Monday, 1 June 2015

Jesus Camp: A Netflix documentary, the church and homosexuality.

Everyone knows how much I love Netflix. I spend hours of my life watching series after series, becoming addicted to TV show after TV show. My dad coming into a room and saying 'what's this rubbish now?' Has been a regular occurrence for many years and now on my visits back form my life in Leeds this is no different, yet last night I watched something different. I've always enjoyed documentaries and everyone knows I love a good argument and I wish I'd had someone to argue (or at least listen to my rant) lat night. I watched a documentary called Jesus Camp, and I'm sure you can guess what it was about. Evangelical Christians of America. Specifically evangelical children of America. 

Now before I get into my main issues I want to get two things very clear. I am a Christian and I am gay. At this point in my life I am very comfortable and happy to talk about both of these parts of me. There was a point where I wasn't and I will open my arms and say that proudly that I was scared and I was confused. Many people, including myself thought that these two things could not work together. Ever. You could be one or you could be the other but the two together we're like water and oil. They just don't work. But now I see differently, I and many other young LGBT people both male and female know that these two can work together. 

I didn't go to a church school, I wasn't shipped off to bible camps or even Sunday schools or regular services, but I have a strong belief, but most importantly I have a fair belief, a believe that I have been allowed to discover on my own. I have been able to see both sides of many different arguments, I have studied many different religions and many different denominations of the same religion. I have Christian friends, Muslim friends, Sikh friends and Jewish friends. We all have many different beliefs, often very fundamentally different beliefs but we are all able to discuss what we believe and why we believe it without judgement or pressure to change and it has led, not to conflict or tension but a greater understanding of each other's beliefs and a greater understanding of our different cultures.

I am gay, a huge bone of contention within the Church and across many different religions. From where I stand now in my life I can say looking back I started to realised I was different when I was about 13. Forget the dodgy haircuts and the strange desire to wear dungarees and tracksuit bottoms constantly, all my friends were developing crushes on guys and I just wasn't. Strange when you think I spend a heck of a lot more time around guys than they did. If you wanted to find me, I'd be kicking a ball around a field of the playground with a group of lads, I saw them take their shirts off and use them as goal posts but still nothing. But I was 13 and I thought nothing of it. I didn't know any gay people, I didn't even know of any gay people. University for me was the best thing I ever did. Yes I had my ups and downs, I fell for people I shouldn't have fallen for but in the end I came out happy (no pun intended). I met people who were out and proud. I met people who were comfortable with who they were and all of this was at a Catholic university. Leeds Trinity was the best thing to ever happen to me. Initially I was scared, terrified. What would people think, what would they say? What would God think? And I am not ashamed to say that when I realised I was gay, that the reason I wasn't feeling anything for these guys I was playing football with was because I was attracted to girls, I prayed. I prayed because I thought that gay and God didn't go together. I will hold my hands up and say I can't remember when it happened but I do remember that it wasn't the LGBT community that helped me come to terms with it but the Catholic community. I was told, and I realised that in the bible, in Christianity, we are created in God's image and if I had a problem with who I am, then I have a problem with God. Not once was I told I was condemned, never was I told I wasn't accepted or that myself or my beliefs were less than those of anyone else. In the bible the sin of the act of homosexuality equates to that of sex before marriage. It is essentially the same sin, there is no difference in if it is a man/woman man/man or woman/woman. ( please jump in if I've gotten something wrong).

So where does this all fit in with the documentary? Well, this documentary showed children, young children, some as young as 5/6 years old preaching the holy spirt and the word of Jesus. It showed adults preaching and teaching these children very complex and controversial issues and those children taking them to heart and preaching them themselves. Children 8/9 years old talking about issues such as abortion and creationism, healthcare and politics and it made me realise something during these interviews. These children were not 'thick' or 'uneducated' they were very bright, very intelligent individuals who will have a huge impact on the future of their county and the world. Over 25% of the population of America call themselves Evangelical Christians, so surely, we should be teaching these children the positive messages, the ways to bring people closer to each other and to respect each other. If these children have the capacity to take on the negative messages and the 'extreme' views of Christianity they can take on the positive, love thy neighbour message. Yes these children are important, but the world needs less people telling groups that God hates them and he doesn't want them in his church. The world needs these children to grow up accepting all people, no matter their background, gender, sexual orientation or personal history. 

