Posts Tagged ‘public sphere’

Praying for the G20 meeting in London

April 1, 2009

tearfund rallyOur world has been living beyond its means, financially and environmentally, while the most vulnerable suffer the consequences.

This financial crisis means radical policy changes are being discussed at the forthcoming G20 summit in London tomorrow.

Right now is a unique opportunity to pray for a fairer, more sustainable world.

Tearfund is calling on Christians to put God first and join the movement asking for jobs, justice and a greener economy.

Billions of dollars have been made available and ‘thrown’ at bankers in recent months by Western governments despite their frequent failure in the past to meet aid targets.

There is anger about these double standards in developing countries.

World leaders have the chance to build economic policies that will sustain the environment and will limit the effects of climate change on the most vulnerable communities.

Pray for the G20 leaders and finance ministers as they focus on how to respond to financial crisis and formulate new global financial arrangements
Pray for all Christians to show their concerns at this crucial time through prayer, fasting, marching and simple advocacy approaches to local and national leaders. We worship a God of justice and power. Let’s place our hope in him to work through world leaders at this time to bring about justice and change.

Tearfund

Speak up for for the rights of all who are destitute

March 23, 2009

It’s been a busy month so far, but after this week things start winding down for easter. The main project I’ve been working on is this first final chapter of my PhD thesis. I finished the first draft last night, I hope to get it to my supervisor before the end of the week then proceed to start work on the next chapter before Easter if at all possible. On the preaching front it has been my busiest month yet; I have preached every Sunday this month so far. March 1 at Trefor, March 8 at Bangor, March 15 at Llanberis and March 22 (yesterday) at Llangefni.

On the social/political involvement side things are relentless too. Have I mentioned before that I’m the Vice-Chair of the Welsh Language Society? And to add to the pressure Menna, my trusted companion, is the current Chair! At the moment two campaigns are in overdrive, the campaign for equal status and civil rights for Welsh speakers in all sectors of life and the campaign for a new Wales-wide institution to provide Welsh medium eduction in the Higher Education sector.

Menna and Dafydd Iwan, President of Plaid Cymru, at a recent public meeting to discuss the LCO at Caernarfon

Menna and Dafydd Iwan, President of Plaid Cymru, at a recent public meeting to discuss the LCO at Caernarfon

At the moment the Welsh Government in Cardiff are trying to pass an LCO (Legislative Competence Order) which would transfer law making powers in relation to the Welsh Language from Westminster to Cardiff. Since 2006 Wales has had it’s own law making powers of sorts but it still has to get a nod from London in the form of an LCO to do anything! I know, imperialism it still alive and kicking! The Welsh Language Society, along with many other institutions from Wales’s civic society including, interestingly, The Presbyterian Church of Wales, have demanded the LCO transfer “all power” in relation to the Welsh Language to Wales. The moral right to legislate in relation to the Welsh Language should reside with the Welsh people themselves, it’s common sense.

But British unionist MP’s, both from the Labour Party and the Conservative Party, are determined to weaken the LCO in Westminster and return it to Cardiff with limited scope. A weak and toothless LCO would mean that the Welsh Government then couldn’t pass a legislation that would give Welsh speakers equal rights in all spheres of society. It seems that the LCO, at best, will give rope for the Government in Wales to legislate to give Welsh speakers some more rights in relation to the public sector but if Westminster gets it’s way the LCO will not give enough meat for the Government in Wales to legislate so to give Welsh speakers equal rights in the private sector, the sector we live most of our daily lives in!

Anyway, the LCO is going through the consultation process at the moment and the Government in Cardiff and the Select Comity in Westminster are inviting people to bring forward evidence for and against the full transfer of power in relation to the language to Cardiff. Menna gave evidence in Cardiff last week and today she is traveling to London to give evidence to the Select Comity at Westminster this afternoon.

Please pray that the Spirit will lead Menna boldly so she can ‘speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.’ (Proverbs 31:8-9)

I’ll say more about the other issue of Welsh medium education in the HE sector in the next post I think.

