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Archive for June, 2006

LICC – connecting with culture – the ‘top shelf’ campaign

the ‘top shelf’ campaign

If, like me, you had to sit uncomfortably through a talk about the birds and the bees during your teens, delivered by an equally uncomfortable pastor or youth leader, you may very well have been confronted by the admirable but seemingly over ambitious vow of Job 31.1: ‘I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a woman.’

We can’t be sure he kept this vow. But we can be sure that he’d face a serious challenge to it, if he entered an average 21st-century newsagent or petrol station.

Since the launch of the shamelessly self-styled ‘blokes mag’ Loaded in 1996, scantily clad women have been increasingly over-exposed on the covers of many copycat titles.

We are now confronted with images – often carefully positioned at the till, as well as on display stands – that demean women and trip a man’s mind.

However, help could be on the way. In the 1960s, Mary Whitehouse began her campaign against inappropriate TV programming, founding the National Viewers and Listeners Association in 1965. In the 1980s, Clare Short waged a war against ‘Page 3’.

Now it’s the turn of the Labour MP for Crosby, Claire Curtis-Thomas, who has no qualms, as the Independent reported, about being associated with the two ladies above. This week, under the Ten Minute Rule, she presented her ‘Regulation and Display of Sexually Explicit Material Bill’ – otherwise known as ‘the top-shelf campaign’.

Weekly magazines such as Nuts and Zoo should, she argues, be dispatched to the top-shelf. So far, they have avoided the ‘pornographic’ label by showing no nudity below the waist (despite revealing, on average, over 70 topless shots per issue – more than Playboy).

And the advice they offer their readers is so ‘explicit’ that Mrs Curtis-Thomas was warned that if she quoted from them, she’d be expelled from the Commons for a week. Proof enough, you’d hope, that they shouldn’t be so in your face (or your children’s) when you’ve just popped in for a paper.

Such publications trade on ‘eye level’ titillation; they need it to drive their sales. So, if the Bill were to gain support and the magazines were forced from immediate view, it may signal the beginning of their end. And that’s something that most men should applaud just as heartily as most women. For not all of us have the patience, let alone the fortitude, of Job.

Jason Gardner

LICC – word for the week – Love at work

LICC – word for the week

Love at work

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8

Brought up in small town and village communities, the New Testament writers knew that humans belonged to each other socially. Even when scattered by unrest and persecution, their sense of belonging was that of traditional rather than modern urban societies. Peter’s letter, like those of Paul, emphasises an added corporate dimension – Christians belonged to each other in the fellowship of the love of God. The phrases ‘each other’ and ‘one another’ occur over and over again and are worth picking out for study.

Several times Peter emphasises this deep love, but here there is a rather enigmatic reason for loving – sins are covered over by it. What does Peter mean by this? We know from other texts that it does not mean ignoring and condoning sin, pretending it has not happened, or, where we have authority, allowing others to get away with wrong. There is no doubt that we are called to practice love and justice.

Peter is talking here about the workings of Christian communities, and face-to-face relationships. The echo from Proverbs 10:12 ‘Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers over all wrongs’, suggests one meaning. When there is wrongdoing, don’t make things worse by malicious gossip, by stirring up factions, by slogans and self-righteous public piety. Jesus said, ‘If your brother or sister sins against you, go and show them their fault, just between the two of you’. If they won’t listen, then you may, in love, need to go further, involve witnesses and then higher authority, but don’t start by destroying the possibility of a restoration of good relationships.

In a businesslike wider world the principle is the same. Love deals with wrongdoing in a way that does not condone, but leaves room for apology, forgiveness, recovery of esteem, because love is patient, kind, not self-seeking, not easily angered and keeps no record of wrong.

Margaret Killingray

LICC Connecting with Culture – United 93

United 93

United 93, the fourth flight to be hijacked on September 11th 2001, seems as iconic as Titanic when you see it captured in Philip Greengrass’s moving feature film.

You want to shout “Don’t get on!” to the poor man who’s running late and just sneaks through check-in with seconds to go. You want to cry “There’s a better way of solving this!” to the hijackers as they sit there in first class, clearly in trepidation, awaiting the time to strike. And you desperately want the brave passengers to subdue their captors and bring the aircraft soaring out of its nosedive towards the safety of a Hollywood ending.

Yet, every time the film plays, of course, the man running late catches his plane with the same few seconds to spare; the hijackers carry through their plan and the passengers fail to re-gain control (though they do, of course, stop the plane reaching its target).

United 93 was delayed in taking off that fateful morning, so by the time it was hijacked, the passengers were receiving reports that the Twin Towers had been struck. Theirs was the first, urgent decision to make in the new, ‘post 9/11’ world – do they sit back and do nothing, or try to intervene? Greengrass believes we’ve been wrestling with this question in the West ever since.

The most moving scenes in this ‘real time’ film come when the passengers, realising the extent of their awful predicament, start to phone their families to say goodbye. In the face of such unexpected trauma, the simplest of phrases takes on the greatest urgency and clarity: ‘I love you.’

We should never take those words for granted, as we remind ourselves, even within the luxurious tranquillity of everyday banality, that love transcends everything, and never fails, as Paul says.

Yet it’s one thing to love your loved ones. It’s another thing entirely to love your enemies too, as Jesus commanded, and to pray for those who still mean us harm.

As we enter the run-up to the anniversary of the London bombings, this beautiful, shocking film celebrates the extraordinary bravery of ordinary people; but it reminds us, too, that the hijackers in the cockpit, and by implication the young men on the tube with the rucksack, are also people – people who God loves, and who we must somehow seek to love as well as our own.

Give me strength.

Brian Draper

LICC – Word for the Week – Tried and Tested

LICC word for the week

Tried and tested

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. After fasting.. he was hungry. The tempter said, ‘If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.’ Jesus answered, ‘It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone.’ Matthew 4:1-4

Our choices test us and most of us have a great deal of choice. We make small ones in supermarkets and in front of televisions, with holiday brochures and charity appeals. But sometimes we make big choices about finance, career, lifestyle, relationships and status and some of these shape our lives and are hard to go back on. What are the right choices?

At the beginning of his public ministry, Jesus was tested and proved. He had to make choices that laid down the parameters of his messianic vocation, that developed his understanding of how his role and purpose would be worked out in obedience to God’s plans. His responses referred back to Deuteronomy chapters 6 and 8, because his mission, fulfilling the failed purposes of Israel, was the culmination of salvation history.

But he was tested in all points just as we are, so how do we learn from Jesus’ experience in the desert. First, we can recognise similarities to the pressures we face. If we have the means to provide ourselves with material and aesthetic comfort, do we assume that that is a reasonable criterion for choosing? Do we test God by expecting him to protect us and reward us, even when we act irresponsibly? Do we compromise our integrity for political and financial advantage?

Second, we can see how he handled these crucial choices. He had developed a deep, biblical understanding of the purposes of God he was to fulfil on earth. He spent time fasting and praying alone, away from the pressures of daily life before he had to make decisions. And he, understanding what it means to fight these battles, sends his Spirit to lead us, and his angels to minister to us when eachbattle is over.

Margaret Killingray

Happy Pentecost, Family!..

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“I’m telling you these things while I’m still living with you. The Friend, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send at my request, will make everything plain to you. He will remind you of all the things I have told you. I’m leaving you well and whole. That’s my parting gift to you. Peace.” Gospel of John

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