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Mike Ovey reflects on the reactions to the murders at the office of Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris.
It feels like we are at war. Doesn't the flood of reaction to the mass murders at Charlie Hebdo, especially over recent days, look like a drawing-together before a common enemy? The 'I am Charlie Hebdo' mantra implies unanimity, a very clear sense of 'us': this was a war-crime by 'them' against all of 'us'. It's perhaps telling that Muslim clerics have been so keen to affirm, not just that the murders were not truly Islamic, but that they and their communities were 'French' – that is, loyal to 'us' in the war against 'them'.
But who is the 'us' and who is the 'them'? For some, of course, this is a reprise or a proof of Samuel Huntington's ideas of clash of civilisations from the early 1990s. Others warn against that, such as Nesrine Malik in the Guardian. I find myself in the unusual position of agreeing, at least in part, with the Guardian-writing Malik. Her point is 'beware of polarising opposites'. It is not a simple 'us' and 'them'. There I agree, although I suspect we would part company – perhaps to our mutual relief – when it comes to why it is not simple polar opposites.
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Mike Ovey discovers advice from Friedrich Engels to the Church Of England’s bishops on same-sex conversations.
Say what you like about Marx and Engels, they were not complete idiots. In fact, they could be hugely astute and they were notably astute in the way they saw that 'ideology' can be used by the ruling classes in their own interests. And it is to Engels, probably, that we owe the illuminating term 'false consciousness'. With false consciousness we may pursue what an ideology says in one sense 'consciously' and intentionally, but, Engels adds, 'The real motives impelling him remain unknown to him, otherwise it would not be an ideological process at all. Hence he imagines false or apparent motives.
For Engels, false consciousness can hide our real motives from us. The consequences are huge: Engels makes us realise we are not open books to ourselves. Fascinating advice as the Church of England bishops begin their conversations on same-sex relations. It is fascinating advice because one of the questions confronting the bishops is about trust: not just trust in terms of being open and honest and stating points in a civil fashion, nor trust that one's words will not be wilfully misrepresented. Rather a key question is how much we trust our own experience and the experience of our friends. Put another way, whether our consciousnesses are always true or, at times, as Engels and Marx pointed out, false – false even to ourselves.
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Are we really Charlie?
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Open monring at Oak Hill
Thinking about theological training? Come to an Open Morning: meet staff and students, sample some lectures and look round the campus.
Grace Forsythe
Grace Forsythe was an independent student at Oak Hill, called to ministry in an urban priority area.
Tony Ford
Tony Ford is chaplain to Oldham Rugby League Football Club, with many opportunities to do pastoral work and share the gospel.
Daf Meirion-Jones
Daf Meirion-Jones and Martyn Ayers work in a parish with council housing, university halls and three mosques.