19 October 2006

Another bit of Star Trek comes true

The New Scientist is reporting (here) that some clever person in the States has just developed a working cloaking device. Admittedly it only works in the microwave part of the spectrum, and only at one specific frequency, and only in two dimensions (so you would still ‘see’ a distorted shadow of the object), but it’s a start. Doubtless the US military will now be watching the research with great interest.

12 October 2006

The limits of government

Yesterday on Radio 4’s PM programme, Phil Woolas (Minister of State for Community Cohesion) made the following statement: ‘Some faith-based organizations argue that religious law should take precedence over democratically elected law . . . That’s not something a democratic country, here or anywhere else in the world, can tolerate.’

The context of the interview was the British Government’s take on Islam, so I suppose he might have meant it simply as a veiled attack on Islam. However, if it genuinely represents the direction in which our political leaders are leaning, it has serious implications not merely for Islam but for people of all religious faiths.

Speaking as a Christian, I cannot accept this statement as it stands. The fact that our law makers are democratically elected does not give the laws they make the absolute status implied here. At best, members of Parliament are only human; they can be honestly mistaken, or they can be corrupt, prejudiced or even evil.

In direct contradiction of Phil Woolas, I would argue that for Christians God’s law must always take precedence over manmade laws. Granted part of God’s law is a proper respect for and obedience to lawful human authority, but that can only ever be a relative obedience.

If a democratically elected Parliament passes laws that are unjust by Christian standards or compromise the life of the Church in some way, those laws can have no authority over us. This is so because ultimately the authority of Parliament is lent to it by God and is conditional on its acting justly. Unjust laws can have no authority, because in legislating for injustice Parliament would have gone beyond its God-given bounds.

Faced with unjust or anti-Christian legislation, Christians have a duty not only to speak out in protest but to act against that legislation in any ways that are compatible with being a Christian.

11 October 2006

The real price of Iraqi ‘freedom’

The New Scientist has reported the results of the largest study so far conducted into death rates in Iraq (here). Here is a summary of their findings:
Around 655,000 people have died in Iraq as a result of the US-led coalition invasion, according to the largest scientific analysis yet. That is 2.5% of the country's entire population. . . .
The death rate before the invasion was a fairly normal 5.5% of people per year. Since March 2003, it has averaged 13.2%, the researchers found. More worrying, the death rate has risen every year since the invasion: this year reaching 19.8%, a near-fourfold increase over pre-invasion levels.

09 October 2006

Whatever is true . . .

‘Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.’ (Phil. 4.8)
I have just removed a number of Anglican blogs (both liberal and conservative) from my Bloglines feeds. Over the past few months comments on these blogs have gone from being bad tempered, to vicious to downright venomous. Today one American liberal blog finally went over the top and published an image of a group of bishops with monkey heads superimposed upon them. Given that the blog in question has been very critical of a number of conservative African bishops, the image can only be interpreted as racist. Even without the racist overtones, it is gratuitously offensive. So in the spirit of the above quotation from St Paul I have decided not to waste any more time on any blog that has tolerated intemperate remarks about the current tensions within Anglicanism.

What do they think they’re doing?

I’m still thinking about that peculiar morning service in Oxford. One of the oddities of this church is that, in spite of being an Anglican parish church, it has its own baptistery (or, as the curate referred to it, ‘jacuzzi’). Even stranger was what they did with the baptistery the morning I was there. Several adults reaffirmed their baptismal vows and were immersed in the baptistery. The only thing that stopped this being believers’ baptism by total immersion was the omission of the trinitarian baptismal formula. Instead the person doing the dunking used a form of words that declared it to be no more than a reaffirmation of baptismal vows. But, if so, why all the symbolism of baptism? If these people simply wanted to reaffirm their baptismal vows, Anglicanism already has a perfectly good way of doing so – it’s called confirmation. As it is, these people have been given a dunking to no purpose. Without the baptismal formula, no Baptist church worthy of the name would recognize it as baptism. And without episcopal confirmation, the candidates have not in fact become members of the Church of England. It seems an entirely pointless exercise.

God is no one’s mate!

A week ago I was in Oxford and I made the mistake of going to the morning service at one of the city-centre churches. I suspected the moment I saw the rock band and the TV monitors sprouting from every pillar in the place that this was not my sort of church. However I am prepared to tolerate such things on occasion in order to get a better picture of the diversity of the Church. What I couldn’t tolerate that morning was the chorus in which we were invited to affirm of God that ‘He’s my mate.’

I’m sorry, but it simply is not so. God is the mystery of the world. He is the emperor of emperors before whom all created principalities and powers must ultimately bend the knee. He is my truest lover, who knows me more intimately than any human lover could, who knows me more fully than I know myself. To refer to him as my ‘mate’ is to trivialize that relationship and is, to my mind, a mark of the most appalling disrespect.

03 October 2006

A prayer for the Amish

Internetmonk has published the following prayer in light of yesterday’s horrific events:
Father, the brokenness of the world has intruded into one of the places where we like to pretend it would never go … the Amish community. Your people there are devastated with the losses and the wounding of their children. Comfort them. Give to them the quiet dignity of hopeful people, even in the face of great suffering. Comfort the Roberts family, whose grief and sorrow are of a different kind, but are no less painful. May parents whose grief will know no bottom rest in you. May traumatized children and teachers find peace beyond these awful events. Help us, O Lord, to contemplate what we are capable of in our isolation, loneliness, brokenness and emptiness. Surely, O Lord, that we are capable of such evil is a measurement of who we are, and what we have become. May the Love of Christ, that endured the cross and lived again on Easter, surround your hurting, fearful, grieving children. In Jesus Name. Amen.