CRISIS 49

Crisis is published monthly by Tony Jasper

at tony.jasper@btinternet.com

Articles, reviews and features welcomed, and should broadly reflect the ethos of this on-line magazine. Photographic material may be sent (see issue 48). This issue February 2017.
Crisis usually appears around the 16 - 20th of a month or earlier. A complete library of 47 CRISIS issues is available. Go to www.jasperian.org/crisis-magazine or google Tony Jasper and then look for Crisis Archive.

 

THIS TIME AROUND

  1. POETRY

  2. B0WIE FOOD FARE

  3. BRITISH PRESS AND FAITH 2016

  4. US BISHOP PRONOUNCES

  5. RECORD MUSINGS

 

POETRY

Charles Causley Celebration

Ardent Cornishman Tony Langford reflects on a great nationally known and recognised Cornish poet.

The centenary of the birth of Cornish poet Charles Causley is being celebrated this year. Born at Launceston on 24th August 1917, he became a poet, schoolteacher and writer. Apart from poetry - for both adults and children - short stories and plays also flowed from his prolific pen. He also found time to edit a number poetry anthologies and contributed countless articles to a range of publications.

Broadcasting was another string to his bow. A frequent guest on many radio and television programmes, Causley presented Poetry Please on BBC Radio 4 for many years. When interviewed by Roy Plomley on Desert Island Discs, his music choices included five classical selections and three others while his chosen book was Boswell’s The Life of Samuel Johnson.

The first world war cast a shadow over the early years of Charles Causley’s life for his father died in 1924 from a lung disease he contracted serving in the trenches on the western front. Causley was brought up by his mother to whose care he devoted himself in her later life. Largely because of this, he had to leave school at 15, finding employment in a local builder’s office.

From an early age he wanted to be a writer and by his early teens was reading widely and writing plays for local production. By the time he enlisted in the Royal Navy at the outbreak of the second world war, he had several plays published and broadcast on the BBC. When he left the navy in 1946, Causley took advantage of a post-war scheme to train as a teacher and entered Peterborough Training College. On qualifying, he returned to his native Launceston to teach in the Primary School in which he had once been a pupil, writing in his spare time. He remained at the school until retiring at the age of 60 to ply his craft full-time.

Causley was held in high regard by his peers. His close friend, Ted Hughes, said: “Before I was made Poet Laureate, I was asked to name my choice of the best poet for the job. Without hesitation I named Charles Causley ….. a poet for whom the title might have been invented afresh.” Philip Larkin expressed similar sentiments in an unpublished letter.

Apart from his years in the navy, his time at training college and brief periods as writer-in-residence at academic institutions in Australia and Canada, Causley lived in his beloved Launceston. In Who’s Who, he gave as one of his recreations “the rediscovery of his native town.” And he never lost his Cornish accent which, wrote Wendy Trewin in the obituary she penned for The Guardian, “added a special flavour to the poetry readings he gave all over the world.”

Charles Causley died on 4th November 2003 and lies at rest in the cemetery of St Thomas Church, Launceston.

A Charles Causley Festival organised by The Charles Causley Trust, is held annually but this year will be especially significant. It is being held from Thursday 1st to Sunday 4th June. For details and updates visit

www.charlescausleyfestival.co.uk

Tony Langford writes frequently for the Western Morning News and sometimes The Daily Telegraph.

FOOD

To celebrate what would have been his 70th birthday a few days previous Tony J organised with head chef Lisa a special David evening menu with the whole place decorated with pics and info, and the evening had non-stop DB music, quizzes and...............we all looked so lovely.

THE DAVID BOWIE
THE FANTASTIC VOYAGE Menu
The White Hart
January 11 2017

 

ABSOLUTE BEGINNERS

  • ‘Sweet Thing’ Mediterranean Tomato Soup with warm Foccacia £5
  • “Space Oddity’ – ‘Hello Spaceboy’ – ‘Like A Rocket Man’ –
  • Rocket Salad with pear, blue cheese, walnuts, with a balsamic dressing

£5.75 or mains £8.75

 

TIME WILL CRAWL MAINS

  • ‘Rebel Rebel’ Burger
    £9.95
  • ‘Queen Bitch’ Cajun chicken breast in a brioche bun with salad and chips and homemade guacamole
    £9.95

 

‘GOD KNOWS I’M GOOD’ DESERT

  • “Life on Mars’ Brownie with ice cream
    £4.95

 

THANKS TO ALL ‘You Pretty Things’.

