Movement 102

movementmagazine

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Career options

for Afts students

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ftIOUEIIIENT Publisations take

on the subiects that others

would rather brush undcr the

Cafpel...

MOVEMENT Publieations rePresent

a pioneering approaeh ts ehristian

understanding. They use their

independ ence to explore issues on

the eutting edge of faith with the next

generation of Christian thinl


Morag Foster explains her retuctance reveal that she was a Christian in recent

University elections. Does the [abe[ 'Christian' do more harm than good?

How much do others reatty need to know about you?

Stand u

an

e categorfsed

trffi"v*r*,ffii#'

becoming a bit of a political prostitute.

People I hadn't seen for weeks became

suddenly fascinating; I went to every

obscure society that I'd joined six months

ago and faked faithful attendance. I even

went drinking in the Union for a couple of

nights.That wasn't the major struggle of the

last fortnight, though. What bothered me

the most was how much the voters needed

to know about me. Was it wise to come out,

and did they need to know that I'm a

Christian?

It's an interesting debate. Someone

once told me that coming out as a Christian

in the gay community carries almost as

I don't buy the lie that students

are open-minded, compared to

the rest of the poputation.

Most of them are just younger.

much stigma as coming out as gay in the

church. My experience to date has tended

to find the gay community a little more

hospitable than the church, but I know

that's not true for everyone. However, this

University is neither the church or the gay

cornmunity. And I don't buy the lie that

ffi

lssue 109

Summer 1999

Moyement is the

termly magazine of

the Student Christian

Movement, distributed

free of charge to

members and

dedicated to an openminded

exploration of

Christianity.

students are open-minded, compared to the

rest of the population. Most of them are just

younger. I study in a fairly rural area, in an

institution that is known for its sports based

courses, a place that's not particularly gay

or Christian friendly. I had the feeling that

mentioning

either

attribute

wasn't

going to go

down too

well.

I came out

at hustings

in the end,

by accident. I was asked for the one person

who I would take to a desert island. I

answered honestly. Some people applauded

but the atmosphere in the room changed. I

wasn't sorry I'd done it, but I don't doubt it

affected the final result. ln the end, I never

mentioned my faith. I could argue that it

Edltorlal address

22 Dowanside Road,

Hillhead, Glasgow.

G12 gDA

r (0141) 334 7169

e: movemag@aol.com

SCM central office

Westhill College,

14/ L5 tffeoley Park Road,

Selly Oak, Birmingham.

829 6LL

r (0121) 47!2404

t: (OL2L} 474 125L

e: SCM@charis.co.uk

movement 1

Editor: Tim Woodcock

Editorlal board: Diccon Lowe,

Stephen Matthews, Sara Mellen, lrfan

Merchant, Carolyn Styles

SCM staff

Coordinator - Carolyn Styles

Project Worker: Groups - Craig Cooling

P roject Worker : lvbntesltip

Dercbprnent - $ephen Maflhelw

Disclaimer: The views expressed in

Movement are those of the particular

author and should not be taken to be

the policy of the Student Christian

Movement.

didn't come up among the candidate's

questions, but it made me feel a little

ashamed of myself. We've been taught,

particularly those of us who are survivors of

evangelicalism, that God is to be trumpeted

in every area of our lives; everyone we know

should know what we believe. I'm still

shedding that sense of what I 'should' and

'shouldn't' do, but my parent's faith still

casts a long shadow.

I lost the election. lt wasn't as upsetting

as I thought it would be, although it would

have been nice to see how good I would

have been at thejob. I'm still left, though,

with some nagging questions. lf I was

standing again, would I use the word

'Christian' of myself? And why is it easier to

admit to having a girlfriend than to mention

that I'm quite fond of God? They both carry

roughly the same amount of baggage, as

labels go. But it was easier to admit to

being a sexual deviant than it was to

confess to having a set of beliefs that many

regard as archaic, or simply irrelevant. I'm

frequently on my soapbox about gay rights

- but the days when I would get up in public

and shout about my faith are long gone.

That's not necessarily a bad thing,

considering the reaction that shouty

Christians generally get. But I do still wonder

how God feels about my reluctance to stand

up and be counted. I can't help feeling that

He would have voted for me, though.

,1t

Morag Foster was standing for an Executive

position at Glamorgan University,

Membership fees:

tls(waged)

f 10 (unv,tagedlstdens)

Next copydate

2nd Augnst L999

UrEdicibd mabdal lrchome.

Askforguidelines.

Ad\ertki€cogrdab

th At€Ust 1999

rssN 0306980x

Ctnrity Nlo. 241896

@19SgSC[4


--- a

Craig Cooling

returns unscathed

from this year's

joint conference:

"Apocalypse Now!"

Newmnru Httt, BlRlltrueHRru

Srx-7rH MAncH 1999

E*iillu1;u*#***,

all things millennial: heaven and hell'

angels, cults, apocryphal imagery and the

book of Revelation through the usual mix of

speakers and base groups but coupled with

some of the most creative workshops ever

to come out of Birmlngham.

NEWS

from

scM

in

Britain

and

beyond

A11 in the Apocalypse together

The main speaker, Maggie Roux, is a

senior lecturer in Film Studies at Trinity and

All Saints College in Leeds. Maggie focused

on the use of apocryphal images in film.

Scenes from the Terminator, Deep lmpact,

Omega Man, Planet of the Apes and many

more describe the end of the world and

what it is like to be there. There is a spate of

apocalyptic themes in film being produced

presently and consequently there is a great

wealth of imagery available. Maggie was

very well received and everyone agreed that

it was an excellent, challenging and

insightful introduction. ln the afternoon we

ran workshops facilitated by staff workers

and by David Bryant, lecturer in theology at

Queens College in Birmingham.

Saturday night produced a rapturous

juxtaposition of a traditional ceilidh and

funky disco (the ultimate cheese), which

against all the odds, was loved by all' On

Sunday we celebrated a shared ecumenical

worship - for which the joint conferences

are remembered.

ffi

The conference was an overwhelming

success both as a time for reflection on the

forthcoming millennium and thinking over

apocalyptic imagery, and also as a weekend

that was fun and provocative. We had as

much fun as Dorothy did in discovering the

Yellow Brick Road. The conference was once

again very well attended thus suggesting

that SCM is still relevant; its questioning is

vltal to what will define Christianity in the

new millennium.

cAt,r t-ortrl Y trn! s

o

o

b

i(t

o

b f,

o l

o

S


movement 2

t Camp Looney Apes (it's a/most an anagram)

< tmage des@ned for the conference

-oner

Aates to rememos

. 18-20 June

Retreat - Bainesbuty Manor, near Bath

. 30 Au9ust - 9 SePtember

WSCF General Assembly: "Behold I make all

things new". Beirut, Lebanon'

. LL-L7 September

WSCF European Regional Assembly - A$ape' near

Turin, ltaly.

. lr}-t2September

Training Event 1999 - St Clarat Youth Retreat

Centre, near Huntingdon, Cambs.


Go away!

l: SClvt's annual retreat will from 18-20

June at same place as last year:

Bainesbury House, 'somewhere near Bath'.

It promises to be a mellow weekend

amongst scenic surroundin$s: full of

communal cooking, walks and frisbee and

impromptu worship. lt costs €,1O plus

shared food bill.

ll: wscr-Europe organises conferences for

students across Europe. lts motto is: "The

bible in one hand and a newspaper in the

other"; it is also committed to pioneering

ecumenical work at a time when the

churches seem almost ready to give it up.

There are two main ways to be involved:

one is by attending a conference as a

delegate. Another is to get involved by

planning an event (being on a Prepoom).

You will be asked to represent British SCM,

which means having some background

knowledge, being prepared to answer

questions and - mostly importantly - taking

a drink from your native country for the

cultural evening.

Recent events have been in Belarus,

Romania and France. Travel is reimbursed;

the conference fee is negotiable. However

often the information rarely comes in time

to approach people with much warning. lf

you would be interested in attending such

an event pass your name to the SCM's

national office.

lll: far less likely but still not impossible:

the students of Togolese SCM invite you to

Publications

Body building

Movement publicatlons ls startingwork on the next resource. lt

will be on "the body" and will contain reflections, workshops,

discusslon sta,ters. lt will look at ideas of disability, healing,

beauty, health, sexuality. Will the church ever strike a healthy

balance among body, mind and spirit? Su*gestions on how

to approach these topics are welcome: drop a line to

movemag@aol.com.

Previous resources have included The Crying Game (on

West Africa. They are organising a two-week

international camp (starting on August 6th)

with an informal two week exposure tour

after this. lt costs $300. NB - Togo is

French-speaking but most students speak

English.

Contact Ruben Lawson-Lartego, who is

currently studying in Britain, at

eap987@reading.ac.uk

Sowing the seeds...

lf are involved in running a local SCM or are

thinking of setting one up this is for you.

The 1999 Training Event in September, just

before the new academic year, will explore

your hope and fears of group work:

planning worship, building group identity

and running and facilitating meetings. And

the venue (St Clarat Youth Retreat Centre,

Huntingdon) has both bed and showers.

Surely an SCM first.

Thank you Graham

February 6th saw the demise of Scottish

SCM as a separate body. lt was a sad but

necessary day: Glasgow and Edinburgh are

currently the only groups meeting regularly.

A special thank you must be said to Graham

Monteith; the 'Dr Rev' worked patiently and

against-the-odds as the Honourary

Secretary for 3 years. He is now devoting his

time to the disability movement. And also a

mention should made of the many Senior

Friends for their behind-thescenes

work.

oV

Poorts

Death), No More Mr Nice Guy and Just Love. They are known for their

accessibility and word-of-mouth popularity. Expect publication of next one late in 2000.

Movement gets funky...

Since the editorial offtce moved to Glasgow, Movement seems t0 have acquired a club-night in its honour.

Keeps reading and you too could have a haircut like that... and it doubles as a portable filing system too.

Eurotrash

Aneweditionof Mozaik, thesomewhatsporadicmagazinefromWSCF(Europe),is

out. WSCFIs anelwork

ofSCMs or equivalent froups across the world; the pan-European magazine was founded in 1994 by

former Movement editor and self-confessed matazine freak Michael Feakes.

ln the current issue there are articles on images of student

activism from the 60s (Pratue, Paris) and the nineties. lt

MOZAIK

Magazine of the World Student

Christian Federation (Europe Region)

contains a survey of Easter celebrations from across Europe.

lncludintthis tem from the Czech Republic: "0n Monday, all

the men make themselves a sorl of whip from willow

branches. 0n the top they add ribbons for decoration. They

chase the females and, as they run, the males give them 'stroke! on their backsidesl' Ihis ls perhaps the

best way to persuade Tory MPs that European integration is no bad thing.

Mozaik 99 is available from the Bimingham office, with a 38p SAE.

One of those strange offers that passes

through the office and is of relevance to

those with an interest in church music or

organ playing: a good while ago Stephen

Rhys and King Palmer wrote a book called

The ABC of Church Music. (H&S 1967). Mrs

Rhys has an excessive number of these

books in her house and is kindly offering

them free of charge to any one who is

interested. The ABC of Church Music is

described as "[a] practical book for anyone

having anything to do with worship, singing

and organ music. lt discusses the place of

music in worship, the nature, performance

and accompaniment of hymns, chants and

plain song." lt is now out of print but

available for the price of postage (f.1.00

worth of stamps). lf you would like a copy,

contact Carrie in the office who will put you

in touch.

Stephen M atth ews, SCM's membership

worker, has just been given an Millennium

Award by CAFOD. Well done sir! He will

travel to South Africa for three weeks in the

Autumn to look at various social projects. lt

is "a fact-finding and publicity mission" and

he's hoping migiht be able to arrange

afternoon tea with Ne/son Mandela.

Hopefully this experience will feed back into

his work with SCM on his return.

Congratulations also go to Norwegian SCM,

one of the largest

Y,I

in Europe, who

have just

celebrated their

rel

100th birthday.

Regional Secretary

Andreas Havinger

writes: "Under the

title Across A//

Borders, the celebration began on Tuesday

16 February and ended with a festive

worship service in Oslo Cathedral the

following Sunday. ln between there were

parties, concerts, cabaret, the SCM's

regular Friday liturgy and a reception for

several hundred students, past and

present. Highlights were an updated version

of the SCM's techno-mass, celebrated in an

Oslo club and turning one of SCM's offices

into a caf6 for the duration of the

celebrations."

movement 3


A recent articte in the cathotic student council newsletter Grapevine caused a

furore. ln it a heatth worker advocated that students shoutd practice safe sex;

as resutt the cathotic press disowned its student body. Here stephen Matthews,

a Roman Cathotic, writes in sotidarity with CSC's position'

Condemnations and condoms

EWARE OF wOtlEN - TIIEY

will make you lustful. They will fill

you with desire and tempt You

into sin.

The language of the medieval church is

extraordinary, but it is more surprising that

such a polemical attitude still influences us'

The church has for centuries advised us on

how to have sex' And until this day the

institutionalised church tries to

maintain control over our

expression of

ChristianitY.

When the

Catholic Student

Council wrote about

relationshiPs in their

magazine GraPevine, The

Catholic Herald resPonded

from on Hi$h. ln the article

a health worker - in their

professional caPacity and in

the context of a debate -

recommended the use of

condoms. The GraPevine article

is said to give a whollY unreal

impression of restraint and

responsibility and lhe Catholic

Herald insists we should rather ask

questions of marriage.

A brief glimpse into history will reveal

occasions when the church becomes

passionate when it attempts to deal with

sex. Augustine - probably the most famous

Father of the Church who couldn't handle

sex - scurried from a life of temptation into

the welcoming bosom of the church' As a

voice of the church he spouted polemics

against the lustfulness of women. lndeed

the commandment from God that we have

most positively fulfilled, that we 'go forth

and multiply', the church has constantly

questioned and tried to control. Sex can be

dangerous; maybe, if we didn't talk about it

so much we m'ght do more about it?

The church has alwaYs confused me

about sex yet our problem is really in not

questioning the churches' confusion' Sex

may be widely spoken about but is also a

taboo subject, particularly within religious

circles. Swear words are formed from the

language of sex, and a prudish attitude to

such language continues to enforce the

notion that sex is taboo' Why should we feel

guilty and disown our sexual desires?

The church's inflexible stance on

contraception serves as a reminder of it lost

relevance to our lives. The Church ready

condemnation of those who even mention

the use of condoms - regardless of the

context - is uncaring.' outdated pomposity'

That the church can be seen to so readily

condemn those who merely mention the

use of a condom, even without direct

prescription to use it in an article

concerning sexual health'

is uncaring.

Students are aware of

safe sex camPaigns

promoter bY their

student union

welfare office. For

the churches then

to reject the use

of condoms

suggests its

message is

more

concerned

with

denying

sexuality

and the responsibilitY

for one's own

body. lf we are to give control of

our bodies over to the church it means

we are not to have sex, and when we do we

are to be married bY the church and

pregnancy is not for our control'

It is convenient to declare that life-giving

is God's, but this denies the difference

between men and women. Women can

conceive and give birth - simply because

men cannot does not mean that therefore

conception should be consigned to what is

"other" - namely God. We need to end this

denial and recognise that conception and

child-birth is of a woman' There needs to be

a developing understanding ofthe condom

not simply as contraception for men, but

also for women: allowing woman to regain

control of their bodies, of their life-giving

force, of their womanhood.Women need to

be able to say "no" to pregnancy and equally

to be able to express their pregnancy when

they wish.

Suggesting that abstinence from sex as

the only alternative to what The Catholic

Herald describes as the "unpleasant

consequences" of sex is naive and

misleading. Women reclaiming their virginity

reinforces the idea of male conquest, and

they condone the lack of sexuality in

women. Although women may no longer be

viewed as temptresses of lust, they remain

an unnamed aspect of sexual expression,

still denied responsibility for their bodies

and the expression oftheir womanhood'

movement 4

Sex in and of itself is not evil and it is

not a sin. lt may be viewed as a sacrament

of lifegiving and our continual response to

God's first commandment - to 'go forth and

multiply'. lt is the misuse of sex that should

be considered sinful. Rape is more than

intercourse and shouldn't be restricted to

mere penetration. Rape is the use of sexual

lust to oppress, and to control another's

body for one's own end. The church must

not be guihy of rape - of seeking to control

and oppress our bodies - and therefore

must permit the use of contraception: to do

this the church must listen to the cries of

"no" and "you're hurting me". With this

responsibility of using contraception comes

our right to say yes or no - and mean it -

without needing escape clauses. This

responsibility needs to be accepted, just as

a woman who says no to pregnancy needs

to be accepted. No means no: it doesn't

mean we have to rob her of her sexuality'

simply because she says no to pregnancy'

It was alright for the Virgin Mary' she

became pregnant but skipped the sex' Yet

the Virgin birth is no more than an illtudged

metaphor that aimed simply to highlight the

importance of the new-born but it has

wrought extreme consequences' lt is time

we stopped conforming to the view that we

have no control over sexuality: there is a

hidden agenda. Promoting our supposed

lack of control actually gives control to those

who promote the message, it is time we

claimed this control back for ourselves' Ihe

Cathotic Herad suggests that the world

must be brought into conformity with their

view of Catholicism. Yet even the prevalent

idea that if we can't control ourselves then

we must address the problem - and maybe

only then contemplate using a condom -

does not reach deeP enough. We must

challenge the notion that this scenario is

one of lack of control, rather it is one of

reclaiming control.

