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Nous like scouse or ? French -oui? Wee, whee, we all the way ... to mind us a bunch of thunks. Too much information? How could that be?

Updated: 2018-04-12T18:46:13.060+01:00


Gender Identity; justice, equality and the interim


I just came across this in an article entitled Jordan Peterson, Identity Politics, and the Church – Covenant:"Gender is constructed, but an individual who desires gender re-assignment surgery is to be unarguably considered a man trapped in a woman’s body (or vice versa). The fact that both of these cannot logically be true, simultaneously, is just ignored (or rationalized away with another appalling post-modern claim: that logic itself — along with the techniques of science — is merely part of the oppressive patriarchal system.)"I'm interested in it because it seems a reactionary response from someone who is usually intellectually rigourous but it is a question that presupposes an inadequate answer and implies that we should therefore stop doing this. I think it is missing a 'tactical' response and one which recognises that in such complex contestations in society we have to recognise that we are always in media res -in the midst of things. And that being 'in-between' sometimes requires different and temporary responses than would occur at the end of a process of deliberation when all the relevant facts and perspectives appear to be known, understood and categorised.While I recognise the logical impasse, I think this misses the point. The point is that at this moment in our cultural history, we appear to be in the middle of some awakenings of understanding about psychology, identity, personal formation and so on. We are also not yet well informed about genes and epigenetic influences in relation to gender identity and sexuality.This means we are in a period of social and cultural apprehension (in both the sense of apprehending something and worrying about it) where understandings are not evenly distributed across our culture and indeed are contested and under negotiation.So this does not mean I'm claiming that logic is out when I affirm both that gender is constructed and that I take the experience of trans people seriously in terms of how they relate to their physical 'birth' gender (and that's not including those where that is more of a grey area, about which more might be said).My 'tactical' response is first to note that while physical 'birth' gender does make some difference: average (note: not absolute) muscle strength and perhaps, again on average, some tasks relating to spatial awareness, it is not absolute differences because there are huge overlaps and across a range of skills and dispositions both men and women appear to be equally competent and able given unhampered initial conditions. There is important research emerging with psychological grounding which seems to be indicating that many so-called innate gender differences are very likely to be to do with the previously unnoticed priming for difference and expectation that goes on at very, very early stages of an infant's life. And until we can unpick the hormonal from the priming from the stereotyping and the social ... but it looks likely that men and women are mostly differentiated by social constructions about roles and abilities which we imbibe at early ages on account of the main innate human early trait being to take in information voraciously and begin to use it to guide behaviour and attitudes using mimetic strategies cued by significant others around us. So while we can begin to recognise that hugely and preponderantly gender is a social construction, we have to come at that with a weight of cultural history and personal development which makes it feel like gender roles are almost physically/genetically innate.This means, I think, that transgender identification has to work with the cultural gender 'memes' that our societies overwhelmingly re/present in huge swathes of culture. It will take a lot of time and effort as societies to work out what is going on and how.In the mean time we have people suffering gender dysphoria.Loving our neighbour means we should be compassionately seeking to help them.So, for the time being, 'tactically', we can only take the felt sense of being mis-gendered with utmost seriousness. Maybe, one day, we'll h[...]

Learning involves shared attention -spiritually too


At the moment, I seem to be making connections between stuff I happen across and things to do with mindfulness. Now this is a bit peripheral to what the linked article is focussing on but nevertheless it caught my... well, attention. In the context of connections to mindfulness, this sentence got me thinking:"Shared attention is the starting point of conscious human learning"What is intriguing me about this, I think, is that I'm coming to the theological conclusion that mindfulness is shared attention with God. Mindfulness in the sense of giving attention to something and maintaining/returning attention to it is implicated in the picture from Genesis 1 of God giving attention to what was made and what was teeming or doing its (God-given) thing and seeing that it was good. A Christian mindfulness shares God's attentiveness to what is (made), joins God in being mindful of what God has made. So the quote about shared attention in a way characterises a Christian mindfulness by potentially including God. Of course, a point to take from Genesis and systematic theology is that God is the initiator of sharing; God is inviting us to see "that it is good" one piece of the world at a time.But let's take that further with what that quote goes on to say about conscious human learning. When I hear or read 'learning', I tend to relate that to 'formation', that is to spiritual development and growth. I see the formation as a partially overlapping semantic field with learning. When we grow spiritually it is learning that takes place. When we learn, as Christians, we are to align our learning with our spiritual outlook and experience.And I can't help but relate that to Genesis 2 and the naming of the creatures. In the bit of the story I'm thinking of, God brings the animals to Adam to name and Adam's names stand -"that was its name". I have written elsewhere of what is implied by naming. Briefly, naming implies noticing and learning about similarities and differences. It involves, to some degree at least, classifying and deciding what is 'in' or 'out' in the application of a label /name; "Yes that is also a squirrel but it's red, while that one was grey", for example. In this story we note how attention is shared, in fact how God engineers a shared focus to which Adam responds by noticing, learning and consolidating learning by naming. It's worth noticing too that from this perspective the 'naming' which is art or science is essentially the same: focus, notice similarities and differences and render them into another medium in order to think about and share learning. So, in this story shared attention really is the starting point of conscious human learning.The sharing bit is important too.before children could acquire the tools of speech and language, you had to ensure they felt a sense of “being and belonging”Is that not also present in the Genesis 2 story? God's giving being and the sense of belonging engendered by the induction into a status in the garden. It's important too because language is a shared endeavour. Language is never a solo operation. Shared attention requires trust and mutual respect: we won't share attention if we sense that in doing so we are being co-opted to our detriment. There's probably a theology of advertising lurking there ...How babies learn – and why robots can’t compete | News | The Guardian: ' via Blog this'[...]

Trinity in liturgy: Not Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer


I have been hearing some people blessing a congregation using the phrase "And the blessing of God; Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer be  with you....". I honour their desire to avoid reinforcing a gendered impression of God because I understand that the priming power of language can further set back our efforts to enable women to be genuinely empowered and I think that the use of feminine imagery for God (which is in scripture) and of terms that do not connote a particular gender (including avoiding gendered pronouns as far as possible) is part of helping along a just and inclusive church and society. God is not gendered in God's own being -both genders reflect God's image, so we allow a falsehood in as far as we allow God to be thought of in exclusively masculine terms.

That said, I have been uneasy for some years about the popular formula "Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer" which popularly seems to be the go-to replacement for the usual "Father, Son, Holy Spirit". The reasons for my unease are well set out in the post linked here and the bit quoted here gets to the heart of the problem.

"Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer don’t work. They are about what God does not who God is. They are about operations not ontology"

And to extend the point a bit further than in the linked blog post, in most cases, the things that God does are operations of God rather than a single Person of the Trinity: God creates, meaning the Father through the Son in the Holy Spirit creates. God saves: the Father in the Son by the Holy Spirit works salvation. And so on. Which means that the Creator is not just the Father, the Redeemer is not just the Son -and so on. So the formula does not properly delineate the Persons in any case.

For this reason when I have been writing liturgy, I have experimented with triad of terms which attempt to capture the interPersonal relationships of God. First off, I have written some prayers which use "Begetter, Begotten and Begetting" -though I struggled then with how learned this sounded. So I have been wondering about, and tried for one context, "Lover, Beloved and Loving". I'm still wondering about that, but I think it could work, certainly in terms of the referred-to blog post.

'Father, Son, Spirit: Not Creator, Redeemer, Sustainervia Blog this'

Why fake news on social media -mindful response?


It's a shame the article doesn't say more about the results that give rise to this assertion:

"responses to false news include surprise, fear and disgust. True news tends to be met with sadness, joy, anticipation and trust"
If that is what it straightforwardly appears to be then it may give some of us at least a way to personally combat false news. Beyond, that is, trying to fact-check. So, if our responses to 'blind receipt' of items via Twitter etc are as that sentence implies, then becoming mindful of our responses might be a big clue. In short, if we are fearful or disgusted, for example, then we should not pass it on unless we've fact checked. If we find our response is sadness, joy etc then perhaps we might.

But surely it can't be as simple as that, can it?

Why fake news on social media travels faster than the truth | Paul Chadwick | Opinion | The Guardian'via Blog this'

A need for religious literacy? SciFi and theology


Now I'm not taking a pop at this guy because I'm simply seeing this as an illustration of a bigger matter which calls us to attend to the intersection of popular culture, theology and mission. Wolfgang Tillmans calls attention to it in his remark reported in the Guardian: "if it really is possible to prove the existence of a huge number of Earth-like planets, and so demonstrate the strong possibility of extraterrestrial life, then religious leaders on Earth would no longer be able to hold on to their anthropocentric view of God. We would then need to come to terms with a new humility, just as in Copernicus’s day, when he showed that the Sun, rather than the Earth, was at the centre of the known universe – correcting the pre-eminent worldview and ushering in the modern age."Now there is a long history of Christians, at least, speculating about life on other planets. And there are various takes on the matter. CS Lewis in Voyage to Venus, suggested that once having taken form as a human, then any creation after that would be anthropoid -unlike the elder races in Out of the Silent Planet which were varied in form. Now I'm not sure that this idea would stand much scrutiny, but it does demonstrate a longer Christian heritage with the matter at hand than some might think.The phrase I'm reacting to, I think, is "religious leaders on Earth would no longer be able to hold on to their anthropocentric view of God". Now, of course, this is a bigger set than Christian leaders, but I think I can only really comment on the Christian world (and of course even then ...). However, the point I'm concerned to put out in response is that an anthropocentric view of God is not particularly a part of Christian let alone religious view of God. To be sure there are some anthropocentric views of God but that's not the whole story by a long chalk.There are many theists who will tell you that God is more than the human descriptions given. God is greater than our conceptions (in fact one famous, medieval, offered-proof for God's existence relies on this idea of God being always greater than our ideas). Our labels, similes, metaphors and analogies are all only capable of indincating a little something about God, and they will all fail at some point and mislead us or outrightly lie to us. So, from this point of view an anthropocentric view of God is already recognised as being inadequate and even misleading.Of course, there are some who in their desire to promote the truth of Bible or tradition, have lost sight on this and insist on some fairly anthropocentric ideas about God: that God is male, for example. But generally, a little bit of further thought about contradictions and logical consistency etc tends to move them on somewhat.But that, perhaps, is not the main issue that Tillmans has with human ideas about God. Perhaps he is trying to disturb what appears to be a preoccupation with human beings as the centre of the universe -or at least at the heart of God's concern. But again, there are plenty of Christian thinkers who have noted that there may be many other beings for whom God is just as concerned. Indeed, the recognition of angels has often served to do this. But then there are those like CS Lewis (again) who in Voyage to Venus (again) shares a vision of everyone (including the non-human) in creation being simultaneously the centre of God's concern and centred on the others of God's concern: both central and peripheral simultaneously. You see 'centrism' doesn't have to be a zero-sum game; either one is or one isn't.And if that is so, then the real task is not to de-centre ourselves but to learn to value all and not to value ourselves 'more highly than we ought' (Apostle Paul's phrase). In fact, the example of Jesus is (surprise, surprise) one to take seriously. "Who though in the form of God did not consider equality with God something to be held onto ... emptying himself ..." in other words 'though the centre of God's des[...]

Funerals should affirm the reality of death


I think that this is in the same ballpark as a post of mine from a couple of years back.

current practice seems determined to deny both the fact and the solemnity of death. We say “We are sorry for your loss,” and talk about the deceased’s “passing”.
I'd just invite Angela to consider the place of 'customer is always right' capitalism in reinforcing and maintaining this unhealthy situation. And don't get me started on this new euphemism 'passing'! I guess it's derived from 'passed away' but somehow even the 'away' was felt to be too final, so it is cut off in its prime. Passing is the new dying.

Angela Tilby: Funerals should not deny the reality of death'via Blog this'

We need the singular ‘they’ and ears will 'pop'


Given impetus by the just move to allow people to flex gender-related terms, the pressure to develop a gender neutral but animate pronoun (because 'it' seems to denigrate personhood), I reckon that 'They' will continue to widen its usage. In this article at Aeon we read as an example, the following sentence: "Carey makes themself coffee every morning". Clearly to the author this sounds mangled. I was interested to note that for me it sounded okay. I think in my case because I don't know from the name what gender should be assumed for the subject and so as the rule in colloquial English is that singular 'they' is used when there is some doubt about the identity of the referred-to person, then doubt about gender, for me, allows the selection of 'they'.

The second part of the title of the article: 'it won't seem wrong for long' is right. The rules of grammar are not set in stone, they are not pieces of legislation. They are the current state of social convention about how syntax, morphology and lexicon are used. The social convention is always being negotiated to deal with new experiences, viewpoints and social perceptions of things like class. This means that the more something gets used, the more that our inner 'polling' of frequency will adjust to normalise something. So something that seems wrong will sound okay over time with enough use. This has happened over many unremarked things in my lifetime. For example, the Americanism "it is not so big of a thing" now sounds normal and I might even find I say it myself because I hear it so often. It is replacing the rule of my childhood where one could only so "It is not so big a thing". It tends only to be the politically charged things that get remarked on and fought over.

