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Wednesday, 18 May 2022

ON THE NATURE OF SIN, AND OF GOD A personal soliloquy

 

ON THE NATURE OF SIN, AND OF GOD


A Personal Soliloquy

by Tom Leonard



   



   




                                                           



Edinburgh, Scotland May 16 2022; Original Sin

Like St. Augustine of Hippo, I believe that I was born with original sin, 

a built-in urge to do bad things that relates to my recently perceived 

narcissism. It has me taken a long time to realize this, only partly because of all the flack 

and childhood and adult bullying I have received during my lifetime 

e.g. due to my gayness and my ADHD. I can only hope that for me 

'the good will outweigh the bad', and I would agree that 'faith without deeds

is useless'. In attempting to participate in good deeds,  

I have, for example, campaigned for over ten years for the

better treatment of people with mental health issues, and more recently I have

advocated equal rights and gender recognition for transgender people 

e.g. in religious environments.



My original sin may, or may not, have evolved from my ancestors. The last four generations include the ‘Why am I so perfect?’ ‘war hero’ who cheated on my mother, had my pet collie put to sleep and put an early end to my kindly Granny, the ill-fated grandparents who threw plates at each other while their children fled in fright, my subsequently religious great grandfather who killed another teenager in a brawl when he was fifteen, my namesake great great grandfather Thomas Leonard who captained a sailing barque to Sierra Leone for exploitative purposes, and the predatory son of the local rector who was reportedly dreadfully involved in the Tragedy of Peter Tavy of 1892 when two teenagers were shot to death outside the church by an insane lad who was later executed.



My more distant ancestors include the totally sadistic reverend headmaster of Bruton College, Somerset, who taught exquisite poetry, reportedly thrashed his pupils in the Hoskyns-Abrahall tower, and sent many of them off to die in Imperial wars. I do not regard myself as any better, in spiritual terms, than any of my ancestors. Our better natures need to do battle with our original sin, and we should always strive not to hurt others. Sometimes I fail.



Does Jesus exist? Yes. The crucifixion of the historical Jesus is regarded as a ‘verifiable historical event’. The ‘resurrected Jesus’ lives in the minds of all the people who welcome him into their thoughts, and He provides one way, among others, of helping people to communicate in spiritual terms with each other. Whether He will judge us in a ‘hereafter’ and whether He forgives all our sins are other issues, as is the existence of a ‘hereafter’ itself.


Does an All-Seeing Eye exist? Maybe, maybe not. If we are being ‘judged from above’ then some huge ‘computer in the sky’ would be needed to record all of our thoughts and actions. But maybe we are only observed by other people. Perhaps the entirety of humanity is the All-Seeing Eye, and it is our fellow humans who judge us. Maybe the All-seeing Eye is our group consciousness. Maybe the 'universes of our subconscious thoughts, as expressed in our dreams'' interlink  in some complex and mystical fashion. Even the whales and dolphins or the trees could be processing our thoughts.


An All Seeing Eye, if it exists, could be interpreted as belonging to a Nestorian-style ‘Eternal Messiah’, the 'Alpha and Omega’ who has always existed, and always will exist, and of whom the living, physical Christ has been just one of many earthly manifestations. Jewish or Muslim people would presumably regard the eye as Yahweh's or Allah's,


17 May 2022; How much are we forgiven?


                                                        


Parts of the New Testament are in contradiction as to whether we are to be forgiven for all our sins. I’m still dubious about some of the suggestions in the Gospel ‘ according to St. John’, and the Pauline Gospels, and I get more convincing messages, that relate to my real-life experiences , from the Synoptic Gospels.


For example, in Mark Ch 3, verses 28-30, Jesus is reported as saying,


“Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never be forgiven, but is guilty of an eternal sin,-for they have said, ‘He has an unclean spirit.’”


I personally believe that the Holy Spirit is the human spirit that moves among ALL of us, and that all crimes against humanity blaspheme against this Spirit. A few examples of such blasphemy include

(1) premeditated murder for financial gain.


(2) the waging of unnecessary war (e.g. Putin, Blair, various American presidents, several Saudi princes, some Zionist leaders)


(3) Sexual abuse, of children or adults


(4) The protection by our political and religious leaders of sexual abusers/ predators against just prosecution.