Captions Tony Jasper and Lisa (also food)

 

THE WORLD AND DONALD

Bishop Ough issues statement on Trump immigration order

January 30, 2017

Bishop Bruce R. Ough, president of the United Methodist Council of Bishops, issued a statement regarding President Trump's executive order on immigration at a press conference sponsored by the Minnesota Council of Churches. The 'event, held at Hennepin United Methodist Church, gathered faith leaders to discuss the topic of immigration. Bishop Ough participated in today's event in his role as resident bishop of the Dakotas-Minnesota Area of The United Methodist Church. The statement maintains The United Methodist Church's unity in standing with other faith traditions to denounce the order, as well as calling all to remember Jesus' words from Matthew 10:40: "Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me."

"I call upon the people of The United Methodist Church to see the face of Christ in the refugee," Bishop Ough said. "Say 'no' to the walling off of our country and our hearts and say 'yes' to their hope - our hope - for new life. Let us unite and work together to bring the soul of this country to a living birth!"

The full text of Bishop Ough's statement follows:
Today, I stand with colleagues representing several faith traditions to strongly denounce President Trump's widespread attack on immigrants and refugees. President Trump's reckless, ill-conceived executive orders will divide families, impose a religious test for Muslims facing forced migration, penalize communities providing sanctuary and wall off the United States from our neighbors. These actions are expensive, unnecessary and profoundly antithetical to our values of compassion, dignity and justice for all individuals regardless of nationality, religious affiliation or legal status.

The biblical witness is clear and unambiguous. Walls are unbiblical. Hospitality is biblical. Denying one's neighbor is unbiblical. Welcoming the stranger is biblical. It is not surprising that Judaism, Christianity and Islam teach the reign of God as a banquet to which all peoples are invited. We are to welcome the sojourner, love our neighbor and stand with the most vulnerable among us. These very values from our sacred texts and faith traditions are currently reflected in the mandate of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program and must not be usurped by any executive order. Orders, legislation or administrative actions that would have the U.S. State Department disqualify refugees from protection and resettlement based on their nationality or religion are a denial of the very principles this nation was built upon, contradict the legacy of leadership our country has offered the world, and dishonor our shared humanity.

Jesus was explicit in his teachings. In Matthew's gospel Jesus says, "Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me." (Matthew 10:40).

Refugees and immigrants arrive among us, not only with their needs, but also bearing gifts of energy, resourcefulness, love of liberty and hope. These gifts have always contributed to the renewal of our society and the church.

Above all, these strangers bring to us the Christ. When we welcome a stranger we welcome Jesus, and when we welcome Jesus we welcome our creator. Refugees, immigrants, those yearning to be free-these are the ones whom Jesus spoke about when he said, "I was a stranger and you welcomed me" (Matthew 25:35).

Repeatedly Jesus tells his disciples:

"For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it." (Matthew 16:25)

The original Greek language is far more poetic, powerful and prophetic. In finer translations of the Greek language, we hear Jesus saying:

"Whoever seeks to build a wall around their soul shall destroy it; whoever tears down the wall (around their soul) shall bring their soul to a living birth."

The very soul of our country is at stake. When we abandon strangers who are at risk of bigotry, xenophobia and violence we not only destroy their hope, we destroy our own souls. When we fail to assist the refugees fleeing danger, we not only place them in harm's way, we do harm to our own souls. When we build walls of concrete, or walls of divisive rhetoric, or walls of fear, or walls of immoral immigration policies, we build a wall around our own souls.

Christ calls us to tear down the walls around our souls that we might live fully and abundantly. Thus, I call on the Trump administration and the U.S. Congress to rescind the harmful executive orders and save the soul of our country. I call upon the people of The United Methodist Church to see the face of Christ in the refugee. Say "no" to the walling off of our country and our hearts and say "yes" to their hope - our hope - for new life. Let us unite and work together to bring the soul of this country to a living birth!

Bishop Bruce R. Ough, President
Council of Bishops
The United Methodist Church
January 30, 2017

THE BRITISH PRESS

The ‘Out There’ Voice in 2016. Tony jasper looks back to last year’s coverage of faith and relevant issues in magazines and daily newspapers

Tony jasper looks back to last year’s coverage of faith and relevant issues in magazines and daily newspapers.

