Sunday, 6 December 2009

Franco’s


Christmas has arrived as far as I am concerned since yesterday I had my first Christmas dinner. It was so very good that any subsequent festive meals have a lot to live up to and believe me comparisons are unavoidable. It was so generous that I have to go back next week to have my Christmas pudding, and the coffee…

But do I let you in on the secret or will I be making things more difficult for myself?  Every other Saturday Ann and I go into Swansea to our favourite cafe, more often if we can. Its always bustling but we always find a table as our host constantly busies himself making sure that no one is turned away and even if you have to wait it is always worth it, and the coffee…


The menu is colourful and varied and the specials on the board are always worth trying (which is where I found my Christmas dinner). The Italian dishes are especially good, and did I mention the coffee?

You know that, wherever you go, when you order a coffee you are taking a risk. I mean you don’t expect much at motorway services or at Sid’s greasy spoon, but even in places that claim to be dedicated to the art of serving a good cup of coffee, where reputation rests on the quality of the java and little else, the good stuff does not often make it to your table.

Well, I know a place where the good stuff is standard faire and a man at whose feet baristi of the world should sit and learn. Franco has a modest but popular cafe in Singleton Street, Swansea, just across from the Quadrant shopping centre and around the corner from the city’s bustling market. He drives his longsuffering wife crazy with Dean Martin music and serves coffee that is like the ambrosia served up to the gods, sustaining, invigorating, liquid gold and all served with a smile in an atmosphere of good cheer.

There now, I have told you so if I can’t find a table when next I go I have only myself to blame. On the other hand, what civilised man could possibly keep such a good thing to himself. See you in Franco's. Bon appétit!


FRANCO

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

The Manhattan Declaration: A Call of Christian Conscience

On November 20th a formidable coalition of 150 Catholic, Orthodox, and evangelical leaders released a 4,700-word document, titled the "The Manhattan Declaration: A Call of Christian Conscience," which calls on Christians to engage in civil disobedience to defend their doctrines.

It calls on Christians to reject secular authority — and even engage in civil disobedience — if laws force them to accept abortion, same-sex marriage, and other ideas that betray their religious beliefs.

Signatories ranged from evangelical leader Chuck Colson to two of the leading Catholic prelates in the United States, Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C., and Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York.

It is frustrating, even frightening to see the direction this world is travelling and it is easy as individuals to complain from the relative safety of our pews, generating our pet conspiracy theories and eschatological predictions. Leaders do not have the luxury of relative anonymity and carry a burden of responsibility the ordinary Christian rarely understands.

They cannot speak casually, have a good rant on a personal blog, or gather with others around their complaints to have a good moan. They know that when they speak people listen and make important decisions based on what they hear. These leaders are careful and measured in what they say and this makes it all the more important that they have made such an uncompromising and public statement.

The full declaration and a list of signatories can be found here

An executive summary can be found here

You can put your name to the declaration here

Monday, 30 November 2009

Children who front Richard Dawkins' atheist ads are evangelicals -Times Online



"The two children chosen to front Richard Dawkins’s latest assault on God could not look more free of the misery he associates with religious baggage. With the slogan “Please don’t label me. Let me grow up and choose for myself”, the youngsters with broad grins seem to be the perfect advertisement for the new atheism being promoted by Professor Dawkins and the British Humanist Association.

Except that they are about as far from atheism as it is possible to be. The Times can reveal that Charlotte, 8, and Ollie, 7, are from one of the country’s most devout Christian families."


You don’t need me to tell you that when it comes to religion and philosophy Richard Dawkins is a complete doughnut of the first order. Now the dozy plum has come up with a poster advertising his ill-tempered dog-in-the-manger form of atheism featuring two happy, bouncing Christian children. I knew he was after our kids but I didn’t know he would go to these lengths.

The British Humanist Association, a church of the disillusioned who gather regularly around their grievances to blame a God who according to their own creed isn’t there, explained the campaign:

“The message is that the labelling of children by their parents’ religion fails to respect the rights of the child and their autonomy. We are saying that religions and philosophies — and ‘humanist’ is one of the labels we use on our poster — should not be foisted on or assumed of young children.”

So unconvinced are they of their worldview that they claim they won’t share it with their own children. It is so vacuous and meaningless that they have no intention of passing it on. Now that puts a different spin on the idea of ‘convictions’ doesn’t it? Put a gun to their head and surely they will cry, “Of course there’s a God! Always knew it.”

