Monthly Archives: December 2008

Top American interrogator on the failure of torture

So a top US Interrogator has pointed out that the direct cost of American torture and abuse has been the loss of hundreds but more likely thousands of American lives.

Jesus showed us the way to respond to terror and to occupying forces. It is a way of love and of non-violence. Yet we like to think we know better.

Please read these two articles carefully, think about it. Jesus is clearly right. Responding to violence with hatred does not work. Abandoning morality in order to fight evil does not work, it simply makes us evil and the evil multiplies.

We need to burn these lessons on our hearts and tighten our laws to make it impossible for anyone to ever torture again in the name of our countries freedom.

  • Torture is morally wrong
  • Torture does not work
  • Torture causes more of your own side to die
  • Playing games about what you call torture does not fool anyone
The number-one reason foreign fighters gave for coming to Iraq to fight is the torture and abuse that occurred at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo. The majority of suicide bombings are carried out by foreign fighters who volunteered and came to Iraq with this motivation. Consequently it is clear that at least hundreds but more likely thousands of American lives (not to count Iraqi civilian deaths) are linked directly to the policy decision to introduce the torture and abuse of prisoners as accepted tactics. Americans have died from terrorist attacks since 9/11; those Americans just happen to be American soldiers. This is not simply my view–it is widely held among senior officers in the U.S. military today. Alberto Mora, who served as General Counsel of the Navy under Donald Rumsfeld, testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee in June 2008 that “U.S. flag-rank officers maintain that the first and second identifiable causes of U.S. combat deaths in Iraq–as judged by their effectiveness in recruiting insurgent fighters into combat–are, respectively the symbols of Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo.” We owe it to our troops to protect them from terrorist attacks by not conducting torture and we owe it to our forefathers to uphold the American principles that they passed down to us. “The
American Public has a Right to Know That They Do Not Have to Choose
Between Torture and Terror”: Six questions for Matthew Alexander,
author of How to Break a Terrorist—By Scott Horton (Harper’s Magazine)

The number of U.S. soldiers who have died because of our torture policy
will never be definitively known, but it is fair to say that it is
close to the number of lives lost on Sept. 11, 2001. How anyone can say
that torture keeps Americans safe is beyond me — unless you don’t
count American soldiers as Americans.
I’m Still Tortured by What I Saw in Iraq –

Hat tip: Schneier on Security: Matthew Alexander on Torture.

GAZA: Stop the bloodshed, time for peace

Avaaz have launched a petition for Gaza: Stop the bloodshed, time for peace.

Petition to the UN Security Council, the European Union, the Arab League and the USA:
We urge you to act immediately to ensure a comprehensive ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, to protect civilians on all sides, and to address the growing humanitarian crisis. Only through robust international action and oversight can the bloodshed be stopped, the Gaza crossings safely re-opened and real progress made toward a wider peace in 2009.

Worth signing!

LOL Service

Tonight was a contemporary service at Irchester Methodist Chapel. Great band thanks to Lucy, Pete, Laura, Amanda, Jane and Andy.

As many of the band were from Raunds the service supported many favourite worship inclusions. Service is called the cookie service so we had food. The theme was "Light of the World" so we had lots of candles.

However, Andy suggested it should be called a LOL service, but in this case LOL stands for Lots Of Luggage – Bass Amp & bass, electric violin & amp, projector, laptop, power cables, candles, food, 4 uplighter lamps, …

3:15am and Whitechapel again

Another early morning (3:15am seems pretty early to me, in fact more like bed time than get up time) as a group from Raunds Methodist Church are off to the Whitechapel Mission in London to cook breakfast for people who are homeless this Christmas.

It gets harder to restrict the numbers to only those needed. Seven of us are going today but we have had to turn down another seven to get the numbers down this far.

Looks a good morning for driving. See you later.

Blessed Christmas

Just back from the late night Christmas Eve communion service at Old Weston.

Anyway a message to all from John 1:12

Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God

May many receive Jesus and come to believe in him this Christmas time.

Oh and by the way, if you are thinking of going to both Raunds Methodist at 10am in the morning and Ringstead Shared Church at 11am then just pick one and go to that. Your minister is doing the same service twice. You may feel it will be better fresh at 10am or better second time around at 11am. Either way it will be good to see you at one of the services.

WOT Guitar Hero

Yesterday afternoon we had the WOT (Worship On Thursday) Christmas party. A record turnout of 34 of ages 3 to nearly 90.

Several of the children finished beautiful nativity sets that they have been making over previous weeks (in true Blue Peter fashion). They were also making Christmas trees and party hats.

As well as some traditional games (hunt the reindeer etc) we also set up Guitar Hero world tour. That is the Wii version with drum kit, lead and bass guitars and microphone. We used part of the Church sound system plus the projector. Great fun (and much improved when we adjusted the sound mix to reduce the microphone volume a lot!). Parents had a a lot of fun with it too (Dad's seemed more eager than Mums but but struggled to find gaps when the kids were not queuing up.

