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It’s just everywhere”: A study on sexism in schools – and how we tackle it – National Education Union and UK Feminista, 2017

IJEThe title of this report – “It’s just everywhere” – are the words of a girl who was asked about her experiences of sexism at school as part of this study

Sexism and sexual harassment in schools has been normalised and is rarely reported by students.

Reporting and responding to sexism in schools

The main findings include:

  • Over a third (37%) of girls at mixed-sex schools have been sexually harassed while at school.
  • 66% of female students and 37% of male students in mixed-sex sixth forms have experienced or witnessed the use of sexist language in schools.
  • Over a third (34%) of primary school teachers say they witness gender stereotyping in their schools on at least a weekly basis.
  • 64% of teachers in mixed-sex secondary schools hear sexist language in schools on at least a weekly basis.

A total of 1,508 students and 1,634 teachers were questioned about their experiences and views on sexism in schools.

The report calls on the Government to take urgent steps to tackle sexism and sexual harassment in schools. This includes issuing national guidance to schools on how to prevent and respond effectively to sexual harassment and sexual violence, and ensuring teachers receive the necessary training, resources and support to develop a whole school strategy for tackling sexism – from the early years in primary schools through to secondary schools.

Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary at the National Education Union, said:

“This study finds sexism is an issue affecting every school and college. Our study reveals that we must address the gender stereotypes and the ideas about men and women that lead to such prevalent levels of sexual harassment. As we come to the end of 2017, we’ve lived through a year in which sexual harassment of women and girls has been at the forefront of the public eye. This study shows us how normalised and pervasive it is for young people also. Sexual harassment and regular sexist remarks are patterns that most girls and young women come to view as ‘normal’. This sets up expectations about peer relationships and gender which can lead to real harm for girls’ and boys’ self-confidence and aspirations about life.

“Schools and colleges have an important role to play in breaking down stereotypes but education policy is making it harder and not easier. We are not giving schools and teachers the tools, time and teaching environments they need. The Government, alongside the profession, needs to develop teacher training about the best ways to reduce sexism in the classroom and to use the formal and informal curriculum to make a difference for girls and boys. In this study, only one in five teachers say the national curriculum gives them adequate scope and flexibility to enable schools to prevent sexism. Teachers tell us that barriers to tackling sexism include an overly heavy focus on academic subjects and teacher workload being too high.”

Sophie Bennett, spokesperson for UK Feminista, said: 

“The results of our study are clear: schools, Ofsted and the Government must act urgently to tackle sexism in schools. Sexual harassment, sexist language and gender stereotyping are rife in school settings, yet all too often it goes unreported and unaddressed.

“To combat sexism in the classroom, the Government should issue national guidance to schools; Ofsted should recognise schools and teacher training providers that take effective action to tackle sexism; and schools should adopt a ‘whole school approach’ to tackling sexism – which includes zero tolerance for sexual harassment.

“The solutions are clear; what has been lacking is the political will to act. All those with the power to make schools safe for girls must now step up – from Downing Street to the staff room.

“We need to stop schools being places where girls and boys learn that sexual harassment and sexism are routine, normal, accepted. It would transform school life – and society as a whole.”

The reporting of incidents of sexism and sexual harassment is crucial to providing support to those who experience it, establishing the scale of the problem, and preventing it from occurring in the future. To enable this, students need to know how and who to report incidents to, and be confident that they will be taken seriously and the report acted upon. While there are some schools doing excellent work to identify and respond to sexism, our research findings indicate that the majority of schools are not.

The main reason students give for not reporting incidents of sexism and sexual harassment is how common it is:

it is seen as an everyday part of students’ lives.

There is a vicious cycle of under-reporting of sexism in schools.

Even when an incident occurs that students clearly recognise as harmful and unwanted, students are currently unlikely to report it. They do not believe the teacher

would take reports of sexism and sexual harassment seriously, and anticipate that they would be viewed as being difficult and oversensitive.

IJE 2Government

The Department for Education (DfE) must urgently make  tackling sexism and sexual harassment in schools a policy priority. To realise this policy priority, the DfE should:

Issue guidance to all schools on how to prevent and respond to sexual harassment and sexual violence. The guidance should be developed in consultation with sexual violence specialists, education professionals and education unions.

Create a fund to support specialist sector organisations to provide capacity-building support to schools on tackling sexism and sexual harassment.

Ensure the curriculum for relationships and sex education (RSE), across

all key stages, is designed to prevent sexism and sexual harassment among children and young people and that RSE teachers have access to high quality professional development.


All Ofsted inspectors should receive comprehensive training on  how schools can address and prevent sexism.

Ofsted should recognise schools that take effective action to tackle sexism.

Inspections of Initial Teacher Training (ITT) providers should include an assessment of whether the training course adequately equips trainees with the skills they need to tackle sexism in the classroom.

Initial Teacher Training Providers

Training on how to tackle sexism should be a core and compulsory component of all ITT courses.

It’s online here

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Dethroning Mammon: Making money serve grace – Justin Welby

DMMAMMON is a real and personal force, the Archbishop of Canterbury says. It infects global economics and individual relationships; nor is the Church immune.

Archbishop Welby makes his case in Dethroning Mammon, a book written for Lent. In it he makes it clear that he is not “anti-money” but anti people’s attitudes to money.

“The more interconnected the world becomes, the more power is held over individuals and nations by economics, by money and flows of finance. Mammon [is] a name given by Jesus to this force.. .

“The more we let ourselves be gov­erned by Mammon, the more power he has, and the more the vulnerable suffer.”

Speaking about the book, Arch­bishop Welby said: “The power of Mammon is absolutely colossal: it grips us entirely. Very few people escape it, and those we call saints.”

This is the first book that the Arch­bishop has written, the fruit of 30 years’ observation of the markets’ influence. He wanted to give a sense that “what you are and what you’re worth is more than your bank balance,” a Lambeth source said.

The chapter headings spell out Archbishop Welby’s thesis:

“What we see we value”: in which he questions the values of the banks and the stock exchange: “Markets are very persuasive influences: they claim sovereignty over perception. Thus the ‘right’ price of something traded in the market is what the market says, even if that price bears no reasonable relation to the value of the effort put in, the imagination involved, or the underlying costs and lives of the producers.”

“What we measure controls us”, which is a key part of the Arch­bishop’s thesis: that Mammon per­suades people that the only worth to be noted is financial. The Church is both a victim of this and a perpet­rator: a victim, in that the countless hours of voluntary work are dis­missed when assessing the Church’s health; and a perpetrator when it judges the success of a church by the growth of its finance or members.

“What we have we hold”: in an economy where financial institu­tions are retaining greater liquidity than ever before, Archbishop Welby writes that here, is little evidence to support the trickle-down theory of wealth, “not least because tridde­down does not account for human nature”. The Archbishop is known to be critical of the conditions that people in the Church are increas­ingly attaching to their donations, holding on to their wealth to control the actions of others.

“What we receive we treat as ours”, in which the Archbishop argues that, through the act of washing his disciples’ feet, Christ redefined power and separated it from wealth. He also raises uncomfortable ques­tions about the influence of Prot­estant Christianity on the develop­ment of world markets, through its acceptance of interest.

“What we give we gain”: “Money”, the Archbishop writes, “is one part of the God-given economy of abundance which enables us to show solidarity and to build rela­tionships. It brings us closer to people far away.”

What we master brings us joy”: de­throning Mammon requires people to listen (“The deceptions of Mam­mon are endless”); repent (asking “What do we want wealth for?”); and enthrone Christ in Mammon’s place.

Archbishop Welby argues that the Church should not be afraid to be prophetic. “We give Mammon au­thority as though it were divine, when it is a fraudulent misrepresentation of inevitability. . . I am not pretending that the rules of normal economics do not apply, or that there is a Christian way of ignoring them.

Supply and demand, risk and reward, the gift of the free market to locate goods well, the need for balance in the flows of money within the economy, all continue to be relevant. But they are not God.”

The Archbishop is believed to be concerned about how Britain behaves post-Brexit. The trade deals that Britain makes to replace those in the EU are very important, “probably the most important thing we can do”, a Lambeth source said. To approach them without attempting to exert economic power over other nations would require “a huge amount of self‑discipline”.

