29 Apr

Suffer the little godchildren

We can always count on the Church of England to come up with an exciting new wheeze to stave off the final throes of bankruptcy.  So they have got Rev’d Canon Dr Sandra Millar, head of projects and development for the Archbishop’s Council, to produce an exciting new order of service to help facilitate this exciting new wheeze to put bums on seats and tenners in the collecting plate. This takes the form of an order of service for a freshly invented and exciting occasion in the liturgical calendar called Godparents’ Sunday

The new and exciting order of service aims to bring God’s people together and empower them to reflect and rejoice through many exciting activities.

I hope those who turn up will be enabled to cope with all the excitement.

Dr Millar is eminently qualified for her role as contemporary liturgist for, before she was ordained in 2000, she had a career in marketing with the Co-op and Boots.

Her exciting new service stands squarely in the imaginative tradition of modern rites and it reminds us of the luminously creative project of a few years ago called Love Life, Live Lent in which congregations were invited to stick little bits of yellow paper on larger bits of blue paper and perform a loving line dance for the Lord.

If the Lord enjoyed that, I’m sure he will enjoy the form for Godparents’ Sunday too.

If you promise not to laugh too loudly or for too long, I’ll tell you about it. But first, let me discipline my tongue and my pen and adjure the temptation to wax satirical. Here it is straight then, in all its infantilised glory, from the Church of England website 

“You will need large sheets of paper eg lining paper on a roll or a large sheet with the heading ‘Memory Wall.’

“Felt pens for directly writing on paper/fabric OR post-it notes and pins.

“A large sheet of paper, flip chart or projector with ten words written on Eat, Talk, Listen, Read, Watch something; Drink; Look around; Stop for a rest; Play Games, Meet people.

“Ten smaller cards and Blutak so that words can be covered up and easily revealed..

“Four large cards each with one of these phrases: Being There; Part of the family; Good choices; Sharing faith

“Yellow and white ribbons and two ‘prayer trees’ eg places where ribbons can be tied [optional]

“Heart shaped chocolates or godparent/godchild badges [available from www.churchprinthub.org] to give away [optional]”

What immediately strikes us about Dr Millar’s modern masterpiece is that it is deeply rooted in philosophical theology. That phrase we are asked to write on one of our four large cards, “Being there” is of course a translation for Godparents of Martin Heidegger’s phrase Dasein and represents the inauthentic condition of humankind “thrown” into the world and obliged to discover the courage “to be towards death.” ***

(Best not  make too much of that if their are any godchildren present).

As you can see, Godparents’ Sunday belongs to the scholarly tradition of Playschool and Blue Peter. And I needn’t have worried about the temptation to satire, as this latest offering renders satire impossible.

I confess I’m a bit worried about the chocolates, given that we’re informed daily we’re suffering an obesity epidemic.  But I needn’t have worried about this either, for Dr Millar suggests that congregations follow up their chocolate-scoffing festivities with a “Fun and Sports Day.”

Completely in character and true to form, the Church of England gets this bit wrong. They say this exciting “Fun and Sports Day” should be held on Bank Holiday Monday 2nd May

But Bank Holiday Monday falls on 1st May.

Suffer the little godchildren…

*** Sein und Zeit by M.Heidegger, in association with Noddy and Big Ears say “Let’s Play Church!”  by Enid Blyton and Justin Welby

26 Apr

Two Spectators but differing perspectives

Every week, a friend in Alice Springs sends me The Spectator Australia which is really the London version with perhaps  ten pages at the start given over to Australian  matters. Consistently, these pages are conspicuously better than the rest of the magazine. Let me give an example from the edition for the Easter weekend. After a shocking account of violent assaults by Muslims on Christians in Sydney. Aussie Spec’s editorial continued as follows:

“One of the obvious causes of what is called ‘Christophobia’ is the poisonous, amoral, cowardly effect of left wing political correctness and the simpering attitude of many ‘progressive’ Christian clergy towards Islam. Rather than seeing what has historically been a violent and uncompromising religion as possibly posing an existential threat to their own beliefs, many clergy now choose to embrace Islam in the name of ‘multifaith dialogue’. The effectiveness of this suicidal approach can be seen in France where more than 2000 mosques have been built in the last ten years while 60 churches have been closed – many becoming mosques. Where are the Christians defending their ancient faith? Carry on doing nothing and get ready to bury Jesus Christ once and for all.”

Why do we never get such plain speaking out of the truth in our London edition?

Those early pages in the Australian version unfailingly present a conservative opinion on all political, social and economic affairs.

They make the rest of the magazine – ie the London material – look like what in fact it has become: a collection of evasions and euphemisms and indeed of the very political correctness which the Australian editor deplores.

