August 2005

The Guardian worries about the rise of independent evangelical Christian schools (link nicked from greengolux, who is a LJ-friend of the second degree: greengolux‘s own entry on this contains some interesting discussion).

This sort of thing is the Guardian equivalent of the Daily Mail’s “those darkies are taking our jobs while simultaneously being benefit scroungers” story. For example, they ran a story in 1999 telling us how Christian Unions are over-running our universities with trendy stealth Christians, who don’t even have the decency to wear short trousers and cycling helmets so you can avoid them at parties (when I say “you”, I don’t mean me, obviously, as I always make a bee-line for them and show them the error of their ways). Writing back when I was a Christian, I found the Guardian‘s earnestness and condescension faintly ridiculous.

With this in mind, it seems likely we can discount the stuff about how fundamentalist Christian schools are as bad for society than their Muslim equivalents and will eventually turn the UK into America. The Muslim schools are a part of a sub-culture which is currently getting a lot of press because it can draw people in from a significant minority, and hence is able to hold itself aloof from the surrounding culture. The Christian schools are on a smaller scale, and the UK’s culture is much less explicitly Christian than the US’s. It would take more than a few specialist schools to change this.

What is offensive to me is the idea that the National Christian Schools’ Certificate is be acceptable for entrance to nursing training, as “Christian” here means teaching creationism. Fortunately, it doesn’t seem to be sufficient for any sort of university entrance (note site’s careful wording about how UCAS‘s material “includes details” of the NCSC).

Apart from being biological flat-earthers, though, some of the schools are doing well by their pupils: OFSTED points out that at Emmanuel School, Exeter, the pupils at are well behaved and happy and the parents are involved in their children’s education. That’s not to say they’re perfect, as a report of another Christian school failing academically shows, but even there, the inspectors did not criticise the pastoral care given by the school. It’s unlikely that the pupils at this school will have the Hellmouth experience that some large state schools will give their pupils.

These schools are doing some right things, but for the wrong reasons. It is good that parents are involved in the children’s education, and that the children are happy, and can work at their own pace. Some of the disagreement expressed in the Guardian article with rote learning is probably directed at the desirable learning of the basics which, if some people are to be believed, has become unfashionable.

But, behind it all, lies an insular Christianity which draws a sharp line between the church and the world, and, as a consequence, wishes to insulate children from opinions with which their Christian parents disagree. Kids ought to learn critical thinking (although I’m not sure how far they do so in the state system), and not just their parents views, because, as one of the Guardian‘s interviewees says, “Nobody owns kids… you hold them on trust”.

It may be that these schools are providing a strong culture of the sort which will actually benefit their children: if so, that culture may well propagate, and maybe I’ll be wrong about how much Christians can accomplish with a handful of private schools. I can’t help feel that the rest of us would deserve it: the happy and safe environment in those schools is something we ought to be able to provide, based on everyone’s desire to get the best for their kids.

What I actually think will happen, though, is that these schools will produce a few of the short-trousers sort of Christian, and a fair few people who will realise they’ve been screwed over and reject evangelical Christianity after they leave home. I do worry about the kids who are sent to these schools, but to be brutal about it, they are few in number, and the state system can do a lot worse. We will not be over-run by Christians if they don’t know basic science and have never had to enter into a debate about their views.

Danced on Friday. Went to a fellow Churchillian’s wedding on Saturday. There are photos, but they were taken with a digital SLR, so you can tell exactly which hairs I missed when I shaved. I don’t think anyone needs to see that, so I won’t link to them. A good time was had by all.

Today, I bought the DVD of the first season of Scrubs and showed a couple to scribb1e, who pronounced them hilarious and worryingly close to the mark (although thankfully the stuff about booting people who don’t have insurance isn’t true here).

Just finished my reply to nlj21 on the “God Hates Long Hair” thread. I found the MP3 of a sermon on the passage in question (which I remember hearing live, as it was preached at my old church several years ago). Though the preacher is not quite as hard line about hair as I am in my posting, he does sugges that God Hates Androgyny (which I recall was an evangelical bugbear at the time, no idea whether it still is) and reminds us that women were created as helpers for men and not vice versa. I felt sorry for the guy lumbered with preaching it, in fact, as I remember him being a nice person. Much like here, I’m amazed at how easy it is to get nice people to believe outrageous things about themselves.

Finally got Mozex going on Firefox with Mac OS X. This means I can edit my comments on LiveJournal with Vim rather than messing about with LJ’s comment posting box and the less powerful editing facilities from my browser. I can also use Danny O’Brien’s marvellous Google linkification script. Which is nice. It’d be even nicer if Firefox’s process creation API worked properly on Mac OS X, though.

As a result on all this mucking about, I’ve not had time to respond to comments on the God Hates Hair entry. I’ll get around to it sooner or later, though.

I have been arguing with nlj21 in another place. I must tell you that God gets quite irate about women with short hair, and about men with long hair (but beards are OK). My burden to see that the Scriptures are obeyed in this matter has caused me to seek a wider audience for my views, namely the countless tens of people who will read this. I may also look at establishing if someone hasn’t already pinched it. Let us examine the matter:

<lj-cut text=”Grab your hermeneutics and exegete!”>
Our discussion started with an explanation of the Christian doctrine that a husband has authority over his wife just as Christ does over the church, as explained in Ephesians 5:22-25. Compare this with 1 Cor 11:1-3, where the Apostle Paul draws a similar relation between Christ, men and women, again using the analogy of a head (the same word for head is used in the Greek throughout, as you can verify at Blue Letter Bible).

