An Asian Christian woman living in London blogging about the everyday issues of religion

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Happy NY, Out With The Old, In With The Same?

It's THAT day of the year again when one wonders about what can be ditched to begin the new year with a spring in one's step. Out with the old tedious practices and mindsets that have proven to be life sapping leeches. In with a new life enhancing routine that will rocket one to great heights of self-fulfilment.   

Does it ever happen this way? I normally make a list of 10 resolutions but only ever manage to accomplish about half. My intentions disappear at mid-point through the list. This is probably because numbers 6 to 10 contain things that I should give up but don't want to. Willpower versus 'Oh, What the hell I will try next year'. Old habits die hard and I am mistrusting myself even before the clock strikes midnight. 

There is a glimmer of hope though for me. For the last two years I have been intending to read about the history of the bible. Never got around to it until today. I am either making a late start on my 2012 resolution or an early start for 2013. I got out my 'The Bible for Dummies' book and read the first chapter. I am either going to end 2013 as a dummy myself or as someone who finally knows something about biblical history. 

Happy New Year to the Christian blogsphere and here's wishing you all the best with your resolutions. May God bless you as you step into 2013.

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Santa is recovering

Santa Claus drank 233 million units of alcohol on Christmas eve during his visits to 700 million children.  Whyte & Mackay, Scotch distillers, who had their staff out working with the elves and Santa number crunched these figures after a very busy night. However, only 30.5% of kids had bothered to leave a tipple out. In my day we not only left a glass of whisky out but had water for the reindeers and mince pies for everyone who  was on a nocturnal sleigh ride. 

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

'C' for Christmas, 'C' for Christ and 'C' for Compassion

Rampant consumerism at Christmas irritates me and so it was with great interest and more than a tinge of sadness that I read an article in The Independent by Yasmin Alibhai-Brown about the disconnect between the compassion of Christmas and the consumerism that surrounds it. Actually, I could have added another 'C' in the title for Capitalism because, according to Yasmin, 'Christianity is dying because it has sold its soul to capitalism'.

The trigger for the article was a dinner party that Yasmin attended at which she told a posh woman, referred to as 'Mrs Rich', about a conversation she had had with a homeless woman who was lonely and desperate for human company because people ignored her. 'Mrs Rich' was 'extremely snobby about the encounter and blamed the poor for choosing poverty. In her view, people chose poverty by not taking up jobs done by migrants.

What has happened to compassion? Has it been superseded by capitalism? While I don't think that Christianity has sold its soul capitalism I do take Yasmin's point that Christmas has been hijacked by an economic system that masks misfortune as 'choice'.  It is an uncompromising position that is untouched by the birth of Christ, the celebration of compassion and the spirit of giving during Christmas. Christmas, for many, is the high point of the spirit of capitalism instead which involves expensive present buying and an excess of food. Eating more than we need to has become a common Christmas joke as we compare how much weight we have put on.

Dare we hope for a change to take place in 2013? If it did what would be the trigger for a change in attitudes  towards those on welfare? Whatever the answer I do know that the church has a role to play in helping change mindsets as much as helping those who cannot afford to help themselves for whatever reason.

Merry Christmas

Sunday, 23 December 2012

'Hidden Hunger'

Just when you think that enough phrases and adjectives have been used to describe the suffering of those who cannot afford to fend for themselves in these dire economic circumstances then along comes another one to mark the next low on the graph of misery. This time it is the phrase 'hidden hunger' and it really does mark a very low notch on the graph.

'Hidden Hunger' describes those who are struggling financially but who are refusing to accept free food from places like Foodbanks because they think it carries a stigma. Taken to an extreme does this mean that we are going to see people dying from hunger or, at the very least, becoming malnourished? All this during the Christmas season when people indulge in an excess of food?

As household debt level soars and people's financial hardship hits a steep curve it seems as if this is being accompanied by a decline in an understanding of the economic realities for many. People who experience helplessness are being blamed and vilified for a situation that is seen as being their fault. The 'haves' no longer acquaint themselves with the great goodness that welfare was meant to provide and stigmatise those who don't have with tags like 'scroungers' and 'skivers'.

What the 'haves' don't realise is that such misfortune as losing one's job can strike anyone and there are no guarantees that you or I will not have to rely on a Foodbank someday.

Friday, 21 December 2012

There are 'good' guys and there are 'bad' guys but both have guns

At a press conference today Wayne LaPierre, the executive vice president of the National Rifle Association (NRA), called on the US Congress to immediately pass legislation to place guards with guns in schools by the time classes resume from winter breaks in January. He said the proposal was aimed at stopping the next killer "waiting in the wings", claiming that "the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun". 

