Archive for March, 2007

Inappropriate Usage Of Question Mark Grows?

Saturday, March 31st, 2007

April hasn’t come yet but I feel like sharing with you the tremendous news that the little church I work for, along with great organisations like the Irish Bible Institute, Maynooth Christian Union and most importantly, Christians In Science, are holding a conference on Saturday April 21st in NUI Maynooth. Professor Alister McGrath and Dr. Denis Alexander, two supremely capable scientists who also happen to be evangelical Christians (McGrath being one of the foremost theologians alive today) will be coming to address the pressing issues of the day.

The pressing issue we are poking at, by the way, is God and science. The pressing issue we are have a google at is whether it is intellectual suicide for you to say “I believe in God”. The pressing issue we are going to sniff out is whether or not its true that you have to be either superstitious or reductionist, one or the other and no other way.

McGrath will be speaking on the ideas advanced by the likes of Richard Dawkins that somehow faith is negated by scientific progress. Alexander will address the thorny issue of “Intelligent Design” and show that this is not a scientific idea but an attempt to hijack the powerful idea of evolution to support a power-base. Both speakers will take questions. Registration forms and more information can be found at the Christians In Science website. It is €15 for students and €25 for everyone else. Let me urge you to come.

Go on, let me urge you.

These guys are fine speakers, world experts and we have designed this little get together so that it will approachable by Christians and non-Christians, scientists and non-scientists.

Come on down to leafy Maynooth. It will rock!

On Fantasy
I visited my brother in West Cork over St. Patricks’ weekend and I came home bearing a bounty of dramatic discs of plastic.

All the West Wing. In one box. Almost. Its so many hours worth of unrealistically fast-paced dialogue that even Alister McGrath would need a calculator to do the sums. But it is such a fantasy show that sometimes I am embarrassed by it. I mean, its a very well acted soap opera when you get right down to it. It is received as monumental drama, significant art and what-not because it appeals to the kind of folk who get to decide what art is.

I have simultaneously been reading (so slowly these days!) a book by a Scottish scholar called Jesus and the Eye-Witnesses. So often I have heard people assure me that we now know that the Gospels were formed in a process similar to say, a game of Chinese Whispers. It is such a pleasure to read actual experts in the area lay out in minute detail (this is a book that would only be good if you were a total nerdlinger) how the Gospels are certainly eye-witness accounts.

In the West Wing, the President of the USA is a Nobel-prize winning economist who oozes integrity out of his pimples. That is just how pure he is! It is sheer fantasy that suits perfectly the desires of me and the rest of the chattering classes. But the Gospels are not equivalent fantasies of how nice it would have been if the Messiah had actually arrived or overblown dramatisations of Jesus, turning a good teacher into the Son of God.

On Mission
I am a Missionary. In my hometown. But that doesn’t mean I hand you pieces of literature that explain that modern music with its “clashing and bashing” leads to “flesh fests” (if only!). Instead I try and help the folks I work with to live out their Christianity in all aspects of their life; work and play, church and the pub, PTA meetings and tutorials. The last few weeks I have been hugely enjoying pretty much everything that Scott McKnight has written but he wrote this great article I have to share.

On Genius
Via Byron and his always superb blog, “Nothing New Under The Sun”, here is a great quote from Karl Barth on the options open to God for communicating with us.

God may speak to us through Russian communism or a flute concerto, a blossoming shrub or a dead dog. We shall do well to listen to Him if He really does so.

My wife says that God only speaks to her through dead dogs. That’s her excuse anyway. Actually, now that I come to think of it, the neighbours’ new puppy has gone eerily silent. She must have needed a Word From The Lord.

On The Beatles And Jesus
Here is a great article for the many musos about there about John Lennon’s flirtation with Jesus via televangelists and how he was really pissed off at Bob Dylan’s conversion. Fascinating.

Of course, the greatest living example of how evangelism need not be a dirty word, can be intellectually viable, loving, winsome and gracious is the life and work of Mr. Billy Graham. Weirdness of all weirdness, he is featured on YouTube being interviewed by Woody Allen.

Woody Allen talking about parenting with Billy Graham! It is like a weird dream that comes true.
Your Correspondent, Will keep his fancy clothes on for you a little longer

We Are Losing It, Can’t You Tell?