Give people a chance to say no and let's

begin with the option to insist on using a

condom. When I say "yes" to sex, but "no" to

pregnancy, I can do something about it' I

will take responsibility and not rely on

others. Despite the condemnations of the

Catholic Press I will enjoy sex and "have a

condom handY".

Stephen Matthews is SCM's Membership

Development Worker.

SEE ALS0 PAGE 1 6: Rick Garland on 'barebacking" -

Erowing subculturc in which one pursues casual sex

the use of condons. WhY?


7

I

$l l;,ml:n;

RurH Hnnvrv

WERE TWO ilOTETIIS ITI

the morning worship at the World

Council of Churches Assembly in

trHERE

Harare in December last year

which moved me profoundly. The first was

when we were reflecting on the image of the

grain of wheat which dies in order to bear

fruit. We were invited to move to a number

of cloths located around the tent (we were

upwards of 3 000 people each morning

gathered in a huge blue 'Big Top'). There we

had to write the name of someone, or a

group of people who had given their lives to

follow Jesus, in the certain hope of

resurrection. We moved slowly, taking our

time, not rushing those in front, waiting for

our turn to pen the name of the

'disappeared', the martyred, the brave.

These 'banners' were then taken to the front

where they were displayed for all to see.

Some of the names were read aloud to the

gathered worshippers. Some of the names

were unfamiliar, in languages difficult to

The liturgical tourist

understand, but we were united in prayer at

a level which transcended boundaries of

language, tradition and liturgical

'correctness.'

The second moving moment was when

we were led in singing 'He's got the whole

world in his hands'. This is a song I have

sung since I was 4 years old; a song

hackneyed beyond belief, complete with the

'actions' and the blank, bored stare as the

words are repeated again and again. Yet

our leader was a young man from the USA

who sang it with such feeling, such passion,

such energy of a true spiritual that it

became a new song for me: it became a

song of unlty that moved me to tears. And

we didn't have to do the actions (thank

God). We were united in prayer,

transcending the boundaries of language

and of tradition. Ecumenical worship is alive

and well.

There are many ways of worshipping

together. One is simply to share the 'best'

liturgical offerings from each denomination.

There is merit in this approach: for those

who are not used to Anglican evensong,

Roman Catholic mass, Orthodox vespers,

Reformed meditation, this style gives us the

chance to be liturgical tourists. And this

inter-denominational approach to worship

allows us never to forget the pain of the

division which we encounter at the table,

a pain which we did not tackle head on in

Harare. Experiencing stark contrasts and

painful separation while remaining true to

traditions is an important part of our shared

prayer and worship life.

What this inter-denom inational approach

lacks, however, is the opportunity to

experience that greater sense of belonging

together in faith which transcends traditions

and taps in to the Tradition of prayer,

sharing and praise which is ours,

collectively. The fear of an 'ecumenical mishmash'

is what, quite rightly, puts many off:

we might simply end up with a weak, watery

version of a number of traditions, meshed

together into a liturgical equivalent of lentil

goo. But this need not be the case.

What happened in Harare confirmed yet

again, for me, that in worship as in no other

part of our ecumenical journey it is possible

to find a common sense of belonging in

faith. Through shared action, through

singing new songs together, through the

repetition of key liturgical acts like the entry

of the word, confession, intercession we

move beyond the spectator/ performer axis

into a new way of worshipping together

which may be the key to renewed

ecumenical dialogue in these countries and

around the world.

God of surprises

Over the next five pages you will find three essays that

explore something surprising in our understanding of God:

an unexpected change in direction. Things don't stay in the

boxes we put them and theology rarely goes to plan...

David Muir explores issues for the Black church in Britain. The need to

replace apathy with anger and courage were brought sharply into focus

by the murder of Stephen Lawrence and the subsequent inquiry.

Matt Bullimore discusses the limits of liberalism - the path of most

academic theolos/ - and examines tradition and how it can be

appropriated by radical theolos/.

John Bentham, until recently a vicar in inner city Nottingham, finds old

barriers are breaking down. He suggests that evangelicals serve as a

model for social action in local communities.

One thing I underctand now is that one's intellect alone won't pull one

through, and that the greatest seryice it can perform is to open a

window for that thing we call the dMne spidt. lf one Eusts to it alone

it's like trusting to an artificial system of vendlation - conect in theory

but musty in practice. How I wish it were as easy to throw everything

open to the spirit of God as it is to ftesh air.

HrrDA CLARK (1908)

FROM QUAKER FAITH AND PRACTICE

movement 5


lt

R. David Muir of the Black Churches Civic Forum argues that the Stephen

Lawrence enquiry was a defining moment in British history. We know that we live in

an ,,institutionat[y racist" society; the virtues of mutti-cutturatism are under threat.

What shoutd be the response of Christians and, in particula6 Btack-Majority Churches?

Mlxed up

unrilc flE Frlnurnv mlr'

term school holidaY I took mY five

year old daughter, Shani, to

Castle Aquatics on Well Hall Road

to buy a light for her fish tank. The shop is

very near Stephen Lawrence's Memorial

Plaque. I finally decided, goaded by her

persistent questions after Neville Lawrence

came to visit us and then seeing him on

television constantly, that I needed to show

her the Plaque and explain to her what had

happened to StePhen.

The experience was Painful, but

necessary. How do you explain to a five year

old that a young man was killed simply

because he was Black? How do you begin to

explain what racism is and how it debilitates

and disadvantages Black and ethnic

minority people in Britain? . lt was not easy'

but I had to struggle to articulate the truth I

knew in ways my five year old daughter

could understand. She responded with

sadness and the poignant innocence of her

age: "Dad, if you know anything about it you

How do you exPtain to a

five year otd that a Young

man was kitted simPtY

because he was Btack?

should tell the police. Those boys who killed

Stephen should be in prison"' Out of the

mouth of babesl

ln the wake of the publication of the

Macpherson Report into the murder of

Stephen Lawrence the question is: Where

do wil go from here?

Three things immediately spring to mind.

Firstly, we must not despair. We must

not lose hope in the vision and virtue of a

multi-racial society in spite of the experience

of the Black community in its encounter

with the Criminal Justice system. When you

see Black people continue to be five times

more likely than whites to be stopped and

searched by the police; more likely to be

charged; more likely to be denied bail; more

likely to suffer injury and deaths in police

custody; more likely to be jailed if convicted

and less likely to be granted parole' it is

easy to lose hope under the sheer weight of

rampant discrimi natory practices.

GOD o

But we must not succumb to this

particular temptation known as despair.

Even against the odds we have to prophetically

raise our voice, register our protest

and reassert our Christian commitment to

the vision and virtue of such a society.

Christians have an important role to play

in the construction and maintenance of this

vision; and the history and institutional

cohesion of the Black-Majority churches in

the community place them in a unique

position to challenge racial and social

injustice.

It was the recognition of the important

role of the Black-Majority churches,

especially their moral, institutional and

potential political resource in

salting and lighting the

architecture and

maintenance of a virtuous

multi-racial society, that the

Black Christian Civic Forum

UK was founded. The Forum

was launched in the House

of Commons on MondaY

18th January, Martin Luther

King Day. lts main aims are to 'promote

citizenship and pursue justice' by engaging

the Black-Majority churches, and the wider

Black Christian constituency, more effectively

in the social and political process.

By providing a platform for social action,

civic participation and political education

the Forum hopes to engender a new culture

of Black Christian social and political

participation and radical commitment to a

just and socially inclusive vision of modern

Britain.

Secondly, the churches must creatively

and prophetically get more involved in the

social and political structures of our society'

This is the old Gospel injunction to be 'Salt

and Light' and the 'leaven' of transformation.

As the dominant and most cohesive

institution in the Black community, the

Black-Majority churches must take stock of

its position and priorities. lt must use its

resources and institutional strength to affect

change in the wider community. This' of

movement 6

It all goes back to a spring evening in

1993. Late on 22 April an 18-year-old A-

level student called Stephen Lawrence and

his fiiend Duwayne Brooks were making

their way home after spending the day

together. The boys were ]ushing to catch a

bus in south-east London - Stephen was

already late - when they were confronted

a gang of white youths. the gang set upon

Stephen, A stunned and helpless Duwayne

brieflywatched in paralysed silence, before

he was chased off by one of the white

youths. Stephen managed to scramble

as Duwayne urged him to "just run ". But

he had been beaten badlY and was

bleeding profusely. He collapsed after 200

yards in a pool of blood and died.

Despite receiving numerous tip-offs

within hours of the murder as to those who

might have been responsible for the attack'

officers adopted a lacklustre approach to

the investigauon. Nobody has since been

convicted of the murder.

ln July 1997 the new Home Secretary

JackStraw had announced therewere

would be a public inquiry and appointed Sir

William Macpherson to chair the hearing.

Evidence from the inquiry kePtthe

Lawrcnce case in the headlines for much of

1998. Ihis February the Macpherson repoft

into the racist m urder of Stephen Lawrence

has published: it labelled London's police

force'institutionally racis( and condemned

offi cers for'fu nd a me ntal e rrorg.

Tony Blair said: ' lt will ceftainly lead to

new laws but more than that itwiil bring a

new eta of race relations," Jack Straw

welcomed the lon(-awaited findin$s and

promised sweeping iudicial retorms, most

crucially extendingthe Race Relations Act

to cover the police. Most controversially,

however Metropolitan Police chief Sir Paul

Condon has denied the claims and refused

to res,gn.

Stephen's mother Doreen Lawrence said

the reportonly 'scratched the sutace.

Black people are still dying on the streets

and in the back of police vans. "

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course, will mean radically rethinking its

social and political agenda. Speaking at the

conference organised by BCCF on 20th

March on 'The Black Christian Response to

the Macpherson Report' Paul Boateng

(Minister of State at the Home Office)

encouraged Christians to seize the moment

offered by Macpherson to help shape the

social and political agenda on racialjustice

and community regeneration.

Black Christians can no longer politically

operate in splendid isolation. On the major

issues of our day the church must rise up

and be counted. Bishop Desmond Tutu

reminded us many years ago that silence in

the face of 'unjust conditions' is 'fatal to the

Church's witness to the world'. Many second

and third generation African-Caribbean

Christians have interpreted this silence as

biblically unsound and socio-politically

untenable. Silence on the part of Christians

is in danger of being interpreted as

indifference; and indifference will be the

precursor to viewing the church as

irrelevant.

lf the death of Stephen Lawrence, and

the lnquiry and report arising out of it, truly

constitute a defining moment in British

history and racial discourse, I find it

inconceivable that our churches can

continue 'business as usual'. Every church

needs to have a copy of the conclusions and

recommendations of this important Report;

every church needs to consider the

implications for the church and society.

Thirdly, we need new perspectives, new

tools, and new narratives of ascent to take

us into the next millennium. At the

beginning of this century the renowned

African-American scholar WEB DuBois

stated that the problem of the Twentieth

Century was 'the problem of the colour line'.

Nearly a hundred after DuBois' observation

Macpherson reminds us that racism is still a

problem. And the problem goes far beyond

the Metropolitan Police as the Report

acknowledged: "We all agree that

i nstitutional racism affects the Metropolitan

Police Service, and the Police Services

elsewhere. Furthermore our conclusions as

to Police Seryices should not lead to

complacency in

other institutions

and organisations.

Collective failure

is apparent in

many of them, includin! the Criminal

Justice systern" (Sect 46.27)

ln defining'institutional racism'

Macpherson says it is: "... the collective

failure of an organisation to provide an

appropriate and professional service to

people because of their colour, culture or

ethnic origin... which amount to

discrimination through unwittingl prejudice,

ignorance, thought/essness, and racist

stereotyping which disadvantage minority

ethnic people" (Sect.6.34)

Ail rssrffitlL pART oF fitE roola

that we need in constructing these new

perspectives and new narratives will be the

courage and boldness to define, and

redefine, ourselves by the best that is in us

and not by the worst that has happened to

us. The life and struggles of Equiano (an

eighteenth century African who was

kidnapped from West Africa at the tender

age of ten, sold into slavery and later

became an author and a leading Abolitionist

in England) is instructive in this respect.

Education and greater civic participation will

help us define and design ways in which we

want to engender change in ourselves, our

churches and in our communities. For some

of us this may mean joining political parties,

the Metropolitan Police force, the

magistracy and other sections of the

Criminal Justice system, standing for local

elections, becoming school governors, using

We urgentty need responsibte

and prophetic citizenship.

our church halls and premises for

recreational and educational activities, and

making more effective use of the pulpit to

preach and teach about social and racial

justice. Whatever route we take we do so in

the knowledge that informed Christian

intervention and civic participation is both

urgent and redemptive. ln short, we need an

insurrection of Christian militancy against

apathy, indifference and injustice in our

communities.

ln Matthew 25 Jesus intimates that one

does not have to be a Christian to do good

and care for the stranger, the destitute and

those on the margins of society. However,

one's place in the Kingdom is seriously

called into question if one neglects the

welfare of one's neighbour. This is the

challenge for all of us; it is that sacred and

serious juncture where faith and justice

meet; where prayer and politics become

instruments in the removal of barriers to

equal opportunities for participation in, and

contributions to, the wider society by Black

and ethnic minority communities.

St. Augustine said: "Hope has two

beautiful daughters. Their names are anger

and courage; anger at the way things are,

and courage to see that they do not remain

the way they are."

The death of Stephen Lawrence is both

a mirror and a metaphor of our society and

some of its institutions. Christians must be

angry (call it 'righteous indignation' if you

will) when they see injustice; they must also

display courage when called upon to

challenge it. This form of responsible and

prophetic citizenship is urgently needed,

allowing us to align ourselves anew with

Hope's two daughters and advance the

values of the Kingdom of God as we move

into the next century.

R. David Muir is Director of the Black

Churches Civic Forum. lt is a coalition of

churches that was set up in February and

hopes to provide a platform for social

action, civic participation and political

education.

SEEA|SO PAGE 27: lnteview with Simon Hughes, MP:

The worst moment of his career, which really made him

sick, was a 'race marcll in his constituency, which nearly

developed into a local civil war!'

movement 7


After three years studying theotogy Matt Bullimore has found that liberalism is a

dead end: a constant discarding of doctrines. He suggests we draw inspiration from

the history books because being rooted in Tradition doesn't mean going backwards.

Tradlcallsm

trli*l*Tfr'*i'*'ffi*

"What is wanted is a deeply religious liberal

party... . The great evil is that the liberals

are deficient in religion, and the religious

are deficient in liberality". Splendid, I

thought, that would fit just lovely with what I

want to write in Movement. l've been a bit

worried about liberality recently. lt makes a

change; I used to be worried about nothing

apart from those who are, indeed, deficient

in liberality.

Let me begin with a little story about an

SCM planning meeting that we had in

Cambridge. An old SCMer had come along

and was a little perturbed about the

argument that broke out about the Trinity,

its doctrinal history and the consequences

of getting it 'wrong'. NoW I admit that

Cambridge SCM is, for better or worse, and

usually for worse, mostlY made uP of

theologians, and such arguments are

common. Yet, the aforementioned gent was

surprised that as a group we actually

concurred that God is three in one' "When I

was at SCM", he cried, "we used to argue

over whether or not God even existed!"'

So what? My Point is that SCM is an

evolving organisation, a Movement (eh,

Tim?) and that is good. Many of you may

know the history of SCM, its natal

involvement in the ecumenical movement'

I find that Liberatism has

nothing to dig its heets into.