The day when ‘faith’ ceases to interest general magazines and newspapers is a time for mourning. As of now some sections of the newspaper and magazine press are willing to run pages devoted to serious faith considerations, and matters with moral and ethical implications. In 0ctober (23) for instance the Sunday Telegraph gave virtually two pages to the first Diocesan bishop the Right Reverend Rachel Treweek who is concerned with the Disney film ‘Frozen ‘ and the way in which girls are portrayed, and the perils of what is termed ‘prettiness. She deplores the message that from an early age to be successful you have to look in a certain way. The thought is hardly new but she claims “I haven’t seen the Church picking up on.” And while on that broadsheet there’s Simon Heffer of The Telegraph deliberating on the question of a national anthem for England, if the United Kingdom eventually breaks up, and which can be sung on English sporting occasions. His feature (March 5. p 9) is given the heading; “An ideal song for England’s pleasant land” and yes into the equation comes Hubert Parry’s And Did Those Feet, but if Parry did not intend Jerusalem as a hymn – hymn book inclusion or not – Heffer say Parry for all his dislike of jingoism would have approved of sports fans singing his highly civilised and civilising song, perhaps not so much those in the North.

In the Guardian Louis de Bernieres says he and God get on extremely badly (February 13). In one of its celebrated pictorial centre pages (March 16) it chose to focus on a 150 year-old statute of Christ that lies unwrapped in a restoration workshop in El Salvador. It raised the question of Sunday trading and its correspondent Gabby Hayes took then line that the slow death of the weekend is “another step away from collective life into a more individualistic lonelier future. “(March 11. ). The following week the paper says a report claims belief in God among Americans has declined by 50%. However it appears more people than previous believe in an afterlife. The paper’s absorbing Zoe Williams absorbs everyone when she says that all religions share the then Prime Minister’s “Christian” values (March 28. P2) and wields her verbal knife in saying that “the casual Christian supremacy has no internal logic and no factual foundation.” So there! Almost persuaded it might be said by faith of sorts, there was Andrew Pulver reminding heathen readers that Easter has its spiritual side and is more than chocolate eggs and basket wilding bunnies (April 1. ). I am assuming that the date of the article is not suggesting this is a minor ‘spoof’.

Religion broke in to various stories relating to the hosting by Brazil of the 2016 Olympics. Much is written about the presence of doping among athletes and possible approval from certain countries. Religion muscles its way in. The 10.000 metres produces an astonishing new world record and accusations against the 24-year-old Ethiopian Almaz Ayana that she had taken drugs. “I’m totally clean’ says the surprise winner. She tells the world:“People say you don’t run this fast clean?” she said. “No, I did my training. No 2 I praise the Lord, he is giving me everything, everything, And my doping is my training, my doping is Jesus. Otherwise nothing. I am crystal clear.(Lewis, Ron, I’m totally clean. The Times, August 13. 2016 Sport). For

However the British hurdle sisters’ prayers went unanswered with Ofili just two hundreth of a second off a bronze medal behind an American clean sweep. The same day the paper told its readers that an antigay faith leader has his home destroyed. He is a Christian leader who believes that natural disasters are sent by God to punish gay people has been the victim of a flood of “biblical proportions” in Louisiana.

The minister Tony Perkins believes gay marriage and civil unions “pose a serious threat to our culture.” (Daisy Wyatt. Anti-gay faith leader, I paper, August 19).

G2 in the Guardian ever looks for another angle and so delves into how one might snack the way to success, and at the same time discover the tunes that power the stars all the way to the podium. It appears Christian rap gives uplift to US archer Mackenzie Brown and Canadian athlete Nicole Sifuentes has said in an interview:

“I’ve listened to the same six Christian rock songs during my warm up or on the way to the race since high school or junior high. To me, it’s familiar and it creates the right attitude in my mind...(it) helps reminds me of why I run and my purpose.” (Marsden, Rhodri, Now that’s what I call a warm up!, Guardian G2, August 1.)