It asks us to reconsider our entrapment by materialism.

Although it’s in 5 sections and has biblical passages and discussion questions, a group could do this at any lime of the year, not just during Lent. However, the questions are odd and won’t inspire much discussion and the overall style of the book is too verbose.

It ends, predictably, with credit unions, drop the debt ands the welfare state.


In some interpretations of the parable, the merchant represents the believer, who, after much seeking and finding of good things, finds that uniquely great thing, the kingdom of heaven. In Matthew’s Gospel the phrase is used to convey the idea of the area of God’s rule. We enter it only by surrender­ing to the King, Jesus himself. The merchant recognises that everything else he has held on to is worth nothing compared to this treasure, and that nothing is worth keeping if it stops him getting hold of the pearl of great value.

But the parable can be understood in another way; the merchant is God, who demonstrates that he will hold noth­ing back in order to claim that which is most precious. The pearl of great value represents you — and me — for whom God gives up his only Son in order that we may know ourselves as loved, claimed, belonging, ‘held’ close to God’s heart as his most valued treasure.

In the shadow of the cross (as the cover painting so vividly depicts), we are urged to see ourselves as the pearl in God’s hand; but also, at the same time, as merchants.

Lazarus was the perfect choice for this experience of the most dramatic of Jesus’ miracles. In his commentary on John’s Gospel, Jean Vanier (of whom, more later) suggests that the reason Lazarus, as an unmarried man, was living with his two unmarried sisters was that he had some kind of disability, or learning difficulty. It is noticeable that at no point does Lazarus speak, whereas his sisters both “seem extremely competent. Vanier does not claim any great insight on this but leaves it as a suggestion, and from my own experience I can see what sense it makes. Most families that I know where someone has a learning difficulty or disability find in that person a treasure, and Mary and Martha’s profound grief and their turning to Jesus indicates the depth of their relationship with Lazarus. Even if Lazarus did not have a disability, but was simply ill, he still represents someone who, in the world’s eyes, is of little to no value. He does not seem to be a contrib­uting member of society in any measurable economic sense.

But, whatever the reason for Lazarus living as an unmarried man in the care of two of his sisters, Jesus sees in him something extraordinarily special, his humanity, his being made in the image of God. In Lazarus, Jesus sees someone for whom it is worth risking his own life.

John’s Gospel describes it being worth 300denarii. We know that an average labourer one denarius for one day’s work. So this is the thick end a year’s pay for an average male’s work. In the UK today would be the equivalent of over £25,000.

Judas represents an economy of scarcity. His fundamental assumption is that there is not enough to go around, which is to say that Judas’ disposition is one of fear, and fear produces an anxiety to control. In this passage, Judas tries to exercise control on multiple fronts. Not only does he attempt to control how the disciples use their money, but he also tries to govern the manner in which Mary relates to Jesus. Judas believes power is predicated on regulation and management.

Mary, on the other hand, is decidedly out of control in this story. She is not concerned with anything but Jesus. She is not concerned with efficiency, or thrift, or measurement, or appearances. Mary embarrasses herself. She goes completely overboard. But she does so because she lives within an econ­omy of abundance — where God’s provision of manna in the wilderness far exceeds the Israelites’ hunger and their capac­ity to harvest it (see Exodus 16: I -3c). Spending money on Jesus and helping the poor are not mutually exclusive, because in the world that God has created there is always enough to go around. The value of things is determined not by their monetary value, but by their relationship to Jesus. In short, everything — including all the nard in the world — exists for Jesus. Mary assumes that there is enough nard in the world for God to accomplish everything God wants to accomplish

All our ambitions, for career, for family, for children and grandchildren, are to have Christ at the centre and Mammon dethroned; to recognise God’s abundant manna and to share it in the conviction that there is plenty for everyone.

We used to have an annual slogan in my parish give us some priorities for the year. It was a struggle to think of new ones until we found one that kept us going year after year: ‘more parties, less meetings’ . It sounded frivolous, but at its heart it said that we are a community not a corporation; we are a family, not an organisation.

In Revelation 3:14-22, the writer of Revelation (called John, and often thought to be the Apostle John himself, or one of his disciples) is relaying the words of the glorified Christ, revealed to him in a vision while on the Isle of Patmos. Chapters 2 and 3 of Revelation consist of letters, each following a simi­lar form, addressed to seven churches across what is now southwest Turkey. Seven is a significant number, indicating completeness, so these are letters to the whole Church, pick­ing up faults and strengths that apply in one way or another to all churches at some point in every part of the world. Yet, at the same time, they address the contemporary situation of each of the seven.

There is much discussion about the nature of the meaning of some of the words in the book of Revelation.¢ Each letter is addressed to the angel of the church in that place. This is taken to mean either a guardian angel for that church, or the local bishop. Each letter begins with a reference back to John’s vision in Revelation 1, and to the speaker, the glorified Christ. The letter in Revelation 3:14-22 is to the church in Laodicea, and begins by saying that it comes from ‘the Amen, the faith­ful and true witness, the origin of God’s creation’ (3 : 14). John Everything is connected, although the forcefulness of the imagery and the vividness of the colour used often lead us to assume that it is some kind of random series of images and visions, rather than a carefully collated and thoughtfully presented whole. John reminds the Laodiceans that the words of the letter come from the ‘Amen’ (the final word), the faith­ful and true witness, the origin of God’s creation. This is to tell them that what they are about to hear is definitive, is true, and speaks to the reality of everything. It is not a letter for a passing moment, but something that addresses what it is to be human, and what it is to live in God’s creation.

Each letter then continues with the phrase, ‘I know your works’, which is a way of communicating that each of these churches is truly and utterly exposed before God. There is no hiding. God knows who they truly are — their strengths and weaknesses, their triumphs and their faults. The prob­lem for Laodicea is that they have deceived themselves about the nature of their wealth and piality of life. In other words, Mammon is on the throne and they think it is Christ.

Are there parts of your life where you have mistaken Mammon for Jesus? What effect did it have?

Let me explain more fully. Laodicea was near Colossae, and also near Hierapolis. It was on a crossroads for two major trade routes, and in consequence was a great centre for exchange of goods, which were ‘transhipped’ rather than simply sold into Laodicea itself. Today’s equivalent would be a port like Rotterdam, where well over half the containers go in on one ship and out on another, or on another form of transport.

As a result, like many trading cities (London or Liverpool would be two other great examples), it developed a strong commercial life. There was a significant banking sector (Fin’s ancestors felt very at home in Laodicea), and it also had some of its own products, especially a very luxuriant black wool, and a very well-known form of eye-salve.When I was growing up, when we got sore eyes in the summer from sand blowing on the beach, we were always given Optrex. I am sure it was meant to be very effective, but it never seemed to do the childish me much good! By contrast, I imagine that those who put on some Laodicean eye-salve (Laodex?) felt much better. Theirs was then a prosperous city, with some useful products, much finance and certain needs.

One -unusual feature of Laodicean life was that it had no water supply of its own. Nearby, Hierapolis had hot springs, which were known for their healing quality. Colossae had cold springs, well known as refreshing. But the waters merged, and by the time they got to Laodicea, they had become salty and tepid.

This explains the frequently misunderstood verse from Revelation 3:16: ‘Because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to spit you out of my mouth.’ This verse is often explained as suggesting that Jesus would prefer people to have no spiritual life at all rather than a tepid one (although obviously he would prefer a hot spiritual life). Such an explanation is patently absurd. He wants the Church to be either healing or refreshing — and preferably both — but not a nauseous mixture that is neither one thing nor the other.

No church ever escapes being infected by the spirit of the age. This was certainly true of Laodicea. Jesus says to the Laodiceans, ‘For you say, “I am rich, I have prospered and I need nothing.” You do not realise that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind and naked.’ These words are fero­cious. They profoundly challenge the Laodicean Christians’ view of themselves. Their wealth is an illusion. The word for ‘poor’ could be translated as destitute. Their spiritual poverty is not likened to the poverty of being a little short of the readies, but to the deeper poverty of rough sleeping, of not having any clothes, of sickness and total despair. This complacent church is actually rolling around in the gutter with nothing on. In consequence, it is in great danger of death.

