Aristotle, Muamba, Hunger Games and Rioting in Trumpton
A regular Friday round-up of articles which I have found interesting / thought-provoking / challenging / amusing during the week, pointing you in the direction of some stuff you might have otherwise missed.
Last Sunday we looked at Matthew 6:16-18 where Jesus talks about fasting (Keeping Up Appearances), so I was intrigued to read that scientists say fasting can help protect against brain diseases. US scientists at the National Institute on Ageing in Baltimore claim that giving up almost all food for one or two days a week can counteract the impact of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Do read the article carefully, though, if you’re tempted to try.
This week New Scientist has published The God issue: New science of religion. To read the full articles, all of which are worthwhile, you’ll need to sign up (it’s free). However, a quick overview is available to whet the appetite, indicating ‘recent findings that are challenging standard critiques of religious belief’, such as:
“Children are born primed to see god at work all around them and don’t need to be indoctrinated to believe in him.”
“Belief in a god or gods does appear to encourage people to be nice to one another. Humans clearly don’t need religion to be moral, but it helps.”
The conclusion of this brief article is that what it calls ‘the new science of religion’ tells us where secularists are going wrong, and ‘to rule out god, first get to know him’:
This is not an apologia for god. Religious claims still wither under rational scrutiny and deserve no special place in public life. But it is a call for those who aspire to a secular society to approach it rationally – which means making more effort to understand what they are dealing with. Religion is deeply etched in human nature and cannot be dismissed as a product of ignorance, indoctrination or stupidity. Until secularists recognise that, they are fighting a losing battle.
Bob Kauflin’s article What I Learned from Aristotle about Leading Congregational Worship applies the teaching of the Greek philosopher and polymath to worship leading. Aristotle identified three crucial areas – logos, ethos, and pathos - to help speakers be more persuasive.
Briefly, logos is seeking to persuade through truth. Aristotle was concerned that the speakers of his day, the sophists, focused too much on flowery language and not enough on actual content.
Ethos has to do with the character of the person speaking. Aristotle recognized that listeners tend to be influenced most by people whose character they trust.
Pathos refers to the ability to stir the emotions of your listeners. Important truths are often presented with no apparent response in the hearer. Airline attendants experience that every time they review the flight safety procedures before takeoff.
I found the application in the article helpful.
The Letters of Note website (correspondence deserving of a wider audience) is an attempt to gather and sort fascinating letters, postcards, telegrams, faxes, and memos. I Like Words is brilliant – Robert Pirosh’s attempt in 1934 to break into writing for the movies.
I like words. I like fat buttery words, such as ooze, turpitude, glutinous, toady. I like solemn, angular, creaky words, such as straitlaced, cantankerous, pecunious, valedictory. I like spurious, black-is-white words, such as mortician, liquidate, tonsorial, demi-monde.
Do read it all. Fittingly, I was alerted to that one by a Stephen Fry tweet.
You hardly need me to point you towards a story that has been everywhere this week after Bolton footballer Fabrice Muamba collapsed last weekend. As I tweeted a few days ago it’s great that prayer has been making the news. In Prayers for Muamba, Mark Easton asks:
Have you prayed for Fabrice Muamba today? His family are exhorting the country to believe in the power of prayer, and I suspect many millions of Britons, whether they have faith or not, will have felt moved to offer a silent appeal to an invisible power asking that the young footballer pull through.
and goes on to examine the ‘apparent efficacy of prayer’. Another article worth a quick look, Fabrice Muamba and the Power of Prayer, can be found on the Christianity magazine web site.
Talking of Twitter, which we weren’t, but we are now, the Telegraph ran an article on The vicar spreading the word, one tweet at a time:
You know you’ve come to a different kind of Sunday service when you see the sign attached to the pillars of St Paul’s church in Weston-super-Mare. It reads “Abraham 123” – only this is not today’s Bible reading: it’s the password to the church’s Wi-Fi network.
How would that go down in Faversham?
The movie The Hunger Games opens today, a haunting, fictional portrayal of poverty and hunger. ‘But,’ Tearfund asks, ‘what about the 1 billion all over the world for whom food insecurity is a daily reality?’ In his blog The Real Hunger Games David Westlake, Integral Mission Director at Tearfund UK, describes the film as Big Brother meets the East Africa food crisis.
The Hunger Games tells a story of a future that doesn’t exist…yet. But themes of hunger, violence and poverty do exist, right now, all over the world.
The church needs to lead the way in a social revolution that sees people make lifestyle changes in a world of increasing population and finite resources, ensuring that all who are made in the image of God are treated equally.
The inofgraphic on the Tearfund page is very clear on the causes of hunger. I’ll be searching for the book on my Kindle – it seems worth a read.
And finally, I find the coverage on the NewsBiscuit site refreshing. This week, they’ve been covering the rioting in Trumpton over the fire station closure:
Violence erupted in the sleepy backwater of Trumpton last night following the announcement that the fire station would be closed and services provided by Fireman Sam Plc from CBBC. Pugh, Pugh, Barney McGrew, Cuthbert, Dibble and Grub are being offered new terms of pay and conditions if they move stations, but Captain Flack will have to take early retirement.
I do hope it all blows over soon.