The phrase in my title about ears popping, I am recycling from the early eighties when it seemed that for many of us the use of 'he' to include women seemed wrong -even though replacing it was fraught with difficulty. But some referred to that in circles where liturgy was discussed as 'if your ears have popped' -that moment when you could no longer hear 'he' as gender neutral. This ear popping moment is the precursor to the next ear-popping moment -when 'they' begins to feel okay as a singular in wider syntactic domains. If we practise it, we can hasten it by priming our inner polling facility.

I think the interesting thing to keep an eye on as a testing measure of what is happening would be at what point singular 'they' for God becomes possible. I've just started experimenting with it in writing prayers, but I'm still looking for a way to do it that would act as a bridge from 'he [/she]' to they. I suspect an explicitly trinitarian setting is the way forward.

'via Blog this  'We need the singular ‘they’ – and it won’t seem wrong for long | Aeon Ideas:

Paul's Gospel may be stranger than you thought


This morning's reading got me thinking.Galatians 1:11-12 For I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel that was proclaimed by me is not of human origin; for I did not receive it from a human source, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.What struck me was that a revelation of Jesus Christ is said here to be the gospel. Now, cross-referencing to the accounts in Acts of Paul's vision of Christ on the Damascus road gives us an intriguing idea of what the gospel might be. Presumably it is this vision that Paul is referring to in this passage, so we need to be able to understand the word "gospel" in such as way as to include what happened with Paul on the Damascus road.We get a bit more detail, in verses 15-16But when God, who had set me apart before I was born and called me through his grace, was pleased 16to reveal his Son to me, so that I might proclaim him among the GentilesThis reinforces the revelation of Christ to Paul aspect of the 'gospel' and adds explicitly a commissioning element. In terms of what we get to see in Acts, this pretty much seems to sum it up.But let's have a quick look at the passages in question in Acts. First, Acts [Paul] was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’ 5 He asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ The reply came, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 6 But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.’It seems to me that the basic thing in that revelation-encounter was that Jesus is the Lord and that challenges, implicitly, Paul's course of action in persecuting the Lord's people. The story in Acts 22 is pretty much the same:While I was on my way and approaching Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly shone about me.  I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”  I answered, “Who are you, Lord?” Then he said to me, “I am Jesus of Nazareth[b] whom you are persecuting.”  Now those who were with me saw the light but did not hear the voice of the one who was speaking to me. And a bit later in Acts 26 Paul gives more detail (verse 12ff):I was travelling to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests, when at midday along the road, your Excellency, I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining around me and my companions. When we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It hurts you to kick against the goads.” I asked, “Who are you, Lord?” The Lord answered, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. But get up and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you to serve and testify to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you. I will rescue you from your people and from the Gentiles—to whom I am sending you to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.This version indicates a couple of further things. One is that Paul knew he was being spiritually goaded towards recognising Jesus as Lord. The other thing is the commissioning of Paul as, in effect, apostle to the gentiles.I'm intrigued, however, to note that in none of these do we get the kind of gospel that many Christians nowadays would say was essential. There is no cross and resurrection, no explicit call to repentance and faith. There only seems to be an event that makes Paul realise that Jesus really is the Lord and a commission to serve and bear witness.So, what I'm wrest[...]

Chaplaincy: secular and global ministry?


I was recently asked how I thought about chaplaincy as a Christian minister given the secular context, multifaith nature and impacts of globalisation. This was my response. Perhaps I should remind readers that I'm in Britain working as a chaplain in a university and we work within a framework of human rights legislation particularly equality and diversity.It’s not quite right to say that chaplaincy is a statutory requirement for equality –although it seems that most HEIs interpret it in a way that chaplaincy seems to be a main way to try to address the appearance of religion (including non-belief) as a protected characteristic.I’m also keen to question the terms ‘secular’ and ‘secularisation’. It is often seen as a bad thing but we should recall that some of the impetus for it grows out of the European religious wars following the Reformation –it became evident that moving religion (indeed, in the fullness of time any strong ideology) away from absolute power moved it away from the apparently strong temptations to murder opponents. One of the things about the Baptist and many other non-conformists is that, as people who were mostly persecuted, they have a strong ethos of separation of religion and state and of religious tolerance –it is interesting to note that the oft-persecuted Shi’ite Muslims tend in the same direction. In addition to this practical response to abuse of power by religious agents (and later by agents of ‘secular’ ideologies) there are theological reasons for supporting secularism at least of a certain kind. I’d note here the distinction between hard and soft secularism and I’d making a theological case for the latter. Hard secularism is a way to characterise anti-religious ideology –the immediate aftermath of the French revolution is an extreme example: the replacement of a religious ideology of governance by anti-religious. Hard secularism can be more tolerant than that: modern France and Turkey operate hard secular regimes (in theory) by excluding all religious expression from the public sphere (government, education, publicly owned space etc –hence debates about hijab-wearing or crosses on classroom walls). Soft secularism (in theory the state of India) recognises that people come into the public sphere with religious identities and commitments and rather than excluding them, seeks to be impartial about their claims (perhaps the USA is this too) and to make sure that they don’t become co-ercive.I think that latter approach can be defended theologically. The idea of doing as you’d be done by in Jesus’ teaching seems to indicate that if we would like the right to practice our faith, we advocate for all to have that right –even those who are our ‘enemies’. If we want to be able to commend our faith to others, we must allow them the same privilege. Furthermore, as I read the teaching of Christ and of Paul I find a scepticism about religion particularly where it becomes a legalistic thing (and state religion has to be legalistic –by definition). I’m also interested to note that in the first chapters of Genesis the duty of humanity is to tend creation and there is no temple. The impetus towards religiosity flows from the conversation with the serpent and its aftermath. So I’m in favour of trying to help the churches to think about secular life as the arena of Christian mission and effort: our tending of creation and society is our religion. Chaplaincy might be a way to help promote this insight among the churches.This impacts on chaplaincy in several ways in my view. One is to alert us to our own faith’s impetus towards treating others hospitably, with dignity and to do so particularly when they are in some way our ‘enemy’ (that is, they oppose us or what we stand for). This does not mean downplaying our distinctive message and it[...]

