Saturday, 29 June 2013

Thoughts on reading the paper.

I was leafing my way through my beloved London Times snoozepaper (OK, I know it's owned by the Dirty Digger, but better that than the Pornmeister in Chief of the Daily Excess!) when I began to chew over their comments on the introduction of the Same Sex Marriage Legislation in the Holyrood Palais de Comedie. 
They first posit that Our Glorious Leader, Chairman Eck risks "infuriating the Churches" with this.  Well, he'll certainly annoy the RC hierarchy in Scotland - all 3 of them currently in office and not sick, retired very smartly at 75 or currently off praying in a monastic institution somewhere in Europe.  Aberdeen, Argyll and Glasgow are the only 3 sees operating on full power at the moment.  Given that an awful lot of laity seem to ignore Catholic teaching on contraception, I suspect most ain't too bothered about what LGBT's do re marriage.  Will he annoy the Kirk or only the 10 congregations talking of leaving out of a total of 1400?  OK, he'll really annoy the Wee Frees.  But then again, nearly everyone seems to do that.  And the Piskies? We're really difficult to annoy.  And we're playing moderate to canny in public.  Officially we seem to say that Canon law does not permit SSM's to be celebrated in Church.  Which is true.  It also glosses over the fact that it is fairly easy to change Canon Law and we could fairly quickly reposition ourselves in the event of the Civil Law changing.
The commentary by a former editor of the Scotsman slightly baffled me.  "In the modern era it has long been accepted that gay couples have the same civil rights as heterosexuals when it comes to forming partnerships".  Really?  Assuming the modern era started in 1960 (when sex was first discovered by the general public), then it was 1967 when making love ceased to be a jail sentence if you were a male aged over 21 and some 30 years later when the age of consent was finally equalised.  In Scotland, male homosexual acts (or bonking as we used to call it) even in private between consenting adults were totally illegal until 1981 (1982 in Northern Ireland).  The age of consent only equalised in 2001.  In 1990 I wrote a paper with 2 colleagues arguing for the legal recognition of Same Sex Relationships at the request of the then Convener of the Scottish Young Liberal Democrats. I was the Vice Convener (no pun intended).  Willie is now the Supreme Leader of the Scottish Lib Dems (I had a coffee with him at Holyrood a wee while ago).  One of my co-authors is now dead and the other is happily Civilly Partnered to the Chief Exec of Manchester Pride!  The fact that we were still having to argue for legal recognition of any form in 1990 - a mere 23 years ago suggests that LGBT couples have only been seen as having the same civil rights as the rest of the populace  for a very short period of time by a good many people. Civil partnerships are less than 10 years old.
The fact is we've come a very long way in a relatively short period of time.  It can feel that the current climate of relatively positive attitudes towards LGBT people has been there forever.  It hasn't.  Indeed, in may less enlightened and socially progressive corners it is still a long way off.  But I suspect the momentum that has now built up is irresistible and the opposition of the least progressive elements of the Churches will in due course be overcome.  After all, some bits of the Church were very slow to follow Wilberforce on abolishing slavery.  But we all now celebrate him as a hero.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Social Revolution and Speedy Gonzales.

Looney Tunes Image : Speedy Gonzales

This particular train of thought had an odd start - I was watching Speedy Gonzales cartoons yesterday afternoon at work (it WAS work - supporting a service user, honest guv!) and was slightly baffled for a moment by the disclaimer at the beginning of the DVD which said : "The cartoons you are about to see are products of their time. They may depict some of the ethnic and racial prejudices that were commonplace in American society. These depictions were wrong then and are wrong today. While the following does not represent the WB (Warner Brothers) view of society, these cartoons are being presented as they were originally created, because to do otherwise would be the same as to claim these prejudices never existed".

As I watched the cartoons I laughed heartily.  I always enjoyed Glen Michael's Cartoon Cavalcade as a child.  But as I watched I was aware that some of the stuff I laughed at quite innocently as a kid in the late 70's/early 80's would not really be stuff anyone would find comfortably amusing today.  The assumption of what Mexicans were like apart from heroic Speedy were pretty demeaning.  As I thought about it I realised  that I've lived through quite a social revolution without really noticing it for much of the time - and certainly not while it was happening.  I was born in the year homosexuality was decriminalised in the UK and abortion was legalised.  The Race Relations and Equal Opportunities Acts were passed when I was at Primary School.  Today, I'm watching a country in which Same Sex marriage will almost certainly be made legal very shortly.