Stop Press: Tony Campolo visiting Wales this summer!

March 17, 2009

Tony Campolo, well-known American pastor, author, sociologist, and public speaker is coming to Wales this Summer! He is best known for challenging Evangelical Christians by illustrating how their faith can offer solutions in a world of complexity. With his liberal political and social attitudes, he has been a major proponent for progressive thought and reform in the evangelical community. He has become a leader of the movement called “Red-Letter Christian”, putting the emphasis on the reported words of Jesus, found in many Bible publications in a red font. He is, one of my present day heros.

He’s the keynote speaker at a conference organized by the Baptist Union of Wales to be held at Carmarthen on the 11th and 12th of June. As i understand the Friday night meeting will be held at Tabernacle Chapel and attendance is open to all with a request for a £5 donation. The Saturday event needs people to pre-register – i have no more information about the Saturday event yet.

This is very exiting news indeed!

Should we explain or change the world?

March 11, 2009

I spent a good part, at least six months, of the first year of my PhD researching the Puritans. At first that might seem odd considering my PhD thesis is about the Christian political philosophy of a 20th Century man. At the time I did feel that I had wasted six months of my precious research time but now three years on it’s becoming ever clear to me that to understand politics and nationalism from a Calvinistic perspective one must start with the Puritans. Dr. Pope, my research supervisor, I forgive you.

Just a quick post today to share a brilliant quote I re-turfed from the big PhD box file today. Ironically it’s not a quote by a Christian it’s a quote by atheist marxist historian Christopher Hill, but it’s a brilliant quote about the Puritans:

Previous theologians had explained the world: for Puritans the point was to change it.

Magic isn’t it? That Puritan ethic is massive encouragement to Christians today; with all the new violence in Northern Ireland, the immorality of our economics and the sad sad news about the shootings from Germany, the puritan ethic spurs us on to bless and change society with the gospel.

Would the Apostole Paul have used short haul flights?

March 9, 2009

Highland AirwaysI read more of Dewi Arwel Hughes’ Power and Poverty last night. The thrust of what I have read so far is that God has ordained us to cultivate the land and that our laziness and shabby work in doing that cultivating leads to poverty and even death for millions of people elsewhere. Of course, Dewi presents the argument in a fuller and more articulate way. The reason I’m bringing this up now is because today I’m admitting to being part of a big structural carbon sin. I’m traveling down from Bangor to Cardiff and back to a meeting via aeroplane!

Let me first of all explain the economics of it. Compare these:

Train
Cost: £72.10
Out: Depart Bangor: 6.02, Arrive Cardiff: 9.58 
(Journey Time: 3 hours 56 minutes)

Return: Depart Cardiff: 17.20, Arrive Bangor: 21.40, 
(Journey Time: 4 hours 20 minutes)

Air
Cost: £53.90
Out: Depart Valley: 8.55, Arrive Cardiff: 10.00, 
(Journey Time: 1 hour 5 minutes)
Return: Depart Cardiff: 16.15, Arrive Valley: 17.20, 
(Journey Time: 1 hour 5 minutes)

The only catch with the aeroplane is that I have to drive 20 minutes to Valley from Bangor and I’ll have to take a taxi for 20 minutes from Cardiff Airport into the city itself; but three of us are going from Bangor via aeroplane so we’ll share a lift over to the airport and share a taxi the other end. Both services are heavily subsidized by the government but the aeroplane receives the most subsidy. 50% of the service is subsidized as I understand; so for every pound I pay Highland Airways the government give them another.

Arriva Trains WalesI’m not going to try and defend my flying antics but just look at the difference in journey times before you excommunicate me. I usually take the train, I really do, but this week I’m just too busy and the temptation, considering the convenience and time difference of the plane, was too much to resist.

What is the answer then? Massive investment to the rail infrastructure and rolling stock in Wales. Compare these services:

  • Bangor and Cardiff are separated by 130miles the train journey between both centers takes around 4 hours.
  • Birmingham and London are separated by 100miles and the train journey between both centers takes around 1.5 hours.

