Thursday, June 1, 2017

How does Christianity spread?



"There is something curious about the Christian impulses! Intellectuality, knowledge, learning appear not to have been present during the spreading of these impulses.One could say that Christianity spread regardless of what people thought for or against it, so much so that it seems to have found its antithesis in modern materialism.

What is it then that spreads? Not Christian ideas, not the science of Christianity.

One could still say that the moral feelings which are planted through Christianity are spread. One has only to observe the rule of morality in these times and one will find much justification for the anger of the representatives of Christianity against real or alleged enemies of Christianity. Also the morals which could reign in the souls of the less educated do not impress us much when we observe to what extent they are Christian.

What is it then which spreads? What is so curious? What is it which marches through the world like a victorious procession? What worked in the people who brought Christianity to the Germanic, to the foreign world? What works in modern natural science, where the teaching is still veiled? What works in all these souls, if it isn't intellectual, not even moral impulses? What is it?

It is Christ himself, who goes from heart to heart, soul to soul, who traverses the world over the centuries, whether or not people understand him!"

Rudolf Steiner, Oslo, October 1st 1913 (GA148)

Monday, May 29, 2017

Cubot Cheetah 2 Review

After nearly two years my Motorola Moto X Play developed a fault, not recognising micro SD cards and draining the battery quickly. Because the SD card had been combined into the system memory this caused a number of issues with apps and other functions so I decided to go looking for a new phone. As my son had had good recent experience with a Cubot Dinosaur I decided to give the Cheetah 2 a go.

Both phones run almost stock Android 6 and I was able to restore from the old phone to the new phone using the Google account transfer function. Here is how they compared over the first four days.

Screen and general appearance

Both phones have 5.5 inch screens that are indistinguishable in quality. The Cubot case is longer than the Motorola because it has physical buttons rather than soft buttons. Both phones are in the same weight range. The Cubot is slightly heavier.

Camera

The Cubot has a Samsung 16mp camera on the back and a Sony 4mp on the front. The picture quality is good but nowhere near as good as the Motorola, which shared the same camera as the Google Nexus 6 (which was considered exceptional). The Cubot feels like some of the HTC cameras I have used. Turning off the “facial beauty “ feature does improve the colour and the HDR function also improves things. Where the Cubot beats the Motorola is in close focus shots. The Cubot can focus closely and the focus does not wander. The video camera does not identify HD or SD but the default setting is 1080p and works well.

These are full frame photos from the Cubot Cheetah 2 camera:






Sound

Surprisingly the output from the earphone socket on the Cubot is much more powerful than the Motorola, and drives external amplifiers better than the Motorola with less distortion. But the Cubot’s internal speaker is not nearly as good.

Battery

The Motorola could run for two days of reasonable use. The Cubot requires daily charge. It does not charge quickly either. This becomes apparent in the car where Spotify, Satnav and Bluetooth is a sufficient drain to stop the phone charging at all from on a good quality charger. In some cases the phone has ended a journey a few percent lower than it started! This was while using the charging lead supplied with the phone and it might be that a better quality lead improves charge rates. I was unable to try this as it is USB type C but I will try another lead when I can get one.

Processor speed

The Cubot loads apps more quickly. In side by side tests it is about 20% faster but I can't tell if this is due to the memory mess my Motorola is in. The Cubot has 3GB RAM for running the apps in compared to the Motorola 2GB.

Memory

The Cubot has 32GB compared to the Motorola 16GB. The operating system takes up less room too so I have not needed to fit an SD card. You could add a card and set your videos and photos to store to it if you wished. I synch all my photos on Google Photos and just clear the phone regularly so I don't need lots of memory in the phone.

Other

The Cubot does not display the mobile network name in the status bar. This is standard with Android 6 unless it has been tweaked by the manufacturer, which Cubot haven’t on this phone, but have on the Dinosaur. I am jot sure how you would know which network you were on if you had two SIM cards installed.

The Cubot is dual SIM which could be very handy for foreign travel, especially to places like the Caribbean that are outside most cheap roaming deals.

The fingerprint scanner is as reliable as my wife’s iPhone 7. No worries about failure either as it always presents the PIN option.

The supplied charger is European fitting. The seller supplied a pound shop type  British one. I discarded both and used an existing high capacity charger.

