheaded" because Jesus himself rejected the idea of an eye for an eye and a tooth for  tooth. A God of love, he says, operates out of forgiveness, and that is what the cross is all about.
The theology of the cross is certainly complex. I see it as a multi- faceted symbol which yields a number of meanings. Like Fraser, I am not keen on the idea of propitiation, of a wrathful God demanding blood, but I do  not think that means that we should throw out the concept that Jesus "died for our sins" or "paid the price", because that is essentially what the cross is about. I do not understand why people perceive that Jesus "paying the price" on the cross is an act of vengeance on the part of God.  If the Father and the Son are one, then when Jesus suffered, the Father suffered too. The cross is a symbol of God absorbing anger within the Godhead as an excruciating alternative to inflicting it on humankind.

The cross is about sacrifice, but it is the sacrifice of both Father and Son, not the sacrificing of one at the expense of the other. The cross offers a new type of sacrifice, or to paraphrase Star Wars, "It's sacrifice, Jim, but not as we know it." This is not the old blood price of more pagan thought, it is not the need to placate an angry and capricious deity but it is about  the divine modelling a love so great that it would endure rather than retaliate and woo rather than demand.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Keeping the Sabbath holy

Unlike Seamus Heaney (see below) rugby player Ewan Murray is not one for missing church on Sundays. Two years ago he announced that, as a result of his Christian faith, he would not be playing on Sundays. True to his word, he will not be playing in the crucial match against Argentinia this weekend. I have to say that, although I believe attending church is important, I really don't think that Murray would be betraying his faith by spending the occasional Sunday using his God given talents on the rugby pitch. He could always go to evensong after all.
At the same time, you have to feel a sort of respect for someone who stands by their convictions to that extent. Also, he is 6 ft 1" and weighs in at 18 stone 13, so you wouldn't argue would you?

Everyday communions

From 'Clearances'

When all the others were away at Mass
I was all hers as we peeled potatoes.
They broke the silence, let fall one by one
Like solder weeping off the soldering iron:
Cold comforts set between us, things to share
Gleaming in a bucket of clean water.
And again let fall. Little pleasant splashes
From each other's work would bring us to our senses.

So while the parish priest at her bedside
Went hammer and tongs at the prayers for the dying
And some were responding and some crying
I remembered her head bent towards my head,
Her breath in mine, our fluent dipping knives--
Never closer the whole rest of our lives.

This poem is one  from a series of short poems called "Clearances" written by Seamus Heaney in memory of his mother, Mary Heaney, and it conveys the way that doing things together and just being with others can bring us closer than anything else can. I also think this is a very spiritual poem, even though it is not very reverential about organised religion - the description of the priest who goes "hammer and tongs at the prayers for the dying" is not particularly complimentary. The poem begins with Heaney and his mother having skipped mass in favour of some potato peeling, and yet their work  is like a ritual and a communion between them, a wordless moment of grace - although that sounds rather pretentious when this is a poem that is so totally prosaic.

I don't know if you often find most meaning in prosaic things -  in everyday moments of peace or joy, or in the simple ordinary doing of mundane things that can forge a connection with others.
I know I do.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

The first shall be last

I have read and heard some excellent sermons on today’s passage from Matthew – the story of the Vineyard owner who hires the latecomers and then pays them the same price as those who have worked a full day in the heat. I was reading around the passage yesterday on the internet and I made the following comment (tidied up a bit!) in response to a sermon on Lesley's blog:


I love this passage- it is certainly about God’s generous, ridiculous love. It also warns us that God’s justice is not the same as the justice of our world. It occurs to me that we are all (at times) like the full day workers, grumbling at God and a bit aggrieved and resentful that newcomers might be as good or “better” Christians than us. At other times we are all like the latecomers, we really need to feel we fully belong and are as “worthwhile” as all those more conventional or seasoned Christians we know. How delighted the latecomers must have been to get a full day’s pay, to feel equal to the rest and to go home able to feed their families properly. It must have felt like gift, not something they’d “earnt”. Those who have felt the full force of being loved when we didn’t really think we were that loveable really value God. To me, that is the message – God’s love is a gift.

After the sermon in church today, I thought a little more about the idea that “the first shall be last and the last shall be first.” It was suggested that we might feel uncomfortable with this idea; I find it rather reassuring. It reassures me because one of the things I find most repellent about organised religion is the way it can treat some individuals as though they are the lowest of the low, the way that some Christians seem to think it is all about respectability, or about some sort of Church hierarchy. I like it that God starts from a completely different premise.