If Wales was served with rail infrastructure and rolling stock on par with England the journey between Bangor and Cardiff, in theory, could be cut to only about 2 hours; half of the time it takes now.

The cost of the upgrades to the Welsh lines would be colossal but that is the price society at large, humanity at large even, must pay to cut our CO2 emissions and thus show more respect and care for God’s creation. I might take Dewi’s book with me to read on the plane like some kind of catharsis!

R. Tudur Jones’ Christian Nationalism

March 9, 2009

R. Tudur JonesAfter the Second World War, the feeling that Welsh identity was in danger increased. For the Welsh Congregationalists this conviction exploded to the surface in the Undeb Ystradgynlais in 1950. The Undeb was the annual gathering of Welsh Congregational Churches who were members of the Union of Welsh Independents. The story is reported in the Tyst newspaper (the Tyst was and is the denomination’s weekly newspaper) in June 1950; this utopian report is in the June 15 edition:

The armies of Catholicism, Philistinism, materialism and totalitarianism are marching boldly and presumptuously. But among the principalities of the heavens, angels of ideals are at work. The country is waiting for the denomination’s unconditional declaration that it is on the side of the angels.

The following week, more flesh was put on the bones as the Tyst reported that the Reverend R.G. Davies had proposed that:

…in the face of the serious condition of the language in many of our churches, and also the constant threat to its prosperity in areas that are completely Welsh, this conference brings to the serious attention of the churches the appropriateness of establishing a branch of Welsh speakers in every church…

Promoting culture had been part of the denominations’ agenda for a long time, however Reverend Owen Williams’ next motion proved to be very controversial. He said:

That we the representatives of the Congregationalist Churches of Wales, firmly declare our conviction that we are acting according to God’s will in demanding self-government for Wales immediately.

Although it is not reported in Y Tyst, and although it should not surprise anyone, there are grounds for believing that Gwynfor Evans was partly responsible for the motion. The Congregationalists turned to R. Tudur Jones in 1952 in order to calm the storm of objections that rose against the Congregationalists’ stance on self-government for Wales. The pamphlet ‘The Congregationalists and self-government for Wales’ was published by Tudur Jones. In this publication, the young theologian makes his beliefs and convictions public to all.

Let us consider what Tudur Jones had to say about nationalism in this pamphlet. A key question that nationalists have to deal with is ‘why the nation?’ What is so special about the nation that measures need to be taken to protect and sustain it? First of all, Tudur Jones turned to Genesis 11, and the story of the Tower of Babel and the mixing of the languages and he argues that God destroys imperialism and places diversity as the order for the earth. He said: ‘Where men constructed uniformity, God demanded diversity.’ He said that uprooting the Welsh nation ‘…in the name of a kind of shallow internationalism’ repeated the crime of those who built the Tower of Babel. He is certain in his conviction that nations are part of God’s order and considers that his role, as a Christian, is to safeguard and protect God’s order to the extent that in 1972 he declared that promoting nationalism was ‘…one of the many ways of declaring the glory of the one who took us from darkness.’

Placing R. Tudur Jones on the theological spectrum

March 4, 2009

R. Tudur JonesHere is a little introduction to Tudur Jones’s place on the theological spectrum.

R. Tudur Jones was born in the Cricieth area in Eifionydd, North Wales, the son of John Thomas and Elizabeth Jones. The 1904-1905 revival had a profound influence on his parents and so we can take it for granted that religion was more than a cultural custom for his family. Although he was brought up in a Christian family, Christianity did not become a real experience for him until he attended an evangelistic crusade in the Promenade Pavilion in Rhyl in 1939. As he stated in a documentary on S4C in 1994, Christianity came alive for him during that meeting; he said ‘…a day comes when the match is lit, and that’s what happened to me in the Pavilion that night…’ The preacher in that meeting interestingly was the evangelical leader Martin Lloyd-Jones.

