Justice, mercy and smacking

Last week the Guardian reported that a woman who was filmed smacking her overwrought five year old ‘at least four times’ on the backside has been sentenced to a six-month community order. The chairman of the bench declared that she had to be 'punished'.

The worst thing about corporal punishment is that it degrades and humiliates the victim. But the ‘punishment’ meted out by the court to the child’s mother was also degrading and humiliating, and all the more so for having been brought about by her partner’s secret filming of this particular incident, which he claimed was one of many. 

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Two directions for liberal theology

Now that recent controversies have revealed the downside of hardline dogmatic Christianity, there is increasing interest in liberal theology. What is it, and who are the liberals?

I have been involved with Modern Church for 30 years and have just stepped down after 11 as General Secretary. I’ve got to know a lot about liberal theology, both in the academic world and in the churches. Here I describe my experience of liberals in the churches.

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Baptism and evil

The Church of England’s liturgical commission has produced new wording for Baptism services. Alternative words are offered for parts of the service which some clergy complained were incomprehensible to parents and godparents in areas of multiple deprivation.

As I don’t do baptisms in my retirement it isn’t personally important to me, but I thought the baptism service in the Alternative Service Book was awful and the one in Common Worship worse.

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The Church, politics and food banks

The debate over food banks seems to be turning into one of those ‘religion and politics’ issues. A bit like Faith in the City nearly 30 years ago, opposition to government policies has been better expressed by church leaders, like the Bishop of Warrington with his excellent Christmas message, than by other political parties.

There is a long article in today’s Church Times, reporting that over 350,000 people were given food parcels in the run-up to Christmas Day. This is a tripling of demand.

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Don’t deify the market

Malcolm Brown, the Director of Mission and Public Affairs for the Church of England, has written an interesting article about morality and the market in the economy.

He describes his experience in inner-city Southampton where

I watched “market forces” creating retail apartheid – one high street for wealthy shoppers and an alternative back street for those with little. People internalised the market mantra so that it became a fact of life rather than a set of disputed policies… money and commerce became the analogies through which all our human experiences were mediated.

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