Brand Obama

Interesting comments in Saturday's Guardian on Barack Obama from Naomi Klein, writing 10 years after her book her No Logo was first published:

This preference for symbols over substance, and this unwillingness to stick to a morally clear if unpopular course, is where Obama decisively parts ways with the transformative political movements from which he has borrowed so much (the pop-art posters from Che, his cadence from King, his "Yes We Can!" slogan from the migrant farmworkers – si se puede). These movements made unequivocal demands of existing power structures: for land distribution, higher wages, ambitious social programmes. Because of those high-cost demands, these movements had not only committed followers but serious enemies. Obama, in sharp contrast not just to social movements but to transformative presidents such as FDR, follows the logic of marketing: create an appealing canvas on which all are invited to project their deepest desires but stay vague enough not to lose anyone but the committed wing nuts (which, granted, constitute a not inconsequential demographic in the United States). Advertising Age had it right when it gushed that the Obama brand is "big enough to be anything to anyone yet had an intimate enough feel to inspire advocacy". And then their highest compliment: "Mr Obama somehow managed to be both Coke and Honest Tea, both the megabrand with the global awareness and distribution network and the dark-horse, upstart niche player.

Made me think again of some insightful comments from Jim in December following Obama's receiving of the Nobel Peace Prize.   

Helping Local Churches Respond to Economic Crisis

Through advent at John Bunyan Baptist Church, I'm running 4 evenings looking a different contemporary issues - so far we've looked at UK politics and also Afghanistan and war. This week were looking at money and the economic crisis. I found some great resources here on the website of Columbia Theological Seminary from their journal @thispoint Spring 2009, for those who might want to have a go at tackling it with their church. It has a set of articles and then 4 'lesson plans'. Looks like they have some good stuff in their archives as well, for example on creation; new church experiments; living faithfully in a culture of fear.

should food not fairly traded be labelled 'unfair trade'?

Interesting article from Johann Hari in today's Independent on giving the English a spring clean. Here's what he says on the words 'fair trade'

Labelling food as "Fair Trade." This phrase suggests that paying desperately poor people a decent wage is a nice ethical add-on, and a gratifying departure from the norm. In fact, it should be taken for granted – the default position of civilised human beings. If we believed that, the labelling would be reversed: it's all the other food that should be labelled as "Unfair Trade", "Rapacious Trade", or "Let's-Pay-a-Pittance Trade." The terrific comedian Andy Zaltzman suggests a sign that could be on the packets: it is a silhouette of an obese businessman pissing on an African child.

The misread Rowan Williams

Rowan Williams does not do soundbites. He does carefully argued and constructed arguments. The problem
is in our reductive society / politics / media everything has to do be reduced to soundbite and headline. Some of what the media and the politicians are saying Rowan Williams said last night on Sharia law is way off mark (Will Gordon Brown ever stop peddling his crap 'British values for Britain' and the such like, no one buys it!). Interestingly you might think the Archbishop would learn after the media in almost all quarters twisted what he said about the nativity story - he said certain traditional elements are legend and not scriptural - this was turned into Archbishop says christmas story is just a legend. Sean Winter and Kester Brewin warn us off passing judgment without actually engaging with what Rowan Williams actually said. You can read it here (the argument is fairly complex). I found Paul Valley's analysis in the Independent pretty on the mark.

John Sentamu and his dog collar.

_44289338_archbishop203 In August 2006 he held a peace vigil in a tent and now in December 2007 the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu has, in an "Old Testament style" prophetic statement, cut up his dog collar - the sign of his Anglican identity - and won't wear one again in protest until President Mugabe of Zimbabwe leaves office. He said:

"Do you know what Mugabe has done? He's taken people's identity and literally, if you don't mind, cut it to pieces. This is what he's actually done to a lot of - and in the end there's nothing.

"So, as far as I'm concerned, from now on I'm not going to wear a dog collar until Mugabe is gone."

He continues to impress as a church leader. Partly he has not got himself tarnished with the homosexuality debate and is more free than Rowan Williams to speak on issues. Having said that, Rowan doesn't do badly himself. Its good to see these British church leaders engaging - prophetically - on these kind of issues. See Jim's reflections here.

Jesse Jackson at Regent's

Dscn5675The photo is of Jesse Jackson preaching at New Road Baptist Church on Tuesday evening, after having earlier spoken with ministerial, graduate and undergraduate students at Regent's. On Wednesday he returned to Regent's for more meetings with students and a lecture called 'Freedom and Education'. It was a great couple of days. I thought he preached really well (loud and rhetorical) and it was a great service. The question and answer sessions with students showed his political skills as he keep re-iterating his message for more a level playing field for black and other ethnic groups, which means more access to universities like Oxford and Cambridge. He showed a good grasp of the Iraq situation, suggesting that America has lost its moral authority (in my view they lost that a long time ago, if they ever really had any).

more on Blood Diamond

This is a violent film, the wanton destruction of life I found difficult to watch. This is not the popcorn violence of Bad Boys 2 or Mr and Mrs Smith.  Having seen the film and now watching the news about a third murder in South London of a young person, you are left searching for answers. Surely the answer is not to open two more prisons. The recent stories of  African countries - Sierra Leone, Rwanda, Dafur, Zimbabwe are stories of violence, of senseless violence. How do we respond to this violence? Blood Diamond is not a horror film, but there is something horrific about scenes involving children playing soliders. Here we see children given the ability to take life, who are told that a gun will give them the respect.  Again this is the reality of some children's lives, and we encourage children to literally play games (the latest being a supposedly 'Christian' game). Brodie gives one way of responding.

The Incovenient Truth

7953 This is a must-see and unsettling film. If there is one film you see this year, see this one. If you don't know what global warming is or why it is important, go and see this film. As Al Gore says, global warming is a moral issue. It is a Christian issue. The truth of global warming might be incovenient, but it is still the truth. This is a well-presented and well-argued case for changing the way we live, for cutting down on the energy we use. Get your home, your church, your workplace, your school making changes. Visit the website. Take action.