Honestly I don't really know what message I'm trying to get across (and several glasses of wine may have been involved in this post) except that the world and the church needs to stop pushing people away. If there are any rules and regulations, terms and conditions if you would, they'd be the Ten Commandments. Where is the hate? Where is the non acceptance? Nowhere, because the fundamental message is love. To work together and help each other. Jesus never talks about homosexuality, but he actively condemns divorce. Now after this documentary these camps were shut down. The powers that be saw this exposé, this documentary and saw what these children were being exposed to and they put a stop to it because of how damaging it was, how upset and emotionally unstable these children were becoming. Imagine though, imagine how much better the world would be, how many less wars, how much less tension there was if these children were taught positive messages. If they were taught how amazing the world is and how valuable each person was rather than being told that governments and lying and homosexuals are responsible for Hurricane Katrina. The children and the whole world would benefit so much more.

Monday, 4 May 2015

An Experiment in Time -Extract 3

Alex lay in her bed. Glancing at the clock she knew there was no way she would be getting back to sleep before her lecture. Her head reeled with the information which had been thrown at her. She attempted to put it in some sort of order, but no matter which way she looked at it or how she organised it, it was still so incomprehensible.
Turning over she reached for the business card she’d tossed on the nightstand. The simplicity of the design struck her as curious. There was no logo, no design, no decoration. It was a blank white card with two lines of text.
Damian King
01232 657488
The other side of the card was also blank. Alex closed her eyes, her head dropping against her pillow. She had no choice, she knew it, but that wasn’t what was bothering her. Even if she was presented with a choice, her imagination and inquisitiveness wouldn’t have let her rest until she had followed this through. She ran her fingers over the card debating whether to ring now or to wait until morning. There was no doubt in her mind that Damian King would still be awake, more than probably still sat in his office waiting for the phone to ring.
“Oh sod it” Alex swung her legs over the side of her bed and reached for her phone. The card fell from her hand and landed on the wooden floor with a soft click. Alex looked down to where it had landed with a puzzled expression; it had definitely landed with a click, but it was just card, why would it land with a click? Sighing and reaching down once more Alex picked up the card and examined it again, Running her thumb across the back she nearly dropped it again. How had she not noticed it before? There in the very centre of the card was a patch which was raised ever so slightly. She turned it over and confirmed her suspicions. It was directly behind the embossed writing. Very cleverly hidden and essentially invisible unless of course someone happened to have dropped it on a wooden floor.
Alex jumped out of bed, hastily turning on the light as she made her way over to her desk. The desk was strewn with blueprints and drawings from different textbooks, but they were all pushed messily to one side as Alex pulled the magnifying glass over to get a closer look at the card. She rummaged around in her drawer, her eyes never once leaving the card until eventually she pulled out her craft knife and a pair of tweezers. Slowly she ran the blade carefully around three sides of the protrusion, placing the knife down Alex picked up the tweezers before lifting up the flap and extracting the small object. Holding it delicately in the grip of the tweezers Alex examined the mirco-sim from every possible angle. Aside from the fact that it had been concealed so skilfully in a business card there was nothing particularly remarkable about the simcard. Pushing her chair away from the desk Alex reached for her laptop and started up for the machine. Inserting the sim card she let out the breath she didn’t realise she’d been holding in.
The computer whirred into life as the files held on the memory card became visible on the screen. Two files were held on the card; one, a text document and the other, a video file. Clicking on the video file, Alex grabbed a pad and a pen. The time tag said the video was only three minutes long but something in the back of her mind told her it would be three minutes filled with information. A few moments later Damian King’s face flickered on to the screen.
“Hello Alex”
Alex looked up at the screen. She had only met King hours earlier, yet this but this must have been filmed days ago. Slowly she set her pen down.
“I’m glad you’ve found this, it means we have put our trust in the right person. I’m sure you’re processing all the information you’ve received today and I want to thank you for watching this video before ringing the company again.” On the screen King glances around the room before shuffling closer to the camera.
“Actually Alex, the whole point of this clip is to ask you not to ring the number on the card. There is another agency involved, one who I’m afraid are wanting to be involved for the wrong reasons. Now I am not yet clear on their motives but I want to keep them at arm’s length for as long as possible. The other file contained on the memory card is the address I would like you to come to tomorrow at 2pm. Do not call the number on the card. There is a tap on the phones. Don’t call. They’ll think you’re not interested and by the time they’ve figured out you’re on board we should have built up quite the head start. I’m glad we chose you Alex. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
With that the screen went blank.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

