It's World Refugee Day today. Across the world, tens of millions of people remain displaced from their homeland. Whether, it's Syria, Palestine, Somalia or Afghanistan, refugees often live in appalling conditions, threatening their health and their lives.
The Big Book of Magic Stuff tells us to be nice to foreigners. Obviously you can't marry them, eat their food, or worship their gods, and if they happen to be currently occupying your promised land, well they'll clearly have to be exterminated, but otherwise you should be nice to foreigners.
We're reading one of the nice books of the Big Book of Magic Stuff, where an Israelite goes abroad and does marry a foreigner, but she's OK as she decides to worship the Jewish Invisible Magic Friend. When her husband dies, she returns to Israel where she has to find a male relative of her husband in order to retain his land as ordained by the Invisible Magic Friend's real estate law. So you see, she's a kind of refugee, isn't she, and the people in the Big Book of Magic Stuff were nice to her, so you should be too.
I met some refugees once. It was 30 years ago and two families of Vietnamese boat people were given houses by the local council. It was very controversial. As Christians, we welcomed them anyway, although that didn't go so far as eating all their foreign food.
So there you go. The Big Book of Magic Stuff says be (mostly) nice to refugees and some Christians I knew (mostly) were once. It's probably a good thing to be (mostly) nice to refugees.
Brian here, in Southampton, an associate lecturer at the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity where we envision and equip Christians and their churches for whole-life missionary discipleship in the world, seek to serve them with biblical frameworks, practical resources, training and models so that they flourish as followers of Jesus and grow as whole-life disciplemaking communities. Hi.
Teenagers who see their parent's drunk are twice as likely to binge drink. This illustrates nicely that the adage, "Do as I say, not as I do," is all but useless. Children follow their parents' example. And it's not just poor people you know. You might think it's just poor, stupid people that do this. Actually, some quite respectable, middle class Radio 4 listeners do this too. Yes, I know, shocking isn't it?
As any alcoholic will tell you, the first step towards recovery is to recognise that you have a problem. If you wake up on the floor at 2 o'clock in the morning every night then it might just be time to re-assess your drinking habits. In my case, the motivation was getting tiddly at a christening party, giving some champagne to my 4 year old daughter and then hastily having to leave. Naturally there's some danger involved in giving alcohol to a 4 year old, but much worse than that, it was ever so socially embarrassing.
So, my name is Brian, and I've been off the booze now for nine months. Only another three months to go and then I can get plastered again, but in the mean time I feel great. I just want to make it absolutely clear that I'm not passing judgement on those of you too weak willed to do as I've done. I'm not trying to impress you with my virtue or my strength of character or anything like that.
Not only is my health and well being improving, so is the example I'm setting my daughter. God, I can't wait until she's grown up and I can get pissed again.
Staggeringly Reverend Lord Professor Bishop Baron Reverend Lord Richard Harries, Baron Pentregarth, Gresham Professor of Divinity, Baron, Bishop, Professor, Lord...
Ibsen's Emperor and Galilean is on at the National Theatre and you really should go and see it. This is a very good play about the crazy Roman Emperor, Julian, who decided to stop being a Christian and worshipped all those silly false gods instead. I mean, how mad is that?
This is exactly what's going on today. People are turning away from the perfectly sensible religion of Christianity and becoming pagans. Except, now many aren't even worshipping false gods!
Where are you going to get all your morality from, eh? Tell me that. Without a Christian book to tell you how to be moral you'll all just run around naked doing whatever you like. As Saint Paul famously said, "It's just brilliant being a Christian. We're so much more moral than everyone else."
In centuries to come our grandchildren, and our grandchildren's grandchildren, won't have any morality left at all. I mean, do you think morality just happens naturally or something? Without a holy book, without a Christian holy book, they're all doomed. DOOMED I TELL YOU!
The Dalai Lama walks into a pizza shop and asks, "Can you make me one with everything?"
No, no, no, No, NO! That wasn't Thought For The Day! This is Thought For The Day.
