Thursday, June 16, 2005

More Stuff I Like About This Place

In no particular order

2. History - It's hard for non-Europeans to fathom how much of the history we grew up reading is within 'spitting' distance in the UK. Not to mention the fact that this tiny island nation was for quite some time the mightiest power in the world. In fact, if they didn't have such a determination to tax every item known to man the Queen might at this time have almost 300 million more subjects!

3. Way of life - The saying 'There is more than one way to skin a cat' is applicable here. They've got a good thing going over here, and in a tiny amount of space. A quick comparison of England vs. Alabama reveals some important things that one must recognize about England. Alabama (135k square kilometers) covers a greater area than England proper (UK minus Scotland and N. Ireland - 130k square kilometers). Consider the fact that Alabama's population is around 4.5 million people, and England's is 50 million. How can you squeeze so many people into such a little space and not have complete gridlock and pandamonium? They're quite good at it here.

The close proximity of the north to the south and the east to the west means that cross-country travel is not a daunting thought and most Englanders I know have been all over their country.

Aside from the smallness of the nation, it is obvious that the UK has a good thing going economically. Their approach is more American than European (aka capitalistic than socialistic), but it is without a doubt a third way. It is now more prosperous than most of its Western European neighbors (an unthinkable statement 25 years ago, especially for me because I was only 6 at the time). Unemployment is a little lower than in the US (as opposed to 10+ % in Germany and France) and they have universal health care -- a bald-faced two tiered one -- nevertheless this leaves the average Brit without many worries should the worst happen, medically speaking. Of course, the trappings of wealth also abound here as they do in the US, making it absolutely necessary that all Christians spend much time in prayer and meditation over their finances to avoid the traps of materialism and debt.

4. Weather - just kidding.

4. American friendliness - I mean more here than what I've said in previous posts about most people over here tending to like America. I also mean that it is easy to get around here, to figure your way out of trouble, etc., all because you speak the language and tend to think like they do.

With that said, a few remarks I've heard about America from other foreigners here have stuck with me. First, a chap from Iran, whom I met back in February at a bus stop, when he discovered I was American, looked at me and said, "I like America. America is good." He is at the University of Birmingham studying international law, a degree which he plans to use in Iran when he returns later this summer.

Another instance also took place at a bus stop when we (Mary and I) struck up a conversation with a Pakistani woman. BTW, its amazing how having a baby causes people to talk to you who normally wouldn't have bothered. When she recognized our American accents she told us how much she loved America and liked to visit whenever she could.

Now, I didn't prompt these people to say such things, and conversely have not heard any anti-American talk aside from academic settings and the BBC :). This doesn't mean that the US is the darling of the world, but that maybe the hatred we've hear so much about is overblown. Sure, they hate our president all over the world, but they still suck up our culture and habits. And I wonder what surveys would reveal if we went around the world asking people if they had a positive or negative opinion of France. Let's just say I can guess that the numbers would be overwhelmingly negative in England, the US, the Arab world, and even Germany. I'm dragging on now... all this to say that it is 'easy' to be a foreigner here. I suggest that people less-white and less-Anglo than I would agree.

5. The British Sense of Humor - Though Mr. Bean is there equivalent of Ernest P. Worrell (and I like them both), it is amazing the amount of continual wit one encounters here. I can think of at least 4 different radio and TV programs along the lines of 'Whose Line is it Anyway' (which began here, too) that are hilarious. Though I blame British TV for the reality TV plague which has beset American Tele over the past few years, I must admit that they are funnier than we. I mean, they still have a royal family! Isn't that a riot? Oops, I mean isn't Monty Python funny?

BTW, the best bloggers never put this much in one post because they know readers will only scan. If I were more astute, I'd have written a shorte

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Winding Down

With less than 5 days left in our tour of duty, I have started to become reflective on our experience. Tomorrow I'll post some pictures of things that have been part of my world here. Tonight I'll list the things I've liked most about England:

1. People - I suppose it is not too surprising, but we've met some great people. I've had opportunity to get to know people through three avenues; 1) church, 2) university, 3) teaching. We've come to appreciate our little congregation of the Summer Lane Church of Christ. Even with the 1 hour bus ride to and from, it was always worth worshiping with them and we'll miss our English, Socttish, Nigerian, Ghanaian, and Malaysian brothers and sisters from the church.

Because I showed up in the winter term, I did not have the opportunity to take lots of classes, and, not having an office, it was difficult to get to know many people in the Theology Department of the University. That said, I have grown more and more appreciative of Mark Goodacre, and I also admire the work of one of the professors I got to enjoy firsthand, that of Prof Sugirtharajah ('Sugi' for us English speakers). I had weekly meetings with Mark, and the only trouble was that we'd normally get wrapped up in talking about everything but my research. I'm an Anglophile and he's an Americophile, so we could talk for hours about the most mundane topics. I'll miss those weekly sessions. But Duke (not to mention the US) will be better off having the Goodacres. And they're moving to my 3rd favorite state!