The FT continually runs fascinating features that as such do not fall under a financial interest umbrella. And so they take the reader into the religious nature of the Olympic country. Misja Glenn says in the past 30 years, the largest Catholic country in the world has seen a phenomenal proselytising by evangelic churches. It is claimed some fifty million people now profess faith out of some 200 million. She tells that “When you walk in Brazil, you are exhorted to find Jesus your saviour as an escape from drugs, poverty and domestic violence. ( Financial Times Weekend, 13/14 August 2016) Mega churches abound with The Universal Church of the Kingdom, the IURD of God most prominent. “The IURD is an Orwellian corporation. It owns Inter Alia Brazil’s second largest television network. Now it is putting the finishing touches to one of the world’s largest places of worship.”

In brutal contrast there are chapel closures in the British West Country but all is not exactly lost.

Charlotte Dear has found a beautiful conversion in Salcome, a Baptist chapel converted into three homes and one of the three is a 2.400 square-foot transformation.(Western Morning News, August 13).

In the Guardian Louis de Bernieres says he and God get on extremely badly (February 13). In one of its celebrated pictorial centre pages (March 16) it chose to focus on a 150 year-old statute of Christ that lies unwrapped in a restoration workshop in El Salvador. It raised the question of Sunday trading and its correspondent Gabby Hayes took then line that the slow death of the weekend is “another step away from collective life into a more individualistic lonelier future. “(March 11.). The following week the paper says a report claims belief in God among Americans has declined by 50%. However it appears more people than previous believe in an afterlife. The paper’s absorbing Zoe Williams absorbs everyone when she says that all religions share the then Prime Minister’s “Christian” values (March 28. P2) and wields her verbal knife in saying that “the casual Christian supremacy has no internal logic and no factual foundation.” So there!

You cannot help but feel that the Guardian loves religion, even if perhaps it wishes to distance itself from making Christian faith more palatable than others, and also so as not to make its large agnostic readership unhappy. It does after all let loose every Friday the Anglican word firing Canon Giles Fraser. On one of his adventurous word forays entitled ‘After the Labour Party Conference’ the loose cannon came in strong in saying Corbyn is an atheist – but his ideas are true to the Bible. ( September 30). Fraser reminds of how often the Magnificat is sung from the small church to Westminster Abbey, the heart of the establishment, and within its scope the thought that the mighty shall be removed from their thrones and the lowly lifted. His other canon of the day was this - “When the Bible speaks about something like homosexuality, it has to be taken literally. When it speaks about money, it’s all a metaphor”:

Almost persuaded it might be said by faith of sorts, there was Andrew Pulver reminding heathen readers that Easter has its spiritual side and is more than chocolate eggs and basket wilding bunnies (April 1. P16).

The Trump and Clinton race for the White House has had a religious slant and interests the general press. Hiliary is a Methodist, but apart from that her religious views outside of abortion remain untouched, save for our Recorder (August 5. ) that seemingly beat everyone for noting that one of her slogans is “Do all the good” - that she is aware that John Wesley uttered this sentiment, and in her acceptance speech spoke of how her mother ensured she learned the “words of our Methodist faith.” Donald has said he is a Christian, and he has talked of building the odd wall or two. His move finds biblical verification and so enables some faith people to cast their vote his way. Reported by Davd Usborne in the sadly missed Independent on Sunday: “ The man holding the sign, Bill Waters 53, knows who’s right: ”It says in the Bible you just build walls, in at least two verses.” (February 20. P 29).

On a more elevated level Sara Posner in the New York Times (May 11. P 7) poses the question: “The end of the religious right?” She also notes that Donald says he will ring back the words :Merry Christmas” should he become President. The Financial Times says he secured the nomination because he persuaded the evangelical wing that he was indeed “born again” (Weekend 21/28. P3).

The tabloids have less interest unless there is a direct story on which they can major and which you know what you’re going to get from the first sentence. So inevitably something spicy and tawdry that is direct and uncomplicated is likely to gain space, and in recent and unfortunately for the Church there is a plentiful supply of errant clergy to provide juicy moments, with such tantalising headlines as ‘When he was not in the pulpit’ that makes you ‘wonder’ and thumb your way to page six.

For a lay person to make the story and feature pages is uncommon, unless the Christian is a household name, such as the BBC”s Dan Walker and more so enter Cliff Richard. Recent coverage of his feelings and emotions, the support of faith and faith people, during his recent trials and tribulations has been extraordinary. On August 10 he gets the front page of the Daily Mirror and two other pages, and a fortnight later there’s a double page spread in which the then 75 year old speaks out: “I won’t give in to age. I will wear what I want, be what I want.” . The Mirror is back with Cliff on September 1 with the headline ‘Defiant Cliff thumbs up for fans.’

