Why I am supporting the Conservative Party and Dean Russell for the Election 2019


Summary

  • Prelude
    • I don’t care about voting, but I think politics and direction action matters
    • I like diversity in political positions and I am not trying to persuade people to vote Conservative.
    • Primary reason – My personal interest in getting involved in the Conservatives is the influence that I could have and the benefits that could come to that towards various, mostly progressive aims.
  • Secondary Reasons
    • Alternative way of looking at Climate Change
    • Immigration and how we can have more of it whilst bringing people along.
    • Free Speech and Freedom of Religion, how the Tories are getting the balance better.
    • How much I hate stupid “Free” higher education.
    • Liking the local candidate, Dean Russell
    • Brexit, obviously
  • Concerns
    • Homelessness and Labour’s commitment to it, though I have heard people in the Conservative party including Dean caring.
    • Law and Order Brexit

Prelude – Not Voting is fine

As we’re nearing the election I thought I’d write my thoughts on why I am supporting the conservative party. A couple of things about this generally. Firstly its about why I am supporting not voting for the conservative party. As a long time proponent of political apathy I don’t really care who votes what way and think voting doesn’t really matter on an individual level. I don’t care about voting and I resent people using peculiar moral arguments to get people to do so and I think the treatment of Russel Brand was awful. If you care about that at all, Slavoj Zizek’s book on Violence gives a good argument for how political apathy at scale can do a great deal of good. So this isn’t about me voting, this is about me supporting the conservative party. This involves canvassing, helping with letters, helping with a website, leafletting, etc. I think politics matters a great deal, but direct action matters a lot more then who you vote for.

Diversity in political positions is good

Secondly this is just about my own thoughts about why I am doing what I am doing. This is not a call to vote for the conservative party. There are specific people who have sat on the fence who I have felt should get on our side of the fence and I’ve spoken to them privately. But I like what Jonathan Haidt has written in the righteous mind about the difference between the left and the right. I like some of the concepts behind Yin and Yang and there are some Christian theological thoughts that support both those things. I believe our countries within democracies need the left and the right, they need order and chaos, destroyers and creators. I don’t want to convert left wing to the right, I want the left wing people to get better at doing their job in society. However right now, left wingers tend to think the right wingers are evil. I think that is wrong.

My Main reason – possible influence

The biggest reason why I am supporting the conservative party is that I think it is the place where I can do the most good. I think given my history, my views, the ways I interact with people, my job, my religion, my family life, etc I will be welcomed into the conservative party more than any other party right now. I have found speaking to conservatives, its more ok to disagree with people and I am someone who finds it very hard to go along with what everyone says without being honest about what I am doing. There are a couple of things I think would make the world a better place and in a very small way I can help move that forward and I think the conservative party is a vehicle for that more than anywhere else.

Secondary Reasons

1) Climate Change direction

I strongly believe that the climate emergency can be looked at from different angles, not just an ethical angle. I think we can move away from fossil fuels because of national security. Oil has caused so much suffering around the world and a much more self-sufficient approach to energy production could make OPEC have much less power. I also think fossil fuels aren’t cool, they aren’t sexy or exciting. A future with a massive amount of renewables is cool if done where we aim for growth and abundance not a future of subsistence farmers such that the Green Party try and sell. I have loved seeing Elon Musk’s view of a Green future. It’s a future with abundance, with faster cars, with more travel and faster travel, its world where we can get to Australia from the UK in an hour, it has hyperloops getting me to Edinburgh in 50 mins.

I don’t care about climate change like most do, but I care about those two things and I think I could bring one or two conservative’s with me. I am currently very interested in fourth generation nuclear power stations, especially the PRISM reactor and hope that if I am to get more involved in politics I can at least understand what happened in 2014 when the NDA looked into it again. More so then Fusion I think we need a government that heavily invests in Nuclear, not the old designs like Hinkley but a government that is more likely to take risks. I think a Boris Johnson lead Conservative party is far more likely to do it. Whilst he is bigging up Fusion in the news but giving very small amounts of money to it, I think that could be a future thing after Brexit.

2) Immigration

Secondly I am very passionate about immigration and a certain kind of globalisation. One based around co-operation with different cultures, rather then multiculturalism and large supra national states and organisations. I really really want our country to become closer to India, Singapore, China (And China to become less crazi), many African countries (such as Uganda, South Africa, Nigeria), Brazil etc. Immigration into so many western countries is hard. I’d love the idea that anyone could set up a company in London, the greatest city on earth, and then know they could hire in engineers from anywhere in the world. We need to be more open, and allow much more integration with people from anywhere. One way to avoid ghettos is to let loads of people in from many different countries.

It’s why I wanted to vote leave, and its why I eventually voted remain (As at one point it looked like a vote for leave was a vote against immigration). I would like a world that is as close to open borders as possible and I don’t think the Tory party and especially Boris is against that. Boris is definitely a liar and its hard to know which Boris we are going to get. Is it the power hungry law and order Boris or the enlightenment pro immigration Boris? But for a long time, when his own party were anti-immigration, he was presenting pro immigration arguments. He got rid of the net immigration cap so quickly and even suggested amnesty for illegals.

But I know there are a large number of people, especially from working class backgrounds who do not like immigration as much as me. I don’t want to respond with condescending them and labelling them evil racists. I think we as a country need to listen to their concerns and work diligently to meet their fears. I think quite a few of their fears are reasonable and justified and have personally found when I have presented some of my ideas on how open borders could work, some old-school UKIP supporters liked it.

I don’t know which way it will go, but the evidence right now, with the most ethnically diverse cabinet is that a Boris lead government could mean net immigration going up. Having said that I have sometimes heard rumblings of him focusing on reducing numbers again. I don’t know which way it will go, but the labour, lib dem approach of ignoring controls on immigration and calling people who don’t like it racist doesn’t work for me, and I don’t think it will work for the country.

Free Speech and Freedom of Religion

Thirdly I do care a great deal about freedom of speech and enlightenment ideals. I think the left has poisoned a great deal of discourse. I am very unhappy that whilst we had Islam be a protected religion where no one was allowed to criticise it, I had friends who disliked Islam being threatened with the sack whilst drawing the prophet was outlawed with extreme social pressure. We have now, in Europe, swung insanely far the other direction and now have people banning the Burqa and forcing women to take off their clothes on the beech. Whilst I do not personally like the Burqa, I think it is hypocritical for me to focus too much on another religions over policing of what women wear when we as Christians do much of the same stuff, but to a lesser extreme. There is no way I think any liberal enlightenment country could reconcile forcing a woman to undress as reasonable and if you are worried about terrorism, the main source of terrorism is most certainly not Muslim women in headscarves. This is awful, awful, awful. And whilst I don’t think it was good for Boris to use the “Letterboxes” word, the point he was making in that article is correct. We need as a society the freedom to verbally disagree and mock strongly, pretty much anything, but we need to protect diligently the freedom of people to do what they want.