They betray the empty-headed nature of their arguments by apparently insisting that it is right for others to have a greater influence on our children than we do. Personally, I believe in the indoctrination of children and any parent with a firm view and an ounce of common sense will believe the same. We inculcate them with ideas of right and wrong, infuse them with ambition and drive and inspire them as best we can to live full and meaningful lives and these ideas are informed by what we believe.

If I believed there wasn’t a God I would press that view on my children to save them the heartache and disappointment of finding out for themselves after perhaps half a life of pointless devotion to a deity that doesn’t exist. By the same token, since I believe in God, I have done all I can to tell my children about him, to let them know he loves them and that the life of man is not solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short but  sociable, rich, charitable, elevating, purposeful and eternal.

There is an irony in Philip Pullman’s support for the campaign and his statement that, “It is absolutely right that we shouldn’t label children until they are old enough to decide for themselves.” He is a very successful children’s author who influences the minds of children around the world and takes every opportunity to promote his jaded atheism, surely in the knowledge that they are listening. It is an atheism that has little to do with Christianity but is informed by a gothic/medieval view of the church instilled in him by his peculiar catholic upbringing.

As to the support of Derren Brown for this campaign, here is a man who would rather go to enormous lengths to prove 2.6 billion Christians wrong than simply admit that the Christianity he grew up with doesn’t suit his homosexual lifestyle. It is truly tragic that men with such great skills and intelligence should prove such total numpties when it comes to even the most basic philosophical and religious principles. Dawkins for science by all means, Pullman for good fiction and Brown for great magic and entertainment but as to religion and philosophy I wouldn’t cross the street to hear what they have to say.

Children who front Richard Dawkins' atheist ads are evangelicals -Times Online

Friday, 20 November 2009

Church Times - IBS-STL decides to ‘exit the business’

It is bad news when a major outlet of Christian publishing goes under. In the church people are already surviving on Christianity-lite thinking they are feasting without making it more difficult to obtain good Christian literature.

THE Bible Society has called for urgent consultation over the future of Christian bookshops, after Monday’s announcement by the Christian book distributor and Bible charity IBS-STL that it is to sell its UK operations. They include the 40 Wesley Owen bookshops.

The company said that financial problems, alongside supply and ser­-v­ice difficulties in its distribution and retail outlets, had led to a “decision to exit the business”, a statement said. STL, formerly Send the Light, merged with the International Bible Society (IBS) in 2007 to become one of the world’s biggest not-for-profit book distributors.

Church Times - IBS-STL decides to ‘exit the business’

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Benny Hinn Exclusive Interview

Benny Hinn gives an exclusive interview to ABC's Nightline, but don't worry, there's no danger of him saying anything that challenges your scepticism. What do you mean your not a sceptic? What sort of Christian doesn't ask questions? Oh, your sort, right. By the way, I can't help but wonder how Jesus' publicist would have handled this. I think Benny sacked his after this interview - or was it part of the gameplan? Lord, please don't let me turn into a conspiracy theorist.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Education: Parents angry at evangelicals' charity scheme | Education | The Guardian

Shock! Horror! This is simply SCANDALOUS! Who would have thought an organisation called Samaritans Purse, the organisation behind a charitable initiative Operation Christmas Child, could have anything to do with Christianity? It beggars belief that this clandestine and subversive organisation should have got away with doing millions of dollars of charitable work every year without anyone realising it. Surely no respectable educational establishment would wish to be associated with something so evil as Christian charity!

But its alright, “Samaritans Purse insists it now makes clear in all its information that it is a Christian organisation.” Phew!

You know, if this wasn’t so tragically pathetic it would be funny.

Teacher union leaders are warning schools to vet the charities they support after complaints from parents about a scheme to send gifts to the developing world run by an evangelical Christian group.

Under Operation Christmas Child, schoolchildren are asked to fill a shoebox full of presents and wrap it up before the charity Samaritan's Purse distributes the boxes to children in Africa and eastern Europe. Last year 1.2m boxes were sent by children in the UK and the charity received £23.5m in voluntary donations…

Education: Parents angry at evangelicals' charity scheme | Education | The Guardian

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Latest News - Gospel for Asia UK

How would you feel if you were met with this threat? How strong is your faith and how much do you love Jesus? Please read this story and see how much Christians in India love him and what it costs them. Please pray for them.

