breaking news from the world of ideas

by Giles Fraser
Friday, 10
April 2020
Video
11:50

Nicky Gumbel’s Confessions

Giles sits down with Anglican priest and pioneer of the Alpha Course Nicky Gumbel to talk about the moment he changed from atheist to a Christian, why his father never talked about his being Jewish and doubting God after tragically losing his best friend.

Watch video above, or enjoy as a podcast at the links below…

by Giles Fraser
Thursday, 9
April 2020
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09:39

Virtual Seder was almost as good as the real thing

Since the fifteenth century it has been customary to conclude the Passover Seder service with the aspiration: “Next year in Jerusalem”. But this year, and courtesy of Zoom, Jerusalem came to us. Laptops perched at the end of the dining room table, some usurping the empty place traditionally reserved for Elijah, allowed families separated by plague to be with each other across thousands of miles of distance.

We didn’t have all the ingredients for the full Seder operation this year, but an unfrozen leg of lamb and a good glass of burgundy were more than enough to celebrate this great feast of Jewish freedom. We sing some of the better known Passover songs together. ...  Continue reading

by Giles Fraser
Monday, 6
April 2020
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09:46

The Queen calls time on the snowflake generation

I hope in the years to come everyone will be able to take pride in how they responded to this challenge. And those who come after us will say the Britons of this generation were as strong as any. That the attributes of self-discipline, of quiet good-humoured resolve and of fellow-feeling still characterise this country. The pride in who we are is not a part of our past, it defines our present and our future.
- Queen Elizabeth

With these words last night, Her Majesty the Queen has called time on the Snowflake generation. In the spring of 2020, the snow has melted. No longer will ageing hacks be able to slight a whole generation of Britons. This is the generation that is now shouldering so much of the burden of the present crisis. In shops and hospitals, and throughout the country, young people are showing themselves to be every bit as formidable as their forbears.

The Queen may have referenced wartime defiance with her closing words: “we will met again” — a nod to Vera Lynn. But this was not simple jingoism or nostalgia. She was pointing out how the quiet determination of traditional British values are being fully exemplified in the present generation of youngsters. OK, one of her grandchildren was off in California, taking a break and working on his brand. But all families have them. Harry is fast becoming the exception that proves the rule, and his contemporaries are made of stronger stuff. ...  Continue reading

by Giles Fraser
Friday, 3
April 2020
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15:39

GPs should not play God during Covid

Andrew Cannon is the Chief Executive of Voyage Care, an organisation that supports some 3,500 adults with physical and learning difficulties throughout the country. The people they help look after have a range of conditions: autism, learning difficulties, and brain injuries.

Many of their clients are perfectly healthy, physically. Having autism does not mean you are any less fit than anyone else. Yet despite this, a number of GP’s have contacted Voyage Care teams to say that all — N.B. all — the people that they look after would be subject to a Do Not Resuscitate order, were they to fall ill with the virus. Mr Cannon’s Twitter feed makes chilling reading: ...  Continue reading

by Giles Fraser
Monday, 30
March 2020
Idea
14:00

What Emmanuel Levinas would have to say about Zoom

The philosopher that has began to corner my attention of late is the French thinker, Emmanuel Levinas (1906-1995), and in particular his idea that ethics should be understood as primarily rooted in the face-to-face encounter. Whereas philosophers in the tradition of Descartes worried that there is no reliable basis for establishing the full reality of other people — there being some unbreachable epistemological distance between us and others — Levinas argued that it is through the face of the other that their full reality, separate from us, but nonetheless unquestionably real, is established. ...  Continue reading

by Giles Fraser
Friday, 27
March 2020
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11:46

Secularists have reached a new low

Tom Holland’s book was targeted by Humanist UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson

The virus should be an opportunity for us all to pull together, irrespective of faith or the lack of it. Which is why a number of responses by the secularist organisations have been especially disappointing. For instance, early on in the crisis, when the government included “religious staff” caring for their congregations among those key-workers who were entitled to send their children to school, the National Secular Society objected.

They wanted the availability of childcare to be removed from religious people working to support their communities. Many rightly objected to this petty piece of anti-religious point scoring, and — credit where credit it is due — the NSS apologised...  Continue reading

by Giles Fraser
Monday, 23
March 2020
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11:40

Zoom eucharist felt like an episode of Masterchef — and I loved it

I conducted my first experimental Zoom Eucharist on Sunday. I’d only just joined up to the video conferencing software the day before, so the way it worked was completely new to me. But we muddled through. Some people were unable to find the “meeting”. Others couldn’t find the mute button so that the words of our Lord, “do this in remembrance of me” were superimposed with the sound of various domestic goings-on, with contributions that some may have wished to have edited , especially had they known they were being broadcast to the rest of the congregation.

The chap who did the intercessions sipped from his mug of tea in the silences between his prayers. A couple joining in on the sofa at home realised that the nude painting behind them might not be entirely appropriate for church service broadcast. In a way I have never experienced before, church space and domestic space collapsed into one another in the zoom Eucharist. And the potential for comedy is high. ...  Continue reading

by Giles Fraser
Friday, 20
March 2020
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10:26

Christ the Redeemer is the perfect antidote to Lennon’s ‘Imagine’

Christ the Redeemer, the famous statue that stands guard over Rio de Janeiro, has been lit up with a projection of flags of all the countries that have been affected by the virus. It’s a rather touching expression of global solidarity.

Contrast this with Donald Trump’s desire to exploit this crisis to further his trade war with China. For Trump, it’s not coronavirus, it’s the Chinese virus. Or Kung Flu, as others have dubbed it. With Trump it’s always the same: us first and sod the rest.

Contrast also with the nauseating cover of John Lennon’s Imagine that Israeli actress Gal Gadot and her famous Hollywood friends have pushed out on Twitter. Set aside the ludicrous thought of those who are among the most pampered multi-millionaires in the world preaching from a song that asks us to “imagine no possessions”, what gets my goat is also the wistful “imagine there’s no countries.” And of course, there are Lennonists in this country who are spying this crisis as one last chance to reverse Brexit. ...  Continue reading