Wednesday, 27 April 2011


David Cameron has been criticised for telling MP Angela Eagle to "calm down, dear". Labour accused him of being a sexist bully.

When Mr. Cameron called Ed Balls "the most annoying person in modern politics", no one accused him of anything.

So when is a jibe just a light-hearted joke, and when is it bullying discrimination?

Would you rather receive scathing remarks, or subtly belittling comments?

I have to remind myself sometimes that one of the fruits of the Spirit is gentleness. Jesus certainly scathed on some occasions, but there's no stories I can think of where Jesus jibed. So the essential difference, IMO, is between a put-down, and a rebuke.

We're often too eager to dish out the former, and too timid to offer the latter.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Palm cross causes offence

In another incident of "company policy" vs "religious freedom" a Yorkshire man could be disciplined for displaying a palm cross in a company van. Although the BBC play this up a lot with the headline "job loss fear", it's fairly obvious he'll just be told to get rid of it. Displaying personal items in the van is against company policy. That doesn't mean he's going to get fired.

So who's being religiously intolerant here:
a) The company that asked the driver to remove his policy-breaking item?
b) The Yorkshireman who drove around with a symbol of his faith in a van window?

Actually, I'm voting for secret option 'c': the grumbling twit who registered a complaint that a palm cross was offensive.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Famous for being rubbish

Plenty of people nowadays achieve fame despite lacking much discernable talent. There are some impressively mediocre pop stars, and some downright abysmal ones too. A rarer creature is the celebrity who has attained such status precisely because of their badness. I've already blogged about Rebecca Black's stunningly awful song Friday, (although it's the song writers that take the lion's share of disgrace here) which is now at over 1,000,000,000 YouTube views.

I was under the impression that the whole 'it's so bad it's good!' thing was a new idea, until I discovered Florence Foster Jenkins. At the height of her fame she sang in Carnegie Hall, apparently because of huge public demand, in 1944. And yes, she was utterly appalling. Crank up your stereo and listen to this.

Apparently Florence always believed she was a really great singer. It's pretty sad really. But not quite as sad as a person who would rather be infamous than anonymous.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Does religion or lifestyle make you happy?

A movement called Action for Happiness launched today. Apparently Britain is glum, cynical and sarcastic (you don't say) and we all need our spirits lifted. One of the founders told Mark Easton that it is needed because of the failure of organised religion to turn back the "tide of narrow individualism".

So how will Action for Happiness achieve what religion has failed to do? With a list of rules of course - the "ten keys to happiness"! Here's what you have to do to be happy:

So, instead of expecting religion to cheer you up, you can do it by yourself - by adopting this new way of life! And what kind of lifestyle is this exactly? Hmm? To me it looks suspiciously religious.

So will it work? It will work just like a shopping spree, a stuffed-crust pizza and a chick flick: satisfying for a short while, but not lastingly and not deeply. Think about how you'd approach the last five keys on the list:

Direction - I am trying to bring happiness to make the world better

Resilience - In tough times I'll just grin and bear it

Emotion - I'll always have a positive approach, even if it's against my nature

Acceptance - I am comfortable with who I am, because this organisation says I should be

Meaning - I find my purpose in trying to make people happy

And now compare an approach to the same keys, but from someone who knows Christ:

Direction - I am following Jesus because He is my Lord

Resilience - In tough times God is my rock and foundation. In my weakness He is strong

Emotion - I'll always celebrate the fact that Jesus has washed my sin away and adopted me as God's own child

Acceptance - I am comfortable with who I am because God loves me as I am

Meaning - I find my purpose in the destiny of an eternal God

The top five on the list are more active - things you should do. Again, there is a massive difference between the Action for Happiness and the Christian approaches:

AfH - do all these things because then you will be happier

Christian - meet Jesus and you'll want to do all these things

Action for Happiness tells us that we can achieve happiness, we can earn grace. It sets up a religious lifestyle for us to follow. Jesus chucks out grace free of charge, He can do things in my life that are impossible to achieve on my own. This makes me very happy :)

Friday, 8 April 2011

What does the sun sound like?

I'm not sure why I was surprised to learn that the sun makes a noise. I mean, it is a staggeringly large bonfire, and they can be pretty loud. What is genuinely surprising is that from Earth we can pick up the sounds emitted by different stars all around the galaxy.

The universe is stunning. If you haven't already, you should look at some images that the Hubble Telescope has captured. Science is great at showing us how incredible God is.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Standing on eggs

I'm doing Easter assemblies this week in secondary schools with Shrewsbury Youth for Christ. The assembly kicks off with a cracking stunt - standing on a tray of eggs. Mostly we do this live in the assembly, for the rare occasions where it's not possible, we have this video.