Monday, March 26th, 2007

This post aspires to be the fastest Zoomtard entry. This is a product of necessity. After a beautiful morning and afternoon off enjoying the spring sunshine and amongst other things, reading philosophy (God, Freedom and Evil), history (Jesus And the Eyewitnesses) and re-reading Rob Bell’s lovely little Velvet Elvis, I have one quick thought to share. I want to share it before the pasta boils.

When Jacob had wrestled with the Angel
(who many speculate was the Lord, the Logos, the Word, Jesus), he was left limping. When we wrestle with the text of the Bible and with the big-ass questions it raises, we are not left untouched either. There are dark territories and deep holes involved in the task of being a Christian passionately. And we can end up picking up scars and bruises along the way. But that is no reason not to run full force at those questions, just as the fact that it took him the whole night to overcome should not have depleted Jacob’s desire to know the name of his opponent. Sometimes the deepest and darkest of holes turns out to be a well.

I have friends who are wrestling with specific huge questions right now and they are on my mind often. They are limping. But that should be no indicator that they should stop wrestling. It is not an act of unfaith to ask questions. It is when we stop asking that we stop being faithful. Doubting our faith should not lead to the death of our faith. Its apathy that is fatal. It makes no difference if you are apathetic in the church or out of it, fulfilling rituals or ignoring them. Instead, the faith and the church ought to be the place where we wrestle with God. Are we not the new Israel after all? (Jacob was renamed Israel by the angel he wrestled…)

Your Correspondent, Your Eternal Itch.

Was I Just Murdered?

Friday, March 23rd, 2007

Via the Onion AV club, this is a beautiful, milk-out-your-nose even though you’re lactose intolerant and haven’t drank milk in 3 years funny link.

Your Correspondent, Driven by beat and rhythm music

How Can Landlocked Countries Give Birth To Poets?

Thursday, March 22nd, 2007

That is the question that came to mind as Wife-unit and I drove around West Cork over Paddy’s Day weekend.

This was the bridge at Union Hall, in the midst of gale force winds on Patrick’s Day. Kinsale out to Clon and up to Bantry must be the most beautiful miles in Europe. It might seem shallow of me to tell you that such beauty demands belief in God. Of course, these natural formations could have just occurred through direction-less development but the reaction that it illicits in us can’t be explained that way. It was an almost transcendental experience for me.

Wife-unit, being the genius that she is, reminded me that Monaghan is landlocked. Yet Monaghan gave rise to the 3rd K and another poet. But he answers my question. Poets come from landlocked countries (and counties) out of a desire for revenge at their bland, drama-less setting. Exhibit A from the bitter landlocked Patrick Kavanagh’s “Stony Grey Soil”:

O stony grey soil of Monaghan
The laugh from my love you thieved;
You took the gay child of my passion
And gave me your clod-conceived.

Either Babette has created a new website or Babette is being stalked in a Single White Female way. It is highly unlikely that Babette could be stalked by someone as clever and as articulate as she is so you should just follow my hyperactive example and add Something Babette Something to your bookmarks or your RSS reader. I’ve been using Google Reader for the last week or so by the way and it rocks.

It is simply part of our collective knowledge that opposition to the trends of youth tend to be met with vocal opposition from the powers-that-be. We vaguely understand that The Man hated rock music or that The Man is against the Emerging Church but here is a classic example (via the always fascinating Peter Leithart) of The Man (circa July 16 1816) opposing The Waltz:

It is quite sufficient to cast one’s eyes on the voluptuous intertwining of the limbs, and close compressure of the bodies, in this dance, to see that it is far indeed removed from the modest reserve which has hitherto been considered distinctive of English females. So long as this obscene display was confined to prostitutes and adulteresses, we did not think it deserving of notice, but now that it is attempted to be forced on the respectable classes of society by the evil example of their superiors, we feel it a duty to warn every parent against exposing his daughter to so fatal a contagion.

Alister McGrath is coming to Maynooth to talk about how science has not disproven God on April 21st. (More, so very much more about that in the coming weeks). But it turns out that finally Richard Dawkins has agreed to debate him. It will take place tomorrow at the Oxford Literary Festival. Sadly, the tickets are sold out so I am not planning a last-minute dash via Ryanair.

