Martin Luther: Warts and All
On 31st October 1517, a young monk nailed a large, handwritten notice to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. It was an act that would change the course of history. The ninety-five theses, or propositions, on the notice challenged the very authority of the Roman Catholic Church and would put the life of the young Martin Luther in danger. Freedom of thought, freedom of speech, freedom of religion and freedom of conscience were not high on the agenda of the early sixteenth century Church but the Reformation that would follow in the wake of Luther’s bold challenge would change of all that.
Had it not been for the newly invented technology of printing, Martin Luther’s broadside might have been a storm in a teacup. But printing was to Luther what Twitter is to Donald Trump. It wasn’t Luther himself who began printing and distributing thousands of the Ninety-Five Theses but there were no copyright laws in sixteenth-century Europe so there was nothing the young monk could do, even if he had wanted to, to halt the progress of truth.
I confess to having a love-hate relationship with Luther. I am in awe of the fearless young firebrand (and fearless old firebrand, for that matter). I love his life-affirming earthiness, which twenty-first century evangelicals prefer to ignore or forget.
Blade Runner 35 years on
I’ve just returned home after seeing Blade Runner 2049 and I feel depressed. The 1982 original was a landmark in cinema in every way: story, acting, cinematography, special effects and music. It’s a film I’ve returned to several times since 1982.
Without explaining the story, the original Blade Runner explored what it means to be human, to be alive, to think and to feel. And fans of the movie have debated for 35 years whether Deckard the principal character. played by Harrison Ford, is human or a replicant, an artificial human.
Like its predecessor, Blade Runner 2049 is stunningly filmed and provokes questions about what it means to be human further than the 1982 version. It draws on biblical imagery and allusions, as in the case of Rachel, the replicant love interest of Deckard in the original movie. The artificial woman it seems gave birth to a child. How could that happen? Nobody seems to know but those who witnessed the birth say it’s a miracle: the Lord “opened Rachel’s womb.”
Happy New Year
The sun has just set and it’s New Year.
Jewish New Year that is: Rosh Hashanah. So, my Jewish readers, I wish you L’Shanah Tovah U’Metukah: A Sweet and Happy New Year.
According to the Hebrew calendar the world was created 5778 years ago and, says the Talmud, the world will last for 6,000 years. The first 2,000 years of history were to be years of desolation, after which the Torah was transmitted to Israel at Sinai and flourished for 2,000 years. The last two millennia of world history, which commenced 1,778 years ago, are supposed to be the Messianic Age, a period of universal peace when the wolf lies down with the lamb and universal peace reigns.
I can’t remember whether I was puzzled or shocked the first time I was asked on an official form whether I was Male, Female or “Other”. A recent edition of Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour was dedicated to the concept of “gender stereotyping”. It seems we can no longer can we say that little girls are made of “sugar and spice and all things nice” and boys are made of “snips and snails and puppy dogs tails.”
So it all seemed a little rich that a programme called Woman’s Hour (“The programme that offers a female perspective on the world”) was applauding those Brave New World experts and the parents who think it’s cool to bring “gender-free” offspring into the world! I mean, what’s to happen if the social engineers succeed in abolishing gender? Can we expect, ten years from now, to be listening to “Non-Gender Hour”, “Person’s Hour” or just plain “Hour”?
A concerned mother (or should that be “parent”?) phoned the programme to confess she was trying really hard to bring up her children (a “boy” and a “girl”, by the way) to be “gender neutral”, while a teacher called in to say that she had to have a serious little tête-à-tête with her primary school class after one of the boys said something derogatory about “girls” (huh!). Left to himself—and I stress “left to himself” and not to politically-correct social revisionists—ten years from now the boy’s attitude to girls will have significantly modified.
A N Wilson throws down the gauntlet to Darwin
Andrew Norman Wilson, no stranger to controversy, has well and truly thrown the cat among the scientific pigeons with his latest book Charles Darwin: Victorian Mythmaker. ‘Darwin was wrong,’ the book begins, which has prompted a flurry of critical reviews on the Amazon website.