I’ve seen in some conservative circles a greater emphasis on freedom of speech and liberalism that is good. It’s not perfect, and sometimes becomes merely a vehicle to say what you want without getting criticised or becomes one way where they only want to protect the speech of people you agree with. I got in trouble with right-wingers for supporting Jo Brand’s right to say the comment about acid attacks on Nigel. However, having said that I currently think there is much more openness to this kind of speech in the Right than the Left and Boris helps that, but Corbyn will make things worse.

Stupid “Free” education

Fourthly, I truly despise free university education. Its the one thing I dislike about Bernie Sanders and even Andrew Yang. I will only accept free university education if it becomes something that 100% of the population go to. But as long as mostly poorer people aren’t going. Free higher education seems like the working class poor paying for entitled middle class kids to mess around for a couple of years. There are so many forms of free education that I’d be ok with. We could have a free government funded open university open to everyone, we could mandate all state supported universities lose control of their intellectual property and have to put their reading lists and lectures online , we could make journals all open access or at least not fund any research that goes into a closed access journal. We could stop the weird rule where the terms of the Student Loan can be changed by the government at any point. We could have a graduate tax, a fixed interest amount so rich people who pay it out in one go still contribute to the pot. We could expand our libraries to make cheaper mini-universities that could open up some of the social experience to literally 100% for an affordable amount. I don’t mind but not  mere “free” higher education.

Dean Russell

Fifthly, I like our local candidate. From the one hustings I attended he came across much more earnest and honest then the rest of them. The others (especially the labour guy) would regularly twist the words Dean said to make it sound way worse then it was even though I literally just heard the exact words Dean said. I’ve seen the left do this time and time again and I think Dean is earnest. I like the working class background of Dean and the different roles he’s had and things he has gotten involved with. Both in tech and in businesses. I like his policies, his focus on mental health, investing in the hospital, and of course that he voted for Brexit. But there is some sense when voting for a local MP, I think character trumps policy because I’m sure, when he is much more directly involved as an MP his policy focuses will change. But his character will be roughly the same. So it helps that I liked the guy before I knew he was a candidate.

Brexit

Sixthly is obviously Brexit. It’s been done to death and I’ve talked about it a lot. I am persuaded that the conservative party with Boris’ deal is the way to go, not the Brexit Party. Whilst I wouldn’t mind a clean break Brexit. I don’t think it will ever be as simple at TBP are trying to make out. Boris’ is a compromise in the direction I am ok with and whilst I am uncomfortable with the future of Northern Ireland, I think the way he has made it work is democratic enough.

Concerns:

There are some concerns with supporting the conservatives. Here are a few:

Homelessness

The biggest thing on Labour’s manifesto that I liked was a pledge to end homelessness. This MUST be a solvable problem, and I think I’m focusing more on sleeping rough then individuals in temporary accommodation (though both are bad). Labour suggests they were pledging £1.1 billion to end homelessness and this is something that absolutely should be ended. Utah started with the housing first initiative and it seems to be something that would work. I haven’t yet done the research and it has been a while since I last got involved with homelessness stuff so I don’t fully know the current state of things.

Dean  has spoken out against homelessness and has had friends who were homeless. I’ve met others in the local conservative association who are furious about homelessness and want to do something about it. AS a general principle, I think if you can get the right to care about progressive values, there is more likely going to be change and so hopefully this is something that we could see movement on.

Law and Order Boris

There are multiple side to Boris and the law and order side to him makes me nervous. I don’t mind a greater number of police but I’m nervous about things such as the extreme rules against travelers and increased jail sentences. I don’t like filling up our jails.

Tax Breaks for the mega wealthy and Austerity.

I didn’t like the rising of the maximum tax bracket from Boris. Whilst I don’t think Corbyn’s plans to merely tax the rich will work, I also don’t know if I think we need to back away from the current amount we’re taxing the rich. It feels like he’s just giving a bonus to his mates rather then something specific he is trying to do with a positive effect. I am not sold on the argument that income tax is “stealing” and immoral nor that the welfare state is inherently immoral that some on the right argue for.

Mostly I don’t like the Centrists but I think I am when it comes to taxation. I also haven’t yet figured out what I think of austerity. Was it necessary?

Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin


To counter balance my last blog post about RT Kendal here is another Christian blog post:

http://bethwoolsey.com/2013/10/3-reasons-i-quit-loving-the-sinner-and-hating-the-sin/

They are attacking the phrase “love the sinner, hate the Sin”. Now I am all for controversially attacking a phrase that is popular for some kind of effect and then putting forward a view that is basically the same as the phrase but the phrase “done properly”. It’s lovely, its Hegelian and as a result obviously I have to disagree with everything it says and defend the phrase.

See this blog post is trying to show how most people who use that phrase “Love the Sinner, hate the Sin” actually get the second part right but the first part wrong. In fact they usually add some logical argument such as “Sin is bad for people, if I hate the sin then really I’m being truly loving to them. Instead of “Love the Sinner AND hate the Sin” they really believe “Love the Sinner BY hating the Sin”. And so instead they spend all their time hating sin and telling people off for wanting abortions because “It’s for their own good”.

But this phrase isn’t about that, it’s about showing that the dichotomy is possible, it’s possible to both love the individual whilst hating some of what they do. This is an important aspect of what love is. I don’t care if the origins of the phrase were something Augustine said about himself, this thing is just true and its true whether or not you’re a Christian. (Although I think much easier to do if you’re a Christian).

But yeah, you need to do more work. Just because it’s possible to love an individual whilst hate what they are doing, doesn’t mean you’ve finished understanding how to go about loving someone else nor go about understanding how to go about hating someone well. And I think I’ll attack it from two angles.

Hating the Sin is actually liberating for the individual.

There is a complication here that I’ve talked about before and I think all Christians get wrong from both liberal and conservative backgrounds. Actually us Christians and them non-Christians agree a hell of a lot on the nature of “Sin”. Yeah we’ll disagree on some specifics, we might disagree on, to use a last psychiatrist’s phrase, whose genitals you’re allowed to lick . We might disagree on how you should spend your Sunday morning. But by and large many of us will agree that it exists and its bad.

Yeah there are moral relativists out there. There are philosophers who will try and argue why it might be ok to murder in specific circumstances. But sit down and watch Jeremy Kyle every day that you can for a few months and count how many times, when Jeremy lays into an individual and calls them a horrible person, they respond with “you have your morality and I have mine, who are you to judge me? Why should I accept your moral standard?”

One time I saw someone kick back at Jeremy, “Who are you to judge me, you’ve done worse in your life?”  . Jeremy responded with “yeah but this isn’t about me and I’ve apologised for it (or words to that effect, this is from memory, if you don’t trust me go ahead and watch it yourself!)”. But even then, they both agreed to a strict moral authority but the only attack was that Jeremy was a sinner and therefore not in a position to judge. (Admittedly the link is the daily mail and so should be taken with a pinch of salt!)

Take a look at this video which I will probably post again and again on this blog:

You see the problem of sin here. You see the problem sin on all the faces of the fathers who had let down their children. They KNOW they are a sinner, but what hope do they have? Counselling? A lie detector test? But then this show, shows you a deeper truth. There is one way of dealing with the problem of sin, you can watch people who are worse then you and yell at them for being worse then you. You can say “I am a sinner but at least I’m not as bad at X and I’ve done my bit in publically shaming X”.