The tone of this article on the minimum security prisons of Austria suggests to me it could only ever be written by an American. Scott McKnight is a superb theologian and for you Christians out there, this is a fine article on the streams within the Emerging Church. Much better than the now infamous, unintentionally hilarious, old codger on You Tube. Finally, remember Heaven’s Gate? Its now almost ten years since those crazy guys went to heaven. Its about time you read an interview with the sole survivor, right? Fecking gnostics. It starts with piece-of-crap airport fiction and it ends up with a bunch of maniacs taking an express train to the stars.

Your Correspondent, He’s the only cabbage around here

That’s How I Knew This Story Would Break My Heart

Thursday, March 15th, 2007

So I have the morning off when I usually don’t. I was up in Norn Iron again, having my paper thin stereotypes of the citizens there punctured yet again. I was welcomed by about a hundred pensioners with the kind of welcome that would make you want to hug them all. Plus, very few of them were wearing balaclavas or walking around on their knuckles. One of them even gave me a pen that advertised a potato reseller. He went out to his car to get it for me. It was class. Now my writing is extra-starchy.

I was still really glad to get back home where the Constitution and not an old lady is protecting my rights. Did you know the Queen claims to own all the swans in the United Kingdom? Was there ever a better reason to fight for republic? I mean, such arrogance has not been seen since Stigmund claimed without support that The Graduate was a good movie. I imagine the Queen in her wellies on one of her huge slave camps, I mean, palaces, beckoning the swans of her land to her with an outstretched arm. In my mind she is like some Regal and disgustingly wealthy version of Francis of Assisi. Even with her Sith powers, she’d struggle to hold a swan on her outstretched arm however.

So I have to get a few things out of the way before I set my fingers to typing in earnest. This is one of those “make it up as you go along Zoomtards”. Scarily, that does mean quite a few of the other (recent) ones have been planned. But I thought these initial obstacles should be grouped in a paragraph called You Already Know This But…

You Already Know This But…
Roger Federer is a breathtaking athlete that makes me want to actually watch tennis on the telly. Or in person. Or even buy a bandana and wear it while physically playing the game. My racket already has his photo on it (it was the cheapest one in the shop, I think nerds would say, “for teh win”) so I am probably half as good as him at this point. If you don’t know who I am talking about, this article by David Foster Wallace will tell you all you need to know about the greatest Swiss since Karl Barth. Of course, if you don’t feel like reading a long article by one of the world’s finest authors that compares watching a tennis player to a religious experience, you can always just watch this clip:

You know you are good when your opponent half looks like he is going to cry, half looks like he is going to laugh and half looks like he is going to bow down before you. You say, “That is too many halfs!” I say, “You don’t know The Federer”.

Gheyball barely looks like a sport in comparison.

Aimee Mann should have a large statue of her erected in the centre of some global city and every year on her birthday, or Aimeeday as Hallmark will call it, we’ll bring scraps of paper with our best attempts at rhyming a little couplet that gets to the heart of humanity like she can do. Then we all at the same time drop the scraps at her statue’s feet so she can metaphorically deride our perceptive and writing abilities. Her songs are good for you. Doctors have proven it. Now the jury is out on whether Joanna Newsom is just having a laugh at your expense and Mother Theresa might not have been the most prudent person with money so you are just wise to spend the rest of your days trying to make yourself better by being like Aimee Mann.

Aimee Mann singing a James Taylor song in a West Wing scene with Bradley Whitford and Mary Louise Parker. The only thing that could be more worth five minutes of your time is Ricky Gervais standing in front of a camera and admitting that Spaced is the best British TV show ever and that there are no “stoner” characters.

Just to hammer home that Aimee Mann point:

Forgiveness matters. I read a fascinating article about a 15 year hate campaign against bisexual graduands at a small college in Iowa. It is scary stuff. One of his victims slowly over the course of a few years tracked him down. The only problem is that she realised she had to utilise his tactics to achieve it. She ended up harassing people, contacting strangers and most depressingly, spending long nights in the dark corners of the Internet one should never be in. But at the end of the article, she admits that even with success in her hands, she feels unsatisfied. You see, all she wanted was for him to experience the fear and intimidation that she felt at his invasion into her life.