Perhaps asking itself why the Mirror has seeming Cliff scoops The Daily Mail makes up for whatever and headlines ‘Cliff: BBC and the Police Tainted My Life Forever’ (October 18). Oh dear, two days later when the Mirror covers the meet of Cliff, Paul Gambaccini, some personalities, with MPs, to advocate a change in the law so that people suspected of sexual offences remain anonymous before charge unless there are exceptional circumstances there is only a side column.

That said religion provides more than most places the quirky and offers a tasty gift to harassed journalists who are looking to fill pages, and so you could have read that the Reverend Karl Freeman MBE, chaplain to the Royal Artillery, and as it happens also vicar of Plymouth’s, Emmanuel Church, has created and runs a fully operational life size model of a Dalek. The good news rests in the Dalek’s church attendance, although one supposes it comes with no offering to be made at the designated service moment. Still, these days, we should be grateful for what Rowan Atkinson described in his television spoof on ‘Songs of Praise’ as “bums on seats” but only when the “Beeb is in town.”

The spacey clergyman had to join the Dalek Builder’s Guild so he could construct a dalek. Mr Freeman says “it is used to teach children about good and evil.....teaching children the Christian faith in a fun context.” (Western Morning News, February 4. P 20).

One should in no way forget the Times, a paper week in and week out that without fail on a Saturday covers religion, gives top of the page space for an almost sermon and delivers powerful editorials at Christmas and Easter, and coming down from the mountain top reports Madonna saying she will say three extra Hail Marys during Easter (March 26.), and we wished her well.

It would be wrong to say the Tabloids ignore faith. There was the short-lived New Day expressing worry over the present Pope and according to Marie Lunn he should not have tweeted the throwaway “pray for me” – “You can’t be saying things like that when you’re the Chosen 0ne.” (March 4. P 9.).

Both the political journals, the Spectator and New Stat, have more than a ‘touching of the cap’ to religion. Matthew Parris did not like a review Christopher Howse gave to the book The Bible for Grown-Ups by Simon Loveday. Howse had written under the delightfully provocative headline ‘The Bible is too important to be left to unbelievers.’ Parris admitted he knew the author well but said in The Spectator (August 6) “Although I am an atheist this book has sent me back to the Bible.” A few months previous a busy Howse reviewed The Murderous History of Bible Translations by Harry Freedman (Bloomsbury) in which attention is paid to what is termed “possibly the ‘most’ culturally significant of all vernacular Bible mishaps that centres around the appearance and dress of Moses as he descends from Sinai, a mis-translation that led to a famous work of art and a wrong idea was born. Fortunately the religious press can find literary journals such as the London Review of Books and Literary Review partial to running copy on new religious publications, as in the case of the latter where Peter Marshall reviews Martin Luther: Renegade and Prophet by Lyndal Roper (June 2016). Obviously, we an expect a flurry of books on Luther and the Protestant Reformation as we take in October 31. 2015 – five hundred years since he nailed his Ninety-Five these to the door of the castle church in Wittenberg . According to some scholars it will be hard to beat Martin Luther –

Visionary Reformer by Scott H. Hendrix

The New Statesman opened 2016 (January 15-21) with John Gray reviewing Dominic Johnson’s ‘God is Watching you’ and which we find the words ‘Religions are not intellectual errors, but adaptations to living in an uncertain and hazardous world.”

months later continues its often frequent interest in religion as Yuval Harari deliberates on technology, God and religions for the 21st century. The feature opens with the much quoted sentence from Nietzsche that God is dead. At the very outset Harari joins a growing list of those who see God making a comeback, well, the thought is short-loved for he writes: “Despite all the talk of Islamic fundamentalism and Christian revival, God is dead – it just takes a while to get rid of the body ( Salvation by Algorithm. New Statesman 0-15 September 2016). And it should be said that Rowan Williams is a frequent contributor. Many US magazines find their way across the seas, not least Time and The New Yorker, with the latter providing one of the few features that do not have Christian base, as they print slightly out of this features time reference but making the point, Samanth Subramanian’s feature The Islamist War On Secular Bloggers (December 2015)

The Observer Review on August 14 delivered” Karl Marx: Greatness and Illusion by Gareth Stedman Jones.” At one point in his review 0liver Bullough refers to the plinth of Marx in the central boulevard, 0khotny Ryad in Moscow.