This brings us to the way of the world.

Love those that deserve to be loved.

Anton LeVay was very clever with his Satanic bible. He got to the root of what it was in Christianity that was so appalling to him and wrote about it in a way that actually everyone would agree with. Unfortunately he added loads of weird magic that makes it seem less credible.

But Satanists tend to be nice people. They believe strongly in love those that deserve to be loved but if someone slaps you round the face, don’t turn the other cheek, punch them in the nose! As a result they will spend their lives earning and deserving their love. This is the heart of what everyone thinks and why wouldn’t you? Why would you love someone who doesn’t deserve it? How could you survive if you acted like that?

Love those that do things worthy of love, and hate those that to do things worthy of hate.

This is the principle people live by. Yeah they will disagree on what those things are worthy of hate. For some people, you can have sex with whoever you like but you must never cheat! For some feeling jealous about your partner’s consenting sexual actions with other people is the source of why you are hateable. Some might hate homosexual people whereas others will hate people who hate homosexual people. Some hate a race whereas other hate racists. Sometimes it might those people who take up too much space on the tube at rush hour.

Whatever it is most people treat morality as a litmus test of whether or not I should treat that person as an equal human, or whether or not I should write them off. As batman says, it doesn’t matter who you are, its what you do that defines you.

Why Christians get this wrong – actually all people hate sin.

Conservatives will tell me that they believe in an objective morality. They will tell me that this position is unpopular with people “out there”. Everyone is a moral relativist. Meanwhile liberals will tell me that Christians are too judgemental and actually homosexuality is ok.

Both positions are wrong. People do believe in right and wrong but they are no longer looking to the Church to tell them what is what. Very few LGBT activists are going to be looking to the church to help them understand whether or not homosexuality is ok. No, most of these people will have made up their mind on the issue of homosexuality (that it is fine) and are only quizzing the church, not to find out how the church judges them, but to find out how they should judge the church!

People hate Sin. People see Sin everywhere and they hate it. We just disagree on what counts. The problem is, that hating Sin will almost always inevitably lead to seeing Sin in your own life and to some degree a level of self-hatred or guilt. Many people would in fact celebrate feeling guilty as a sign that you are a good person.

This blog misunderstands that most people know they are sinners and feel trapped by Sin. Love the Sinner hate the Sin is not something that should make people feel judged but liberated.

A liberated view of Sin

Someone I know hurt one of my friends a great deal. I spent a bit of time talking to this person and they asked me why I was being nice to them at all given what they had done and what they had done to my friend. Surely I’d judge them as a “bad person”. I told this friend (non-Christian) that I was judging them… but I had judged them as a bad person long before. I believe in no sex before marriage and so to some degree anyone who has sex with more than one person is a slut and worthy of death. Probably even more so I believe the same about anyone who has ever looked at pornography. I believe the same thing about people who disrespect their parents or put any other God before the one true God. So this new thing they had done that had hurt my friend, couldn’t lower my opinion of them.To some degree they found this attitude liberating and kind of comforting!

(Note: I don’t come out very favourable when I’m judging myself either!)

And I think it is. With most people who love you conditionally you’re kind of waiting for the time when you finally cross the line and they hate you. Maybe it will be some political opinion, maybe it will be how you treat people in relationships, maybe it’s because you act rude in a situation or maybe it’s because you’re too fussy about politeness. But here, this person already crossed the line.. And all people who interact with me can know that they have crossed the line, I think they are a “bad” person.

But what next? Do I hate all bad people like the rest of the world did? Possibly, but if I did that I’d hate everyone including myself. If that’s what I have to do, then so be it but fortunately there is a way out. “Vengeance is mine, so saith the Lord”, I can pawn off that hatred onto God. He is the ultimate judge anyway and so I can say “well I won’t carry out the hatred even though to some degree these people deserve it, God can do the hating instead”. Then God goes ahead and does something weird with my hatred. He puts it all on the cross and somehow justifies people. It’s all a bit confusing and I haven’t fully got my head round it but the important thing is I don’t need to hate people anymore.

But that is my choice, love everyone unconditionally or hate everyone conditionally. There is no middle ground.

I’ve always thought this about the Westboro Baptist church with their “God hates fags” placards and their belief that hurricanes are caused by America’s acceptance of homosexuality. The problem with these people is not that they are too extreme, but they are not extreme enough! They would probably be better off including a placard that says “God hates everyone, especially me”! And then try and find a way to live like that.

How do we go about loving people

Now we get to a point where me and the initial blog post might actually agree. But this is a difficult question, how do you go about loving people?

Love I think is one of those complicated things where it is really difficult to define, but when you look at a specific situation its really easy to see “Is this loving or not?”. Especially the “not”, when someone does something to you or to someone you care about that isn’t “loving” you tend to just know. But if you had to write a rule book so that you could completely define what it was, it would be tough.

Enrich Fromm in his “Art of loving”  saw love more like an art, like playing an instrument or getting good at painting. It was a skill that you practised and got better at. It was a skill where you considered the theory both through reading and discussion but then tried to apply it.

This blog posts concept of seeing someone as a neighbour and looking at how Jesus treated people certainly helps at how to love people. This is something worthy of discussion. And as I’ve said before, the blog post is definitely attacking a certain type of Christian who uses that phrase as an excuse to not be loving, that I believe ought to be intellectually attacked.

But now I’m starting to agree with someone so I better end it here. Enrich Fromm is likely to pop up again!

(Also the original blogger has written a follow up. http://bethwoolsey.com/2015/06/an-update-3-reasons-i-quit-loving-the-sinner-and-hating-the-sin/ I don’t have much to say, I kind of like it except when she goes back to wanting us to actually stop using the phrase, but most of her criticism are certainly valid).

End

There was a song that says a guy loves me “just the way I am”. No one wants this. I want to be loved DESPITE the way I am. The way I am is hateable but I want… no need the love anyway. This is why being able to love the sinner and hate the sin is important because if it can’t be done then all is lost.

What the church of 2015 should care about


To my churched friends…I just read RT Kendal’s letter to the church in 2015. In UK RT Kendal was a great and big deal. I wonder if this is now “old-guard”. RT Kendal is writing a letter to the church of 2015 but I think it might still be the church of 1990 or 1940 that’s he is writing to.

Found here: http://www.premierchristianity.com/Past-Issues/2015/June-2015/The-letter-of-RT-Kendall-to-the-UK-Church

1) He talks about not “watering down the gospel” or “don’t try and say stuff that makes people like you but instead be true to the gospel”. But I feel like we in the church and everyone else in society has moved past that. In the turn of the century it was almost normal to be a Christian but not believe that God even existed. But now, personally I think thanks to Richard Dawkins, it’s even easier then ever to voice extreme views about the Gospel to non-christians. No one will get that offended about hell, about “there is only one right answer” or even miracles. Yeah, if you make it your job to use philosophy to argue that Christianity is true, you’ll get people saying that your views are offensive as a rhetorical ploy but if you speak to normal human beings they simply won’t care, they will expect it and maybe see it as a fun quirk.