I want something with a bit

more batts than toterance,

human rigtrts and an

Entightenment scePticism.

and its gradual radicalisation in the 1960's

and, I'm afraid to say, it's gradual decline in

numbers over the last few years (certainly in

Cambridge anyway). Our group is now made

up of about twenty regulars, and a good

majority of them would claim to be a

member of a mainstream denomination, I

would say, and most of them are quite

devout, serious Christians (l'm going to be

murdered for this). We see ourselves as a

liberal group who want to get involved in the

social and political arenas of life and want

to Get Something Done. Yet, not many of us

would want to be outside of our particular

churches and may even see them as

particularly helpful starting points' There

seems to be a turn towards traditional

religious expression and an adherence to a

historic tradition. Perhaps a conservative

turn? Well, I'm in deeP now, so let me

continue. Traditionalism, Conservatism,

Dogmatism - they're scary words and I too

would want to be rid of them. As the quaint

proverb goes, "Traditionalism is the dead

faith of the living, so bin it, but Tradition is

the living faith of the dead, so honour it"'

So, what am I trYing to saY? I find that

Liberalism, with what I think of as its kind of

pick and choose mentality, has nothing to

dig its heels into. I was pretty darn Liberal a

couple of years ago, and I jettisoned most of

the doctrines I'd ever heard of - there was

nothing safe from my quest for truth - no

resurrections, miracles, or virgins (?!)' I

knew best what was

what more so than

did 2000 years of

tradition, thank you

very much. Lately,

however, l've wanted

something with a bit

more balls than

tolerance, human

rights ethics and an

Enlightenment

scepticism. I wanted

something that did

not refuse the

religious, or that

which pertained to God, and was properly

speaking theologic-al. That is, something

that actually used words about God, and

from God. I wanted something a bit bigger'

and I found revelation. What if I took these

stories in the Bible seriously? What if I tried

a bit of faith, and added a dash of humility?

What if I turn around and say to the secular

"l refuse you!" and say that pandering to

society and culture may be bad because

most of what we live and think is quite often

defined against the religious aspects of

historic society.

I nlxr I nev se llr TnouBLE wtll

certain words again. l'm not suggesting that

we read the Bible literally, and I think that

kind of approach is as Modern as is the way

that many Biblical scholars ransack the

texts for history and a little bit of certainty

about what'really' happened. When I say

Modern I mean that they have the same

philosophical womb, being birthed around

about the sixteenth century. Both

approaches seem to manifest a scientific

way of looking at texts - be it through

historical and critical tools, or through the

'a + b + c = salvation' mentality. What

about using (not going backto) the way

medieval and earlier writers used to read

the texts allegorically, morally, and hopefully,

whilst paying attention to the movement

and integrity of the received story as it is

found in the text. What context could this

be done in? I think that we need an

interpretative community fuelled and guided

by the Spirit - the Church - to help us get

beyond individualism in its many guises. I

don't want to submit to an unhelpful

ecclesiastical authority, as much as the next

movement 8


SCMer certainly doesn't want to. And I think

many of our churches are up the proverbial

creek without so much as a pulpit to stand

on (if you may so permit me to mix my

metaphors). I think that any Church that is

willing to be part of the history of Christian

communities, with its failures and

scruffiness and its glorious moments, would

be a legitimate reading community. And

that is not to say that more recently

established churches can't do that! I think

that there are resources that we can rescue

(such as strategies of learning, aspects of

spirituality, and lessons already learnt as

history repeats itself again) and there are

ways of being a community that manifest a

true difference (in radical antipathy to the

secular), and ways of simply being Christian

that we can learn from the past, and apply

now.

Take the 'gay issue'. I've been reading

some Queer theory and trying to find a way

forward. I think that our churches are

heterosexist, patriarchal, and generally

unwilling to listen - playing Tony Blair,

pimping Family Values, and generally

compromising themselves for the middle

class vote. As any other time is as guilty of

abuses as we are, how does the tradition

help here? The way is perhaps to ignore

and forget the authority that society thinks it

has. Time to leave equal rights (the cry of

Enlightenment Man) for a minute, and time

to deny the crippling authority of

authoritarian churches, and time, I think, to

be theological and work out where the idea

that'heterosexuals are best' came from,

time to ask why we have such an

essentialised way of thinking about gender,

and time to read the texts of the Bible and

our common inheritance for their tales of

liberation, of hope, of suffering and

resurrection, and to see that we all dwell in

Christ, howsoever he constitutes us. For

example, St Augustine may not be shit hot

on sex, but read the way he remembers

himself being constituted, as he is actually

being re-constituted, in the very act of

writing his prayer in Ihe Confessions. He

shows us that we are all ongoing stories

made and nurtured through the tragedy and

comedy that makes up our lives, even at

this moment - only truly made when we

participate in the life of God.

Enough already, and maybe so. I hope

some of you will see where l've been coming

from, and that some of you will find it

odious. That's the way we get talking, I

suppose. I think that a truer religiosity with

a thinking Iiberalism (small 'l') will perhaps

join together in rather strange, unexpected

and traditional ways to forge something

wholly more radical, something wholly more

Real.

Matt Bullimore is a final year student and

co-leader of Cambridge SCM.

{ Do you agree? ls liberalism bankrupt?

How can we "forge something wholly more

radical, something wholly more Real"?

Movement would like to hear your opinion.

The received wisdom is that evangeticals are onty interested in souls, whitst tiberats

are into social action. But John Bentham argues that 'evangelicats are now

swinging down from their chandetiers and rolling up their sleeves.'

Evo-lutfon

Eilm*tf$**ffi;

there are still some who find it hard to

betieve. The jibe that we evangelicals are so

interested in'souls' that'bodies' don't

concern us, is an accusation that has had

truth in it at some times in our history.

There has been, however, at least 23years

of gradual change, to the point that even

charismatic evangelicals are now swinging

down from their chandeliers and rolling up

their sleeves.

A further complication is that the word

'evangelical' is notoriously difficult to define

these days. The evangelical movement has

strengthened ahd broadened, and some of

us even shy away from the label

'evangelical' if it holds connotations of belief

in personal conversion alone. Better

definitions emphasise rootedness in the

authority of the scriptures, and if you start

there like a good evangelical you soon find

Old Testament prophets who inveighed

against injustice, and a Jesus who seemed

to see his ministry in the Nazareth

Manifesto in terms of the suffering servant

who proclaimed the equalities of the year of

Jubilee.

Early evangelicals such as Shaftesbury

GOD of

L(

and Wilberforce saw no problem in applying

their faith to the world of political and social

action. Perhaps their successors in the

movement retreated into pietism in the face

of liberal ascendancy in the early part of

this century, leaving the liberals to be the

prophetic ones on the issues ofjustice and

peace? By the 1970's the evangelical

movement was beginning to recover its

nerve, and looked outward again. lt has now

returned to its roots with an increasing

confidence.

W: mtoelrcAls AnE iloroRtously

factional, but the Evangelical Alliance is the

closest to any sort of umbrella organisation.

A perusal of IDEA, the EA's newsletter, now

reveals an organisation which campaigns on

political issues, and increasingly offers

support and networking opportunities for

evangelicals with social consciences.

Alongside this is the well established TEAR

Fund, its initials now famous, but gently

movement 9

obscuring its identity as The Evangelical

Alliance Relief Fund. Notable is the

organisations gradual acceptance of

developrhent issues as part of its ministry of

relief - evangelicals have made the

progression that many have to make - from

realisation of need, to giving money, to

asking what long term injustices have

precipitated that need. There was a time

when evangelicals suspected the political

campaigning work of organisations such as

Christian Aid, but now there is huge and

widespread support for that work, especially

the current Jubilee 2000 campaign.

Yet on the ground have things really

changed? Would evangelicals still rather

hand out Happy Meals with a free tract

hidden inside? I honestly see real change

accelerating. At the local church level, there

are many small community-based projects

with dedicated people beavering away from

an evangelical conviction. The motivation is

demonstrating Christ's love for humanity :

incarnational theology if you like. lf, as a

result of loving service, people move on in

their spiritual pilgrimage or end up

committing themselves to Christ, there is

much rejoicing, but this is no longer the only

measure of 'success'. Many of these

projects are in Urban Priority Areas. My own

Anglican experience of ministry in such


areas has shown me many a youth project'

luncheon club, advice centre or homeless

project founded, funded or run bY

evangelicals.

During late 1997 I took sabbatical leave

from my post as vicar in a Nottingham UPA

church to look at what I perceived to be the

growing social conscience of charismatic

evangelicals. Two particular churches

caught my attention. The first was lchthus

Christian Fellowship, stretched across South

London - led by Roger Forster, and home

for musician Graham Kendrick. The second

was Revelation Christian Fellowship on the

South Coast, led by Roger Ellis, and loosely

connected to the Pioneer network of Gerald

Coates. ln both these churches you can see

a well developed and holistic Christian

Gospel being both proclaimed and lived. ln

preaching, worship, newsletters etc there is

regular appearance of evangelism alongside

various forms of social action'

The attempts of both fellowships to be

'salt and light' in their local communities

has led to a variety of projects (and failures

too!) lchthus are involved in, for example,

nurseries for low-income families, projects

for the young homeless, and Grandma's, a

service for children affected by HIV/Aids.

Notable is their involvement in PECAN' an

ecumenical project for the long term

unemployed. Even the local Southwark

Council recognises its success in reaching

Theologica

and training vulnerable and isolated people

- PECAN have a recruitingforce who visit

some 20 000 homes in Peckham each year.

The Guardian ran a double page spread on

the project, recognising'the scepticism that

the mixture of evangelical Christianity and

social action can bring' but also the care not

to prose,ytise, and the 'biblical sense of selfesteem'

that was being given to people.

ln Revelation Christian Fellowship one

Woutd evangeticats stitt rather

hand out HaPPY Meals with a

free tract hidden inside?

aim is to prevent

these issues

being seen as the

prerogative of

'The Social

Activists" Each of

the fellowship's

cell groups is encouraged to be involved,

and has a social action representative. At

the time that I visited, they were particularly

working to encourage every member's

involvement in the local communities where

they live, in their professional careers, or as

members of voluntary groups such as

neighbourhood watch, parents and school

groups. The making of connections between

your daily work, your neighbourhood and

your faith is a long overdue emphasis that

could not be taken of by many churches.

Clare Elkington, the co-ordinator of the

church's communitY develoPment

programme, holds regular Saturday morning

gatherings for those involved in various

The turnin$ point in evan$elical theological circles came during the mid seventies.

A major internitional conference of evangelicals in 1974 agireed that'evangelism and

sociepolitical involvement are part of our christian duty'(part of the Lausanne

Covenant). Some theological wran$lin$ went on for several years, but a new consensus

emerged. Thls was an aeceptance that serving the world had to be an equal partner in

missiin with preachlng indivldual conversion. MaJor evangelical figures such as Join

Stott threw their welght behind this. Evan$elical youth work in the UK also played its

part in the redlscoveiy of a social conscience, as people wrestled with why lt seemed

much harder to 'convert' kids from Gouncil estates and the inner cltles' Dear old

Scripture Union spawned an urban guerrilla wing with a stlong heart for the issues of

lustice (Frontier Vouth Trust), and the late Jim Punton and Bisttop Davld Sheppard

influenced a whole generation of evangelicals. Thls fed stron$y lnto the early hlstory of

the Greenbelt Festival, whose seminar programme soon became the place where

thlnklng radical evangelicals found a home.

TwJmajor theological contributions in the past fifteen years have come from

Graham Criy,tormer Greenbelt chairman and now Principal of Ridley Hall, CambridEle'

an.d Rogier iorster leader of the lar$e and radical lchthus Christian Fellowship whlch

stretches across South London. Both provided key inputfrom the UK at internatlonal

conferences on.charlsmatic renewal and social actlon' Ro$er Forster talks of Words'

Works and Woniers (delightful triple alliteration!) This emphasises three overlapping

facets of mission: words is proclaiming the gospel, works is practlcal service -

incarnational and loving; wonders is recovering a New Testament emphasis on healing'

signs and wonders. 'lt is unfortunate that at tines in church history these three have

se-parated and set against one another'. Graham Cray draws togethq two sometlmes

opposing evangelical uses of the word 'Kin$dom' flom the New Testament, suggesting

that the Klngdom is a holistic term covering both individual and social transformation'

There is hardly room to do justice to the internatlonal writlngs by evan$elicals on

social Justice, but Ronatd Sider ('Rich Chlistians in an AEe of Hunger') and Jim Wallls

(,The iadical Evangelical' and 'The Soul of Polltics') have made huge contributlons. The

journal Transformition is well worth a read if you have access to a theolo$cal library;

and Thirel way is an excellent monthly magazine for any thinking christlan, providing a

broad-based, open and intellectually stimulating evangelical lesponse to society and

culture.

I

Heroes

movement 10

forms of community service, whether parttime,

paid, or voluntary. So youth workers,

community volunteers, social workers etc

who once felt themselves on the fringes of

the fellowship (often because of working

patterns) are now affirmed and supported.

Revelation have a well-develoPed

'Community Referral Programme', known by

local agencies as a reference point for all

sorts of assistance - shopping for the

housebound, decorating, desperate needs

for furniture etc. Working with a wider remit

is CRED, a campaigning group committed to

education and challenge on the global

issues of poverty and injustice.

Txenr AnE FURTHER Slolls llllt

charismatic evangelicals are beginning to

take the initiative as social activists. ln

Nottingham there is a growing social action

network called Nottingham Community

Action Network. lts home? The large

Pentecostal church in town, and their

community worker. Nationally, Oasis trust

and its director Steve Chalke are the model

which many young evangelicals look to for

imaginative blends of evangelism and social

action.

Where evan$elicals are not involved in

social action - or are involved but still

hoping that conversions will be the main

fruit - | think the problem is more to do

with the middle class captivity of much of

the church in this country, evangelical or

not. We're often too comfortable to want to

get involved in the pain of the world. You

have to open yourself up to experience the

suffering of the world before you get fired up

for this sort of service, and evangelicals

have not been the only couch potatoes. My

personal belief is that an openness to learn

from other parts of the world, especially the

poorest, and from other spiritual traditions'

can produce a new conversion in Christians

from all traditions that could mirror what is

happening in evangelicalism.

This is not a success story: perhaps that

why it is not yet proclaimed loudly by

evangelical leaders who are usually swift to

trumpet'success'. lt is a Personal

observation of change. The next step will be

to develop a spirituality that resources those

in the front line of social action, and

although I see the seeds of that' I think no

one tradition of spirituality has all the

answers. ,{O-

John Bentham is Anglican Chaplain at the

University of Nottingham, and formally a

Vicar in Nottingham's inner city' He was

involved in Greenbelt's seminar programme

for some years, and now runs the seminar

programme for the Soul Survivor youth

festival.

i


Itw

HuoH WHrreroRo

sAPREtOXmOili

f! rsnouro nave reao rne srgns.

I I Arriving to survey the debris of a

friend's broken Big Romance, I

tripped over the last remnants of a beautiful

friendship - lying on the bedroom floor was

-

a Banana Republic carrier bag containing a

The present EU arrangement

gives consumers a choic€,

in this case between big,

tasteless, potiticatty-incorrect

bananas or smatt, sweet,

right-on bananas.

Take your pick.

gorgeous and ever-setrendy cash mere

sweater. Uncle Sigmund tells me (and for

once I believe him) that dear departed loverboy

had probably abandoned it accidentallyon-purpose

as a deposit, or maybe a relic, in

his rush for the relational equivalent of the

emergency exit.

But I won't delve deeper into the

complex nuances of sexual etiquette among

gay men in Manhattan and their

impenetrable vanities. ln any case,

cashmere and Banana republics have

taken{n wider connotations in recent

weeks. Perhaps I didn't see this particular

break-up coming, but I certainly

couldn't have predicted the

demise of the Special

Relationship between the

UK and the USA over

these same

unassuming

commodities -

bananas and

cashmere.

A few years back a

number of our most

respected fair trade and international

development organisations sta rted

informing us that most of the bananas on

our supermarket shelves were produced

under the most appaling conditions, by a

grossly underpaid and exploited workforce

suffering dreadful medical side-effects from

Banana drama

dangerous pesticides sprayed on the fruit.

Now, I'm quite partial to mashed banana

sandwiches, banana muffins,banana milk

shakes and, best of all, bananas carmelised

in butter and sugar and served hot with icecream.

Mmm. So, understandably, I was

perturbed at the news and very relieved to

discover that the smaller, sweeter, curvier

bananas from the Winward lsles were

produced under slightly less adverse

conditions which saw a fairer portion of the

profits returned to the producers

themselves. Ever since then I have satisfied

my banana cravings with a cleanish

conscience.

But what has all this to do with the

present secalled

'banana war'?