Social susceptibility: Leader-follower dynamics


A little while back I was teaching  a class about leadership and introduced, to some surprise by the class, the notion of followership as being an important factor in thinking about leadership. I feel that this piece of research underlines the importance of thinking about that aspect of the 'system' in which leadership is exercised.

"the social susceptibility of the population majority -- and not the influence of key individuals -- is what drives leadership"

Admittedly, in this case, the research was about spiders, but it looks like the underlying dynamics would probably be true in human societies because it's a matter of whether and how 'leadership' can be exercised in contexts that may or may not be receptive to it.

Interestingly, and what doesn't seem to be picked up in the commentary for comment (perhaps it's accepted wisdom), is that in situations of stress it seems that 'strong' 'bold' leaders do carry influence in a much more direct way. I think that the political implications of that are clear, assuming they pan out into human societies -and I think they do.

Perhaps one of the implications that bears emphasis, though, would be that to strive to steer human societies towards security (rather than precarity) is likely to enhance democracy and co-operative behaviour.

Social susceptibility: Leader-follower dynamics of influential individuals in a social group -- ScienceDaily:  'via Blog this'

Lower class wiser about interpersonal conflict than middle class


I think this is really interesting and, at one level, not surprising:

 "Driven by economic scarcity, these individuals will consider the impact of their decisions on those around them and those with whom they have interdependent relationships. Characteristics of open-mindedness and integrating different perspectives are necessary in order to coordinate with others and share resources."
What I'm wondering further is whether this relates to result of the research that tends to show that wealthier individuals drive in an 'entitled' way and generally show less consideration for others in everyday public life. The article seems to indicate that perhaps the answer might be 'yes'. Perhaps this relates too to Christian faith's historic appeal to the poorer members of society and their allies.

Lower class wiser about interpersonal conflict than middle class -- ScienceDaily:' via Blog this'

Seven Stories: How to Study and Teach the Nonviolent Bible


One of the characteristics of this book is to take Rene Girard's scapegoat theory of human culture and violence as disclosive and helpful for hermeneutics.If the mainspring of the Bible is not the legal weight of each word but a progressive engine of disclosure, overturning a root human condition, then we are discovering a radically new hermeneutics. One which provokes human transformation. (p.26)As I am a little more skeptical about Girard* nowadays, I was interested to see whether one really had to commit to that package in order to find this useful or not. Or whether it could be that the insights can be accepted without the whole package.The book is set out as a resource for groups or class-work and is designed attractively from a typographic point of view -though not so easily read on screen in the pdf format I had access to, I trust that this will be addressed by suitable formatting for e-book versions in due course. Part of the course-book nature of the volume shows up at the end of each chapter where there are discussion questions and personal questions. I did wonder whether those ought to be the other way round: to encourage readers to be honest and in touch with their own history and responses before entering a group situation. Also, each chapter begins with aims and key points as well as a heads-up for key terms. Good educational practice.The parts dealing with hermeneutics are set out clearly and succinctly which is no mean feat, I think. I was at first surprised by the basic laying out of the canon of scripture but as I saw it was done comparatively including the RC and Orthodox canons I began to see the point -it gently de-absolutises some approaches to reading scripture by raising implicit questions about why some of us can be so fierce about things which have a little bit of contingency about them -and what does that do to our considering scripture to be God-breathed? -Obviously I'm not going into that here and neither does this book, but it is important to dwell on it before coming over all crusader.We also have a useful and equally succinct  primer in atonement theories (possibly one of the best I've seen in this respect), and again this can have the effect of encouraging more considered discourse on what Jesus's Ministry, Cross and Raising achieve. This section helps us to see the way that culture relates to plausibility and tends to assist in the foregrounding of particular theological motifs. Again we need to develop a healthy sense of contingency about such things, not to dispose of them but to be able to make use of them (or not) wisely in the service of God's mission. One of the things it notes in presenting these theories is the role that violence plays in the motif, hinting at how that can, in turn, give subliminal permission to populations, rulers or church polities to endorse the use of violence.There is a brief outline  of the development of the the doctrine of penal substitionary atonement (PSA) which is again helfpful not least in reminding us that the term 'hilasterion' used in Paul is 'mercy seat', that is a place where mercy is found. It also notes that there is not a developed doctrine in Paul, merely metaphor and allusion.The introduction to Girard's take on violence in human society is very clearly done and again briefly; a great service to the reader. The re-presentation of the Hapiru (=Hebrews) as a class rather than a race is a fair idea and worth putting out there in this regard. This enables us to appreciate reading the text of scripture as a sedimentation of revelation of divine love struggling against the violent defaults of human thinking and its projection onto the divine. This calls us to attend to the whole fabric of scripture and the deep -structures or divine drumbeat[...]

Mind Your Life -a review


There are things that warmed me to this book before I even read it: I was pleased that the author, Meg Salter, had learned to 'do mindfulness' in everyday life -some of it rather busy and ordinary- rather than by going away on retreats. I was interested too by Meg's coaching background in relation to this, intuitively feeling that this could potentially form a helpful alliance with mindfulness in the everyday; not least because there is a feeling of kinship between that and some of the spiritual direction work I do.The book reads very calmly and seems likely to suit real novices in the mindfulness 'game'. It doesn't take much for granted and explains fairly carefully what is involved and -importantly in my view- why. There's a good explanation of what mindfulness exercises are intended to do and this is cross-referenced implicitly by including some helpfully selected first-person pieces from a variety of ordinary practitioners. There is also a well-distilled and presented case made for the potential benefits which doesn't overpromise but rather simply presents the evidence.For myself, as someone who leads mindfulness meditation sessions, I found different takes on familiar things and some potentially helpful exercises or ways to do them which may benefit me and those I regularly give examples to by leading them through exercises.What I really appreciate about this book is the careful descriptions of exercises from the point of view of experience and what it may be like. It is well observed, at least it seems so from my subjectivity, and helpful in the detail at each point even though a number of exercises are the same basic thing simply run through different sensory modalities, yet the differences are captured and enable the 'translations' to be better calibrated, so to say.There's also an interesting set of exercises on noticing the endings of things that we have in our sensorium and this is used as a further set of exercises towards transcendence. This is really intriguing and worth pursuing.All in all, I'd say that this book is likely to be useful to people starting out in meditation and mindfulness as well as having enriching things to offer to those, like me, with some experience. It's the kind of book to be kept around as a kind of workbook and reference book, perhaps alongside a journal.Mind Your Life on AmazonMeg Salter’s WebsiteMeg Salter on FacebookMeg Salter on Twitter#MindYourLifeMind Your Life: How Mindfulness Can Build Resilience & Reveal Your Extraordinary: Just so you know: I received this book free from the author and publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I am not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.'via Blog this'[...]