Yeah people will be upset if you talk about homosexuality being a sin or abortion. But these are not issues central to the gospel. Some people in the Old Guard see it as a proxy battle for an “authentic gospel” but its just not. It’s a minor theological disagreement because even if homosexuality is sinful there is no excuse for the homophobia and suffering homosexual people have suffered at the hands of society and encouraged by the church.

2) He talks about combining the “Word” and the “Spirit”. For the past few decades there has been a battle raged between the “Charismatics” and the “Cessationists”. Yeah it still exists but by and large the charismatics have won. There are so many churches now guided by both word and spirit. So many places you can go where someone will pray for you in power and preach from the word with proper theology.

Yeah its true that you can still find churches that dislike anything to do with the spirit, you can see some churches that are just weird and ignore common sense and the word and you can find liberal places that don’t believe God exists. But the variety in the church is not a bad thing… the church as a whole has moved so much in the right direction, RT Kendal has won.

So what should someone like RT Kendal say to our generation? To the church of 2015?

I think “surprised by hope” is far more important by Tom Wright. Our church needs to take the spirit and the word and go. No longer merely to “win souls” but to bring about God’s kingdom. Our church needs to be a church motivated by, guided by and known for Love.

I remember doing a prayer room at a student music festival. The LGBT “lot” (I don’t mean all LGBT people are just one group but at university there was this group that stuck out, were involved in lots of student politics and were all friends with a degree of influence) used to use our area as the place they hung out. Before the event something in the news had happened where some Christian person had something about homosexuality and lots of student non-Christians warned us that the LGBT lot might get angry at us and speak to us about it.

Well they came, quite a few of them and they really seemed to love it. That group seemed to be the most noticeable group of non-Christians that took that prayer room seriously. They didn’t ask us to “pray the gay away” but instead were coming with issues of self-image, anxiety about university, help with their relationships. Just normal stuff that people care about because even though they dressed a distinct way they were just people like any other. If they had asked any of us the biblical position on homosexuality, and they really wanted to know, we would have told them without watering down the gospel (It would be a reasoned answer, mix with contradiction and disagreement on the various views but definitely not a “its just fine”). But they didn’t because its just not the most important thing in either of our lives.

Our church needs to be a church known for its love. Everyone should know that whatever background you come from you’ll find love here and real love, love that is FOR them, that cares about them, love that brings about change and healing, love that beckons in God’s kingdom. That should be the primary thing we know about. We can do that with the power of the spirit and we can do that with the inerrancy of the scripture still intact.

We need more Christians in our communities, anyone who is on the verge of suicide, anyone who has had a tough break up, anyone who is struggling with office politics, or self-identity should know that the Church will be FOR them, we’ll love them even if we disagree with them, even if we live our own lives a very different way. We need Christians in politics fighting for politics based on love. In the crusades the Franciscan monks helped the crusaders but then would also go over to the Muslim camps and help them (This might be wrong I can’t find my source). The “Christian” view on Israel and Palestine should be to love Israel and to love Palestine. The Christian view on ISIS should be to love those being persecuted but to love ISIS. When 1 person beheads another, 2 people die.

I think us Christians growing up in this post- mainstream charismatic evangelical church need to remember RT Kendals… but also break free of them… their battles are not our own, this is a new time with new challenges for the church.

Canon Andrew White says the main thing his church needs to do is love, love, love.

Response to Tragic worship


A friend of mine recently posted an article on my wall about worship and tragedy. I wrote a response in the comments section but it got really long and so I thought I’d post it here where I can add some proper formatting to make it more readable. The original article can be found here:

http://www.firstthings.com/article/2013/06/tragic-worship

In essence the writer of this article is lamenting that contemporary Christian worship focuses too much on happier subjects and not enough on Tragedy and death. We’ll talk about the excitement of the resurrection but not enough about the terror of the death which fuels why the resurrection is so exciting.

Now for anyone who knows me, they will know that I will love this stuff. I really get into Tragedy. I don’t like happy art. My favourite set of verses are Ecclesiastes 4:2-3. People keep asking me if I’m happy and I say no partly because I’m a follower of Canon Andrew White on Facebook who gives me weekly updates of how many people have died in Iraq.

Tragedy matters because Tragedy is real. Life sucks, death sucks, pain sucks and from extreme events of suffering to simply stubbing your toe. It is in an understanding and appreciation of this I find hope and true beauty in what I see God is ultimately doing with his Kingdom. Seeing glimpses of where God is going behind all this shittiness is both exciting and usually the root of my worship.

However, having said that I have a few points about the article.

  •  Tragedy is important but pop culture gets it
  •  Christian worship does take this into account but the absence of death is more about our culture and I’m sure will be found in his Scottish churches.
  •  Worship is more than just art

Tragedy is important but pop culture gets it

I think it’s kind of interesting but it’s kind of what I’d expect from the Westminster Theological Seminary and anyone who calls themselves Reformed. His understanding of philosophy and the human condition is pretty good but then it is combined with a terrible understanding of popular culture or sociology masked under snobbery and pretentiousness.

He is completely correct about the importance of tragedy but this is something pop culture intimately understands to the point that what he is saying is almost boring.

For example highlighting “the banal idiocy of reality TV” is not counter cultural against pop- culture. It’s the message pop culture says about itself! For example here: Mitchell and Webb: Apprentice  or talking about how some action movies are just about explosions is satirised heavily in South Park. Many people tend to suggest that pop-culture is vacuous but some then go further than this and try and find nothing out about pop-culture as a matter of pride to separate themselves from the banal idiocy. Instead this guy’s problem is that he doesn’t watch enough South Park or It’s only Sunny.

Personally I think those in the reformed tradition would greatly benefit from being influenced more by continental philosophers. You can see plenty of tragedy in film for example by looking at what Zizek has to say about film and popular culture. Also, to really get pop culture, to some degree you have to get in it, you have to watch the stuff, and talk about it with people who like it rather than observe at arm’s length (especially a critical one). One of the most celebrated piece of art venerated by almost all sides of pop culture has been Breaking Bad which definitely counts as tragedy!

In fact he alludes to this near the end when he references Scorsese (although what’s the point of using the word “occasionally”. Scorsese DEFINES pop culture!) especially with Bonhoeffer’s comment. Our popular culture is steeped in the appreciation of tragedy and really if churches want to be “cool” and “with it” and “fit in with the times” they need to move MORE in that direction (not away from pop culture). This is kind of what I think Bonhoeffer is saying.

I think this applies to a wider point many of the Reformed tradition seem to make about the church.  They particularly tend to go on about how popular culture doesn’t like talking about sin and how it likes moral relativism and then they go on to criticise the church for not talking about sin enough. Instead if they really got into popular culture they would find it steeped in an appreciation of sin and moral absolutism, they will just use different words. Jeremy Kyle and the brilliant satire of it in the chase and status video is a perfect example of this.