These final paragraphs remind me again of:
1. How important forgiveness is
2. How our culture has largely stripped it away from our way of life

If you do read the article please share your opinions with me on what you make of her final position. I need some help to get out of the confusion.

Turn the corner and read things you might not already know
I was trawling through the archives of Van Peebles Land and Williamson wrote this fine series of sentences we’ll group together as a paragraph for the ease of your reading:

The German theologian Emil Brunner said the Church exists by mission as a fire exists by burning. His friend, Karl Barth, said faith that believes in God cannot refuse to become public. God is He who did not wish to remain hidden.

Jaybercrow has us all thinking very hard this week because he has asked us to justify the aforementioned Karl Barth. Since Jaybercrow is smarter and wiser than anyone (except maybe Aimee Mann), I am scratching my head and turning back to my few small Barth books.

But these two ideas put together by Williamson are pretty potent. God chose to let us know he was around. He was utterly free to do things any way he pleased. But he lets us in on the happy little group he is called, Trinity, even though we are the Karl Pilkington at the party, constantly saying stupid things that are borderline offensive. We are not let in on this great open secret at the heart of everything for our own sake. It is for the sake of the world that he chose to be the kind of God who lets us know who he is exhaustively in Jesus. The mission of the church is the only logical outworking of meeting this God.

What this means is that there can be no “Christian” who is not a committed member of a community with whom they participate in the burning mission of regeneration set before us. You can’t respond adequately to the revelation by “having a private relationship with God”. You can’t love people privately. Organised religion is a pain in the behind and often far worse than that but authentic local communities of Christians in the midst of this raging fire mission are as far from legalistic hierarchies as you can imagine.

The other important thing that it brings home to me is that the mission of the church is not religion. The task of the church is definitely not to make more nice people. It is not even the task of the church to sing nice songs, write nice prayers or preach nice sermons about a God who is out there. Instead, the way that Brunner talks about the mission in terms of fire hammers home to me that it is an organic activity that should be ravishing everything around it. Down with tame God-botherers! Up with provocative liberationists!

To give a quick answer to Jaybercrow, I suspect that when Barth considers the chosen freedom of God to reveal himself to us, this implies a profound regard for the world but I am still reading and thinking and working it out. If you haven’t seen it yet, your lecturer, Paul Helm has written something of interest this month.

Your Correspondent, He started with an earthquake, birds and snakes, an aeroplane and Lenny Bruce who was not afraid.

Baseball’s Breakout Star For 2007

Friday, March 9th, 2007

Observant readers of Zoomtard must notice that I change the header every month. I am not a very creative person so I usually farm out the responsibilities to friends, acquaintances or people I meet on the bus who look like artists. In March, the banner photo is a segment taken out of this classic image:

Barcelona, love., originally uploaded by Zoomtard but taken by Deborah Byrne.

The photo was taken and kindly shared with me by Deborah Byrne, who grew up in the same town as me, goes to the same university as I did but is an awful lot better than me at useful things like playing musical instruments, singing in tune, speaking foreign languages, talking to new people and putting your clothes on “properly”.

If that was ever in doubt, consider this photo as evidence. This paparazzi shot was taken at a petrol station as Deborah bought some groceries. How classy can a gal get? She wears a gown to buy some milk. Its that vitamin-added milk too!

All this goes to say, thanks to Debo for providing the photo.

Zoomtard at the movies
I saw Caché at last. This is one of those brainy European movies you really need to see if you ever want to be considered hip. The only thing I want more than hipness is a new kidney. Although it is amazingly well-reviewed, I was really left underwhelmed by it. It is a feel-guilty movie and a feel-confused movie and I have a sneaking suspicion that they are much easier to make than feel-good movies. I simply don’t think there was enough in the plot to let you figure it out and what that means is that it is not intriguing, it is not enigmatic, it is not memorable.

How come French movies never deal with the supernatural? This is a thought that came to me while watching the film. Some of the best American thrillers and dramas have plots that hinged around phenomena that suggests that there might be something else going on behind the scenes of our universe. But French movies are all very materialistic. Matter is all there is. Am I wrong in this? Am I even making a point worthy of noting here? Answer me! Or don’t.