Social revolutions are a bit of a mystery in some ways.  They seem to occur when ideas gain a currency and momentum that is irresistible.  this comes certainly through campaigning, which looks and sounds lunatic fringe at the beginning but which gradually comes to be the mindset of the majority.  Which is kinda what happened with Christianity.  The dangerous, socially destabilising fringe Jewish cult that Sanhedrin and procurator alike pursued with the death penalty gradually became mainstream and then majority.  Of course, the pendulum of history is gradually swinging again (not that it's ever still) and Christianity is losing it's"establishment" and majority status in the UK.  That why the likes of the retired Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey and the like have been railing against the Same Sex marriage legislation at Westminster from the privileged perch in the Lords.  They can see Christian influence declining in the counsels of the body politic and they don't like it when the Church's opinion is ignored.  Of course, if the Established Church hadn't been so ungracious about Civil Partnerships and positively stupid about the recent Women Bishop's legislation in the last few years, the Body Politic might have been more inclined to listen to them.  it's better tuned to the nuances of social evolution then the English House of Bishops.

Monday, 24 June 2013


Where it all started officially - St Mary's Cathedral Glasgow.

One of the slightly odds things that has been happening this month has been anniversaries. Or rather, since they are annual events, the sudden confluence of significant ones.  The wedding (1st) was celebrated with gunfire (see the last post) and a Chinese meal out (split timing).  Then on the 11th (St Barnabas' Day) it was the 20th anniversary of being ordained deacon.  I celebrated by .. going to work and doing it.  I look on my paid job (working with adults with disabilities) as diaconate without a dalmatic or dog collar.  It seems slightly strange to reflect that I'm halfway through what I assumed would be my active/paid ordained career - ordained at 25, due to retire at 65. (Well, 67 nowadays).  Not stipendiary anymore, but still fulfilling a vocation in a way I would never have imagined then.

20 years on I'm based in a Church where I am at home worshipping (not always the case when it's a paid job rather than what in a sense is a voluntary attachment.  I'm living on the outskirts of a city I love with some one I never expected to meet and fall in  love with.  Even after 12 months we haven't managed to kill each other because we basically get along rather well and comfortably.  Oh well, it's good to have hit calm water and for that I'm thoroughly grateful to God.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Shooting through married life (or something fairly similar)!

Well, we did something different today.  After Mass, we went to Hopetoun House and shot at things!  Not cuddly bunnies or flying rats (pigeons as the zoologists call them) but clay pigeons. (Low calorie but frankly inedible)  Now I will confess to having a bit of an advantage over the Memsahib here: 30+ years ago I gained my Master at Arms badge with the Scouts using a .410 shotgun at Fordell Firs.  But I haven't been near a shotgun since!

Much to our mutual surprise, we were neither of us utterly useless: Rachel hit 4 out of 10 and I hit 5!!  So I feel unbearably smug:-).  We then dined on very local hamburgers (Aberdeen Angus reared on the Estate) which were singularly tasty.  The sun shone, the ear plugs worked and nobody bruised their shoulders due the recoil!  A great day out!

Saturday, 1 June 2013

On the Holy Eucharist.


On the subject of the Christian understanding of the Eucharist, one of the earliest references to it lies in the First Apology of St Justin Martyr He wrote the following passage around about 155 AD:

 "And this food is called among us Εὐχαριστία [the Eucharist] ... For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Saviour, having been made flesh by the Word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh."

However, just to make life ambiguous (we're talking theology here - that's what it does) he also wrote  in his Dialogue with Trypho, ch 70: "Now it is evident, that in this prophecy to the bread which our Christ gave us to eat, in remembrance of His being made flesh for the sake of His believers, for whom also He suffered; and to the cup which He gave us to drink, in remembrance of His own blood, with giving of thanks."  From which it is entirely possible to derive a much more Reformed understanding of the Eucharist.  Read literally, Justin was both a Zwinglian and a Transubstantion support.  Which is both very unlikely and somewhat schizophrenic.

Ultimately all these theories about what happens at the Eucharist are just that.  Theories. Informed pious speculation, often combined with a sort of intellectual mission to put theology in terms acceptable and coherent with the fashionable philosphy of the day.  To most of us that's pretty irrelevant.  Our concern is much more personal and practical.  What does this mean to me and what does it do for my spiritual life?

Cardinal Newman put it nicely:

I place myself in the presence of Him, 
in whose Incarnate Presence I am before.
I place myself there.
I adore You, O my Saviour, present here as God and Man,
in Soul and Body, in true Flesh and Blood.
I acknowledge and confess that I kneel before the Sacred Humanity,
which was conceived in Mary’s womb, and lay in Mary’s bosom; 
which grew up to man’s estate, and by the Sea of Galilee called the Twelve, wrought miracles, and spoke words of wisdom and peace; 
which in due season hung on the cross, 
lay in the tomb, rose from the dead, and now reigns in heaven.
I praise and bless, and give myself wholly to Him, 
Who is the true Bread of my soul, and my everlasting joy.