I kept thinking that, in this parable, the first really were the last, not because they received less, but because of their attitude to what they received. The grumblers were paid the same generous wage as the others, but they went home poor because of their resentment over what they “deserved”, what they were rightly “owed”. The latecomers went home very rich, rejoicing because they hadn’t deserved very much, but they were given everything – which is what we should all be like whether we worked all day or not!

Joy



I had to post this from Blue Eyed Ennis because it is so true. It is also relevant to today's reading, which is at least partly about why all the workers should be full of joy.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Gay marriage

 I've had a pretty busy day, we are having the kitchen done and one of the things we did today was to pay a visit to walk the dog - who is in kennels for a fortnight to keep her out of the way of the building work. I also had my first set of marking to complete. Somehow I managed to miss the news that  the UK Government intends to introduce gay marriage by 2015 until just a few moments ago.
Anyone who knows me at all well will know that I am in favour of this move. I believe it is what you do with your sexuality, not what your sexuality is, that counts. I also believe it is the exclusive love and commitment between two people that makes a marriage, not the gender of the participants. I have friends that I know are waiting for this change in legislation before they formalise a personal commitment, and I am glad for them at this news. However, I also know people who believe that marriage is exclusively a relationship between a man and a woman, I do to some extent feel for them. I hope that they will have the grace to accept that just because we have strongly held convictions does not always mean we should impose those upon others, or speak out bitterly against something which has deemed to be a legal and human right.
I don't think in the UK we will see quite the same expressions of anger and hatred on both sides that were seen in the US over Proposition 8. I hope any Christians who speak out, either  for or against, will choose their words with care  and remember that they are not just talking about an "issue" but about people.

I'm sorry I am a Christian!


Does anyone else ever want to apologise - or at least explain?

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Working towards happiness

I read today that a recent survey suggests that these are the ten happiest jobs:
1. Clergy - according to Forbes, this is the happiest profession. OK - maybe they didn't interview the guy on the left...
2. Firefighters: Eighty percent of firefighters are “very satisfied” with their jobs.
3. Physical therapists: Social interaction and helping people apparently make this job one of the happiest.
4. Authors: For most authors, the pay is ridiculously low or non-existent, but the autonomy of writing down the contents of your own mind apparently leads to happiness.
5. Special education teachers: If you don’t care about money, a job as special education teacher might be a happy profession.
6. Teachers: Teachers in general report being happy with their jobs, despite the current issues with education funding and classroom conditions. .
7. Artists: Sculptors and painters report high job satisfaction, despite the great difficulty in making a living from it.
8. Psychologists: Maybe there is nothing like hearing about other people's problems to give you a positive slant on your own.?
9. Financial services sales agents: Sixty-five percent of financial services sales agents are reportedly happy with their jobs.
10. Operating engineers: It is also one of the few professions where jobs available still outnumber applicants.

I was quite taken with the above list of happiest jobs, which I found on Stuarts E-church blog. The fact that
vicars and special needs teachers are all so happy does warm the cockles of the heart; it also supports the view held here on Significant Truths that happiness, boys and girls, is not found in nasty things like money but in a sense of vocation and  in selfless acts of love and self expression...:)

As with life in general, there are always a few flies in the ointment. For example, the fact that teachers generally report job satisfaction has to be balanced against the hard reality that fifty percent of new recruits leave the profession within five years (hmmmm), while the tales of clergy contentment have to also be balanced against reports that it is a profession very vulnerable to isolation and bullying - as discussed on Bishop Alan's blog.
Also, how come sixty five percent of financial advisors are happy? That means people who chose to deal in the filthy lucre are really quite pleased with the fact. If there is any justice, shouldn't they be wallowing in a pit of their own misery? What about the other twenty-five percent? Perhaps they are the ones with a conscience?

Harrowing hell

I am trying to look around other blogs a bit more! This is a great post  from the blog Faith and Theology on universalism, and reactions to it, inspired by the furore over Rob Bells "Love Wins!"

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Do dogs have souls? (Part fifteen)

I laughed out loud when I saw this photo on a friend's face book page. The reaction of the two dogs certainly suggests they are aware that something is missing...
(I'm almost tempted to run a caption competition!)