We saw The Good Shepherd over the weekend. It is a labyrinthine plot about men who thought they could control the world from their desks. Then we came outside and saw the lunar eclipse and I had what I call an Isaiah moment. There is an arrogance at the heart of man when he thinks he can ever control the world he lives in. I completely understood that movie. Plot intricacies that passed my fellow cinema-goers by were transparent to me. I am great at figuring out those mystery movies and I am thrilled whenever they slip past me undetected.

But then yesterday I saw Venus. And man did that movie confuse me! Give me a plot about governments and spies or dead people or corruption and I am all over it. Show me a movie about two people relating to each other and I just get confused. Confused and angry! It is beautifully written and finely acted but I don’t know if I liked it. It is a fine film but I am not sure if I enjoyed it. I don’t know whether I am just broken or whether the director really was testing us and our prejudices but I don’t like having my brokenness exposed or my prejudices tested. It is best for me to not reveal too much of the plot but it revolves around an old actor falling in lust with a young woman. The best scenes by far are when this old codger hangs out with his friends. They are wonderful charming scenes. It is so rare to see men being friends on screen in any real way at all, never mind seeing old men being friends that it was a treat. Then there are other scenes. Go see them movie and you’ll know what I mean.

Tsk tsk. Old men should know better.

Only 144,000 Places Available
My old friend Dave had a run with a psuedo-Christian cult this week. They came to his door and tried to convince him that the Trinity was made up and that he should stop having blood transfusions. We got talking about the Trinity. It is not explicitly stated in the Bible but it is foundational to Christian belief and practice. It has been for all the centuries people have called Jesus God.

It reminded me of something C.S. Lewis wrote. It was one of those tiny little paragraphs that fill his books that are so potent that if it was all you ever wrote you could die happy. He writes it in such a way that you imagine it is something he thought of while washing his hands before dinner or while mowing the lawn.

Everyone is happy to say they believe God is love. This is interestingly, a claim unique to Christianity. Judaism wouldn’t formulate God in that way (although they have the tools at hand to build that formulation) and Islam definitely couldn’t offer it. But the Bible leaves us in no doubt: God is love. And that is something that we all say “Amen!” to.

But without slipping into writing the next Helen Hunt screenplay, love is a verb, it is an action, not a feeling. To say that God is love is certainly not to suggest something gushy and soft and sentimental. John is claiming that God’s action is always loving. Whatever God is doing, he is doing love. So if love is not a feeling but an action, it requires an object of affection. We must love someone, or something other than ourselves. That is what love it is all about, pouring out on to another. Listen to the radio and the pop songs will hammer that home for you.

But we claim and Dave’s visitors claim, that God is ever-existent and never-changing. He was around before everything and will be around after everything. He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. So who did God love before there was anything to love? Well Lewis points out, God loved himself, because he is three persons in one. It is a mystery in the sense that we can see the shape of the sense it makes but not know the inner-workings of it. But sensible it is.

Maybe I should just turn Zoomtard into a daily quotation from C.S. Lewis. He wrote his shopping lists better than I can write my sermons. But start thinking about what it means for a perfectly good, perfectly powerful, perfectly beautiful entity to be all about love. Think about the complex interactions that start building when all these perfections fall into sync together. Think about what it means that the God of Christianity is defined as a relationship and how that would influence the way that God would interact with its creation. It would be willing to do anything to restore broken relationship. It would be willing to tear itself asunder for that relationship. What would the followers of this God value? What would their life be built around? What communities they might build! How does this God see you if one of only two categorical statements made about him in the whole Bible state that He is Love? There is hope in this. There is truth in it. I reckon that this is where we can find what we’re looking for…

Enough preaching. I have a train to catch!

Your Correspondent, Is not interested in medical insurance if just anybody can get it

Stop Ramming Your Politics Down My Throat

Thursday, March 8th, 2007

The Irony Escaped Me
You know how I constantly attack Norn Iron on this here corner of the web? Remember how I called Coleraine the cultural Arctic Circle? Or the time I talked about how Belfast has the ugliest buildings ever built in a non-Communist country? (I haven’t ranted about that yet? Oh I will!) Well last week I was back in Belfast and the great big joke of it was that I was there for a cultural event. Dave Matthews was playing Vicar Street in Dublin but he sold out faster than OJ Simpson claimed to be Anna Nicole Smith’s lover. Ann-dee and I are such rabid and devoted fans to the crooning, syruppy voiced South African that we decided to brave the accents and go to the Waterfront to see him.

