Monthly Archives: June 2011

Podcast of Jellicoe Seminar

The podcast of last week’s seminar with Lord Glasman and John Milbank is now online at the Contextual Theology Centre website.  

Big Society Needs Big Religion

Robert Putnam, Harvard professor of public policy, has been in London, channelling the wisdom of social capital at No 10, as well as talking at St Martins-in-the-Fields on Monday evening. That venue is the big clue to his latest findings. It could be summarised thus: if you want big society, you need big religion.
In the US, over half of all social capital is religious. Religious people just do all citizenish things better than secular people, from giving, to voting, to volunteering. Moreover, they offer their money and time to everyone, regardless of whether they belong to their religious group.
It could be, of course, that the religious already have the virtues of citizenship. However, Putnam believes the relationship is causal, not just a correlation. Longitudinal studies also show as much. So why?
Read the full article here.

Could this be the church to calm secularist outrage?

John Harris, a self proclaimed “unshakeable agnostic” over at the Guardian, has filmed a fascinating video, and written an accompanying article, about Liverpool’s Frontline Church.  The work done by the church for the local community is remarkable.  John Harris’ closing comments in the article offer a fascinating insight into a frequently ignored and often unspoken secularist dilemma:

The next day I meet a former sex worker, now apparently off drugs, set on somehow starting college and a regular Frontline worshipper. “I was a prostitute and a drug addict for 11, 12 years – maybe more,” she tells me. “God is so forgiving – he wants me to win.” Wider society, she says, is “too judgmental … it’s: ‘That’s a prostitute, that’s a drug addict.’ They don’t want to know.” And how has the church helped her? “Oh, it saved my life,” she shoots back. “I would be dead if it wasn’t for this church.”

A question soon pops into my head. How does a militant secularist weigh up the choice between a cleaned-up believer and an ungodly crack addict? Back at my hotel I search the atheistic postings on the original Comment is free thread for even the hint of an answer, but I can’t find one anywhere.

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What the Archbishop really said

A miniature media storm has been whipped up this morning about comments made about the Coalition in a leader article in the New Statesman by Archbishop Rowan Williams.  Having read the blog posts, tweets and commentary so far, you have to wonder how many people have actually read the article.

Unfortunately that may be because only just came onlineA much edited and somewhat unbalanced retelling of it was available instead.  So when the storm began brewing I popped out of the office to the local newsagent and read the article itself.  Perhaps to the modern-day tweeters and bloggers the idea of reading a paper magazine just doesn’t come to mind.

I have no intention of launching a full defence of the Archbishop’s comments.  Nor am I inclined to engage in the wider question of whether he should be commenting at all.  This will not be the last time, and is definitely not the first, that those in power and those close to them grind their teeth at a troublesome priest.  Personally, if vocal and ardent atheists are going to comment on public affairs by virtue of their identity as atheists then I see no reason why Christians (or any other confession for that matter) are different.  Indeed, Cranmer has explained why – even though he disagrees with Rowan Williams – he gives the Archbishop three cheers and Alastair Campbell has ridden to his defence.  But that is another issue for another day.

It would simply improve the quality of comment far more if people read the article for what it actually says.  Some left-wing commentators are celebrating the Archbishop as the new champion of opposition.  Meanwhile, ConservativeHome has gone into an overdrive defensive operation ranging from childish kneejerking to righteous indignation.

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Alarmism over Islamism?

Over on Conservative Home, Luke de Pulford has offered an interesting contribution to the debate about revelations in the Jewish Chronicle concerning a London Citizen’s deputy chair making supportive remarks about Hamas.

Luke writes:

The Citizens UK solution is about gathering people together around a common cause, building relationships between distant communities, giving a sense of common ownership. In a word: dialogue. The alternative (if you can call it that – and I’m doing my best to steer clear of hyperbole here) would be to leave alienated and isolated communities to their own devices whilst occasionally  bringing to justice some hate-filled, rabble-rousing ringleader, guilty of inciting violence or threatening the status quo.

You can read the full article here.