If forgiveness isn't back in vogue, at least it has been in the public eye a lot recently.
Gee Walker, mother of teenager Anthony Walker, who was murdered last summer not two or three miles from me, wore her Christian faith on her sleeve in the aftermath of her son's racist killing. She said she felt no bitterness towards his murderers, but forgave them - and the media praised her for it.
Jill Saward, the vicar's daughter raped in the most unimaginably brutal way twenty years ago, again reaffirmed her forgiveness towards her attackers this week.
Of course, not everyone can bring themselves to forgive - and I can't blame them. Forgiveness is an ideal, but not always a realistic one in a complex world. A vicar whose daughter was killed in last year's London bombings resigned this week because she could not forgive the terrorists.
Most interesting, in my opinion, has been the recent storyline in Coronation Street. I confess, in the last six months I have become utterly addicted to this show, which is still the one of the finest dramas on British television after forty-some years. In the latest plot turn, Emily Bishop - generally a tremendously dull character who hasn't had a good storyline to herself in eons - comes face-to-face with the now-genuinely repentant killer of her late husband, and sinks into a deep depression trying to reconcile her feelings of hatred with her devout Christian faith.
On last night's episode she forgave. I suppose some might find her turn-around hard to accept, even grossly unrealistic. All the same, I think Corrie was bold to tackle repentance and forgiveness head-on with this storyline, especially since the ambiguities of the situation defied easy answers.
Even the soap operas seem to be getting in with the forgiveness trend.
I've just realized the common thread linking these stories is that they are all about women. What's with that?
So much for Alistair Campbell claiming, "We don't do God." Apparently the Blair government now does do God, but only under great pressure. Last week on the Parkinson Show the Prime Minister revealed that he prayed before making the decision to go to Iraq, and continued by saying his decision would be judged by people, by history and - ultimately - by God.
But what's all the fuss? I'm the last person to defend Blair on anything, but I really couldn't construe from what he said that he was invoking God as justification for the Iraq War. On the contrary, it seemed to me he was simply taking responsibility for his actions. Given the political and religious climate, his momentary lapse may well have been unwise, but I think it would be a twisting of what he said to suppose he was claiming divine support. Journalist Rod Liddle was out-of-whack when he said on last night's Question Time that praying before making a decision was equivalent to claiming infallible authority from God.
I'm sure Tony wishes he'd never opened his mouth on the issue; but the fact he did does not make him a mad fundy on a mission from God. His madness is all his own, and I don't think he has claimed otherwise.
So David Cameron is the new Tory leader. His performance in Prime Minister's Question Time today was interesting. He asked three questions in a row, all on education (wasn't it Blair who was all about "Education, education and education"?), and started off his career as opposition leader by stating how much he and Labour agree on education, and making promises to Tony that he would vote for his policies.
He was definitely trying to flag up his commitment to "consensus politics", a nice idea in theory. Still, I can't help wondering if this newfound enthusiasm for working together where there's agreement is really a reflection of the sad fact that there is increasingly little difference between New Labour and old Conservatism.
I am a Christian leader and it is very frustrating when people who represent a small minority of Christians are chosen to represent Christians in such a high profile way.
Unfortunately it seems that whoever shouts the loudest and most extreme views gets to be heard. This is not helpful and there are many other more discerning and representative Christians who could be given a chance to give a Christian perspective on the issues of the day.
In fact, the Beeb had a fairly good spokesman for Christianity in the form of MP Simon Hughes. He directly challenged whether Green represented his evangelical faith.
Did you ask Stephen Green onto Question Time just to ridicule him because he fought against your awful programme Jerry Springer - The Opera? I thought you were supposed to have a cross section audience. I didn't sense there were any Christians present. Shame on you.
I think the writer meant there weren't any extreme fundamentalist Christians like Green. Another writes:
Can Janet Street-Porter please refrain from calling Christians a minority group. Perhaps if more of our fellow citizens read the Bible and listened to the words of Jesus - as many of us do - then we would live in a fairer society, less prone to greed and war.
I think Janet was in fact exposing the fact that his own peculiar fundamentalism was a minority group, and not representative of Christians in general. Still another complains:
Mr Dimbleby used very aggressive tactics against Mr Green on tonight's show. The protests Stephen organises are not aggressive, but the legitimate right of UK citizens to protest. Isn't this the very thing people were so shocked was being stifled at the Labour conference.
I don't remember the BBC heavies coming in and removing Green, which is what happened at the Labour conference. In a similar spirit, another protests:
I think the audience was misplaced in this - they acted like the stewards who refused to allow a dissenting voice.
Alas, a better comparison would be with the the unfortunate 80-something-year-old ejected from the Labour Conference last week; the audience protesting Green's views were doing nothing different.
Stephen Green's appearance on the Beeb's Question Time last night did not really justify the uproar I witnessed on some gay forums. There was outrage that the BBC were giving him a platform, but he only ended up making himself look utterly ridiculous, which I'm sure the Beeb knew very well when they asked him to come on the show.
He was quiet for most of the programme, actually, and when he did open his mouth he only made a fool of himself. The rest of the programme was unusually flat by QT standards, I thought.
Onto other things: Despite the overblown title, this is an interesting film about hysterical overreaction to alleged "discrimination" on a few American university campuses; its main virtue is that the tone of the documentary itself is generally not overblown, and it contains some enlightening interviews.
If you're too sore from the last time a Republican whupped your ass to appreciate the documentary, here's some lighter fare: a sneak preview of The Shining (QuickTime required); proof that you probably shouldn't trust movie trailers.
I hate this obsession with "new". My city is preparing to be the Capital of Culture in 2008 and everything's just got to be new, new, new. There are huge long roads leading into town that are nothing but row after row of boarded-up shops and abandoned buildings, but no one's doing anything with those -- it's all got to be new, new, new. I look at those places and I see cafes, bars, music venues and community centres; I see a whole part of town coming alive again.
Ironically, one of the first things they did when we won the Capital of Culture bid was decide to demolish Quiggins, a thriving cultural centre in the city. Why? Well, so they could build something, um, new. State-of-the-art, no doubt.
Now the city promises to create a new "gay quarter". I'll be generous and not suggest that it's just a cynical attempt to cash in on the so-called "pink pound" rather than create real community; aside from that, why are they not doing something with the gay quarter that already exists? Can they not clean up the existing gay part of town, breathing new life into it? Nah, it has to be new.
Meanwhile, in my borough the plan is to demolish all the high schools and replace them with something -- you guessed it -- new.
I love this prophecy of Isaiah's:
And they shall beat their swords into ploughshares and spears into pruning hooks.
This speaks of regeneration and renewal, not replacements. The philosophy of government at the moment, certainly in Britain, seems to be to replace everything with something new, bigger, better; not making fresh and alive again what already exists, but demolition and replacement. I think it's going to be down to people themselves to start taking back their communities , because the government sure isn't going to help. They'll tear down and they'll put up something new, but they don't have the faith to make something out of the beauty that's already there.
A group of Lancaster University students known as the 'George Fox Six' are going on trial today. Their university is taking them to court for 'aggravated trespassing' after what appears to have been a peaceful demonstration at a conference. They face a maximum of three months in jail.