Probably the most rewarding experience I've had here came courtesy of Birmingham Christian College. The opportunity to teach 2 courses was priceless (though they paid me a little!) and the friendships I've made via BCC will remain long after we leave. Only one of my students was my age (I've since passed him) and his wit, insight, and love for the Lord have made me have a natural affection for Jon Taylor. I know that if Mary and I were here longer Jon and Su would continue to be a regular part of our lives. He's considering an academic career teaching New Testament courses... I can only hope that he'll come and teach at a uni in America!

I should also mention that I've had experiences from all over the Christian religious spectrum. Birmingham Christian College is a bona fide evangelical college. Queen's College (where I have worked as an assistant) is as liberal an institution as I ever care to work for. It trains clergy for the Church of England, Methodist Church, and United Reform Church. I could tell stories about the school... but I want to stay positive here.... My experience with John Hull, professor at Queen's, has been one of those which will continue to shape me for some time. John has been blind since the early 1980's but he has continued his scholarly career in the study of religious education in Britain and mainland Europe now into his 70th year. The most remarkable part of our friendship is the fact that I rarely even think about the fact that he is blind anymore. He is such an enjoyable and wise person that even I have learned to get past the superficial and appreciate his heart. I will miss working with him.

And, as you would expect, the Theology Dept. at the Uni covered a broad spectrum of faiths with scholars from each one. In a similar vein, today I returned the last 4 library books to the Uni library. I reckon that I've read significant portions (if not all) of 50 academic books since January... not a world record or anything, but an immensely rewarding endeavor nonetheless. Now if I could just understand Schleiermacher (a cursory reading of a few internet summaries will indicate so much conflicting information that you'll wonder how one person could be understood so differently on so many subjects... until you read Schleiermacher himself!).

I'll list more things I like about the UK over the next 4 days... stay tuned.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Theological Worldview

My 'china plate' JT took this quiz on one's theological worldview. My results were similar to his, though mine were closer to those of Jesus.

My results:

Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan


Neo orthodox




Reformed Evangelical




Classical Liberal


Modern Liberal




Roman Catholic


What's your theological worldview?

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Do you ever get that feeling...

Everbody else knows what's going on but you? That was our day yesterday in London.

We boarded our train at Birmingham New Street Station and rode 1 hour 45 minutes to London Euston Station. Having arrived at around 12:30, we knew that we had better get moving. We walked the 2 and a half miles or so over to Westminster Abbey (we being Mary, Helen, and I). Actually, Helen rode while we walked. En route stopped at the Britism Museum to freshen up. By the time we got to Westminster, it was 2pm. We were digusted to discover that the abbey closes at 1:45 on Saturdays. Having seen most everything in that part of town already, we decided to go back to the British Museum and take in some things we failed to see last time and then grab some supper. We enjoyed the amazing pieces in the China section of the museum and spent a few minutes in the Americas.

After that we walked back to the station and treated ourselves to some pasties. Yes, I meant pasties. The singular, pasty, describes a oven-baked pastry usually filled with a meat. The little booth was called the West Cornwall Pasty Co., though I doubt their's are as good as the reknowned pasties of Cornwall. I had a pork and applesauce pasty (delicious!) and Mary had a Chicken Balti pasty (quite good). And by 'quite' I mean something between good and very good. I know some Brits who use quite to mean "only a little". Anyway, after we ate, we decided to go to the British Library, which is close to Euston Station. As misfortune seemed our lot, we arrived at 5:10pm, 10 minutes after the library had closed. So, we spent some time in a neat little bookshop near the station. We loved the books and Helen loved the time to crawl.

Our train departed at 6:30, so we got to the station around six. The platform number for the train was not displayed until 6:20, so we were part of a mad dash to the train to get seats together, which we found and had an uneventful ride home. We arrived back in B'ham at 8:10 and then took the bus home. We walked back into our door a few minutes before nine.

Then I began discover all the things we'd somehow missed in London. BK emailed me to ask if we had been part of the nude bicycle protest through London. No. We forgot our bikes. But we did walk some of the same areas where these people showed their, um, displeasure with oil dependency. I think BK must subscribe to some nude protest newsletter because he's always emailing me about them.

Today I was instant messaging with my niece, Brittany, and she asked me if we saw the Queen. Of course, we didn't, but apparently we somehow missed all the celebrations for Queeny's birthday yesterday(though her birthday was in April).

Then, a few minutes ago, I discovered that the American tennis player Andy Roddick was in London yesterday winning in the Queen's Tournament he has dominated in recent years.

So not only did we miss doing anything we'd planned on yesterday, we also missed chances to be scandalized, aculturated, and to act condescendingly. It figures!

But we did get a few pictures yesterday and today:
My Photo
Helen and her new friend Ben.

My Photo
Just to prove to Helen that she has been to Westminster when she gets older and tells us that we never go anywhere cool.

My Photo
Helen today at play in the church building.

My Photo
With her friend Elliot (13 months).

My Photo
Tonight at supper looking for her belly button.