REV-01-1024x681 One of the highlights of this year's Greenbelt was an interview with James Wood and Tom Hollander, creators of Rev. Rev is a BBC2 comedy from earlier this summer which was about the life of a innercity Anglican vicar, Adam Smallbone (played by Tom Hollander). It was a fantastically insightful, well-researched and funny look at modern ministry, which received lots of great reviews. Non-UK readers look out for it on DVD or possibly BBC America. The first episode looked at people who showed up at church in order to get their child into the local CofE school; the second, the issues arising when another church takes over with smoothie bar, sofas and their awesome vicar Darren (clip here); the third was about a Muslim group wanting to use the church and a lap-dancing club opening across the school; the fourth was about Adam's jealous of another vicar's popularity on TV and radio; the fifth was about the loneliness of ministry; and the sixth is about Adam's crisis of faith. There were many great moments, as well as some bits when I thought it went a little too far in its humour. Two moments that stand out. In episode 2 when Adam says to Darren that his service was 'more show that sacrament' - a timely reminder that being relevant and contemporary (see here) can leave behind faithfulness and truthfulness. And in episode 6 when Adam has reached rock bottom in his crisis of faith, he is asked to pay a pastoral visit to a dying woman and he is reminded of the verse read at his ordination from Isaiah 6: 'the Lord said whom shall I send? and I said 'Send me'. Something about being called to ministry regardless of self-doubt and uncertainty that comes with life and also that his ordination affirmed God's call on his life.

The conversation with Wood and Hollander was revealing as well as amusing. They talked about their desire for the show to be authentic and how they discovered through their research and doing the show the demands that come with minsitry. While neither of them are what others might call committed believers, they have created a show and characters who capture the demands, the difficulties and the joys of Christian life and ministry.


Did Darwin Kill God? asks Connor Cunningham

Next Tuesday (31st March) Connor Cunningham of Nottingham University explores the question did Did Darwin Kill God? He believes no. More on the programme can be found here and a trailer here. Should be good and offers a reply for those who didn't like some of the one-sidedness of the David Attenborough BBC programme earlier this year on Darwin.

Cherie Blair on Willow Creek as the future of Christianity

The final episode of Christianity: a history was presented by Cherie Blair.  She argued that the future of Christianity may lay in the kind of Christianity that is represented by Willow Creek. She interviewed Bill Hybels and showed clips from the service. I was amused by the words 'SERVICE STARTING IN THREE MINUTES' and 'YOU ARE LOVED' which appeared on the screen in the auditorium. Blair failed to understand the differences between Christianity in the States and in the UK and the rest of Europe. There are huge differences in why Europe has a falling church attendance ('Europe is the exceptional case' according to Grace Davie) and the States doesn't (yet?).  Where the United States was viewed as the future, Blair also failed to present the many hundreds and thousands of vibrant church projects in the UK which are making a more positive contribution to society. She focused entirely on the downward trend, specifically within the Roman Catholic church. The programme along with Ann Widdecombe's (another practicing Roman Catholic) on the Reformation failed to make any reference to non-conformist churches and the contribution they have made to the life and faith of Britain. Willow Creek will never be the future of the church in this country and I for one am thankful. Hybels in the interview suggested that with Willow Creek they had returned to a New Testament church (the claim that all new church movements, including Baptists in the 17th century claim) - although what you saw - a slick, business-model, entertainment-orientated style operation, didn't match my reading of the NT. The programme failed to level any critical comment on these megachurches. So all in all, a programme which generated a response, but a not very positive one from me. 

Christianity: a history

Christianity: a history is on the whole proving to be a very helpful and interesting series. If you've not been following, its on sunday evenings at 7pm. Tonight's episode on the crusades was very good, showing the muslim's deep sense of history and the "west's" almost ahistorical-ism. I also thought the episode on constantine was very good, demonstrating the very mixed blessing of christianity becoming the official religion of the Rome empire. Next week is the reformation, with episodes on christianity and africa, christianity and science and the future of christianity also still to come. Well done the programme makers and channel 4 for producing such a good series.


BBC's Outnumbered is the simply best half hour of television ... brillitantly observed and written, with fantastic performances ... if you've not caught it catch up with bbc iplayer and the last episode next saturday evening ... first series is out now on DVD ...

... it's one of a number of excellent BBC progammes this autumn ... we've enjoyed Little Dorrit, Wallander, Spooks, Survivors and the repeat of Gavin & Stacey series 2 (it was on earlier in the year on BBC3) ...

Doctor Who

Flip! Doctor Who is getting good. Tonight's episode 'Midnight' watch here was fantastic - best yet - in its simple set-up and reminded me of classic Buffy Vampire the Slayer episodes, like 'Hush'.  The more I see of Russell T. Davies Doctor Who the more I see the influence of Joss Whedon's Buffy series (and its spin-off Angel - so Torchwood).  This fourth series has been excellent, the two previous episodes before tonight's, were also fantastically written and acted. In a time when American TV is producing quality dramatic series like
Lost, Damages, Mad Men and House, Doctor Who is the sole offering we have that compares in terms of quality.

Impressed with The Passion

I was generally impressed with The Passion. Some great moments. I like the way it began showing the intentionality of Jesus' decision to enter Jerusalem through the east gate on a donkey - he was making a theological and political statement about his identity. The scenes of Jesus teaching helped me visualize that he was speaking right in front of the Temple, this was a direct confrontation.  I was interested in the use of the word 'sacrament' after Jesus broke bread and shared wine in the Last Supper scenes. I like the way the flogging, the carrying of the cross and the crucifixion was almost a direct antithesis of Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ. I liked the way they presented the whole drama as something political.  I liked the fact that the characters of Judas, Caiaphas and Pilate were not so two-dimensional. I found the final part, a bit disappointing, it was lacking something, but then perhaps it is simply that the resurrection is so difficult to convey. Mark Goodacre, who was an adviser on the production, has lots of links to background, reviews, etc.

God is Green, 12 Feb 8pm

This coming Monday is another interesting looking documentary from channel 4 called God is Green looking at the religious response to climate change. Presented by Mark Dowd, who is interviewed about the programme here. This is the programme description:

Many climate change scientists claim that we may have as little as 15 years in which to clean up our act: or face the prospect of total chaos. God Is Green follows documentary-maker and devout Catholic Mark Dowd on a personal journey to find out why the world's major faiths are saying so little on this important issue.

The Doomsday Code

Last night I watched  The Doomsday Code presented by Tony Robinson. It explored how many evangelical christians in America have embraced end time theology, popularized in the Left Behind books of Tim LaHaye (I've posted here on why Left Behind is wrong), but believed as a true reading of scripture, especially of the book of Revelation. Robinson showed how the consequences of such beliefs are dangerous for the Middle East situation (in terms of  finding a peaceful solution), the environment and for the development of African countries. In my view it only gave more support to Hauerwas' desire to take the bible out of American Christians' hands. Listening to the various 'end-timers' who were interviewed, you realize they have no doctrine of creation, no doctrine of personhood, and a skewed doctrine of God and especially of scripture. I find it incredible that so many people are actually able to believe in this kind of rubbish. They say they love God, but they care so little for human life.