Christian worship does take this into account but the absence of death is more about our culture and I’m sure  this same absense will be found in his Scottish churches.

I’ll admit that the full tragedy of death is not explicitly talked about in contemporary Christian music enough. However it is there, especially implicitly. For example, in Vicky Beeching’s explanation of her song Deliverer   and Matt Redman’s Blessed be your name  (with “You give and take away” taken from Job).

Now, I think we’ll find in the history of the church many awesome poetic verses that deal with death more effectively that could be used to influence contemporary Christian music. I definitely appreciate that I don’t understand this enough and every so often I encounter hymns that really emphasis how much great stuff there is I don’t know about (especially anything by Charles Wesley). However, I really doubt the churches where those songs/ hymns are actually being sung will be doing very much to achieve the things that Trueman is trying to achieve with them.

The thing is, I think it is a major issue with our culture, specifically British culture (though maybe it is true of “western culture”), our two major taboos are death and sex. Violence in film or explicit displays of sex aren’t ways of getting past this taboo either. Describing in detail a specific sex act you have performed recently can just be a way to avoid having to talk about how sex makes you feel and I think the problem is specifically to do with parents and their kids. Those topics are rarely talked about in the relationship best suited for it so it becomes a taboo throughout our lives and culture. If someone really close to you has died and that makes you sad it is very hard to bring it up in “polite English culture”, especially if you are a man and are crying.

So I think that has probably impacted our churches as well. In contemporary Christian circles where songs are picked based on how popular they are, this will result in those songs that deal with tragedy not getting picked. However in more traditional circles where songs are picked because of their historical significance then I think this will result in the songs being fetishised (I think I’m using this word correctly). Even non-Christians enjoy singing Amazing Grace because that’s just part of our culture. When they sing “a wretch like me” they will probably just enjoy the archaic language of “wretch” rather than actually resonate with the consequences of what that word means. Not because these people are stupid, but because that’s the point.

Carl R Trueman is probably an exception  to this but then he is paid to sit down and think about these things. I believe him that when he hears one of these Psalms he probably resonates strongly with them. But if someone is not part of a culture that cares about death then merely making them sing words such as “I think death is really bad” won’t make them think or feel it the next day. If he wants to challenge the cultural understanding of death he really really needs to learn more from the continental philosophers. Rule 1 is that challenging cultural understandings of things usually requires you to say things implicitly not explicitly. Articles likes the one above are unlikely to make a difference but just make people who already agree with him agree.

(On a side note, I realise that with this article that I’m typing here I’m trying to challenge Trueman’s cultural worldview and I’m doing it using loads of explicit sentences which is kind of hypocritical. However I’d argue that because this article is so long and I’m making so many explicit points. Most people will come away from this not having a clue which point I’m trying to actually make which kind of makes it implicit. Of course I’d argue this just to mask the fact that I’m a terrible writer who can’t be bothered to structure his arguments well and take out the arguments that are a silly and a waste of time :P)

Worship is more than just art

I don’t think I’ll go on about this too much as I think actually the writer would agree with me anyway on this point. But I think worship is more than art anyway.

Art and worship are definitely intertwined. I think quite a bit of what we associate with the word worship is just different forms of artistic expression directed towards God. Liturgy is a mixture of poetry and what you get in football chants, worship music and dance are obvious and in the Orthodox church paintings are a bigger part of worship. Therefore to some degree things that apply to art as a whole apply to worship. Trueman’s point about tragedy is a wider point about art and I think this is why it applies to worship.

But it is that way round.

It’s through this more philosophical route his point makes sense, not really through a theological route. I don’t think the Bible is that prescriptive on the exact ratio of subject material in what we sing. Whilst you’ll find less Tragedy in what people sing in churches on a Sunday compared to the Psalms or Lamentations you’ll find plenty of that in the prayers people write out, especially on anonymous Internet sites (This is what I studied for my dissertation).

For example what if Sunday morning singing time was actually used to be nothing but a distraction? Why is that bad? He says it’s a distraction from mortality or morality but that is rarely the thing most immediately in most people’s minds when they are distracted from everyday life. Instead it’s a distraction from worrying about work, where you’re going to pay bills, what that friend you’re probably about to fall out with thinks of you, etc. If Sunday morning singing was literally there to distract us from those things with vaguely God centred words such that we had a small amount of space. It would probably help us focus on God and bring us to a place of actual worship. With this view the singing is nothing but a distraction, the worship is what we do once we’re distracted.

I do think singing is important. There seems to be a biblical trend that when followers of God meet they tend to  sing his praises. However, there is also an element where this is just singing. I’m no theologian but from my understanding the word worship in the Bible is used to mean something like “bow down/ lie prostrate” or “serve”. Worshipping the LORD was literally an act where you just bowed down. It’s a physical act to demonstrate our surrender to God’s lordship or it is actually serve God through a variety of ways.

With these two broad understandings of what Worship is, almost all actions you perform can come under the banner of worship, as an act demonstrating your surrender to God or as an act that is serving God in achieving his aims. I think worship is really something that has to be done throughout your entire life and through almost all actions rather than just being something that is sung on a Sunday,

The reason why I don’t want to labour this point too much is that it is moving into semantics of me saying “What he says doesn’t matter as much as this point” and these kind of points are a little boring. But I do think using worship time as a place to challenge our cultural worldview around topics such as death is a relatively minor purpose behind worship, even if he is correct that our worldview needs to be challenged.

Besides, if you really need to sing or say something. It seems like you don’t need complex metaphors about death and the human condition that have arisen through hundreds of years of human tradition. It seems merely saying:

“ ‘Holy, holy, holy
is the Lord God Almighty,’
who was, and is, and is to come.”

 Works pretty well.

Questions I’d like answers to


I’ve recently joined a Connect group at HTB which is their version of small groups/ bible studies. But its HTB so its huge (some connect groups can be 80 people which is bigger then most churches!). I’m having a lot of fun. These people are definitely way cooler then me, but that can be expected from HTB, they are all lovely friendly, sociably beautiful and intelligent people. Its quite scary! But fun! And sometimes I even get invited to parties 😛 (Which is a big deal for anyone reading this and knows me from St Paul’s)

We were asked to write up a list of all the topics that we’d like to cover in the next term of connect groups and then say our top two. Now I’m not expecting many of my suggestions to be jumped on. As I said before this place is not meant for me and I think that applies to this connect group as much as HTB generally. However, it was really interesting because as I wrote down all these things I found that I actually meant what I wrote. These are a list of questions that I’d really like to have answered or thrash out alongside other questions. Most of the questions are things that really do excite me and quite a few of them are questions that could take quite a bit of time.

So I thought I’d put them here and maybe I’ll use some of the later.