As a regrettable consequence, we no longer have a mainstream conservative weekly magazine in Britain

(Rev’d Dr Peter Mullen 3 Naomi Close Eastbourne BN20 7UU    01323-655832)

26 Apr

The things clever people say!

It’s surprising how often those with the greatest reputations for intelligence say the stupidest things.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) for instance, following his 18th century predecessor David Hume, said that the fact the sun has risen every morning in the past gives us “no reason” to believe that it will rise again tomorrow.

But surely if an event has always happened before, we might think we have every reason to expect it to happen again?

Let us find another example from our ordinary experience, not so far-fetched, and see if we can use it to alleviate some of Bertie’s bizarre scepticism. Suppose every Thursday evening for the last ten years just after seven o’clock, I have seen Cedric Buggins leave his house and go into The Rose & Crown on the corner. Further suppose that today is Thursday and I have just seen Mr Buggins leave his house, dressed in his usual jacket and slacks, and head off in the direction of the pub.

According to Bertie’s way of thinking, I would have to say that I have no reason to suppose Mr Buggins is going to the pub. And that, I would say, is downright perverse!

What else do I think Mr Buggins is going to do if not go to the pub (as we say) “as usual”? He must be going somewhere. Am I suddenly, on this Thursday of all Thursdays, to think, “Ah I see Buggins is on his way to the Methodist chapel”?

I think that Russell (and Hume) is here using the word reason inappropriately: he is using it rather as we would use the word proof in logic or mathematics. But conjecture about what’s going on in the empirical world – the sunrise or Buggins’ going to the pub – is not the same sort of thing as reasoning in mathematics and logic.

We might say that Russell is guilty of making a category mistake in applying the mode of reasoning which appertains to the a priori  realms of maths and logic to the empirical world of our daily experience.

Formally, we might wish to add that here Russell is committing the fallacy of ignoratio elenchi by high redefinition of the words no reason. He is applying the sort of reasoning we use in deduction to the happenstance world in which the appropriate mode of reasoning is induction. Deductive logic deals in certainties. Induction is to do with probabilities. Of course I can’t prove that Buggins is going to the pub again tonight or that the sun will rise tomorrow in the same way that I go about proving 7 + 5 = 12. But that doesn’t mean in these cases I have no reason to believe as I do

What else should I believe in this case? There is a plainer way of stating this: it means Russell is missing the bloody point!

While I’m on about Bertie, there’s something else he said that worries me. He complained, “All my life in my study of mathematics, I have been disappointed that I cannot prove its axioms.”

Examples of axioms are, for instance, that the internal angles of any triangle add up to 180 degrees and that parallel lines never meet.

Of course neither I nor Russell can prove the axioms, because proof is something which is applied to propositions. And the axioms are not propositions but definitions. When I say that the internal angles of a triangle add up to 180 degrees, I offering a definition of what I mean by the word triangle. If any plain figure has angles which do not add up to 180 degrees, then it is not a triangle. And if ever we notice two lines converge, we must say these are not parallel lines – because parallel lines are defined as lines which never meet

Bertie, thou art the cleverest man in Cambridge. Knowest thou not these things?

25 Apr

Same old Frogland

In an uncertain world, it’s reassuring to fortify oneself with a few truisms such as All Cows Eat Grass, All Men Are Mortal and All Entries For The Eurovision Song Contest Are Bound To Be Trash. Let me add another: All French Politicians Are Lefties.

From time to time a new face appears on the French political scene who is announced as right wing. Who can forget Nicolas Sarkozy? Well, I’m trying to. He was said to be a conservative and to have “broken the mould” of socialist leaders in France.

The broken mould was quickly restored to its former perfection as Sarkozy revealed himself to be a collectivist like all his confreres.

Step forward the next alleged mould-breaker, the so-called “centrist” Emmanuel Jean-Michel Frederic Macron, born on St Thomas’ Day 1977. He is to become France’s new president in a couple of weeks, for no better reason than that the French Establishment – a very powerful force, unlike the French Resistance – can’t stand Marine Le Pen who is always described, at least when people are speaking politely, as of the “far right.” No, she’s another socialist – perhaps even a national socialist – and her economic policies are to the left of Hollande’s.

At least Macron has had an education to fit him for his new job. he has a master’s degree in public affairs and he went on from that to study at the Ecole Nationale D’Administration, France’s top college for apparatchiks and career bureaucrats – a bit like PPE, but for people imagined to have some intelligence. From there he slipped silkily  into the post of Inspector General of Finances. After a short break at Rothschild’s to allow him to make his millions, as all successful socialists and egalitarians do, Macron was appointed Deputy Secretary General to Francois Hollande, the leftist of the French lefties who buggered what was left of the French economy after Sarkozy had departed the scene.

Asked about his political and economic beliefs, Macron replied he is in favour of “collective solidarity.” In other words, do as the trades unions demand, or they’ll set fire to all the motor cars.

He is also an enthusiastic Europhile and a committed federalist who wants to “strengthen the EU and provide a common budget.”

He shares Frau Merkel’s open door immigration policy. No wonder Angela is in raptures at the prospect of Emmanuel’s appointment!

He is an avid global warmer and wants to see “ecological transition” which, being interpreted, means more windmills.

At least young Manny Macron displays the French tradition of toujours l’amour. He fell in love with his schoolteacher, Brigitte Trogneux when he was fifteen – she is twenty-four years his senior – and now they are wed with three children from Brigitte’s first marriage.

What are we to make of all this? Just that in Frogland Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose

15 Apr

Our wonderful social repair

Who holds the trophy for the most misleading statements in an article of about 1000 words? I don’t know, but Fraser Nelson, writing in the Daily Telegraph on Good Friday, must be pretty close. The gist of his piece is that, while church attendance has declined dramatically, the country is enjoying a moral renaissance.

Mr Nelson claims, “Britain is midway through a phase of social repair.” Leave aside for a moment the question of how he knows we are “midway” through this wonderful revival – Are we nearly there yet? – and whether the alleged social repair will be completed, what evidence does Mr Nelson produce to justify his obvious cheerfulness?

First, “Some time around  the turn of the century, social problems stopped growing.” But is the current epidemic of mental illness among children not a significant social problem? Is endemic bullying, so pervasive among people of all ages, that children as young as four are telephoning their distress to the NSPCC not a social problem? Then there is the other social problem of ubiquitous online abuse about which I listened to yet another broadcast documentary not ten minutes after I had finished reading Mr Nelson’s article. Has he never heard of the widespread addiction to prescription drugs? We’re not drinking as much as we used to, he says, but our towns and cities still resemble deserted battlefields in the early hours of weekend mornings. Are the prisons not stuffed to bursting and more violent and drug-ridden than ever? And we have seen a 40% rise in incidents of knife-crime over the last eight years.

None of this looks like “social repair” to me.

Secondly, Mr Nelson says, “Teenage pregnancy stands at the lowest rate since records began in 1969.” Really? But there are 200,000 abortions in Britain every year and 50,000 of these are performed on teenagers – higher than the numbers in any other member state of the EU. Is this annual cull, this relentless massacre of the innocents, not a social problem?

Thirdly, “”While Britain now has a secular culture, it’s still one marinated in Christianity, the values survive.” What values are these? Does he mean we are all still marinated in the well-known Christian values of Equality, Diversity, Inclusivity and Political Correctness and the New Testament virtue of homosexual marriage?

Fourthly and hilariously, Mr Nelson says, “Churches are abandoned and converted into pubs.” No they’re not. They are being converted into mosques. And the pubs are closing faster than the churches.

“Midway through a phase of social repair”?

God deliver us from the state we’ll be in when this phase has been completed. 

06 Apr

Leave means Remain

Here’s a little quiz for you…

When is a Brexit not a Brexit?

Answer: when it’s Theresa May’s Brexit.

What does that mean?

It means that we shall have the appearance of Brexit while in reality all our ties to the EU will remain in place.

To quote John McEnroe, “You cain’t be serious!”

Oh yes, I’m being very serious.

Give us some examples of what you mean, then.

Easy. Already Britain is in the process of translating all the myriad EU laws and regulations which bind us into British laws and regulations where they will still bind us.

Anything else?

Yes, Mrs May says that free movement of populations – that the EU Shengen Agreement or, in a word immigration – will stay in place even after we’ve left.

She can’t say that!

She can and she did – yesterday. Here’s what she said about our continued accommodation to the EU:

“Once we’ve got the deal … it will be necessary for there to be a period of time when businesses and governments are adjusting systems and so forth,”

Well, there’s bound to be a period of transition.

And it will last forever.

This is dreadful – but she’ll never get away with it. Parliament will hold her to account to aim for a genuine Brexit.

But Mrs May will get around that. Indeed she did so yesterday by making her remarks about free movement when parliament is in recess and while she was out of the country.

But she promised “Brexit means Brexit”

And so it does. And “soap” means “soap.” But there’s soft soap and there’s hard soap. Mrs May’s line is in soft soap. And she has always been a Remainer, remember.  What we shall end up with is the word “Brexit” but not the substance of Brexit. May will say, “Brexit changes everything” – which, being translated, means “Everything will stay the same.”