Jesus learning from life and practice


Over the last few months, this passage has cropped up several times. The latest being this morning's readings (I started writing this on 14 December) for Morning Prayer. Perhaps noticing it has been an artefact of a particular reading of it having got my attention and that perspective sinking in and being weighed by my unconscious thought processes. So the passage is this."...a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, ‘Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.’ 23 But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, ‘Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.’ 24 He answered, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’ 25 But she came and knelt before him, saying, ‘Lord, help me.’ 26 He answered, ‘It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.’ 27 She said, ‘Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.’ 28 Then Jesus answered her, ‘Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.’ And her daughter was healed instantly."      Matthew 15:21-28 NRSVA - The Canaanite Woman’s Faith - Jesus - Bible Gateway: And the perspective on reading it is as follows.This way of understanding it proposes that we take it that Jesus learns from the woman in the course of the conversation and that we are actually seeing him in this little narrative moving from a somewhat ethnocentric mindset to one which explicitly grasps that God's Mission is bigger than that. In short, we see Jesus in the process of learning during the course of this conversation and his teacher is the Canaanite woman and, presumably, the Holy Spirit (echoes of the Nicene Creed there).Now it seems to me that the Evangelical knee-jerk reaction to this (and maybe not just Evangelicals) is to be very suspicious of it or to reject it outright. I know this because my own first reaction was precisely to be suspicious of it and I found that I had to ask myself why I was resisting the idea. To be fair, full disclosure here, the reason I asked myself what that resistance was about was because I found the idea somehow intriguing and maybe that was because I'm interested in how learning takes place and what it means to be a wise and faithful human in the way of Christ, believing that it is in the moments of challenge that learning is forged and wisdom and orientation tested. So I was perhaps more disposed than before to thinking about the humanity of Jesus in relation to how he learnt things. And I have to say that in the moment, I felt that there was something wonderful about the possibility that we were catching Jesus in the act of learning. In fact perhaps participating in one of those wonderful conversations that I'm sure most of us have from time to time where we get caught up with others in a slightly excited thinking together as each contribution opens out further insight, learning and application of something that enthuses us. I wonder whether we are seeing a snapshot of Jesus enjoying just such learning banter.So, I think that focus on divinity is precisely where the resistance from many roughly-orthodox Christians comes. I suspect that thinking first about his divinity (or even as a hugely gifted sage, come to that) tends to set us up for a default perspective that assumes that Jesus had got it all together, that he always saw things coming and had a ready-composed response or was meticulously inspired in the moment. But that is almost-certainly some kind of Docetism (see this article for more theological background). It is worth asking ourselves, too, whether [...]

Physical presence and social media


The article referred to underlying the title text is about why some scientists are postulating that smell may be implicated in autism. However, for me the new learning was that we do, in fact, subliminally process smells from each other that we can't consciously notice:

Although this sense [smell] is not our primary sense, as it is in many other mammals, we still subliminally read and react to certain odors. For example "smelling fear," even if we cannot consciously detect its odor, is something we may do without thinking... this is a form of social communication...
So, one of the things that this led me to was the thought that this may be a factor in why it is that we often think that church should involve face-to-face meeting: something about bonding and responding to each other in physical proximity is actually biologically important.

This is not to say no aspect of church and fellowship should be done any other way than by physical presence. After all, swathes of the New Testament are actually the remnants of first century social media -fellowship at a distance via letters and Roman roads. However, it should help us to value the dimension of physical presence.

What this article doesn't really go into is the effects of other kinds of subliminal smelling -assuming that there may be pheromones (I'm assuming that's what we're talking about here -but happy to be informed more fully) for enjoyment or other kinds of general affect. There is mention of hexadecanol in relation to calmness, so I guess there is something in this.

Of course, the other thing we need to notice is that this study is related to autism -and seems to suggest that those with ASDs may misinterpret these chemical signals. So that's a matter for us to consider in working out, as churches, how better to include them.

A further surprise was that
Research in recent years has turned up smell receptors like those in our nasal passages in all sorts of other places in our bodies -- from our brains to our uteri.
Intriguing eh?

Autism and the smell of fear: Odors that carry social cues seem to affect volunteers on the autism spectrum differently -- ScienceDaily

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Neighbour-love means pushing back against discrimination


Just to be clear that discrimination is a Christian issue -that is one which Christians should be concerned about and actively resisting. This research finding:

 "when an individual experiences discrimination, they report worse health and depression. ... -- this stress spills over and affects the health of their partner as well"
means that by the imperatives of loving neighbour, doing to others as we'd have them do to us, seeking the welfare of our society and even going second miles, we must actively work, speak and think against discrimination. We can't be loving our neighbour (etc) if we allow discrimination, fail to consider how we can push against it or how we can include and affirm others who are different. The research is showing clearly that discrimination causes actual harm to health. This isn't simply a matter of stiffupperlipping (a prescription usually applied to others, btw) but of serving others, seeking the good of others which is the least of what loving our neighbours means.

Just saying.

Discrimination harms your health, and your partner's, study shows -- ScienceDaily:

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Evolving Advent


Advent has had a varied history. Sometimes in some places it's been a 40 day preparation season a bit like Lent. Sometimes it's been about a week. At some point it started to be thought of as the Church's new year. At some point it gained in the West the form of a 4 Sundays before Christmas season of preparation -with the penitential feel that tended to go along with Lent. The idea was that Christmas began on the night before Christmas day. I won't go into the details, there's Wikipedia for that!However, it seems to me that it is difficult for the season to be kept in that way in the contemporary west without is being seen as killjoys and legalists. This is because in the popular psyche, Christmas begins before 25 December -which is felt to be the culmination of the feast. As a child, I can remember thinking that the 12 days of Christmas were the previous 12 days not the following ones. That was logical: you'd end up on the most important day with the most gifts!So, as I have written before, I think we should re-configure how we approach (metaphorically and chronologically) Christmas. Now might be a time to start sketching out ideas as we go through things this year with a view to beginning to change things next time aroundSuggestion the first. Let's start the preparation sooner. I'd suggest after remembrance tide; so about two weeks into November -this would roughly coincide with a Celtic Advent which was 40 days prior to the Nativity. However, I'd suggest that the preparation season be staged and take account of the new Kingdom season -which is essentially November, ending with the final Sunday of November (Christ the King). I'd suggest that from mid November to mid December a time of relative fasting be considered -perhaps in the style of Muslim Ramadan where some feasting is woven in and then a couple of weeks before Christmas this would ease off.Suggestion the second. Some marking and staging of the preparatory weeks: Lets have an Advent wreath of seven or eight candles, each to be lit on each Sunday progressively (there are those menorah-like candle-stands from Scandinavia, perhaps, to draft into service, eh?). And this might enable us to fix a current problem with the four/five Advent candles thing: the 'traditional' themes of the candles don't fit the lectionary readings for their respective Sundays. So we could do with a rethink of that, probably by tying in the candles to the respective Sunday themes -and writing prayers and little songs to fit that. For much of the Church of England this candle-lighting stuff is only about a generation old anyway: it hardly counts as hoary tradition, in reality and we have no canonical oughtage driving this: it's purely churches liking to 'beef up' the seasonality (perhaps responding to the Advent calendar's popularity). So let's take back control from unthinking antiquarianism and make the nice little liturgical additions serve well rather than pulling in another direction.Suggestion the third. Liturgical colours. Let's face it, the use of red for Kingdomtide is more about differentiating from Advent which was using purple when in fact Kingdomtide's themes would more naturally lend themselves to purple (or black even). So how about, by recognising the increasingly 'feasty' nature of things as December progresses, we perhaps started to use red in Advent, or perhaps the last couple of weeks before Christmas day? That would free us up to use purple in November. Maybe we might even stage things like this: black for the first couple of weeks of November; purple next and finally in the last run up to Christmas, red. Perhaps we might fancy returning to u[...]

Sleep Walking into a War


The point of modern propaganda isn’t only to misinform or push an agenda. It is to exhaust your critical thinking, to annihilate truth.” -This quote (By Garry Kasparov, originally) from an article by Tobias Stone – in Medium. It seemed to me that it's worth highlighting because it is insightful about what is happening now on the internet particularly social media.

I think it's interesting because it parallels a tactic that governments and corporations seem to operate in relation to pushing through measures that they sense will garner much opposition: they throw loads of information out, make a song and a dance about relatively minor things so that by the time a bigger issue is brought out, opposing voices are muted and energies are sapped. And of course this can work because populations have become passive, soporific and take democracy for granted, forgetting that its price is eternal vigilance. The problem being that eternal vigilance is costly in effort and attention, especially when life is hard, as it is increasingly for our populations.

And then, the other useful thing to note about this is that this is the new war. If war is politics by other means, then disinformation and distraction is politics by other means and that too is war. Actual bombs-and-deaths war is part of the picture but a relatively small part.

So, I'm left wondering what this means for war resistance. It goes way beyond refusing to fight, it goes beyond making the case for resolving conflicts through diplomacy, pressure and legalities. It goes beyond building the capacity of communities to use tactics and discipline to overcome oppression non-violently. No, we are going to have to learn to build capacity for 'eternal vigilance' and for myth busting and understanding what the real issues are to keep an eye on without being obfuscated into obscure and ultimately irrelevant matters.

And I'm already feeling tired just thinking about it. So, how to move forward?

Sleep Walking into a War – Tobias Stone – Medium:

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App map vs paper map


Now I quite like app maps for some things: they can map out a route more quickly and help you to follow it and they don't tend to blow away in the wind. I'm a bit of a technophile and generally defend e-versions of 'apps'. So I will tell others why I don't do paper diaries and why I prefer e-books on the whole (even while quite agreeing that new books often smell nice).

But I do have to say that I am more evenly balanced about the merits and demerits of app-maps and paper maps. For the reasons set out in this article (see end of post), I do tend still to use paper maps: I tend to like to have a better sense of orientation that the paper versions give -not least because I see more in peripheral vision. The other thing is that the battery life of the paper version is rarely in doubt!

Why I always travel with a paper map in hand : TreeHugger:

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Big church, little church and cultural fit


Recently I happened to be talking with one of my bishops and we  both noted how smaller churches tend to show up in studies as being better at making disciples than big churches. This Psephizo post, by implication, tells us why, and re-tells us the advantages of large churches. Interestingly, of course, the downsides of big churches are to be addressed in the post by also giving them a small church dimension. This is the top-down version of things. Of course, it might be worth noting that the NT seems if anything to have a bottom-up version where lots of small churches are locally linked. That may be simply expediency; what number can you get in someone's front room. Big church only becomes possible when Christians are able to have big public buildings without attracting adverse attention. What we don't get in scripture is any instructions about sizes of gatherings or congregations. I find this interesting -some other religions do tend to have regs about such things. Jewish minyan, for example and Islam has instructions for people to shove up into proper neat rows to fill from the front at prayers. But Christianity has very little that isn't just general and arguably about local custom and making-do. So if you don't buy the Catholic Tradition thing, there is plenty of scope for adaptation and that includes church size.I don't have any 'primary' theological objections to large churches (but I do have 'secondary problematisations'). But I do question them. As mentioned above, they would seem to be less good, proportionally, at making disciples. This is probably because they can carry way more 'passengers' -and this means that in effect they may be more likely to evade the priesthood of all believers and have a 'priesthood' of the specially talented (I could say more about that because 'talent' is more circumstantial than sometimes implied). As the blogpost says, "It always seems odd to me that the excellence of a cathedral choir is lauded as enabling encounter with the transcendence of God, but an excellent band set-up with professional lighting and sound is sniffed at" -that is a well-made point with which I agree: I can't really see anything but taste differentiating the two kinds of worship referenced. However, that may miss the point: it's still a small group of 'stars' and the question may be as to how far we want to ape or promote a kind of celebrity culture with its attendant disabling of more 'ordinary' ministry. The obverse of that is also the promotion of certain kinds of ministry to a status that can also restrict the imagination and valuation of 'ordinary' Christians with regard to their own gifts and callings. A salutary lesson in this being the change at the Reformation from having 'a pope in Rome to a pope in the pulpit' -the result being that we still had a passive followership. Today perhaps it has become a 'magisterium on the stage' -as if musical talent or a good voice gave moral authority? (And that goes for both scenarios).What really got me writing this post was the following in the Psephizo post:It is easy, then, to miss the virtues of scale that large churches represent. It is much easier for one person to invest the time, energy and resources to offer a really engaging sermon that digs deep into the Scriptures and draws out, with relevant application, the lessons for living in contemporary for 400 people, than for eight preachers to do this for people meeting in groups of 50. In a church will feels pressed for resources, the efficiency of large churches is not to be sni[...]