(5) Forced sterilization, genocide, and other extreme forms of eugenics,

(6) Abusive slavery

I believe that many further crimes against humanity are similarly unpardonable. This is not to preclude the possibility that some blasphemers against the Spirit could be persuaded and enabled to lead useful and more decent lives. The powers that be have a responsibility to ensure that all victims are adequately compensated e.g. by the miscreant, and that the miscreant is actively deterred from behaving so badly ever again.  (The Primates of England did not  ensure this in the Matthew Ineson multiple rape case)

I have no right to personally judge whether another person has committed an unpardonable sin. However, I am entitled to suspect this and to either confront the person or to “stomp my feet” i.e. to take appropriate avoidance action.


18 May 2022: On the nature of our Creato(I refer to the Creator as ‘He’ where the male embraces all genders, or no gender.)


                                                    


                                                     


The precise nature of our Creator is unknown to humankind, on Planet Earth at least. He may well have encouraged a series of ‘big bangs’ as universes are created out of other universes. I regard the Creator as a ‘Spirit’ (e.g. called Yahweh or Allah) or collection of Spirits of unfathomably enormous complexity. He creates evil as well as good, maybe for some ‘higher purpose’ or as part of some ‘game’. Many of his sentient creations suffer terribly while being given the vibrancy of life. I regard Him as having intelligently created, among other things, our complex genetic and evolutionary processes, the complex geological systems within the planets that control the weather and hence life itself on the planet surfaces, and life wherever in our Universes life has occurred.



                                         


                                                           



I now focus on Christian perspectives. If an All-Seeing Eye (e.g. the Eternal Messiah's ) exists, then it could be connected in some way to the Creator. Therefore the Creator could be continuously interacting with humankind during some online process. The human spirit itself could be part of the Creator. I see every reason to be able to assume the existence of a Holy Trinity, though my mind is still debating the way in which the Creator, the Possessor of the Eye, and the Spirit of Humankind interact together.

I believe my opinions to be consistent with the “spirit of Iona” and with the modern teachings of our institutional churches e.g. the various interpretations of the Holy Trinity embodied in the teachings of the Scottish Episcopal Church. Maybe the Council of Nicaea (AD 325) and the God-emulating Emperor Constantine the Great managed to get it right, in broad terms at least, though I follow the late Rev. Peter McDonald, a leader of Iona and Church of Scotland minister, by not concurring with all of the Nicene Creed,

The Empress Fausta was executed in AD 326, reportedly in a steambath, soon after the execution without trial of her young stepson Crispus, reportedly by cold poison. She was unforgiven by her  husband Constantine, who then claimed that Fausta and Crispus had made incestuous love together. 

The murder of the brilliantly successful Imperial heir-apparent Crispus was regarded by Constantine's pagan priestess as unforgiveable. In Christian terms, the murder appears to be a prime example of blasphemy of the Spirit.


                                                



                                            

The Hereafter: Maybe humankind  will learn more about the Creator in our ‘Hereafter.’ I very much hope that a Hereafter exists where we will shed the evils of our mortal lifetimes and improve the lot of sentient beings in the future. If it doesn't, then the purpose of my own tortuous life would be much less apparent. Maybe I will learn the Truth of Creation from dear Crispus.


                                               


Tuesday, 17 May 2022

BRAVE MINISTER FROM SPOKANE a poem by Tom Leonard

                                   BRAVE MINISTER FROM SPOKANE

                                               

                                           by  Tom  Leonard


                                    She lies sick in the Western

                                    While her parishioners gather in prayer

                                    Brave follower of Christ Jesus,

                                    Laurene's faith in Almighty God will heal her maladies

                                     And give her renewed strength to help the poor

                                     The Holy Spirit will revive her,

                                     As she reaches out to the world

                                     As she stands for human goodness with banner unfurled


Sunday, 15 May 2022

BEGONIA OF BEGONA, a poem by Tom Leonard

                                                             BEGONIA OF BEGONA

                                                                 by Tom Leonard


                                                                            




                                                          

                                                            Descended from Amatxu,

                                                            Lady of Begona.

                                                            A Virgin with a Holy child,

,                                                           Begonia grows elatiors, angel wings,

                                                            and all manner of rare begonias.

                                                          

                                                            Begonia studies Scottish history

                                                            From the Chronicles of St. Holinshed,

                                                            Takes Yanks and Aussies on

                                                            Ghost tours below the Royal Mile:

                                                            Into the Banshee Labyrinth, Mary King Close

                                                            And West Bow House of Horrors.

                                                          

                                                           When they encounter the ghost of Banquo,

                                                            And the Three Witches too,

                                                           Begonia helps the Spirit of Fleance 

                                                           Escape along the Niddry Wynd,

                                                           To sire Stewart Kings.

                                                           Then she performs the muineira,

                                                           And dances home to Jaime's 

                                                           Delightful ensaladas.

