Photo credits

The Embalse de Riano in northern Spain. The picture was taken by .... me!

Friday, November 30

Queer theology

It's the title of the book Mrs brought back for me to read form her University library.

I forget the name of the editor - I'll tell you next post if I remember.  [Edit: It's Gerard Loughlin]

She got it for me knowing my interest in the theology of homosexuality and in particular stuff that is neither rapidly conservative nor Bible-dismissingly liberal.

I've only dipped into it so far - a collection of essays by scholars.  Therefore mostly unintelligible to the normal mind - there seems to be a refusal to use any word of less than 11 syllables, or any word used in day-to-day speech, or any word that you don't need degrees in English, Latin and ancient Greek to decipher.

I've not found anything specifically about homosexuality in it yet.

In one essay, the author points out that we assume the risen Jesus was still a MAN, ie not a eunuch, not emasculated, but still with all his bits.  And if his resurrected body had them, then so will ours.  And if we have them, it's for a purpose.  Ergo, he seems to argue (and I've not finished the article yet), there will be sex in heaven.  Intimacy with everyone seems to be implied.

Another article looks at Paul. Paul says 'let him who is married behave as if he was not married'.  (Sorry no time to quote reference accurately).  He says Paul's primary concern was being ready for the second coming, not getting tied up with earthly legalism like marriage.  Again, I've not finished the article, but it seems to imply a more widespread intimacy.  If that's not a contradiction in terms.

So I'm struggling with it - fascinated, in much the same way that one is fascinated by shiny flies on a dog turd.

I will read on and report back more!

Wednesday, November 28

Doubling up

(Work related)

I need to measure the flow in my channel two cases -
  1. 50% of the flow this way, 50% down the other channel
  2. 25% of the flow this way, 75% down the other channel
Of course the Bristish standard flume that works for case 1 is too wide for case 2.
Of course the Bristish standard flume that works for case 2 is too narrow for case 1.  And also the associated huting penstock would create supercritical flow and a hydraulic jump just at the point where you need a smooth water surface to take your measurement.

My solution:

Subdivide the channel into two, each with a flume and hunting pesntock designed for 25%.  Then for case 1 you use both and for case 2 you close one and use the other.

Mrs MA and Judaism

In my wife’s theology MA course, although she is following the ‘Christian stream’ of options, she has to do a module on Judaism, which we are finding really fascinating. (But I did advise her not to get carried away and get circumsiced :) )

The existence and development of the Oral Torah is something completely new to us.

Similarly, the Jews’ genuine sense of outrage at Christian persecution of Jews right from the very beginning is surprising, when our own sense of history (acknowledging that we persecuted Jews during the Middle Ages) is that they persecuted us.

No doubt there have been instances of Christians and Jews helping one another as well as instances of Jews persecuting one another – both the help and the persecution have gone both ways. We can argue about the relative proportions of those things and who was worse/better, but the reality is that both sides are selective with history, glossing over their own sins while exaggerating those of the other side. So often those who have been persecuted in the past become the new persecutors. (Christians v Jews, Protestants v Catholics, Black v white, Christians v gays, Israelis v Palestinians, etc)

Wednesday, November 21

Women Bishops – the failure of women’s leadership

The general synod of the Church of England voted by the narrowest of margins not to allow Women Bishops yesterday.