Good cop, bad cop, good guy, bad guy is an age old demarcation of, quite obviously, bad from good. It is a theme that recurs in movies, plays, books, your neighbourhood, among your friends and enemies and even in the bible. Unlike in the movies though the good guys do not always win. There is also another consideration, in movies like Pulp Fiction and Clint Eastwood ones the line between good guy with a gun and bad guy with a gun was fuzzy and confused. Good and bad can be fused sometimes. 
But in the world of the NRA, if good guys were armed they would be able to shoot down the bad guys. All it takes is a good guy to have a gun so when the bad guy turns up he, well, had better watch out. The good will cancel out the bad. 
The twisted logic of the NRA and the perverse argument that it peddles to safeguard the vested interest that it has is the real 'bad guy'  here. The power of a gun emanates in equal measure from the purpose that it has, to kill or maim, as much as from the person pulling the trigger. I have never held a gun but it doesn't take an idiot to work out that the skill and dexterity of using one must lie in the swiftness of pulling the trigger and the accuracy of an aim. In other words what if the bad guy is a much better shooter than the good guy? The NRA's stupid logic presupposes that a higher form of wisdom will prevail in judgement during a shooting to ensure that good will triumph over evil.  
The only higher form of wisdom we need here is something steeped in morality and prayers to ensure that such demeaning and worthless justifications do not allow the current situations of mass killings to recur. 

Thursday, 20 December 2012

David Cameron's Christmas round robin

David Cameron's Christmas round robin

The 23rd Psalm for Computer Users

The Lord is my programmer, I shall not crash
He installed his software on the hard disk of my heart
All of his commands are user-friendly
His directory moves me to the right choices for his name's sake

Even though I scroll through the problems of life
I will fear no bugs, for you are my backup
Your password protects me
You prepare a menu before me in the presence of my enemies

Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life
And my file will be merged with his and saved forever

William R Cox

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

The Three Ages of Man

The three ages of man: 

1. He believes in Santa Claus. 

2. He doesn't believe in Santa Claus. 

3. He is Santa Claus. 

Monday, 10 December 2012

A 'Wicked' Sense of Humour

I am referring to the prank played by the two Australian radio DJs who called the hospital where Kate Middleton (Duchess of Cambridge) was staying and whose 'sense of humour' set in motion an unfortunate train of events that led to the death of the nurse who answered the call.

Did you laugh when you heard about the call on Tuesday as it was relayed on the news channels? I didn't. That's not because I don't have a sense of humour. It is because my immediate thought was for the nurses who had taken the call. The ordinary folk who strive very hard to do a good job but who don't possess fully the power to control their working environment. I was also worried that one of the nurses could have been foreign and may not have fully understood the British humour of corgis and 'Mummy'. No one could have foreseen death but my thoughts went along the path of jobs lost and depression. Sadly, the first nurse committed suicide (yet to be confirmed officially).

When a prank is played on an unsuspecting person there is no level playing field. The 'victim' is clueless and, therefore, powerless. If you add into this mix cultural differences then the story gets murky. Asian humour is quite literal. Nuances are often lost. Corgis barking in the background may be an obvious to many but it isn't to just as many people. Also, the radio DJs have said today that they put on 'awful' accents and didn't expect  their call to get through. Why do Australians have such an obsession with accents? Many of their adverts on British TV feature a particular pronouncement of their accent. Anyway, many Asians and possibly other foreigners may struggle to distinguish one 'fake' British accent from the 'true' one. This prank assumed that everyone in the chain was fully versed with the humour supposedly involved. They weren't, tragically.

Prayers please for Jacintha Saldanha and her family who are suffering.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Another blog post about THAT vote

The moment of the result of the General Synod vote on whether to allow the ordination of women as Bishops will always be remembered by those affected as one of those 'where were you?' memorables. People still talk about where they were when Princess Diana died or when 9/11 happened and, granted, the vote wasn't a life or death situation but it was a deadly depressing moment for those who cared about a 'yes' vote.

I was sitting in front of the computer reading a minute by minute account on a news website. I had to read the verdict twice because, like many others, I wasn't expecting it to be torpedoed. Neither, as it turned out, did hundreds of others. I know this thanks to social networking, Disbelief turned to anger and this was all played out on Twitter. If ever there was evidence needed of the irrelevancy of the Church of England then Twitter that evening provided plenty to the CONTRARY.