Who's got the biggest statue of Jesus? Is it in Peru? Or is it in Rio, shown here tastefully lit up in the colours of the Brazilian football team? Or is it in Bolivia or even Poland?
All this showing off to see who's got the biggest Christ, isn't real Christianity. Real Christianity, true Christianity, my Christianity, is about being humble. We Christians are some of the humblest people there are. When it comes to humbleness, nobody can out-humble a Christian. And we're so modest about it too.
Jesus was the humblest of all. "I'm God," he would say in his very humble way, and he proved it by rising from the dead and then going up into the sky on a cloud, making the real Jesus by far the tallest Jesus seen so far.
Mona Siddiqui, Professor of Islamic Studies and Public Understanding and Director of the Centre for the Study of Islam, University of Glasgow
Good leadership requires a sense of purpose and high levels of integrity, but it also needs someone who is able to listen and lead by consent. As various dictators around the Middle East are now discovering, hanging onto power without peoples' consent can be a brutal and bloody affair.
In democratic societies too, people can rebel against their former leaders. Berlusconi's attempt to stoke the politics of fear in Milan, claiming that the city would be overrun by Gypsies, Muslims and foreigners had no impact on that city's vote. The whole of Italy has now rejected Berlusconi's policies on nuclear power, on water privatisation and on him never having to stand trial for anything. It seems even the Italians are now beginning to see Berlusconi as a joke.
Give someone too much power for too long and they will eventually begin to see themselves as having all the answers. They stop listening. They fail to lead by consent. As Lincoln once said, "Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power."
We can all misuse authority and power. As it says in one of the nice bits of the Koran, we can all be asked to lead and we will all be judged on that leadership. For leaders to use their power wisely, they must always retain a little humility.
Did Henry II really say "Who will rid me of this turbulent priest?" or similar words, possibly to a comparable, if not identical effect? Well, the answer to that is that we just don't know. He may have said it but then again he may not have. It's very difficult to tell one way or another. What we can know for certain is that clerics must be allowed to speak out on social issues, whether or not Henry II said, or possibly didn't say, what he is alleged to have said, or not.
Even if we could, which of course we can't, we mustn't, or at least shouldn't, or possibly mightn't, say that we wish, or even wish that we wish, in such a way as to be oppressive or repressive, towards contrary opinions to established opinions that, when spoken by kings, politicians, newspapers, opinion formers, by clerics... I'm sorry, I've forgotten where this sentence was going.
The Church is the voice of the Invisible Magic Friend, the voice of the spirit of the free, condemning abuse of power by the powerful who abuse their power, the humble voice that will not be silenced by the powerful and the big and the mighty and those that would silence the humble, free, truthful, pious voice of the spirit of the Invisible Magic Friend.
I think that should give politicians something to think about.
Today, the Global Alliance on Vaccines and Immunisation will ask for £2.3billion to help save the lives of 4 million children a year.
This is science doing good things, but what is science really for? Francis Bacon thought it was to give us power over nature, but Bacon also thought it could be used to relieve suffering. That's because he was a Christian. If he hadn't been a Christian he probably wouldn't have bothered with the second bit. Thankfully he was a Christian, and could be bothered with the second bit, and that's why many scientists today want to do good things.
Science is a gift from the Invisible Magic Friend. I love science. That's why I gave it up to do theology. The Big Book of Magic Stuff is just full of tips on using inductive reasoning, experimental method, empirical verification of theory, and falsifiability, with its inspirational commands like, "Don't eat from the tree of knowledge or you'll all die." Jesus himself spent a great deal of his time healing people. Pay no attention to that woman the other week who said healing the sick was just a hobby for Jesus. It was really important.
As Jesus said over and over again, "I can't emphasise enough the importance of the scientific method. All ideas, no matter how much authority their authors claim, must be continually tested and verified. This is really important people. You won't believe what you'll be able to do if you just embrace this one simple notion."
So, as you see, science was invented by the Invisible Magic Friend because he is so compassionate that he wanted us to find cures for all the diseases he'd invented. For various reasons he just didn't want to give it to us for the first few thousand years.