An Experiment in time -Extract 2

The two men led Alex through a maze of corridors and passageways, wherever she thought she was it was thrown out the window and on more than one occasion she had the sneaking suspicion that she had walked down the same corridor several times. Eventually they came to a halt outside an office. How the men knew it was the right office she had no idea. Looking up and down the narrow corridor, nothing stood out about the door they were stood in front of, it was a plain door, with no special markings or distinguishing features.
“Bring her in”
Alex hadn't even heard the men knock; in fact she was pretty sure they hadn't, but then again that wouldn't have been the strangest happening of the day.
The man standing to her left reached forward, opened the door and stepped back, clasping his hands in front of him in the style of a man trained by the military. Alex took this as her cue and stepped into the room.
“Please close the door behind you Miss Stone. The topic of our conversation is not one for prying ears.”
The voice belonged to the man sat behind the desk. He stood up as Alex closed the door, the men standing behind it having moved to either side. Turning around Alex took in the office. It was visibly the office of someone of high standing; the walls were lined with large bookshelves, their contents covering everything from politics to theoretical physics, Greek mythology to chemical engineering and a vast range of topics in between. The man himself was impeccably dressed. His crisp white shirt, navy tie and dress pants lay waste to the idea that he was a field agent. No, this was a man who sat behind a desk, made important decisions and told other people what to do.
“Please take a seat Alex, is it alright if call you Alex?”
His question may have seemed friendly, but Alex had a sense that no matter her answer he would be calling her by her first name.
“That will be fine, Sir. And what may I call you?” She didn’t really care if she sounded arrogant or self-important; she had been dragged from her bed in the middle of the night. She wasn’t about to be beaten in to submission by some man on a power trip. Not that he seemed put out by her attitude; rather he seemed to have been expecting that kind of response.
“My name is Damian King, but you’re more than welcome to keep addressing me as sir” He added, turning back to his chair. “Please take a seat, we have much to discuss.”
Alex sat in the single chair in front of the desk. I was noticeably smaller than the one Damian King sat in and as Alex raised her eyes to meet him she realised why. They chair forced the seated to look up to the man behind the desk, giving the illusion they were being interrogated. She didn’t have to think hard to imagine many men having been given the third degree in this chair.
“Do you have any idea why you’re here Alex?” King sat back in his chair watching Alex.
“No sir” Might as well keep up the ‘sir’ act, she though, keep him happy for a bit longer.
King smiled at the use of the pronoun again.
“We are in need of your assistance, a…” King paused “a delicate situation has arisen and we feel that you Miss Stone are the one to best aid us.”
“And who exactly are ‘We’?”
The perfect smile faltered at her comment.
“We are, shall we say, a privately funded company with interests which extend to many different areas.”
“I’m not going to get any more of an explanation than that am I?
“You’re a smart woman Alex, that’s why we need you.”
Alex sighed. From her current position she couldn’t see a way out of this, she was here to the duration and somewhere in the back of her mind, she didn’t really mind that.
“How can I help you?” She finally asked
King stood up and walked over to the bookshelf nearest the door. Carefully he picked up a small, leather bound book from the second shelf. He held it in his hand, examining its cover as if it was the first time he had held it. He glanced back over to Alex and flipped the book open, the pages falling open towards the back where a sheet of folded paper had been placed inside. King lifted out the paper, closed the book and placed it softly back on the shelf. He made no move to return to his chair behind the desk, instead he remained where he was and smoothed out the folded paper in his hands, eyes scrutinising the paper before him he looked back at Alex, still making no attempt to move.