The negative vote was enough to bring out the non-pew fillers who still look to the Church as a moral compass.  The inability of the Church to embrace gender diversity was a source of some deep disappointment and sadness. In fact, for the first time the Church was trending under numerous headings 99.9% (in my opinion) were in support of women bishops. Among thousands of tweets I must have only seen about 3 tweets in a space of 2 hours that supported the vote.

People still do care about the church. The Conservative folk  have used the 'irrelevancy' argument to support their views by stating that modernising the church to cater to the progressive moderns will not lead to more churchgoers. Rubbish. Whether it will lead to more churchgoers or not is THE irrelevancy of the debate. The church does not exist like some profit making cinema or theatre which depends for its' existence on headcount. While headcount does matter, of course, as income does the true measure of the church's sustainability is about spreading the message of Christ. Sustainability needs Christian relevancy.

When people can identify with the church then sustainability will take root. A minority of Conservatives will not make for sustainability. 

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Church House to Host Arms Industry Event

The message below is from the Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT).

Hi there,
I am writing to you as a member of CAAT's Christian Network, to ask you to take urgent action to call on Church House conference centre not to host arms industry events.
On 1st and 2nd November, a conference sponsored by some of the world's largest arms companies is taking place at Church House, which also houses the administrative headquarters of the Church of England. The conference focus on “Air Power” suggests that it will be used to promote continued high military spending and the use of drones, which the Bishop of Wolverhampton says “reduce death to the level of a computer game”.
The Church House conference centre is run by a charity, whose president is the Archbishop of Canterbury and whose council includes “representatives of national church institutions”.
CAAT Christian Network, along with Pax Christi, Christian CND, Christianity Uncut and other concerned Christians, is calling on people to raise the matter with the Archbishop of Canterbury, asking him to ensure that Church House conference centre will never again host events which support and legitimise the arms industry.
Please also forward this message to others who might be interested.
Yours sincerely,
Anne-Marie O'Reilly

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

The Dirty Games Republicans Play

hink you know ? Think Again!CHILLING: Can You Guess Who I Am?..  …
 Hitler was black? The person in the picture has a black neck.
Image will appear as a link
 This is serious game playing in the sense of using fact to create distortion.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Romney's Take On Disaster Relief #HurricaneSandy

Could a Blindfold + a Child make a difference?

The search for a new Coptic Pope is nearing the final stage. On 4 November three names of the finalists will be put in a box. A blindfolded child will pick a name out. Egypt will have a new Pope. Apparently, this method of selection is believed to reflect God's will in the decision making process. Could our new Archbishop be elected in the same way? It might speed the process up. 

P/S I don't know why these annoying white boxes around my text keeps appearing. 

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Putting Women In Boxes #bindersfullofwomen

I set the alarm clock for 2am to watch the second Presidential debate. It was certainly worth hauling myself out of my warm bed during a cold and rainy night to catch Mitt Romney put women in boxes. I am not American and, it goes without saying, that I cannot vote but my interest lies in the fact that American social and political trends always make their way across the seas to the UK

So can the UK now expect binders full of women to be the new catchphrase for equality rights? I certainly hope not because one of the mindsets feminists have fought against and continue to fight against is the placing of women's issues in situations and locations that suit the patriarchy. Women figure in all layers of life and in all spheres of life. While Romney did not and will never grasp this fact he did the next best thing in patriarchy terms. He trumpeted the fact, allegedly false, that he promoted women to positions of high-power. Equality legislation has made it easier for men to play the equality card by hiring women and playing to the 'women on boards' debate while making cuts and demeaning women in other ways. 

Amidst all the twitter jokes, slurs and twitpics what is lost is the fact that Romney can only equate female rights to the workplace. Granted that the question was phrased in terms of pay rights but Obama was able to extrapolate his answer to include the role of women as mothers, nurturers and to highlight the difficulties faced in overcoming adversity both at home and in the work place. Obama said:

"And, you know, I was raised by a single mom who had to put herself through school while looking after two kids. And she worked hard every day and made a lot of sacrifices to make sure we got everything we needed. My grandmother, she started off as a secretary in a bank. She never got a college education, even though she was smart as a whip. And she worked her way up to become a vice president of a local bank, but she hit the glass ceiling. She trained people who would end up becoming her bosses during the course of her career...And that's an example of the kind of advocacy that we need, because women are increasingly the breadwinners in the family. This is not just a women's issue, this is a family issue..."

A vote for Romney will be a vote for the decimation of women's rights. You know that saying 'in your backyard'? Ann Romney's daugther-in-laws have spoken about how she taught them to buy nice shoes and not bother their husbands with talk of domestic difficulties when they returned from work. There lurks the nugget of the rollback of women's rights should the Republican candidate in. 

