Sunday, March 08, 2009

Twenty Questions to a Fellow Blogger Part LXVII: John Hayward

(John Hayward)

Dr John Hayward is the executive director of the Jubilee Centre, a research charity that explores a wide range of social, economic and political issues, seeking to provide a positive response to the challenges faced by individuals, communities and policy makers in the twenty-first century from a distinctively faith-based perspective. He previously worked for twelve years in international development. For much of that time he was based in the former Soviet republic of Tajikistan, just north of Afghanistan, where he established an adult education centre. He has a degree in natural sciences and a PhD in genetics from Cambridge University and an MA in TESOL from Azusa Pacific University, California. He is married with two primary school-aged children. His blog can be found on the Jubliee Centre website.

What made you decide to start blogging?

I have always responded to the news by informing the television of my opinions on what ought to be done and had for a number of years been getting letters published in national and local newspapers. Iain Dale tried to convince me that I needed to express myself in the blogosphere, but my gut response was still, “Who would want to visit my blog?” After all, most blogs seem to offer little but recycled opinion and gossip. It was only when the chance arose to blog for a political magazine from a faith-based perspective that I took the plunge.

What is your best blogging experience?

Perhaps when a big American news site linked to one of my posts from its website’s home page, which briefly brought a few hundred extra visitors, but it is always satisfying when a blog post generates an extended thread of interest and engagement in the comments.

And your worst?

Nothing comes to mind!

What do you regard as your best blog entry?

Probably one on human rights, on global poverty, or on restorative justice - although a post on Obama was the most widely read.

Favourite blogs?

Cranmer for another faith-based perspective on politics and society. Otherwise, my favourites are lesser known blogs by friends working across Central Asia and Africa.

Are we a 'Post-Christian' country?

Not at all. Around 72 percent of people identified themselves in the 2001 population census as Christian and 63 percent still believe that our nation’s laws should respect and be influenced by the our religious values. Secular humanists may seem increasingly vocal, the Church may not in recent years have taken sufficiently seriously its calling to be “salt and light” in society, and even the Government may have done much to undermine our nation’s Christian heritage, but many of the country’s most valued institutions and most effective public services still depend on the involvement of Christians motivated by their faith.

What do you think will be the big Christian issues in the 2010's?

No different from the big issues facing non-Christians – to understand how justice and righteousness should affect our social, personal, economic, and political relationships with our neighbours, near and far, in today’s global village. Our calling is always to be engaged with the issues of justice and righteousness in society around us – as “salt” to prevent moral decay, as “light” to show a better way forward.

Christians touching on Lifestyle Issues is one thing, but has this happened in public discussions at the expense of other issues such as War and Poverty?

I would define lifestyle issues as the choices we all take every day of our lives – how we spend our time, how we spend our money, how we treat people around us, how we prepare for the future, and so forth. Consciously thinking about how we make these kinds of decisions does not prevent us from also engaging constructively in debates over public policy. The real point is perhaps not that one has been at the expense of the other but that people tend to think they cannot make a difference on big questions such as war and poverty and, even when they do get involved, more often do so negatively, for instance protesting over issues, rather than trying to be part of the solution to problems.

Is there anywhere abroad which you haven't been to, that you would like to visit?

For all my years in Central Asia, I have never been to Afghanistan and have some dear friends there who it would be wonderful to spend time with again.

Is there anywhere abroad you have visited, that you would love to revisit?

Since leaving Tajikistan more than five years ago, I have only returned the once – it would be great to catch up with friends there again.

Do you have a favourite political figure in history?

It would have to be Wilberforce or Shaftesbury.

Which Christian figure has been your greatest inspiration?

Michael Lloyd, now Associate Vicar at St. Andrew Holborn, who was Chaplain at Christ’s for the majority of my time in Cambridge – always had time for everybody, and a model of all a Christian should be.

Favourite Bond movie?

Not a fan. How about a musical such as “Fiddler on the Roof”, some good science fiction, or a foreign film?

Favourite Doctor Who?

I grew up on Tom Baker, though Ecclestone’s scripts were great, being full of comment on a wide range of social and political issues.

Chocolate, vanilla, or mint?

Mint on lamb, otherwise chocolate.

Which Band, past or present, would you most like to see in concert?

Either Queen or Elton John.

In terms of visiting for the weekend, Oxford, Cambridge, or Barsby, Leics..?

Well, I drive into Cambridge almost every day, so it would have to be visiting friends and family around Oxford.

Favourite national newspaper?

Can I opt for the International Herald Tribune? These days I get most of my news online or from the Today programme.

What would you say your hobbies were?

Bird-watching and spending time with my family.

And what would you say were your three favourite songs and three favourite books (Bar the Bible and The Complete Works of Shakespeare)?

Difficult... My favourite album is Antonello Venditti’s “Gli Anni 80” (memories of a summer’s language learning in Firenze, when I also saw Paul Simon in concert) so I’d have to choose a track from that, probably the first, “Notte Prima Degli Esami”. Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” (the whole ninth symphony, really) is an easy pick for second. Third... probably Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”. Sadly, it seems there’s no room for any Puccini or musicals in my top three.

As for books, I like biographies that reveal something of the factors that shaped the subject and John Pollock’s are usually as insightful as any; so, let’s opt for Pollock’s biography of Shaftesbury or Kitchener for one. I also enjoy relaxing with a novel and Khaled Hosseini’s “Kiterunner” is a masterpiece and a brilliant portrayal of Central Asian worldview and culture. For a third, fantasy can be effective means of exploring philosophical and theological themes about “life, the universe, and everything” and I remember enjoying the depth and scope of Stephen Donaldson’s “Chronicles of Thomas Covenant” as a teenager, though I haven’t read either of the books published so far in the new series he is now working on and CS Lewis’ Narnia Chronicles are more universally accessible.

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