Author Archives: rfadmin

The villain’s vicar

dave_tomlinson_twitterHere’s a picture of my knee, playing a supporting role in an interview today with a man that the Daily Mail tells me is known as “The Villains’ Priest”. He also has a beer named after him, called “Bad Christian”. So whose church is this?

A letter from… the Jordan Valley

Parc Jordan ValleyWe met a lot of farmers today [Friday]. This is the house of Huzan Drajmeh and his family of six, whose village has the bad luck to find itself in a part of Palestinian territory where Palestinian presence is particularly disliked by the Israeli army.

They are allowed to farm their land, but the water supply is limited to say the least: the village of 7000 share half as much water as nearby Israeli newcomers get per person. Their electric supply is basically a long flex on the ground.

And the army knocks down their houses. Huzan’s was demolished 9 days ago, for the 4th time in three months.

“They come with a big force,” he told me, “200 or 300 soldiers, armed vehicles, fully equipped. You cannot do anything. The first time they took us out by force, and demolished everything. They threw our luggage and belongings out, and destroyed it, our fridge, our air conditioning, our possessions.”

Perhaps the army see them as a threat to security, though it’s not exactly obvious how. Huzan’s alternative interpretation agrees with what former Israeli soldiers have told us: the hounding of Palestinians is nothing to do with security and everything to do with making their life impossible so they go away. One soldier said: “These measures don’t make anybody safer, they just make Palestinians suffer and leave”. Huzan said: “The Israelis aim to get us out of here and empty the area so they can completely control it.”

We were taken around by a local organisation called PARC, which aims to improve their agricultural methods, access to markets and social arrangements so brilliantly that they can survive where they are, despite all the disruption.

Christian Aid’s Christmas appeal is focussing on its work in Israel-Palestine, and there’s no part of Christmas I’m looking forward to more than chipping in for it. See for details.

A letter from… Hebron

HebronI’m travelling with Christian Aid to Israel/Palestine, and our first day’s outing was to Hebron, an eerie, desolate place.

It’s a city of two halves. It’s home to 175,000 Palestinians, and since the 1980s 750 Israeli settlers have joined them. This is a street in the Israeli sector (where Palestinians are still a 40 to one majority). In the 1990s, it was a constantly crammed market street, but now Palestinians are not allowed on the road, so all the shop fronts that line it are closed. Above the shops, people still live in the apartments, but can’t leave them by the front. Some can only leave by the roof.

To the left you see a graveyard. To the right you see pretty much the same.

(Picture credit: Tom Pilston/Christian Aid)

What’s wrong with this sentence?

From the Mail: “A Christian evangelical pastor is on trial accused of stealing more than $40m from the megachurch he founded to fund his wife’s dreams of being a pop star in the US.”

There’s something about all this that sounds a bit wrong to me, but I can’t quite put my finger on what it is.

And behold, the worst ever Christmas song…

This just in. Hot on the heals of yesterday’s splendid effort in the field of worst Christian CD, we have a new challenger in an equally crowded field, worst Christmas song. You remember Carl Douglas’s 1974 disco hit “Kung Fu Fighting”, and so do I, but I think we all missed it’s untapped Christmassy potential. Only when someone else does it do we see how obvious it is.


537782I’ve just, for no very good reason, been looking on the Department of Education’s website at the section on state-maintained faith schools. I learned three interesting things.*

a) one third of all state schools are also faith schools. You probably knew that already, but I didn’t.

b) the number of state schools each religion/denomination has is roughly the same or more than the number of independent schools it has, except for Islam, which has almost 12 times as many independent schools as state schools.

c) to be a DofE spokesperson for faith schools, you don’t have to know anything at all about faiths. The site divides faith schools in two: “major Christian denominations” and “other”. Other consists of: Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, Greek Orthodox, Hindu, Quaker, and United Reformed Church. Which may seem like an odd assortment, but fair enough. Then we’re told:

The major Christian denominations are:

  • Christian (138)                                   
  • Church of England (4606)
  • Roman Catholic (1985)
  • Methodist (26)

It’s pretty alarming that, well anyone, but certainly someone with this job, should have thought, “Let’s see, 138 out of 7000 Christian schools are called Somewhere Christian School, so ‘Christian’ is obviously a denomination of Christianity about 5 times the size of Methodism”. And since it contains schools run by Pentecostal, Seventh Day Adventist and house churches, you could forgive the URC, Orthodox and Quakers for feeling miffed about their placing…

*Interestingness of this information may vary 

Mission and misunderstanding

pilgrimpack.jpgI realise not everyone is as interested as I am in how religion  is reported in the media, and this is hardly in the realm of the Ralph Miliband smear, but I’m impressed by the shamelessly obvious  gap between report and reality in this story [paywalled link] on Anglican evangelism in the Times.

It reports on a new evangelistic initiative by the Church of England, called Pilgrim. Pilgrim takes the supremely sensible approach that people who are interested in Christianity might not know a great deal about it, and almost certainly do not want to be preached at, but will appreciate an opportunity to learn and explore.

Hence the article quotes two statements from the course’s website:

  1. “Pilgrim assumes very little understanding or knowledge of the Christian faith.”
  2. “It approaches the great issues of faith not through persuasion, but participation in a pattern of contemplation and discussion with a group of fellow travellers.”

That’s the news content of the piece. Which makes the opening paragraph of the article a pretty dizzying leap of journalism:

“The Church of England has admitted that the country has become a nation that knows almost nothing about Christianity and that there is no point any more attempting to convert anyone.”

Who hates Britain?

This one pagePaul-Dacre of an unknown newspaper contains the sentence “This Land of Hope and Glory is just a land of yobs and drunks” three times.

“My patriotism has gone out of the window” occurs just once.

It says countless times that Britain was not worth fighting for, and twice that the heroes who did fight for it now… wait for it… “hate” it.