“If you don't leave Jesus, we will come back on Sunday and burn you alive.”

Latest News - Gospel for Asia UK

Sunday, 8 November 2009

An Open Letter to Sir Ian McKellan « Smoking Lizard Soapbox

A very wonderful open letter to Sir Ian McKellan who it seems has taken to tearing a page out of the Bible he finds in every hotel room in which he stays. It is a well reasoned response to this unwarranted act of vandalism and deliciously funny in its execution. You will not regret clicking through and reading the whole letter and it won’t take you long.

This message really should have come in the mail or to a private email address that can be forwarded. Regardless, please take this as my polite request for you to either cease and desist or change the nature of your Leviticus 18:22 protest concerning hotel Bibles. As I am a Christian who takes matters of faith seriously, I have no other teeth here than a polite request written in, I hope, inescapable logic and devastating wit.

I appreciate that to a gay man it must hurt that the instruction book for the dominant spirituality in the English-speaking world has words that baldly put, don’t like homosexuals. I also take the fact that you only tear out the offending page out of the hotel Bible as a sign of room to negotiate. Clearly, you approve of most of the rest of the Scripture in some fashion.

An Open Letter to Sir Ian McKellan « Smoking Lizard Soapbox

Thursday, 5 November 2009

The Mormon Chapbook

On my other blog I discuss the importance of language in transmitting truth and the significant change in the way Mormons understand the Book of Mormon peoples. If you have a moment why not drop by and take a look?

Dear Mormon: A Word can Change your World

Language is a powerful weapon. The ancients knew this and some societies put such great store by it that they wouldn’t even commit it to writing. Enormous feats of memory were developed to pass on the stories of the community from one generation to another and in such communities writing was regarded with great suspicion, as placing your story at the disposal of your enemies. If it could be written it could be owned by others and altered.

In those societies where writing developed and oral traditions were committed to writing the people guarded their written texts as their greatest treasures, copying them with meticulous attention to detail. The ancient texts of the Bible were copied with careful and detailed checking and correction and modern archaeological discoveries confirm the incredible accuracy of modern translations when compared with recent discoveries of ancient texts. It is little wonder since a word can change your world or worldview.

The Mormon Chapbook

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Just Do Something

How many books have you read on seeking and finding the will of God and his “special plan” for your life? Have you found it yet? Or are you still putting off decisions until you get that inexplicable prompt from God that you just know every good and mature Christian experiences on an almost daily basis?

Search no more because Kevin DeYoung has the answer for you. Yes, another book on finding God’s will but with a refreshing twist – it works. In a soundly biblical and biblically sensible little book DeYoung administers more practical and workable common sense advice than you might find in a thousand tomes promising to put you in the centre of God’s will if you will just practice spiritual contortions to make yourself a super Christian.

Forget dreams, ‘pictures’, visions, fleeces, Words, etc. DeYoung has found the truth in the Bible. Who would have thought it? Actually there in God’s written and constant Word? He describes incisively the prevarication so typical of our times and, dismissing what he calls Christianese, he challenges his readers to stop messing about, get up and get on with it; in other words Just Do Something.

If I were a pastor or youth leader I would put a copy of this book in the hands of everyone in my ministerial care and it would lighten my burden of helping lost and aimless souls almost immediately. It would also inspire people young and not so young to finally get on with it and find the joy of making decisions the biblical way and finding God’s purpose in almost everything they do.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Rev. Moon Sells Off Mass-Marriage to Mormons | GlossyNews.com

The Mormon franchise continues to grow.