The glorified Christ then gives advice (which echoes Isaiah 3-5) to these resourceless and deceived people, that they should ‘buy’ from him ‘gold refined by fire so that you may be rich’ (v. i 8) and all the other things they need to be clothed, and to have their eyes healed so that they may see properly. It is, of course, a ridiculous piece of advice. How can someone who is destitute buy gold? The answer is that we buy from Christ with the means that Christ gives us, his grace and his love, and the handing over of our lives.

In the ancient world, those who had absolutely no resources at all had but one means left of ensuring that they could survive, to sell themselves into slavery. Christ is saying to the Laodiceans that they should become his slaves and he will heal them, sort out their destitution, and set them up in a healthy and fit way. At that time, in places where there were kings, their subjects were often their slaves. Thus, for many people the choice, if they had one, was of whom to serve, rather than whether to serve.

The 1776 Declaration of Independence by the 13 colonies that would become the United States of America was revo­lutionary, not merely in throwing off the authority of King George III, but also because it talked of the right of every human being (or at least, at the time, of every white male human being) to ‘Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness’ . That breathtaking sentence, which has echoed around the world ever since, promotes the idea of autonomy, of being in charge of ourselves.Yet personal autonomy is an impossibility that conceals the enthroning of Mammon. In personal terms, autonomy assumes its own slavery — slavery to Mammon. The slavery may not be political, but it is moral and ethical as well as personal. In this passage in Revelation, Christ calls on the Laodiceans to see their real slavery, and to trade it for slavery to the one who brings true freedom.

The passage goes on to be increasingly positive. Jesus says that he disciplines those he loves, and therefore they should repent. He says that he stands at the door and knocks, and if they let him in, they will find that he sits and eats with them. Once again the words ‘Eat with’ do not do justice to the strength of the word used by John. The sense is of a leisurely, enjoyable time of fellowship, a feast of good company, a strengthening not only of body but also of mind, spirit and soul. This is the Christ who draws near to us and transforms our lives so completely that we become unrecognisable from the person we were before.

The passage ends with the promise that those who conquer will share the throne with Christ, in the same way  as he himself conquered and sits down with his Father on his throne. When we dethrone Mammon and enthrone Christ, we do not find ourselves serving another tyrant but are ourselves invited to sit with Christ and to share his throne. The seat of the Archbishop of Canterbury in Canterbury Cathedral is very wide, enough for more than one person. In the stained glass of the cathedral, which is late medieval, the thrones of kings are always portrayed as very large, with the kings lounging across them. I never understood this, wondering if my predecessors in Augustine’s Seat were much bigger than I am, until someone explained that, as a mark of honour, kings would invite people to sit with them on their throne. Dethroning Mammon is not a grim commitment to austerity and grey asceticism, but leads to joy, to mastery and to celebration.

These verses in Revelation 3 link into another extraordi­nary passage in Revelation 18. Much later in the book, this approaches the culmination of the whole biblical story as the New Jerusalem, the City of God, descends from heaven. The New Jerusalem is a depiction of heaven, in which God’s just and gentle rule is established in every corner of creation. It is a picture of the ultimate urban regeneration, in which the city that is full of sin is replaced by the city that is full of God.

Revelation i 8 marks the end of the city of sin. In this chap­ter, the city of sin is called Babylon. It is described as a place full of the wealthy, of merchants. It is the place to which every trader on earth goes, and where all those who have enthroned Mammon seek to belong. It is the commercial hub of the world.

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Finance and Religion

F and RPeer pressure can prompt generosity, say this survey.

RELIGIOUS people in the United States spend about £900 a year supporting their religious institution; but more than a third feel pressured by peers to do so.

This was among the findings of a survey of 875 Christian, Jewish, and Muslim people (of equal numbers) in the country, conducted by the finance blog LendEDU in December 2017

On average, respondents donated $1190.31 a year (£890) to support their place of worship, affiliated charities, community events, or religious peers and members.

Breaking this down, Jewish people donated an average of $1309.23 a year to their religion, Muslims $1442.91, and Christians $817.42. More than half (55 per cent) of all respondents budgeted for these contributions.

The survey had four categories of “Christian” denomination: Protestant, Roman Catholic, Mormon, and “other Christian denomination”. Of these, Mormons donated the most: $1648.17 a year on average. Roman Catholic respondents donated the least: $511.58 a year. Most donations by Christians were put towards the repair or maintenance of facilities, and assisting peers in times of need, the survey says.

This was compared with the general costs of being part of a religion (outside of financial donations): a further $940 a year, on average. Christians spent $335.08 a year on average to participate: the lowest annual cost, paid by Mormons ($224.33), was offset by the highest cost, $424.93, paid by Protestants. Muslims paid $1313.26, and Jewish people $1181.78 to contribute.

The total average cost of being part of a religion, therefore, amounted to more than $2000 (£1600).

A spokesman for LendEDU, Alex Coleman, said: “$2000 per year is considerable, depending on the financial position of the individual you are surveying. However, compared to what Americans reportedly spend on Christmas and Thanksgiving in the US (and that is only for one day), $2000 per year is not a significant expenditure.”

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TPOTCRated  1 of the 25 most controversial movies of all time. Entertainment Weekly, 16 June 2006.

At 2 hours 7 minutes, it’s just plain boring as far as I am concerned – though it’s shorter than the Good Friday Three Hours Devotion held in some churches.  The near rest to me, devotionally, is the stations of the cross.  I know a man from a nearby church who got up during the film and shouted at the tormentors to stop and to ‘leave my Lord alone.’

Jim Caviezel experienced a shoulder separation when the 150lb cross dropped on his shoulder. The scene is still in the movie. In an interview with Newsweek magazine, he spoke about a few of the difficulties he experienced while filming. This included being accidentally whipped twice, which has left a 14-inch scar on his back. Caviezel also admitted he was struck by lightning while filming the Sermon on the Mount and during the crucifixion, experienced hypothermia during the dead of winter in Italy. In one scene while hanging on the Cross, Jim Caviezel can be seen to have a blue colouration of skin. This was not a special effect, but a case of asphyxiation, the cause of death for crucified victims.

“The whiteness of the cast peaks to a decidedly un-Christian truth that lies near the heart of this republic. Simply put, nailing a white Jesus Christ to the cross on film will generate a far more emotional response from the American viewing public than the crucifixion of a savior who actually looks like he is from the Middle East.”

“The ugly truth which never even occurs to most Americans is that Jesus looked a lot more like an Iraqi, like an Afghani, like a Palestinian, like an Arab, than any of the paintings which grace the walls of American churches from sea to shining sea. This was an uncomfortable fact before September 11.  After the attack, it became almost a moral imperative to put as much distance between Americans and people from the Middle East as possible. Now, to suggest that Jesus shared a genealogical heritage and physical similarity to the people sitting in dog cages down in Guantanamo is to dance along the edge of treason.”

On the first day of general release, Ash Wednesday, Peggy Scott, a 56-year-old advertising sales manager from Wichita, Kansas collapsed of apparent heart failure while watching the crucifixion scene. She later died at the hospital.

CCJ wrote: CCJ is very troubled about the potential impact of Mel Gibson’s ‘The Passion of the Christ’ on Christian-Jewish relations.

Ed. Kessler wrote: The film’s graphic and persistent violence raises theological questions and especially whether, as Gibson seems to imply as director, God needs to be appeased for the sins of humanity by subjecting his Son to unspeakable torments. This is a sadistic picture of God, which is not compatible with the God proclaimed by Jesus as the one who seeks for the lost sheep, nor the God that is described to me in my daily encounter with Christians.  As a Jewish teacher of Christianity, I was surprised that there was no sign of the Christian emphasis on love and compassion.  I imagine my Christian students and colleagues will be shocked and disappointed.

It is surely not coincidental that the Gospel writers failed to comment on the torture of Jesus – their focus was on God’s love of the world. By focusing on Jesus’ torments, the Gibson film ignores the defining moment of Christian faith – the resurrection. For Christians, Christ conquered death. For Gibson, like a sadomasochist director some claim him to be, the defining moment is the pain suffered by Jesus.

