Monthly Archives: March 2010

Taking The Good Friday Journey

Last year, Nick Baines wrote a helpful and provocative post about embracing the desolation of Good Friday (and, indeed, Holy Saturday) without importing the triumph of Easter Day. In it, he argues that we should restrain ourselves from singing the joyful songs that come from knowing the outcome of Easter, and embrace the darkness.

I can see his point, and it has much to commend it, especially in evangelical Christian circles where we can default into triumphalism at all sorts of inappropriate times. Think of the ways in which some funerals become only a celebration of the deceased’s life, and leave little room for grief. That isn’t limited to evangelicals, or indeed Christians. It is part of a wider cultural movement that does not want to feel the sting of death.

I can see Nick’s point too, when I consider the members of churches who avoid Good Friday worship, but who will be at church early on Easter Day. We have people in our churches who can’t cope with the Cross. Not that anyone should cope with it in the sense of managing it – you could say it is meant to be unmanageable – but there are many who wish to live in denial of it, even referring to it as a tragedy or a defeat, completely failing to appreciate the magnitude of its victory.

Yet I wonder too whether this last group of people might be the very ones who especially need the linking of Good Friday and Easter Day. Not that I mean to let anyone off the hook in contemplating the sufferings of Christ, but because it is central to our faith to believe in the victory of Christ, and you can only appreciate that when you link the death and resurrection of Jesus. And given the way I have heard some church people say that Good Friday is ‘the most tragic day of the year’, I do wonder whether they believe the Gospel.

Like it or not, we cannot approach Good Friday without a measure of interpretation. It is there in the inspired writings of the Gospels, although we are perhaps so used to the text that we don’t always see it. And one thing is for sure: for the Gospel writers, the death of Jesus was not a defeat.

And also, whether we like it or not, it is (near) impossible to read the text as if we don’t know what is going to happen next. When I hear people ask me to read something ‘as if for the first time’, I know they are going to ask me something I probably can’t achieve. The trouble is, we do know the ending.

So how do you prefer to approach Good Friday? With a knowledge of the ending? Or trying to enter into the story as if you don’t know what will happen? What are the pros and cons for you?

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links for 2010-03-30

The Domain Renewal Group Scam

I received a letter today which I am reporting to the Mailing Preference Service.It came from a company called the Domain Renewal Group. They have cheekily looked up who owns the domain for this website and written to me, expecting me to renew my domain with them. While they do talk about transferring it to them and thus stay just the right side of honesty, it is a cynical letter designed to get me to pay them, and take out ownership of other similar domains such as bigcircumstance.net and bigcircumstance.org.

Fortunately I am savvy enough to realise this is a scam and they won’t get away with it with me. However other people might be frightened into giving them money, thinking that otherwise they will lose their domains, when all they need to do is renew their registration with the company they have used up until now (in my case, WordPress). And why I should transfer to them when they cost twice the price of WordPress and I rely on the WordPress software – well, you tell me.

The company appears to be based in the USA but it came with a reply paid envelope that had a London address on it, and hence I am within my rights to report them to the MPS. I strongly suggest that anybody else in the UK who gets these letters and who is registered with the MPS also reports them. By not checking the MPS list of people who have opted out from direct mail they are breaking British law. Let’s put pressure on these cynical and unscrupulous companies.

links for 2010-03-24

Richard Bauckham

The other day I discovered that my research supervisor of twenty years ago, Richard Bauckham, now has his own website. (No blog, alas!) When I studied under him he was already a respected and renowned scholar, not least for his commentary on Jude and 2 Peter, and his work interpreting Jürgen Moltmann. It was the latter interest, and his work as a theologian rather than a biblical scholar, that made me want to have him as my supervisor. I was relating the doctrines of ecclesiology and eschatology, and Moltmann’s book ‘The Church in the Power of the Spirit‘ was probably the most important text at the time for me, along with Howard Snyder‘s less technical volumes.

Richard went on to become much more well known, not least in the last four years for his book ‘Jesus and the Eyewitnesses‘, which claims to turn many long-prized assumptions of New Testament scholarship methodology on their heads. But what was it like to have him supervise all those years ago?

The simple answer is that it was a wonderful privilege. Richard doesn’t merely have ‘a brain the size of the planet’, he has a humility and gentleness about him. I recall once turning in some work that really wasn’t up to snuff, but the way he let me know that was so gracious that I didn’t go away crushed but felt I had a way forward.