Knowing exactly what he wanted but needing to prolong the wait Alex stood up and slowly walked over until she was standing in front of him.
“Would this have anything to do with what you want my help with?” Alex asked.
“It is”
“May I see it?”
“Not yet. First I need to clarify some questions.”
“Ok, but I’m pretty sure you’ve already done your research on me”
“We have conducted a thorough background search, you’re quite correct on that matter, but I would still like you to confirm one or two details for me.” He paced around the room coming to rest next to the desk; he leant back, leaning against it he looked Alex up and down once more. “You’re currently studying literature is that correct?
“Yes, I’m enrolled at…”
King cut her off “But you have dabbled in engineering and physics is that also correct?”
“Not entirely sir, before I came to America I did study engineering and design at Cambridge, but not physics, I undertook a wok placement within a laboratory though in my second year there.”
“Thank you for clearing that up Miss Stone, I will be of much use that you have a sound knowledge of engineering especially if you have lab training also.”
“I still don’t know what it is you want me to help with and that was all a very long time ago sir. I’m not sure how much of it I have remembered.” That was a lie. Alex had remembered all of it. She had even taught herself more than her tutors ever had, but that was something King didn’t need to know. Not until she knew his endgame anyway.
“We are also aware that you specialise in the works of HG Wells, we know you have studied him extensively, his books and his inventions. This, Miss Stone is where you come in. We find ourselves in a bit of a situation; our scientists, historians and researchers have all pulled up blank. We need a new set of eyes and younger mind to hopefully pull us out of this rut.”
“I will try my best Sir, but I can’t promise that I will be able to help.”
“Oh, I’m sure you will be a great help. You see Alex; it’s one of Wells’ inventions we have an issue with. We just can’t seem to perfect it. We know in theory what it should be but we can’t figure out Wells’ code.  Alex, we need you to tell us how Wells’ created Cavorite.”
“Cavorite?” Alex laughed. “You’re telling me that your plan is to manufacture Cavorite?”
“Yes”
Alex paused. There was no tone of jest in his voice. She was just going to laugh off his request and head back home but his response had her choosing her next words more carefully than she first anticipated.
“With the utmost respect Sir, it’s a sci-fi story. An invention created to drive a plot line, it’s…”
“I am well aware of what Cavorite is, or was, Miss Stone. But I assure you that it is highly plausible. Scientists have been attempting for decades to get it right and we’ve close. Very close. But Wells never actually described the method. He gave us clues but no definitive answer, and that Alex, is why we need you.” King continued.
“Me? Sir, I think you’re mistaken, I’m a literary scholar not a scientist.”
“You know more about Wells than the combined knowledge of everyone in this building, and as for your scientist remark… well, we both know that’s not entirely true, not with your past escapades” he replied, a definite emphasis on the word ‘past’.
Alex dropped her head.
“How did you…”
“Never mind, just know that we do. We need you. Wells left us a clue and we need your help deciphering it.”
Alex sighed, a resigned sound, signalling that she was not happy with the situation but was more than aware that she didn’t really have a choice in the matter. She took the piece of paper currently being presented to her and smoothed it out. Even if she had tried she could not contain the laugh which erupted out of her chest. The page was blank except for two lines of print.