A lack of sensitivity to Judaism has also caused controversy.  Anti-Jewish features are either added to the sketchy New Testament accounts of the Passion or are grossly exaggerated.  For example, we are told that, “the Pharisees hate” Jesus, even though they hardly appear in the biblical accounts of the Passion.  In fact, most biblical scholars agree that Jesus was closer to the Pharisees than to any other Jewish group.  Gibson has ignored this and nearly all the results of post-biblical scholarship, including modern Roman Catholic scholarship.   The film includes a number of extra biblical comments which increase Jewish responsibility such as Pilate announcing, “It is you who want him crucified, not I”.  And after dramatically lifting his hands in front of the crowd, Pilate commands his aide, “Do as they wish”.  Pilate is not portrayed as the cruel Roman ruler, which we come across in the Gospels as well as in other contemporary first century accounts.

The film reinforces ancient Christian prejudices in a context of intense and unremitting violence. On a number of occasions there are clear departures from the scriptural text and significant inaccuracies regarding the trial of Jesus. The involvement of the Pharisees, relations between Jews and the Roman occupiers and the role of the High Priest are also distorted. The main burden of guilt is placed on the Jews which ignores historical scholarship. Given the significant development and progress in Jewish-Christian relations since the Holocaust, this approach is deeply regrettable.

The CCJ believes this film will be detrimental to improved understanding between Jews and Christians and to the vital work of reconciliation, education and dialogue.

Paul Spilsbury  writes, approvingly:

In approaching Mel Gibson’s film, we should regard it as primarily a religious drama, and not a documentary. Gibson himself has called it a “meditation on the Passion”, and if Christian filmgoers watch it in this light, they will find that it has much to say to them. However, as a number of criticisms have been made of the film, which I think are generally misconceived, I will consider these first.

“The film is too brutal.” Inevitably, a great deal of brutality is depicted in the film, mainly in the treatment of Christ by the Roman soldiers. While such brutality is almost certainly historically true, it is certainly legitimate to ask how much of it should be actually shown, and how graphically. These scenes are extremely harrowing, and yet, given a certain squeamishness in our own age about the sufferings of Christ (though we see scenes at least as harrowing in the daily news), I think it is probably both legitimate and necessary to “rub our noses in it”. It is pointless to ask whether the reality was quite as horrific, or maybe even worse. If we find the scenes too hard to bear, we can at least remind ourselves that it is only a film, and all we are really seeing is acting, and make-up.

“The film is anti-semitic.” Almost all the leading figures in the Gospel-story are Jews- good, bad and indifferent. In the film, some characters are shown in a good light- Jesus and Mary, obviously, but others too, both Jews and non-Jews. Others are shown in a bad light, Jews and non-Jews. But no group is depicted as exclusively bad. Among the priests, there are some who protest against the abuse of legal procedure, and ask why other members of the Council are not present- surely implying that these, too, would have objected. There are glimmerings of compassion even among some of the brutal soldiers. The crowds who call for crucifixion are shown to have been largely hired for the occasion, not typical of the population as a whole. If anything, it is the Romans who are shown as consistently cruel, with very few exceptions. There is no suggestion that “the Jews” as such were uniquely guilty of betraying Jesus.

“The film is fundamentalist.” This is an odd accusation, and I am not sure what is meant by it, especially when linked with complaints that Gibson does not follow the Gospel literally. Gibson in fact treats the story in a very traditional way, which is not at all the same as “fundamentalist”. There are many elements which a real “fundamentalist” would object to, including sacramental and Marian overtones more obvious to Catholics than to Protestants. I will return to these, in considering the whole theological stance of the film. To the present point, I will only observe that the film is full of symbolic elements which (as I understand “fundamentalism”) are the very antithesis of literalism.

One of these is the depiction of “Satan” as a constant presence and observer of all that happens. Visually, Satan is shown as a hooded and cloaked figure, of whom only the face is visible. The garden-temptation (significantly different from the wilderness temptations at the beginning of our Lord’s ministry) is one of despair and inadequacy, rather than pride and presumption. It culminates in the appearance of a serpent from under Satan’s robe, and as Christ resolves to accept his Father’s will, he stamps upon the serpent’s head. Later, as Christ carries his cross through the streets, Satan mingles with the crowd, keeping pace with Jesus, grinning and at one point carrying an ugly and malevolent child- clearly a reference to “sin giving birth to death”. But as death apparently triumphs over Jesus, a single cleansing tear falls, and Satan shrieks in rage and frustration. This whole dimension of the film is highly theological, pointing to the cosmic, universal meaning of what is being shown.

The counterpoint to Satan is, of course, Mary. She too is never far from Jesus, watching and praying, accepting the will of God and associating herself with her Son’s suffering. Here too Gibson is clearly making a theological point, not merely trying to re-create historical details. Flanked by St John and Mary Magdalene, the holy Mother provides a view-point with which the filmgoer can and should identify. When we are overwhelmed by Christ’s pain, we stand with Mary and unite ourselves with her. She is the “type” of the Church, the ideal disciple.

Because it is perhaps the most misunderstood element in the film, the role and significance of the religious authorities (and, by contrast, of Pilate) needs special consideration. We need to remember that for the Gospel-writers (and for the Church of their day) pagan religion was utterly worthless. Only in Israel was there true worship of God, and so the Jewish religious leaders were truly the religious leaders of all mankind, not just of one people. John makes it clear that the High Priest, ex officio, proclaimed the universal significance of Christ’s death, even if he himself did not fully understand what he was saying:

“It is better for one man to die for the people…” He did not speak in his own person… Not for the nation only, but to gather together in unity the scattered children of God. [John 11.49-52]

I would wish to argue that the words Matthew attributes to “the chief priests and elders” [Matt 27.20], “His blood be upon us and upon our children”, need to be understood in a similar way. Taken in a literal, “fundamentalist”, way, these words go against the teaching of the Old and the New Testaments. No-one is personally guilty of the sins of his forbears or of his descendants, but only of his own sins. However, corporately we are all part of a sinful race, for which Christ died. But to benefit from the salvation which Christ offers, we must accept our part in human failure. It is by taking Christ’s blood upon ourselves that we are saved. Ironically, it is the pagan Pilate, washing his hands to refuse responsibility, who puts himself outside salvation.

Of course, Pilate is lying to himself and to his hearers. Legally, only he can condemn Christ to death, and thus he cannot escape the moral responsibility too. “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves…” [1 John 1.8-10], and we must all beware of aligning ourselves with Pilate rather than with the priests, who, in reality, express our human solidarity. Christ’s blood is, and needs to be, “on us”, for healing and forgiveness, not for condemnation. He is the true Paschal lamb, whose blood sanctified the doors of the Israelites, and marked them out as a people set free by God.

A major difference between Jews and Christians, and one which leads to many misunderstandings and “cross-purposes”, is that while Jewish theology still makes a significant distinction between “Jew” and “Gentile”, Christian theology does not. We see ourselves as also being heirs of Abraham, spiritually if not by physical descent. “There are no more distinctions between Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female, but all of you are one in Christ Jesus. Merely by belonging to Christ you are the posterity of Abraham, the heirs he was promised [Gal 4.28].” Can it be that this was the great stumbling block in that first, decisive, century? Not so much the claim that Jesus was the Messiah (the full implications of which were yet to be worked out by the Church), but that henceforth all races and nations were to be regarded as equal? The Law given to Moses, however holy and just, was in many respects binding only on one people. Salvation was now offered to all peoples, not in virtue of the Jewish Law, but in virtue of accepting the Jewish Messiah. Christians must say what St Augustine said in relation to the Donatists: “You may say that we are not your brothers, but we say that you are our brothers.”

The film ends with a wonderfully traditional “Pietà” tableau, the dead Christ in the arms of his mother. Then we see, from within the tomb, the stone rolling away, and the empty grave-cloths collapsing as though what they contained has suddenly dematerialised. Then we see Christ in profile, serene and contemplative, his body healed and whole. He rises, and as he passes upwards and outwards towards the light of a new day, we see the mark of the nail in his hand.

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Valuing Age : Pastoral ministry with older people – James Woodward

VAA subject I prefer not to think about though, as a churchgoer, I’ve been surrounded by old people all my life. Not only is there good advice for relating to old people, there is much to ponder about how we ourselves relate to our own ageing process.