It was worth it. I mean, Duke Special was playing in another venue in the city the same night which was a pity but even the dreadlocked one can’t compete with Dave. The best live album I have ever heard is Dave Matthews Live At Luther College. It was the CD that convinced Andy to take up guitar. It was the CD that served as the soundtrack to my budding romance with a whipsmart, pretty girl who eventually became my wife. Dave, Dave is one of those artists who has been there with me. He was the soundtrack to a lot of major moments in this boy’s life. Let me put it to you this way. Remember the Wonder Years? Dave Matthews Band would be playing in the background as my lecturing monologue began at the end of every show to wrap up the moral if the Wonder Years were made about my life.

So we were stunned when Dave came out with Tim Reynolds. We were going to get our own version of Live At Luther College. I won’t lie to you Internets, Andy jumped up and down like a little girl in a Manga video so that his feet hit his bum as he lifted them. He sobbed a little as Dave began to sing.

I was popping Andy’s Norn Iron cherry. He had never been up North before so I made up a load of stories about everything we passed. It helped that we stayed at the home of the Belfast version of me and it was right beside a big UFF mural. Before driving home in the morning, we took 25 seconds to run over to it and join in the sectarian bigoted fun. Sure, the poisonous hatred tastes like bile in the beginning. But soon you get addicted to it. We stopped three times on the drive home for some racially inspired violence. I have never felt so alive!

Kevin and Andy fight the powers, originally uploaded by Zoomtard.

Onwards with the revolution. Make Ulster British! Oh wait, that makes little sense.

Charity Boxes Are A Political Conspiracy
Before we continue, take 29 seconds to watch this ad.

Many of you who are Irish and not Teragram who has no TV, will have seen this ad. You probably won’t see it much anymore since the BCI stunned Trocaire by banning it yesterday morning. Now I work for a church in Maynooth. I am biased. I love Trocaire. These are the Aid Heroes who live on our doorstep. I use their resources constantly in teaching the kids at MCC. Their lenten boxes were a fixture of my childhood. The ads have been banned because a part of the Trocaire project this year is to force the UN members to ratify a piece of gender equality legistlation. This is political and therefore because of a law passed in 1988, must be prohibited.

In an Irish Times editorial this morning, Mary Raftery put it well.

For over a quarter of a century, Trócaire has rejected the purely charity-based model of development work. What it has been about is the essence of politics as applied to an unequal world. It has set itself the challenge of campaigning to change that world by unflinchingly targeting some of its most savage manifestations. It was, for instance, to the fore in campaigning against apartheid in South Africa. … This was certainly political, and provided crucial support for the development of a civil structure which was ultimately able to ensure a peaceful resolution of one of the most intractable political conflicts of the time. In this, as in many of its other activities, Trócaire enjoyed overwhelming public and indeed governmental support. It had convinced people of the clearly interconnected nature of aid, development and politics.

Due to the decision of the BCI, Irish charities now are faced with the depressing situation of being tied into offering only band-aid solutions to the problems most of the world faces since any effort at all to deal with the systemic evil that oppresses the family of the child you sponsor or the village you provided goats for ends up being political. If this ruling is upheld for example, my own favoured movement, Make Poverty History, will certainly be unable to use the airwaves to communicate their message. Clearly, that is insanity. Make Poverty History is a widespread coalition. Trocaire is the NGO wing of the Roman Catholic Church. These are not partisan political movements. There is nothing that should be censored or banned here. Go write a letter. Your TD, the BCI or a word of support for Trocaire would be a better use of your time than trying to turn that Tayto bag into a pirates hat or whatever it is you do at work.

