War. What fun!

Air strikeMore air strikes. America attacks. Britain and France meekly follow Trump’s lead. Britain’s four RAF Tornados may not be the biggest part of the initiative, but it means we’re metooing.

Most of the public discourse is about surface isssues: who did what, what do we know, which laws have been broken? Beneath them lie deeper questions which we rarely ask.

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The Resurrection: what happened?

Picture of Jesus and the empty tombA few years ago there was a popular game of Bug the Bishop. Every Easter at least one newspaper would come out with a shock horror story about a bishop who didn’t believe in the Resurrection. They don’t do it so much now, because nobody cares what bishops think.

The catch was: if the bishops didn’t believe Jesus rose from the dead they were betraying their duty as church leaders. But if they did believe it they would be out of touch with reality.

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Responding to sexual abuse

Ancient Greek statue of Aphrodite

Ancient Greek statue of Aphrodite

The recent revelations of sexual abuse horrify us, particularly when the victims were children.

It is one thing to feel horrified, another to respond in a constructive way. Much of the public response has sounded to me like Guardian readers making Daily Mail responses, which they would not have made if the crime in question was, for example, addiction to illegal drugs.

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Sex abuse and godly power

Fiona Scolding QC, IICSA

Fiona Scolding QC, IICSA

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse (IICSA) is currently investigating the Diocese of Chichester as part of its study of whether Church of England leaders have failed to protect children against sexual abuse.

Abuse survivors sometimes say that in their experience the motivation was power rather than sex. This post reflects on power relations within religious communities. Of course other factors are involved as well, but here I focus on power.

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Who is to blame for snow?

Me with my daughter and a snowball in 1982 How dare it snow, and mess up our plans? What went wrong?

Okay, you and I know that nobody is to blame. No human, anyway. So why do we call it bad weather?

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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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