He is also a man whose faith and scholarship are deeply entwined. One consequence of being registered as a Manchester University student then was that you were entitled to attend any lectures you liked outside your own studies. I chose to audit two of Richard’s undergraduate courses. One was on Christology, the other on the Holy Spirit and Eschatology. I used to come away from those lectures knowing I had been both academically stimulated and spiritually fed.

The nature of his supervision and his faith came together in the way he drew together four of his research students, all of us ‘mature students’. We met every couple of weeks to discuss Moltmann’s then latest book, ‘The Way of Jesus Christ‘. Not only did we have an hour of lively conversation, we then went for lunch together in a university refectory. Over lunch and coffee we often discussed important matters of faith. It was there that I first discovered his passionate commitment to green issues as intrinsic to Christian faith. Richard is an evangelical, and while such a commitment is much more common today thanks to organisations like TEAR Fund and A Rocha, it wasn’t then. I knew he was clear about the Bible’s political dimensions – I had read his book ‘The Bible in Politics‘ – but this was a new departure. One of that research group was Celia Deane-Drummond, a former botanist working on her second PhD, studying Moltmann’s ‘God in Creation‘. Celia is now a leading lecturer and writer in the field.

So if you haven’t discovered Richard’s work yet, why not start? Try his website. There are essays, lectures, sermons and poems to read. Then why not treat yourself to one of his books?

links for 2010-03-22

  • Training page of the Christian Healing Mission website. Currently features their 6-session DVD course 'Letting Jesus Heal'.
    (tags: healing)

Sermon: The Aroma Of Extravagance

John 12:1-11

During our first summer as ministerial students, the college sent us all out on six-week placements in circuits. Because I came from an urban area of London not known for its wealth, I was not exposed to poverty as some students were. Instead of ‘Mission Alongside the Poor’, as a certain church campaign of the time was known, I was sent on what amounted to ‘Mission Alongside the Rich’ in Surrey. (So perhaps it was a good experience for our forthcoming move to that county!)

The church was large, and well-to-do. When I heard what the weekly offerings averaged, they dwarfed my home church.

Until I did some Maths, that is. I realised that in this wealthy church, the average giving per member per week was exactly the same as in my home church. It didn’t seem quite so impressive then.

It was a story that came back to mind this week as I read the account of Mary lavishing her expensive perfume on Jesus.

Imagine you are in the house where the incident happened. The first thing that would strike you would most likely be the aroma. A strong, pervasive smell has a powerful effect upon people.

When I visited the Holy Land on a special trip for theological and ministerial students, we were a mixed bag ecumenically, from free church types to bells and smells. One of our number was an Indian. He was a Syrian Orthodox priest who had been studying in the UK. One evening he took prayers in the chapel at the institute where we were based. Before the service began, the pungent smell of incense from the censers filled the chapel. I found it so overpowering that I couldn’t stay for the service. As a result, a friend dubbed me ‘low church by reason of allergy’!

But other smells greatly appeal to me. Freshly baked bread. Our breadmaker has languished in the garage during our Chelmsford sojourn, but to set it to work overnight and come down in the morning to that aroma was a joy. Maybe in the new house?

I think we are meant to understand the aroma of Mary’s perfume as a beautiful sensory experience in this story. It contrasts with the stench present elsewhere. Firstly, it stands over against the thought of Jesus’ death. He says that

She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial (verse 7)

And you can see why it would be a contrast. The beauty of the perfume counters the smell of a corpse as it degrades. Remember that when Jesus brought Mary’s brother Lazarus back to life four days after his death, people were fearful of the smell that would emanate from the tomb. But here, the beauty of Mary’s act symbolically says that death will not end in defeat. Decay will not have the final word.

After all, Mary has only recently had a glimpse of what that might be, through the miracle of her brother’s return to life. In that story we learn that she and her sister already believe in the Jewish doctrine of the resurrection of the dead at the last judgment, but Jesus tells them he himself is ‘the Resurrection and the Life’, and then they witness him calling Lazarus from his tomb as a foretaste of what is to come. She may not have grasped that Jesus will be raised on the third day after his forthcoming execution any more than any of his disciples had, but she has had this glimpse of the kingdom coming. And the aroma of a perfume that quenches the stench of death is a suitable symbol. For that is what Jesus will bring to all who follow him.