  • Learning to practically follow God 100% through our lives
    • this is a phrase I hear a lot but its something I don’t see done that much and when people talk about it they usually talk about it in the context of silliness, like the people who ask God which tie to wear. The reason why it is silly is, I think, because actually it could be a sign of someone not listening to God but just going through the motions on every decisions they make rather then actually brining it to God. There may be times when God is speaking to you about your tie. But I’d bet considerable sums of money that if you’re someone who everyone is talking about how you make decisions of whether or not to cross the road or which tie to wear with God then probably thats what you have been talking about and probably you’re missing the point. Similarly I see people following God only on really big decisions. Personally I’d love to work out how to do this more effectively avoiding these two extremes. By “Work out” I don’t mean have the answer to, I think its something that is probably a bit of a process and Journey that would be greatly aided doing it alongside others who are doing the same.
  • Practically how do I listen to God and act
  • What does Song of Solomon have to say about romance?
  • What does it mean to live with a kingdom focus?
  • Why should I be excited by the kingdom of God?
  • Why is God worthy of my worship?
  • Ways that the God of this world that I feel/know and experience is the same as the God of the Bible.
    • I think there are times when you read the bible and go “yeah I know that guy”. You see bits of his character shine through the text and its like you actually know personally this personality.
    • Eg. Simple example: I feel that God loves me, how do I see that in the bible?
  • Are the God of the Old testament and the New testament the same? Answer: Yes! Then where do we see this in the text. Places where God’s character shines through the stories themselves revealing his character despite the blood and gore in the old testament where he shows the same personality in the new. (Note: This is not focusing on messianic prophesies)
  • Creative ways we can get more into Prayer
  • Fasting? Why?
  • Line- by -line The Lord’s Prayer and what we can learn from it.
  • Where is the church going to go next?
  • What is God doing that is new in the church?
  • Does Church community matter? Why? Is it just about power hungry control freaks trying to rule over me?
  • Why do so many churched christians burn out and how do we avoid it. Should we avoid it?
  • How do we rest?
  • Matthew 11 “28“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” – Is this real?
  • Going Wife/Husband hunting in the church – The ethics of this
  • Why is sex good in marriage? Why is it important to have sex? What is sex’s purpose?

Politics, love and can I ever have any friends?


I went to a pretty cheesy church once. It was small and they had question and answer sessions. They had questions like “Where do you feel closest to God” and the answers were things like “sitting on a hill looking at the stars” and things like that. They then asked what the most difficult aspect of being a Christian is. They answered somewhere along the lines of knowing that there are so many people who don’t know Jesus. I answered that because I’m a Christian, I can never have any friends.

Now my argument at the church was a little silly, I was kind of just saying it to be a bit different. I said that if Jesus found all the people closest to him, that he had invested himself into for such a long time, abandoned him in his time of need how can we expect to have anything better than him?

However the problem really is love. I am supposed to love people and this makes things difficult. Every single relationship with non-Christian friends of mine has an aspect where I’m kind of trying to convert them. (Note: bear with me on this one!) This puts a bit of a downer on the relationships and it gets even worse because there is this knowledge that eventually everyone is going to turn on all followers of Jesus and so the people who say they love me are eventually going to hate me.

With my Christian friends it’s basically no better. There will come a day in heaven where we can just “be” with each other but now within the church there is a hierarchy. I find that I’m either “stronger” in faith in which case I’m supposed to think about all my words with them and make sure it is “supporting them in their pursuit of God” (loving them) or I’m “weaker” in my faith in which case they are doing the same for me but only temporarily and only until I’m stronger in which case they’ll drop me.

Politics

Ok, so I’ve started this with pretty over the top far-reaching statements that would probably be quite offensive to plenty of people. Most non-Christians don’t like the idea of being converted and most Christians will probably not like seeing themselves as weaker, especially if they actually are weaker.

Let’s try this from a different angle. Rather than talk about love, let’s talk about politics.

I would love to work with a bunch of people who could just be completely honest with each other. We’d have a similar vision we want to see enacted and just run with it together. However, in work, and it seems all work there is politics preventing this kind of honesty from happening. Especially when individuals needs pop in like the need to eat, or feed a family. One person said that they interact with everyone through a filter.

I think in politics there are two ways of dividing people into two kinds of people. There are people who are politically minded and there are people who are manipulated by those who are politically minded. Alongside that there are people who can see politics everywhere and those where it goes over their head. But if it goes over their heads they will still be in one of the first two categories, just not knowingly so.

I think if you think you’re “just yourself” with someone it’s probably that you are in the second category for both those distinctions and the other person is in the first category (whether they know it or not).

Example

Take it this way. I want to be completely honest with someone. So I think up the words to describe how I feel that most accurately describe the specific feeling I am trying to communicate that differentiates it from all the other feelings that I might be feeling that aren’t quite the same. Take the phrase, to someone you care about, “I’m scared of you”. Now you communicate this knowing that all the words fit with what you believe to be true in such a way that you feel you could stand up in a court of law and say “Yeah those are the words I meant and those are true”.

Thing is they take it badly. You meant it as “I respect you and you intrigue me and so I want to be near you” whereas they took it as “Being around you is unpleasant and I want to be away from you”. The issue is we haven’t thought about how it has been communicated, we only care about saying what is true.

What’s point of saying what is “true” if the statement gets misunderstood by all the listeners who matter? However, If I say something that is not strictly true but leads the listener closer to the truth, isn’t that the kind of thing people want to do when they say “I want to be honest with someone?”. For example I might say “I’m not scared of you, I didn’t mean that, I just really respect you and want to spend time with you”. This is a lie, cause I am scared, but I’m throwing away the words that don’t really help to help the listener get closer to the subtler true truth.

Alone

We have an issue here.

The first one feels like I’m just “being myself” and “being honest” but it leads everyone to a misunderstanding of where I stand. The second has a higher chance of truly connecting with another person but in order to get there I have to constantly put up a filter. “What is it I am trying to say and how can I get the person to understand?”. In that sense, I’m never actually just BEING myself, I’m intentionally trying to lead the person to myself.

However both of these are far away from where I’m supposed to be as a Christian/ person. Both of these are self-centred (I’d like to say narcissistic but I see that word used a lot and I don’t really know what it means) and neither of these involve love.

Instead I should be asking something else… don’t fully know how to articulate it yet but instead of “How can I be myself around them” or “how can I lead them to me” I should be thinking “How should I be treating them” or “How should I love them”. One is focused on them to me, the other is me to them.

This puts up an even bigger barrier. I am not only trying to think how to communicate what I’m trying to communicate but I’m only trying to communicate the things that I feel they need to see communicated based on my love and caring for them. Now the person is going to be even further removed from me.

We can put this more practically.

1) Honest: How can I tell the person the specific thing that they do that winds me up at work truthfully
2) Communicative: How can I help the person see and understand what it is that they are doing (filter A)
3) Loving: How can I help this person who is annoying me, move forwards in their career?

The third is different, the third barely cares about the self, except as a tool to help another.

In Christian terms this third position is easy to articulate. It is “How can I help them pursue God” or “How can I love them” or “How can I serve them”. These are questions behind literally every communication, every sentence, every piece of body language. You’re never yourself you’re always for them.

This is the heart of politics. This is lonely.

Offensive.