Monday, 12 September 2011

Feeding the hungry

I was shocked to hear an item on the radio yesterday about a large increase in the number of families turning to food banks in order to cope with the rising cost of food and fuel. I was certainly aware that some individuals and families in this country struggle to feed themselves, because the church that my dad was based  at set up a "social fund" in order to help meet such needs in a fairly economically deprived Northern town, and that was over a decade ago! In this church-based initiative, the congregation donated food items, or money which was used to buy tins of value or own brand food to be handed out in bags or boxes. People would turn up at the vicarage with a voucher, usually given by the Salvation Army. Sometimes they would request specific items, nappies, for example, or just ask if we had any more of a particular item.
Most of the people who collected food were on benefits. There was some accommodation nearby which housed young people with difficult circumstances, or who were making the transition from care to independent living. Most of the recipients of the goods, or so I understood, were short of money because they were waiting for benefits claims to be assessed due to a move or change in circumstances. What shocks me about recent reports  is that a lot of the people now needing help are in work, but their wages do not cover the  increasing cost of living. That people who work hard find themselves unable to afford to live is patently unjust and wrong, yet inflation  does take a much greater toll on lower income families, and it is undoubtedly true that many do struggle, and may be worse off than some of those on benefits.
I don't know that answer, but the Trussell Trust reports that a lot of the help offered is coming from churches and religious organisations. It has always been the case that churches have played such a role; I wonder if it will become more common as the economic downturn continues.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

The roll call of suffering and waste

George Coppard, machine gunner at the Battle of the Somme, described it as a "dreadful scene" where "hundreds of dead were strung out , like wreckage washed up." Perhaps the sheer scale of this carnage accounts for the fact that it has led to literature which effectively conveys the horror and grief we feel when human life is  quite simply squandered. This extract is from Sebastian Faulk's Birdsong, written in the 1990s.

Price was reading the roll call. Before him were standing the men who had managed to return. their faces were shifty and grey in the dark.To begin with he asked the whereabouts of each missing man. After a time he saw that it would take too long.
Price began to speed the process. He hurried from one unanswered name to the next. Bryne, Hunt, Hones, Tipper, Wood , Leslie, Barnes, Studd, Richardson, Savile, Thompson, Hodgson, Birkenshaw, Llewellyn, Francis, Arkwright, Duncan, Shea, Simons, Anderson, Blum, Fairbrother. Names came pattering into the dusk, bodying out the places of their forebears, the villages and towns where the telegrams would be delivered, the houses where the blinds would be drawn and where low moans would come in the afternoon behind closed doors; and the places that had borne them, which would be like nunneries, like dead towns without their life or purpose, without the sound of fathers and their children, without young men at the factories or in the fields, with no husbands for the women, no deep sound of voices in the inns, with the children who would have been born, who would have grown and worked or painted, even governed, left ungenerated in their fathers' shattered flesh that lay in stinking shell holes in the beet-crop soil, leaving their homes to put up only granite slabs in place of living flesh, on whose inhuman surface the moss and lichen would cast their crawling green indifference,
Of 800 men in the battalion who had gone over the parapet, 155 answered their names. Price told his company to dismiss, though he said it without the bark of the parade ground; he said it kindly...Jack Firebrace and Arthur Shaw waited for them and asked them how they had done, The men walked on as in a dream, and did not answer. Some of them spat or pushed back their helmets, most of them looked down, their faces expressionless yet grained with sadness. They went to their tents and lay down.

Friday, 9 September 2011

Awareness Sunday


Awareness Sunday from Awareness Sunday on Vimeo.

The short video above is about Awareness Sunday, an initiative which aims to create better understanding between religions and communities as a response to the events of 9/11. The first Awareness Sunday will be the tenth anniversary, this Sunday, and churches and groups all over the world, led in the UK by a service of remembrance and reconciliation in Westminster Abby at 6.30pm, will be drawn together to try to create a better understanding between faiths and cultures. I first read about Awareness Sunday at Synod - I think they had a stall , or some groups was distributing the leaflets. I must admit that (rather ironically) I had not known about this initiative before, nor have I heard of it since.

The events of 9/11 have, of course, been in the news and on our television screens this week. I have mixed feelings about the coverage. The events were so momentous that to say little or nothing seems a travesty, and yet some of the delving into personal stories and lives seems intrusive and voyeuristic. I read a magazine article last week about "the jumpers" - those who fell, or jumped, or were forced to their death. The faces and pictures of those thought to have jumped were on display. The reader could try to match the blurry, grainy photos of them falling to their death, or leaning out of windows waving handkerchiefs, with those other photos, the equally harrowing ones of them living their lives -  getting married, hugging their children, smiling at the camera with calm, unknowing eyes. I thought how it might feel for the families left behind, that a decade after their deaths their loved ones are newspaper fodder.

Many people of faith who remember 9/11 this weekend will be acutely aware that religious belief is a force for evil as well as good, that while our faith can help us recognise human dignity and strive for peace, so it can also fuel extremism and hatred. The attacks were made in the name of religion, and yet this can be a simplistic view when politics, cultural ideology and bitterness at injustice, both real and perceived, also played a part. Evil rarely comes from nowhere. The events of 9/11 should leave us grappling with our own propensities for bitterness, fear and hatred. How effectively do we discriminate between justice and revenge or negotiate moral boundaries in a world which is not always black and white, but often rather grey?

