Welcome to Life in 361˚. This blog is an 'open journal' - a space where I keep notes on bits & pieces I come across day-to-day - including books and articles I've read that I feel are worth sharing, interesting pictures and photos (I'm a visual learner, you see), random musings - and anything else that happens to catch my eye or ear. It also acts as a kind of 'open experiment' in terms of developing my views and writing skills - and networking with other people of a like-mind.

If you've stumbled upon here randomly, then I suggest you check out my biography and other pages.

Please Note: This site, and the social networking profile pages connected with it, reflect my personal interests & views which do not necessarily represent those of organisations I am affiliated / associated with.


Empire Strikes Back

Christianity, a movement originally started by a Jewish man born & bred in the 'Middle East', roughly 500 years before Mohammed - partly in response to oppression by corrupt religious authories and their imperial sponsors - today faces renewed oppression in its land of birth.

This follows reports of an unjust decree by a Saudi Arabian cleric, Abdulaziz Al al-Shaikh, that all churches should be destroyed in the region.

Which leads me to remember this, the British greeting for Saudi royalty a few years ago (and an interesting discussion over their malign influence in the West).


The Liberal Christian Herald

Just a quick blog tonight as I'm pretty tired having spent the day cycling from South Manchester up to Glossop via the Transpennine Trail (a lot longer than the crow's flight path!) in the glorious spring sun.
Yesterday I received my copy of the quarterly journal of the Unitarian Christian Association and was surprised to find that it had become The Liberal Christian Herald (it was previously known formally as The Unitarian Christian Herald, and more commonly as the Herald).

At first glance I didn't  know what to make of it to be honest. I suppose the first question I posed was, "what's in a name change?" Although it saddens me a little that 'Unitarian' has been 'ditched', I do think this word has become somewhat fuzzy and devalued because of the anti-Christian revisionism within some parts of the Unitarian & Free Christian community over the past few decades. I think, for the UCA to reach a wider Christian audience and speak with credibility, there is an argument that the brand name needed changing. In thinking this over I did initially wonder if I would have preferred The Free Christian Herald, but that would perhaps be as equally ambiguous and niche - and given we pay for the publication, may even be unlawful under the Trade Descriptions Act! On further reflection, it seemed - aside from using 'Progressive' which would inadvertently tie them in with PCN Britain - 'Liberal' was the most logical choice.

I'm guessing (and just guessing) this name change could well also represent a gradual, deeper shift in the UCA from the seeking to simply preserve the Christianity of the Hungarian-Transylvanian Unitarian type to becoming a voice (maybe even The Voice, to steal a talent show title!) and centre for Liberal Christianity in the UK. The reason I guess this is because the Autumn 2011 edition announced that The Christian Compass archives, a defunct magazine focusing on Free Christianity, had been gifted to the UCA and that the group would actively seek to continue this cause. It's also worth noting that within the pages of this most recent edition, there is an article making a case for 'soft trinitarianism'.

If all this means the UCA is become more overtly Martineauesque, if it means the UCA is setting about moving its light from under the bushel, I welcome and support that.


Human miracles?

There is so much to blog about at the moment - Lent, Afghanistan, leadership of the Church of England, homosexual marriage, the Lib Dems (Stephen Lingwood has published a thought-provoking post on them here), the Budget and so on. But I simply don't have the time - the day job beckons and I have numerous large pieces of work to complete before the Easter holidays arrive (where marriage planning and essay writing are then likely to take over!).

However, I will comment on, briefly, the observations of Howard Webb who refereed the ill-fated Bolton Wanderers versus Tottenham Hotspur football match on Saturday. As most readers in the UK will be aware already, the match saw Fabrice Muamba collapse with an almost-fatal heart problem in front of 35,000 fans. Since the incident, Howard Webb - commenting in the Sheffield Star - has drawn attention to what he believes was the crowd willing Fabrice Muamba to survive, alluding to a collective force at work.

I struggle with the idea of an interventionist God, casting down miracles and curses seemingly on a whim, but I am pretty much convinced the human soul has a profound power beyond our understanding (my own theological position is that each human soul is directly derived from God - something similar to 'The Oversoul') - and my reading of this incident is that during those dark moments on Saturday we saw a glimpse of human potential, individual and collective.


Goodbye Mr Williams

Having inhabited largely liberal Christian circles (Unitarian & Free Christian, Quaker, Progressive Christian) over the past decade, I have encountered hostile views towards the larger churches, namely the Church of England. There are many reasons for this, I think part of it lies in legitimate, conscientious opposition to certain doctrine and practices, part of it lies in human psychology (individual and collective) given that many entrants into the 'church of dissenters' have had hurtful experiences in their previous community - and some of it, I have to say, rests in a holier-than-thou attitude towards 'the other', something we are all guilty of at times (even though we self-declared pluralists often tend to believe we have transcended such tribalism).

I've not had hurtful experiences of the Church of England - if anything, I thank it for imbuing me with moderate Christian values from an early age and providing community, in terms of the youth clubs I attended as a teen. The only reason I decided to take up some kind of religious affiliation outside of it was simply because I could no longer stand there and rationally (I have since realised it's not all about reason!) subscribe to seemingly required doctrine such as the Trinity, Original Sin, Atonement and so on - it was a matter of conscience, rather than rejection of my experience of the community. And for this reason I continue to follow this church's life with interest, in some ways still feeling an affinity with it - added to the fact it is the state-sponsored religious institution and therefore influential on public life.

It was no shock that Rowan Williams has decided to retire, it had been rumoured for some time he was going to, and just as when the main political party leaders change, regardless of the party I always feel a certain level of intrigue - and excitement (cue geek alarm...) - about the possibilities of who might come to take on the mantle of leadership.

I once heard an argument that the Archbishop of York position was traditionally the academic, mystical voice of Anglicanism, functioning primarily within the church as 'teacher of the teachers' (as a sidenote, I once read that James Martineau had a similar role within the 19th century Unitarian & Free Christian denomination), whereas the Archbishop of Canterbury position was that of the communicator, the figure who takes the message of the church 'outside' to the masses and oversaw more practical matters. If this line of argument is followed, I would imagine John Sentamu has a very good chance to become the next Archbishop of Canterbury. And I think in this current time of crisis and change, there is a need for someone of his considerable talents and consensual approach.

I think also, importantly, the worldwide Anglican Communion requires a figurehead who can hold the the diverse elements together because what is needed is dialogue between the various strands of Christianity rather than fragmentation - and the Anglican Communion, as a historically broad church, is in many ways a testing lab for this. And for all his critics, this is something Rowan Williams managed to do, as prominent conservative Anglican blogger Cranmer alludes to in a recent post. In the much-quoted words of Ferenc Dávid, the first Unitarian 'Archbishop', "we need not think alike, to love alike."


Day Job

Despite a number of events happening that I wanted to blog about, I've been too busy to post recently due to various projects at work. I try not to mix the two, but for those who read my blog regularly, this is a glimpse of what I do when I'm not pontificating about faith and politics.