What’s New?

"Stir Up, O Lord" dubbed "excellent" by the Church of England Newspaper

Added Thursday 11th October 2012

Kevin Carey's commentary on the Collects, Epistles, and Gospels in the Book of Common Prayer, entitled Stir Up, O Lord, has been dubbed "excellent" by the Church of England Newspaper. Here's the full review:

Stir Up, O Lord: A Companion to the Collects, Epistles, and Gospels in the Book of Common Prayer (cover) Also from Sacristy Press is Stir Up, O Lord, a collection of reflections on the collects and readings for Holy Communion in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. The author, Kevin Carey, is Chairman of the RNIB, Britain’s leading charity for the blind. He is also a Reader and a published poet. This book, which carries a foreword by The Very Revd Michael Sadgrove, Dean of Durham, would be excellent as an aid either to sermon preparation or to personal devotion. Most new material of this type is now designed for the Common Lectionary so is good to have something for the Prayer Book.

Paperback Choice, Church of England Newspaper

Stir Up, O Lord is available from Sacristy Press for the reduced price of £9.99, or as an e-book for Kindle, Kobo and iTunes for just £4.99.

Beware Moral Smugness

Added Wednesday 10th October 2012

An hour is a long time in morality. There I was, saying all the usual things about the factory fire in Karachi: callous employers, indifferent or corrupt safety inspections, little regard for the weak and powerless. And then the Hillsborough news broke: callous club owners, indifferent safety inspections, little regard for the working class Northerner and then a massive establishment cover-up which encompassed the police, emergency services, the Coroner’s Court; and who knows how high it went in a Government which, after Derek Hatton, hated everything Liverpool and, after the Miner's strike, everything Northern.

So the first moral lesson is not to be smug when we read about the failings of other societies which are less developed or less caring, in our eyes. Secondly, we must always be careful of quietism, of thinking that what we have is pretty good.

Sandwiched between the two disasters there was an OECD report that says that the UK has the most divisive education system in the OECD which confines the poorest children to cramped, below standard schools when we know that the only chance of human fulfilment and social mobility for the least advantaged lies in the education system. Therefore, thirdly, if we really aren't' prepared to pay more taxes to attain a greater degree of social justice, the least we can do is to campaign for a better deal for schools which might actually mean abridging the charitable status of so-called public schools unless they do more for the poor.

Blind to Blindness

Added Tuesday 25th September 2012

While the Paralympics were in full swing I was visiting Glasgow for a conference but it might have been anywhere; and it might have been any airline.

On all four occasions when I had to engage with customer services I had to resist being forced into a wheelchair just because I needed a helping arm from an escort from plane to gate and vice versa. On all four occasions I asked if my 'helpers' had seen the Paralympics and whether they had seen blind people in wheelchairs.

On both occasions, when the cabin door was opened, I was asked if I would mind being disembarked last. On both occasions I caused surprise by saying I did mind; I wanted to disembark with the rest of my row, neither first nor last. The stewards explained in pained tones that I was being unreasonable, that I must disembark last because my escort would not arrive at the gate until everyone else was off. My observation that this was ingrained practice to enforce discrimination was met with pained incomprehension.

On the flight from Glasgow to Gatwick I checked in at 12:10 for take-off at 14:10 but it crossed nobody's mind to ask if I might want lunch. I was left in a disability compound out of reach of shops, bars, restaurants, toilets and flight information. Those paid to take care of me were blind to my blindness.    

Ban Green Ink

Added Tuesday 18th September 2012

The culture of anonymity is pervasive, as the Independent found during its short-lived boycott of the Parliamentary lobby; its political coverage couldn't compete.

The Lobby may be justified because what we learn outweighs the unethical way in which we learn it. I doubt it; I am yet to find a clear cut case of a desirable end justifying undesirable means. But that can't apply to publishing scurrilous material through social media.

In the days before email, nasty letters from nutters were dismissed as "green ink" but such transactions were almost always, in the nature of the letter, one-to-one; I knew about my anonymous correspondence but you didn't.

