Friday, 27 September 2013

In Sickness and in Power

David Owen's book In Sickness and in Power is a detailed study of illness in Heads of Government during the last 100 years.(to 2007). That people in power, whose decisions affect us all, may have an illness or condition which may have serious effects on their judgement is not just alarming it can be extremely dangerous. David Owen who was Labour Foreign Secretary under James Callaghan is also medically qualified. In this book he considers how 'illness and therapy -both physical and mental- affect the process of government and decision making, leading to acts of folly, in the sense of stupidity or rashness.'
Part I is an overview but Part II has Case Histories of four leaders whose sickness was not publicly known.

Let's listen to Pope Francis

 “…. every man, every woman who has to take up the service of government, must ask themselves two questions: ‘Do I love my people in order to serve them better? Am I humble and do I listen to everybody, to diverse opinions in order to choose the best path.’ If you don’t ask those questions, your governance will not be good. The man of woman who governs — who loves his people is a humble man or woman." 

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Democracy doesn't always work

'It’s a mistake to think that things are a lot worse than they used to be, but it’s hard to deny the conclusion that democracies across Europe look increasingly threadbare. In Defending Politics (OUP, 2012), Matthew Flinders argues that democracy is far more fragile than we realise, and needs to be constantly renewed. Flinders’ central mistake, I think, is to believe it can justify itself, that we should stick with it because it works. But what happens when functional defences no longer hold?

I would say that democracy can’t sustain itself. It needs something from outside, something behind and beneath itself, on which it rests – a civil society captured by a particular vision of the good, and a commitment to human dignity. Of all people, Christians have a stake in that. As Jacques Maritain said, we are ‘children of the same God and redeemed by the same Christ... it is up to us to make every man our neighbour’. Everybody would say that democracy is better than the alternatives, but I’m not sure everyone would know why.

Paul Bickley

To see the full blog go to LICC

Monday, 14 January 2013


jIMMY CARTER a Past- President of the USA wrote:
Women and girls have been discriminated against for too long in a twisted interpretation of the word of God.

I HAVE been a practising Christian all my life and a deacon and Bible teacher for many years. My faith is a source of strength and comfort to me, as religious beliefs are to hundreds of millions of people around the world. So my decision to sever my ties with the Southern Baptist Convention, after six decades, was painful and difficult. It was, however, an unavoidable decision when the convention's leaders, quoting a few carefully selected Bible verses and claiming that Eve was created second to Adam and was responsible for original sin, ordained that women must be "subservient" to their husbands and prohibited from serving as deacons, pastors or chaplains in the military service.

This view that women are somehow inferior to men is not restricted to one religion or belief. Women are prevented from playing a full and equal role in many faiths. Nor, tragically, does its influence stop at the walls of the church, mosque, synagogue or temple. This discrimination, unjustifiably attributed to a Higher Authority, has provided a reason or excuse for the deprivation of women's equal rights across the world for centuries.

At its most repugnant, the belief that women must be subjugated to the wishes of men excuses slavery, violence, forced prostitution, genital mutilation and national laws that omit rape as a crime. But it also costs many millions of girls and women control over their own bodies and lives, and continues to deny them fair access to education, health, employment and influence within their own communities.

The impact of these religious beliefs touches every aspect of our lives. They help explain why in many countries boys are educated before girls; why girls are told when and whom they must marry; and why many face enormous and unacceptable risks in pregnancy and childbirth because their basic health needs are not met.

In some Islamic nations, women are restricted in their movements, punished for permitting the exposure of an arm or ankle, deprived of education, prohibited from driving a car or competing with men for a job. If a woman is raped, she is often most severely punished as the guilty party in the crime.

The same discriminatory thinking lies behind the continuing gender gap in pay and why there are still so few women in office in the West. The root of this prejudice lies deep in our histories, but its impact is felt every day. It is not women and girls alone who suffer. It damages all of us. The evidence shows that investing in women and girls delivers major benefits for society. An educated woman has healthier children. She is more likely to send them to school. She earns more and invests what she earns in her family.

It is simply self-defeating for any community to discriminate against half its population. We need to challenge these self-serving and outdated attitudes and practices - as we are seeing in Iran where women are at the forefront of the battle for democracy and freedom.

I understand, however, why many political leaders can be reluctant about stepping into this minefield. Religion, and tradition, are powerful and sensitive areas to challenge. But my fellow Elders and I, who come from many faiths and backgrounds, no longer need to worry about winning votes or avoiding controversy - and we are deeply committed to challenging injustice wherever we see it.

The Elders are an independent group of eminent global leaders, brought together by former South African president Nelson Mandela, who offer their influence and experience to support peace building, help address major causes of human suffering and promote the shared interests of humanity. We have decided to draw particular attention to the responsibility of religious and traditional leaders in ensuring equality and human rights and have recently published a statement that declares: "The justification of discrimination against women and girls on grounds of religion or tradition, as if it were prescribed by a Higher Authority, is unacceptable."