Basically, the

European Union

has had its

fingers rapped

by the World

Trade Organisation

for operating a

preferential import

regime for

bananas from

certain former

European colonies

(presumably in a

belated attempt

to atone for

centuries of colonialism). This means,

for example, that small independent

producers in the Winward lsles,

can compete against the might

ofthe USowned banana

corporations of Central

America who pay their

workers a pittance

and cream the

profits. The

present

EU

arrangement

gives certain

producers in'developing'

countries preferential access to

European markets, and also gives European

consumers a choice, in this case between

big, tasteless, politica I ly-i ncorrect ba nanas

or small, sweet, right-on bananas. Take your

pick.

But according to the WTO, this

arrangement is illegal; it contravenes the

sacred mantra of free trade. Europe has

movement 11

tried to get round the problem - that,

incidentally, is what the 'Europe's bent

bananas'fuss a few years ago was all about

- but the EU is under increasing pressure

to comply with international free-trade

agreements. Following the devastation in

Central America caused by Hurricane Mitch,

the US banana companies have seen their

profits go through the floor and have turned

up the heat on the WTO and the US

Government to force a European climbdown.

Unfortunately, the cashmere producers

in the Scottish Borders have become

unlikely and innocent pawns in this

international wrangle. The US has imposed

ridiculous tariffs on various European

products in retaliation for the EU banana

policy and cashmere is one of

those prod ucts ta rgeted

The already fragile

Borders' textile industry

will simply not survive

a long-term

embargo. .Jobs

will be lost and

long-established

indigenous

companies

face ruin.

What lfail to

understand

and refuse to

accept is why

the dogma of

free-trade is

allowed to

over-rule all

other ethical

and historical

considerations in

our contemporary

economic and

political climate?

Surely there is an urgent

need for an new ethic of

investment in international

trade so that cashmere

producers in the Borders and

banana producers in St. Lucia alike

can produce and exchange goods fairly

without compromising basic health,

environmental and living standards. ls

that really too much to demand?

But back to the Banana Republic bag on

the bedroom floor. lfailed to warn my pal

that his romance was heading for the rocks,

but now I can predict with confidence that

cashmere - and those wearing it - will be

out of fashion in New York next year.

Accordingly, I have advised my friend to

forge new alliances with those of greater

political, as well as sartorial, sophistication.

I am consoling him with the humble but

astute reflection that in one swift genetic

modification, bananas could all too easily

become sour grapes.


tAte-a-t6te

Dear Martin,

I hope that You won't

be offended if, even though I am

sending this electronicallY to

you, I adhere to the conventions

of spelling and grammar. I maY

1

seem a bit of a bore because I

can only see a colon as a

punctuation mark and not as a

building block for a (rotated)

smilingface. Thus, to convey

meanings and subtleties I will

resort to that ancient art of

using words.

Now, of course the English

language is dynamic and diverse

which is good and Proper and it is

for this reason that this foolish quest

to be inclusive (i.e. dumbing down)

must be halted. How is diversity and

change achieved? lt must be achieved

by mental and PhYsical struggle,

experimentation, deep researches and

the promulgation of ideas. lf that is true

then surely one must become

depressed at the state of the nation's

media.

YesterdaY a well-known man was

photographed with a well-known

woman. This singular event attracted

the attention of nearly two hundred

photographers and was the lead

picture on almost every broadsheet

and tabloid newspaper' Oh and

some people met somewhere to

discuss a place called Kosovo.

That is far from being the worst

example. Most things will Pass for

knowledge. The facts are not so

important in themselves. Rather the

importance is attached to the range

of people who will find the facts

useful, interesting or amusin€. The

Reduci ng a probtem down i,""1tffi1,1ilpointineto

to a coupte of paragraphs i;:i:H?'i:l$";1,"'.,

or a three minute stot does;"J::*:::JJI[:?',1'"

more harm than good. :i'ffif*ii.ii[;ff;*

tractable' They deserve and require a small

potentialreaders/customersTviewers.Myelitetodealwiththematadeepand

observations Suggest thalthe content will fundamental level. Now, of course the

gradually become more and more trivial as results may be of concern to a huge number

special interests are stripfed away. of people and so perhaps you would say

Correspondingly, expectations-are that this idea of inclusiveness does not

lowered. The charge ot outnninJOown may forbid the concept of a small number of

more people in the range, the more

rJlL .-rttlllll'\,, specialists but

rather demands

an opportunity for

all to enter the

debate. This is a

bland enough

statement with

which anyone can

agree.

What I object to is

the lack of respect

paid to the "entrY

requirements" for

this participation.

Reducing the

problem further

and further and

stripping awaY the

rigour must

eventually stop.

I'm sorry but if a

problem such as

genetically

modified food

requires a basic

scientific,

economic and

political education

then so be it. lt

does not helP to

reduce it to a

couple of

paragraphs or a

three minute slot.

It does more harm

than good. lt

corrupts peoPle's

intelligence and

education and

hinders further

development. lt is

the fertile ground

on which the

seeds of bigotrY and

movement 12

prejudice maY be easilY sown.

Hard problems require a lot of hard

thinking and not everyone may be capable

of it or interested in doing it at a given time

in a programme schedule. lt may not be

possible to find a nice simple solution which

is explained in five words and takes on

board everybody's bi$ idea. ln a similar

vein, allow me to announce that the Pope is

Catholic, bears defecate in the woods and

that which is dumb will always be dumb.

[, I,,{,LA


\rt

.,: ...)

' l:,f ,l

. '1. l

The modern day media is obsessed by celebrities and sound-bites.

Appearing educated is taboo; 'high-brow' is a minority taste. lf public

debate is broader than it once was, it is also shallower. So then...

Does bein{, inclusive mean dumbin$, down?

Dear Colin,

Your e-mail is offensive on so

many different levels that I can only assume

you shared a dorm with Glenn Hoddle at

prep school. Discerning the heart of your

argument was, in itself, no easy task - |

gather that you are unhappy about the way

in which you feel our media has lowered the

quality of pubic debate and thought in our

nation. However, I am not sure whether your

argument is with populism or inclusive

language or just everyone who isn't

fiendishly clever?

'lncluding' people in what you do is not

a new idea. lt is simply good politics and

good manners. For example, I would no

sooner use words like 'he' or'man'to refer

to females in a newspaper article than I

would use them to a female's face. Using

language sensitively, with respect for the

identity and feelings of others, is surely part

of the kindergarten curriculum. lhave

always imagined 'exclusive' language is only

used by people who enjoy ignoring and

offending people in their daily lives as a

matter of course. ln other words,

provocateurs, blinkered trad itionalists a nd

the sort of rude people who make you feel

invisible at parties. lf you are happy to

exclude people living in our society in the

writing, talking, thinking you do then you

are, by definition, being not only

unpleasantly elitist but also

fundamentally ill-mannered.

I agree that some parts of the media

are crass and some media-products are

low in quality. Personally, I never object

to a TV programme because it is "trying

to include too many people". ln fact, the

opposite is nearly always the case. Highbrow

TV, jargonised-expert program mes,

top-down, mono-cultural panel debates -

now they are annoying. Why? Because

they exclude too many people and talk

down to too many people. lt is exclusivity

in our media that is killing the quality of

debate and it will be greater inclusivity

that will save it.

lf I were you, I'd be more worried

about being blind than bland.

Yours,

Mo4 L

Dear Martin,

Your e-mail looks like it may

indeed be useful in the kindergarten

curriculum but not much else. I don't quite

know how the issue of personal pronouns

appeared. I was more focussed on the use

of an inferior debate to include more

people. lf the bees in your bonnet hadn't

been buzzing so loudly perhaps

you would have noticed this?

There is little pleasure to be

gained in being rude to people

but equally little to be gained

by discussing a problem

inadequately. I reiterate that if

people are unprepared to make

the necessary struggle to come

to grips with a problem (which

may involve learning technical

terms and listening to people

from one culture), then it is

acceptable to exclude them from a debate

(or party).

Strenuous efforts may be made to

simplify; I am saying that this simplification

eventually terminates. There is a lowest

level beyond which the exercise is worthless.

Here for example.

Iol ^

Dear Colin,

I'm concerned about who decides

what is "inferior debate" and who decides

whether it is "acceptable to exclude [people]

from a debate". Presumably these are

decisions made by people lucky enough to

take part in superior debate. What you term

"inferior debate" may well be another

Your e-maiI is so

offensive that I can on[y

assume you shared a

dorm with Gtenn Hoddte

at prep schoot.

person's life-changing conversation. Many

of the most crucial encounters in my life

have been conducted in clumsy,

undeveloped language with little or no

knowledge of "technical terms". Show a bit

of respect. Just because we operate, think,

talk in different ways there is no need to

attach the self-congratulatory label of

'superior' to your own personal preference.

Simplicity is beautiful but I can see how

it might be scary to those whose power-base

is complexity and intellectualism. I think

true intelligence is simple. As Keats said,

"Beauty is truth, truth beauty - that is all."

Pronouns are simply the tip of the iceberg -

an active, daily symbol of whether someone

can be bothered to include. I hope this

message does not fall below your threshold

of worthiness.

l"{od'

Martin Davies is an English teacher based

in Manchester. He was the editor of

Movement from issues 8$97: during this

time it became the accessible magazine it

is today.

Colin Mason is doing a Ph.D. in Maths at

Kings', London. He is frighteningly

intelligent and endearingly snobby.

movement 13


,,,\$rtrFp1

,'|"{..##d

Ethicat shopping is easier said than done. We have no control over the long line of

production: can we trust supermarkets ctaims? Miriam Renner visited Thaitand in

order to investigate how the foods are sourced.

What's behln

the label?

tr*l=tkiliilff$:.

English and travelling. This time I would be

collecting data for my Masters' thesis'

However, the question runningthrough my

mind was what research subject would keep

me motivated for two years, but also be

useful? I had always been interested in

development, and suddenly I remembered

my days at Newcastle, visiting the Traidcraft

shop and Out of This World to buy their fair

trade goods. What effects does fair trade

have on the artisans and farmers involved?

This was a challenging question I had been

asked by a member of the Third World First

Group I had helped run, and maybe I could

try to focus my research on this question.

Obviously, fair trade groups already assess

the effects they have on producers, but I

hoped my research could Provide an

academic assessment, which is currently

not readily available.

Months later, after coursework,

proposals and my sister's wedding I was on

a plane, with lots of messy notes, an old

and heavy laPtoP and a mind full of

questions. On arrival, Thailand seemed so

ON THE HOME FRONT...

The latest from Chtistian Aid's till receipts

campaign. lt wants supermarkets to adopt codes

of conduct to guarantee better conditions for

overseas suppliers:

"Many supermarkets have ioined the Ethical

Tradin!, Initiative (Efl), a llK government-backed

group of businesses, trade unions and

campaigning organisations set up to find a

common solution to the problem' At the ETI's

meeting in December 7998, three supermarkets

- Sainsbury's, Co'oP

and Somerfield -

joined. At a second

meetinEin FebruarY

7999, Asda and Tesco

have signed up." The

next step is to ensure

fhat it is independently monitored.

familiar. All those foods I had missed, some

of the smells I hadn't, were coming back to

me, and it was like returning to a second

home. However, this feeling didn't last long'

culture shock and loneliness started to

make me question whether I was doing the

right thing. But after a phone conversation

with my Mum - and a sensible perspective

- as only mothers know how, I was

persuaded that I had gone too far to turn

back now.

So after a week of meeting old friends

and making new ones in chaotic, congested

Bangkok, it was time to fly north, to the city

of Chiang Mai, and then on to Maejo

University ("the home of cowboys"?!) which

was to be my base for the next four months.

My arrival was such a change from

Bangkok: the flat I would be sharing was

clean, comfortable and most of all it was

quiet on campus.

I was blessed with a wonderful Thai

supervisor, Varaporn, who had studied for

her Ph.D. in Canada, and therefore had

perfect English, and an understanding of

the Canadian graduate system from which I

had come. We quickly set about visiting

possible research sites, and eventually

decided to compare conventional farmers,

alternative farmers and mixed farmers (that

is, those with both conventional and

alternative plots on their farms). The

conventional farmers use intensive, modern

agriculture techniques and sell their

products through conventional channels,

while the alternative agriculturalists are

more organic in their approach and sell their

products through fair trade means. I hoped

that by comparing these different

approaches I would be able to assess the

effects that fair trade and alternative

agriculture have on farmers. As I am a

farmer's daughter, who has gone on to

study Agricultural Economics, the prospect

of researching Thai farming (which I had

never really been possible on my last visit)'

really appealed to me.

Fair trade and alternative agriculture

both aim to help producers to develop

economically, socially and environmentally.

movement 14

So I needed a multi-disciplinary survey to

see if this was happening. My survey design

combined development measures, (Gross

National Product, the Human Development

lndicator, and quality of life variables - the

most multi-disciplinary and encompassing

development measure) with the social

auditing approach of organisations including

the New Economics Foundation. Along with

some open-ended questions to broaden my

understanding.

Finally, after numerous survey drafts,

and a pre-test, data collection in the field

(literally!) began. The photo (bottom right)

shows a Thai student, Pok, interviewing a

farmer with his conventional flower crop

behind them. These data collecting trips

were fascinating. And after reading lots

about fair trade and alternative agriculture it

was great to finally be talking to people who

were actually practicing these approaches'

and others who had chosen the

conventional path. I always learnt and

experienced many other things on these

trips, including the fact that chewing pickled

tobacco and salt is not advisablel

After over eighty interviews with farmers,

and nearly twenty more oPen-ended

interviews with extension workers, fair trade

workers, government officials and

academics, it was time to leave. But not

without a certain sadness, at the thought of

leaving behind many friends, the freedom of

data collection and my favourite Thai

desserts.

On thejourney back to Canada, I had a

stopover in Sofia. The difference between

this 'second World' country, where the

question of "How long will we be delayed?"

was answered sharply with, "l cannot

release that confidential information". Was

in such sharp contrast to the technologically

advanced and customer friendly 'Third

World' capital of Bangkok, which I had just

left behind. Then on to England for

Christmas with my family, where the overindulgence,

and unfounded moans seemed

to grate. Finally back in Canada, it was time

to start analysing my data and writing up my

thesis.


trade

Eo wHAT oro I nlo BEHtltD mE

label? That there is never a black

and white answer. Partly because

Thai farms are incredibly complicated;

what with bartering, subsistence

consumption of food, employment outside

of the farm, and the gathering of resources

from forests around the village (even if they

are part of a National Park). When I

incorporated all these sources of income,

Rural farmers and artisans

undervatue their labour

costs. This attitude is a

resutt of the traditional

Thai tife that focuses on

famity, giving and kindness.

the alternative agriculture and fair trade

farmers were, on average, economically the

best off on a farm basis (although they

relied heavily on off-farm income), but not

on an area basis, due to their larger farms.

This finding made me wonder if the growing

population and increasing land hunger in

Thailand will result in farms too small to

allow alternative agriculture to be

economically viable.

Although the economic comparisons

were not completely conclusive, the social

comparisons were much more so. With

educational, health and safety benefits for

farmers practicing alternative methods, and

receiving support from fair trade groups.

Conversely, the conventional farmers said

that the artificial agricultural chemicals they

used led to anger, bad moods and worry. My

own observations led me to conclude that

many farmers didn't know how to use these

chemicals safely, as some containers didn't

have any instructions to folloq and even if

they did, they weren't always followed.

Environmental benef its also stemmed

from alternative agriculture and fair trade.

These included more integrated farming,

more wildlife, and the use of less chemicals,

and more alternatives (which included

sticky, yellow plastic bags, traditional and

modern herbal concoctions and other

ingenious approaches - although I did

wonder about the likely success of some of

them). I had to assume that these

alternatives were more

environmentally friendly

than artificial chemicals,

although I could find no

literature to back this

assumption. The photo

behind the headline

shows an example of

less integrated conventional

farming-amonocrop

of strawberries. The

comparison between this

and the diversity of crops

on alternative plots was

obvious.

Although benefits stem from fair trade

and alternative agriculture, I found a

number of worrying problems that need to

be addressed. These included dependency

resulting from outside financial support.

One example of outside support is shown in

the photo below where an alternative

agriculture and fair trade stall is located in a

Buddhist temple grounds. Although the

products sold were supposed to be fairly

traded, the woman pictured insisted on

giving me some wild mushrooms. ln her

opinion, they had been picked from the

forest, and had therefore not really cost

anything. (The Thais I were with insisted that

to be polite I should accept the mushrooms

free of charge). This was an attitude that I

found to be common amongst poor, rural

farmers and artisans, as they not only

undervalue their labour costs, but also the

costs they incur in the process of taking

their produce to market. ln some ways this

attitude is a result of the rural, traditional

v A Thai mushroom se//er she felt the wild mushrooms had cost her nothing.