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

The Christian Vote for Romney?

Mormonism is a complete mystery to me but with the amount of concern/fuss over Mitt Romney's faith I wondered whether Christians, good old CoE type stalwarts, would face a dilemma in voting for him. An 'Internet Evanglist', (as the Christian Post refers him), called Bill Keller of  LivePrayer has provided an answer in a fire, hell, throw the kitchen sink type rant in his reasoning as to why the Mormon faith clashes with Christianity.

Keller claims that Mormonism worships Satan (I don't think so personally) because Mormons do not pray to the God of the Bible but to a mythical God whom they believe was once a man. Keller said, "Those in the Mormon cult use the words 'god' and 'Jesus'. Yet the 'god' and 'Jesus' of the Mormon cult are NOT the God and Jesus of the bible. Mormons believe their 'god' used to be a human who rose to god like status, just like Romney, Glenn Beck and all Mormons believe they will too after their death".

Here's my favourite bit. If you thought Romney was a just raving venture capitalist who is looking to further the interests of neo-liberalists then you are wrong. According to Keller, Romney is, "a 5th generation high priest of a cult that worships Satan and propagates a false gospel leading souls to hell...". Golly, and I thought an American vote was only designed to bestow a sense of democracy on the voter and not a one way ticket to hell. 

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Online Dating Chinese Style

An online dating website in China called 'Jiayuan' (Beautiful Destiny) has proved to be so successful in  matching lonely people up that it is even listed on the stock exchange. I wondered what could possibly have made it such a winner in contemporary times when simply searching 'lonely woman' or something ludicrous like 'lonely cat lover who loves baked beans' throws up hundreds of possibilities. Choices, apparently, is not a good thing. When you have so many cakes or whatever the metaphor is to choose from how do you decide? Jiayuan has come up with very specific questionnaires that help narrow the choices down. Simply stating 'nice guy' doesn't cut it. Here is a summarised extract of one questionnaire:

Which Jiayuan label describes you?
1. A filial son.
2. A cool guy.
3. Responsible.
4. A penny pinching family man.
5. Honest and straightforward.
6. A perceptive man.
7. A career driven man.
8. Wise and far-sighted.
9. An unsightly man.
10. A humorous man.
11. A travel lover.
12. A solitary, shut in man.
13. Considerate.
14. Gusty.
15. Loyal.
16. Managerial.
17. A handsome devil.
18. Steady, staid and sedate.

Perhaps similar could be used when appointing the next Archbishop but the wording in 17 would have to be changed to 'A handsome man of cloth'.

Two (Unclear) Pics of Paralympics


Monday, 27 August 2012

Life In A Charity for the Disabled

 The Powerhouse members

Every once in a while something comes along which gives one a rare opportunity to celebrate. It may seem as if the celebrations have stopped now that the Olympics is over but I feel that there is more, far more, to come. When the Paralympics begin on 29 August there will be greater reason to applaud because disability will finally be showcased in a favourable light and  presented in terms of ability.

You see, people with disabilities have it harder. They have greater odds to overcome and society does not make it an easy for them. This is why I cannot wait for the games to begin. It is time to present the positive reality after the bad publicity that the disabled have received this year through being portrayed as benefit scroungers during the welfare reform debate.

I have a social investment in raising the profile and awareness of disability issues because I am CEO of a charity called Powerhouse.  It is a charity for women with learning disabilities and was the first of its' kind to be set up in England.  I joined it because I was motivated by wanting 'to give something back'  and specifically wanted to work with  women.  Little did I know or realise how much I would learn from the experience and I have only been with Powerhouse for a year.

The Powerhouse women are courageous and aspirational. The charity is a lifeline for them because it provides a safe space from the so-called mainstream world where disability hate crime is on the rise. Disabled women as a subset group of disabled people suffer the most amount of abuse. They face inferior access to education, employment, health information and public services. They also face a higher risk of sexual and physical abuse. In fact, many women at Powerhouse have stories to tell that range from incidents occurring in everyday situations to crimes being committed against them in their own homes.

As examples, one lady had her hair snipped off while walking on a main street because a bunch of teenagers thought it would be fun to do so. Another was facing a forced marriage by her parents. The police were called in both instances.

What angers me the most is that disabled women are often excluded from the discourse around issues that affect ALL women such as sexual health, domestic violence, education and feminism. The feminist issues of work life balance, fighting the porn industry and discussing whether plastic surgery is part of a modern woman's life is irrelevant to the women of Powerhouse. As a result, the visibility of their existence is diminished.