This is about an ageing society, theories of ageing, images of old age, the religious and spiritual needs of older people, older people and memory, sexuality, diminishment, worship with older people, life learning, retirement, housing, politics and social policy and successful ageing.

It is written to help those involved in care, in a range of settings, to understand some of the pastoral questions and the issues that older people face. In particular it will attend to how the theories of age relate to our experience; and how experience might challenge and shape our theologies. Our shared commitment to this awareness of lifelong learning can help our ministry to be reflective and wise; it can broaden our imagination with sympathy.

The author has particular concern with the nature of theology as a practical discipline. It is never quite good enough for ministry to be only concerned with human experience. For as Christians we must ask how, in our lives, from within the richness and diversity of experience, we might live and practice our faith. How does our faith enable us to grow old? What particular theological questions emerge as we consider the process of getting older? In what way and to what extent is the Christian tradition a resource for our third or fourth age; for our living and our dying?

The theology in this book is practical without losing any of its challenges or contradictions. We need to keep on asking ‘What kind of God?’; ‘What does this mean for my faith?’; ‘How might I live more faithfully and hopefully?’

He admits the likelihood that the pastoral carer in this context may well be experiencing “ a crippling level of role uncertainty’, discloses that the essential challenge for effectiveness in the interpersonal context of pastoral care lies in the carer’s ability to remain “weak and vulnerable” throughout the shared, co-operative search for spiritual meaning.

The text is grounded in the experience of older people: their hopes and fears; their problems and possibilities. And there are exercises to help reflection, at the end of each chapter.

The authorsurprising that the Church fails to make older people a priority; it disempowers them and often deprives them of an opportunity to participate as children of God. Too many of us in the Church apologise for our congregation with words such as “I am afraid we are all elderly here.”

We ought to see those in their second half of life as our natural spiritual constituency – people who have travelled further in life, and have become more open to God. We should celebrate our older members, not be ashamed of them.

Churches should listen more imaginatively to older people’s experience, and be ready to learn from them. Older people can provide a longer perspective in a time of change. They know about making mistakes, and understand human nature, work, and faith.

We need to find ways of valuing age, and enabling older people to find a voice. The parish magazine can give an opportunity to feature the faith stories and life experiences of older parishioners. During the sermon slot, the vicar could invite older members of the congregation to give their testimony, perhaps through an interview-style dialogue.

We should ensure that older people are offered new experiences rather than assuming that they always prefer the status quo. Older people are not a uniform group – they are as open to new things as anybody else. For example, older parishioners in Smethwick run two groups: one arranges trips out, providing the only opportunity some individuals have for getting out of town with others; another meets weekly for tea, games, gentle exercise, and informal support. Many older women, particularly widows, have found this a transforming experience, as they make new friends and enjoy new pastimes.

Older people often appreciate the vibrancy that children bring. Junior churches or Sunday schools can invite older members to contribute to teaching sessions. Older people can get involved in activities such as nativity plays. I once saw the innkeeper in a wheelchair, and the children enjoying the aged wise men.

Churches must recognise the wide range of abilities and potential to be found among older members. Reflect on how often a funeral address reveals an older person of talent, who was not recognised as such either by the vicar or congregation. We need to see the person and the possibility beyond the greyness. A person does not have to be productive to be useful.

In their pastoral care, churches need to be aware of the affects of physical and mental diminution on their older members, and help them to learn to cope with the associated feelings of loss. Our constant emphasis on doing rather than being can devalue the latter.

We need to draw on older people as a prayer resource – a productive ministry of intercession that can surround a place with care. This ministry could be exercised from home, and a network developed that connects people and situations across the world.

If older people become too frail to attend Sunday worship, we need to note their absence, and offer support. There might be a lay person who could have a pastoral watch for older members. We also need to explore ideas of worship at different times and places. Why do many churches offer BCP services only at 8 a.m., and evensong after dark in winter?

Churches should be conscious that many older people are themselves carers of spouses, parents, other elderly friends, or grandchildren. We need to find ways of encouraging them in this task of caring. Offers of help can give carers time, while a formal support group that listens to them can help to relieve pressures. We don’t always think of older carers when we talk of our “family church”. Family is at all stages of the life cycle. We should also remember older carers in Sunday intercessions.

As Peter Speck said, churches should recognise that older people feel challenged in their beliefs as they cope with losses, and can be looking for help to come to terms with past experiences. We need to respond to these questions rather than change the subject: this is important theological work.

The Church also needs to be prepared to give time to the harvesting of memories as a resource for bringing souls to Christ. Some older people are natural evangelists. They have time for people and for spiritual friendship. Their lives often reflect many of the virtues of discipleship: empathy, patience, and compassion. These are attractive resources for mission. There has been an eight-fold growth in our congregation among the over-55s here in Temple Balsall.

Churches should act as beacons of intergenerational activity, so that the young may learn from the old, and visa versa, and that neither is seen as more important than the other. I am not suggesting that the Church sack all youth workers, and begin to employ older-people workers, but nearly all dioceses have posts for youth and children’s work, but few have them for older people.

We should work to build all-age communities, where older people are a respected part of the body of Christ. To do this, we must combat some of the fears that surround ageing. We must also exercise pastoral imagination to root out ageism.

Older people are an overlooked majority, who deserve our energy. They are our natural spiritual constituency – let us stop apologising for them.


It is written to help those involved in care, in a range of settings, to understand some of the pastoral questions and the issues that older people face. In particular it will attend to how the theories of age relate to our experience; and how experience might challenge and shape our theologies. Our shared commitment to this awareness of lifelong learning can help our ministry to be reflective and wise; it can broaden our imagination with sympathy.

The author has particular concern with the nature of theology as a practical discipline. It is never quite good enough for ministry to be only concerned with human experience. For as Christians we must ask how, in our lives, from within the richness and diversity of experience, we might live and practice our faith. How does our faith enable us to grow old? What particular theological questions emerge as we consider the process of getting older? In what way and to what extent is the Christian tradition a resource for our third or fourth age; for our living and our dying?

The theology in this book is practical without losing any of its challenges or contradictions. We need to keep on asking ‘What kind of God?’; ‘What does this mean for my faith?’; ‘How might I live more faithfully and hopefully?’

The text is grounded in the experience of older people: their hopes and fears; their problems and possibilities. And there are exercises to help reflection, at the end of each chapter. Wesley Carr

Why does it appear that it is still acceptable to make fun of people on account of their age, describing them as wrinklies, crum­blies, or oldies whereas it would have been totally out of order to go on about their gender, race, sexual orientation or disability? In the public perception fuelled by the media, older people are seen as insignificant because they are not regarded as prime consumers or producers. There is a bleak public image of ageing. Many appear to think that all older people are sick, confused, useless, complaining, unintelligent and incompetent. They fail to notice what the older generation can offer to society as a whole. Where, for example, would many working parents be without the vast contribution that grandparents make to childcare?

Sadly this ageist attitude is rife in the Church as well. We apol­ogize for our ageing congregations, we put endless money into youth and children’s work, but almost never into work with older people. Most dioceses have youth and children’s workers and very few workers with older people. Consider the timing of services. In many churches, the only traditional 1662-style services take place at 8 a.m. or in the evening after dark while the prime mid­morning slot is reserved for so-called all-age worship or other modern guitar-led celebrations. All this means that older people get the message that they are only tolerated rather than respected for their contribution.’

How this ageist attitude contrasts with the biblical view of old age where older people are seen as wise, as elders and as people to be honoured rather than ridiculed. It was Simeon and Anna, both mature in years, who first recognized the significance of Jesus in the temple. Consider the roles of Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea or Gamaliel in the New Testament narrative. And what of the fifth commandment?

The task we face is to identify the underlying assumptions that keep older people in the churches marginalized and challenge the shortage of positive pictures of ageing as opposed to ageist stereo­types. Where would the Church be without the contribution of its members over 60? How many church posts, for example as church warden, youth leader or treasurer, are held by older people? How many of the pastoral visitors and informal carers of both the young and old are themselves over retirement age?