Dr. Tudur was a reformed Protestant rather than a liberal Protestant. He is of J.E. Daniel’s line rather than that of John Morgan Jones. In addition to the influence of the greats of the reformed faith such as Calvin, and Thomas Jones of Denbigh and Thomas Charles in Wales, Tudur Jones was also influenced by Dutch Calvinist theologians. Individuals such as Abraham Kuyper, who was the Dutch prime minister, developed Calvin’s doctrine on the sovereignty of God, ‘…Kuyper had to be practical. As Prime Minister he had to consider education, promote the arts and the relationship between the overseer and the servant etc…’

One of the Calvinistic teachings that Kuyper emphasized, and which attracted Tudur Jones, was the doctrine of common grace. The common grace doctrine states that grace ‘…falls on everyone with no exceptions’ – God doesn’t discriminate between who can receive the general blessings of grace. The aspect of the common grace doctrine which is relevant to my PhD thesis (i.e. the politics of Tudur Jones) is the concept that the blessings of grace means that justice is possible on this earth, at least at a civic level. The theologian Louis Berkhof said:

Common grace enables man to perform what is generally called justitia civilis, that is, that which is right in civil or natural affairs… Reformed theologians generally maintain that the unregenerate can perform natural good, [and] civil good…

Considering the social and spiritual condition of Wales in the twentieth century, it is understandable that the Dutch Calvinistic school of though with its reformed orthodox theology on one hand and its practical implications on the other was so attractive to Tudur Jones. Of Kuyper he says: ‘He took the challenge of secularism to the national life of the Netherlands very seriously’ and that his doctrine on

…Christ’s kingship echoed some of the fundamental ideas of Frederick Denison Maurice, the founder of the Christian Socialists in England.. And there is a striking similarity between Kuyper’s teachings on sovereignty and the radical and collective nationalism of Michael D. Jones

On the theological spectrum, Tudur Jones would therefore place himself close to Kuyper and the Dutch Calvinists but he was his own man. He was enough of a thinker to come to his own conclusions. Densil Morgan said: ‘…Kuyper and his followers corroborated the ideology that he already had, and Tudur was never slavishly indebted to them.’ It should also be noted as well that I don’t think Tudur Jones would necessarily commend and agree with Kuyper’s political views (for example Kuyper was an imperialist and he held unfortunate views on race and supported apartheid); it was Kuypers rational towards the political sphere that he agreed with rather than the politics itself.

Tudur Jones’ theology therefore was to do with this world as well as the next world.

Can a Christian Theologian be objective?

March 3, 2009

Apologies for lack of blog post yesterday; I was preaching on Sunday night and giving a lecture yesterday so I didn’t get time to write a post. The lecture I gave yesterday was for my fellow research students and to the lectures, senior lecturers and professors of my department, the Theology Department, in Bangor – yes I know, I was petrified! The presentation went alright but I must admit that I felt out of my depths when the questions came in at the end! I suppose that my mistake was to show sympathy towards R. Tudur Jones standpoint in my conclusion. (It’s a Theology Department in a Secular University rather than a Theological Seminary so this is a big no no!) It’s hard not to when, on the whole, you agree with his word view (I.e. Radical-Reformed Christianity); but I guess I learnt today that I need to be on guard as I write my thesis so that I come over objective in my narrative.

One thing that became clear to me after the lecture yesterday was that I needed to spend more time explaining where Tudur Jones comes from. One must understand the origins of his word view if one is to understand his holistic approach towards the relevance of Christ’s Lordship to all spheres of life including the nation and politics. I regret that I didn’t do justice explaining this today; perhaps I failed because I’m sympathetic and share Tudur Jones holistic understanding of the Lordship of Christ and therefore underestimated the need to spell it out to those who don’t share the view point.

So to escape and not just stay in and dwell over the lecture and think about the answers I should have given I went out to take some pictures. I’ve been wanting to take some pictures of Menai Bridge at night for some time. I went out last night and here are the results, very wow I think:

Pont Menai

More of the Menai Bridge collection, 2 March 2009

The principles of love and justice to the nations

February 27, 2009

R. Tudur JonesI’m giving a paper about my research in the department on Monday; I’ll be giving the paper in Welsh but many of the audience will be non-Welsh speakers so there will be translation available. The University’s translation department have translated the paper for me already which is great because for the first time ever I have got a few thousand words of my research available in English for those of you who don’t speak the language of heaven! Here is a few paragraphs to get us going.

