Recently I had a discussion (it was not quite an argument) with someone of a loosely atheistic persuasion, who felt that believing in God infantilised people – it stripped us of responsibility and autonomy and therefore of maturity.

Are we in the midst of a historical upheaval, where old structures or orders appear unable to control events or respond to challenges, or are we just witnessing random events? From events in France, to Brexit, to Turkey and American politics, we have symptoms while the underlying causes have yet to emerge.

“She favours Ottolenghi cookbooks, likes walking holidays, goes to church,” wrote Clare Foges in The Times this week about the new Prime Minister, Theresa May. “This is fine – but no more, please. The prime ministerial sphinx should stay that way, guarding her secrets.”

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21 July 2016 | by Jonathan Tulloch
Somehow the municipal mowers had missed the piece of open ground by the old rope works. After decades of yearning, the wasteland had realised its cherished ambition of becoming a meadow.

Resistance to migration is nothing new. African-Americans freed from slavery after the American Civil War migrated north to seek work in the Yankee industrial heartlands. They were soon competing for jobs, thereby creating tensions with the white working class. Many of those were Irish immigrants, who had themselves been treated with hostility when they arrived.

The aftermath of Chilcot was distressing in many respects. Not only because of the painful reminder of lives lost, or because of the continuing tragedy that is Iraq. These are necessary needles to our consciences, which keep us honest and stop us forgetting. But it was also distressing in a less salutary sense, by providing a stage for yet another of the witch-hunts that dominate so much of our media.

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14 July 2016 | by Jonathan Tulloch
Sometimes being lost is the best place to be. Where was I? The valley below offered a herd of cattle and a winding road. I accepted. A pair of bubbling becks kept me company, and three cattle grids later, I reached a farm.

Can we please stop pretending that children are not politically aware? It would also be great to stop the unthinking rhetoric about apathetic young voters. Unhampered by adult inhibitions and free from the “no politics over dinner” convention, teenagers are some of the most dynamic and persuasive public speakers I have encountered

“Everyone ignored the Somme,” Camilla Long complained in her Sunday Times column about the week’s news coverage. It wasn’t quite so. Like a sound of distant gunfire, the centenary of the Battle of the Somme rolled on in the background to political events in Britain of the most surprising kind.

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06 July 2016 | by Jonathan Tulloch
Standing on the bridge at Thirsk station, you can see for miles. The countryside stretches away like a deep, green lake. I was admiring the distant island of an oak wood when I noticed a figure on the tracks below.

Over the last week a revolution has taken place; a revolution whose ramifications will have a profound impact on the United Kingdom and its future. I have witnessed this revolution in my own home, but it will have been taking place in houses throughout Britain.

I have never before been ashamed of being a Briton.

When they come to analyse major shifts and changes in society, cultural theorists speak of “fault lines”. They sometimes apply the London Underground’s famous safety warning: “Mind the gap”. Two recent events made me aware of contemporary Catholicism’s major fault lines, and how we need to very carefully mind the gaps.

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29 June 2016 | by Jonathan Tulloch
China has its pandas, India its tigers, and the River Ouse its tansy beetles. The size of an abacus bead, its shining green body imprinted with a rainbow, the tansy beetle is just as endangered as those better known species. Once widespread across the UK, they’re now limited to a 30-mile stretch of Yorkshire’s River Ouse.

When future political historians write up the rhythms and the rhetoric, the ebbs and flows, of the 2016 European Referendum campaign, I hope they will linger on a week of events in the middle of it that was all about Europe and yet transcended the shot and shell of the remainers and the leavers.

In breaking the news to the readers of The Mail on Sunday that the Poet Laureate, Dame Carol Ann Duffy, had written a poem ending with the line “God is gay”, reporter Jonathan Petre reached for a quotation from a retired archbishop of Canterbury.

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23 June 2016
Over the years I’ve found myself dealing with many kinds of nocturnal visitors. Rats, bats, ram raiders and, when we lived in South Africa, honey badgers wolfing down birthday cake in the kitchen.

I learned a shocking thing recently (shocking, I admit, only if it is possible for something to be shocking without it being remotely surprising): in the UK, girls between the ages of eight and 15 get more than 12 per cent less pocket money than boys do.

Just over a century ago, the Irish Question came to dominate British political debate with passionate arguments about Home Rule, partition and independence occupying many chapters of Hansard. It was a period in Irish and British history which became binary.

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16 June 2016 | by Jonathan Tulloch
Like all proper crossroads, the wooden four-ways sign offered walkers an agonising choice. The left fork promised “The Best View in England”; the right enticed us to the bottomless lake; straight on boasted that ...

One thing that both sides in the EU referendum debate seem to have in common is the absence of any deep attachment to the notion of a shared European identity. As a cultural dividing line, a moat to an island fortress, the English Channel seems to be as wide as ever. And in that cultural divide there is a religious element, without which the present debate would be very different.

Something changes in the mind of a young person when their university education ends. In the cultural narrative of their lives, this is when “real life” starts. And with it, the perception that their task now is not to be enriched and stimulated, but to get on, to get ahead, to heave themselves up on to the first rung of that ladder of life which begins with a job and leads to car, house, mortgage, pension.

God made Muhammad Ali a boxer, his younger brother Rahman Ali insisted in the hours after the great man’s death, which dominated the papers for the weekend and beyond, as a welcome change from coverage of the EU referendum debate.

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09 June 2016 | by Jonathan Tulloch
After the stile, the footpath had to muscle its way through a crowd of saplings. The leaves, shivering in the wind, were easy to identify. Only aspens quiver like that.

Whenever the Soviet Union conquered a new land, the hard men in charge of security adopted a ruthless policy to prevent rebellion. Rather than wait for unrest to begin, they would murder or deport the kind of people who might be inclined to cause trouble in the future.

Because the people of the ancient world could feel their heart beat, and see it move, and they knew that when it stopped people died, then they believed that the heart rather than the brain controlled the body. Understandably in this pre-scientific world, the heart was given mystical properties.

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02 June 2016 | by Jonathan Tulloch
Gardeners of the Western world, why this relentless war against dandelions?

Political life pulses to an emotional geography all its own. But the special power of the European question to disturb the atoms of our political class has been tangible, audible and visible since Easter and the cacophony is still rising in volume.

In the world of education, ideas marketed as innovations are often old hat. When “cross-curricular” became the latest in a series of evermore cringe-inducing buzzwords, many teachers shook their heads and rolled their eyes, reminding each other that collaborative links between subjects had always existed.

“In St Paul’s five bishops were photographed dancing in their cassocks,” reported John Bingham in The Daily Telegraph. It was perfectly true, for the Church Times published just such a photograph, adding the comment: “The Bishop of Willesden, the Rt Revd Pete Broadbent, appears to be a practised pogo-er.”

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26 May 2016 | by Jonathan Tulloch
I always look forward to my trips to Hull. From York, the train runs unhurriedly through a wide, flat land of stock-still cattle and hedges. This pastoral scene is rendered abruptly gothic by the cooling towers rising like castle battlements at Drax power station.

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