Far from being a drain, a joke or a burden, older people have so much to contribute to society and to the Church and they do not deserve to be the butt of ageist jokes. Older people have been released from the pressure to justify themselves or to be success­ful in the working world. They are often more secure in who they are, less defensive and have an ability to live in the present. They can have a crucial role in pointing younger people to ways in which they might make better sense of their lives. They can con­tribute time, prayer, wisdom, experience and competence. They are more tolerant of contradictions and paradoxes and less concerned about finding the right answer to questions.’

The really strange thing about ageist attitudes and poking fun at older people is that whereas the other categories of people who benefit from anti-discrimination legislation make up no more than half the population in any one case, we shall all be old (unless we die an untimely death). If we are careless in our younger days about how older people are regarded or treated we shall surely reap the harvest of our own prejudices one day.

To talk of the elderly’ is to create a category of people definable by their elderliness alone: ‘They can possess no existence inde­pendent of their elderliness, and are thus considered not fully human.’ According to such a position, ‘elderly’ is acceptable when used as an adjective, but less so when used as a noun.

Sheila Cassidy ……reflects: It is the lavishing of precious resources, our precious oint­ment on the handicapped, those with mental illness, the rejected and the dying that most clearly reveals the love of Christ in our times. It is this gratuitous caring, this unilat­eral declaration of love which proclaims the gospel more powerfully than bishops and theologians . . . It is a particular form of Christian madness which seeks out the broken ones, people with dementia, the handicapped and the dying and places before their astonished eyes a banquet normally reserved for the whole and the productive.’

There is a story of a woman who came across Michelangelo in his studio chipping away at a beautiful block of marble. Shocked by the waste as the pieces of marble piled up, she rebuked the sculptor. He looked at the stone and her and then replied: ‘The more the marble wastes, the more the statue grows.’ This story reminds us that in addressing the spiritual needs of older people we should attempt to ensure that as the wasting takes place., older people are valued, and something of greater value is being allowed to grow.

When approaching a person with dementia we need to remember that they remain people up to the point of death. They a:- held unconditionally within the love of God and even if they do: remember him, he remembers them. Somewhere within the fusion is the spirit of the person we knew and loved and, although you and your visit may be quickly forgotten, the good fee generated will remain. There is ample evidence that people continue to respond to feelings long after they no longer seem understand.

Don’t rush your visit.

Introduce yourself by name and relationship every time.

Key into the other person’s feelings.

Sit at the same level.

Endeavour to establish eye contact.

Speak slowly and simply but don’t patronize.

Allow time for the person to reply – don’t be afraid of silence or pauses.

Only ask one question at a time.

Use touch where appropriate.

Many people with dementia have an amazing capacity to recall long-ago ritual and hymns and prayers. If you are able to use familiar prayers and Bible readings on your visit, you will often find the person joining in, which gives them a wonderful sense of still belonging to the Christian community. If possible, and if it is welcome, take Communion to those who have been accustomed to receiving it. Again, the familiar ritual and the repetition of famil­iar words brings the person back for a time and is a cue into their spirituality.’

There is a saying that when you are old you either widen or wizen. I have done both. Physically, I have wizened; I have lost two stones in weight. I can no longer run up stairs as I used to. I find travel very tiring. Psychologically I have widened. I am much more interested in people as human beings and can imagine them at every age from childhood onwards when I see them.

I have lost all my interest in power and position and no longer worry about making money. I still enjoy my work but do only what I want to do.

There is no blueprint for retirement and anyone in a position of pastoral care who thinks there is may well do more harm than good. There is no substitute for listening to the experiences of the individual and engaging with them wherever they are.

Perhaps that is a lesson for us all – the truly important in our lives and to be freed phernalia of life. Looking back we can bean own unique story and see that the very found in human friendship and love. a which God has for us in Jesus Christ. loving as we grow older then the world place and we can see its promise in those glimpse the beating heart at the centre

The concept of ‘successful ageing’ is a rich one and its initial entry into the field of social gerontology can be found in gerontological lit­erature over 30 years ago.’ The term is appealing because it implies that ageing can for the most part be a positive and rewarding ex­perience. There is, inevitably, a range of perspectives identified with the concept. It is worth noting that the concept of ‘successful ageing’ is often related to the concept of middle age or the ‘mid course’ of life, in that ‘successful ageing’ is identified as, in effect, the continu­ation of the activities, interests and involvements that have been developed in that phase of a person’s life. Some gerontologists have offered an opposite view, seeing older people as progressively disengaging from life, this being an important part of normal `ageing’?

We should not underestimate the spiritual and existential search for meaning that age can bring. The following questions: Who have I been? Who am I now? Who will I be? What will become of me? are very significant. These questions will no doubt generate a range of reflections resulting in meanings and inter­pretations that have a significant influence on the health and well-being of the older person. Life review, story-telling and story-sharing can offer a real potential for facilitating a definition of the self and exploring this in the light of the concept of ‘successful ageing’. Existential issues that come to mind in this conversation and sharing are death, freedom, hopelessness, meaninglessness, responsibility, discipline, despair, obsolescence and loneliness.

In all of this reflection, all of the pastoral accompanying, mis­takes will be made, errors of omission and commission will occur, and undoubtedly they will continue to occur. Life, however, must and will go on — we have to decide how much energy we wish to apply to the pilgrimage or excursion. Of course some people waste much of their time on regret, guilt and ruminations of the worst kind. Some people talk of killing time, when they fail to see that in the end time will quietly kill us all.

The pursuit of ‘successful ageing’ must always be seen as work in progress. There are many pathways to its achievement. With this in mind I want to end this book by offering my own thoughts about what makes for ‘successful ageing’.

Be flexible As we have discussed above, the modern world is an amazing mix of uncertainty and ambiguity — and flexibil­ity helps us to adapt to the changes in the world around us and the changes within us. This flexibility or adaptability can help us to respond positively even in the most adverse of con­ditions and circumstances. We might be surprised what inner resources are there waiting to be used when the time comes. Be ready to define yourself beyond work or the work role Too much of our identity is imprisoned in the status or import­ance or control that our work and our work role bring. If we invest too much in work, it can reveal all the cracks and prob­lems that we hide away from once it is removed.

3 Discover your inner self Older age, if nothing else, will provide a time to explore our undiscovered self. This might constitute a challenge, but ageing can be a pilgrimage and an opportun­ity to look inside at what we really believe to be true, what bothers us, and how we might make a difference in this particular stage of our lives.

4 Learn something new Learning new tricks keeps us alive — it broadens our sense of comprehensibility and meaning. So let’s go on a Spanish course, learn about the classification of trees or revisit those endless rows of books on our shelves which are waiting to be digested. There are also new people to be interested in whose lives can change ours and who may be changed by knowing us.

5 Take the opportunity to be someone different Gerontologists reflect on the stages of the life cycle. Some refer to the first stage as the stage of formation which is the time to grow an identity before we are consumed by busyness. Properly balanced, the second stage is the time of one’s major contribution to work or home or community. This consuming busyness, which demands so much of us and is so overarching, is, however, only one stage of our journey. A third stage is the opportunity to be someone

different. If there are things about our lives that we want to change, then we should stop complaining and get on and change them. There are fewer restrictions on how life should be lived. If we have spent the first part of our life living in other people’s ways, do it now in your own way or, in the words of the profes­sionals, seek the enhanced flexibilities in lifestyle choices.

Childhood — Where were you born? Where did you live? Memories you may have.

Schooling — Was it enjoyable and what particular subjects were favourite or important?

Places you have lived.

Work — What jobs did you have? Did you enjoy the world of work?

Relationships — marriage, children, friends. Who have been important people in your life?

Social — hobbies, interests, pets, likes and dislikes in food or music.

More general areas for exploration might be —

What is life like for you now?

How would you like it to be?

What makes you happy?

What makes you sad?

What makes you cross?

What would you do if you were offered a chance to do anything?

  • What makes you laugh?

Here are some questions which have worked within the context of the life and community here at Temple Balsall.


Are you conscious of your age?

What keeps you going in life?

Tell me how you spend your time.

How would you like to be remembered?

What do you get angry about?

What are the qualities you think your parents gave you?

What were you doing when the war began?


Do you think that others understand being old?

Are there advantages in getting older?

Do you pray?

What most upsets you about the world today?

