Showing posts from August, 2013


I don't understand how any violent action by the USA or any other power could achieve anything in Syria other than escalating the already appalling situation there.

I also don't understand how it is more morally acceptable to kill people by cruse missiles than by chemical methods. Talk of swift 'surgical' strikes may sound clean, even healing, but isn't such language only using euphemism to disguise the true horror?

Perhaps I am naive. I certainly don't pretend to understand the complexities of Syrian politics or the balance of power in the wider region of the Middle East. I do know that men, women and children are going through hell and need all the humanitarian help that the international community can give. 

Oxfam is sponsoring a petition 'Don't let Syria Down' which urges President Obama, President Putin and other world leaders to use their political weight to push for peace talks now and help get all parties to the Syria conflict around the table …

Cost of speaking truth to power: Beheading of John the Baptist

One of the reasons the Bible rings true is that all human life is there: the good, the bad, the ugly and the really horrible. It provides a mirror to humanity at its best, worst and even plain ordinary. It does much more, but that's for other posts.

Today is the 'lesser festival' of 'The Beheading of John the Baptist'. It commemorates a truly horrible and sordid story. Caravaggio's painting shown here is one of the less gory depictions of the scene.

I wrote about this story from the angle of the women involved over on the Bible Bible Project in 'Women Behaving Badly' and on this blog here. Today I'm thinking about the courage it took for John to fulfill God's call with passion for truth and justice. He was no crowd pleaser among those who held power.

John the Baptist's beheading is recorded in the gospels in Matthew 14: 1 - 12 and Mark 6: 1 - 29. what had John, son of Elizabeth and Zechariah done to deserve such a death and to have his head pre…

Blessed Virgin Mary

15th August in the Church of England calendar is the Festival of The Blessed Virgin Mary.

For Roman Catholics it is the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, celebrating a dogma that I won't attempt to explain because I neither understand nor believe in it. You can read the official definition here.  I think there is no Biblical basis for this and (as I wrote last year) assumes too much. It has inspired some magnificent art though. 

I grew up in a Reformed (Presbyterian) tradition and Mary mother of Jesus only ever seemed to get a look in at Christmas as far as I can remember. I've moved from that position of ignoring the significance of Mary most of the year to finding more and more reason to honour her as 'theotokos' (God-bearer), the greatest of the saints. I want to celebrate the whole of her life but much more the priceless treasure of the first-fruit of her womb. She is truly 'Blessed'.
Almighty God,who looked upon the lowliness of the Blessed …

Maximilian Kolbe

Above the West door of Westminster Abbey in London are statues of ten 20th century martyrs. Among them stands Maximilian Kolbe, a Conventual Franciscan Friar from Poland who died as Prisoner 16670 in Auschwitz Concentration Camp on 14 August 1941.

He had been arrested and imprisoned after sheltering 2000 Jewish people and other refugees from Greater Poland in the Friary in Niepokalanów. As a radio amateur he had also criticized Nazi activities through his radio reports.  

After a prisoner disappeared from Auschwitz in July 1941, the deputy camp commander selected 10 men to die by starvation and dehydration in the notorious Block 13. Maximilian Kolbe was not one of those selected but he volunteered to take the place of another man, Franciszek Gajowniczek who was crying out for his family. This was accepted.

During the weeks that it took the 10 to die Maximilian led the others in prayer and singing. The 4 still left alive after 3 weeks, including Maximilian, were murdered by carbolic ac…