   

                                                                                 


                                                                       Banquo


                                                                                     


                                                                The Three Witches

                                                                              

REV. DR. ROSIE McGEE, CHURCH OF SCOTLAND

 


                                                                               


                                              I met Rev. Dr. Rosie McGee today (15 May 2022) at

                                                               Broughton St,.Mary's

                                            She is an enlightened minister of the Church of Scotland



                                       STEPPING INTO THE UNKNOWN (VIDEO)


                                      TAG ARCHIVES (ST. ANDREWS AND ST.GEORGES WEST)

                                                                               






                                                                                    


                                      TAKING TALENTS TO IONA COMMUNITY


Posted February 12, 2015 in Featured News

Northern Ireland and the Isle of Iona are separated by only 145 miles, as the crow flies. Yet to travel between the two is a journey of about 330 miles and involves going via the mainland of Scotland and two ferry rides. For the Rev. Dr. Rosie Magee, such a circuitous route is familiar. She’s taken over 25 years to go from her hometown to her neighboring country by way of several years of overseas development work and a lengthy stop in the United States. Yet that time has helped shape her for what lies ahead.

Magee, a PC(USA) pastor, has been the chaplain of Wilson College in Chambersburg, PA, for more than five years. Wilson College is a small, liberal-arts college affiliated with the PC(USA). In the middle of February, the Northern Ireland native will embark on a new ministry with the Iona Community. The Iona Community is located off the west coast of Scotland in the inner Hebrides. Founded in 1938, it is a global Christian ecumenical community working for peace and social justice, rebuilding of community and the renewal of worship.

The Iona Community is headquartered in Glasgow with resource centers on the island of Iona. There are residential full-time staff as well as volunteers and housing for the close to 90 guests per week who come to Iona between March and November.

She’ll be the Island Centres Director, which entails providing strategic leadership and management for the two residential centres and ensuring services in the Abbey Church reflect the values and vision of the Iona Community. Magee will oversee the hospitality, finances, volunteering and programming that occurs at the Abbey and Macleod Centres while also coordinating with the main office in Glasgow. Magee was invited to apply for the position and was offered the job in December. To say God was at work during this time would be an understatement.

“God’s role in this is primary, and I’m thankful for that,” said Magee, who has been an associate member of the Iona Community since 2009. “My pattern in recognizing God’s leading is that I’m usually the last to know. Likewise, with this position. It was other people who, through my interactions at Iona, thought of me when this job became open. They saw something in me that perhaps I wouldn’t have even thought of for myself. They thought I would be a good fit.”

Magee originally relocated to Ithaca, N.Y., in 1999. After spending three years in New York, she moved to central Pennsylvania and in 2005 began studying at the Lancaster Theological Seminary. She was auditing classes there and had no intention of becoming an ordained pastor since she “was raised in a religious tradition which does not recognize female ordination,” Magee said. “I was slow in catching on that this might actually be God’s will.

“I was between work permits and began taking classes at Lancaster Theological Seminary,” she continued. “Then the director of admission approached me about being a full-time student. I did not start out on the ordination track but about a year later I switched to the M.Div course. I had wonderful support and mentorship in terms of leading me towards the realization that God’s call was to go into ordained ministry.”

After graduating from Lancaster Seminary in 2008, Magee began full-time ministry at Wilson College as the school’s chaplain in 2009.

“It became clear in the fall of 2014 that my time in the United States was probably drawing to a close from a visa perspective, so getting this email was as timely as it was unexpected and certainly gave me pause for thought,” Magee said.

That opening was for the Island Centres Director.

Magee, a PC(USA) pastor

Magee, a PC(USA) pastor

“The Iona Centres are not billed as retreat centers. They are actually places of engagement and living in community,” said Magee. “We work together and worship and learn together. People from all over the world come to Iona to experience the vision of the Iona Community and take it back to their home communities.

“It’s about that experience of being in community and the rhythm of community life and a common focus. … While of course there’s a spiritual individual journey going on for each guest, there’s just as much emphasis placed on the communal journey.”

While she’s looking forward to her new opportunity, Magee’s leaving behind a place and a country that has helped her get to where she is now.

“I love being at Wilson,” she said. “I love being the chaplain here; it is a fabulous community. I have a whole mixture of emotions, but I do sense God’s call in this move, the same way I sensed God’s call in coming to Wilson. From that perspective, my main task is to be faithful in following that call. I’m excited, there’s some trepidation in there, too, but the overall sense is one of anticipation for what lies ahead.”

