Category Archives: Global issues

Synthetic Life created – this changes everything

I have been predicting it for some time, and today it was announced! Craig Venter runs the company that first sequenced the human genome. Now, his team has created what they’re calling synthetic life.

They’ve actually created an entirely synthetic genome, built from chemicals in a lab. They inserted the genome into a cleaned out cell. When they did so, the new genome fired up exactly as if it were a “natural” genome.

Read the press release here.

Of course, everything has gone crazy. The media are in a frenzy. Some claim he’s playing God. Others are freaking out that these things will “escape” into nature and destroy life. And some are saying that it will end disease and bring about paradise on earth. The truth, as always, will lie somewhere in between these extreme views.

But this changes everything. Mark this day. A new era has dawned.

Christians, homosexuals and B&Bs

A few weeks ago, a member of the Conservative Party election team in the UK was overheard expressing an opinion about a Christian bed and breakfast establishment that had refused to allow a gay couple to share a bed. He said that what they had done was fine – they had the right to their beliefs and to enforce those in their own home. Matthew Parris is a gay columnist with The Times and The Spectator, and was an obvious person to contact when the media went into a frenzy.

The only problem is that he just couldn’t work himself up into any form of outrage. In fact, his thoughts are quite interesting as he reflects on why he didn’t feel outrage. The resultant column ran in The Spectator on 10 April 2010 – read it here, or an extract below. It’s worth the read as we consider how we should approach morality in a community and country that has chosen to cut itself loose from its historical moral compass.

Continue reading Christians, homosexuals and B&Bs

One African Postcolonial Theology: The Imperative to Differ

Dr Kenzo Mabiala gave a brilliant talk at the first Amahoro conference in Uganda in May 2007. I recorded this on a handheld recorder – it’s worth persevering through the low quality because this lecture is sheer genius. Kenzo says that theological work done in Africa has the imperative to differ from theology from the West, and must have the courage to denouce Western theology – which “came of age during the rise of colonialism” – as being used to seeing itself as the centre around which other theologies must orient themselves (in other words: theological arrogance which claims that Western theology is the only correct theology, and all other theologies need to understand themselves in relation to Western theology).

amahoro01_Mabiala_Kenzo.mp3 (size 12 MB’s).

This is something you should hear at your church this week, but probably won’t.

Continue reading One African Postcolonial Theology: The Imperative to Differ

Should I donate to “Gift of the Givers”

This was originally posted on 6 August 2006

The situation on the Lebanese-Israeli border over the past fortnight is horrific. It is not my intention to discuss the various merits of each side’s (by this I refer to Israel and Hizbullah) claims, although I believe both sides have a point and both have over reacted and need to be held to account for their actions.

The point of this post, however, is to ask for your input on a question this conflict has raised for me.

There is an organisation in South Africa called ‘The Gift of the Givers’. They collect essential supplies and provide services and medicines to people impacted by natural disasters and warfare. They have an impeccable reputation and are wonderfully transparent, highly accountable in their reporting and super media savvy. And they collect literally millions and millions of rands of supplies, and get it to disaster zones faster than anyone else seems able to.

And they are Muslim. Well, at least the founder is Muslim, and very vocal about his faith guiding his work. Dr Imtiaz Sooliman is one of the greatest people I have ever met, and is remarkable in his vision, his passion and his ability to get things done.

As I have considered how to contribute to some relief for those caught up in the current crisis in the Middle East, it struck me that the most appropriate and effective use of my donation would be to give it via The Gift of the Givers.

Continue reading Should I donate to “Gift of the Givers”

How to talk when we don’t agree – an object lesson from President Obama

Originally published on 20 May 2009

Last week, President Obama spoke at the graduation ceremony of Notre Dame university. This was made controversial by the 24 hour media, as they pointed out that Obama is “pro choice” and Notre Dame is Catholic, opposing abortion. I don’t want to deal with that particular issue in this blog. But I do want to say that I think the President hit exactly the right note in HOW he dealt with the issue.

He did not sweep it under the carpet. He did not step down from his own position. But he did show how we can still talk, even when we don’t agree. He showed that there is a way to engage in which we honour all viewpoints, and work towards outcomes that make sense for everyone.

You can read a transcript here. And you can watch it on YouTube, starting here.

In Part 1 on YouTube, notice how he deals with the hecklers (and notice how none of the students heckled!!). The best bit about faith and love is in Part 3.

Continue reading How to talk when we don’t agree – an object lesson from President Obama

What the Roman Catholic Church should be doing – by Clive Simpkins

A colleague and friend of mine, Clive Simpkins is a deep thinker and spiritually enlightened all round nice guy (who nevertheless always tells it straight). He has great insights on a wide variety of subjects. Today, on Good Friday, he has posted a reflection on the Roman Catholic Church which is really worth reading.

Clive’s professional work is in communications. He is a great communicator himself, and helps others to improve theirs. He brings these insights to bear on how the Catholic Church has responded to fresh allegations of child abuse by some of their priests – especially in Ireland and Germany. I think his suggestions are spot on.

Read his article here.

Hannah’s Rules and ethical consumers @ TGIF

Originally posted on 24 February 2008

Recently I spoke at TGIF (Thank God it’s Friday), a Christian discussion group that meets at the (ungodly) hour of 6:30am every Friday morning. I was asked to record it, and make the recording available, so it is available for downloading, by right clicking here and selecting save as. It’s about 8 Mb in size.

The content is a version of my presentation, Hannah’s Rules on the rise of the ethical consumer. It’s since been renamed, “The Future is Now” – see details here.

Thoughts on the Tyranny of Freedom

This was originally two postings, on 20 and 21 January 2005 – updated on 26 March 2010

George Bush gave his second inauguration speech earlier this week. Sky News tells me, he used the word “freedom” 27 times – not including references to “liberty”. This was certainly the clear theme of his speech. As a Christian, knowing that Bush is one of the most prominent voices of modern Christians, I listened with a sense of unease. I wonder of he means what I mean when he thinks of freedom?

Not only am I uneasy in general with the current US Administration (and with the millions who support it, seemingly blind to its alienation from the rest of the planet), I am specifically concerned about the fact that this Administration, embodied in Bush, has subtly redefined issues and is deluding millions of people.

I need to spend more time reflecting on my disquiet. George Bush’s speech was certainly inspiring – and he pulled it off – better than could be expected. He is known to butcher the English language – he did not do that this week. But he lacked real passion and conviction. It was obvious that he was reading someone else’s words. It was obvious that he was aiming for media-friendly sound-bites, rather than flowing, passionate speech. During the past week, he has specifically stated that he wanted to deliver a speech that would be remembered by history (maybe even carved in stone in the Capitol like other inaugural addresses have been in the past). It was not one of those. But, in general, it was a good speech – if you’re American, anyway.

Continue reading Thoughts on the Tyranny of Freedom

Dealing with fear – sermon podcast

I preached a sermon in March 2007 on the issue of Fear. I was based in Johannesburg in South Africa at the time – a city and country that lives with low level fear of crime pretty much all the time. This sermon deals with what Christians should be doing to deal with social issues that produce the environment in which crime flourishes.

Fear and crime in South Africa is a personal problem, a national problem, a kingdom problem and a spiritual problem. As Christians, we are called to respond in many ways. And ultimately we are commanded by Jesus to “Do Not Fear”. Yes, it’s a command. The sermon focuses in on Jesus’ command in Matthew 10.

Listen to the sermon by downloading it here (3 Mb, MP3 file).