“With his busy beard and beetling brow, the great communist could easily be a mystic from the early days of Orthodox Christianity (though admittedly, the great coat and tie would be hard to explain).

Both Guardian and The Times found a fairly similar interest in telling the all-important story of how much faith communities here and the US contribute to secular society. America’s Georgetown University says over half of the American population are members of faith congregations. It says the sums spent by religious organizations on social programmes have tripled in the past 15 years to $9 billion. Apparently religion in America is worth $1.2tn year and that would make it the 15th largest national economy in the world. Guardian’s Harriet Sherwood says that “The faith economy has a higher value than the combined revenues of the top 10 technology companies in the US including Apple Amazon and Google(September 16).

On the same day The Times instanced the Cinammon Network, and who said Christian groups in Britain contribute £3 billion a year in social projects. The figure is given in a feature that reports local authorities being encouraged to ask God to help them renew towns and citys. Prayer breakfasts have become popular. Ideally such an event is planned for the town hall. It is suggested that if God can move mountains then he can lessen the amount in staff in-trays. Oh, absolutely. The co-author of the report Brian Grim says the 344.000 congregations across the US employ hundreds of thousands of staff.

Money raised its head in another area: The Business section of The Sunday Times headlined ‘Praise the Lord, I’m a billionaire’ (Sunday Times, September 16. 2016. Business). The ST writer Robert Watts said that in Lord Bob Edmiston, 69, Britain has its first vocally Christian billionaire. He runs the IM Group. Can a Christian be happy serving God and mammon? The man speaks: “In earlier times wealth was seen as the blessing of God and many great Old Testament figures were wealthy and did great things with their wealth...we need to recover the balance.” On September 24 Kaya Burgess was telling her readers that Roman Catholic priests were seeing an increase in the number of people wishing exorcising of presumed demonic presence, and young people who were influenced by popular culture that was full of the supernatural, and their reading of Harry Potter.

Not unexpectedly the press caught up on the Bishop of Grantham when he stated he was gay and in a relationship. Among the Sunday Times letters on August 11 a number of married lesbian and gay members of the Church of England express the hope that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people (LGBYT) will receive full acceptance within the Church. That wish said in a world where according to Cherie Blair (I Paper October 28) “it took less than 40 years to put a man on the moon. Why is gender equality so beyond us?”

And also not unexpectedly the press, or at least the New York Times took readers to events surrounding the canonization of Mother Teresa and the celebrity-studded celebration that takes place to honour her life. Mother Teresa takes the main attention on the front page of the New York Times, September 5, with the headline proclaiming ‘Mother Teresa is made a saint by pope’ Elisabetta Povoledo, the writer says the canonization marks a highlight of the Jubilee year. A portrait of her is displayed on the façade of St Peter’s Basilica. The paper provided a fascinating background, useful one assumes for protestant readers, some anyway. For her to be declared a saint Mother Teresa had to have carried out two miracles. The feature is headed ‘Of miracles, medical and religious’ by Jacalyn Duffin. (September 8. 2016). The medical writer focuses among other things on a woman deemed incurable but mysteriously almost 40 years later she remains alive. Along with the Vatican, she calls it a miracle.”Why should my inability to offer a explanation trump her belief? However they are interpreted miracles exist, because that is how they are lived in our world.”

Among numerous other things the feature reminds us that Mother Teresa founded the Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta in 1950. Once a team of 12 it now numbers 5,600 as it seeks to run orphanages, hospices and shelters in 139 countries.

The same issue of the American paper devotes space to the question ‘What religious would Jesus belong to?” The feature stems from a new book The Great Spiritual Migration by a one-time pastor Brian D. McLaren. The author posits the view that “our religions often stand for the very opposite of what their founders stood for.”

He points out the inescapable fact that today not so many Americans profess faith with seemingly only 41% able to name the four Gospels. The reviewer Nicholas Kristof sees true Jesus faith on such things as “a Catholic missionary doctor in Sudan treating bomb victims...a rabbi battling for Palestinian human rights.....No, that’s religion.