Magee was ordained at the Second Presbyterian Church of Carlisle before being installed at Wilson College. She has served on the Committee on Ministry in the Presbytery of Carlisle for the past three years.

“I have been very blessed and consider myself very much a child of this presbytery,” she said. “Obviously I wasn’t born and brought up here, but I came under care in this presbytery and was ordained and installed here within its bounds. I do not have standing within the Church of Scotland at this time, it’s just so wonderful that I am going to be able to be a member-at-large, a member-at-very-large I guess, of the Presbytery of Carlisle.

“I am very grateful to the presbytery for their support over the years. I’ve also had financial support from the Synod of the Trinity recently as I studied for my D.Min. This is one of the joys of being in a tradition which places such an emphasis on relationships and connectionalism.


                                     GERMAN AND SCOTTISH CONGREGATIONS COMBINE

Wednesday, 11 May 2022

THE STREAM OF BEAUTIFUL BODIES a poem by Tom Leonard

                                                       

                                                                                      



                                                                                  



                                                THE STREAM OF BEAUTIFUL BODIES

                                                       by Tom Leonard


                                                     In denial for first half of my life

                                                     Stupendous fantasies unfulfilled.

                                                    Hit by social double whammy

                                                    Overmoralistic

                                                    Forever scorned

                                                    I perculated  rot 


                                                     Came out at thirty-five 

                                                     In scary hypomania

                                                     Born again 

                                                     Down deep in Rod's 

                                                     Men galore

                                                     All shapes and sizes

                                                     Like a crazy movie for ever more

                                                      

                                                      Now home-ridden, I've lost that lustful urge

                                                      But at least I can sit straight upright in my armchair

                                                      And contemplate the past stream of beautiful bodies

                                                      In their various diversities,

                                                      Conjure up angels behind masks;

                                                      And the ghosts of old Madison,

                                                      And  think about the fine ladies of my eternity .


                                                                               

     

                                                  

                                                                                

                                                                               


                                                                  

                                                             


                                    

                                                   

Saturday, 7 May 2022

WITHOUT GUILE A poem by Tom Leonard

                                                                 WITHOUT GUILE

                                                                   by Tom Leonard

                         



                            To beguile is to deceive

                            Like some Apostolic leaders do.

                             If you wish to speak without guile,

                             Like dear Bartholomew in India did,

                            Then do so while being caring to others,

                             On some just and worthy cause,

                             Without cunning, or fear of consequence to yourself.

                             And the just will listen, while the unjust recoil.

                             You will achieve your Kingdom of Heaven,

                             While others sprawl.


                                                 BARTHOLOMEW THE APOSTLE


                                                    


                                                        DOMINICANA

We may safely surmise, then, that Jesus was speaking of Bartholomew when he uttered the words, “Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is no guile.” 

Thursday, 5 May 2022

GAVIN STEWART, EVIDENCE SYNTHESIS. UNIVERSITY OF NEWCASTLE

                                                            IN PREPARATION


                                                                            


                                                                            




                                       GAVIN STEWART, UNIVERSITY OF NEWCASTLE


I am interested in applied research synthesis (combining scientific information to inform policy). My research focuses on applying evidence-based methods to trans-disciplinary problems relating to sustainable development and food security. I also work on specific applications in healthcare, environmental and social science domains. Methodological work focuses on validating existing methods and developing new techniques for evidence synthesis (by means of systematic review and meta-analysis), and evidence contextualization (by means of decision and systems analysis). I collaborate with others to disseminate the methodologies of evidence-based practice across disciplines reflecting a belief in generic methods for evidence-based x (EBX). I hate p values and am a passionate advocate of both meta-analysis and open science. I am a co-author of the Handbook of Meta-analysis in ecology and evolution which provides a good starting point for those new to complex evidence synthesis.

I am an elected member of the Society for Research Synthesis Methods and associate editor of its journal, Research Synthesis Methods. I am the co-chair and senior editor of the Campbell Collaboration food security group; associate editor for PeerJ; statistical editor for the Cochrane Pain and Palliative Care Group.

 Outside of research synthesis, I enjoy fell/ultra running, mine exploration/rescue, gardening (particularly dwarf rhododendrons, arctic-alpines, and vegetables) and drinking beer and whisky. 

My >100 publications are listed on google scholar and available on research gate



Contributions by subject area






The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a United Nations initiative aimed at tackling the most important global issues. Hundreds of millions of people don’t have enough food to eat; plant and animal species are becoming extinct at unprecedented rates; women still earn less than men and have fewer rights; and the gap between rich and poor continues to grow.