We are calling on all leaders to challenge and change the harmful teachings and practices, no matter how ingrained, which justify discrimination against women. We ask, in particular, that leaders of all religions have the courage to acknowledge and emphasise the positive messages of dignity and equality that all the world's major faiths share.

The carefully selected verses found in the Holy Scriptures to justify the superiority of men owe more to time and place - and the determination of male leaders to hold onto their influence - than eternal truths. Similar biblical excerpts could be found to support the approval of slavery and the timid acquiescence to oppressive rulers.

I am also familiar with vivid descriptions in the same Scriptures in which women are revered as pre-eminent leaders. During the years of the early Christian church women served as deacons, priests, bishops, apostles, teachers and prophets. It wasn't until the fourth century that dominant Christian leaders, all men, twisted and distorted Holy Scriptures to perpetuate their ascendant positions within the religious hierarchy.

The truth is that male religious leaders have had - and still have - an option to interpret holy teachings either to exalt or subjugate women. They have, for their own selfish ends, overwhelmingly chosen the latter. Their continuing choice provides the foundation or justification for much of the pervasive persecution and abuse of women throughout the world. This is in clear violation not just of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights but also the teachings of Jesus Christ, the Apostle Paul, Moses and the prophets, Muhammad, and founders of other great religions - all of whom have called for proper and equitable treatment of all the children of God. It is time we had the courage to challenge these views.

Jimmy Carter was president of the United States from 1977 to 1981

Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/losing-my-religion-for-equality-20090714-dk0v.html#ixzz2Hy8NTjIN

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

politics is ...?

'Politics' is often used to mean 'what politicians do'. It is not. It is what we all do. Politics is about our lives and our future, and the decisions we take about them - or that others take for us. So writes Simon Hill in last month's Third Way  magazine.

Sadness for America

On the eve of the first presidential debate, Sojourners premiered The Line — a film about the new faces of poverty in America. In this powerful documentary from award-winning filmmaker Linda Midgett, those popular judgmental assumptions against poor people are clearly and convincingly debunked.
A film we should see?

Engaging the Battleground of Contemporary Politics

From LICC website (October 2912)

After watching the recent Presidential debate between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, I was reminded of Alasdair MacIntyre’s provocative definition of modern politics: ‘civil war by other means’.

MacIntrye’s argument is simple and insightful. Modern society no longer has a shared moral framework on which political debate can take place. Beyond us all agreeing that some things (increasingly few) are bad, we can no longer agree on what is good. Instead, there are many competing understandings of what good looks like.

The problem is this – if there is no shared understanding of the ‘good’, then you cannot win an argument by logically showing that your perspective is better than another. It’s impossible to ‘prove’ that you’re right.

So how, in contemporary politics, do you win?

MacIntyre suggests that the two hallmarks of modern politics are protest and indignation. As you can no longer give a full account of why you believe you’re right, you simply turn the volume up and get angry. In our media-saturated age, ‘turning the volume up’ takes place through out-advertising the opposition. And advertising is not cheap. It’s no coincidence that in the last decade in US congressional elections, the candidate with the most money won over 80% of the time.

If MacIntyre’s analysis is right – and it is a big ‘if’ – how might a Christian engage in politics? Is it just a case of having to ‘play the game’ because the benefits gained by political power outweigh the cost of obtaining it? Should we more effectively mobilise the church to raise funds to lobby for Christian ‘values’ – increasing the volume of our voice in public debate?

James Davison Hunter has recently called for Christian witness in the public square to be one of ‘faithful presence’ – in line with Jeremiah’s call to the exiled people of God in Babylon to ‘seek the peace and prosperity of the city’ (29:7). The goal is not to obtain political power in order to bring a Christian influence. The goal is not ‘winning’, nor even the transformation of culture. It is faithfulness. Hunter recognises that cultural change may, on occasion, be a byproduct of faithfulness – but it is just that, a byproduct. If faithfulness is the goal, then perhaps we don’t have to resort to ‘playing the game’. As a friend once told me, ‘You don’t have to play by their rules if you don’t require their rewards.’

Mark Sampson

Further reading:

Alasdair MacIntyre’s After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory is a profound account of the crisis of ethics in modernity. It is intriguing that not too long after publishing this, MacIntyre converted to Christianity. See here for an overview of MacIntyre’s political philosophy.

The statistic that over 80% of winning candidates in US congressional elections are those with the most money comes from this article. The most dramatic statistic is that in 2004, when 98% of House seats went to the candidate with the most money.

James Davison Hunter’s To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World has changed the dynamics of the conversation about the relationship between Christianity and culture. Though his focus is on the US context, much of it is applicable to the UK.

Nathan Johnson is responsible for the phrase: ‘You don’t have to play by their rules if you don’t require their rewards’. His life – a blend of music, production, art, film-scores, and more – is a vivid example of the innovation and creativity permissioned by this perspective.