Thai life that focuses on family, giving,

kindness and many other attributes that I

found so appealing. Unfortunately the

current international trading and business

system does everything to destroy this way

of life and the people involved in it, and

nothing to support such communities and

attitudes - not only is this true in Thailand,

sadly it is an international trend. ln the

research sites this trend is also combined

with the changes associated with rapid

modernisation. As farmers are increasingly

bombarded with advertising for consumer

products, their patterns of demand and

consumption change. ln orderto be able to

fulfil their increasing demands, and the

increasing costs associated with the

collapse of the Thai economy in 1997,

farmers require higher levels of cash

income. The temptations, and often

necessity, of high short-term incomes from

conventional farming remain, even though

risks are high, and rewards very uncertain.

Nevertheless, my time in Thailand leads

me to conclude that alternative agriculture

and fair trade provides the farmers studied

with an opportunity to improve their lives.

And although I now understand the

complexities surroundi ng these approaches,

I continue to buy fair trade and alternative

agriculture products, in the hope and belief,

that they will be helping small-scale

producers in some way. And that my

purchase will be a very small part of the

growing movement, and demand for

changes, to overcome the current

inequalities in the international trading

conditions. /k

Miriam Renner is a graduate of Newcastle

University. She is currently involved in

researching and writing a report on climatic

change and the associated socio-economic

impacts affecting Canadian forests.

{ For an academic version of this research

see lipsey.re.ualberta.ca and sp-9&06.pdf.

Conducting an interview y

o* '* fb

lt

/.r '\

? l

I ,1

;, t

;.r'"*iFr*

movement'15


Irl[,HT:,:f#;iiin^

lll H [in'ff ::,: fi : u[" t' :.ff '

undresses, wrapping a towel around his

waist as he passes bY the basket of

condoms. After several minutes, he makes

eye contact with a person he would like to

get to know better. ln private, the new friend

produces a condom and opens it. "Don't

bother", says Adam, and the friend, nine

times out of ten, doesn't bother.

Adam is a "barebacker", a growing

subculture among gay men, who have

chosen to forsake the education and

popular wisdom of the last fifteen years and

pursue casual sex without the use of

condoms. Sound insane? There is more: this

is not a small number of people, nor is it a

group who "accidentally" forget to use

protection on a one-time only basis. This is a

group who accept the possibility of

contracting HlV. Some even eroticize the

idea of contracting HIV the virus that

causes AIDS.

I can hear your collective gasp. lt is

unthinkable that after all we have learned in

the western world, that the people who are

most often at risk could consciously choose

high risk behaviour. There is, however, more

to this phenomenon than simPle

abandonment of common sense' or a

collective death-wish. lf you add up some

basic facts, it even makes sense:

. Sexual identity for gay men has always

been based around what was taboo, and

forbidden by mainstream culture. The dawn

of AIDS, ironically, re-focused a spirit of

compassion and welcome to the queer

community. Families realised their own

fragility as children, husbands, wives and

cousins were forced out of the closet because

of their diagnosis. The growth of this tragedy

led to increased spending on research and

education, and people began to realise that

anyone could be gay... or have AIDS'

Risking it all

r GnnnNo

. People with AIDS began to organise, both

from the grass-roots, and from positions of

power, as celebrities and politicians were

diagnosed "positive" and the image of AIDS

began to change. The task was to destigmatize

the illness, make it

understandable to the public, and not a

"curse sent by God" as some ofthe

fundamentalist churches began to preach.

And so, the image of normal, healthY

people, diagnosed HIV+ and living

productive lives, became the norm. More

significant, these people experienced "rebirth"

post-diagnosis, realising their

mortality and choosing to make every

second count. The queer community

experienced a spiritual awakening as their

number became more and more

threatened. People with AIDS were no longer

victims, but heroes.

. The downside of this? Gay men still grew

up eroticizing what was taboo, yet come to

adulthood in a society that accepts only

"safe" sexual behaviours, and abhors the

concept of unsafe sex.

. Add to this the medical developments of

protease inhibitors and miracle drug

"cocktails", and AIDS no longer seems to be

the death sentence it once was. lf anything'

it seems to be a perfectly manageable

illness. (The popular media takes no

responsibility for reporting that, although

the number of deaths per year is down, the

number of new diagnoses is on the rise, not

to mention the huge decimation of people

in Africa, where AIDS is a major epidemic.

Doing anything interest

Have you considered teaching LtryU4

THE TEACHERS are well supported: Lingua Franca organises a training weekend to meet

teachers and to offer a crash course in the communicative approach to language learning,

As well, the success rates of the protease

inhibitors is largely over-estimated)

One of the costs involved in the gain of

acceptance for any minority group, is the

loss of perspective of being on the outside.

The internal conflict in these communities

is: how do we maintain the important

knowledge gained from being oppressed'

yet end the pattern of oppression? The

argument continues today among feminists,

people of religious and ethnic minorities'

and certainly, among the queer community.

There is no debate for me as to whether

barebacking is acceptable behaviour or not.

Clearly, for me, it isn't. But it makes me

aware that the far-reaching results of our

education efforts, despite the noblest

intentions, are impossible to determine. lt

also makes me aware that our efforts to

educate about sexual health cannot simply

revolve around an illness, it needs to revolve

around love of the next generation of

sexually active men and women.

His name is Adam. He likes being gay'

because he is part of the largest cultural

music scene since disco. He is a circuit

party boy, and he is prepared for his bi$

night, along with thousands of others, who

will be with him in the giant warehouse:

he has his Ecstasy, the expensive designer

drug that will give him several hours of

euphoria, making him want to dance all

night, and have really intense sex. His

inhibitions will completely melt away, as he

happily strips off his shirt, and lovingly

touches anyone and everyone around him.

He has his bottle of water, to prevent

dehydration from the drug and the dancing.

He has his glow-stick, his accessory of

choice. He does not have condoms. Those

were for kids of the eighties, and this is

1999. As far as he knows, his night is going

to go on forever.

ing this summer?

frah

along w1h ideas for managing groups. Lingua Franca provides official invitations for visas and

usefil teaching books for teachers to devise their own teaching programme; it can also

provide travel subsidies for those who need financial support'

c(ansuase

cou rses?

Eastern The volunteer teachers choose the dates they are able to travel;

THE COURSES extend from two to four weeks and are usually tn Europe

and hel tn the

of both parties. The teachers are students,

with a group with a need (learning

English) ps preparation

Lingua Franca Puts them in touch

graduates or others with relevant skills who are interested tn the regr0n, motivated, dynamic

and good at a managing groups.

L'tn3ua

f^nr<

PO Box 22900,London,

N1O 1WN, UK

Tel/fax: +44 (0)181 8833739

e-mail: linguafranca@ eclipse.co.uk

t,

movement 16


Iternatlue

ut o rl d's

The weakness of reason

THE MALEFICENCE of the genetic

modification of food, plants and crops

seems well established. That it is driven by

corporate interest in profit not scientific

altruism is clear. That the technology has

not been properly tested and researched for

its environmental impact is clear. That it will

not'feed the world' but place even more of

the world under the control of the

multinational corporation is clear.

There has been a call for a moratorium

on commercial planting of genetically

modified crops to allow the completion of

testing to determine whether the technology

is safe. This is to allow us to make 'rational

decisions, without hysteria'. But what

happens when the research disagrees, and

one group of scientists say it is safe while

others report dangers? Who are we to

believe? Some sociologists describe a 'risk

society' - the growth of human knowledge

and control over nature means that

in modern societies we are faced

with 'manufactured

uncertainty' rather than

threats from natural

disaster

Bewildered

by the

quantity of conflicting i nformation available,

we are left with the sense that living today is

full of risk.

The general issue arising is how are we

actually to know whether to trust and accept

genetically modified food? How are we to

assess the impact of biotechnologf

Many scientists complain that they are

misunderstood, that the public lack the

knowledge to judge their work. I think it is

not science itself we need to understand,

but the philosophy and politics of science.

WILLIAM BLAKE set out the rebellion

against the "mind forg'd manacles" of

mechanistic science. His picture of NeMon

measuring the ratio is a subtle satire.

Newton is hunched, muscular, intent on the

pair of dividers measuring the bottom of the

sea of time and space. lt shows Newton

confined to this one principle, immersed in

the dark waters - a symbol of the material

world - unable to see the glory of the world

of lmagination. Blake's prophetic visionary

picture was printed in 1795, in that period

called the Enlightenment - the birth of the

scientific paradigm. lt is not, though, simply

a Romantic reaction to Reason, but a Vision

from the mystical tradition - of Hermes, the

Platonists, the Kabbalah and the Druids.

Scientific method relies on the

experiment, which takes place in a closed,

controlled environment - the laboratory. The

problem is that the world is not actually like

that, we live in an open field.

The whole can

not be

perceived

by

scientific

methods.

Those with a

naive faith in

Science to know

and control the

world

cannot understand mystics like Blake, for

whom the world is Vision seen with the

inner eye of the lmagination. Reality is only

perceived by the irrationality of intuition.

A simple principle: we can only see what

we can look for, only notice what we are

prepared to notice, only receive what we are

open to. lrrationality is the awareness of the

limitations of scientific, rational knowledge.

Science is not the 'value-free' search for

knowledge claimed, but the shared

subjectivity of the scientific community, with

an agenda dictated by the hunt for a

research grant. And the result is science

with specific technological applications

increasing corporation profits.

Scientists need to learn the value of

other ways of looking at the world, and stop

messing around with what does not belong

to them. Much of the new physics brought in

quantum leaps has coincided with the

perceptions of sages and mystics. By

learning about nature through mystical

perception, the intention is not to control

the forces but to live well within them, in

balance, and to care for the ecology. More

irrationality is what we need. To live fully in

the irrationality of the human condition. To

realise that Nature always balances - if we

deplete the resources we depend on, our

societies will collapse and disappear.

The debate is about rationality and

irrationality. About different ways of knowing

the world. Rather than needing more

knowledge of the science of genetics and

the technologies of modification, we need

more wisdom and spiritual insight. ls

science really worth the cost - the

technologies of war, the nuclear disasters,

the resource stripping, the ecological

devastation?

Do we want a world in which the

resources are controlled by a handful of

corporations, in which everything is planned,

controlled and organised rationally, in which

humans are automatons, Man has

conquered and subjugated Nature,

exploiting her resources for his material

gain? Or do we want a world with an ecology

of freedom, to tend our gardens and

manure the earth, to value life and live in

harmony?

(IRFAN MERCHANT)

movement 17


Fa

Freedom on (the) line

EAST TIMOR, although not yet a nation, has

a presence online. Bi$ deal you might say'

but the fact it has its own domain name (.tp)

was enough to spark an uglY war in

cyberspace recently. Having its own domain

meant East Timor was recognised -by the

online world at least - as a country in its

own right, not a part of lndonesia. lt has

been occupied and brutally repressed by

neighbouring giant lndonesia, since 1975:

2OO 000 Timorese, a third of the population'

have been killed in this time'

Yet there is hoPe. When lndonesian

President Suharto fell and the economy

collapsed, East Timor became an extra

burden for lndonesia. East Timor faces

elections in June: indePendence -

unthinkable five years ago - looks a

possibility.

Timorese students and other

campaigners in lreland have used the

internet as a base for awareness raising.

The web site is a useful source of

information but is nothing much to look at.

(Although the graffitti-ing kid screensaver is

quite amusing). The protests and barefaced

declaration of independence did not go

unnoticed. Hackers intent on destroying the

Timorese web-presence caused so much

trouble that the internet provider closed

their whole system down - which is a major

breach of protocol - while they bolstered it.

The attack was international and coordinated:

"The perpetrators of this attack

have not yet been identified, but the

lndonesian government is known to be be

extremely antagonistic towards this display

of vi rtua I soverei gnty," says Con nect-l rela nd.

Some commentators see this as a sign of

things to come: another outlet for

resourceful terrorists.

ln the early 1990s an international

solidarity movement for East Timor was

inspired by John Pilger's television

documentary'Death of A Nation', and drawn

together by the internet. Campaigners

developed fragile links with East Timor -

notably with Renetil, the student-led resistance

movement, which has been legal for

less than a year - and used their influence

to embarrass the repressive Indonesian

government and Western government

(include Britain's, who are complicit by

supplying arms). For humans rights activists'

getting information out of East Timor quickly

is the essence: there could be an arrest one

night and an international response the next

morning. lncreased use of faxes and the

telephone, as well as e-mail, have

transformed this process. Solidatory can be

more active and meaningful (and

immediate) than a feeling of good-will.

ln physical reality, the officials have

strict control over who enters and leaves a

country, and can find out your 'details' and

motives. ln virtual reality your bags cannot

be searched and your photographs and

notes cannot be confiscated. Perhaps soon

this will be true for the real East Timor.

The lrish-based top domain for East Timor is

at www.freedom.tP.

Have a look at www.pactok.net.au/docs/et

for a thorough overview of Timorese history.

It has massive number of links to solidarity

groups around the world.

The Association for Progressive Communications

- www,apc.org - offers a more

theoretical discussion on the possibilities

using mass media and the internet for

NGOs and campaigns.

The long route

SIX O'CLOCK on a Saturday evening, I was

online - and I didn't know the football score

I wanted. At half-time I had passed a shop

window: lt was 1-1 between Leicester (my

team) and Man U (everyone else's). I'd

missed the wonderful ritual of 'Classified

Results' on the radio and TV. I was online -

instant information at my fingertips - and

finding out what had happened in the

remaining 45 minutes would be a doddle'

My homePage offers two instant

scoreboards: but neither of the links work.

So I typed 'football results' into an search

engine; this being AOL it pointed me to

what the Americans call football, and we

call a glorifed game of catch. Searching

British sites only, I reached The Telegraph's

site which tells me in great detail about the

previous week's game; they have a page

dedicated to each club too. ln that cryptic

high-brow way it says that Leicester have

"an asthmatic home record" - either we are

generally fragile or it is a reference to the

exc'eptionally high number of draws. The

abundance of fanzines will not be updated

until the obsessives who maintain these

things have travelled back from the match.

lf you felt so inclined you could follow

cricket ball-by-ball; play fantasy football;

trawl through sporting archives; join a

discussion group for traumatised referees

and umpires. I wanted a fresh football

result - that's not much to ask. I could have

phoned a friend. I yearned for Ceefax; it

suddenly felt very cutting-edge. Or I even

could have waited a while and bought an

evening edition of the paper. I found the

result twenty minutes later' Perhaps the

reason I'm so bitter is that we got drubbed

6-2 . 0lM wooDcocK)

.fi17,a

movement 18

^.'K

'- --+: u-i-+

''-r

':t<

= 5

f,

s

o

Soao

s

5

o

o

lEo

(n


I

,, ',

"Friends, every day

do something that

won't compute."

Here is poem by contemporary American

poet Wendell Berry recently used as

reflection in Glasgow SCM.

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,

vacation with pay. Want more

of everythin€, ready-made. Be afraid

to know your neighbors and to die.

And you will have a window in your head.

Not even your future will be a mystery

any more.Your mind will be punched in a card

and shut away in a little drawer.

Love the world. Work for nothin!,. When

they want you to buy somethinS,

they will call you. When they want you

to die for profit they will let you know.

So, friends, every day do somethingj

that won't compute. Love the Lord.

Take all that you have and be poor.

Love sorneone who does not deserve it.

Denounce the government and embrace

the flag,. Hope to live in that free

republic for which it stands.

Give your approval to all you cannot

understand, Praise ignorance, for what man

has not encountered he has not destroyed.

Ask the guestions that have no answers.

lnvest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.

Say that your main crop is the forest

that you did not plant,

that you will not iive to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested

when they have rotted into the mold.

Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.

Put your faith in the two inches of humus

that will build under fhe trees

every thousand years.

Listen to carrion-put your ear

close, and hear the faint chatterin{,

of the songs that are to come.

Expect the end of the world. Lau(,h.

Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful

though you have considered all the facts.

So long as women do not $o cheap

for power, please women more than men,

Ask yourself: Will this satisfy

a woman satisfied to bear a child?

Will this disturb the sleep

of a.woman near to givin{ birth?

Go with your love to the fields.

Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head

in her lap. Sweai allegiance

to what is nighest in your thou$hts.

As soon asthe generals and the politicos

can predict the motions of your mind,

lose it. Leave it as a sign

to mark the false trail, the way

you didn't Eo. Be like the fox

who makes more tracks than necessary,

some in the wrong direction.

Practice resurrection'

"Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation

Front" (from "The CountrY of

Marriage" (1973)).

At last the church has found a way to market itself

effectivety. Atpha is a unprecedented phenomenon -

but is it a valid way to package the Gospel?