Therefore we his disciples know here – as in so many places – that we need not be dismayed or discouraged by the prospect of death. There is plenty of stench around it for us, as we watch people suffer, or as we hear the taunts of militant atheists. But we have smelt a beautiful perfume – the Resurrection of Jesus – and we face death and suffering differently because of it.

That isn’t the only way in which the beautiful aroma of Mary’s perfume contrasts with a foul smell in the story, however. The miserable words of Judas, in despising her devotion, are words that stink, particularly when we hear what his heart was like when it came to money:

“Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?” (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) (Verses 5-6)

He hides behind a moral reason, but he isn’t going to get his hands on Mary’s cash, because it’s been spent on the perfume. It’s no surprise his loyalty will soon be bought for thirty pieces of silver. The perfume seems to represent the beauty of Mary’s devoted heart, in contrast to the polluted heart of Judas. Its beautiful smell here, then, becomes a warning that it is worth us examining our own hearts for unworthy motives that might grow into disloyalty to Christ. The story calls us to simple, whole-hearted commitment to our Lord.

Then there is the stench of the chief priests, so angry that people are beginning to follow Jesus because he raised Lazarus that at this point they don’t merely plan Jesus’ death, they plan an execution for Lazarus (verses 9-11). Here too are poisoned hearts, experienced religious people whose commitment has been twisted from the kingdom of God to personal empires. Why else would they be worried about desertions to Jesus? It’s like the spiteful comments you hear about different Christians and their churches in some parts of our religious world. Again, the contrast is with a woman who – by virtue of her sex – will not have had the education of these chief priests, yet she can outshine their commitment in one simple, beautiful act. All of which should make us pause to consider what our priorities are.

The second aspect of this story I’d like us to consider is that which strikes us so powerfully apart from the aroma. It’s the extravagance of Mary’s gesture. Her extravagance shocked people then, just as extravagant acts of devotion to Christ shock religious people today.

For example, you have heard me talk about a project I was involved in ten years ago. An Anglican rector I worked with in the last circuit had a vision for celebrating the Millennium. He wanted all the churches in Medway to close and gather together in Gillingham FC’s Priestfield Stadium to worship Jesus. I was one of a number of local church leaders who were willingly co-opted onto the planning group for the project.

From beginning our plans to the date of the event was two and a half years. We held a morning service with an orchestra formed from local Christians and masterminded by a local Salvation Army musician. The late Rob Frost came to preach. We brought a Ugandan gospel choir over to sing (and tour Kent). In the afternoon and evening we planned a concert with leading Christian musicians such as Noel Richards, Ishmael and Phatfish, with Roger Forster as the preacher. In the event, about two and a half thousand people attended that concert, and in the morning six and a half thousand local Christians gathered for worship. Of the ninety churches in the area, over seventy closed their doors that Sunday morning for that united service. A few insisted on keeping their doors open, one at least saying they were doing so ‘in case a visitor turned up’.

The budget was somewhere around two hundred thousand pounds. Fifty thousand pounds of that was for a special covering over the pitch to protect it, which we had to hire from Wembley Stadium. The debt was not cleared by the day of the event – that took the best part of a further year.

Some scoffed at this enterprise, and some of the reasons given – apart from the church that wanted to stay open for the mythical visitor – were rather like Judas Iscariot’s protests about giving money to the poor. But my rector friend kept coming back to this story: sometimes it is simply the right thing to make an extravagant act of devotion to Jesus Christ as a sign of our love for him. It is one aspect of loving the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.

We do not stint from showing extravagant love to other human beings on certain occasions. I was utterly moved by the gifts and special things arranged by Debbie and my children for my recent fiftieth birthday. In one respect they really didn’t need to do it, and I would certainly have been happy with less than what they did. Yet somehow the fact that they went to such expense and effort was a touching sign of their love. Might something a little bit similar be true of our relationship with God?

Maybe part of the problem is that extravagant giving and devotion challenges us. The other day, I was reading another minister’s blog. She was reflecting on this passage, and included a powerful story. She told of a grumpy missionary surgeon who was invited to lunch by a lady on whom he had operated. The woman and her husband were poor. They owned an angora rabbit and two chickens. The woman combed the rabbit for hair and span it to sell for income, and their diet was the eggs from the two chickens. What went in the pot for the meal? The rabbit and the two chickens. Truly a ‘widow’s mite’ story, and also one of extravagant love, just as Mary spent a year’s income on the perfume (verse 5).

