This year’s Election Manifestos at a glance #ge2017

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Back in 2015 (which feels like no time at all) I created some word clouds of the party manifestos. I’ve done the same again. At the time of writing the Green Party had not yet launched their manifesto – I will update this post when they do. I will not share the UKIP one this time around – their time is done as far as I’m concerned!

I was very struck by the lack of the word ‘Brexit’ in all 3 manifestos given that one of the main reasons Theresa May gave for calling the election was her negotiating position over Brexit. You can see the EU is mentioned but perhaps not as much as you would expect. This is a very crude way of looking at the manifestos but is quite an interesting exercise – I spotted some words in the Conservative manifesto that you might expect to see more in a Labour one and vice versa! It’s also quite telling that only the LibDems used the word ‘spending’.

In my 2015 article I shared some useful tools for choosing who to vote for, this time I will share another that seems particularly useful in the light of our new ‘post-truth’ world!

https://fullfact.org/ – this site fact-checks everything – you can find each of the parties’ manifestos fully fact-checked here. Hopefully this will help you navigate through the claims and counterclaims.

Whatever you do this June, make sure you do use your vote!

 

 

So here are the manifestos represented as word clouds – the larger words are the most commonly used words.

Labour

Labour Manifesto 2017

ConservativesConservative Manifesto 2017

Liberal Democrats

Libdem manifesto 2017

 

Doing theology with a bible in one hand and an iPad in the other – the challenges

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At our curates’ weekend away we considered how the church engages with the world. A number of us gave short talks on a variety of topics such as should we be political in our preaching and how do we deal with the politics of fear and I chose to speak on this one. Here is the text of what I shared.

20170511_171811Is there any difference between doing our theology with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other (as Barth said) and doing our theology with the Bible in one hand and an iPad in the other?

I was chatting to a friend recently about the fact that 20 years ago I used to read a daily newspaper, then about 15 years ago I started to only buy a paper on occasion – quite often if I was going on a journey somewhere and wanted something to read, then since about 5 years ago I have all but stopped buying newspapers – except for occasionally the weekend papers (especially when on holiday). Why is this? Well I don’t know about you but when I read a printed paper these days I think, knew that, yes, know that, read it last week online, know that…it’s all yesterday’s news.

I consume news almost solely through the radio and my phone these days. The problem with my online consumption is it is no longer filtered by one organisation, I am fed news (funny that we talk about ‘feeds’ in social media parlance – as if we are eating information) through a combination of things my friends have shared and things that a faceless algorithm has decided I might like. More and more now on social media – mainly Facebook and Twitter for me – the blurring of the power of the algorithm with what my online networks share is only increasing and it is almost becoming sinister. This is because, of course, the wonderful social media platforms (which I joined in their early infancy) needed eventually to find a way to make money. The way they do that without charging for your use of their platforms is of course via advertising. I read a very disturbing article recently in the Guardian about a company called Cambridge Analytical who were instrumental in the Trump election campaign – they can psychoanalyse people using what they’ve shared on social media and then target vulnerable looking individuals with emotive content and fake news. I’m sure there is some of this going on in the current election. The terrifying thing is that it is so hidden and insidious.

So when I read a news article now online there are a huge number of factors that I have to consider – what is the source, which of my friends shared it or did it come via another route, why did this pop up in my feed, do I need to fact-check this?

So when we take Barth’s dictum about doing theology with the bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other it has a whole load of other layers when we replace the newspaper with a phone or tablet. When reading a newspaper the experience is fairly one dimensional. You read the article, think about it a bit, and then move on. The old fashioned way to deal with it if you felt particularly strongly, was to write a letter to the editor expressing your views. That process would take a few days. With an iPad the experience is much more three-dimensional. If you’re on Facebook those little reaction buttons are tantalising, almost without reading the full article they’re begging for a click – will you ‘like’ this or click the ‘wow’ button or the ‘angry’ button, go on, do it, click it! Then the next stage is to write a comment underneath it and then you very quickly get sucked in to the undercurrent of the comments feed – someone replies to your comment or you respond to someone else’s and before you know it it’s midnight and you have an early start in the morning. Then the next phase is to write your own rant or blogpost about the topic in question and the comment cycle continues. This can all happen within one minute of seeing the article appear in your feed.

Here are some guidelines I have formulated to ask myself when trying to do theology with my bible in one hand and a phone in the other:

  • Are most of the news articles I read from a single source or a single political perspective? Am I aware of this?
  • Who paid for this article?
  • What are my emotion levels like as I read this – has it been written to press particular buttons?
  • Do I need to do some more reading around?
  • Do I need to slow my reactions down? Think before you share/comment/react.
  • Do not comment or react to the article unless you have read it in full.
  • When commenting, why not use the THINK acronym, is it true, is it helpful, is it inspiring, is it necessary, is it kind?