I started by suggesting that someone who lives like this will go through life thinking they are essentially better than everyone. Trying to convert non-Christians and “mentor” Christians. But let’s put it differently. Some people might think they don’t like this, that they wouldn’t want to interact with that person.

Imagine you met someone and as you got to know them you found out that you thought they loved you. Not a Kate Nash style love (LINK) where the person knows how much sugar you take in your tea. They were someone who was there for you. Imagine whenever you spent time with this person you would open up your soul to them, telling them everything that was going on in your life. They would pretty much only offer responses that were exactly what you needed, maybe some gentle advice, maybe a “pull yourself together” or maybe just phrases that suggested empathy and understanding. You felt completely sure that if it came to it they would literally take a bullet for you. You knew when you weren’t with them they were thinking about you and what’s best for you. When you were with them they were just so much fun, they just cheered you up. They just got you.

Would it be desirable to meet this person? Would  you like them as your friend? This is someone who is showing loving acts consistently through the way they treat and talk to you. This is the same offensive person above.

Now I don’t think this person is non-existent, I think it’s possible to meet someone like that. But now try to imagine this person from their point of view and what they think of you. Do you think it’s likely that they think the same stuff about you? If every time you meet up you discuss your problems do you think that’s because the person actually has no problems or because they aren’t telling you those things? Do you think the reason why they just cheer you up all the time is because life is just really good for them? Do you think they never get pissed off and angry at everything and just take it out on the first person but always handle their anger well.

I think this person exists, but if you were to meet them and think they were a nice person it’s because they are lying to you. In the words of scrubs, people are bastards, they are bastard coated bastards. This person has days of insecurity where they want to bring down those around to make themselves feel better. They have days of sadness where they just want to wallow. They have days of anger where it seethes out and infects even those that they aren’t angry at because they have days of weakness where they can’t control how their emotions play out. If you can’t see that in someone because you think “they are just one of those happy people” it’s because your eyes are shut.

Love

It seems there is a choice. I can be a friend to people around me. They will like me, look up to me, think I’m nice. Or I can force people to be my friend. They will find it exhausting and irritating but they may continue anyway for some reason. But I can’t just have “friends”, I can’t just have a mutual friendship where that is all we are.

The Last Psychiatrist writes anonymously. The problem with not doing this is that there is a large chance that if anyone is ever going to read this, they are the kind of person that will think “Hey Jamie! I thought I was your friend! Screw you and your birthday party”. Well to that person I can only say one thing…

“Please don’t leave me….”

Now getting that out-of-the-way the problem with friendship I think stems to a problem with love itself. Particularly unconditional love. Everyone inherently demands unconditional love from everyone else but no single person could reasonably ever offer it. I think this is uncontroversial.

In fact the love that we demand is unconditional, unlimited and eternal.

Its unlimited. People sometimes say things like “It’s the thought that counts” or “you only need to try” but that is simply not how we engage with love. What if your dad said something like this to you? They don’t love you anymore but don’t feel too bad because they tried really hard? Or your mum said that she really wanted to love you but just can’t?

None of these things will make you feel any better. We don’t want someone to try to love us we want someone to succeed.

However “unconditional”? Imagine a lover, boyfriend, girlfriend, husband or wife saying that they loved you. And then you asked why? They said it was because of your amazing looks. Well thank you, I also love staring at my naked body in the mirror but whilst that is a compliment it also dooms me to forever worrying about the day I get in a car crash. What about if they loved me because I was intelligent? Again I’m just waiting until the day I accidentally say something stupid. What if it’s because I’m nice? Then the next day is really stressful and I come back home acting like a dick.

The horrible thing is that the more this conditional love gets me. The more I enjoy and desire the love from this person, the more it will destroy me when the conditions inevitably fail. Like the letter to K offering him a promotional in Kafka’s the Trial every little glimpse of love is drawing me deeper and deeper into a trap that will eventually destroy me or just go nowhere.

Finally eternal. God is not against sex before marriage, he’s against break-ups. And so are we as God has put eternity on man’s heart.

But what about the flip side? Well Scroobius Pip says that unconditional love is being in love with the mere idea of loving something. He’s kind of right, the concept is ludicrous. Why would I love someone who is unlovable? Why would I love someone who is rubbish and doesn’t deserve love? I’ve always thought marriage is a little horrible. If I wanted to be with someone for the rest of my life I could just do that. Marriage is not an expression of what is your desire, marriage is a promise to stay with someone even if I don’t want to!? Why would anyone buy that? This attitude is brought to you by the bible.

Imagine this:

My Wife: Jamie do you love me?
Me: with all my heart
Wife: Why is that?
Me: Because I chose to

That might almost be romantic… almost. However it continues

Wife: Is there anything you like about me?
Me: No, in fact the mere idea of you causes me to be physically sick. This pool of vomit we’re sitting in isn’t actually due to your terrible smell but it happens even when you’re not around. All your values and thoughts about the world are disgusting and I don’t know what you look like any-more because I try not to look.

It doesn’t work.

All humans will always love conditionally because it is the only acceptable way to give out our love but all humans will only accept unconditional love because even the slightly transgression from that is horrifying.

Conclusions

Is this view of politics correct? Do we always have to have a filter up with everyone? Is the filter actually a good thing or is it better to be “true”? Could I work with a bunch of like-minded people where there was no politics between us, we were a team of us against the world. Could I ever get married to a person where there was no politics between us, it was just us against the world? Is wanting this just a sign I should grow up? This is just the way the world is I will forever be alone.

God

The psalms that are moany, tend to end with praising God. My next blog post will probably deal with this a little more but I have a suspicion that all this becomes exciting when Jesus is bought in.

  • I don’t think I need that filter when I’m sitting before my creator. I think I can be broken before the one who understands. The fact that God knows me is almost more exciting than the fact that God loves me. I think those are linked and I’ve heard that in Hebrew “know” has sexual connotations.
  • I think the Holy Spirit (The Go-between God) can replace my filter, he can be my filter. Rather than putting forward a filter of my own creation where I work out how I should treat someone I can instead turn to him, who I can communicate with directly and seek after how should I treat this person now?
    • Most of the time where I’ve tried to end this filter and be “honest” with someone I’ve also felt a slightly sense that I’m going against what God wants me to do in that situation.
    • If we go with this, instead of “I’m trying to convert my non-Christian friend” as my agenda and filter its “I’m trying to seek out what God wants me to do here, what God sees with this person”. Here if God is wanting to bring this person closer to him then I might help in that, if not then I might do something else.
  • The church is going crazy for community at the moment. They keep talking about it and going on about how “individualism” is bad. However, I have a feeling like they are going on about community in the wrong way, they are doing community minus God and that falls under all the problems talked about here.
  • Whilst I can never give anything but conditional love, I think there is a sense where love overflows. If you met a girl who had a terrible relationship with their Dad and then something happened where it was hugely improved how would you expect that girl to change? There is something important in being a human who is able to receive unconditional love from somewhere else.

There must be more than this.

The Last Psychiatrist’s latest blog posts almost hits on things similar to this. Maybe I’m just a narcissist and psychotherapy will save me?