Surge pricing goes universal: some effects


Here's something I learnt today in an article which definitely deserves pondering by those concerned with culture, social justice and keeping an eye on corporate tactics.In 1861 a shopkeeper in Philadelphia revolutionised the retail industry. John Wanamaker, who opened his department store in a Quaker district of the city, introduced price tags for his goods, along with the high-minded slogan: “If everyone was equal before God, then everyone would be equal before price.” The practice caught on. Up until then high-street retailers had generally operated a market-stall system of haggling on most products. Their best prices might be reserved for their best customers. Or they would weigh up each shopper and make a guess at what they could afford to pay and eventually come to an agreement.Now, I never knew that history, though I suppose any of us would have guessed that perhaps there had to be a first place to move from haggling (and the personalised pricing that must have meant) to fixed ticket pricing. I am intrigued and delighted by the insight into how a simple change alters a whole culture for a couple of centuries across the globe. I note how it plays well with massification and the then-developing ideology of free trade.Downsides not mentioned: this would blow a hole in rpi calculations and render difficult or impossible inflation calculations and thus problematise things like index-linked pensions or other payments relying on rpi systems (note the comment in the article "Increasingly, there is no such thing as a fixed price from which sale items deviate"). There's an interesting feed-back loop potential in that. And then there is the hint in the article that poorer people might not come out well, that they would be given higher quotes on the basis that they are less likely to buy lots.It might also become difficult to argue for the price-lowering effects of the Market (capitalisation intended) if in fact such selective pricing is taking place. Interestingly this exposes, possibly, the reliance that market economics may have on fixed pricing as its ideological support. Now I understand that 'surge pricing' or whatever does rely on free-market justification but I suggest that offering a price based purely on demand at a particular point is not the same as offering personalised prices based on what the algorithm suggests that you are willing or able to pay. If the algorithms are using the same or similar digital shadows for you or me, they will all tend to offer similar 'deals' to us. Thus the possibility of shopping around with the consumer power that commands is nullified: this could become a sort of cartel/oligarchy arrangement powered by algorithms. This would create its own algorithmic feedback loop having the effect of ratchetting up prices over time. And I say that in contradiction to the article's assessment towards the end:This looks a lot like the beginning of the end of John Wanamaker’s mission to establish “new, fair and most agreeable relations between the buyer and the seller” and to establish something closer to a comparison site that works both ways – we will be looking for the low-selling retailer, while the retailer will equally be scanning for the high-value customer.I'm not sure that the algorithm's will be sufficiently differentiated. If you want a sense of how this might work, spend half an hour looking at the prices of rarer second-hand books on a variety of sites, asking yourself the question about who would buy at that price -yet probably the price[...]

Contemporary Churches: a review


What attracted me to getting hold of this book and reading it was the prospectus that it would help '"to apply the insights of contemplative spirituality and spiritual direction to entire faith communities"For me this is a really of the moment prospectus. Partly because for some time now I've been thinking that we should be discerning the way forward for churches by really listening to the vocations in formation of our members -a sort of corporate guidance exercise. And of course this means that we should be actually living our church lives, for want of a better way of describing it, contemplatively. Part of this is that I have been challenged in the past by the Quaker discernment process as a way of trying to take spiritual accompaniment to the next level which is corporate, congregational discernment. But I have also wanted to take seriously my Charismatic movement roots and the evangelical referencing to Scripture, not to mention taking seriously what we learn (positively and otherwise) from church history about how we do or don't discern good ways forward, or God's ways forward, in relation to our context and cultural milieu. So ... a few implicit expectations on this book; would it be as helpful, insightful and even exciting as I would hope? Was I going to find a book on my wavelength that pushed my thinking forward a bit or even a lot?Well, yes to varying degrees. One of the unexpected things for me from this book was catching a glimpse of just how rapid and alarming is the decline of USAmerican institutional Christianity. However, this is good for reading in a British context as the stories of dealing with decline and institutional death are helpful. "At a time in Amerecan culture when more peolpe than ever are interested in spiritual practices and young people have a renewed interest in ussues of social justice, institutional religion is proving itself to be ill-equipped to respond." -quite so, it looks similar in Britain too.In respect of decline and death, I found it particularly helpful to have a case-study of a church's good death and of the institutionally problematic but kingdom-serving resurrection. In relation to that case it was also helpful to have the author's (psychologically well -informed) psycho-spiritual reflection on the tasks ("stages") of grief and how these are important to be honoured in processes of reflection, church direction-setting and pastoral and missional work. It was good to see, too, the complexities of this named and recognised along with a basic strategy for approaching them. For example, "Some people are in denial, some are moving to acceptance; some are angry; others try to bargain for solutions. That is the state of the institutional church today." I particularly liked the way the tasks of grieving were seen also in Jesus' passion; "Even though he saw it coming, even though he spoke about it to his disciples, Jesus continued to wrestle with his fate and bargain for a different future in the garden of Gethsemane." I think that this is a very important permission-given thing to notice and draw into consideration. And a little further on, "Jesus himself worked through the denial, expressing anger at the religious authorities, bargaining in prayer for another way before accepting his fate." There is some useful reflection following that in how we do this corporately.It was encouraging too to read of approaches to church life where a spiritual-accompaniment approach has been taken. Encouraging because this is what I thi[...]

Blue Ocean Faith -book review and reflection.