And the women have only themselves to blame.
Firstly I do support the ordination of women to the role of bishop – see my reasoning in italics at the bottom of this post.
But here is where the women lost their vote:
  1. Strategy. They did not make adequate concessions to conservatives. I accept their arguments about being second class, etc. But had they made the concessions, they would have won the vote. Then in ten years’ time when everybody is used to the idea of women bishops and its working well, either the concessions will have become utterly redundant, or they can be renegotiated and almost certainly win.
  2. Greed for power and status. The reason they did not give the concessions was about territorial power. And about being second class. Since when has the Kingdom of God been about power and status? God does not endorse these lusts.
  3. Personality. Listening to interviews on Radio 4, it was quite clear that the woman opposing women Bishops was a nicer person – more respectful, more courteous, more patient, more in control of her emotions. Meanwhile the woman supporting ordination was aggressive and generally not a nice person. If I had to choose a Bishop, I would appoint the one who is most Christ-like, which was definitely not the one who wanted to be a bishop.
  4. Theology. Most of the argument seems to have been not about Scriptural guidance but about how we look in the eyes of the world. Since when has looking good been the basis for Godliness? There’s been arguemts about moving with the times. Since when has Godliness been about modernity? Its been about equality – not simply because that is in itself right but because that is the standard of the wider society. Since when has conforming to society been a sign of Godliness? NEVER! We are the ecclesia – the ones called out to be different.
  5. Method. The Kingdom of God is not guided by staging political demonstrations and waving placards so that the one who shouts the loudest wins!
So the women leading this debate on women’s leadership have let the side down, failing in their leadership and failing to achieve female leadership. All for the sake of impatience and ungodly greed for power.

I want women in leadership.  Just not these ones!
I don’t accuse them as individuals – I don’t know them and no doubt they are very nice on a personal level. I am speaking collectively.
My Reasoning for Women Bishops:

For me the debate centres on the interpretation of Paul when he says “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man”. The question is – was this a local and/or temporal injunction, or one for the whole church in the whole earth in the whole of time? I have very little time for those who dismiss awkward scriptures on cultural grounds. My faith is founded on the Scripture which I believe to be God’s eternal Word. So I look within the Scripture for an answer, bearing in mind that I am unwittingly prone to seeing it through my cultural lens, and also bearing in mind equally that my Evangelical heritage has its own – old- cultural lens. So what else do we find in Scripture? “In Christ there is neither male nor female…” True, but I have generally considered this to be in regards to eligibility for salvation rather than gender roles. For me it comes down to “Junia … considered outstanding among the apostles.”. The Catholic Church, in the Vulgate Latin Bible, changed her name to a masculine form, but this name did not exist in masculine form, so it is a bit obvious, really. Then, could it be construed that she was just a member of the congregation that was considered by the group of male apostles to be outstanding? At New Wine I asked a teacher of theology from Durham University if this was a possible translation, and he replied “only with some very convoluted grammar!” So I believe that in Romans Paul endorsed a woman as an apostle, no doubt with apostolic authority, and it seems silly to suggest she was an apostle only to women. I believe this demonstrates that the above injunction was a local or temporary thing, and this releases me to endorse (enthusiastically) the idea of women bishops.

Pornographic Religion

Pornography is that thing which promises much but fails to deliver on the quintessential thing it implicitly promises.

Because the essence of sex is relationship - love.

The image on the screen provides eroticism, arousal, etc. But it is an illusion to think that the person in the image would ever have a relationship with you – or would ever love you. I have even seen for example, a pack of playing cards and the image on the back of each card was a naked woman, with the word ‘Love’ written in a heart above her head. How deceptive! There is no love here. There is no relationship here. It is all an empty deceit.

Buddhism is the same.

Buddhism has all of the appearance of religion – all the image. It gives you ritual and ceremonies. It gives you prayer wheels. It gives you ethics and codes of behaviour.

But the essence of religion is a love-relationship with God. In Buddhism there is no God. There is no love here. There is no relationship here. It is all an empty deceit.

Tuesday, November 20

Dreaming of Vegas

I had a dream in which I was Johnny Vegas* having a bath.

Shall I book an appointment with the psychiatirst now?

Monday, November 12


Still nuts. They have now eliminated all temporary effects, and so it’s permanent.

My poor sister is going nuts too, with the responsibility of caring for her


Sunday evening was a session on ‘Challenges facing the new Archbishop’, although it turned out to be more about ‘leadership’ – see my post below about ordination.

Our church is generally very pleased with the new appointment. But I suspect our Vicar would have liked someone less favourable to women bishops.


