Saturday/Sunday Supplement

This is a veritable landfill site of linkdumps this morning... Read them all and you could be still sitting here tomorrow. So I'll just group them under appropriate (?) headings and keep my comments to the minimum:

In the week that has seen England and Wales make the first legislative steps towards the recognition of same-sex marriage there have been a number of stories that have caught my eye...
An article by Alice Arnold on her relationship with TV sports presenter Clare Balding, and why the term "marriage" is important to them...
A piece by Michael Bird, prompted by an "ex-gay" conversion story and the response to it, asking how those who advocate "Queer Theology" (an unhelpful term I believe), relate to those who call themselves "ex-gays"... In response to the same story Scot McKnight points to some research that suggests that such conversions are not only real but produce statistically significant changes in orientation, not simply practice... However, I'm not fully convinced...
Meanwhile, the Guardian yesterday reported that key members of the radically anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church have fallen out with the rest of their family/church and have left it... But whilst there is an acknowledgement of pain caused, there is no clear indication of a basic change of theological position.

The story of Richard III's discovery in a Leicester carpark, led to a lot of funny memes making their way around the virtual universe, but I was particularly pleased to find this satirical piece on Richard III's ATOS disability assessment. This truly is a winter of discontent, which even that son of York could not turn into a glorious summer, as illustrated by this anonymous letter from someone who will be radically affected by welfare reforms.
But this is a trajectory of cost cutting that began long before the recession and this current condem coalition government, which has produced the inadequate care identified in at least 1 health trust this week, and this story of a care provider closed down because of using illegal immigrants, with the closure in part contributing to at least one woman's death.
Meanwhile this piece, also from the good old BBC points out why it is our children who will pay the highest price for the profligacy of previous generations and this current period of economic stagnation.

The ongoing erosion of the moral authority of the Catholic church in Ireland continued this week with the release of the report into the so-called Magdelene Laundries, and its sorry tale of collusion between church, state and other significant civic partners in the mistreatment of young girls. Padraig O'Tuama (or should that be Padraig O'Tuama MTh?) offers a short reflection on this finishing with an equally short litany of response to the pain and grief that this report cannot possibly encompass.

This past week two of my friends and colleagues have received direct coverage in the print and broadcast media... first my predecessor in my current post, my boss as Belfast District Superintendent, incoming President, and all round good egg, the Rev. Dr. Heather Morris, got a good write-up in the Belfast Newsletter, then one of those she mentions in the article, and my predecessor in my last post, Rev. Dr. Gary Mason had his say on the 4Thought spot on Channel 4 on the subject of "Is Northern Ireland giving religion a bad name?"

The article about Heather mentions the statement she released in the light of the flag protest, and Gary's piece was effectively about the religious divide that underpins that crisis... And the problem continues, as does the commentary on it. The Belfast Telegraph's Gail Walker, who I wouldn't often cite, wrote an interesting piece on the complexity of Unionist identity, and its identification with the flag, somewhat borne out by the Spotlight poll this week that saw just over 45% of Unionists in favour of continuing the flag protests. It is against that background that Alex Kane, formerly PR director for the Ulster Unionists, writing on Eamonn Maillie's blog, forecasts an uncertain future for First Minister Peter Robinson and a realignment within Unionism. Just so long as there isn't a drift to the far right, which, for a time was seeming likely... however the announcement of a new far right party, the ironically named British Democratic Party, probably heralds a period of blood-letting among those of that odious tendency...
Meanwhile, the Lyric Theatre is running a series of plays based in Belfast, the first of which, "Mixed Marriage" has a relevance probably not expected by the management when they selected it for production, and certainly not by the author when he wrote it over 100 years ago. My friend Trevor Gill sharpened his reviewing skill on this, as the first of a series of cultural reviews on his new blog "No Oul Guff"... It will be nice to have someone else that I know fulminating about theatre in the darker recesses of the NI internet.
I doubt that you will ever find Trevor or myself reviewing much rap/hip hop - well, maybe Trev is more "street" than I am, but I doubt it... Personally I loathe rap with a passion... but I will make an exception for Jun Tzu, a rapper brought up in Rathcoole, who uses his "art" to argue for a non sectarian future for his generation. Thanks to the infinitely more "street" Dave Magee for an insight into his work... (though it isn't for the easily offended).

Usually and finally slots are reserved for the funny and quirky. This time I want to finish on 2 posts that have a pastoral pertinence... First from Kim Fabricius on Connexions who, with Lent fast approaching, wrotes profoundly of the nature of grief and mourning... But secondly, in a post which, typically of her is both funny, quirky and profoundly perceptive, WhyNotSmile offers her guide to helping a depressed person...
I wish someone had written that a long time ago...



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