What gives most pleasure?

Do you think we should try to be good?


Do you feel hope?

Do you feel wiser now?

In what ways do you sense God?

Would you like to go on for ever?

Has your spirituality changed since you got older?

What do you see when you look into the mirror?


Following some group work with older people questions which older people have enjoyed ask

When were you happiest?

What is your greatest fear?

Which living person do you most admire al

What is the trait you most deplore in your

What is the trait you most deplore in other

Aside from property or a car, what is the tut

What is your most treasured possession?

What makes you depressed?

Would you rather be clever and ugly, or tha

Who would play you in the film of your life’.

What is your most unappealing habit?

What is your favourite word?

What is your favourite smell?

Is it better to give or receive?

What is your guiltiest pleasure?

To whom would you most like to say sorry a

What or who is the greatest love of your life

Which living person do you most despise an

Who would you invite to your dream dinner

If you could go back in time, where would yo

When did you last cry and why?

How do you relax?

How often do you have sex?

What is the closest you’ve ever come to dead

What do you consider your greatest achieves

What keeps you awake at night?

Where would you most like to be right now?

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Wonderlands: Good Gay Travel Writing by Raphael Kadushin


Highly disparate pieces, some fiction, most not, with the feel of places, rather than mere descriptions of them.

Mack Friedman’s recall of summer vac jobs with salmon almost evokes the smell of fish. The workers’ camp, the backdrop of an Alaskan fish factory, is as male-bonded a world as any Marine Corp barracks and it underscores the poetic first love that is the work’s more authentic refrain, and that becomes all the more moving for its lack of realization. His first novel was about a Jewish gay teenager, who goes to work in a fish factory – so there’s a(n autobiographgical?) connection. I had to look up ‘ulna ‘ =  long bone found in the forearm that stretches from the elbow to the smallest finger,

Brian Bouldrey’s piece was very boring, with all the stuff about languages and continual ‘Moo moo’.
Mitch Cullin has some interesting observations about travel and Japan, Hiroshima in particular.
Edward Field drinks tea with Paul Bowles.
Rigoberto González – with him I share the energising feeling of being in a strange city.
Raphael Kadushin settles into the ethereal sun of a Dutch spring.
Wayne Koestenbaum’s Vienna is both a city of high low culture, and as I don’t relate to operas I didn’t relate to his piece.

Michael Lowenthal remembers a jarring encounter in the Scottish Highland
Alistair McCartney writes airmail letters to his long-distance lover Tim Miller, who tallies the 1001 beds he has slept in all over the world as an air steward.
David Masello laments modernizing cities e.g. a church being demolished to make way for a car park.

Robert Tewdwr Moss tracks through the back roads of Syria and his own version of Arabian nights. I also had to look up ‘corniche ‘ = a road on the side of a cliff or mountain.
Bruce Shenitz also wrote The Man I Might Become: Gay Men Write About Their Fathers. Here, he explores a Dutch island.

Colm Tóibín discovers a Spanish Brigadoon. Post Franco, the people are allowed in to ceremonies but there’s a dig at the officials who observe while drinking champagne.

Philip Gambone’s poignant “Do You Join in Singing the Same Bigness?” details his stays in China and a life-altering trip to Vietnam. Asia becomes a place of second chances.

Edmund White’s beautifully muted “Death in the Desert” elucidates the impact of AIDS with haunting clarity during a stay in the Middle East and recounts his harrowing drive through the Sahara with a man he loved.

Matthew Link’s “No Man’s Land” depicts his trip to the literal ends of the earth—Antarctica—in terms befitting Amundsen or Darwin.

Boyer Rickel’s paean to Italy, “Reading the Body”; observes male body language.

J.S. Marcus’s “Everywhere” deals with botched archaeological excavations.

Not all of the collection has overtly queer themes, and few pieces are truly sexual; there are no tours of gay Amsterdam, the Berlin homostrasses or the bath houses of the tropics. Rather, Kadushin has gathered highly disparate pieces, some fiction, most not, about the character of travelling, the subtleties and nuance that attend gay men together (or alone, but seeking companionship) in foreign climes and the feel of places, rather than mere descriptions of them,  learning about a place teaches about one’s self.


Soon, I realized, Japan would seem no more real to me than my vivid dream of the crows, and I’d again find myself surviving on my own in the desert. And yet, for a while at least, I was content with the sudden realization that we are born alone, that we die alone, and that living provides us with the rare opportunity to truly love and to be loved; that, I suspect, is the only thing I know for certain.

Then, while sipping my coffee at the Excelsior Cafe and reading a short story by Haruki Murakami, my eyes stopped on a single sen­tence: “No matter how far you travel, you can never get away from yourself” Shimao said. How true, I found myself thinking. How per­fectly true. And so I shut the book, preferring instead to gaze out­side, mindful of the crows that were beyond the window and which were just now sorting through the debris of the storm’s widespread havoc—their long, curved beaks pecking at the messes created by both man and nature. Sitting there, my coffee growing cold, I could have stared at them all morning.

“Ever wondered what traveling and returning home have in common? In his introduction to “Wonderlands,” Raphael Kadushin writes, “We’re always leaving home because we’re partly looking from something else. And usually what we find, in the end, is a gift, a small wonderland that we may only recognize years later, when we’re back home, safe again.”

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Saving Jesus from the Church: How to Stop Worshiping Christ and Start Following Jesus – ROBIN R. MEYERS

SJFTCThe title is reminiscent of Saving Jesus From Those Who are Right – Carter Heyward

But this book is by no means as good.

The subtitle shows a misunderstanding of ‘worship’. Sex is worship, sacramental, so is relationship.

I heard the author deliver most of the content of this book at a conference last year. He is very impressive until you realise that he is making sweeping generalisations, mostly unsubstantiated.

The conservatives are so extreme in America that the liberals tend to throw out more orthodoxy than is necessary.

I had ever known before that you rarely find a cross in a megachurch – the cross is antithetical to the prosperity gospel.

Jesus the Teacher, Not the Savior
Faith as Being, Not Belief
The Cross as Futility, Not Forgiveness
Easter as Presence, Not Proof
Original Blessing, Not Original Sin
Christianity as Compassion, Not Condemnation
Discipleship as Obedience, Not Observance
Justice as Covenant, Not Control
Prosperity as Dangerous, Not Divine
Religion as Relationship, Not Righteousness


“It is easier and much more satisfying to rail against the Right than to suggest that we go back to Genesis 1 and study together. Liberals can be just as intolerant as fundamentalists, and we have arrived at a moment in human history when intolerance and hope are mutually exclusive.

“It is a word on behalf of those who have walked away from the church because they recognize intellectual dishonesty as the original sin of orthodoxy. .. It is meant to provide a second opinion for all those who know what they are supposed to believe but refuse to equate miracles with magic or liturgy with history — and yet still fall silent when someone reads to Beatitudes or get goosebumps listening to the parable of the prodigal son. It is … a call to reconsider what it means to follow Jesus, instead of arguing over things that the church has insisted we must all believe about Christ. Doctrines divide by nature. Discipleship brings us together.”

“I have never believed in the virgin birth as a biological fact, the infallibility of scripture as a test of faith, the miracles as past suspension of natural law demanding current suspension of reason, the blood atonement … as the foreordained mission of Jesus, the bodily resurrection as the only way to understand Easter, or the second coming as a necessary sequel—and I am the pastor of a church that does not define Christianity in this way either. Naturally, people ask, ‘So what DO you believe?’… I say that we are not ‘believers’ at all, not in the sense of giving intellectual assent to postbiblical propositions. Rather, we are doing our best to avoid the worship of Christ and trying to get back to something much more fulfilling and transformative: following Jesus.”

“Jesus did not come to die, rendering his life and teaching secondary. He died because of his life and teachings. He was killed for the things that he said and did. Then the claim of his first followers and his first community is that God raised him from the dead to undo the injustice done to him and to place a divine stamp of approval on his words and deeds…. Placing all the emphasis on the saving effect of the death of Christ as a cosmic bargain negates the life of Jesus.”