The thing that really worries me about this decision however is that it could be the first step for the sterilisation of the public arena. A key idea of the Noveau-Enlightenment advanced by the New Atheists like Dawkins and Co is that the decision making process of government should be separated from faith distractions. Alot of their dismay over American politics doesn’t stem from the lack of diversity in their political marketplace but from the fact that so many politicians wear their “private faith” on their sleeves and publicly admit to making decisions within the framework it provides. The Noveau-Enlightenment would like separation: separation of church and state, separation of economics from political entanglement, separation of charity from politics, separation of rational decision making from irrational faith based decision making.

This is impossible. It demands too much. The criteria used to discern what is faith based from what is rationale-based is in fact, faith based. They believe in the Enlightenment. It is their worldview. It is their axiomatic system, their lens through which everything is viewed. Within that system, systematic separation is a good idea. But in reality, their “faith” in Enlightenment values has to influence all their decisions. In the same way, a Catholic with a love of kids, a bad case of wanderlust and a knack for languages ends up working for Trocaire more because of their belief in the intrinsic value of human life than a combination of skills and circumstances.

It is impossible to separate politics from economics. Free markets free from government meddling is a political position. It is impossible to separate charity from politics. Giving money to Trocaire is a political decision. It is also an economic decision and can also be a religious expression. The human animal is more complex than this Modernity can imagine. And the world is more complex than the sum of human animals that make it up.

I desperately hope that the BCI decision to ban the ad is overthrown. I don’t want to see Trocaire’s vital relief work stopped because of a shortfall in funding. I don’t want to see their battle for gender equality go unfinished. But mostly I don’t want to live in a Banana Republic where we think we can separate life into tidy little boxes so that now I put on my politics hat as I vote but then I put on my Christian hat to pray.

Jesus and the ladies
Today is World Women’s Day. I would like to start a tradition following on from last year of deconstructing the idea that Christianity is sexist or that Jesus did not believe in equality. At the start of the record of Jesus’ life that John wrote, there is a story about Jesus getting thirsty. This is interesting in the first place because it indicates that Jesus was definitely a real man. He didn’t just pretend to be one while actually being a divine ghost-wisp-thing. He is taking a short cut through a part of the land filled with the inferior breed, the Samaritans. The Samaritans were the wishy-washy traitors of the day, who had perverted the true teaching of pure Judaism and taken up with all kinds of dodgy practices.

Jesus is sitting in the midday sun while his posse have gone to get lunch. A Samaritan woman is at the well getting water for the day. Jesus says, “‘Scuse me. Can I’ve some water?” She is shocked. Who is this guy, this Jew, who thinks he can ask me for water. Those Jews have looked down on us for the last couple of centuries and now he wants some water?! This response didn’t surprise Jesus. The fact that this woman was coming out to get her day’s water at midday suggested that she might have been used to getting trod on by people. Only women who were alienated by the village did that.

It turns out, that as the story unfolds, that this woman was actually the town bicycle. That is not a nice phrase but that is how she was viewed. The deeply patriarchal society she lived in would have reviled her for her constant relationships with men. She was living with the sixth man in her life. This is why she came to the well in the searing heat of the midday sun. Its scorching was preferable to the sharp words the women of the town would have had for her. She is hostile to Jesus because he is a Jew and therefore can be expected to think himself better than her a Samaritan, he would be expected to treat her badly if he knew her sexual history and he is a man and men have not treated her well.

Instead of fulfilling the expected role of a man down through the ages, Jesus neither rejects her nor makes a pass at her. Instead he cuts straight to the issue at hand. She is looking for a source of life from her relationships with men. She needs the intimacy and affection of the man in her life like other people need water. Something in her past or in her make up has made her utterly dependent on them. And the utterly dependent are the utterly vulnerable. They cheat on her. They abuse her. They treat her mean. They know she’ll stay keen. Ultimately, they leave her.

Jesus points her away from finding life bedroom embraces. Instead he says she is hungry for a meal that this world and all the men in it can’t provide because she wasn’t made for this world, nor for men. She was made for God and she is hungry for God. She can get that source of life only from him. Then, in the final line, John gives Jesus his punchline: ‘The Messiah you have been waiting for? “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”‘

The Christian churches have spent most of the last 2000 years disregarding the radical way that Jesus related to women. He treated them as utter equals. He regarded them as his friends and his confidantes. They are the people who stick with him through the trial and crucifixion. They are the first witnesses to the Resurrection. They are the apostles regarded most highly. Feminism often discusses the views of women in Christendom in terms of two options: the whore, Mary Magdalene or the Mother, Mary. Jesus offers us no such easy dichotomies. The Samaritan woman at the well, the woman caught in adultery, the prostitute who annoints him with costly perfume join his mother and his friends Mary and Martha and dozens of other women involved in the Gospels as distinct, individual women defined neither by gender nor sexual history. In this pure and classical sense, Jesus was a feminist. On World Women’s Day, that should be remembered.