Conclusion

The Motorola cost £270 two years ago. The Cubot was £125. Even so, the Cubot holds up well against the Moto X Play. The screen is particularly good. It's just a pity the battery charging was not faster, but I know from Micro USB charging that the lead can make a big difference and I will be trying a better quality USB-C lead.

If this phone lasts me two years it will have cost £5 per month. With my unlimited data SIM at £16 per month this is a good smart phone set up for less than half the price of most iPhone packages. Longevity is currently unknown and is the gamble, but my son’s Cubot Dinosaur is holding up well so I have similar expectations of the Cheetah 2.




Monday, April 24, 2017

How is it possible to be a Christian and a Socialist? The answer may surprise you.

I have been thinking about writing this article for some time, as I get asked this question a lot. I get it asked both ways round, with scepticism on the part of Christians and Socialists in equal number. For that reason I am going to answer the question twice.

You are a Christian. How can you possibly be a Socialist?

This question gets asked by my evangelical Christian friends because evangelical Christianity in Britain is generally to the right of centre politically. There has been a gradual move over the past thirty years towards making right wing political thinking synonymous with evangelical Christianity. The change in the gospel to a more individualist, self help, one sits easier with the extrinsic values of political Conservatism.

We used to keep moral and political agendas separate, but the influence of American thinking has led us to believe that we can alter the nations morals by political action. You see this with both evangelical and liberal Christian groups trying to influence government policy. There is a general belief that faith on its own is insufficient. It needs the power and influence of the state to bring it into the physical realm.

But it has not always been this way.  There was a time when evangelical Christians thought of faith as a personal matter, not something to be delivered by state education or enforced by theocracy. Christianity was about loving and helping our neighbour and building a society based on intrinsic values of community, peace and justice for all. This is why the early trade union and cooperative movements were full of Christians, especially Methodists. 

It is those basic values that we find in Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) not in Margaret Thatcher's Sermon on the Mound. We also find it in the Baptist tradition of the complete separation of Church and State; the approach to God being as an individual, but being re-born into a family (the church fellowship) as symbolised by baptism.

Where I differ from Liberal Christian Socialists is that I don't think Jesus was a socialist. I do not see anything of what we understand as modern socialism in the life or teachings of Jesus Christ. His earthly ministry was in a world far removed from ours in time and complexity. When he talks about sharing goods or doing things in common he is reflecting how life already was in that pre industrial society, but which was under threat from Roman and other influence. What I see in the teachings of Jesus are principals about love, peace, justice and community that are best reflected in socialist thought and are compatible with left wing politics. Christians who are more individualistic may disagree. They are entitled to, but this is why I am a Socialist.

You are a Socialist. How can you possibly be a Christian?

This is the other side of that question and usually centres on two issues.

Firstly, Marxism sets itself up as a scientifically reasoned explanation of economics and how society can develop. Religion of any kind has no scientific basis and is superstition which will prevent development towards socialism.

Secondly, Lenin argued that Christianity was an agent of imperialism designed, and used, to keep the proletariat from taking power over their own means of production.

The first of these views the world as being entirely material. A purely physical world that we can see and that we can investigate with science. Marxism, and consequently most modern Socialism relies on some version of dialectical materialism. I don't have time here to go into this complex area of philosophy, but I will make one point. For some Christians there is little difference between this materialistic world view and their dualistic view of a  physical world that we can see and investigate and a spiritual world which we can not. This type of Christian are practical materialists. I would argue that the division between spiritual and physical is unnatural and that there is only one world which we live in, are stewards of and are responsible for each other in. For this reason I do not find any personal contradiction between dialectical materialism and the Christian faith, except that it is  normally restricted to a narrow range of subjects where Christianity is all encompassing.

The second of these issues is more easily addressed. Lenin was arguing against the church, not against Christianity. The church of his day, in Russia, was strongly linked to the imperial state and was part of the oppression. This reflects badly on the church, but not on Christianity. I think that Christianity must be separate from the state, be about the individual approaching God in repentance and following the teachings of Jesus as much as is possible. I find this to be quite compatible with Socialism.


Conclusion

I am not sure that this answers my original question as well as I had hoped, but it might help others to understand my puzzling dual philosophies. I don't see any incompatibility, but I am sure American readers will!