The thinkers at Ekklesia have published a report that provides a very sensible overview of the issues in the ongoing debate around Christian Unions and Student Unions. You can find out about it on their site.
(via Maggi Dawn)
Having put quite a bit of time into unravelling the issues between the Students’ Union and Christian Union in Reading, I was dismayed to see The Times today reporting that some Christian Unions in the UK are considering legal action against the Student Unions on their campuses because:
Christian Unions claim that they are being singled out as a “soft target” by student associations because they refuse to allow non-Christians to address their meetings or sit on ruling committees.
While each situation is different as it rests on the constitutions and practices of the various bodies, the points put forth in the article do little to suggest that the CUs are being victimised. They are rather the most visible group on most campuses to not fit within most SUs’ equal opportunities policies or democratic and financial systems.
One of the key aggravating factors in our experience was the Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship who often seemed to be the source of scare stories (which I never saw corroborated) of CUs that have been hijacked by other groups, and purported ‘legal advice’ about the relationships between CUs and SUs that massively misunderstood the issues we had found to be central. I’ve not had any contact with that organisation in a few years now, but at the time I couldn’t help but feel there were individuals within it who relished confrontation.
We (Martin did a lot of the work) tried to come to an understanding about the two bodies’ relationship on our campus and found that the main issues were not the expected hot buttons, but were more about whether the CU actually wanted to be an SU society, whether they were willing to hold open elections, and whether their financial management was compatible with ours.
That process allowed us to agree that for the CU membership in the SU was not vital, and that the SU could nevertheless provide some facilities to the CU because of the two organisations’ friendship (given certain provisos).
The press reports leading up to today’s news have certainly lacked clarity. Hopefully the CUs will step back from the brink and some new arrangements can be made that step round the current confrontation.
Update (4th Dec 2006): For clarity, at the time of these conversations I was a post-graduation sabbatical officer of RUSU and Martin was a non-sabbatical officer. I was never a member of the CU but attended a number of meetings and had many friends who were members. We have both now left the university.
It seems likely that the dominant theme of the next two years in US politics will be which party can emerge least scathed from a withdrawal from Iraq. If the democrats can be seen to force the President’s hand in withdrawing from an unpopular conflict, they may be able to leverage that in the 2008 elections. If the Republicans can manage a withdrawal that looks orderly and maybe even victorious, or if they can spin Democrats’ urgings as being weak on defense, then maybe they can salvage something from this ridiculous venture.
It’s interesting to note Mark Benjamin’s piece on Salon yesterday that suggests Condoleeza Rice was a significant force behind the establishment of James Baker and Lee Hamilton‘s much discussed Iraq Study Group. Could this be a sign that Rice is planning to run for office and believes that the commission’s findings could help her do that without her role in the invasion of Iraq hanging over the campaign?
A change of plans yesterday led to quite a bit of time in the car mid-afternoon, and a chance to listen to Ted Koppel promote his new documentary about Iran on NPR’s Talk of the Nation. I was very impressed with Koppel’s apparent grasp of the nuances of the Iranian political situation, of the shades of opinion within the country, and particularly with his commitment to educating people about it given its ongoing importance in world affairs and US foreign policy. The documentary airs on the Discovery Channel on Sunday and you can find the Talk Of The Nation interview here.
I was distinctly less impressed with the discussion of Iraq policy on On Point last night. All too often that programme seems to invite on “experts” who delight in presenting every situation as having only two possible solutions. Such binary distinctions are all too common in the US’ two-party political system, but I continue to hope that NPR programs will invite more voices to the table. I’m not equipped to fully judge McGovern and Polk’s “Blueprint for leaving Iraq now“, but that’s an example of an opinion that seems well reasoned and should at least crack open discussions like last night’s to talk about third, fourth, or even fifth ways.
Kari and I are both helping out with the Festival of Faith and Music again this year. We’re hoping to have some really exciting lineup news to announce very soon, but it’s already coming together very well and we have Sufjan Stevens, Anathallo, David Dark, Lauren Winner, and many others lined up to join us.
With such a wealth of music (over 2 million songs) available on emusic it can be hard to know where to start should you want to dig beyond the latest releases.
They have a number of features designed to help you explore their catalogue, but my favourite to date is the new partnership with the Independent Film Channel which is profiling a dozen artists, songs, videos and venues through a selection of interviews, music videos, and other visual means.
Independent film is what freedom of expression looks like. Independent music is what it sounds like. The two worlds come crashing together with The eMusic Dozens, a new television show from eMusic and the Independent Film Channel.
It’d be nice if the episodes could be downloaded, but at only ten minutes or so watching in the browser isn’t too much of a chore.
In a political system as complex as that of the US it’s never going to be possible to have a clear emotional response to a set of election results. While the Congressional results and the outcome of the Michigan gubernatorial race are heartening, there’s a bitter taste left by Tennessee’s tacit support for the racist tactics of Bob Corker, the passage of Michigan’s Proposal 2 (banning affirmative action) and more locally the fact that David LaGrand lost in his race for State Senate.
Many times last night I found myself wondering how I came to be supporting the Democratic Party, which for most of my life I have considered to be almost as right-wing and reactionary as their opponents. Partly it’s that I’ve come to realise the breadth of both major parties in the US, and that just because there are right-wing, pro-war Democrats as Joe Lieberman was and like (contrary to popular opinion) Hillary Clinton is, there are many who are not so hawkish. And last night the US just needed a reminder that it is possible to dislodge Republicans from their positions of power.
The Senate is still up for grabs, and that will be the determining factor in whether or not the ascendent Democrats are able to push forward with the progressive legislative agenda they promise. But last night’s national results do mean there is a real chance that a withdrawal plan from Iraq can take shape, and that the political debate may begin to inch forward.
Saturday was Denison Witmer‘s 30th birthday. I would have posted then, but we were keeping busy visiting his hometown.
So belated happy birthday Denison, and happy Denison’s birthday to all of us.
Lately I’ve been working on Calvin’s campus each Thursday because of our regular Festival of Faith and Music meetings. I work in one of the main areas where students congregate and each week there’s a little bit more frustration and culture shock as I overhear bizarre conversations about current affairs.
At the moment there is a guy sitting in the booth next to me holding forth on the state of the middle east. He is asserting quite forcefully that Iran is in the process of testing nuclear missiles and those around him are eating it up.
Iran is about to engage in several days of war games, and that includes testing long-range missiles that could be capable of eventually carrying nuclear warheads should Iran develop them, but there is a clear distinction between that and actual nuclear tests of the sort that North Korea have probably recently been conducting.
Overhearing misconceptions such as that—beliefs that fit so well into the administration’s disinformation policies that could so easily be used to prepare public opinion for a future military engagement—would be frustrating enough, but there’s also the fact that it’s far from an isolated experience, and that this particular student was comparatively well informed.
(For full disclosure: I confronted him about his statement, and he admitted that he had mis-spoken. But the climate is such that there are probably plenty of people repeating such statements and who will never be confronted, or don’t even realise that the information is wrong).