I have to say that I'd never heard of the Blue Ocean network, and when I read what they were about I had a bit of a 'where have you been all my life?' moment.So, what's the 'blue ocean' thing about then? Well, we're told neart the beginning that it's a way to describe churches who "fish where other churches don't and because it's the blue oceans that connect all people". I like the idea of fishing where other churches don't and I wonder how that really works out even while I recognise a real need to do so from a situation where I see rivalrous churches casting for the same kinds of people to form congregations of middle class soft-rock singing slightly multi-media soft-charismatic people. And while I get it that they'd want to pitch in where there is obviously some traction, I can't help wondering what about the huge number of people outside of that kind of demographic -is God's Spirit really not at work beyond it?The movement is characterised by six things. First what they call a 'solus Jesus' framework and with that a centred-set mentality. They aim for a childlike faith approach to spiritual development and a third way for controversial issues. They aim to be ecumenical in relation to other churches and for joyful engagement with secular culture. All of these things I warm to and in many ways I would describe my own position in very similar terms. Of course those are the headers. What do the particulars look like?Solus Jesus is looked at through a historical development lens, a trajectory from the Reformation (and worth thinking the more about given that we are in the 500th year since Luther's famous 95 theses) and in particular the Sola Scriptura approach that emerged from it. The point is well made that without inspired interpretation, it perhaps doesn't help us as much as we'd like to have a sola Scriptura thing going on. So the thought is to take our attention to the Jesus who speaks through scripture and to embrace the subjectivity involved in that. I found one quote intriguing and probably about right in this matter; "Neither Jesus nor Paul, nor Peter were sola scriptura people. Actually, their apponents better fit that description" (Loc.558)I also liked the approach to subjectivity captured in this quote: "When Joan of Arc's opponents assert that what she calls the voice of God is in fact only her imagination, her response is 'Of course. How else can we hear God?' " Perhaps that is slightly undermined by the real doubtfulness of what she 'heard', but the point is well made that our human faculties are inevitably involved and interpreting scripture does not deliver us from that.On the matter of childlike faith, it seems to me that the idea is to focus on faith as trust and counterbalance the inherited 'faith as propositional assent' that we seem to have got locked into in much of the west. There's a nice tour of scripture to show that this is really consonant with the experience of God's people and the thrust of a lot of scripture.One of the things I'm left thinking about is the 'third way' approach to controversial subjects. It is based -rightly in my opinion- on Paul's approach to the meat offered to idols controversy and from that the basic approach of inclusion until clarity is found (and a historical point is made to say it takes a lot of patience and quite some time) is taken as well as the principle of respect for 'weaker' brothers and sisters -but the way that is done is worth considering. I'm not sure that it help[...]

Love, lust and lying: can Christians respond without jerking their knees?


A recent THES publish and interview with the author of Love and Lies, Clancy Martin. I've put the book on my 'to get' list. Meantime there is the interview to go on and which has raised issues for me which I'd like to explore a bit more 'out loud' as it were. The article tells us that basically the book "argues that the double-dealing at the core of every great swindle is also at the heart of erotic love. "I think this means that loving people implies lying to them, necessarily. Of course, this is a hard idea for Christians (and others) to swallow. We are, ostensibly:those who would rather believe Thomas Merton’s claim in Love and Living that “the beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image” Doubly so, because it is based in apparently good research and some extended confront with chilling clarity the sociopathy that silently underpins most of our average lives. “The sociologist Erving Goffman identified that in his famous book The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life,” Martin says. “We are always playing roles. // So the good liar and the good lover “must be able – or must strive – to see her- or himself through the eyes of the person she or he will come to love”, Martin continues. “The kind of mind control they practise is the same: it’s not strictly coercion; it’s seduction. It’s convincing the person who is the object of the mental manipulation that he or she wants to participate in the illusion being created. Long-term committed erotic love will evolve into something different, something still more complex. But falling in love depends on these kinds of artistic illusions.””I don't think that I see playing roles as negatively as that. I don't think that it is duplicitous. It's not duplicitous because, as I understand Goffman, the point is that there isn't some other 'real' us hiding behind the masks: we actually are the different roles we play: there's no neutral inner-self observer who hides a true identity by acting a part. We are the collection of roles. The task is for us to integrate them. Of course, this is a bit idealised: sometimes we do fake and lie and deceive. But what I'm saying is that such is not inherent in role playing. We can learn to 'play ourselves' in different situations. We should also recognise that we are who we are in relation to other people which means that we are formed in our relationships -with all that implies in terms of self-presentation; learning to trust, beginning to disclose more of ourselves etc. We do all of these processes a grave disservice if we interpret them simply as mendacious and therefore morally reprehensible. Or, alternatively, because there is a degree of less-than-full-disclosure that this means it is somehow okay not to attempt to be integrated and to strive for honesty and transparency.Part of the problem, I suspect, is that the research as presented perhaps pays too little attention to what love actually is.  Surely the point of the quote from Merton, above, is to critique some versions of 'love' by reference to agapaic love. And so, I think that the point raised in the next quote is very interesting because it does seem to make that point to some degree. Love allows us – requires us – to envision possibilities that at one point seemed impossible: the possibility of becoming a person who is capable[...]

Universities & 'lad culture': calling time on harassment


I grew up  thinking, because everyone else around me seemed to think or take as read, that what is now being called 'lad culture' was something we just had to accept. And while I was sometimes encouraged to be part of it, I felt that drinking to the point of illness and bullying relatively random bystanders didn't seem such a good thing to me. Though I have grown to understand that there's something about bonding with mates and telling stories about it afterwards which is the 'good' thing that appeals and holds it together over time. On the other hand, I suspect strongly that a lot of the claims not to recall events are no more than claims: it's a way to distance themselves from embarrassment and give mates a chance to 'admiringly' diss them.Of course, another aspect of the lad thing is sexual. But given that there have been bawdy songs, jokes and banter that imply that women are merely breathing sex dolls with no real agency, then it seems likely that those who are encountered by the lad pack who don't fulfil that role are likely to be treated that way anyhow. And not everyone has the ability to hold their own verbally and attitudinally.So given those sorts of 'facts on the ground', it probably is about time that we looked at lad culture.One in four students (26 per cent) - and 37 per cent of women - had also suffered unwelcome sexual advances such as groping and touching, it added. Two thirds of respondents said they had been aware of students putting up with unwanted sexual comments, with just under one third bearing witness to verbal harassment because of a student’s gender. From: Universities must unite to beat 'lad culture' sexism on campus, claims NUS - News - Student - The IndependentThere is another side:the NUS looks set to undermine one of the best things about campus life: the chance to engage with fellow students and, in doing so, to grow and become a more rounded adult. This means experimenting, talking openly, making friends, sometimes being hedonistic. In trying to straitjacket students by regulating their behaviour through ‘zero tolerance’ policies, the NUS is doing the students it claims to represent a great disservice. from Spiked-online. Though personally, I find that 'conclusion' (for it is the last paragraph of the article) a little disingenuous given that it does earlier acknowledge that it could lead to taking more seriously certain behaviours: "misbehaving students who ‘catcall or grope women students or undress themselves’ potentially facing disciplinary action, or even expulsion." In context it could almost seem that they are condoning groping or creating unpleasant harrassful environments for others. While it's true that sometimes talking openly can make things awkward and it is right for that to be the case. Sometimes talking openly is just plain bullying or wanton harassment with no mitigating public goods. Sometimes being hedonistic can also be done without abusing others, but when it is making sport of other people, that's a different matter. I don't think those things really contribute to growing and becoming more adult -unless they are challenged effectively. They are actually continuances and reconfigurations of rather childish and adolescent behaviours. By all means discuss them and test them, but something does need to be there to protect and safeguard the vulnerable from bullying.[...]