Book launch

One of many at Nazarene Theological College one-day theology conference.

Useful links



Media Reform Coalition


Bach’s Chaconne in D minor for solo violin

I’ve been listening to this a lot lately. Here are some quotes from Wikipedia:

Johannes Brahms, in a letter to Clara Schumann, said about the chaconne:

On one stave, for a small instrument, the man writes a whole world of the deepest thoughts and most powerful feelings. If I imagined that I could have created, even conceived the piece, I am quite certain that the excess of excitement and earth-shattering experience would have driven me out of my mind.

Yehudi Menuhin called the Chaconne “the greatest structure for solo violin that exists”.

Violinist Joshua Bell has said the Chaconne is “not just one of the greatest pieces of music ever written, but one of the greatest achievements of any man in history. It’s a spiritually powerful piece, emotionally powerful, structurally perfect.”

Forthcoming paper presentation

I’ll be giving a paper called ‘How to be disappointed in theory’ at the postgrad research seminar of Nazarene Theological College (University of Manchester), on Friday 13th of March. It summarises the critique of purity I offer in my chapter of the book I co-edited, and then pushes the discussion on to talk about Hegelian theology. All welcome.

On Rock or Sand? by Mark G. Hayes

Originally posted on Durham Abbey House:

Hayes, Durham, Theology, Catholic Social ThoughtThere has been little serious reaction – so far – to the Archbishop of York’s recent contribution to the political debate, once the immediate knee-jerk flurry after its launch had died away. The Morning Star provided a thoughtful review (9th February 2015), while noting that the book is ‘couched in religious terms on occasion’ – oops!

John Sentamu’s first and last book-end chapters are a clarion call for a return to the vision of solidarity shared both by Sentamu’s predecessor William Temple and by the British post-war consensus around the two Beveridge Reports that led to the creation of the NHS and a State commitment to full employment. My copy of the 1976 edition of Temple’s book ‘Christianity and Social Order’ provides quiet testimony, in the form of a foreword by Edward Heath, that this consensus was not a matter of party politics. It is poignant that Heath wrote…

View original 650 more words

A missive from Liberty

Ernest Hemingway said ‘most people never listen’ – and perhaps we could all be a bit better at it.  Including the Government, who’ve been sticking their fingers in their ears for ten years over prisoner voting.  This is an emotive issue, but let’s stick to the facts of what the European Court of Human Rights has (and hasn’t) said.

The Court has ruled (on four occasions) that the current blanket ban on prisoner voting is unlawful, and that we need to grant some voting rights – but to whom is for Parliament to decide.  In theory this could mean the smallest of concessions, say enfranchising those serving less than six months or convicted of non-violent offences.

What the Court hasn’t done is direct the UK to give every rapist and murderer in the land a ballot slip.  The Government also hasn’t listened to its own cross-party parliamentary committee, which recommended giving the vote to prisoners serving less than 12 months.

If we look outside our own backyard of hysteria, we’re out of step with much of Europe:  France, Germany, Italy, Greece, Norway, Portugal and many others have systems where some convicts can vote or judges can impose disenfranchisement as an additional punishment.

But in a way this is neither here nor there – the fact is we’re part of an international human rights framework, and that comes with a responsibility.  It means not picking and choosing what verdicts we like best, but responding in a rational and coherent way to court judgments.  In this case, it means having a clear-headed debate about what voting bans achieve and when they’re appropriate.

For the record, prisoners are rightly deprived of certain rights when convicted – to punish them and protect the public.  But we don’t deny them food, or access to their family.  Why stop them voting?  How does it help the victim, or the prisoner’s rehabilitation?  Surely it only ostracises them further from society?

Some others not listening this week are the Metropolitan Police, Transport for London and Westminster City Council, who, despite being well aware of their duty to enable peaceful protest, have adopted a ‘not my job guv’ approach to a planned demonstration by the Campaign Against Climate Change.

The organisers of the Time to Act march have been told that the police will no longer facilitate the temporary closure of roads along the route – while the other authorities are telling the CACC they need to hire a private traffic management company, at a cost of thousands.

Article 11 of our Human Rights Act doesn’t say ‘everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly – if they have the financial means’.  There are some things you just can’t put a price on – public protests are a powerful way of making your voice heard by those in charge.

And, finally, a rare victory!  The Committee Stage debate on the Armed Forces Bill turned out to be more fruitful than we expected – the Committee voted to change the Bill so that the proposed Service Complaints Ombudsman will have power to investigate the substance of a complaint, as well as looking at maladministration.  Important changes that will help create a complaints system that is effective, transparent and independent. Military life is different, but does that really mean our Armed Forces should settle for second-rate justice?

Robinson on grace in Shakespeare


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