04 Apr

The mellifluous regiment

I’ve taken to listening to Woman’s Hour, because its presenters have such agreeable voices. But why do they harp only on one subject – women? Is that really all they’re interested in? Most of the real women I know – not the politicised BBC types – are interested in all manner of subjects. I think they should rename the programme Feminist Solipsism Hour. Are men interested only in men? I don’t think so, and I know I’m not: I’m interested in women for a start. But Woman’s Hour is a study in monomania. They are in thrall to the ideology of antisexism.

They are interested in politics, up to a point, but not much beyond the suffragists. English Literature consists of the Brontes, George Eliot, Jane Austen, Mary Shelley, Maria Edgeworth and Doris Lessing. If they talk about music on the programme, it has to be about Clara Schumann or Fanny Mendelssohn. Though, credit where it’s due, they did once do a feature about the astounding Hildegaard of Bingen who ranks several notches higher than Clara and Fanny. They will talk about Florence Nightingale, though they prefer Mary Seacole because this gives them opportunity to indulge their subsidiary ideology, antiracism.

They remind me of the mystical communists who look forward to their atheistic version of the end times: the punishment of the capitalists and the dawn of the communist utopia. They are panting for their own wimmin’s paradise: that great and glorious day when all women will be hod-carriers on building sites – stripped to the waist? – and whistled at by brawny men sitting on the pavements and engrossed in their needlepoint. Progress has been made towards this feminist parousia, but there is still a lot of work to be done and women need to show tireless vigilance.

Still, they regularly give thanks for past successes, milestones on the road to utopia. For example, the other day, the script went something like this: “D’you remember the bad old days and the Ladybird learning to read books featuring Peter and Jane? Jane was always in the kitchen helping mummy and Peter was out in the street washing the car with his dad?”

They can hardly contain their scorn for a bygone age when things were so cliched and unliberated.

But here I draw the line, girls. Here I object. For however much times have changed between the era of Peter and Jane and our wonderfully progressed and emancipated age, that picture of boys washing cars and girls making jam tarts was actually how things were fifty years ago.

Again we notice their resemblance to communists in their fixation on rewriting history.

What damage would be wreaked on the historical tomes if they were to be consistent and insist on role-reversal in ancient Rome: Priscilla would have to be portrayed as an apprentice charioteer and Markus a trainee vestal virgin.

Ladies, you may work to change the present and the future to your hearts’ content. But leave the past alone. It was what it was, for better or worse.

I shall still listen though. As I say, they have such mellifluous voices. That Jenni Murray, for example: you’d never think she comes from Barnsley. 

03 Apr

Confessions of a Europhile

It’s time I came clean and owned up: I am a Europhile.

But, before all my fellow Brexiteers disown me, I must make clear that the Europe I love and daily thank God for has nothing to do with that monstrous tyranny in Brussels. I hate and despise the EU: its unelected Commissioners; its extortionate fraud called the customs union which sets British taxes and disbars us from trading freely with the rest of the world; its manifest corruption demonstrated by its refusal to publish audited accounts for two decades; its doctrine of universal rights derived from the blood-soaked philosophy which guided the French Revolution; its thorough atheism by which it has banished Christianity from the public realm; its relentless invention of new business taxes and regulations which stifle Britain’s economic prosperity and which have produced catastrophic unemployment among the young throughout the continent, impoverished Italy, Spain and Portugal and brought Greece to the edge of economic collapse and social disaster. Most of all I despise the EU for its suicidal immigration policy which is importing millions of members of an alien and vicious ideology  – people who have repeatedly declared their contempt for the West – to live among us and so transform our continent until it comes to resemble the s*** heaps from which these hordes are glad to escape.

I fail entirely to understand the minds of the Remainers who regard this tyrannous servitude, this blatantly repressive regime, as freedom and as a paragon of the liberal values.

Have I made myself clear? Good – then I will tell you of that Europe which I love and for which I daily give thanks.

It is the Europe which, in the early Middle Ages, began to fashion the modern world: the monks, their monasteries, their agriculture and their learning; the common Latin language and the universities as the bedrock of scholarship; logic, philosophy; men such as Anselm, Aquinas, Duns Scotus and Francis Bacon.

Then there are the sublime creations of European literature, music , art and sculpture: The Divine Comedy; the paintings of Giotto; Gregorian plainchant; the invention of polyphony which produced the classical musical tradition; Tallis, Byrd, Purcell, Bach, Haydn, Schubert, Mozart and Beethoven; the public schools; hospitals and hospices; the trades guilds and the livery companies; the Gothic and the Romanesque, a cathedral in every city and a parish church in every village; the practical virtue of charity; Europe’s scientists, mathematicians, astronomers and medical doctors who have enriched our understanding and our wellbeing.

All these blessings and wonders – and many more besides – were and are the creation of the Europe I confess I love.

I confess, but I do not apologise