It's time for the social media to ban digital green ink. Peer-to-peer transactions between consenting adults are one thing but one-to-many or one-to-all publishing should require authors to sign their name in a message box tied to their initial log-in. A few will lie but that should simply be made an additional offence when they are caught breaking what the law is in the analogue world.

The cyber Utopianism born of the WELL Network in San Francisco in the 1980s - an intellectual cascade from the Grateful Dead and the Whole Earth Review - anticipated a level of flower power which can't be delivered. "Troll" is just a crypto-romantic cover for bullies who hide while they dish it out. And let's hear no nonsense about the impossibility of regulating cyberspace.

The Right to Offend is Crucial

Added Tuesday 11th September 2012

The cases of Christians being taken to the European Court of Human Rights are all, in their way, extremely curious. First, all four could have been amicably settled and so the prosecutions are aggressive: BA isn't that strict with its jewellery policy; a nurse could shorten her cross chain; a sex counsellor and a Registrar could multi task.

In the Eweida and Chaplin cases it needs to be established that the right to offend is not a crime but is crucial in a multi-cultural society exercising freedom of speech. Christians are a minority in our multi-cultural society and require the same protection as Muslims. In cases such as these I always ask: would that have happened to Muslims?

In the McFarlane and Ladele cases it is surely possible for job responsibilities to be juggled; it happens in the case of NHS objectors to abortion and you can bet your life it would happen to Muslim shelf stackers refusing to handle alcohol.

Multi culturalism has to find ways of conferring rights on gay couples but also retaining the rights of those who have serious problems with it; bullying conscientious objectors won't work any better than bullying victims.

Although Evangelicals can sometimes go overboard in litigation, on this occasion they deserved and got scant support from a Church of England which can't even encourage us to wear our crosses on the outside of our clothing. Will you?

Tutu Wrong on Iraq

Added Sunday 2nd September 2012

Archbishop Desmond Tutu's latest comments on the Iraq war are a warning against unconditional assent to the sayings of the good and the wise, for Tutu is surely both of these; but in calling for Tony Blair and George Bush to be tried for war crimes as the result of the invasion of Iraq in 2003 takes him beyond his area of competence.

On the narrow front of the Iraq war itself, Tutu has three grounds for objection: first, he asserts, Blair and Bush lied about intelligence reports prior to the 2003 invasion but he is in no position to know any more than the rest of  us who have read the results of numerous, inconclusive public enquiries; and, anyway, having put a quarter of a million troops on his borders to force Saddam Hussein to accept the renewed attentions of Hans Blick I for one wouldn't have liked to be responsible for withdrawing them on the basis of Saddam's undertaking that he had nothing to hide. In a strange symmetry of outcome, Saddam was punished because nobody knew when he was lying and when he was telling the truth; and, conversely, the tangle that got us into the second invasion was the result of not completing the first in 1990.

Tutu's implicit second ground is that not even the United Nations can safely sanction a war because his third ground is that parties can be culpable for failing accurately to forecast consequences. Tutu, wrongly - but that's irrelevant here - asserts that part of Blair's 'crime' is not to have forecast the Iraq invasion's de-stabilisation of the Middle East. There's a much stronger case to be made that ever since the overthrow of the Shah of Iran in 1979 a regional war between Shias and Sunnis has been brewing up.

But Tutu's underlying errors are much more serious not only because they demonstrate fundamental logical flaws but also because they come from such an eminent person. Tutu has, at a stroke, shifted the whole debate about waging war from the just war theory, founded on the theology of Saint Thomas Aquinas, to an alternative theory that no war, not even one sanctioned by the Security Council, is justified because nobody can predict its outcome. At a stroke, then, Tutu has given a green light to any dictator, anywhere in the world, to do anything he likes because the international community is not only legally and morally powerless to act but, in acting, leaves itself open to retaliatory prosecution by those very dictators. A perfect example, if we need one, that ethics is a matter of the particular, not the abstract.