I still feel the call strongly.  It’s as if every Sunday service is specifically designed to call me and reinforce the calling.

Weekend viewers

People came to look at our house over the weekend, and seemed to like it. They spent a very long time looking on their own, and left saying they would speak to the agent. Which is the most optimistic thing we have heard for ages.

They were father and son, and I think the intention would be for he son to move in and let out the unused parts. So they were making comments such as ‘we could make that into a kitchen’. Etc.

So maybe God does want us to move after all.

Workplace Christian fellowship

Turns out that one of my project design team is a Christian. He accidently left some papers on my boss’s desk that included a prayer rota. The boss assumed it was mine and gave it to me, and so the secret was out.

So I took him to the prayer meeting today, and I suspect he may even fit in quite well.

The only thing is that being African, he is likely to take a more conservative view than me. But if God wants him in the group, so do I.

Wednesday, November 7

I have a dream

... that there is enough loose change in my desk drawer to buy a hot pastie.

Then I wake up.

It wasn't true.

(I don't take money to the office because I shove it all in the chocolate machine)

Long flight

I took a slightly different route to work.  And I was slightly earlier than usual.

So I saw an amazing sight.

A V of geese.  in front of a V of geese.  And behind a V of geese.

And each of those was also behind or in front of a V of geese.

I would estimate that the train of Vs was about a mile long.

I would estimate about 300 geese per V, and about 10 Vs.  So we're looking at 3000 birds, on their daily commute from nesting grounds to feeding grounds.  Much honking!

I nearly drove off the edge of the windy road into the ditch, my jaw hanging in wonder.  But kept on track and followed the geese for about 3 miles before our paths separated - they seemed to be going down into some fields.

I do not live on some African wildlife reserve.  I'm just in a backwater of the UK.  So I was impressed. 

Obama - choice and the chosen one

He won.

Which is generally good news for the peace of the world, fairness, love for one's neighbour, etc.

But during one of his last speeches he was interrupted by a protestor waving photos of aborted foetuses.

His protest had little effect -  he was quickly bundled away by security.  Now I actually have a lot of sympathy with people bundled away by security during political speeches.  A bit of heckling is good for democracy, so long as it doesn't get out of hand.

His protest did affect me.

I used to be an avid pro-life campaigner.  I presented motions to meetings of Unison (when I was a member) proposing dissafiliation from the National Abortion Campaign.  I frequently woke up in the night and wrote letters to MPs, the Queen, etc, though with hindsight I recognise the influence of eccessive caffeine.

As I grew and matured I grew more tolerant of abortion.

It started with a Bible verse: "Do not fret yourself because of evil men".  So I stopped active campaigning.

Later I pondered the impossible dilemma of the runaway train which you can stop from running over the innocent children by changing the points, but the train will then kill the men working on the siding.  The truth is that to act is evil, to refrain from acting is evil.

And so there are cases where, while abortion is evil, it is also evil to force a woman to proceed with the pregnancy.

So the protestor reminded me of who I once was.  And he made me question again who I am now.

I certainly don't believe in pure free choice, which is often implied when people speak of 'a woman's right to choose'.  It's not just about the woman - it's also about the child, and to a lesser degree the father's desire's should also be taken into consideration. 

I don't believe abortion is a right.

But I do believe that a compassionate society will permit abortion (especially in the first twelve weeks when many foetuses fail anyway) as a lesser evil, when there is a good reason for doing so.

If a girl from a traditional asian family in Britain becomes pregant, and if the father finds out he will kill the girl and the boyfriend and so the baby will die too, the abortion is the lesser evil.

But then the arguement starts. 

What is a good reason?  Money, because the state won't help? Health, discriminating against the disabled?  The mental health of the Mother? (I believe a study showed that abortion has no influence on the mental health of the mother, which was a slap in the face for pro-lifers who said it was harmful but also meant that most abortions in England and Wales are acually illegal!!!)

I conclude that while I now agree that the law must permit abortion, the vast majority of abortions are morally and legally wrong.