Alternatively, to turn this on its head, what about the benefits of doing theology with a bible and newspaper in hand:

  • You have time and space to reflect and consider carefully
  • If you want to make a response, you need to find pen and paper and put your thoughts down in an orderly fashion as a letter
  • Then you need to wait to see if you get a response back – perhaps up to a week

Surely the best theology is done through prayer and reflection, not from quick fire, gut responses? So my challenge to myself (and maybe to you) is to build in reflection time and prayer time into my engagement with current affairs. I need to press pause more. Perhaps I need to react less, so that I can hear that still, small voice of calm.

My tips on managing your personal Facebook account – how to hide certain things from certain people!

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Having a Facebook account as a clergy person and also as anyone else who works closely with the public is fraught with all sorts of etiquette and safety problems. I have a lot of teacher friends on Facebook that have recently changed their name to a nickname so that they can’t be easily found by parents wanting to cause trouble. Many clergy struggle with getting friend requests from parishioners – it feels mean to say ‘no’ to a friend request but we clergy also have a private life that we don’t necessarily want to share with everyone in church. Lots of people have different ways of dealing with this, here is what some people I know do:

  • Don’t be on Facebook at all
  • Never accept a friend request from a parishioner
  • Create two Facebook profiles – one for the vicar and one for the person behind closed doors

The problem with these, for me at least, is that you miss out from sharing what’s going on at church with a wide group of people (although I would of course recommend you have a Facebook page for your church). Also, Facebook can be a place where you can offer pastoral support and maybe only even find out that someone is struggling because they’ve posted something on Facebook (but said they were fine at the church door on Sunday). Running two profiles is quite fiddly and there is always the potential for mixing them up – although I know some people who find this the best way to deal with these dilemmas.

My solution is to use Friend Lists.

I have created a list of Friends that are people that I’m willing to be friends with on Facebook but with whom I don’t share everything. This way I can post things I’m happy for people to know about – such as a coffee morning at church, and hide things like a picture of me and my husband at an anniversary meal.

To create a new list:
  1. Go to Home when logged in to Facebook.
  2. Click Friend Lists under Explore on the left side of your News Feed.
  3. Click Create List.
  4. Enter a name for your list and the names of friends you’d like to add. Keep in mind you can add or remove friends from your lists at any time.
  5. Click Create.

Once you have done that, when you create a new post in Facebook, you can select the audience the post is to be shared with:

facebook friends list

So in this image above I have set this post to Friends except – the list called ‘Church Restricted’. So anyone on that list wouldn’t see that umpteenth post about how brilliant Game of Thrones was last night!

If you’re unsure if this has worked once you’ve set it up, you can at any time see what your Facebook profile looks like to the general public or to a specific person by clicking  on your profile page next to where it says ‘view activity log’ and then clicking on ‘view as’:

Facebook view as

Then it will take you to this page and you can view as the Public or as a specific person.

facebook view as public

This is really useful and helps you to see if you might have over-shared! You can always go back and remove particular posts – just click on the tiny v in the top right of any post to edit or remove a post or to change the audience:

Facebook edit

 

 

But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb…

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Alleluia, Christ is Risen!

This year I preached for the first time on Easter day. I think it’s the first time I’ve ever thumped the pulpit!

Here is the text of my sermon on Mary Magdalene at the empty tomb (John 20:1-18). May you know the presence of the Risen Christ with you always!

Giovanni_Girolamo_Savoldo_-_Mary_Magdalene_-_Google_Art_Project

I wonder if you’re any good in a crisis? Isn’t it horrible when you get an unexpected phone call that brings bad news? Even worse when it’s a phone call that requires you to act, and act immediately. When that happens it feels like all the breath has gone out of you. First you freeze and then you think, who can I call? Who will know what to do?

Well, very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene finds herself in just such a crisis. She has gone to the tomb and found it empty. Her only conclusion is that they have taken Jesus’ body somewhere else. They probably being the Roman guards on duty. So she thinks, ‘I must get Peter, he’ll know what to do’ and runs to find him. Peter comes along with John and they come with urgency running to the tomb. They look in and see that the body of Jesus has gone. And then, there is quite a devastating sentence in the gospel, devastating at least for Mary. Then the disciples returned to their homes. Mary is left by the empty tomb, all alone in her grief. She’s not content to leave like Peter and John, she’s not happy with their response to this crisis, she stays, weeping for all that has happened, perhaps weeping because Peter and John didn’t seem to have an answer. So she sits in her grief, but maybe, just maybe, in deciding to stay by the tomb, the first seed of hope is growing in her.