“After centuries of being told that “Jesus saves,” the time has come to save Jesus from the church. If the door is locked, we will break in through the windows. If anyone forbids us to approach the table, we will overturn it and serve Communion on the floor. If any priest tells us we cannot sing this new song, we will sing it louder, invite others to sing it with us, and raise our voices in unison across all boundaries of human contrivance- until this joyful chorus is heard in every corner of the world, and the church itself is raised from the dead.”

“Indeed, a quick glance around this broken world makes it painfully obvious that we don’t need more arguments on behalf of God; we need more people who live as if they are in covenant with Unconditional Love, which is our best definition of God.

“…the ongoing suspicion that scientific discoveries or rigorous biblical scholarship will undermine faith is a tacit admission that faith is threatened by knowledge, because it is ultimately constructed on weak or faulty assumptions and, like the proverbial house of cards, needs to be “protected” from collapsing.”

“Condemnation feels good and it is now a staple of religion, politics, and the media (both left and right), but it changes nothing. Compassion, on the other hand, changes everything.”

“If the church is to survive as a place where head and heart are equal partners in faith, then we will need to commit ourselves once again not to the worship of Christ, but to the imitation of Jesus. His invitation was not to believe, but to follow.”

“The most twisted but perennial of American myths is that everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed.”

“Faith is always supposed to make it harder, not easier, to ignore the plight of our sisters and brothers.”

[Fundamentalist Christians] are ‘decoding’ the salvation ‘contract’ that is presumed to be hidden in scripture, so that true believers can cash in their winning ticket and collect their eternal inheritance.  Being a disciple today means little more than believing stuff in order to get stuff.

The conviction of the followers of Jesus that he was still with them was itself the resurrection.  To ask the question of whether the resurrection is true, and to mean by this that only a resuscitated corpse constitutes such proof, is to impose the standards of the modern mind upon a prescientific culture of myth and magic.

We need to turn away from the institutional forgeries that constitute orthodoxy for millions: the blood atonement, fear-based fantasies of the afterlife, ‘vertical’ notions of heaven and hell, selective providence based on human ignorance. . . .

Consider this: there is not a single word in that sermon about what to believe, only words about what to do. It is a behavioral manifesto, not a propositional one. Yet three centuries later, when the Nicene Creed became the official oath of Christendom, there was not a single word in it about what to do, only words about what to believe!”

“The road less traveled is the long and stony road that leads to wisdom and peace. The first step, however, must be a step backward… In the beginning, the call of God was not propositional. It was experiential… We have a sacred story that has been stolen from us… If we do not go BACK to that fork in the road, we cannot go forward on the road less traveled… Our task now is not just to demythologize Jesus. It is to let the breath of the Galilean sage fall on the neck of the church again… After centuries of being told that ‘Jesus saves,’ the time has come to save Jesus from the church.”

“Christianity as a belief system requires nothing but acquiescence. Christianity as a way of life, as a path to follow, requires a second birth, the conquest of ego, and new eyes with which to see the world.”

Augustine said, “The soul makes war with the body,” but Meister Eckhart said, “The soul loves the body.”

Augustine knew this when he wrote about his struggle to interpret some Old Testament stories metaphorically, saying, “When I understood literally, I was slain spiritually.”‘

“Yet when Jesus ceases to be human and becomes only Christ the God Man, we can choose to believe it or not to believe it, but we cannot follow. We can admire, but we cannot emulate”

“Until we have homosexuality all figured out, shouldn’t we practice radical hospitality? As long as we see “through a glass darkly,” isn’t it wise to err on the side of inclusion and compassion, rather than condemnation?”
“This book is not about one more attempt to prove why it is wrong to be a fundamentalist… Instead, it is a book written by a pastor, an invitation that comes bearing the postmark of the church and addressed to those who already accept the Bible is inspired, but not infallible. It is not offered as a scholarly argument against literalism… Rather, it is a word on behalf of those who have walked away from the church because they recognize intellectual dishonesty as the original sin of orthodoxy… It is meant to provide a second opinion for all those who know what they are supposed to believe but refuse to equate miracles with magic or liturgy with history—and yet still fall silent when someone reads the Beatitudes or get goosebumps listening to the parable of the prodigal son. It is… a call to reconsider what it means to follow Jesus, instead of arguing over things that the church has insisted we must all believe about Christ. Doctrines divide by nature. Discipleship brings us together.” (Pg. 13-14)

“The Bible is both inspired and covered with human fingerprints—but the Bible is not what we worship. The God to which the Bible points us is what we worship, and the claims of the first followers of J Jesus was not that he was God, but rather than he revealed the fulness of God at work in a human being.”

“Think what [blood atonement] says about God. First, God must not be both all-powerful and all-loving, or God would not require such a sacrifice in order to be restored to his own creation Second, if this ‘had to happen,’ then we are dealing with a deity who not only must play by our rules but is, at best, capable of being bribed or, at worst, guilty of divine child abuse.”

“Salvation meant originally not that we are saved FROM, but that we are saved TO. Having ‘the same mind in you that was in Christ Jesus’ [Phil 2:5] is a new way of BEING in the world that recognizes our kinship to Jesus as our teacher, not out indebtedness to him as a savior… Salvation originally meant to be healed of what was wounding us. In the New Testament, salvation is about transformation in this life, not a change of destination in the next.”

“I’ve heard it many times myself: ‘Reverend, just deal with “spiritual” issues, and leave politics out of the pulpit.’ At one level, I am sympathetic to this argument; on another, adamantly opposed. First of all, this complaint is almost always directed at a ‘liberal’ preacher by a conservative layperson, even though the Christian Right wrote the book on how to mix religion and politics. A more honest version of the complaint might sound like this: ‘don’t mix religion and politics in ways I don’t agree with.’ This really means, don’t mix religion and politics in ways that threaten my way of life… in ways that might require me to surrender power, money, or status. Not all preaching can be a healing balm. If we are true to the gospel, some of it will disturb, disorient, and even distress listeners.”

“Faith itself is better understood as trust, a trust so deep as to baffle those who count only what can be weighed and measured. In future liturgies of the church, the word ‘trust’ should replace the word ‘faith’ as often as possible. The word ‘wisdom’ should replace the word ‘salvation.’ ‘Blood’ should disappear altogether—along with all military metaphors and images. Bloody liturgies in the church only encourage and sanctify the bloodletting on the battlefield. Please, for God’s sake—no more ‘Onward Christian Soldiers.’”

“Strange as it sounds, we must DEMOTE Christ now and recover him as Jesus once more, if we are to enter and survive the new age that is upon us. As long as the relationship remains one between a fearful and ignorant people looking for favors in exchange for beliefs and an alien invader who swoops out of heaven and back again to recruit and claim believers, we will worship passively from a distance, instead of following closely enough to … be made wise. The church… unwittingly sowed the seeds of separation between all that is human and all that is divine. In so doing, we have REVERSED the message of Jesus, who was trying to arrange an unlikely marriage and then keep us together.”

the gospel is ‘good news’ not for adherents but rather for PRACTITIONERS. And the practice of Christianity is made possible not by intellectual assent to propositions but by an existential embrace of WORTHINESS… It is a call not to accept a formula for salvation, but to act on an unearned inheritance: that we are CREATED by God, CHILDREN of God, BELOVED by God, and ACCEPTED by God… This is the grace that brings radical freedom and the end of striving. Faith is something we DO, against the odds, in loving defiance of a world gone mad. We do not become a good person by believing in God; we become a good person by loving God…”

“What if we could pull off a modern-day miracle and persuade a whole community of human beings that faith is characterized by what I have called from the pulpit “the end of striving”? What if we could shift the idea of salvation from survival of personal identity to radical freedom? Not freedom from—obligations, promises, fidelity, commitment, and self-sacrifice—but freedom to—live beyond angst, be delivered from self-pity, escape the prison of self, grow old gracefully, master the ego, live in harmony with the natural world, and break the chains of fear itself, especially the fear of death? What if we followed Jesus, instead of just worshiping Christ?”

If Jesus is now a free-market capitalist who worships private property and favors fair skin over fair trade, then we should drive whatever we want, live wherever we want, and let the last woolly-headed liberal turn out the lights.

My beloved preaching professor, Fred Craddock, said once, “Perhaps people are obsessed with the second coming because, deep down, they are really disappointed in the first one.”

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