Prime Minister Theresa May, in her New Year live interview on Sunday, got quite a grilling from Andrew Marr. The Independent provides a video and report.
Marr described the case of Leah Butler-Smith whose mother waited five hours to be seen after a stroke this week. Ms Butler-Smith had posted a video of a queue of ambulances outside a hospital in Chelmsford, Essex, explaining that her mother had had a stroke, but was at the time tenth in a queue to get into hospital.
Even as a child, I was puzzled. How could a star lead the Magi to a specific house without coming so close that Planet Earth would burn into a pile of ashes?
Matthew didn’t expect his readers to take it literally. He had a bigger agenda. He was comparing Jesus with Augustus, the first Roman Emperor and, at the time of Jesus’ birth, the most powerful man in the world. Augustus had a virgin birth. Jesus had one too. Augustus was revered across his empire, from Spain to Syria. Jesus was revered from even further, from Persia where magi studied the stars.
Congratulations to Paul Bayes, the Bishop of Liverpool, for speaking out in public about the misuse of the terms ‘Christian’ and ‘Evangelical’ for people who oppose what Jesus stood for.
He did so in an interview with the Guardian at the launch of a new charity, the Ozanne Foundation, to work with religious organisations on LGBTI, sexuality and gender issues. This itself remains controversial in church circles, where opposition to same-sex partnerships remains strong; but the Guardian highlighted the implications for American Evangelicals who support Donald Trump. Can people who support his policies really call themselves Evangelicals, or Christians?
This was the front page headline on the Evening Standard as Bishop Sarah Mullally was announced as the 103rd Bishop of London on 18th December.
Amid all the gloom about Brexit and a faltering economy, amid all the great international tensions whipped up by the tweeting Trump, this was welcome news and something to cheer.
The study of religion has been driven forward by competing camps claiming primacy for different aspects of religion: myth, ritual, belief, sacrifice, social association and so on.
One of the few elements of religion which has not been elevated in this way is divination: yet the more I study religion – both past and present – the stronger I find its claim to be.
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