OUP Free Sampler CD

Added Monday 27th August 2012

One of Kevin Carey's carols from the Infant King, set to music by Alan Smith, is featured on Oxford University Press' free sampler CD Christmas Choral Highlights 2012. You can request your free copy by visiting the OUP website.

Christianity is Fundamentally Against Marriage

Added Sunday 26th August 2012

Setting aside for the  moment my outright opposition to conflating religion and morals, it might be helpful to look at the 'gay marriage' issue from the perspective of marriage.

You only have to look at the sum total of Western Christian literature from Saint Paul to Pope Paul VI to realise that Christianity is, in spite of all its Incarnational rhetoric, fundamentally against marriage, so its current outrage is based on a false claim. Look at how few wedding hymns there are in your hymn book; marvel that Saint Bernard of Clairvaux thought that the Song of Songs had nothing to do with love or sex; and mark the superiority of celibacy over marriage. One clue is the de-sexualisation by Catholics of Mary, the Mother of God, who conceived and bore Jesus' siblings in the usual way.

The only time that the Christian Church showed any real interest in marriage before the 18th Century was to settle monarchical and aristocratic claims. So in historical terms the idea of universally practised, sacramental marriage is novel and many Evangelicals opposed to 'gay marriage' don't even think that heterosexual marriage is a sacrament at all.

So what  is it? A mutually agreed contract publicly witnessed and blessed by a clergyman. There's no Scriptural ground for monogamic conformity nor for marital procreation. Marriage is simply the Church's way of controlling the sex drive as much as it can, which is symptomatic of its obsession with exercising (primarily male) power over the lives of the (primarily female) 'faithful'.    

The Church Should Lay off Sex

Added Thursday 23rd August 2012

What is it about homosexuality which arouses so much heat and so little light? I mean, what does it matter to anybody else what people do with each other's parts in private, particularly when, unlike irresponsible heterosexual sex, with which I am not comparing it, there is no chance of procreating unwanted offspring?

The simplest answer is that religions in general and Christianity in particular have made the mistake which only God can forgive of conflating morals with religion which is fundamentally a matter of worship.

As Christians we should live what we in good and informed conscience believe to be morally sound lives but there is no such thing as Christian morals which is not at all the same thing as saying that Christians are and have been individually and collectively amoral and immoral. But we should have learned by now from officially sanctioned injustice, territorial war, slavery, racism, oppression and, perhaps above all, cowardice, that Lambeth Palace and the Vatican are not reliable guides to living the good life. You could argue that Christian hierarchies have behaved as creatures of their time. That's my point. They haven't stood out against prevailing, traditionally sanctioned moral outrages.

If Christianity is to survive it must de-couple itself completely from ethical controversy in general and sex and gender issues in particular.

Rowan's Last Chance

Added Monday 20th August 2012

Archbishop Rowan Williams, the most perceptive theologian in his post since Saint Anselm of Canterbury (r 1093-1109), has one last chance to redeem his reputation and that of the Church of England by securing the consecration of women bishops on equal terms with their male peers. Legislation has passed all its stages and received the support of 40 out of 42 Dioceses without any support from Williams who has been more of a hindrance than a help by trying to secure safeguards for a tiny minority of dissenters which would endanger the very concept of the Episcopacy. He was behind an amendment at General Synod in 2010 which narrowly failed and he used his position within the House of Bishops to re-introduce it in a modified form which, again, failed but Williams could remedy the situation by using his remaining stock of goodwill to sway doubters in favour of the Measure at the General Synod in November 2012.

If the legislation fails, this will be added to his failure on the gay issue and its purported resolution through the Anglican Covenant.

As a true Christian he has made major concessions to his foes and forgotten his friends and, in doing so, has made too marked a gesture towards the past and been reckless with the future. It's a hard trade-off but the Church needs its growing number of women priests more than its shrinking number of supposedly theologically grounded misogynists.