Tim Woodcock asked five peopte for their opinion.

The Alpha empire

Christ shared for you. Would

you like fries with that?' This is

trof

the McDonaldization of religion: a

powerful market-orientated way to spread

the gospe/. A recent paper by Pete Ward, a

lecturer at King's College London and Dr

Carey's Youth Adviser, suggests thatthe

ubiquitous Alpha courses show a

remarkable similarity to McDonald's.

The comparison is not far-fetched - in

terms of brand identity and growth rate

Alpha is a product most corporations would

be proud of. lt is billed as 'an opportunity to

explore the meaning of life'. The principle is

essentia//y one of franchisin{: the 70 week

course started in 7990 by Holy Trinity

Brompton has been honed and copyrigihted;

it has its own range of videos and books

and advertisements; churches of all

denominations have a share in it - to use

the name Alpha they must reproduce the

course entirely, notjust take the most

useful elements. ,t is thoroughly businesslike.

Ward states that "Alpha exhibits a

predilection for numbers. Alpha measures

its success and presents itself for approval

primarily on the basis of numerical

success." There were four courses in 7997,

5O0O in 7996 and 70 5O0 in 7998. ln

Septernber 'the Alpha

initiative' received

co n si d e r a b I e atte nti o n :

there were 7700

billboard posters and 4.5

mi Il ion invitations. Ihat's

anyone's standards.

Atternpts in the media - notably by

The lndependent and some elements of the

church press - to paint Alpha as a cult have

failed. The evidence is absent, the position

is untenable: Alpha is not an alternative

church but a mar4eting tool for existing

churches. /t has an

movement 19

exponential growth rate and an imperialist

attitude to mission - a phrase that echoes

through Alpha literature is "effective

evangelism".

We spoke to five people who at one

level or another have been involved with

Alpha: whatis there under the packating!?

What does Alpha have to offer?

Stewart Dennis, a minister in a Baptist

church in Milton Keynes which will run the

courses from Autumn, "has reservations"

but is "happy to work with it." lt speaks to a

confused post-modern culture in which

people are searching for meaning: rather

than a pick-and-mix belief system, Alpha

offers a structured introduction to

Christianity. Of course, if it stops there you

are left with an infantile faith. The answers

it offers are "too neat: Alpha would be

better if it was frayed around the edges".

For Stewart the value of Alpha is "people

coming to faith and experiencing God's

grace and love. The space to discuss issues

is much more important than the teaching".

Clearly Alpha have done their research:

it scratches where people are itching, it fills

'the God-shaped hole', it meets people

where they are at... (choose your favourite

cliche). The issues most frequently brought

"The space to discuss issues

is much more important

biebY than the teaching"

ews

up in small groups are illuminating (see

sidebar). Although people are free to bring

any question to the group, the agenda

seems somewhat forced: are "sex before

marriage" and "The New

Age" really the most

pressing issues for

r Jo(anne) Public. These

' are phrases

I remarkable for their

Churchiness. The

answers are

prescribed and

: predetermined.

Perhaps Alpha is

merely a gimmick to

i get people into

he

ssaP\

'Jightcd

oha

htr

take

Church and talk at

them.

The most

I

i

, evangelicalistic

,

Christians tend


nonsense

to have few friends outside church circles.

And this undermines the networks needed

for evangelism. Anthony was involved with a

on-campus group: "My first impression was'

that for a movement that was supposed to

be so strong nationally, nearly everyone

there was a member of the C.U. I could see

very few unfamiliar faces which meant that

they obviously weren't attracting any 'new

Christians'." This is echoed by Rowan who

attended, and then coled, an Alpha group

in London. The church saw it primarily as a

way of drawing people in from the fringes'

To help these people getto know each other

and to spark these discussions on faith is

inherently good. But it makes Alpha's

statistics and the claims of church growth

somewhat dubious.

"Alpha maY be a good idea," saYs

Anthony, "but here it became a talking shop

for people already affirmed in their beliefs'

in which they were all told that they were

right." Many others have commented on the

importance of group dynamics: the selfselecting

nature of Alpha courses and

therefore the lack of diversity of opinions.

lan Stubbs, Adviser in Adult Education with

the Church of England, claims that Alpha

"attempts to produce a particular kind of

believer. I also believe that there are

situations where the community feeling and

group pressure engendered by the meals or

the weekend away can be used

inappropriately to engender commitment."

Or, as Anthony recalls the group dynamic

can be suffocating: "We had a discussion

over inerrancy, sin and the Holy Spirit'

Everyone was pushing the same point of

view. They managed to cap it all off by

prostletysing for the Jesus Army. I'd have

probably been more concerned about that if

they'd actually had some 'new Christians' to

be influenced by the ProPaganda."

As a Catholic he felt dismissed as not a

real Christian. "l left the course with an

increased belief in a large amount of

Catholic teachings, a belief that the Bible is

highly over-rated and that teachers should

teach not indoctrinate."

lll1"ff:iiHlffLll'1f;,,"0

til lffi': rili,.i,'ifi" "l"",ffi ",

background but has been okaYed bY

Anglican Bishops, and the Catholic and

Orthodox Church are happy to use it (if it is

supplemented by other teaching on the role

of tradition and the church). lt espouses the

core doctrines of mainstream Christianity

but avoids the more problematic ones.

Stewart Dennis argues, "the emphasis is on

revelation by God. lt papers over the cracks,

and doesn't recognise the pluralism within

the church." lt does a good job of

introducing people to faith but fails to it

convey the depth and breadth of

Christianity. The latter is especially

irresponsible.

There are some questions that Alpha

Key points from Pete Ward's

McDonaldization thesis

. Simplification of religion: "Christian

theotogy is, to say the least, complex and

varied. Alpha tends to flatten this reality"

. lt stifles creativi$: bland, conformist

understanding of the Bible and faith.

. Religious imperialism: a degree of

domination and uniform spirituality. Concern

with efficiency.

. The illusion of reli$ion: it offers a version of

Church life that is very different to a regular

Sunday service . Like Baudrillard's

simulacrum: "a copy of a copy forwhich

there is no oriSinal!

. Convenience food: "McDonaldization is

designed for individuals on the move who are

concerned to minimise commitments!'

Evan(elism is reduced to runningAlpha'

The seven issues most often

raised on an AlPha

course

. SufferinE

.The Trini$

.other religions

. Sex before marriage

. NewA€le

. Homosexuality

. Science

Pete Watd's original afticle was

published in Anvil, vol.15, no 4.

It bofiows heavily fron Geoqe Riaels

The McDonaldization of Society

(1996).

deals with better than others, lan Stubbs

argues, "There are technical questions that

people have such as 'when were the

Gospels written?'which can be answered'

There are other questions which require

different approaches: for example, in what

way was Jesus 'raised to life', or'how do we

speak of God in the present tense?' There

are other questions however, such as'what

does salvation mean for me as a factory

worker'which can only be explored. These

kinds of questions don't have neat answers

but involve a reflective dialogue between

faith and life experience." lan objects that

within Alpha this is a one-sided dialogue -

perhaps we should ask more often 'what

does life have to teach us about faith?'

To package and present spirituality is

inherently difficult. lan Stubbs feels that

Alpha over-simplifies in the attempt to

communicate the gospel. "There is an

underlying assumption in Alpha's materials

that faith is static and constant, and that

'we' have all the answers to complex

theological questions. But this will not do'

Faith, individual as well as corporate, is a

dynamic and evolving process." To Rowan'

as a leader the most difficult question he

came up against was 'How do You feel

God?' lt was from someone who'd been

involved in the church for a long time.

"That's the real issue. Well, how do you

convey that?"

Alpha's trump card has to be the mix of

socialising and the presentations, so

through friendship and community people

feel God. Alison Webster, who has been

involved in many of SCM's recent

publications, notes: "There is an educational

methodology which assumes that people

will want to participate only if they have a

fun time in the process, so each session is

buih round the social activity of eating and

drinking. And the formula, not surprisingly'

works. The question is, how could the

mainstream churches have failed to realise

for so long that people like to have fun?"

"Alpha have cornered the market in

producing accessible, easily digestible

and modern material to teach people the

socalled 'basics' of Christianity. Liberal

church people who take issue with Alpha

moan incessantly about it - but I'm afraid

this often just comes over as sour grapes.

Alpha have discovered a winning formula,

and spread that formula via slick and welF

resourced marketing, and the liberals can't

compete."

Alison goes on to suggest that Alpha can

flourish in a post-modern context "precisely

because the content of their courses is

inseparable from the presentation of it."

Therefore it is futile to produce 'alternative

Alphas' which purvey a different content but

do so without understanding Alpha's

methodologies (that is say, the fusion of

socialising and teaching).

She concludes: "Some of us think that

the religious quest is about asking

It does a good job of introducing

peopte to faith but faits to it convey

the depth and breadth of Christianity.

That is irresponsibte.

questions and constantly changing one's

mind, rather than having one's questions

answered. We think that faith is precluded

by answered questions. The big question is,

could an Alpha course ever be built on such

an understanding of religion, and would we

want it?" And that surely is the question...

With thanks to Alison Webster, lan Stubbs,

Rowan James, Stewart Dennis, Anthony

Worrall.

movement 20


Malcolm Brown speaks to Simon Hughes, the Lib-Dem MP and a potential

leadership candidate. How does he combine power with integrity? What politicised

him and what keeps him going?

Sfmon says

ooo

WOULD HE BE AS HARD TO PII'

down as he was to track down?

Would he be another slippery

politician?

He immediately set the record straigiht

on that one. "You prove integrity by

answering questions directly, by admitting

your mistakes, by admitting the value of the

views of others, and by trying not to be

antipathetic to other people personally." A

good start: but there's more. "The example

I always give is our friend Mrs Thatcher. I

had nothing in common with her really, but I

always tried to remind myself that she was

my Christian sister." Funny how that one

always slipped my mind.

But what is a Christian doing in politics

anyway? What kind of faith did he have?

Were his politics shaped by his faith? What

about Christians in other parties? People of

other faiths and no faith? ln other words:

What motivates you, Simon?

CHASING SIMON...

We heard on the grapevine that Slnron Hughes was a bit of an SCM

fan. When there was enoLtgh money to prodLtce wall planners and the

/ike Simon Hughes had one up in his office: it rentinded him of why he

was doing his job. Not bad. The Lib Dent MP for North Southwark and

Berntondsey. spokesrnan on healtlt, London, rumoured candidate for

ntayor, spokesnran on Church of En{land affairs (yes, that job does exlst).

and Millwall supporter.

Well. nobody's peiecL but lint W. the editor wrote a letter asking for an

interview anyway. And got a swift and posltive response. "Ace ! " shouted

Tint. 'lfls on! '

To make thlngs snoother sti// Slmon was contlng up to Edinburgh for

the Lib Dem Party conference. so sonreone in Scotland could do the

inteNtew. There were three posslb/e interviewers all sufficiently

tnterested and inspired - but all nightntatishly busy people. Could we get

one in the riEht place at the rieht tinte? Arranging lt outside London was a

recipe for chaos. Slmons office couldn't decicle on a day, Saturday tn

Edinburghwas sr/ggestedand pencilled in. Then out of the blue. 3 days

before it was to be Friday in a pub in the cen|e of Glasgow.

So it was a// set up. A differentwriterwas briefed. We could have 30

rnlnutes but Simon HAD to tet a 2pnt train to Edinburth. He was coming

front a hospital appointment in G/asg0w No. not to get his tonsl/s

checked. /t was a hosplta I visit of the kind that Health Spokesnren have

to do. So. our friend lint Mcl\enzie goes off to do lt. Slrnons

appoitltment over-runs. He doesnt show; he doesnt dng. The worlcl falls

apaft and it looks like Movement will have a blank double page-spread

and a bruised re7utation.

We later find outthat he arrived at 2.30. So he HAD to get a 2pnt train.

did he? He humps irtto Janes Naughtle [the Today programnte

presenterJ tn the pub and stayed and they had a prnt.

I was practising ny 'Private Eye' interview style, when Tint W. contacted

nre to stay we had a phone interuiew arranged for the following Friday.

And it all went sfftoothly. Slnton was gmclori s and generous wi th his tine.

He seemec/ surprslng/y sirlcerc for a politician. Shure/y shome nrlshtake.

"International issues

politicised me," he said. He

had a rural background, and a

concern for South Africa and

Palestine that motivated his

student politics. He was

disillusioned with the Labour

Government of the time,

under Harold Wilson, so he

became a Liberal. He moved

to London, became a barrister

with an interest in human

rights and youth crime, and

his political agenda grew to

involve urban issues, poor

housing, and community

involvement. Domestic

justice was an extension of

international justice.

"l was brought up in a conventional

Christian family, and came to a decision to

confirm my faith. lt was dimmed and

strengthened, but never

fundamentally shaken.

Even things like

bereavement, in my

family, strengthened

our faith. I get angry

and frustrated about

denominationalism and

the lack of ecumenism,

and I get angry that I

am the MP for lots of

Roman Catholics and I

can't take communion

with them. lt

undermines the case

for the Christian faith."

"l seek spiritual

guidance for important

decisions. A recent

example was my

decision not to stand

for Mayor of London

which was arrived at as

much through prayer as

through discussion." I

was going to ask about

that, but he answered

before I had the chance.

He told me later that Ken

Livingstone should be

allowed to stand, though

obviously he would

support his own party's

candidate. He agreed

that parachuting Mo

movement 91

Mowlam in to stop Ken, as

Tony Blair seems hell-bent

on doing, was probably not a

good idea. Bringing peace to

Northern lreland and sorting

out the tube are very

different prospects. The

Mayor of London will be a

new and promnient role in

British politics: it sounds a

nightmarish ly broad job.

When he talks about his

faith, it sometimes comes

across as a very simple,

traditional piety, with any of

the positive or negative

connotations that may carry.

But not always. His faith and

his job sometimes comes

together, in ways that the rest of us will

never experience. As Lib Dem spokesman

on Church of England matters, he

campaigns for disestablishment. "We have

a nonsense that we have an established

church, fully in England, half-established in

I get angry that I

am the MP for lots

of Roman Cathotics

and I can't take

communion with them.

It undermines the

case for the

Christian faith.

MP for North Southwark and

Bermondsey; Lib-Dem spokesman

on London and health.

Scotland, and no established church in

Wales or lreland. Unfortunately, someone

has to deal with Church of England

business, and that person has to be an

Anglican." Hard luck Simon. "But it has

allowed me to do some useful things, like

speak out strongly in favour of the

ordination of women in the Church of

England." There's only one Simon Hughes,

one Si-mon Hu-ghes.

He was glad that there were Christians

in all the British political parties.

I

ln

continental Europe, there has been a


tendency for Christians to belong to rightwing'Christian

Democratic' parties, and for

others to belong to socialist or left-wing

parties. "This is a great failure of

continental politics," he argues. lt is similar

to America where it is difficult to distance

yourself from one party without aligning

yourself with the other. Still, people in

Britain often have a political background

like they have a denominational

background. They grow into a political

tradition, so why would they want to

change?

Simon tells me that he has disagreements

with Tories and Labour PartY

members, but they can still be friends and

find a lot in common. His responsibility for

a Christian outreach in Parliament is seen

as a quiet support system. "lt gives the

electorate encouragement to know that

there are some people who have certain

principles and who seek to abide by them. I

judge my gospel to be a gospel forjustice

and social reform, but others think

Christianity is about personalfaith and

personal salvation."

But what about people of others faiths,

or of no faith at all? "My relationship with

people of other faiths is normallY

strengthened by the fact that I have a faith."

A common belief in a creator God makes it

easier to discuss with people of other faiths,

share with them, learn from them, support

them, work with them, and challenge them.

This is important in his part of London.

He lives four miles from where Stephen

Lawrence was killed, and racism is a big

issue in his constituency, which has an

important community of Bangladeshi origin.

There is a history of poor policing and

racism in the area. "Where crime and

racism combine you get really bad

situation." The worst moment of his career,

which really made him sick, was a 'race

march' in his constituency, which nearly

developed into a local civil war. He believed

that things were improving, and the Stephen

Lawrence report was putting pressure on

those who could do something.

What could he tell us, from his

experience as an MP for an area where

racism is such a prominent issue. What

advice could he give to people elsewhere?

Some of his answers were the 'topdown'

ideas which are important to a

politician: a housing policy which

strengthens comnlunity rather than

undermining it; more resources for the

police; an attempt to recruit graduates,

especially Black and Asian graduates, to the

police and other public services. And

policies which minimise the abuse of

alcohol, drugs and weapons, "because they

allow people to turn fairly quiet minimalist

racism into something extremely vicious and

violent"; and we need to deal with racism

at football grounds. That's not a million

miles away from my experience in Glasgow.