And I think the reason these examples are challenges to us is that they make us feel uncomfortable about our own grudging love for Jesus Christ. How many times have I heard people with an amazing testimony to God’s forgiving and transforming grace be dismissed as nutters or patronised as immature by other Christians? Too often, I’m afraid. Is Judas alive and kicking in some church circles? I fear he is.

What’s the difference between extravagant Mary and her detractors? Mary has not lost her simple, passionate devotion to Jesus who will die for her and be raised from the dead for her. Judas may well have started out with a commitment to following Jesus, but he found other things more attractive – money, for one. The chief priests have become devoted to religion and the institution, much in the same way that many of us become caught up with maintaining a building.

All of which amounts to a warning for many of us. Mary’s despisers were consumed with the very things that dominate our thinking at Church Councils and the like – finances and institutional matters. But Mary kept the main thing the main thing. For her, faith and live were about unswerving devotion to Jesus. May that be true of us, also.

Sermon: The Parable Of The Three Prodigals

Luke 15:1-3, 11-32

“We’ve heard it all before.”

That would be an easy reaction to hearing this parable read, wouldn’t it? If there were a league table of parables, this one and the Good Samaritan would probably be the top two. Is there any more to be said? Can we switch off now, please?

Well, I’m a great believer in the words of the Puritan John Robinson who said,

I am verily persuaded the Lord hath more truth and light yet to break forth from His holy word.

And the moment you start delving into this parable, you find there is far more too it. You’ll notice that so far I haven’t referred to it as ‘The Parable of the Prodigal Son’. That’s because not everyone would agree that the popular title summarises it accurately. One preacher called it ‘The Parable of the Waiting Father’, and another ‘The Parable of the Father’s Love’. Someone else called it ‘The Parable of the Compassionate Father and the Two Lost Sons.’

Well, at the risk of looking stupid alongside eminent scholars, I’m going to suggest my own title: ‘The Parable of the Three Prodigals.’

Three prodigals? Yes, I think so. For what is it to be prodigal? Is it not to be reckless and extravagant to the point of excess? I want us to consider how not only the younger son is reckless, but the father and the older son too, in different ways.

Anyway, let’s begin with the prodigal younger son. He’s a shocker, isn’t he? He is reckless about his work in the family:

Agricultural work was highly valued, and at least in the minds of some, abandoning agricultural work brought loss of respect.

He isn’t throwing away a meaningless job, but a decent one. He isn’t taking a gap year. He isn’t like the friend of mine whose parents supported her through an expensive secretarial course and became PA to one of Marks and Spencer’s directors, only to leave because she felt God calling her to help plant a church. The young prodigal is different. He says: blow my career and what I am doing to support the family, I want out. I want pleasure. NOW. Psychologists tell us that the willingness and ability to defer personal gratification is a sign of maturity. On that measure, he is a highly immature young man.

Not only that, he is reckless with regard to his whole family relationships. As if leaving the family business won’t damage that enough, his demand for his share of the inheritance to come is as good as saying to his father, “I wish you were dead.” He’s a nice boy, isn’t he?

Then when he goes, we see wild recklessness. He spends the inheritance (which has been given to him in the form of property) on ‘dissolute living’ (verse 13). The older son hears he has ‘devoured [the] property with prostitutes’ (verse 30). He is no model of faith. He is the sort of young man that fathers warn their daughters against.

So what do we think of someone like this? Not a lot. We would despise a young man like this. If you want contemporary equivalents, you don’t have to think too hard about various kinds of people we look down our noses at today. Think of the young people out clubbing at the weekend in Chelmsford, blowing their money on binge drinking and drugs. Think of overpaid entertainers and footballers, parading their spending in the celebrity magazines, wasting millions on gambling, having affairs and crashing their sports cars. Think of the couple who had plenty of food in the house but who starved a seven-year-old girl to death, leaving five other children with malnutrition, two of them dangerously so.

And people like that were the context for this parable, and the two immediately preceding it that we didn’t read – about the lost sheep and the lost coin. Remember how chapter 15 begins:

Now all the tax-collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, ‘This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.’

So he told them this parable: (Verses 1-3)

So, secondly,  what will the father do with the errant son? We must not minimise the shock in discovering that the father is also a prodigal. Prodigal in a different way, to be sure. But a prodigal nevertheless.

For what should the father do with a young son like this? It certainly shouldn’t involve him looking out for him, running to greet him and then throwing a wild party. Culturally, such a father would never have gone looking for his son. The expectation would be that the father would say, “I’m going to wait at home until that ne’er-do-well comes home and grovels.”