Your Correspondent, Proud of you as a peer and as your gentleman lover

This Entry Will Be Convicted Of Identity Fraud.

Sunday, March 4th, 2007

So it seems that nothing aggravates the computer nerd readership quite like arguing that buildings are more significant than say, consumer electronic style-statements. To further aggravate the Apple lovers out there, let me reveal to you the carnage wrought by Neuro and I one Autumn afternoon last year on an innocent PowerPC that got left behind in our hot press. How we destroyed it.

Hammer -V- Mac, originally uploaded by Zoomtard.

The photos don’t quite capture the uproarious laughter involved. Pure. Evil.

The best part was when we bagged up all the shards of glass and ground them into the coffee of laptop-bearing Starbucks customers when they weren’t looking.

For those of you who aren’t computer nerds (which leaves the theology-nerds, the book-nerds and weirdly a huge contingent of knitting-nerds), I would like to worry you. It seems that the Antichrist will be an environmentally concerned pacifist who works for the unity of Christians from different traditions. Well that is according to Cardinal Biffi. I’d like to biff him. At least that means, with such acts of violence, that you can rest assured that I am not Antichrist. I love the part of the report that says people were surprised when the Crazy Cardinal was chosen to speak at such a big-deal event but maybe he “had perhaps been chosen because his “verbal fireworks” would keep listeners awake.”

I think I just saw the future of my career. “We need someone to talk crazy nonsense so that they don’t fall asleep in front of the press photographers!” “Ok. Roll in the Zoomtard.”

I will have to rent out Basic Instinct 2, RV, Lady In The Lake and Little Man 2 to celebrate the Razzie awards. The Departed is good and all but Children of Men was the best movie of 2007. Just like Eternal Sunshine was best in 2004 and Fight Club in 1999. Neither of them won either. For shame you idiot professional movie-makers in the “Academy”. I really need to join an “Academy”. Someone should set one up. Maybe Ann-Dee can establish the Eton Wall Game Academy and appoint me the Honorary Secretary.

I have decided I am going to write a novel. I know that might sound like a bit too much of a step for a man who has spent the afternoon sighing loudly to illicit sympathy from his wife because he had to write a sermon. A whole sermon! But I have figured out the scientifically perfect way to write a novel. I will set my intern, the Third K, to read the 100 greatest novels chosen by some esteemed Academy and he will take note of all the times a novel alludes to something that it then doesn’t develop. I will proceed to simultaneously write out some story in moderate detail. I can take any story. I’ll pick a news feature from the Indo one morning, lengthen it and change the names. Then when the Third K has managed to count all the allusions in the great novels that are tantalising toy-things to throw around in your mind during and after the reading, we will work out an average words per allusion rate by counting the number of pages in the top 100 novels. This figure, we shall call the AWAR-rate (pronounced Argh, since the second ‘a’ is silent), will be the key to writing a novel that gets reviewed well by all the brainiac publications. See, we will count out through our now completed story and at every AWAR-point (or threshold, to sound scientific), we will truncate whatever plot developments that are taking place in that paragraph. The novel is bound to become wildly successfully and cultishly lucrative. Clever nerdy girls will wear t-shirts alluding to the characters. They’ll want me to sign their cleavages. That is what happens with successful novelists.

I’ll also give all the characters names that refer to Greek mythology. That is so in.

Finally, for those of you who are at all interested or maybe convinced by James Cameron’s new documentary about the bones of Jesus (which he wants to DNA test?!), Prof. Richard Bauckham responds in a guest post over at the always-excellent theology blog Christendom. Its a full rebuttal of all the stupidity. I hope people never get tired of these silly conspiracy theories. It makes the job of the apologist so easy!

Your Correspondent, Working like a beaver in a coffee lake.