He had more 'bottom-up' ideas as well,

which are relevant to those of us who want

to do something about racism from a grassroots

level. "We are all potentially racist,

and we all have to guard against it, and we

all have to have check mechanisms, namely

other people's perceptions of us, as a help

and as a correction. You have to accept the

view of the person who says that there is

racism, even if that is not a view which you

accept yourself. You have to put yourself in

the place of the person who tells you that

they feel they're the victim of racism, and

start from the assumption that they're

right."

Sruox Huones ls A PollrtctAlr so

I suppose he is in the game of chasing after

power. He may stand for Lib Dem leader, or

he may stand for Mayor of London in four

years time. But he hopes for a chance to do

something abroad, working for the Third

World and for international justice. He is a

politician with a motivation to get things

done, and make the world a better place.

Sometimes he sounds idealistic, but an

ideal, for him, is something to achieve, and

he'll work out how to achieve it.

Some sociologists, such as Castells and

Bauman, have suggested that power has

been removed politics. Can a politician

movement 22

achieve anything in the age of global

communication? "You can educate the

community at home. You can adopt certain

projects, and my position as an MP can

help. I have tried to do something in Sri

Lanka, where a lot of people have been

killed. I was in Cyprus, trying to bring the

warring factions together. I try to solve the

problem of Gibraltar."

And what about the rest of us? Can we

do anything?

"l think there is a lot of encouragement

in the world. lncreasing democracy in

Africa, increasing democracy in South

America, increasing democracy even in

South Asia, and the sheer support and

solidarity with people from elsewhere is very

rewarding and extremely worthwhile. You

can win battles, and change hearts and

change minds and - in a world of global

communication - fdo that] more effectively

than ever."

Shurely no mishtake, Shlmon

t1'1-

Malcolm Brown has just completed his PhD

in Sociolo4y at Glas$ow University. lt

examines Muslim communities in Britain

and France.


I ,l

A comedy about the Hotocaust? That's right. Marie Kerrigan on one of the most

audacious and beautifut fitms ever made.

Wry vfta

La Vita e Bella (PG)

(Life is Beautiful - subtitled)

written and dirested by Robefto Benigni

A FILM based on a concentration

camp doesdt seem likely materialfor

a comedy. But in the hands of its star,

writer and director Roberto Benigni

whatyou tet is a whimsicalfable which

provides the audience with food for

the soul withoutthe Hollywood hype.

Set in luscany th is 1scar-winninE

f/m focuses on the escapades of

Jewish waiter Guido jrifice. After

successfu//y woo ing local schoolteacher,

Dora, with his Chaplinesque

antics, he narries her and they have a

son, Joshua, This is where the main

narrative betins. Their happy family

life is marred by the onset of hsclsm

and eventually disrupted when Guido

and hls son are taken to a

concentration camp. Dora voluntarily

joins them and is taken to the

womerls sectlon of the camp.There

Guido attempts to protect hls son

from the atrocities of the camp by

makinE a game out of their

experiences. [Points are awarded for

obeyint the soldiers; and hidin!, away

allday.l

The sympathetic poftrayals of the

three leads make them thoroughly

engaging in this mythical tale.

Nicoletta Braschi, as Dora, brin$s a

human elementto her role as the

middle class princess who isr/t as

much rescued by the prince as by the

court jester. Roberto Benigni's

portrayal of Guido is more than an

imitation of Charlie Chaplin, to

consider it merely as such is to deny

the sincerity and dchness he brints to

his character. This can be seen in hls

relationship wrth his son, the urchinlike

Joshua. Giorgi Cantarni's

endearing pertornance makes the

preservation of his charactels

innocence of paramount importance.

/t has been described by one

crltlc as "Carry 0n meets Schlnd/e/s

List". lwould disagree, arguingthat it

lacks the crudity of Carry 0n films,

apaft from the fact it would be

insensitiye treatment of what was a

horrific ordealfor millions of people.

The film never forgets - or allows the

audience to forget - the atrocities that

occurred but rather offers a fresh

vision on familiar scenes of emaciated

figures. A poiEnant example is when

Guido, having snuck hls son Joshua

into a German officels dinner pafty,

whilst returning to his cabin with

loshua asleep on his back /oses hls

sense of dlrectlon in the fot and

comes face to face with a mountain of

human bodies. lt is the frightening

prospect of Joshua's innocence bein!

corrupted that reminds us of the

emotional destruction caused by the

holocaust.

Life ls Beautiful dernonstrates an

understanding and an appreciation of

the value of hope. /t ls seen as the

lifeblood of love and appears to be

more than that: the f/m suggests it ls

nof only necessa ry for survival but

also acts to preseve the future. This

can be seen in the faces of the family

who retain a healthy appearance

ag,ainst a backdrop of greyingfaces.

There is a current trend of

'revisioning' war, in particular the

Second World War, with f/ms such as

Saving Private Ryan and The Thin Red

Line. Life ls Beautiful can be seen as

part of that trend and while it offers no

Hollywood style hero or big action

sequences it suggests that out of the

direst of circumstances past or

present hope springs eternal.

Marie Kerrigan studies film at

Glamorgan Universig,

X men

American History X (18)

written by David McKenna

directed by Tony Kaye

AMERICAN History X isilt the most

beautifully crafted ftlm lle ever seen,

but its certainly amongst the mosf

powerful. ln outline, it concerns two

brothers, Derekand Danny. Derek,

the elder, ls a white suprernaclst

imprisoned for the murder of Nvo

black gant members. With Derek in

prison, the impressionable Danny is

seduced by the supremacistvision of

Derek's skinhead ganE. To the neo'

fasclst skinheads, the imPrisoned

Derek is a hero, To the black gangs,

hds an objectfor hatred, and his

impendint release from Prison

presents an opportuniy for revenge.

But DereKs prison career as a

member of the white minority has had

a I ife-shatte ring impact on hi m, an d

he emerges from prison determined to

rescue hls brother from hatred, and

his family from the cycle of violence.

Part of this film's extraordinarily

Provocative power comes from the

fact that the enormous lssues

involved are faced by decidedly

ordinary people. Derek is an

impresslve fiture and his

redemption is inspiring, but he

is not superhuman. Ihis ls

illustrated well in one brief

momentwhen he curses himse/f

for stooping to the violence of

his former shinhead associates.

Ihepastis a messy country not

easily escaped. ln facing up to

it, Derek must deal with the

utllness lnside as well as out,

without running away. In this,

American HlstoryXstrlkes me as

more profound than, say, The

S h aw sha n k Red e m pti on. Attractive

as thatfilm ls, lts redempfion comes

finally through escapism and revenge.

The central character in American

History Xtakes on the much harder

task of returning to the battleground

as an agent of peace. ln this, not only

Derek, but an array of other characters

- Dannfs school Principal, DereKs

laundry associate in prison, DereKs

slster - are ordinary heroes who stand

in the breach and take the terrifying

consequences. Atone point, the

Principal requests Derek to act as

mediator in a seemin9ly intractable

sltuatlon. Derek, incredulous, asks;

"Do you know what yotre asking me

todo?" The answerrs simple:"Everything

tharc within your power to do!'

Ihis is not an easy film. There are

moments of uncompromisint

violence. Some plot developrnents

are a little forced; the reasons for

Derek's transformation inside prison

do not quite convince. But it remains

vital viewint because of its portrayal

of the trim sacrifices which line the

path to peace.

(TlM MCKENZTE)

movement 93


Rosie Miles assesses Germaine Greer's eagerty-anticipated book on feminism and

womanhood in the last thirty years. The backdrop now inctudes butimia,

transsexuatity and, of course, the Spice Girls...

The changing face of feminism

Tue WHou WoNnru

by Germaine Greer (Doubleday)

the publication ofThe

Female Eunuch, one of

the seminal texts of

second-wave feminism, Germaine

Greer is back with "the book I said I

would never write". The Whole

Woman is Greels sequeltoThe

Female Eunuch, assessing the

position of women now from her

vantage point of being one of the

foremost feminist w riters and thinkers

of nearly a third of this century. Greer

opens the book by sayin! "ln the last

thirty yearswomen have come a long,

lonEway; our lives are nobler and

richer than they were, buttheY are

also fiendishly difficult". Right from

the sta,t she is a/so quick to highlight

some of the problems thattodals

women seen to have which did not

affect their mothert generation:

'When The Female Eunuch was written

our dauthters were not starYing or

cuttingthemselves. 0n every side

speechless women endure endless

hardship, grief and Pain, in a world

system that creates bllllons oflosers

for every handful of winners". Greer

concludes her opening' Recantatiol

by declarint that "lb time t0 get angry

aEain".

The Whole Woman is indeed an

angry, passionate, committed book,

Eiving ample evidence that although

women may have achieved a sPurious

equality with men in some areas, they

havedt really achieved something

which could be called liberation.

Many readingthis review are probably

youngenough to be Greels

dauEhters, if not her trand'dauthters.

l'm slithtly older, but nonethe/ess pad

of a teneration of women who can

take for granted much that our

mothers couldrlt. Greer nonetheless

has much to say that is relevant to us.

The book is divided into 32 chapters,

organized under broader headings of

' bodf,' mind',' lovd a nd' Powel, and

after readingthis boo4 no one can

think that we now live in some playful,

postmod ern moment as far as the

need for feminism is concerned.

lJndoubtedly we now live with a

greater awareness of the cornplexities

of womefs lives and idenilties, and

we are far more conscious of

differences beween women which

need to be noted, but Greels

assessment of the situation of women

today makes clear that women of

whatever race, c/ass or sexuality are

still frequently discri minated against

first and foremost becaus e of their

fender. Perhaps discriminailon has

become more subtle and sophisticated

ln dlsgulslnf, itse/f but nevedheless it

is still very much with us.

The Whole Woman is not a

particularly comfortable read. The

early chapters focus on how womeds

bodies are still being perceived and

manipulated, and Greer has searchin!

questions to ask about the prevailinE

models of beauty and femininity that

are sti/l so dominant in our white

western culture, and the imPlicit

disgust that these attitudes present

towards the real bodies ofwomen.

She wrltes of young womeis

problematic relationship to their

bodies as witnessed through the

phenomena of anorexia, bulimia and

self-mutilation as "fhe protest of the

powerless". ln a culture that is all too

keen to reduce youngwomen to their

(sexualized) bodies alone "it is

inevitable that their impotent rage be

turned againstthose bodies, which

they are wilfully destroying, even as

they are most admired".

Mon: corrnoYERstALLYt

Greer questions the right of nale-tofemale

transsexuals to appropriate

the label 'womai as their own (in a

ch a pte r m ocki n gly e ntitled

'Pantomime Damet), and PerhaPs

most problematically wonders

whetherwe have the rithtto

denounce the practice of Female

Genital Mutilation in African countries

because of the cultural value it has in

them. The Whole Woman resonates

with the cumulative weitht of

example after example of the waYs in

which cosmetic,scientil?c, medical

and surgical procedures invade, alter

and aftempt to control the female

body. ln the final chapter, 'Liberatiorl,

Greer writes, The persona/ ls stll/

political. The millennial feminist has

to be aware that oppresslon exerts

itself in and through her most intimate

rel atio nshi ps, betinnint w ith the most

intimate, her relationship with her

body".

Other topics considered bY Greer

i n cl u d e' ho usewo rK,'shoP P in g',

'sorroul,'si ngld,' masculinitl and

(perhaps inevitably)' girlpowel, to

name only a few. Greels concerns

about girlpower of the SPice Girls

variety is how it is part of a mediamade

"propatanda machine, aimed

at our daughters [which] is more

powertd than any form of

indoctrination that has ever existed

before". Looking at my 9-year'old

niece, who adores the SPice Gils (or

did, until All Saints came along), I do

wonder what Scary, Sporty, Posh,

Ginger and Baby have done for her

sense ofherse/f as a Eirl, as a growinE

young woman. MaYbe theYlre done

more than we know - it remains to be

seen.

What does this boo| have to offer

thinkinf Christians? Lots. Feminism

has always hadlustice as central to

its agenda, andThe Whole Woman

has as much commitmentto the need

for thints to be befterforwomen,

whoever and wherever they are. Greer

ends the book by suggestingthat

female power is perhaps most goinE

to be found in the Placeswhite

western feminists expect it to be. As

many Christian troups have taken up

the cancellation ofThird World debt

as a millennial issue, l'll l?nish thts

review with Greels concluding words:

"Female power will rush uPon us '

anwhere the famished labourer sees

luxury foods for the western market

Erown on the land which used to

provide for her and her children. And

the women of the rich world had

better hope thatwhen female energy

i*nites they do notfind themselves on

the wrongside".

Rosie Miles teaches courses on

women's writing and feminist theory

in Wolverhampton.

movement 24


'.{ijiffiE

Wates is the new Manchester, apparently. Catatonia... Stereophonics... The Manics. Have

the Manic Street Preachers managed to go mainstream and keep their integrity in tact?

Do their redemption songs stitt ring true? Craig Cooling think so.

"THts ls My Tnurx Te[ Me YouRs"

Manic Street Preachers

This

te11

a

rs my

Wales, )

meyours...

k!#"T#;TffA:"*

l5I

I

EverythingMustco

catapuited i.ne Manics

into the annals of rock history. ltwas

a blend of brilliance that

encompassed the c/ass critique of

Design For Life to the unabashed

heady Everything Must Go. Livint as

they do now in a post Richie Edwards

- world the respectthey command is

unneruing and their most recent Brit-

Awarded album This Is My Truth Tell

Me Yours does not disappoint. But

what is the nature of their appeal?

They deal in the beautiful, the bold

and the bitter, their home being

somewhere in between. Songs that

engage with the disafected, songs

that remove us from ourselves and

s0ngs thafgive us hope. Redemption

from blandness and apathy, from

i{nominy and from politics that don't

connectwith the people it is

You get the feeting that

the Manics and their

sumptuous redemption

songs are going to be

around for a white yet.

supposed to be about. Their Welsh

heritage is the manna that has fed

th e i r p ro Iifr c creativity.

. ln their latest release we see no

movementfrom some of the themes

of their previous qJbums; desperation,

a need to escape from ourse/ves,

social justice and daring to be bold.

However while Generation lerorists

and The Holy Bible were confined to

the paths of a cultistfollowing,

EverythingMust Go (as its tit/e

suggests) becarne a sacrifice to both

theirhnt hero Richie and their indie

following - they became estab/ished

in the British rock hierarchy' This Is My

TruthTell Me Yours despife lt's post

modern title Preaches

their new

gospel. With two Brit awards and

bein! established as the 'Q Best Band

in the World Todal their rnessage

(and foilowing) has become

co nfo rm i st a nd m a i n strea m.

ln many ways the music of the

Manics - lames Dean Bradfield

(vocals, guita\ Nicky Wire (bass) and

Sean Moore (drums) insprres,

preaches and laments.

A Design For Life, a beautiful

commentary on class and what it

means to be worung-class (with

words almost exclusively by Nicky

Wire since Richie disappeared), dealt

with one of the main threads of the

Manicg writing: socialjustice and the

need for /essons to be learnt. This

theme is continued in fhis ls My Truth

Tell Me Yours. ln 'lf You Tolerate This

Your Children Will Be Next they

comment on apathy and the evils that

it brings. Together with veiled

references to the Spanlsh CivilWar "if

I can shoot rabbits tnen / can shoot

lbsclsts " and ,'l've walked La

Ramblas/ but notwith real intent" ,

lamenting the need for the present

world to /earn its lessons from history.

AIso in fou're Tender and You're Tired'

Wire comments on how those in

society are preyed upon because of

theirvulnerability. ln a New Labour

soclety that saw it frt to introduce

tuition fees, and with a social outlook

that doesn't include yount people in

a minimum wage and excludes slngle

mothers, itisn'thard to reallse the

relevance of the songs to their

audience.

Arso l iltEnE nilr HAs

been prevalent in the history of the

Manics has been desperation and the

need for people to escape from

themse/yes. 1ne only has to think of

the escaplst Australid or'Kevin Cartel

in Everything Must Go. Agaln this

shines throu(,h in antelically beautiful

yet (inevitably) tratic visions in lhls /s

My Truth Tell Me Yours. In The

Everlastint'we have the "world is full

of refutees they're just like you and

me. " And in the gorgeous song'Born

A Git' in which the narrator yearns to

be notwhathe is. He wlshes he'd

" been born a girl instead of what I am

... not this mess of a man" and yet in

desperation cornes so/ace as we

treasure and feed the hopes thatwe

fear " l've loved the freedom of being

inside." Wire's lyrics bruise and

inspire, leaving us drunk on emotion

and empathy yet not quite certain that

we enjoyed it. )ne only has to look at

the Richie-dedicated' Nobody Loved

Yod: its chorus ironically hithli(hts

the evil hand that feeds us " nobody

loved you - nobody made you so

alone" when precise/y the opposlte

was the truth.