Charities such as Powerhouse are crucial in terms of advocating for disabled women and injecting their interests into debates so that they are recognised as individuals with individual needs who exist within the larger society. There are 3.2 milion disabled women of working age in the UK. There is much work that needs to be done and the austerity cuts have made this task harder.

In a capitalist society where a return on money given is expected to be a monetary one it is a challenge to prove that capacity building of humans sometimes does need a financial investment but without a return of money profit. We need funds to be able to open the centre for more than 2 days a week as we do at present (Mon and Weds). More than anything else though we need to build at micro level a group of women who feel confident  and positive about their lives and the world that they inhabit.

The Paralympics will be a wonderful showcase of strength and endurance. It will also show the world that disabled people are as diverse and varied as anyone else.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Is the hate of the far right over?

Anders Breivik, the evil man who shot dead 77 people in Norway last year, has been jailed for 21 years. The chances of him being freed are slim. It didn't look as if he cared yesterday though when sentenced. He was bored and opportunistic, only coming to life when he gave his Nazi salute and when the Judge declared him sane. These were his two moments of triumph. If he had been deemed insane then his actions would have been put down to acts driven by madness, rather than as a result of cold hard hate for the tenets of Liberalism which respects equality and fairness (i.e other cultures and people). However,his imprisonment makes me doubt that the door is closed on race hatred despite the extensive condemnation of his ideology. While Muslim bashing goes on, while non-white people are killed for having brown/black skin, while immigrants are blamed for the economic downfalls of countries and while politicians play the anti- race card for votes then the far right will continue to propagate. 

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Prince Harry and THAT Pic

I find it totally repugnant that someone has not only taken a picture of Prince Harry naked but has then gone on to sell it for a profit. There is no doubt that Prince Harry will not get sympathy from all of the people. Some will offer the 'what does he expect' justification meaning that if he stripped off then he should only expect and deserve a negative outcome. Some will say 'he asked for it'. Too often if there's sex or nudity involved and it is accompanied by furtive or criminal behaviour (secret filming, sexual crime) the victim gets the blame. What we are seeing with the Prince Harry incident is a microcosm of the wider humiliation that is suffered by victims.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

How poor are the poor in America?

The prediction is that 66 MILLION Americans will be living below the poverty line rate at 125% which equates to a family of 4 living on $28,000 per annum. This is the 99% in rapid decline.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Is Paul Ryan really a Catholic?

My question is not meant as a cynical observation of Paul Ryan's Catholic faith. I am, instead, perplexed by the man's apparently successful attempts at positioning Ayn Rand's world famous works based on selfishness within his good Catholic beliefs. The tangible outcome is his budget blueprint titled 'The Path To Prosperity' which has secured his nomination as the Republican  vice president candidate.

It is a budget that is designed to rearrange America's governing system to foster a conducive environment that will become even more business oriented. In other words, the rich will benefit and the poor will have the privilege of watching them enjoy the fruits of Ryan's budget while paying for it all. So, where does the teaching of the bible come into this?

I am no theologian but there is something blatantly wrong about calling oneself Catholic and then extolling the virtues of a non-distributive system. In fact, American Catholics (some, not all) have argued that Ryan is manipulating scripture to support his ideology of a small government. One of the main tenets of small government is a reduced welfare state. He proposes cutting food stamps and healthcare for children and the disabled. Some Catholic nuns even undertook bus tours around the country warning people of the consequences of this budget.  You don't mess with Catholic nuns I say.

Ryan hit back by accusing ''some Catholics who for a long time have thought they had a monopoly of sorts...not exactly on heaven, but on the social teachings of our church.' Can we then expect a blueprint of a Paul Ryan scripture which has Jesus going into slum areas and ghettos and smashing these places up or a rewrite of our scriptures but without the Jesus compassion bit?

Saturday, 28 July 2012

A Mothering Painting

I adore this painting by Mary Cassatt of a mother combing her child's hair. It hangs in my hallway. Every Saturday I reflect on what it is that I need to pray about  when I attend church the next day. Sometimes I look to this painting for inspiration. It is ethereal in a stunning and vivid way and combines, both, the act of mothering as a physical and as an emotional state. 

Rarely is one done without the other. You couldn't comb a child's hair without actively thinking about being gentle so as not to hurt the little on. You don't want to inflict pain because you love the child. 

There isn't a Christian emblem in this painting but I draw religious inspiration from it nevertheless. 
God wants us to be thoughtful and reflective about the powers that we possess and how we can use these. So often life is about the act of rushing around and doing things, literally, without giving thought to the creative dynamism that can flow out of physical acts.