But in openly supporting Obama, I can't wash my hand sof it - I am in some small measure repsonible.  And I will face God one day and answer for the things I say.  I hope I'm right!

Monday, November 5

Obama - the Christian's choice

At our church on Sunday we had a sort of hustings for the American presidential election.

One chap recently returned from holiday in the USA, told how he had been taken to a Romney rally, and how wonderful it was that he was endorsed by all sorts of Christian leaders saying its OK to vote for a Mormon because of his moral values,

Another chap - a barrister, was called to the front to give an Obama perspective.  He annoyed me because he spoke about abortion and gay marriage - very bravely in what I have always seen as a conservative church - but without any real substantiation for his views as to how they derive from Scripture.  It was sentimental mush.  If you have to be pro-choice adn pro-gay marriage you have to explain how you understand those things to be endorsed in Scripture - its not good enough to talk vaguely about equality.

If I had been asked to speak I would have been much more cautious about abortion and marriage, not hiding them as issues but staying more away from them and talking instead about a recent Radio 4 interview with American voters.  In that interview, one Romney supporter said that she was opposed to obamacare because people should sort out their own health care - it was a private matter.  She said it was OK to make people pay taxes for a police force because they are protecting your constitutional right to property.  So what she is really saying in my view is that it is OK to make the poor pay to have her fancy HD ready telly protected, but its not OK to make rich people pay to have a poor person's liver protected.

I think God is more concerned about people's livers than their tellies.

I think God is more concerned about the poor than the rich.

Would I vote for the one who says 'Me, me, me' or the one who says 'My neighbour, my neighbou, my neighbour'?

So when the show of hands was taken at the church, I raised my hand for Obama.

So did three quateres of what I have always seen asa conservative congregation, whci on that morning included all the old people who normally attend our 'traditional' early service.

I was surprised. 

But pleased.

The personhood of the aged

It has been important for me with both my Dad and now my Mum, as they lie in hospital, that I saw them as 'Mum' and 'Dad', not 'an old person'.  And every otehr old person in the room - even the hideous ones with toothless mouths hanging open and drooling - was someone's Mum or Dad, invested with decades of love and service and with a history of deeds, epxeriences and adventures.  True repositories of wisdom.   A person, not an inconvenience, not the slow person in my way, but a person of immense courage and immense value.

How is your mother?

A good question.  But not when it is put to you by your own mother, who's senility is such that she has forgotten that she is my mother.

She was also asking if her grandparents were still alive (she's 84).

She expressed disappointment that no one told her her parents had split up.  (They never did split up).

She was convinced the hospital was a conference centre.

She was convinced that she was 'going home tomorrow' [Sunday, when no hospital discharges happen], and that she needed to pack and book a taxi.

She was sufficiently lucid for the first 10 minutes to say she would rather go home and have full time care at home than go to a care home.

So this is what we shall try to achieve.

Friday, November 2

Help! Panic! Call the fire brigade!

I'm at work.  Just had a call from my daughter.  She had set the oven on fire, panicked, and called the fire brigade.  It had gone out by itself by the time they arrived.

Mum had sent her instructions to cook burgers for herself and two siblings while she was out with the youngest.

So now I'll have the police doing a 'home alone' investigation against me.  Mind you, they are 17, 15 and 12 so I don't think I will come out too badly.

Thursday, November 1

Productive Day

So on Wednesday, because I didn't walk away from a particular meeting, it emerged that they had not done a p&id diagram for the pst area.

I also identified a major problem in that we need to enlarge an orifice in the filter distribution chamber but this would require men to enter an unsafe confined space. The alternatives are

1) leave it as it is and put up with a bank of poorly performing filters continuing to perform badly
2) reconstruct the entire chamber ££££££ but this would be the best hydraulic solution.
3) supplement the orifice with an external pipe - well it would be two big ones that would need supporting piles in an area congested by pipework
4) extend the existing chamber- same problem with the piles.

Somits nice to know that it IS worth turning up for work occasionally.