The leaflet from Synod is on the desk in front of me as I type. The radio downstairs drones on about the fear that some will use the anniversary of 9/11 to carry out further attacks. The leaflet about Awareness Sunday speaks of its belief that people of all faiths and world views, "will help defeat extremism and enable people to live together in peace, without fear."
It's a nice idea.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Strong views and " impartial advice"?



What struck me most was this statement,
" With such polarised views can either of these groups be truly said to be independent?"

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Nadine Dorries and abortion law

 I heard this evening that Nadine Dorries bill on abortion counselling had been defeated in the Commons and I thought this might be worth some comment. First of all, can I say that I am no supporter of Dorries, some of her proposals and attempts to change law on moral and social issues, such as her call for teenage girls (but not boys!) to be given lessons in abstinence, are on the lunatic fringe. However, I must confess that I am somewhat uneasy about the idea that abortion providers should be the sole source of counselling for women when those providers are set to profit financially from a decision in favour of a termination.

I have previously commented on an undercover report  that pro-life organisations are giving women factually misleading advice about abortion and using emotive tactics to pressurise them into making a decision not to terminate. If this is true, then it is clearly not acceptable. I do wonder how far it is even possible for a pro life organisation to offer truly impartial advice on this matter? Some might say that a "pro-choice" organisation, if it is truly concerned with allowing choice, might offer more impartiality - but this argument falls down when the pro-choice organisation is also the abortion provider and has a vested financial interest?

Surely women should be offered truly independent advice - it seems to me the only thing that is right in this situation? I am not sure I would wish to ban organisations such as Marie Stoppes offering counselling, nor to stop pro-life organisations offering counselling - but, in such cases, I would like it to be made clear to women exactly what the underlying ethos and involvement of each organisation is, and for them to be offered alternative, truly independent advice if they so wished.

I thought that Anne Milton, the Government's health provider's response was measured and judicious. Milton told MPs:
"The government is … supportive of the spirit of these amendments and we intend to bring forward proposals for regulations accordingly, but after consultation. Primary legislation is not only unnecessary but would deprive parliament of the opportunity to consider the detail of how this service would develop and evolve."
I hope the Government does bring in a requirement for women to be offered independent counselling. Yet I suspect that if the only solution were to offer such counselling at tax payer's expense they would fight shy of this move. At the very least, I hope that they bring in further regulations of abortion counselling. The decision to bring a child into the world is a very serious one with far reaching consequences, but this does not mean that the same is not also often true of a decision to terminate.

NB: Since writing this piece, I have realised that "independent advice" is not the same as "impartial advice." I realised this after doing some reading around in response to some comments on CareConfidential on this post. CareConfidential is "independent", but it is not impartial, it is pro-life (see video above.) When Dorries says she wants women to be offered independent advice, I think this is because she knows that most such independent charitable counselling  is pro-life. Marie Stopes alleges that many women have told them that such  organisations pressurised them to continue with a pregnancy and were not honest about their christian ethos. I have also read one article pointing out that Marie Stopes is not "profit making" in the way that Dorries seems to imply. Any profits must be ploughed back into the organisation, no individual benefits financially. Having said this, I am still dubious about an abortion provider offering counselling, even when the financial gain from a decision to terminate would be invested in the organistion. I'd like to see independent and impartial counselling available on the NHS. I don't think this will happen! Why? Well,  given the number of abortions carried out, the cost would be significant. Is reducing the number of abortions as much of an issue for our Government as reducing the number of underage pregnancies - well, you know the answers!

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

In blog we trust!

A short time ago, while still in a state of shock at the demise of the much missed and lamented Church Mouse blog, I wrote about vanishing blog syndrome - you know, that let down feeling you experience when one of your favourite bloggers decides to hang up their boots and get back to their family and the real world? Well, that has happened to me quite a bit recently and I've decided that I need to be more ruthless in pruning and updating my blog list, for example deleting people who have not written a post for six months or more, and actively seeking out and adding new blogs.
Part of the process of blogging is not only to write your own blog but also to read the blogs that others write and to comment on them. Reading other blogs helps to keep you up to date with discussions or developments in the area you blog about, but, as Freda points out here,  it is  also essential to build up a blogging community, keep in touch and communicate. I have recently added to my sidebar list a recently started blog  Lost in the North, which is  written by someone I know personally (yes, I do mean in the real world!)  and  Blue Eyed Ennis, a blog that I have been reading regularly for some time and should really have linked to ages ago. I hope you will read these blogs and perhaps comment on them. In return, I would love to hear about the blogs you read regularly and would recommend.
Does anyone think I should apologise for the blog title? It is a dreadful pun, isn't it? And I've used it in a previous blog post. You'd think I'd have a bit more self respect - especially as Lesley is producing some lovely colourful graphs charting  the ups and downs of the female blogger according to Wikio!