Now, the Apostle’s argument the rest of the passage is not merely about marriage, but about hair. In the key verses 14 and 15 he writes: Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? (NIV), a rhetorical question which clearly expects the answer “Yes”, given the context.

We find a similar argument for the unnaturalness of homosexuality in Romans 1:27. We can see that when Paul argues from nature, his mind is on the divinely created order (here, he perhaps recalls Genesis 2:24).

Some might argue that this teaching on hair reflects Paul’s cultural background. However, the fact that Paul wishes us to consider the created order is made even clearer in a similar passage, 1 Tim 2:11-15, where Paul again writes about male authority, this time in leadership of the church. As others have also argued, when Paul writes that I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent, he writes not merely of his culture but of the created order, as 1 Tim 2:13 makes clear.

Returning to 1 Corinthians 11, we see that Paul again argues from the created order, in verses 8 and 9: For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. (NIV again). Therefore this teaching (and the related implication about the importance of women wearing a hat or other head covering while praying) cannot be taken to be cultural.

What about the Nazarite vow of Numbers 6, which seems to show divine approval of long hair for men? This is a hard passage to understand, but let us concentrate on four points. Firstly, the vow was temporary, and does not sanction Christians who habitually sin by having long hair (or short hair if they are women). Secondly, the vow was an Old Testament sacrifice of a kind which is no longer required of Christians (q.v. most of the book of Hebrews). Thirdly, note that the eventual cutting off of the hair was pleasing to God. Fourthly, Numbers 6 in no way sanctions short hair for women.

To return from this somewhat technical digression, it is clear that Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 11 is that long hair on men and short hair on women goes against the divinely created order.

Some might dispute the importance of this passage, given that Scripture does not mention God’s concern with hair elsewhere, but I would remind them that, as Paul writes in 2 Tim 3:16, all Scripture is God-breathed (NIV). Christians cannot pick and choose in these matters.

It is my hope that Bible-believing Christians will take this teaching seriously and act to remove the evil of bad hair in their churches, though this is probably somewhat forlorn as hair isn’t as exciting as bondage or buggery.

So say we all.

A fun weekend, full of late nights. On Friday, I joined scribb1e, bluap and a host of other potential villains at a murder mystery party. My character was Willie Wakeup, a German hypnotist, so was able to do my Gag Halfrunt impersonation. After bluap and I had used our Holmesian powers of deduction to correctly identify the murderer, people started swapping costumes, transforming David B into a French colonel figure. What do you think of this as a potential user icon?

chaos_natsci had a birthday party on Saturday, with lots of lovely food and interesting people. scribb1e, illusive_shelle and joanneelizabeth got started on reproducing the famous CDC Snog Graph. Note that the image enhancing technology that would enable you to read the graph from that picture only exists in films, so stop trying to zoom in using Microsoft Paint: the original is now in the hands of scribb1e, who is bound by the Hippocratic Oath, or something. There’s the suggestion that we should replace the nodes with blue or pink dots and then use it as a publicity poster. I think we slightly surprised the onlookers, who had thought that CDC was some sort of dancing club.

We went to a Proms in the Park concert in Bedford last night. There were the usual favourites, finishing up with singing Jerusalem, Land of Hope and Glory, and then watching a firework display while the orchestra played 633 Squadron and Live and Let Die. Great fun. The people waving flags all over the place gave me an unusual burst of national pride.

Aled Jones was there, much to the delight of the grannies. He has an excellent singing voice: I don’t think I’ve heard him sing since Walking in the Air all those years ago. Among other things, he sang How Great Thou Art, which is apparently the nation’s favourite hymn.

I once sang it on a hillside in Derbyshire, on a CU houseparty. It was night. We could see the lights of the village below (whose residents hopefully couldn’t hear us). There was a cloudless, starry sky. I see the stars, indeed. Aled Jones’s singing, beneath another clear night sky, was fiercely evocative of that moment, one of those echoes which left me feeling strangely dissociated. The music can revive the emotions from that time, but the reason behind them has gone, and, of course, these days any emotional response associated with Christianty is also tinged with something of the pain of loss (although it’s not particularly searing, thankfully, more a sort of nostalgia).

So, I came home and watched the latest episode of season two of Battlestar Galactica, which fell off the back of a lorry and landed at my feet, guv’nor. It’s good stuff, although as some fans have said, I live in fear that the writers don’t actually know where they’re going, and the whole thing will end up like The X-Files. Still, there are some obvious future plotlines being set up, so we live in hope.

Someone on a web page I was reading the other day compared the present unpleasantness to the Idiran-Culture war. I do hope not: the things a highly technological society can do when forced to defend its very existence don’t bear thinking about. With that in mind, and with my Stephenson “some cultures are better than others” hat on, Blair’s latest proposals sound like a good idea.

Linkage from the other blogs I read:

By careful experiment, someone proves that the fundamentalists are wrong to say that roleplaying games and Harry Potter are dangerous.

There’s an interesting post over at Metafilter discussing Austrialian broadcaster Philip Adams, who faces off with quite the most arrogant atheists you could ever hope to meet.

Finally, Jacqueline Passey seeks traveling companion and lover. And why not? I think you’d need to be a devotee of Ayn Rand to be in with much of a chance, though. Ms Passey has a quite straightforward view of religion too, as it happens.