Who would disagree, and yet much of what is applauded comes from doctrine, such as the nature of God and intent for humankind, and not shall we say from a whim or vague desire that mercy is preferable to displacing life. And perhaps on another level, but then who knows, as we read in The Sun that the long running British soap EastEnders which bid farewell to popular character Peggy Mitchell - the character played by Barbara Windsor taking her ilfe after being diagnosed with terminal cancer - Is according to Dan Wooton asking bosses to bring her back from the dead. And why not, say millions, but perhaps not, for there have no petitions and marches through the streets.

We should be glad that so much music and theatre focuses on religion and this means reviews. One such example in recent is at London’s Sam Wanamaker Playhouse theatre that staged with the hardly exciting title, The Inn at Lydda. John Wolfson brings together Tiberius Caesar and Jesus Christ. This happens in the New Testament apocrypha. The ailing emperor seeks healing from a magician called Jesus. Unfortunately he arrives late for Jesus has been crucified, but there comes a big showdown between a risen Christ and the Roman, as they debate ‘The respective power of earthly empire and spiritual redemption.’ So writes the legendary critic Michael Billington under the delightful title ‘Set and match to Christ. (Guardian, September 8 ).

The always interesting magazine New Humanist (Autumn edition) tells readers via Sally Feldman that today’s celerity food purists are as sanctimonious as the religious in their devotion to dietary codes. Not for the first time by far modernisers and missionaries are faced with the simple but explosive question :did they go to far?” William Dalrymple asks the question as he consider the lie of the land in terms of the once fearsome tribal region of Niagaland. By the term of the milleniu, just 0.3 per sent of the Nagas still practised traditional religious beliefs and literacy. “Very few of us drink any more. Because the American Baptist missionaries think anyone who drinks is going to hell.( Travel. (Financial Times Weekend. B1/2 October)

 

October 6 sees the Daily Mail raising a number of important issues. Alison Roberts digs into the often ignored heartbreak of children who find themselves caught in the middle of marital rows.. There was the dilemma of take-away coffee cups that will not decompose for thirty years, the party conference speech by Britain’s new prime minister Theresa May is seen as giving a moral dimension to how she sees life in Britain and the world, Sian Boe brings to the fore teenage bullying , the agony of children in Syria(front cover and inside) let alone children and pregnant women on migrant ‘death’ boats, shameless benefit cheats, and the withdrawal of perceived ‘sexy’ outfits for girls of four years old. Not least, their television reviewer cast eye and thoughts on the previous night’s BBC2 programme A World without Down’s Syndrome. It was one of those days when there were those and other serious topics for discussion.

A chemical spill in Vietnam has devastated fishing communities along Vietnam’s central coast with anger continuing some six months after the event The local Roman Catholic diocese have organised protest rallies.”

If Formosa remains in Vietnam and doesn’t give us our clean environment back, we will continue to protest.” So says Tran Viet HoaIves, ( New York Times, October 5. 2016 ) The fish kill has meant the loss of tens of thousands of jobs in the affected provinces. The US paper seems much given to religious coverage and it reports on China’s tough rules on religion to get even tougher but. according to one valued source: “Past regulations have not harmed the growth of religion in China. On October 28 the paper reported that South Korea stages mock funerals with someone spending 10 minutes nailed in a coffin. Young participants are pictured wiping their tears as they sit beside coffins and write their last testaments. The goal is to gain new appreciation for life. As of now there is no research into whether such a process leads to disturbing dreams or the psychological impact should a young friend of a participant dies.

Even music fans have notions of mortality and it leads one writer to wonder who might step out of the shadows once we have sad a farewell to the likes of Dylan, McCartney, Neil Young, Roger Waters, the Rolling Stones and The Who. These names headed an extraordinary line-up on 0ctober 7 at the Empire Polo Club, in Indio, California, in what is described as a “boomertastic weekend.” Doriam Lynskey in GQ says

“The premature deaths of Bowie and Prince have focussed the minds of fans.” (GQ, October 2016).

Death “is in the air” as the Guardian’s Maev Kennnedy

Takes readers into what is termed the “Corpse Project” backed by the Wellcome Institute that has been looking into what happens to the 500.000 dead bodies in England each year. So there is report of the launch of a Sacred Stones burial mould that is seen by its creator as “a secular space full of faith.” Hundreds of niches have been created on which the remains of the loved one can be placed and guaranteed hospitality for 99 years. Guardian October 27).