‘The Bible has been let out to teach the principles of love and justice to the nations.’ These were the words of Michael D. Jones, one of the principals of Bala Congregationalist college, in 1887. It would be just as easy to imagine that they were the words of the last principal of the College, R. Tudur Jones, when it closed at the end of the 1980s. Like Michael D. Jones and several other radical nonconformists, R. Tudur Jones, or Dr. Tudur, was a Christian leader who wished to share his faith with a wider congregation and release it from the sphere of the private and the ecclesiastical.

Dr. Tudur was a historian, a theologian, a teacher, a minister, a journalist, a philosopher and a nationalist. He was a very important Christian figure in the history of twentieth century Wales. Despite the importance of Tudur Jones, not much has been published about him to date. I will try to contribute to the study by focusing on one aspect of this important character.

First of all on Monday, I aim to evaluate Tudur Jones’ Calvinist theology – but only briefly as I’m sure you’ll be glad to hear! Although the aim of the lecture is to study his political ideology, an understanding of his Calvinist theology is essential in order to understand his political ideology.

If we want to understand his mind and his political ideology we cannot ignore his theology. Both aspects are intrinsically interwoven. Secondly, I will discuss some of his political ideologies. I will discuss in detail his concept of the relationship of the Christian and the State and his concept of Christian Nationality. Thirdly, I will evaluate, without going into any great detail, his political influence on Wales – mainly through his role as one of Gwynfor Evans’ principal advisers.

If you’re in the Bangor area you are welcomed to join us on Monday. The research seminar, which is open to all, is held at the WISCA Seminar Room in the Main Arts Building at 2.15pm, Monday 2 March.

Binge Drinking – a theological answer?

February 24, 2009

PintI welcomed the report published a few months ago by a group of MP’s saying that some concreat measures needed implementing to get with grips with the epidemic of binge drinking in the UK; a problem that is perhaps worse here in Wales than anywhere else. I am not a teetotaler but I do think that binge drinking is a real problem in society today. I’m not saying this in a judgmental and a patronizing way I hope; but rather I’m saying this out of love and care. The main recommendations that were put forward by the MP’s were a recommendation to ban drink promotions such as ‘pound parties’ and ‘buy two get three’; it was also recommended that supermarkets should be banned from selling alcohol as loss leaders.

The pro-Alcohol lobby and pressure groups, who are mainly funded by the alcohol industry, have come out strong against these recommendations. The pro-Alcohol lobby insist that there is no need for government measures and that the individual should take responsibility; they argue that the government has no place to determine how much alcohol one consumes in one given night. Their emphasis is on personal choice. But what they fail to understand (or choose to ignore) is that some peoples personal choice to binge drink is not really personal and private at all because binge drinking puts enormous strain on the NHS. Therefore those personal choices people make to binge drink actually effects us all, we all as tax payers pay for the NHS do we not? The reality is that binge drinking is only a personal choice – it’s consequences are unfortunately public. In my opinion the government therefore should take measures to do something about binge drinking.

When this story was on the news back in November Radio Cymru (the BBC’s Welsh Language radio station) got Wynford Ellis Owen to comment on the MP’s recommendations. Wynford is a recovering Alcoholic and now works as Chief Executive for The Welsh Council on Alcohol and Other Drugs (formerly know at the Temperance Society), a Church funded organization. What Wynford said was very profound, he pointed out that stopping binge drinking using such government measures were commendable but these kinds of initiatives were only scratching the surface of the problem. One must ask, he said, what drives these people to binge drinking in the first place? What are they trying to escape from? Of course, the answer to that question, as Wynford knew, is with the Church. People turning to Christ is the only full remedy to binge drinking, but the odd government measure here and there won’t do any damage I don’t think.