Abusive spiritual beliefs produce abusive acts

Naturally, the Evangelical Alliance has defended itself against Jayne Ozanne’s critique of its teaching, especially in the light of the recent survey by the Churches’ Child Protection Advisory Service on the prevalence of spiritual abuse.

But the defence fails. I focus on the EA’s main argument: that the term ‘spiritual abuse’ is inadequate because abuse is about actions, not motives. In this way they seek to insulate their teachings from the actions those teachings sometimes provoke. On the contrary, abusive beliefs lead to abusive actions.

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Health: what are we trying to achieve?

Detail from The Scapegoat, by William Holman Hunt, 1854This is about the nature of health. In a recent post I argued that health services should take priority because everything we do depends on having enough health. Here I ask what we think good health is.

This is about attitudes we usually presuppose without thinking about them. Some presuppositions work better than others. It makes a difference what kinds of gods, if any, we believe in. I draw on the distinctions between polytheism, monotheism and atheism that I analysed in my Why Progressives Need God.

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John Warboys and the meaning of justice

Nick Boles explodes. The British Government isn’t addressing the crises in housing and health, says this Conservative Member of Parliament. But, as the Guardian describes his mood, ‘the Worboys decision was the final straw’. The Parole Board has decided that John Warboys, a 60-year-old taxi driver jailed in 2009 for assaults on 12 women, should be released. The Government could have challenged the decision but has decided not to. Grr.

What would justice for Warboys be? This post leaves aside the personal details, like the likelihood of him reoffending, and asks about the nature of justice.

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What do we expect from the National Health Service?

Andrew Marr and Theresa May

Andrew Marr and Theresa May

Prime Minister Theresa May, in her New Year live interview on Sunday, got quite a grilling from Andrew Marr. The Independent provides a video and report.

Marr described the case of Leah Butler-Smith whose mother waited five hours to be seen after a stroke this week. Ms Butler-Smith had posted a video of a queue of ambulances outside a hospital in Chelmsford, Essex, explaining that her mother had had a stroke, but was at the time tenth in a queue to get into hospital.

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How far would you follow a star?

The magiEven as a child, I was puzzled. How could a star lead the Magi to a specific house without coming so close that Planet Earth would burn into a pile of ashes?

Matthew didn’t expect his readers to take it literally. He had a bigger agenda. He was comparing Jesus with Augustus, the first Roman Emperor and, at the time of Jesus’ birth, the most powerful man in the world. Augustus had a virgin birth. Jesus had one too. Augustus was revered across his empire, from Spain to Syria. Jesus was revered from even further, from Persia where magi studied the stars.

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Trump’s Christian supporters – are they Christians?

Paul Bayes & Donald TrumpCongratulations to Paul Bayes, the Bishop of Liverpool, for speaking out in public about the misuse of the terms ‘Christian’ and ‘Evangelical’ for people who oppose what Jesus stood for.

He did so in an interview with the Guardian at the launch of a new charity, the Ozanne Foundation, to work with religious organisations on LGBTI, sexuality and gender issues. This itself remains controversial in church circles, where opposition to same-sex partnerships remains strong; but the Guardian highlighted the implications for American Evangelicals who support Donald Trump. Can people who support his policies really call themselves Evangelicals, or Christians?

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How should we relate to the homeless?

Homeless manThis coming Sunday many churches will be focusing on John the Baptist. As I began my sermon preparation an advertisement for Crisis at Christmas was being broadcast on the radio; and the free magazine of Liverpool City Council came through the letter-box with an article on the Council’s ‘plan to tackle rough sleeping’.

The centre of Liverpool, like most cities these days, is a no-go area for anyone who doesn’t want to see homeless people huddled in sleeping bags on the roadside.

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Tim Farron’s Christian liberalism

Tim FarronPoor Tim Farron! He took over as leader of the Liberal Democrats at their lowest ebb, just after they had been brilliantly undermined in the 2015 General Election by their Coalition partners and hated by everyone else for propping up an exceptionally divisive government. His chances of success were never good.

For the media, his weak spot was his disapproval of same-sex partnerships, an aspect of his Evangelical Christianity. Theos invited him to give their annual lecture on Tuesday. The full text is here. This post summarises the speech and offers an alternative account of Christian liberalism.

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Addiction: what is to blame?

Cigarette endsCassiobury Court has provided an interesting infographic on recent cuts to services. Since the UK Health and Social Care Act of 2012, expenditure on addiction services has dropped and drug-related deaths have sharply increased.

I have no expertise in this issue, but it raises important issues about what kind of society we should be aiming for.

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Museums and messages

On Saturday we visited the Acropolis Museum in Athens. It is beautifully laid out, and naturally its artistic merit is unmistakeable. But there is more to it. It was not built to be art for art’s sake. Just as Plato and Aristotle have become philosophical icons not just for Greeks but for the whole western world, so also the Parthenon is iconic for western culture and architecture.

The theologian in me asks what it means. What does this icon affirm? There in the museum I felt a juxtaposition of two stories expressing radically different values.

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