Why TED talks are far less interesting than revival sermons

I like good oratory. I teach public speaking regularly. I source and buy or download examples of great (imho…) examples of the genre, from business, politics, cinema, and the church. I watch the best of them over and over, making notes on why they work. I go over videos almost frame-by-frame with classes and seminars, pointing out this hand-movement, that inflection, the use of eyes, the deployment of silence, and of course two dozen or more classical rhetorical techniques, which I name easily in Greek and English. I like good oratory. A while ago, at a dinner party, the conversation turned to TED talks. I admitted, truthfully, that I have never yet watched to the end of one. It turned out that another guest was VP of a firm that sponsored one of the...

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Christianity, Cameron, and Rev

David Cameron’s several interventions during Easter week concerning his own faith and his perception of the UK as a ‘Christian country’ aroused much interest, and more derision; by contrast, in it’s third series, the BBC2 sitcom Rev has apparently reached that level of popularity which requires newspaper columnists to take pot-shots at it (see Tim Stanley in the Telegraph and, much more interestingly in my estimation, James Mumford in the Guardian). Unravelling the various lines of a media and social media feeding frenzy like the one that surrounded the Prime Minister’s comments is not easy. His narrative of his own faith journey, which has clearly deepened in recent years following the death of his son Ivan, deserved much more...

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Theological thoughts about the Leveson report

Tomorrow, the House of Commons will vote on Lord Leveson’s key recommendations concerning press regulation. Is there a theological perspective on this subject? Let me answer as a Baptist… A commitment to protecting freedom of belief has always been a central concern of the Baptist movement, albeit expressed in various different ways. (I trace some of them in ch. 6 of my Baptist Theology, looking at Thomas Helwys, Roger Williams, Isaac Backus, E.Y. Mullins, and Nigel Wright along the way.) The commitment is, for Baptists, profoundly theological, and also pragmatically inevitable. Baptist theology (I there argue) focuses on the direct address of Christ to each particular human person, and so the primary responsibility of every human person for her own...

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What the Archbishop of Westminster really said…

The top news story on several UK sites on Christmas morning ran as follows: the Archbishop of Westminster, knowing that his midnight Christmas mass homily would be widely reported,  had used the opportunity given to him to attack the government’s plans to introduce same-sex marriage. Christian comment on (those bits that I see of) FB and Twitter was highly critical, suggesting that – even if he happened to be right about equal marriage, which most people who took the trouble to comment seemed to think he wasn’t – to make this the central message of Christmas was totally inappropriate. All this was rather predictable; also rather predictable was the fact that the media reports were at least highly misleading, if not actually inaccurate, and...

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Thinking about social media

I’ve been a bit slow in blogging here, over the past few weeks, but I have been writing things elsewhere, particularly in the area of churches and social media. If you’ve not seen them, and are interested, I have three pieces on the Baptist Times website about this: What is ‘social media’? The future of social media A theology of social media I also did a video interview with the American site Ethics Daily on a similar...

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