And yet they dare to be bold. The

song'Everything Must Gd left us

feeling dazed and confused, the

boldness of 'Be Natural' in their /atest

release cal/s us to treasure happiness

and live in the present. Simplicity

itself it would seem - and yet the song

musically has an uncomfortable feel

again: unnerving us, not /etting us feel

secure. /n You Sto/e lhe Sun From My

Heart the victim of the song doesn't

care about how badly he is treated by

the thief, "there's no - no real truce/

with my fury you don't have to believe

me/ I love you allthe same/ Butyou

stole the sun from my heaft" . They

deal with desperation and Doldness

as double-edted swords. Desperation

is treasured by the desperate and

bo/dness is an admirable yet

u n co mfo rta b I e fe eli n t.

As I write this a Labour Chancellor

has just cut income tax by a penny,

when teachers are underpaid and

schools u nd er-resou rced, hospita/s

are overwor4ed and nurses are told

that pay is irrelevant because of the

satisfaction they receive from their

lobs. Ihis coupled with Sony being

poised to pull out of Wales leadint to

a threat of 4 500 jobs goingfrom the

valleys, you Eet the feeling that the

Manics and their sumptuous

redemption songs are goin{to be

around for a while yet.

Craig Cooling is SCM'S Groups

Worker.

movement 25


,l

-1,

Tur Rono to rte StRns:

A EunopEnn PtleRtuncr

byTom Davies (SPCK)

T)M DAVIES' book balances between

places, peoPle (and accomPanYing

animals) met on the road, with a clear

insight into the spiritual. lt is clear

from the outset that Pilgrimage is as

much about the iourneY as the

arrival. The

journey

taken is not

only physical,

but one of

healinE; a

journey to the

heaft of God, a

journey to

oneself, and the

humbling

realisation that we

are only a small

ftsh in a diverse

ocean. Colourful

descriptions point

out gently but

unarEuably that God

can be found in the

most unusua/ p/aces

from the splendid to the supposedly

mundane, if onlY we stoq and look'

(FD)

Journeying faith

A Sronv To Ltvs Bv

by Kathy Galloway (SPCK)

MTHY GALL)WAY sPeaks as

someone who is often "not at ease

with the Church, at least in its

institutio nal expression". She speaks

as "the woman who bore her children,

who learned to love solitude",

and most intriguint of all,

"who is preoccuPied with

laundry". lt is her hoPe in

writingthis book

"might

encouraEe people to think about their

own stories". To helP us ln this task

she enlists poets galore. ln the first

chapter alone, for examPle, we find

Walt W hitman, Geor$e M acLeod, Al ice

Walker, Kenneth White and Tom

Leonard. She is a/so not averse to

using poetry of her own, either.

'We take care of what we value" '

Ihis theme is reiterated: the word

tare is occasio nally defined, and

once in a Christolofical sense; 'Jesus

was an enthusiast... in our different

ways, as followers of Jesus, we are

enthusiasts. We have been possessed

by God, filled with care!' And this gift

of enthusiasm is reciProcal: "From

you I receive, to You I Eive;

together we learn, and so we

livel'

Chapterfive,'Whal.s lt

Worth? A 0uestion of Values",

should be compulsorv readingfor

all theology students. Galloway is

eminently quotable. "At what point

does a personal moralitY become a

political one?", for examPle, "1ne

battered woman maY be Personal,

domestlc. What about two, ten, a

hundred, a thousand? Wharc the cut

off point between a personal tragedy

and a social disease?" . Or "we maY

do all the right kind of PraYinE. We

may never sleep with the wron+

people. But we cannot guarantee that

'the beating of our hearts kills no ond"

(the /ast part is from Alice Walkels

stunning poem "Love /s Not

Concerned").

I found it hard keePingtrack of

where I was with someone who flits

wildly but it is worth persevering, for

there is plenty of material thatwill

provoke you. Women in Cambodia

"trained in the useful domestic sklll of

defusi nt l and mi nes" a re for Gallow ay

"pointers to the gos1el 'hovf for

communities of hope ... these women

are a community of the resurrection".

I remember her poem "Cross

Border Peace Talks" from her

antholoEy Pushin$The Boat jut. lt is

a poem which, to mY mind, would be a

good hymn in praise of SCM. The

poem begins'There is a place beyond

the borders where love grows", and

contlnues To get to that Place, You

have to 9o... beyond the borders'..

1nly after you have wandered for a

tongtime in the dark, do You begin to

bump into others". l found PlentY of

strength for the iourney here, and will

be referrin{ to A Story To Live By in the

future. I will also be tivint my mother

a copy to read, as someone who ls

also "preoccupied with laundry", that

it may be for her too "the symbol of a

larger given".

Basil Slush

Bnst Huue: Bv Hts Fntrruos

ed. Carolyn Butler (Fount/ Harper Collins)

THIS B00K offers a necessarily unitateral view of cardinal Hume. written by his

friends, it paints a picture of a man whose deftning characterlstics are humility,

honesty, and holiness. His attitude to church politics is to let the spirit have His

say; fhrs is reflected too in the life of prayer attested by his own writings'

contributions range from those ofepiscop al collea{ues, which are suitably

reverential, to thoie of other faith leaders (customarily polite) to, most revealingly,

those by his pupils - whether at Ampleforth or in the more general sense. Ihe frst

piece,well chosentoopen,isonesuch. Neit Balfourtellsof themanwhoonlyever

wanted to be a teacher and a monk, and to retie to a parish with decent trout

fishin!, yet ended up, much to his own surprise, as President of the Blshops

Coniiince of En[tand and Wales. Balfour analyses hrs friend's weakness - his

dlstaste for confrontaton - and shows that it is in fact his greatest strength.

The collection a! a whole demonstrates both Humds humanity and his

essentla//y reseryed Ensllshness. Not for hin princedom of the church and all the

trappingi of power: instead, a cassock-s/eeves, hands-on approach' Atouching

coipliient to his pastora/ ski/t is paid by Frances Lawrence, widow of the

muidered headmatster Philip. The MP Ann Widdecombe descrlbes how his simple

holiness and abitity to teach removed her doubts about catholicism in fifteen

minutes. Thiskindof contributiongetsustothe cruxof theissue.cardinal Hume

lenuinely is uncomfoftable with being anything more than a man of simple faith,

Zt unyoi, who has been privile$ed (as have l) to meet him, however briefly, will

testify. The cotlection achieyes something more than panegyric. Much as that other

famius Benedictine, Gregory the Great, left us hls Pastora/ Rule as a handbook for

bishops and c/ergy, so thrs book, written not by but for cardinal Hume, will be used

in future to instruct those whose unsousht for positions of responsibility threaten

to impede their personal relationship with God'

(TM)

movement 26


Txr Nw RurcroH or Ltrr tru EvERvunY

SrucH (SCM Press) is the latestfrom

Don Cupift. lt is unex7ectedly and

unashamedly down'to' ea fth : Cu Pitt

takes the word Life (and all

associated idioms) to demonstrate a

fundamental shift in thinking.

Essentially Cupitt argues that

recently God has disappeared from

everyday speech... but at the same

time "God has been brought down

into, and dispersed into life".

Everyday life has become sacred, we

revel in miracles and revelations.

Living life by preparingfor the afterlife

seems risib/e; eternal life is about

valu i ng the here-a nd - now. H avi ng

deposed of a realist conception of

Go4 Cupitt has s pent years banEin{

on aboutthe need to embrace Being

only to find the sarne message in

everyday speech, using the word 'lifd

instead: Live life to the full.

The idea of an eminentscholar

gettin* excited by and theolotizing on

a phrase like "Get A Life!" is comical.

It is such a crude technique and I

wanted to hate it yet his wntr'nS ls so

eloquent and arguments so

compellint... "0rdinary language is

the best radical theoloEiani he

claims: perhaps, but only if you have

someone of the calibre of Cupittto

interpret it for you.

Ithad to happen sometime.

Barthes has declared The Death of

the Author, Fukiyama the End of

History. And now we have TUE Ero or

Txeorocy. Or to give it its ful/ title - Aro

nrTasx orTHruunc neow Goo (SCM

Press). Theolof,y rvas once

considered Queen ofthe Sciences

and now, for a whole host ofreasons,

is marginalised, apologetic and

unceftain of its future. But George

Pattison is reluctant to see it

rebranded as'religious studieg.

He says rather obviously: "No one

has a view from above any more!

Paftison is against traditionalism and

utopianism, yet seems too immersed

in the estaDlishmentto follow the free

play advocated by Cupift (to whon,

curiously, this book is dedicated). The

solution is dialogue with other

drsciplrnes. Quite wlat kind of

'dialogud is desirab/e is never

explained - a phrase used in the

c/osing pages "lovinglY seeking

wisdom togethe( would have been

welcome a hundred pages earlier. But

Paftison /ikes lrls theology warm,

fuzzy and meaningless. (TW)

fiL)

BOOK REVIEWERS: FTANCCS

Davison, Tom Lusty, TonY

Mc0onell, Tim Woodcock.

James Wood ctaims to read literature religiously. Catherine

Raine wonders if that has to mean being a dogmatic aesthete.

ou t or

cynlclsm

o o

7 o

Essnvs oN LTTERATURE AND BELTEF

av Jnues Wooo (Jouuarnnu Caer)

lT TAKES a dutiful pilgrim to read

JamesWood's book of essaysfrom

cover to cover. His rif,orous prose

often drove me to wild bouts of Crystal

Quest on an old Apple Mac, not to

mention study breaks with the

Waltons and hopetul Blind Date

candidates. Yetthis escaplsm

testi,?es to the religiously critical

intensity of The Broken Estate which

is its stated mission: "For [Virtinia

Woolfl the novel acts relitiously but

peiorms sceptically. I hope that

these essays may do something

si mi la n Wood s devote s twenty- one

chapters of searching analysis to an

equal number of fiction writers,

including Sir Thomas More, Jane

Austen, Herman Melville, lris

Murdoch, John Updike, and Toni

Morrison.

While The Broken Estate is about

reading relitiously its maln purpose is

to reveal a vision of what makes

fiction truly great and therefore

leligiout. Io show hrs hand, I have

teased outthree basic Woodian rules

for writing sublime fiction. First of all,

a masterpiece must strugg/e with the

meaninglessness of existence.

Whetherthe doubtin+ author be

Christian believer or atheist, allWood

asks is that the ln ner torment be

honest, commifted, passionate, never

trivialized with undue irony. Secondly,

authors must stir their readers,

almost mystically, through what they

suggest, not by whatthey say. Finally,

witers must never address readers

directly (gentle reader begone) and

characters shoudPossess a fu,/y

a uto no mous consciousness. Woodb

literary God is a stern deity who

refuses to ease our longingfor

presence. An absent God, like an

absent authon is more real than a

narrative Voice that Persists in

showeingwisdorn on its devotees.

Thus what Wood means by fiction

acting religiously is that it shoud

move the reader deeply but not

provide fundamentallst answers to the

meaningof life.

The Broken Estate's fervent

profundity and clarity are lts most

appealing features. Wood's prophetic

roar can pluck your neves but it never

leaves you indifferent. He grips the

reader! shoulders and forces them to

focus on senten ces that demand

respectful attention. For example:

"Fiction moves'in the shadow of

doubt, knows itself to be a true lie,

knows that at any moment it mightfail

to make its case". And'a literature

that discovers, that

dares to know /ess,

is always on the

verge of what is not

sayable, rather

than at the end of

what has just been

said'. My favourite

Wood persona is

the man who

abandons himself

to rollicking, poetic

praise of the

authors he loves,

especi ally Melvi lle, Austen, Woolf ,

Lawrence, Roth, and Sebald.

Yet the heaping helpings of

conte mpt th at Th e B ro ken Estatd

ladles out can sour the psalms it

srngs. ,fs not Wood's job to be sweet,

but I felt sick after reading a passage

like the following, which dispara{es a

scene in Morrisorfs'Paradisd:'Had

she described this incident. . . had

she linked itto other incidents - had

she rn shod conducted a'narrativd

- we might believe in this moment".

Sneerint stress on the word narrative

only deepens the patronizingtone of

an earlier asses sment: " Morrisorts

talent and she ceftainly has great

novelistictalent - has been to

combine magic, myth, and history,

and to nake of this a dignified

su perstition". Wood criticises Sir

Thomas More for being "spiftingly

conclusive' butthis phrase l?ts the

Wood whose zeal can shade into

dogmatism.

WasThe Broken Estatds profussed

hope for spirituality and scepticism

fulfilled? Within the limited arena of

literary criticism, indeed within the

limitsWood set, lbelieve itwas.

There were many moments of awe and

meaning apprehended in quotations

such as this one from Woolf: "[Reality

isl a luminous halo, a semitransparent

envelope surround i n g us

from the betinning of consciousness

to the end". Yet beyond academia

and the media ldorftthinkThe Broken

Estate /ives up to the profound

existential challenge it raises: "Lifeunder-God

seems a poinflessness

An absent God, like an

absent author, is more

real than a narrative

voice that persists in

showering wisdom on

its devotees.

posing as a purpose . . . life-without-

God seems to me also a

pointlessness posing as a purpose

(jobs, hmily, sex and so on - all the

u sual d istracti ons)". M ay be w ritin g

The Broken Estate wasr/t rneant to

fulf/ this sense of purpose for Wood,

but it reads as if it is trying. For me, a

bookwhich is dedicated to analysing

why most writers fail to meet Wood's

standards of religious witing is not

truly religious. Least of all is it truly

moral. The Bro4en Estate reminds me

why I abandoned formal literary study

for adult literacy. Literary criticism

came to represent so much

parasitical half-aliveness, bloatin g the

criticwith a wordy snobbery that

serves no socia/ good. Away and dish

out soup or craft some poerns, -/ames

Wood. Befter that than litenry cachet

purchased af second-hand.

Gatherine Raine has a PhD in

Literature and Theologr. More

recently she has been involved in

adult literacy programs.

movement 27


V

I

I

i

* GREEN SOULS

Environmental

campaigners have

pointed outthat

Christian theology

is irresponsible by

encoura*ing a

throw-away (after)

lifestyle.The overconsumption

of

souls rn

Christendom

may be

unsustainable

and

could leave

future

generations

short ofsou/s.

(Why soul one

per person? Why

not share yours on

the way to the afterlife?)

The crucial question is

whether souls are a finite

resource -

the scientit?c

evidence suggest they

are: no new sources

have been found for

many years and

attempts to

produce a

soul in a

laboratory

have failed.

lf thls is the

case

Christians rnust

adopta greener

attitude to the afterlife.

I

Catholics in particular come under

attack for Purgatory which is simply

the most inefficient and wasteful bit of

p rocessi n t im a tin a bl e.

However, the envi ronmentalists praise

Eastem relifions that teach rcincamation

-

the constant recycling of spiitual

maftermeansthere is notthe needfor

celestial land-fill sites inthe sl


CC

ne of the best ways f knout to

engage d hard-thinking faith with

tt

the realities of hft

s

lhD.qr [rfl L'idr H.dr ar6

HIRD

ff81 **\\u4l* n t

s H vtil 23J

UUAY

MrcHnBr Tevron

president of Junrrnn 2000

director of CuntsneLv Aro

1985-97

I

CC

Music rvhich ls truly sacred drssects u

lohn Tavener lalks to

Jeremy Begbie

or Christians

utho belieue that faith

tt

meu,ns change

THrno Wnv enjoys a unique reputation among

Christian magazines for its rigorous engagement

with the world and its ideas in the light of the Bible.

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Its centrepiece is an in-depth interview of a key

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deconstructions of an 'lcon of the Month'.

We believe that 3W is its own best advertisement.

Take us up on our trial offer and get two issues

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JouN BetL, the lona Community

r

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Heard too much nonsense

trumpery

h

b

b

ooo

piffle... trash

b

rrlrl I taIl.r^ f:J-ll^ f^-IJl-.

a

ooo

oo

oa

oo

la

I

t/I

;{E

kr*3

l*

RrnsoNS To LEAVE cHURCH: no.1 (in a series)

,t\

.:1

-th t+i ' i:

Fini iji'r

i

i'-:., I ti

',:

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SCM is a place for talkingand listening; for having

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