News at home and abroad

This first fortnight back at work is pretty non-stop for me, and I have been vaguely aware of not being able to comment on new developments concerning the Anglican Covenant or the diocesan voting on women bishops.
There has been  more news from NZ ; this weekend both Auckland and Waiapu (East Coast North island) diocesan synods passed similar motions declining to support Clause 4 of the Covenant  and declaring that they saw no impediment to the ordination of someone in a commited same-sex relationship.
The two motions were passed by two thirds majorities in Auckland, and by 90% plus in Waiapu. You can read some analyis of the developments in New Zealand on Lesley's blog here and also an  article from the conservative Andrew Goddard suggesting that a reform of the instruments of Communion is needed to enable Clause 4 to be effective. I assume here that he would like to see the instruments have greater power to discipline and exclude - although he doesn't say as much. It seemed to sit rather uneasily alongside the news from NZ that indicates that TEC is far from being alone and isolated in its views.

  I have no idea whether the Church of England will support the Covenant. I have a hunch that we may, largely because not to do so might be perceived as an act of disloyalty to Rowan Williams.  I could well be wrong though - I hope I am. On another key issue, that of women bishops, matters seem to be proceeding apace. Worcester has just become the 12th Diocesan Synod to vote in favour of the Article 8 Women Bishop's legislation. However, a majority of diocesan synods must vote in favour. There are 44 dioceses so 23 favourable votes are required, meaning 11 dioceses must still vote in favour. Furthermore, it seems likely that in some Diocesan Synods a "following motion" will be proposed asking for even more provision for women bishops. The Church of England Evangelical Council has formulated one such motion. If the House of Bishops amends the legislation it will have to go back around the dioceses for debate and voting again, before coming back to General Synod for final approval. The most likely result, based on past voting patters,  is that General Synod will reject the amended legislation - although we do now have a different synod from when the addtional provision for those who will not accept women bishops was so resoundingly rejected.
The Worcester vote was by massive majorities in all 3 houses. (ie one cleric against and one abstaining and 3 laity against.)

Friday, 2 September 2011

Internet perils

It has been a busy week. As a colleague said to me, returning after the holidays is a bit like stepping into a pool of ice cold water. I had two non- work resolutions this week, one was to manage a trip to the gym, the other was to compose a mid week blog post. The blogging resolution fell by the wayside, but I mustered up the energy for a (short) session on the treadmill - I think on Wednesday evening. We went out for a meal (during which I almost fell asleep) on Thursday. Was that only yesterday? My memories of the whole week are starting to get a bit hazy...
Although I did not blog myself, I did find time to take a cursory glance at other blogs I read regularly. My attention was caught by a post on the e-Church blog in which Stuart seemed to suggest self harm could be akin to the sacraments - " blood as liquid emotion". The link was to an article entitled Self injury and the Sacraments by Stacey. I was a little dubious about the idea of self harm as sacrament, partly because self harm does seem to be a growing trend, and can have an unfortunate glamour. Can I be quite clear here that I am not unsympathetic to those who self harm, it is a well documented response to pain and trauma, I just think there may be dangers if it is dignified/ mystified as "sacramental" in some way.
Anyhow, it then emerged that Stacey had  also written a  rather offensive post  and as a result was receiving death threats and having her details published on antagonistic websites. The post  was most unedifying and really did say more about Stacey tendency to over react to supposed homosexuals than anything else, but the comments did also shock me and  made me think about the way the Internet  often brings out the worst in all of us. I am an enthusiastic blogger and I love the Internet, but the instantaneous and potentially anonymous nature of communication it affords can free us to to say and do things that we might otherwise hesitate over.
        Most schools have a  non bullying policy, but more and more they face the problem of how to deal with situations where a member of the school community bullies another through email or social networking sites. I have heard some awful stories on the news about young people driven to contemplate or commit suicide because of cyber bullying, sometimes involving targeted "hate pages" set up about them. Blogging is a slightly different field to social networking. Bloggers put their opinions,  which are sometimes controversial or provocative, out there for comment and , to an extent, should be able to carry the can. There are limits though; on the Internet, as in real life, we should not match hatred for hatred.
All in all, I was quite glad I'd prioritised the gym...