Cavorite made as follows: take –

uless

“I’ll take from your laugh that you can be of some assistance to us?”
“This is an excerpt from a book Sir, HG’s book, The First Men in the Moon to be precise.”
“We’re aware of that, now what can you tell us.”
Talking about HG Wells was something Alex could do.
“Well, it was published in 1901 and many scholars believe that it was the….”
     “We mean about the code. What can you tell us about this” King said, gesturing to the paper
“This? Well, it’s from the final chapter. In the book, it’s the last communication Mr Cavor sends to Earth from the Moon. Bedford, the protagonist, believes that the Selenites, or moon people, are censoring the transmissions but that Cavor is unaware. Bedford thinks that they’re doing this so as to stop more men travelling to the moon and stop a potential invasion.” Alex looked around the room. “But I don’t understand Sir, this isn’t a code.”
“Despite what you might think Miss Stone I can assure you that it is. This is the clue to find the true instructions for developing Cavorite.”
Alex looked down at the sheet of paper again. She had read the book the quote had been taken from before. It was the first Wells story she had read, the story which had sparked her imagination and ultimately her career path. It was the story which, even now with her wall to wall library and piles of books strewn across the floor, she would always return to.  In fact, it was the book which was currently on her bed side table in her apartment, the story she had been reading before she fell asleep and was rudely awakened and dragged here and it was just that. A story. Not once had she thought it would be anything more or dreamed that these inventions could be real. Cavorite was, or is Alex supposed, an anti-gravity metal, based around the principal of combining Helium along with several other elements to create a compound which simply floats off to, well in Mr Bedford and Mr Cavor’s instance, the Moon.
For a while King didn’t say anything, he just watched. Watched as Alex pondered this little scrap of paper, analysing her face and trying to figure out what Alex was thinking.
“How can it be Sir, surely if this is true someone, a scientist, anyone would have figured this out by now! Or at least have come up with another way of making it, if it is indeed possible.”
“It is very possible Miss Stone; I can assure you of that.” King gestured to the chair. “This may take a while; you may want to sit down.”
Alex moved across the room and sat down in the chair, her hand still fisted around the scrap of paper.
“Now, I know you’re aware of Mr Wells, but do you also happen to be familiar with a Mr Tesla?”
“Nikola Tesla? Sure, I’ve heard of him, AC currents, tesla coil…”
“Were you aware that Mr Tesla was under the impression that he had received communications for Mars at the end of the 1800’s?”
“I’d heard the rumours, but I thought nobody could prove they were real.”
“Nobody could prove they weren’t either. The reason that it can’t be proved is because they were looking in the wrong places. Tesla incorrectly inferred that the signals originated on Mars, had the scientist looked a little closer he would have realised that they were in fact coming from the moon.”
It took Alex a little while to sense where this was going
“They were sent by HG.”
“Almost, though I do admire how quickly you are accepting these facts. We are unable to determine whether or not they were sent by Wells himself but we can certainly say that they were meant for him.”
“Who would be trying to communicate from the moon, Armstrong didn’t land there until ’69… Nineteen ’69 long after both Wells and Tesla died.”
“Think about everything you have learned tonight, would you like to take a guess as to where this is heading”
“Actually, Sir I’m just waiting for the moment I wake up back in my apartment, in my bed and realise all this is a dream and your men did not drag me from my sleep to tell me that HG Wells flew to the moon on a stupid space ship made of a material with does not exist and decided to send cryptic messages back to a man who believed he was talking to Martians!”
Alex was standing again, running her hands through her hair; this was not happening. Even HG Wells with his unparalleled imagination couldn’t come up with a plot line this fantastic.
King sighed, he had expected this reaction, and in fact he was a little surprised that it hadn’t come earlier. She had lasted much longer than he had when all this information had first been presented to him. It had been a lot harder for him to take in, he didn’t have her scientific mind or her extensive knowledge and love of literature. He had never even heard of Nikola Tesla until about a month ago. Yet here was Alex Stone. Still stood in his office in her pyjamas, having mind blowing and history altering facts thrown at her and she had barely batted an eyelid.
“I know it’s a lot to take in. I will have someone take you back to your apartment. All I ask is for you to sleep on the information you have learned here tonight. I am not asking you to give us your commitment now, but, if in the morning, you wish to learn more or give us your insight and opinion you know where to find us”
King reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a business card.  He rolled it between his thumb and forefinger before passing it to Alex.
“We could really use your help on this, please don’t just write it off. Think about it” He opened the door.




An Experiment in Time

The Time Machine
Rosie Fenwick


Chapter 1

2011:
Underground storage facility,
Undisclosed location, England

The assurances of protection which came from being this far underground were met in equal measure by the difficulties Alex Stone was currently facing.  She had lost track of how long she had been down there, the usually arid air, currently hot and musky the only evidence that the room had been occupied in 120 years.  The constant drip of the rusting water pipes above and the crumbling of the ancient walls surrounding her would disorientate anyone, but Alex barely noticed them. The sweat soaked through her shirt as she spent hour after hour day after day perfecting the machine. She felt almost at home here; felt that she could be at home here, pouring over the handwritten plans, deciphering the elegant handwriting and phrases which had become second nature to her. The handwriting had seemed odd at first. The finesse and elegance with which the man had drafted the blueprints a century ago would not strike as the hand of a man, but Alex knew better, knew the person who had confined the ideas to paper, had studied him until she knew everything there was to know. Everything that was except for the nature of his death; and that is why she has spent the last three years underground attempting to replicate one of his greatest inventions. The man was HG Wells; and this was his Time Machine.