The FT (October 8/9) reminds readers of the on-going London £19m project, the first major addition to the historic Westminster Abbey since 1745. The 80ft freestanding tower utilises wasted space. It opens new perspectives on the historic building. Jonathan Foyle says that “its greatest prize may well be the splendid, unfettered perspective of the abbey’s interior, which John Betjeman thought the best view in Europe.” Singer Emile Sande returns to concert, speaks of taking time out at a spiritual retreat, and performs in the cloisters of a converted church. Reviewer Michael Jack says “heaven is blasted at the rafters.” He notes Emile tells her audience: “Spread your light, don’t be ashamed to love.” Leonard Cohen is still obsessed by Jesus and returns with a new album, his fourteenth, ‘You Want it Darker.’ New Musical Express (September 21) calls it a “bleak masterpiece for hard times.”

Justin Welby accumulates more press inches than most religious figure outside of the Pope and the previous Archbishop Carey. In one of Justin Welby’s recent press appearances it is reported by John Bingham he told an audience of head teachers that the current generation of teachers “Needed to confront the issue of religiously motivated violence in a way not seen since the Reformation.( Daily Telegraph, September 28. 2016)

Faith in press coverage can occur incidental to a main objective. Ian Baker interviews the long standing manager of the Arsenal football club Arsene Wenger, and the Frenchman hits the God track with the reported saying: “I said if God exists, one day I go up there and he will ask ‘Do you want to come in? What have you done in your life?’ And the only answer I have is “I tried to win football games.’ He will say, “Is that all you have done?” and the only answer I will have is, “It’s not quite as easy as it looks. (The Times October 22, )

Jesus gets a name check in a Financial Times feature on how forty years after his death the Chinese dictator Mao is enjoying a surge of popularity. The Maoist revival is seen possessing a pseudo-religious mystical dimension. Neo-Maoist leader Zhang Hongliang says Mao Zedong stood for the people, those of the lowest level

This is somewhat like the Jesus of Christianity at the start. Jesus was a poor man’s Jesus. the public’s Jesus. With the strength of this public force, Christianity came to rule and be the western powers’ guiding ideology.

Zhang Hongliang, The Return of Mao, Financial Times, October 1/2, 2016. P19.

As of now give thanks that the media at large still thinks faith matters.

(This first appeared in The Methodist Recorder, London.).

MUSIC MUSINGS

Oh, digging back in my collection and the urge to hear Randy Crawford – what a beautiful expressive singer - so on goes The Ultimate Collection, and along the way ‘Streetlife’ and ‘One Day I’ll Fly Away’ – two superb vocals, memorable arrangements, but if you want one of the finest of Randy, or anyone, then get the Steve Hackett album where she vocalises with the heart rending ‘Hoping Love Will Last.’ Breathtaking. The Steve album is ‘Please Don’t Touch.’ And the one-time Genesis man has made a beautiful arrangement.

Sainsburys keep attracting expenditure as they line shelves with some old but good stuff, and for £3 how anyone not purchase James – The Best? but at £10, well, been lapping up Pete Tongs, Classic House, and on my mighty system it pumps up gloriously. Note to how many golden oldie artists are being repackaged, so for less than a tenner you can three to five back catalogue albums on as it were one set, as with former for Simon & Garfunkel you get Sounds of Silence, Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme and album three, Bookends. No, I am not paid by Sainsbury but hey take note of their vinyl stocking!

Still marvel at the great value CDS that come with Uncut and Mojo mags. The former put Captain Beefheart on the front cover of the March 2017 issue, and an inside feature educates me in learning that Lennon was very annoyed at Beefheart’s Beatle Bones And Smoking Stones that kind-of made fun of the L&M classic Strawberry Fields. You can find the Beefheart take on Strictly Personal, the great man’s second album. Well, I can drift from one music genre pretty quickly to another, and so here’s listening to the Lesley Garrett album The Collection, and at this very moment a rich vocal and rich accompaniment, and a really ace take of the old standard ‘Stardust’. Isn’t she great? And for something quite different found some good stuff on Declare Your Name, an album from he Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir with one truly outstanding cut, ‘Made to Live For You’. Oh, it’s an oldie but hopefully still in catalogue. Paul Janeway o St Paul & he Broken Bones names Hiding All Away from Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds as one of his then all-time records. PJ notes the gospel feel and style to the record.