But this father is nothing like that. He is constantly keeping his eyes open for signs of his errant son’s return. He runs to greet him – an act that would be condemned as undignified. For in running you risk showing your legs, and that was considered wrong. (Which begs the odd question about the importance of dignity in church!)

Now if the father in the story makes us think of our heavenly Father – as Jesus, I am sure intends us too – what is the prodigal behaviour here? The father is reckless in grace. God the Father is forever on the lookout for people who are far from him, whose lives are messed up and for whom there is nobody to blame but themselves. He is looking for such people so he can tell them there is a place at home with him, and a party for all who turn back to him.

And so that is our calling through Jesus Christ. Followers of a reckless Father also look out for people who have ruined their lives, and who offer God’s unconditional love and grace.

The other day I read the story of St Mary’s church in Leamington, as told by their then vicar, Morris Rodham, in New Wine Magazine. Here is just a little bit of what he wrote:

Our community engagement started by serving one life at a time, because we looked for the mess, stretched out a hand and built a relationship. The same happened in the severe floods in Leamington in 1998. We started to get a reputation in the local area as a church that did practical things to support the community so we just kept the ball rolling.

Our youth worker, previously a drug addict, was recently awarded a civic award by the local District Council for outstanding contribution to local youth. She’s been working with a small team of people for the last four years doing detached youth work on a nearby estate. This involves befriending young people and families, especially those effected by negative circumstances. She’s also started mentoring in our local secondary school with kids that are in danger of being excluded. She’s already seeing positive changes in attitude in the kids.

She was one the many on our recovery scheme for people addicted to drugs or alcohol, or with offending backgrounds.[1]

He goes on to describe all sorts of other initiatives, and explains that every individual and small group in the church is expected to reach out to the poor and hurting, and that the church gives away 15% of its income to outside causes as an expression of this.

If we believe in a prodigal Father, then, our life as God’s people will be characterised by ‘outrageous grace’ – bringing the love and mercy of God in Christ to the last and the least deserving.

However, that brings us, thirdly and finally, to the prodigal elder son. For he is reckless, too. Tragically reckless. He is reckless in throwing something away. Not the reckless living of his younger brother, which he despises, nor the extravagant application of grace shown by his father. He despises that, too.

And that is what he recklessly discards: grace. His whole complaint is based on being treated not mercifully but according to what he deserves, as in his angry reaction in verse 29:

Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends.

Furthermore, he doesn’t even understand that everything his father had was his (verse 31). This is a man who wants to judge everything and everyone on grounds of moral perfection, and leave no room for his father to be merciful and gracious. Because that would be plain shocking. We can’t have that! How does that maintain moral standards? How does that help us keep track of who is the in crowd and who should be excluded?

The great tragedy, of course, is that our churches are filled with prodigal elder sons. Take as an example the question of how churches welcome newcomers. I’ve never known a church that doesn’t say it’s a welcoming congregation. In these days of church decline, few fellowships can afford to be anything other than welcoming (as if they should be the opposite in any circumstances!).

However, look at what happens to some newcomers. What happens to some of them when they get to be known a little better? Once their little foibles are known, the murmurs of disapproval begin, and you can bet that the new person perceives this. They may have habits that don’t fit the received etiquette of the church. They  may accidentally trespass onto what an established church member considers to be her territory. Words will be said – perhaps only behind their back, but you can be sure they will pick up on the vibe. Do you think they will hang around?

Probably not. They will have been driven out by a small army of prodigal older sons.

Now let me tie that thought in with another. This parable – like several others – ends without a proper conclusion. We need to supply our own ending. The last part of the parable is the father saying to the prodigal older son,

Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found. (verses 31b-32)

However, we don’t know the older son’s response. Will he accept the father’s invitation to celebrate outrageous grace? Or will he stomp off? He is left with a decision to make. So are we. Will we embrace grace, with all its implications, or will we remain stony-hearted moralists?

Except – we do know the end of the parable. Let us remember that Jesus told this in response to the Pharisees and scribes who were complaining that he welcomed ‘tax collectors and sinners’ (verses 1-3). And we know how they responded. They said, “We’re going to kill you.”[2]

Which makes our graceless ‘older son’ behaviour in churches all the more traumatic. Every time we despise others who need the mercy of God, we nail Jesus to the Cross. Every time we think we can live without grace because we’re just so good and worthy, we lay Jesus’ body in the tomb. Whenever we believe that prodigal younger brothers should be judged and denied the love of God, we roll a stone across the entrance to the sepulchre.