Just one technical thought. The software would be much improved if only the band leaders controller worked whenever there is a common menu displayed. It is a pain when halfway through scrolling down the list of songs and a guitarist decides to practice their strmming technique sending the list zooming uncontrollably.

I am sure we will bring this out for future parties.

As I am sure you can imagine WOT provided a very different interlude between a traditional carol service at Ringstead in the afternoon and the WI carol service (yes they all kept their clothes on) in the evening. Silent Night had nothing to do with WOT – but of course the cmmon feature was the God who loves each of us and wants to adopt us as Children of God while also binding up the broken hearted (etc).

What do you call a collection of idiot males?

I suspect that sadly “A Church” would be a good name for them in the US.

As an example in (the wrongly named) “Together for the Gospel” Ligon Duncan writes Shrewdness from the Sons of this World which includes:

Eric Arthur Blair (George Orwell) once said: “We have sunk to a depth
at which re-statement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent
men.” Now, more than then, there is a flood of (trivial) knowledge and a dearth of true wisdom.

Of course when he also writes

By the way, I may keep running this title line “Shrewdness from the Sons of this World” when I point to wisdom from unbelievers (ala Luke 16:8) here in a post. For indeed, the sons of this world often have more saavy in dealing with their own than do the sons of light.

he has not quite connected the dots and realised that he is being a good example of the “dearth of wisdom”. So please forgive me for stating the obvious: Luke 16:8 refers to “people” not “sons”.

When you choose to read scripture with a lens that filters out women you are truly not listening to the wisdom it contains.

That is of course true for the “Sons of this world” as well as the Church. It seems American men are just not good at recognising the achievements of American Women as Official Google Blog: Jean Bartik: the untold story of a remarkable ENIAC programmer reminds us.

But the Church is especially good at this with a few notable exceptions such as the encouraging story told in God’s Politics: An Evangelical Heritage of Gender Equality by Mimi Haddad.

What worries me about the Methodist Church

Following on from 42: What keeps me in Methodism. Just some very rapidly made notes to get the discussion going.

1. Existence.

I worry that the Methodist Church will not exist within in a relatively short period of time. Obviously I am not alone, anyone who can read basic numbers and look at an age profile would have significant concerns. Yet there is also plenty of encourage reports on change and response to change.  The church will certainly need to look a lot different in 5 or 10 years which could be a fantastic new start for us or a very rapid disappearance.

2. Maintenance not Mission

In too many places the focus has been for many years on maintenance not mission. I am fortunate that I have seen much of the opposite and have some very encouraging mission shaped church & circuit stuff at the moment. But we have got to get a big cultural shake up to really build the momentum for change that more and more people see is required.

3. Preachers and Worship Leaders

I am concerned that out Local Preachers Meetings have in too many places been stagnant and there has not been enough ongoing development of our Preachers. Nor have our worship leaders been properly integrated into our planning worship. We need to develop more flexible approaches that will encourage development and growth by those who have been preaching for many years as well as provide more local control over service style, content and theme.

4. Poor Teamwork

In too many places we see people working in isolation as preachers, ministers, layworkers,  superintendents etc. As resources are spread thinly we need to function more as teams to make the most of each other and to provide more consistent worship and experience of fellowship.

5. Equality

We have some excellent theology that backs up our belief that all people can be called by God to any role within the Church and to make it impossible to discriminate on the basis of gender, race etc. However, we do need some significant steps to be made to in policies, procedures and monitoring to ensure that we do not allow discrimination anywhere through both prevention and monitoring.

6. Discipleship

We need to refocus on building deep discipleship throughout the Church. We have too many people who do not appear to have a deeply rooted faith and have not encouraged people to develop and grow in their discipleship through small groups and active participation & theology.

7. Buildings & Finance

We need to close a large number of buildings that are no longer fit for purpose, that are underused and are costing us too much money to keep open for an hour a week for just a few people. We spend far too much money on building maintenance and repair. Yet even then it too often is not enough to make the buildings attractive and environmentally sane for 21st Century uses. We need to thoroughly review our use of capital funds and redirect spending into direct mission and out of buildings.

8. Superintendents

We have too many superintendent ministers and too many who are persuaded to take on this role when neither called, nor trained nor equipped for the task.

9. Too much concentrated load

We focus too much on ordained ministry. This continually acts as a bottleneck. We need to free our people to get on without the paid clergy.

10. We take too small and local a picture

We need to invest some resources and authority in thinking more strategically across areas to merge circuits (and churches), close churches, open churches, focus ecumenical efforts, start fresh expressions, train pioneer ministers and get on with mission in 1001 ways.

11. Lack of Consistent Vision

We need longer term vision and consistency. Too many (often good) ideas come and go (Our Calling, Priorities for the Methodist Church, Pray without Ceasing), we need to define what we are about and then stick at it for a few decades. Our calling was good, but the priorities did not mesh with it and came too soon. Pray without Ceasing was excellent but needed to simply continue on an ongoing basis.