Sun Moon University, Seoul, South Korea —The final 10,000 Moonies exchanged their marriage vows this week. The ceremony came just before Utah’s Latter Day Saints, the Mormons, prepared to take over the franchise from Rev. Moon and his three sons. Rev. Moon Sells Off Mass-Marriage to Mormons | GlossyNews.com

Monday, 19 October 2009

Why Mormons are so Misunderstood

“That’s a misconception people have about Mormonism. Actually, we believe…”

How often does this sort of thing get said every day around the world as Mormons explain their faith, on the doorstep, at open houses, in the office or over a barbecue? We read it on blog posts, internet sites, discussion forums, in Mormon magazines and we hear it in sermons from Mormon leaders at conference time. The following, from the official Mormon web site, is typical:

“Much misunderstanding about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints revolves around its doctrine. The news media is increasingly asking what distinguishes the Church from other faiths, and reporters like to contrast one set of beliefs with another.” (Approaching Mormon Doctrine)

Surely, they are the most misrepresented and misunderstood people in the world. Yet the same commentary goes on to talk about the “abundant material available” to those inquiring into Mormon doctrine. Certainly there is such an abundance that even the casual inquirer will find themselves assaulted by an information overload.

January 2010 will see the publication of the third edition of The A to Z of Mormonism, an exhaustive encyclopaedia of Mormon history, key people, doctrine and praxis. It promises to “clear up many of the misconceptions held about Mormonism and its members, making it an essential reference.” (Dust Jacket)

March 2010 will see the publication of Mormonism: A Historical Encyclopedia This offers broad historical coverage of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, covering its historic development, important individuals, and central ideas and issues.




This on top of the long established Encyclopedia of Mormonism, a four volume work published by Macmillan in 1992. Hard copies are no longer available but the full version is available on the web.

Then there is the plethora of print, electronic and video materials, a professional newsroom, an official website, a prominent public profile, the familiar missionaries and a public relations department many would give anything to have.

Mormons are blogging like second nature, explaining, correcting, challenging and generally talking to the world about their faith, and organisations like Farms, FAIR and SHIELDS (they love acronyms) and the Mormon Wiki are more professional almost semi-official manifestations of the same thing.

So why are Mormons so misunderstood?

In a news item on the official Mormon news service the church addressed the question “What is it that people find so difficult in accepting Mormons as Christians?”

“While others have their opinions, ‘in our terms,’ President Hinckley said, ‘we worship Christ.’”

There is your answer, in those three words, “in our terms”. When they complain about being misunderstood they are effectively demanding that we call it as they insist we see it, in their terms. But we call it as we see it, in our terms. In a previous post, Why Mormons Have Problems With Jude, I wrote:

“Mormons will protest that any such argument as you present is based on the idea that Mormons are not Christians and since Mormons are Christians your argument is hollow. But this response postulates the very thing that is in contention and is yet to be demonstrated.”

Mormons assume that their protestations should be sufficient evidence of their Christian credentials, that if they say they are Christians they simply are. But Christians questioning those credentials already have a clear understanding of what makes a Christian, their own terms by which to judge, and they are not the terms of Mormonism. It is on those terms, on biblical terms, that Christians view Mormonism and regard Mormons as not Christians and it is unreasonable that Mormons should try and dictate terms.

When we “believe” it is natural that we should become comfortable with those fundamentals that inform our faith and our lives but it is the cardinal error of true fundamentalist believers to become so familiar and easy with their faith that they believe it is self-evidently true. Such believers talk about what they “know” rather than what they “believe”, what they understand rather than where they put their trust, of gnosis rather than pisteuō. Such absolute certainty seems unassailable and those who question it are considered obtuse, even disingenuous.

Mormons “know” their church is true and that they are Christians “in their terms” and so cannot comprehend how anyone might doubt that claim, much less have completely different terms by which they judge these things. But the argument of ministries to Mormons is that, on our terms, we believe that Mormonism yet has a case to answer.

John Ruskin wrote:

“The greatest thing a human being ever does in this world is to see something and to tell what it saw in a plain way”

We see Mormonism and tell what we see “in our terms”, and if it isn’t the greatest thing we do we try and tell it plainly and, according to Ruskin, no human being can do more.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

The Mormon “Gordian Knot”

Is the Book of Mormon true? Who knows! Were there such people as Nephites and Lamanites? It’s anybody’s guess! Did Israelites migrate to the Americas from Jerusalem? It is a vexed question. At least a growing number of Mormons seem to think so. A conference talk by apostle Jeffrey Holland has provoked a storm of speculation about the official attitude to the authenticity of the Book of Mormon.

