Thursday, 5 November 2009

Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks and The Theos Lecture

The Times has taken a bold line on Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks's lecture at the Theos debate last night:

“Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks: Europe is dying from secularism”

I didn’t see Ruth Gledhill there last night (but it doesn’t mean she wasn’t) – she must have downloaded the podcast online. (You can read her piece here:

Chief Rabbi Sacks didn’t say Europe was dying from secularism. What he actually said was: “It may not be religion that is dying. It may be liberal democratic secularism that is in danger.”

He argued that tolerant religiosity needed to be promoted over fundamentalism and that the problem that can occur with liberalism is its inability to defend its own values (i.e. cultural relativism). He also stressed that believers, atheists and agnostics were in this together and that religious people must be prepared to enter into respectful conversation with secular humanists over the nature of society. I didn’t have an argument with any of that. I admired the fact that he laid down some cards rather than holding them back and doing that liberal thing of asking lots of academic questions but never having a stab at the answers.

I also liked the fact that he defined faith as the courage to live with uncertainty. I was less enthused about the reason for his desertion of philosophy: “The search for meaning is in itself meaningless”. Religion is not the only space to discover meaning; love creates meaning, but Rabbi Sacks didn’t touch on that at all.

I also would have liked to have heard some unpacking of why he thought it was that a religious family was more likely to have more children than a secular family. The answer may not have been a pretty one. Also, if Rabbi Sacks was prepared to turn our attention to population decline in Europe and population growth in the world, I think it was a little feeble of him to steer clear of questions concerning immigration.

But, all in all, I liked Jonathan Sacks and enjoyed his lecture.

Lord Tebbit and Thought For The Day

Excellent response by Lord Tebbit this morning on the Today Programme when Sarah Montague asked him about David Cameron’s renegade on a Europe referendum.

He said: “I think we might all take home a transcript of the Thought For The Day this morning. Perhaps we have all got something to learn from that.”

This is what Rhidian Brook said on Thought For The Day this morning: “There's no question that we're creatures wired for communication but it can't just be about speed and immediacy, or even about words. Indeed, the monastic traditions saw self-control, listening and not speaking as essential for the kind of deep communication some believe we were created for. 'Be still and know that I am God', the psalmist wrote, or to paraphrase: switch off, dial down and tune into another kind of communication - the kind that allows the mind the experience of a deeper, uninterrupted level of thought where creativity and complex thinking can happen and where we may even hear a different voice. I once tried an experiment just before starting work of sitting in a chair for half an hour without doing anything, thinking anything or trying to communicate with anyone. It's an exquisitely difficult exercise and one I failed badly. But before I drop my laptop in the bath or ignore my daughter again, I'm going to give it another try and maybe, with God's help, I'll be able to sit there not sending messages - until I get the message.”

What about that for an idea! A Tory Government that sits in silence and meditates until it is time for the next election.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Kristin Scott Thomas

A bizarre angle to the reporting of Kristin Scott Thomas’s role in the film Partir taken by The Telegraph today:

“Kristin Scott Thomas's voice is no barrier in France,” the headline clips, “Received Pronunciation has been increasingly marginalised by Labour during its decade in power with the result that Kristin Scott Thomas, tired of being consigned to endless period dramas in her homeland, has taken her cut-glass accent to France.”

Kristin Scott Thomas has lived in France for years and done French films for ages. She has said before in interviews that she comes to England to do theatre and stays in France to do films. Anyone reading The Telegraph today would think that she only just moved to Paris yesterday. Basically, The Telegraph has dressed Kristin in its politics. We all know that The Telegraph’s top pin-ups are Kate Winslet, Helen Mirren and Joanna Lumley and we all know why The Telegraph loves them (and I am not implying that it shouldn't).

Unfortunately, there is very little info in the article about the film itself: