Friday, December 17, 2004

the corporation

I went to The Showroom to see a film I've been meaning to see for a while now. Gordon Lynch mentioned The Corporation, in his talk at FEED.

Corporations are legally defined as people, so this film sets out to discover what sort of person corporations are. Apparently there are six particular characteristics which define someone as being psychopathic.

callous unconcern for the feelings of others
incapacity to maintain enduring relationships
reckless disregard for the safety of others
deceitfulness: repeated lying and conning others for profit
incapacity to experience guilt
failure to confom to social norms with respect to lawful behaviours

This film gives examples of how Corporations demonstrate all six characteristics.

Now this may not be the greatest film ever made, but as Michael Moore points out towards the end of the film, corporations will do anything as long as there is money to be made. They'll even put out a film that is slagging them off.

There were a couple of other points in the film that have lodged themselves in my mind. First, there was a brief discussion about the monstrous nature of 'the system', where capitalism was compared to slavery. This is something that I'm kind of thinking about in one of my essays for university at the moment. How was slavery overcome? How might capitalism be overcome? This also reminded me of some stuff Walter Wink talks about in his Powers books.

The second thing that stuck in my mind, was the story of
, in Bolivia. I'd first read about this place in One No, Many Yeses. Its a fascinating story of how water was privatised in the city of Cochabamba. It got to the point where it was illegal to collect rainwater! But the people, together, rebelled, and told the particular corporation, and the authorities who had allowed this to happen, where they could stick it. Fantastic.

Monday, December 13, 2004

it's all in the timing

Last week was hardly what I'd call fun. Having exhausted myself at our church Christmas fair on Saturday (GNVQ in Grotto construction and decoration successfully obtained), I was then given a whole 40 minutes warning that I was doing the talk at church on Sunday night. "Oh! Did you not get that message?"

The fun continued on Tuesday when, having caught some joyous strain of stomach bug I found myself unable to hold down a cup of water, and so tired that moving was genuinely a real effort. This all happened in Birmingham, which meant that while I missed a couple of lectures at uni, my Mum and Dad had to trek down to rescue me.

The car went into the garage for a service on Thursday. We eventually managed to get a courtesy car once Direct Line's computers had stopped crashing.

On Friday I met up with my pastoral support guy. He's pretty cool and I find meeting up with him really helpful. He asked me whether I have a system for dealing with frustration. "Does bottling it up count?" I asked.

Sometimes life just seems to save up various irritations, and hurl them at you all at once. It sucks. Ah well, at least I can get on with writing my essays now.

understanding theology and popular culture

A couple of weeks ago I went to hear Gordon Lynch at FEED. He was talking about the role of popular culture as a religion

He began by briefly commenting on the recent change in religious landscape in Britain before moving on to discuss the way in which popular culture could be considered comparable to religion. He explained two ways in which it is possible to view religions, as substantive or as functionalist.

Religions can be seen as substantive where they (nearly) all contain certain basic elements, eg. sacred texts or an oral tradition, a sense of ritual, a sacred space - church, temple etc. (there were more but I can’t remember what was said). It is possible to view popular culture as being made up of these elements – for example football, where the pitch is the sacred space, turning up the same time every week constitutes a sense of ritual. However Gordon said that in trying to draw these comparisons, inaccuracies can enter in, the analogies can easily be stretched too far.

Religions can also be seen as functionalist – religions all share certain functions. For example they provide a set of communal, shared values and they help people make sense of life. Has popular culture replaced more traditional religions in serving these functions, eg. Clubbing as some kind of mystical experience?

Gordon then moved on to discussing the link between popular culture and capitalism. He stated that there is more to this link than just people’s love of shopping. Consider the role of advertising in the media, and in football. Culture has become an industry. It is something that people are buying into, but this choice to buy in, is within the constraints of the capitalist system. However this capitalist system relies on injustice, not only in production, but also in the consumption – are we ALL free to participate?

He referenced George Ritzer’s McDonaldization theory, discussing how the “enchantment” of the system makes us feel easier about buying into the system. Have we reached the state where “being human” now equates with being cogs in the capitalist system?

So what should we be doing? There are no set answers, no 10 step programmes, no ready-to-use courses. Rather we need to engage in critical thinking. How does this link with the role of the church? Gordon concluded his talk by referring to The Corporation. The capitalist system will fund people to critique it, as long as there is money to be made. Can we use this fact? Can we work within this system?

I bought a copy of Gordon's new book, Understanding Theology and Popular Culture. I've yet to really start reading it, but I may well comment in the next few weeks, once I've had a chance to get stuck in.

Monday, November 29, 2004

christmas is coming

On the whole life is pretty good in Sheffield at the moment, apart from the fact that I'm just too busy. I'm starting to feel a bit stressed, which is hardly surprising with Christmas preparations, essays to write, meeting my potential new vicar/line manager.

