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.
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.
Glimpses of Eden Premium23 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.
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.
Each Wellspring member makes a daily decision to live not for the feathering of her own nest Premium09 June 2016 | by Carmody Grey
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.
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.
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.”
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.
In April 2014, the then First Minister of Northern Ireland, Peter Robinson, called on his party, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), to stop looking for “lundies [traitors to the Unionist cause] and start looking for converts”.
To celebrate Ascension-tide and the suddenly improving weather, I decided to walk up Criffel, a hill in Dumfries and Galloway. It is not in the big Galloway hills but down on the coast, and the views from the top are spectacular – it looks out across the Solway Firth towards the Lake District and its glorious long, high hill-line.
There is growing pressure from the scientific community in Britain for the law to be relaxed regarding experimentation on human embryos. This follows the news that scientists have successfully kept alive a fertilised embryo in the laboratory up to the 14-day limit British law allows. Some would like the research to be taken a stage further. Some emphatically would not.
“Partying Leicester City fans filled a hospital emergency department to bursting point, forcing bosses to urge people to stay away,” the Mirror online reported at the weekend. “Most were treated for minor injuries or alcohol related incidents.
The resumption of meat-eating after Easter was met with rejoicing and relief in my university chaplaincy. Abstaining from meat in our community is an ascetical rather than an ethical practice: we give it up because we enjoy it.
I stood at the window. A grey, windy morning with little to see. Boating through a strong headwind, a herring-gull flotilla was making for a newly ploughed field on the far side of the parish. I was about to return to work when a lone gull caught my eye. A glance showed that this one was different.
What words could possibly describe the Hamas Charter? After all, not many organisations are explicitly committed to rejecting peace and waging genocide.
A teacher asked her class of nine-year-olds to draw a picture of the Ascension. Not surprisingly most of them did a fairly conventional portrait of Jesus rising up into the clouds.
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