Sunday, March 29, 2009


The Talmud reads, "Never pray in a room without windows." Never pray without the world in mind, in other words. The purpose of the spiritual life is not to save us from reality. It is to enable us to go on co-creating it. - Sr. Joan Chittister

Thursday, March 19, 2009


"Love is an act of sedition, a revolt against reason, an uprising in the body politic, a private mutiny." - Diane Ackerman

"We are all bound up together in one great bundle of humanity, and society cannot trample on the weakest and feeblest of its members without receiving the curse in its own soul." - Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, Proceedings of the Eleventh Women's Rights Convention (1866)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


'Repentance, Renewal and Reconciliation: How One Denomination Has Come to Terms with its Anti-Judaic Heritage' is the title of a forum taking place this evening in the Seabury Auditorium at the Episcopal Church's General Theological Seminary, New York, where I'm staying at the moment.

In 1994, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America issued a 'Declaration to the Jewish Community' in which it repudiated Martin Luther's anti-Jewish writings, expressed its sorrow for their baleful effects in subsequent generations, and affirmed its "urgent desire to live out our faith in Jesus Christ with love and respect for the Jewish people."

Franklin Sherman,who chaired the committee that prepared the Declaration, will be discussing how it emerged, how it was received, and how it has been followed up in the years since. Dr Sherman is Director of the Institute for Jewish - Christian Understanding at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania.

The event is being presented by the General Seminary’s Center for Jewish-Christian Studies and Relations.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


The Still Human, Still Here campaign highlighting the plight of tens of thousands of refused asylum seekers who are destitute in the UK is one I passionately support. A few years ago I was involved in providing bail for asylum applicants. Those I met had been through some terrible experiences, and were treated humiliatingly by the 'justice system' here. My wife also sees what is going on as a lawyer.

As Ekklesia associate Vaughan Jones, CEO of Praxis, commented recently, in a broader context: Does the migrant have a human right? Are migrants fully human? Do they have, in the old language, souls? The answer as it currently appears from government is “unfortunately they are human, but we will do everything we possibly can to stop them from being so.”

Saturday, March 14, 2009


“[M]utual service and attention are the basic elements through which the human world becomes transparent to [God]. The realising of that transparency is… the beginning of happiness – not of a transient feeling of well-being or even euphoria, but of a settled sense of being at home, being absolved from urgent and obsessional desire, from the passion to justify your existence, from the anxieties of rivalry. And so what religious belief has to say in the context of our present crisis is, first, a call to lament the brokenness of the world and invite that change of heart which is so pivotal throughout the Jewish and Christian Scriptures; and, second, to declare without ambiguity or qualification that human value rests on God’s creative love and not on possession or achievement. It is not for believers to join in the search for scapegoats, because there will always be, for the religious self, an awareness of complicity in social evil.” – Rowan Williams (more from his lecture on Ethics, Economics and Global Justice - see below, 12/03/09).

Friday, March 13, 2009


The full online audio from the 'Faiths and Freedoms' session at the Convention on Modern Liberty in London on 28 February is now available here. It lasts about 1 hour 15 mins and features me (chairing and doing an introduction), Vaughan Jones (Praxis), Keith Kahn-Harris (New Jewish Thought) and Savi Hensman (equalities adviser and theological commentator). Edited and amplified text versions of what they said are available at Ekklesia - under features (9, 3 and 1 March) and in my column. A Muslim contribution will be added soon.

It's good to see that integrated schooling in Northern Ireland is getting a little more publicity at the moment -- though sadly in the wake of attempts by hardline sectarian groups to revive the bloody conflict there. It has much wider ramifications, however. See also the article by the Rev Jeremy Chadd, which highlights why selective denominational education runs counter to Christian testimony as well as cross-community development.

Thursday, March 12, 2009


“Ethics is about negotiating conditions in which the most vulnerable are not abandoned. And we shall care about this largely to the extent to which we are conscious of our own vulnerability and limitedness. One of the things most fatal to the sustaining of an ethical perspective on any area of human life, not just economics, is the fantasy that we are not really part of a material order – that we are essentially will or craving, for which the body is a useful organ for fulfilling the purposes of the all-powerful will, rather than being the organ of our connection with the rest of the world. It’s been said often enough but it bears repeating, that in some ways – so far from being a materialist culture, we are a culture that is resentful about material reality, hungry for anything and everything that distances us from the constraints of being a physical animal subject to temporal processes, to uncontrollable changes and to sheer accident.” – Rowan Williams, from a stimulating lecture on Ethics, Economics and Global Justice given recently at the Welsh Centre for International Affairs in Cardiff.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


Here's a short reflection on Adrian Pabst's recent article about the collapse of free-market fundamentalism and the challenge to communities of faith arising from engagement with economic alternatives.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


In this online audio programme from The Economist magazine, I am interviewed (in the second half of the segment) by Bruce Clark. The download is here. Incidentally, the "battle of ideas" I referred to was in the US, and refers more to a political battle than an intellectual one. On the same site there's also an interesting interview with Cambridge-based evolutionary palaeobiologist Simon Conway-Morris, who has a particular interest in religion-science discussions. His latest book tackles the question of convergence, in ways that annoy those who take a very reductive programme of gene-centred materialism to be essential to Darwinian theory. More about him here and here.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009


"There remains an experience of incomparable value ... to see the great events of world history from below; from the perspective of the outcast, the suspects, the maltreated, the powerless, the oppressed, the reviled - in short, from the perspective of those who suffer ... to look with new eyes on matters great and small." - Dietrich Bonhoeffer, After Ten Years