Moral Absolutism vs Moral Relativism


This is an answer to a question on yahoo answers http://uk.answers.yahoo.com/question/index;_ylt=Ak9l5pzBdJiDGJP7Nzc6aVUOJ3RG;_ylv=3?qid=20130920034731AAigZcu. I was just replying for fun but my reply was too long for yahoo answers so I thought I’d post it here and link to it.

Moral Relativism is very very odd and has probably come from practical anthropology rather than actual philosophy. I think moral relativism works as a description of the way people in our culture act. But if you’re talking about a well thought through philosophical position a better comparison is between “Moral Absolutism” and “Moral Nihilism” where nihilism is simply that there are no moral propositions that are true or false. (Also known as Moral Skepticism which is similar)

Moral Relativism states (sort of, it’s hard to describe as no one really thinks it) that the truth of moral propositions is relative to the context of the culture that it is in. For example in “Civilised Western Society” rape is wrong but “random cannibalistic tribal society” might accept Rape as ok. Moral Relativism states that in one place the act is fully completely wrong but moving to a new geography/ community makes it suddenly completely morally acceptable.

This was a good thing in anthropology. Studying cultures used to be through a completely colonialist lens and so in the study of cultures it is good to try and study it from the culture’s point of view. If we look at a culture that says murder is ok (For example state sanction murder in the US with capital punishment). We’ll get a better understanding of it if we try and do it from the American point of view rather than enforce European Human Rights based assumptions.

However that is about describing about how a community is. It becomes completely different when you describe how a community ought to behave.

It just seems bizarre that raping someone in one place is completely evil and immoral and then suddenly being ok in another place.

Now… NO ONE is suggesting that Moral “Acts” are not relative. Whether or not the act “have sex with person X” is morally acceptable will be relative to a whole bunch of factors. Sometimes sex with the same person will be morally acceptable one day and unacceptable the other. However, even according to Moral Absolutism, the moral propositions or principles behind whether or not an act is immoral are not relative. For example the principle “All sexual acts are fine between consenting adults” or something more generically philosophical like “Acts that maximise the amount of pleasure for the most people are good and acts that minimise pleasure or cause pain for the most amount of people are bad” which is sort of Utilitarianism.

Now if we think “pleasure is good” we will find in different cultures different things cause pleasure. Some people like eating food that literally tears apart their mouth (chilli) and some people do not. But that is because the physical pain of chilli (combined with endorphins) actually causes pleasure to the person eating it in some situations and sometimes it will cause displeasure to other people who don’t like chilli. The act “Eating some chilli” is relative to person but the principle “What causes pleasure is good” is not.

Now… the reason why I personally think people talk about moral relativism as an attitude that people take when it is not thought through is about judgement. For example, I personally think murdering people is wrong, but I might hear about a group of people in France who love murder. Now I’ve never spent much time with those people so I think to myself “well to each their own, I don’t want to judge them and I don’t want to visit France so I won’t think about it and get on with my day”. However if those French people came over to the UK and started murdering my friends I’d be outraged. This is me acting like a moral relativist. The same act, murder, is not ok on my friends and family but it is ok when practised by a bunch of people I don’t know or care about.

However… I’m not ACTUALLY a moral relativist. What I’m saying here is that I don’t know what could be the reasons why these French people love murder. In the same way that piercing a child’s ears could seem horrible and barbaric but then I think, well I don’t know the culture maybe there is something I’m missing out on. Basically the moral relativist here is only acting like this because they admit they don’t have access to all the information and they don’t care about those people. But they don’t ACTUALLY think Murder is wrong in some places and other places. They more like “Moral Agnostics”.

This gets really complicated when a bunch of people act like this and then engage in politics. The chances are, if the person who thinks Murder in France is fine thought about it, they would discover an underlying principle behind their attitude that truly governs their moral attitude, such as “Freedom to do as you please individually is important including exerting that onto other people”.

Now… the more defensible philosophical position is moral nihilism. This is the view that there are no moral statements that are true or false or at least, if there are, it is impossible to know about them. If this is true, then what people think are morals are just strong people forcing their views onto others. Instead of “Murder is Wrong”, actually

“Murder is neither right nor wrong but for some reason I don’t want you to murder my family (maybe cause I have a biological attachment or I like having sex with my wife) and so if you murder my family I will torture you and because I’m stronger then you my way wins out.”

If I am strong enough the parents of other people will start telling their children not to murder Jamie’s family and you’ll get some kind of aristocracy form. The children will feel and believe these moral truths but only because a bigger stronger Jamie has forced them to.

Some people might explain “moral feelings” as nothing more than as a result of the evolutionary advantage to make humans work in groups and win against all the other animals.

It’s interesting because if Moral Nihilism was true then you’d expect something like Moral Relativism to arise naturally in the communities you study. In one city, I may really hate people murdering my family but in another city, the king might love people murdering their family and so the morality would look different in those cultures. And so that is why I think whilst moral relativism as a philosophical position is completely mad, it is interesting as a description about the way the world is.

Finally Moral Relativism is appealing as an easy option. As I said earlier, if someone says they are a moral relativist about specific issues they probably have an underlying principle that is morally true everywhere and is not relative. However, trying to find those underlying principles is really really hard! Try Kantian Ethics with his “Categorical Imperative” compared to the Human Rights movement compared to Utilitarians and Hedonists compared to Nietzsche. Even John Stewart Mill’s On Liberty and Utilitarianism seem to be at odds with each other in the same person. If there really was a moral absolute position then why is it so elusive? Let’s just ignore the argument between, Absolute verses Nihilism and just go with the flow.

In summary. Moral relativism I don’t think is a defensible philosophical position (But look into that stanford article in my sources yourself, especially read the top paragraph). The interesting philosophical discussion is between moral absolutism and moral nihilism. However philosophically this question is so hard that pragmatically we may want to act like moral agnostics. If we have this attitude a moral relativistic stance will probably be the safest. If a whole group of people all think murder is fine and I think it’s not, then I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt until I get really good evidence to the contrary.

Disclaimer: I am a Christian and so take a stance on ethics that is Christian. An Atheist may have a different take on the things I’ve said here. Also, I’ve deliberately used quite racist language to describe some positions. This is because I think moral relativism, anthropology and racism are deeply intertwined. A lot of the principles behind it I think were created to help the people studying a culture get out of their racist assumptions. Particularly the idea that “Western Civilisation” is morally better than “barbarians”. The reality is that if you are a moral absolutist it becomes very easy to justify acts that are really evil and racist. Eg, all these women in this country wander around topless, this is immoral therefore I can kill them all. However, if you’re writing an essay and you use the examples and language I used (eg Examples involving Rape) you’ll probably find teachers and examiners don’t like it. So maybe tone down the rape and racism!

Disclaimer2: Moral Relativism is a pet peeve, I think it’s just silly. Instead of listening to me, reading the stanford encyclopaedia article about it is probably better. I stopped after the first few paragraphs as I had read enough to support the position I had picked before I did any research. If I had continued reading I might have found out that I’m wrong and I wouldn’t want that!