We have a choice. Either we embrace grace and offer it to others, whether we like them or not. Or we refuse grace to others and in doing so refuse it for ourselves. The consequences are not only for our own personal eternal destinies; our decisions affect the future life and health of the church.

It is time to stop being prodigal younger or older sons and instead drink from the well of the Father’s prodigal love.


[1] Morris Rodham, ‘Loving Your Neighbour’, New Wine magazine, Winter 2010, p 29.

[2] I owe this insight to David Pawson.

Gladys Aylward, Hero Of The Faith

Today I took two school assemblies in the same school – one for the infants, the second for the juniors. We are on a series about ‘saints’, which we have renamed ‘heroes of the faith’. This week I was stuck for ideas, so I put out a request on Facebook and Twitter for ideas, and received plenty of suggestions. Many I shall store up, but I loved my friend Sally Patterson’s suggestion that I tackle Gladys Aylward.

Not only was she a great woman of faith, I have an indirect connection. I come from the same part of north London as her, and my grandmother was friends with her. My grandmother too wanted to be a missionary, but was turned down on health grounds. It didn’t stop Aylward, though, any more than the other objections about her lack of educational ability to cope with Bible college training. She is a great example of faith in following God’s call despite the circumstances. If you ever want an example of the maxim ‘It’s not so much your ability but your availability that counts with God’, then she is an excellent illustration. This small, frail woman whose academic limitations meant she had been working ‘in service’ travelled by train across northern Europe, including Siberia, to reach her destination in northern China.

She is well known for her campaign against foot-binding – the Chinese practice of bandaging girls’ feet to prevent them from growing in the mistaken and cruel belief that small feet were beautiful. This is a woman from a small evangelical church (Tanners End Free Church), practising social justice at a time when such campaigning was largely thought worthless in evangelicalism, because such concerns were ‘liberal’ and we should just get on with rescuing people for heaven before the Second Coming.

Furthermore, what would she have to say today to some of the practices in the contemporary beauty industry? I think she would be pungent.

Then there is her courageous work of leading a hundred children on a hundred mile trek across the mountains to safety from the threat of Japanese soldiers. No comfortable life for her. It’s not Joel Osteen style religion.

She certainly was a feisty woman of faith. She was horrified that Ingrid Bergman was chosen to portray her in the film ‘The Inn of the Sixth Happiness‘. She wasn’t impressed with Bergman’s lifestyle, and therefore considered her unsuitable. Perhaps today we would be too dazzled by the celebrity culture. Not Gladys Aylward.

A friend of mine was a doctor, and a son of a doctor. His father once visited Aylward in a Southampton hospital when she returned to the UK once. She asked him to get out his Bible. But she told him not to read one of the ‘comforting’ passages. She wanted to hear something stirring!

O for more Gladys Aylwards today.

You can still sometimes come across old copies of her biography, ‘The Small Woman‘ by Alan Burgess.

Here is a video clip – not an excerpt from ‘The Inn of the Sixth Happiness’, but the trailer to a cartoon film on DVD for children about her.

Internet Nominated For Nobel Peace Prize

The Nobel Committee must be having a laugh, right? Nominating the Internet for the Nobel Peace Prize – they must have gone soft in the head this last year or two. Last year Barack Obama only had to breathe and suddenly he was a Nobel Laureate, at best on grounds of aspiration, certainly not on what he had achieved after a matter of months in the Oval Office.

Yes, there are plenty of good things on the Internet, and yes, a certain proportion of it is about ‘dialogue, debate and consensus’, but then there are the flame wars, the pornography, the terrorism and government monitoring, to say nothing of the dross, the mundane, the trivial and the narcissistic.

In any case, there is much more to peace than ‘dialogue, debate and consensus’. In Judaeo-Christian terms peace involves harmony, justice, healing and reconciliation just for starters.

And who would receive the award? Tim Berners-Lee, maybe? I can’t help thinking of the story that Rod Beckstrom and Ori Brafman tell in ‘The Starfish and the Spider‘ about being quizzed by French officials years ago with a persistent question: “Who is the President of the Internet?” Despite their frequent attempts to explain its decentralised nature, their inquisitors needed an answer. Only when one of them said he was the President of the Internet were they satisfied.

So, come on Nobel Committee – tell us you just wanted to give us all a giggle.

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