The experiment Mitch Benn was referring to is explained here. It's a variant on the classic experiment where single photons of light are fired through a double slit. Despite the fact that photons arrive one at a time at their destination, they still gradually build up an interference pattern.
light source --> | .
If you try to observe the photons as they go through one or both of the two slits, the interference pattern is destroyed. This new variant on the experiment sets up four calcite filters at different distances after the double slit. Photons in a definite polarization state and with a definite wavelength (and therefore definite momentum magnitude) are then fired at the double slit. The photons hit the filters at different angles. This means their distance through the filters vary and, due to the properties of the calcite filters, alters their polarization by an amount proportional to the length of their path through the filter.
By measuring the proportion of photons that get through each filter at each point, they can determine the average polarization at each point, and therefore the average angle the photons are travelling at. They thus have the average direction and magnitude of momentum at each point and can construct some really pretty graphs of the photon paths as they build up the interference pattern.
Quantum Mechanics says that you can't measure the position and momentum of a single particle simultaneously, but that's not what's happening here. The experiment is measuring the average properties of a whole bunch of particles, which Quantum Mechanics definitely allows. One of the reasons the experiment is causing a bit of a fuss, is the striking similarity between the paths they have sketched and the theoretical paths predicted by Bohm's hidden variable theory of Quantum Mechanics.
This is only what I could get from the scienceblogs post. I don't have access to academic journals any more. I'd very much like to see the original paper if someone could send me a copy.
Mustn't forget today's stunning Astronomy Picture of the Day.
We're having a bit of a rainy bit after a dry spell. I have only one thing to say. DON'T PANIC! This is all just a normal part of the Creator's created Creation. France is having a normal part of the Creator's created Creation too, as is Germany. In fact, all over the world, there are dry bits and wet bits and this is all a normal part of the Creator's created Creation.
I like to call creation, "Creation", rather than "nature", because a creation requires a Creator to create it. Calling Creation, "nature", is all a bit sciency and doesn't seem to imply any sort of creator to create it.
We can see that having wet spells and dry spells is a normal part of the Creator's created Creation by consulting the Big Book of Magic Stuff. There we find numerous tales of wet times and dry times, of floods and droughts, including one very big flood indeed. This is why faith is so important. We have faith that there is water. Jesus himself, frequently referred to the weather in both a practical and a metaphorical sense. "Looks rainy today," he would say in his godly, divine wisdom.
Thanks to having faith, we know that the Creator created water, as part of His created Creation, so that we could be alive. Without water we die and are no longer a living part of the Creator's created Creation. So let us be thankful and praise the Creator for creating water, and hydrocarbons and nitrogen and oxygen and phosphorous and iron and various other trace elements, without which we would not be a living part of the Creator's created Creation.
Makes you think, eh?
Infamously Reverend Lord Professor Bishop Baron Reverend Lord Richard Harries, Baron Pentregarth, Gresham Professor of Divinity, Baron, Bishop, Professor, Lord...
Friday, 10 June, 2011, 08:09 AM - HarriesRating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)
Hitler's letter goes on display this week. Apparently he wanted to get rid of the Jews. Back with modern day extremism, the government has published its strategy for dealing with it.
Britain is very multicultural. All over Britain there are lots of people being culturally different. Sometimes you get people being cultural right beside one another. What is it that keeps all these different cultures together and stops any of them being extremist? British values include a belief in democracy, the rule of law and mutual respect. This includes respect for different faiths. We don't go around mocking faiths do we - at least not all faiths. That would be very rude, and in some cases, suicidal.
The Roman Empire was also very multicultural. There was Romans, Greeks, Jews, Egyptians, Gauls, Britons, Parthians, Medes, Mesopotamians, Cappadocians, Syrians, Carthaginians, all being very cultural and ethnic. They all had their own languages. Fortunately, early Christians didn't have to learn all those languages. They just spoke the good news and everyone heard it in their own language. We know this because it tells us all about it in the New Tasty mint. It happened on Pentecost. Has anyone mentioned Pentecost yet? It's this Sunday you know.
So all we need to do to maintain social cohesion in a multicultural society is to speak in tongues.