This afternoon, while letting myself worry about things over which I have no control, I was reminded that God is in control. I got a phone call from a Mum of one of my young people. This young person had been the victim of a bit of an incident at church a good few weeks ago. The family had not been to church since, and I was getting a bit concerned.

I had decided I to pop round and see the family this evening. But then I got this phone call. The Mum was just ringing up to apologise for their absence over the last few weeks - life, general hecticness etc. Not only was she, and her children doing fine, they were also offering to help me out with some stuff I've got to do this weekend at our Christmas community outreach event (which is cunningly called Christmas is Coming). Two birds with one stone, and none of it was my doing.


Off to the next FEED event on Wednesday where Gordon Lynch will be talking about the role of popular culture within contemporary society. Is popular culture becoming a new religion in our society? What are some of the values, beliefs and ideas that form and inform popular culture?

FEED is hosted by b1 church and the Birmingham University Dept. of Theology and Religion.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

and life goes on

Well I've been suitably busy of late. Suprisingly I am struggling to keep to my 16 hours a week that I am supposed to be working for church. Obviously we're looking forward to Christmas, and all the numerous services/fairs/social events which that enatails. But we're also now looking ahead to Easter, planning services for Holy Week.

While I am enjoying work, and I am quite excited about the Holy Week services (more about that in the future), I was reminded of an important fact today. The church calendar - love it or hate it - should me a tool we can use to pace our lives, giving us time to reflect on the different experiences we have at different times of the year.

Planning ahead is all well and good, and often quite necessary, but I know that I must make time to stop, and reflect on the things that are going on around me at the moment. Obviously this can be quite difficult when you are involved in running events, co-ordinating services etc. But somehow I must make sure that I am not simply blown along, always looking to the future without enjoying the present.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

reflecting on progressisve orthodoxy

I enjoyed the evening with Dave Tomlinson. It was good to hear what he had to say, as well as to catch up with some old faces, and a couple of newer ones.

There were two things that I really remember from what Dave said. He talked about the importance of shared speech and shared symbols. This links to something I have had drummed into me as a youth worker - the importance of creating shared experiences. I can't get away from the fact that youth work/mission/living my life, is about walking alongside people, accompanying people, having relationships with people.

The second thing that Dave spoke about, which I found quite helpful, was the concept of 'perspectivism'. This was a new term for me, though it summed up the way I've been feeling about knowledge. Can we really know the truth, or do we each have our own 'perspective' of what truth is. The same truth, but looked at from different angles.

As ever, my limited attention span meant that remembering all that Dave said was always gonna be a struggle. I was therefore pretty glad when I found this. (This guy has obviously heard Dave talking about the same kind of stuff, but he took some notes)

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

progressive orthodoxy

This evening I'm off to hear a guy called Dave Tomlinson. He's the guy who wrote The Post Evangelical.

He's talking about something he calls Progressive Orthodoxy. Thinking about "whether it is possible to be committed to the Christian tradition at the same time as creating a progressive and inclusive church".

The event is being jointly hosted by b1 church and the Birmingham University Dept. of Theology and Religion. It's taking place at St. Martin's Arts Cafe (St. Martin's in the Bullring, Birmingham).

Should be quite interesting.

Monday, October 25, 2004

observations from a ditch

So I went for a spin in the car today. Quite literally.

I was actually driving relatively sensibly (hard to believe for some I know), when I skidded, going round a corner. I tried to correct it, but ended up spinning the car off the road, a perfect 180 degrees, and ended up in a muddy bog. Great.

As I was sat waiting for green flag to winch me out, I had time to make a couple of observations:

Firstly, I was struck my how many people stopped, got out of their cars walked back to me to check I was ok. There were several offers of lifts etc. A refreshing reflection on human nature.

Secondly, I was slightly miffed that of the numerous four by four, off road, SUVs that passed, none checked to see that I was ok, none offered to pull me out. They were all however, being driven by 35-45 year old women, with no other passenges in the car.

Thankfully I was not hurt in whole incident, and the car was not seriously damaged.

Things could have been worse. I could have ended up in the water-filled ditch on the other side of the road.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

new job, new house, new course

Nearly a month ago I started working as part-time youth worker for Holy Trinity Church, Millhouses, in Sheffield. I moved into a new house, which came with the job. I've also just started an MA in Mission Studies at Birmingham University. Which all in all makes quite a lot of new stuff.

I think the realisation of the changes I've gone/I'm going through, is just about starting to hit me. It's a bit daunting!!!

But with the all the new stuff going on, a new set of challenges and opportunities arise. This is probably a good thing, even though my sense of perspective on all this might not be quite there yet. I am excited about my new job, even though my enthusiam doesn't always shine through. There are so many new people to meet, and new opportunities to explore. There's so much potential. It's just a lot to take in at the moment.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

first post

just a test to see if this works