Monthly Archives: January 2015

Je suis Charlie

There are European values. I became more aware of them watching the BBC 4 Saturday night European subtitled drama slot. European values lean heavily to laughter, mockery and forgiveness. Police dramas still focus on discovering who did the crime, but are not, in general, much interested in vengeance against them. They are (and I hope American friends will forgive me for saying so) much gentler towards the offenders than most USA dramas tend to be.

The ghastly killings at Charlie Hebdo cut right into our sense of shared European values. Cruel, vengeful, unable to tolerate humour, they cut at the very heart of what we hold dear. The suggestion we stop laughing, even that we stop some of our cruder humour, in order to avoid making ourselves targets is, well it just goes against everything we might believe.

Yet there is another European value, and to this we have not paid enough attention. Justice. There was no justice in invading Iraq, and even less in doing so without a plan to then help the country arrive at peace and prosperity. There was little justice in our actions in Afghanistan, where we made more trouble than we were capable of solving.

Least of all is there any justice in how we approach the Israel/Palestine conflict, a conflict which urgently needs resolved, and would have been easier to resolve earlier.

The roots of the Charlie Hebdo murders lie far back, and a fertile breeding ground we ourselves have helped to create. The murders are wicked and disproportionate. There is no excuse or justification for them.

But if we want to prevent such things, the answers do not lie in police protection or in greater vigilance against terrorism. They lie in a more just world order, where it is easier for wicked men to be stopped in their tracks much sooner.

With or without the spur of fear, the duty of all of us is to work unceasingly for justice. We must have justice and courtesy for all those from minority faiths and communities in our lands. Justice in our trade polices, and justice in our foreign policies. Anything else is, ultimately, as unEuropean as shooting dead people who make jokes.


Happy New Ephphany!

When I lived in England I did not understand the New Year at all. As a ex-pat Scot who was reared in England and now lives in Scotland I am still not sure I wholly get it. Maybe the version I have is all my own, but as it is precious to me, I cling to it.

It falls in what is the (liturgical) Christmas season, yet it has a very different atmosphere. Christmas (to me) is pure magic. Not the kind which works against the world, but the kind which works with it. The magic deep down the fibres of life. The kind which makes you draw a breath of wonder at each tiny baby, and stare with astonishment at the beauty of a new born gripping a finger. Not because it cannot be explained, but because the explanation takes you to deep quiet places. Its best services are full of silence and and quiet embraces.

Christmas is arrived at after frantic hard work, and in a state of tiredness, an an increasing sense that there is no tie at all, and yet comes to a moment of utter stillness. A moment to enfold your beloved ones.

The New Year is about another kind of silence. The time to reflect on what is lost and why some of it is well lost. A time to look to plans and hopes with a heart which suddenly thinks that there is a whole year to get there, and time to rejoice and dawdle on the way.

We do rejoice and dawdle. We catch up with old friends. We even make new ones. Our plans are extravagant, all-embracing. New Year spills out past Christmas and into Epiphany, when we are able at last to party for the new born and show him off to everybody. The Scots are still wishing people a happy new year well into January, and the church by then is remembering just how that baby set aobut transforming the world.

And we need the hope and the resolutions, even if we only half believe in either, for they hurl us forward into our own new efforts at transformations. Happy New Year, everybody. Believe you can change your own lives and the lives around you. You need all the faith you can muster for the New Year.