Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Cause for Alarm

I fear I may be developing an unhealthy obsession with matters atheist. It doesn't help that last week's Sunday  Times carried a story about Atheist summer camps. The story at first stirred memories of my own boyhood when I was despatched three times to "Champs Camps" a Christian camping retreat in which wholesome outdoor activities were interspersed with prayers, bible readings, music and in particular blood-curdling stories about what awaited us if we did not repent and turn to Jesus. Most of us did although the effects were short-lived.  And most (myself included) soon returned to more pressing matters like girls, cigarettes, beer and Led Zeppelin.  In some ways it was like all holiday experiences: great while you are there since there's an opportunity to get away from day to day life, but quickly forgotten once reality rears its ugly head. 
The Sunday Times article says that the atheist organisers are keen to  offer a robust alternative to what has traditionally been a faith based activity. To help young adults think for themselves rather than swallow religious fairy stories. Perhaps they were on to something? So I started to worry until I began to read about the camp-fire songs. First one up is John Lennon's Imagine. 
Now apart from believing that this piece of saccharin  may be about the most overrated song ever the video is something else. John (with Yoko to hand) sings "Imagine no possessions" at a large white piano. In a very large room. In a very big house. His house. John Lennon without possessions? Er, lets move on from that shall we? Now its time for "Imagine no religion". Please sir, does this mean the same as imagining no possessions?
That said,   the church does need to avoid the temptation to allow  itself to be drawn into doing a topical "flavour of the month" pitch to gain worshippers; to get down with the kids to attract the young. It frankly looks ridiculous. I think the church has so much more to offer if it sticks to its core values, the things that inspire and takes people from the "pleasures" of this world and offers a real and profound alternative.  
Young people aren't stupid and they do think for themselves. They deserve to have something to think about.   

Friday, 26 June 2009

Where Was I?

..Aimlessly trawling the web when up popped the item on the BBC website as Breaking News. Michael Jackson rushed to hospital.
I immediately switched on to News 24 as the story developed with reports of him being taken to hospital unconscious and not breathing to hospital slowly but surely became confirmation of his death at 50 from cardiac arrest. Time will tell whether like JFK and Princess Diana I can remember where I was when I first heard the news but increasingly these days the answer to the question is: glued to a rolling 24 hour news channel. 
I have long since ceased to have any interest in Michael Jackson as a musician. His legacy is two absolute 24-carat gold albums, Off the Wall and Thriller, a string of great singles with the Jackson 5 and I gather an awesome live show although I never saw him perform. In truth I think after Thriller we got into very rapidly diminishing returns. Bad was a so-so retread of Thriller, Dangerous a so-so retread of Bad and so on. But even that as a legacy is more than most musicians manage and I hope it is this for which he is remembered. 
Is it too much to hope that the music business, the media circus and perhaps those who take  a particular delight in reading about the private lives of others take the opportunity to reflect on fame and the price the famous pay for it. Can anyone say that for all his millions they would really like to have swapped places with him? And assuming the answer is a resounding no perhaps the next steps is to consider those other recent victims of their celebrity - Britney Spears and Susan Boyle spring to mind  - and to ask what can be done to prevent another tragedy?

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Good News

Some rather good news today. 


As one who cannot get enough of the stuff but who in their mid-50's believes that maybe the time had come to settle for Wincarnis (do they still make it), sensible salads  and Werther's Toffees comes this story.  It reassures me that those nights in my youth spent hitting the Chicken Madras after the pub were doing me good.

Sometimes things come together rather  well. Next to my regular and really wonderful place of worship at St John's Sevenoaks is my allotment and next to that a great Indian restaurant, the Banana Leaf. The ideal weekend would  involve a visit to all three. What is even better is that the spiritual nourishment and physical exercise I get at the first two is officially supplemented by health benefits from the third. 

For once the news gives me cause to smile.