Did you notice in the reading that the angels that appear to Mary in the tomb do not have any effect on her. They don’t frighten her, they don’t stun her into silence. They ask Mary why she is weeping and she can only repeat the refrain ‘they have taken away my Lord’. Her grief is so overwhelming that she doesn’t even notice that they’re angels. Perhaps you have known grief or trouble as desperate as that? Such deep sorrow that you can’t connect with the things of God at all, you are just numb.

Jesus is already there with Mary in her grief, even before she knows it. Who knows how long he’s been standing there behind her. He knows what she’s going through. He’s experienced a similar deep sorrow in a different garden only three days before. Jesus is with Mary in her grief even when she doesn’t know it.

Then Mary turns around and sees someone, and like the angels, he asks the same question ‘why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?’ Mary repeats the same refrain, ‘they have taken away my Lord, they have taken away my Lord’. Mary doesn’t notice that it is Jesus, just as she didn’t notice the angels speaking to her. But Jesus recognises her. He doesn’t just recognise her, he knows her intimately, knows her troubled history more than anyone because he had freed her of seven demons. In saying her name, Jesus is reminding her how well he knows and loves her, one word, ‘Mary’ and she is jolted out of grief and into joy as she sees that it is Him.

Mary’s cry of ‘they’ve taken away my Lord’ is transformed into the joyful message ‘I have seen the Lord’! Mary becomes the first apostle, the apostle to the apostles, the one sent to the others to proclaim that Jesus is alive!

Mary’s story is also our story. When we are going through hard times, Jesus is with us, even when we don’t notice, even when we can’t feel it, Jesus is standing behind us, with us, patiently waiting for us to tell him what’s happened. Jesus knows pain, Isaiah describes God’s servant as a man of grief, acquainted with suffering. Because Jesus not only suffered and died but rose again, defeating death, he is always and especially present with us in times of sorrow, in the dark times of our lives.

When we baptise people we give them a special candle that has been lit from our beautiful Easter Candle – this light which is to us the light of the Risen Jesus. I always say to the families as I give them the candle that this means that Jesus will always be a light shining in that child’s life and most especially during those times that are the darkest. A candle shines most brightly, of course, in the dark. The Risen Christ is with us always.

Have you ever noticed that we always use the present tense when we talk about the resurrection? We say Jesus is risen, not Jesus has risen, because Jesus is alive, he is in the present, he is alive and with us now.

Not only is Mary’s story, our story, but Jesus’ story becomes our story. Our lives now reflect the pattern of Christ, we travel through the abandonment of Good Friday, the silence of Holy Saturday but our destination is always Easter Sunday and resurrection, new life, transformation. Because God raised Jesus from the dead, so too will we be raised! Paul writes to the Romans that the same spirit that raised Jesus from the dead is alive in each of you! So we, like Mary can say ‘I have seen the Lord!’ Alleluia!


Image attribution: Girolamo Savoldo [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. On the Sunday morning after the Crucifixion, Mary Magdalene visited the tomb of Jesus, but found it empty. The story is recounted in the New Testament (John 20), and Mary Magdalene is here identified by the pot of ointment with which she anointed Christ’s body, and by the glimpse of her traditional red dress beneath a silver-grey cloak. She was the first person to see Christ after the Resurrection. Several other versions of this composition by Savoldo are known. The landscape background appears to represent Venice and its lagoon.

Our Last Supper by @idcampbellart – a meditation video inspired by @sandfordawards and @small_voice1

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This year I once again was involved in the shortlisting for the Sandford Awards – awards for excellence in religious programming. The category that I was given was ‘Interview of the Year’ – all of the interviews were absolutely fascinating and every one could have been a winner. You can see the final shortlists here.

One interview that stayed with me was one based on a painting by the artist ID Campbell called Our Last Supper.

Our Last Supper by Iain Campbell

You can listen to the interview here: http://www.smallvoice.org.uk/a-thousand-words-iain-campbell/

Using this, I have created a meditative film that can be used in worship. Enjoy!

Iain Campbell is a portrait painter, and Artist in Residence at St George’s Tron Church of Scotland in Glasgow city centre.  ‘Our Last Supper’ is on display in the Olive Tree Café in St George’s Tron Church right in the heart of Glasgow city centre.

Links:
idcampbell.com
www.facebook.com/IDCampbellArt
@idcampbellart