“When Elder Holland delivered his stinging rebuke to Book of Mormon critics in his General Conference address last Sunday, reactions ranged from woots” and “double woots” by literalist believers of the Book of Mormon, to disappointment by those who felt Elder Holland was backtracking on his prior statement that Church members who don’t believe the traditional story of its origins should not be considered “unacceptable . . . as a Latter-day Saint if [they] can’t make that step or move to the beat of that drum.” However, after listening carefully to Elder Holland’s address again, I think both camps might be mistaken about what Elder Holland was intending to say, particularly with regard to the “Inspired Fiction” theory of the Book of Mormon.”

Inspired Fiction? Hmm. A thoughtful account of this theory can be found at Mormon Matters. In summary, some Mormons have so come to recognise the insuperable difficulties presented by the Book of Mormon that they have come up with an alternative explanation of its nature and purpose. Given the absence of archaeological evidence, the implausibility of its provenance and the growing evidence against Mormon claims for it that they have hit upon the idea that it is a sort of allegory; a work of fiction that conveys eternal truths.

The article at Mormon Matters gives a very good account of this idea and the speculation surrounding it but here is the problem. These days Mormons seem to be endlessly speculating about such things; might God have meant this, or that, or something else? But aren’t Mormons supposed to have prophets that make such speculation redundant? If the Book of Mormon is Inspired Fiction, more allegory than history, what does that tell us about Joseph Smith who taught that it was history?

The Mormon Church is founded on the scathing criticism of Christendom for indulging in such speculation. If speculation is the problem, they argue, then prophets are the answer; so what’s the problem? That some Mormons can feel comfortable in thinking that an apostle and prophet of the Mormon Church allows for their wild speculations should prove worrying. But today’s Mormon Church seems increasingly broad and tolerant of dissent. Bruce R McConkie would turn in his grave.

Did Elder Holland Denounce or Carefully Avoid the “Inspired Fiction” Theory? at Mormon Matters

Friday, 9 October 2009

Why Mormons Have problems with Jude

How often have you set out to argue your case for your Christian faith with a Mormon only to be met by a determination on their part to maintain what they regard a civilised detachment, insisting they don’t want to be contentious? You expect at least a lively discussion, for your Mormon friend to give a good account of his/her faith, but they imperiously declare that they don’t engage in such dubious and uncharitable bickering.

They quote the late Krister Stendahl, (1921-April 2008) one time Bishop of Stockholm and renowned religious pluralist, who said that when you are trying to understand another religion, don’t compare your best with their worst. Of course, in quoting him like this, they are doing that very thing, comparing their admirable determination to stay out of it with your unfortunate propensity to argue.

Mormons have a real problem with Jude. Jude instructs Christians to "contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints" (Jude 3) But Mormons confuse contending for the faith with being contentious, arguing your case with being argumentative. You are left staring incredulously as the Mormon runs every time to the protection of "contention is of the devil. I would never drag down your church!"

This way the actual issues that stand between Mormons and Christians (and they are legion) never actually get addressed. Not least the fact that the Mormon Church is built on a claim that specifically “tears down” other churches (Joseph Smith History, 1:19)

Jude wrote, "Contend for the faith" and if today's Mormons can't bring themselves to defend their beliefs and contend for their faith they are actually being unbiblical. Mormons will protest that any such argument as you present is based on the idea that Mormons are not Christians and since Mormons are Christians your argument is hollow. But this response postulates the very thing that is in contention and is yet to be demonstrated. Their view is based on the hubristic assumption that what Mormons believe is true beyond doubt or revision, is not there to be questioned but received gratefully, and therefore anyone questioning Mormonism is misled, mischievous or plain wicked

Ultimately it excuses the Mormon from the biblical injunctions to "contend for the faith" and "go into all the world telling the good news". The refusal to engage is hard-hearted because it says in effect, "I ‘know it’s true’ and if you don't believe it, tough luck." You may be a soul to win but because you come up with good questions and won't just roll over and express your undying admiration for all things Mormon no one will contend for your soul. So it’s the Terrestrial Kingdom for you.

A Mormon will cite the words of Jesus, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged” (Mt.7:1). However, the idea that we should not judge is unbiblical in respect to the words of Jude. Even Paul urged his readers to "judge for yourself what I say" (1 Co.10:14) and the saints of Berea are commended as noble for "examining the scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true" (Acts 17:11) Proverbs counsels us to “speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy” (Pro.31:8-9) (What about the spiritual poor and needy)

The injunction from the Lord that we should not judge is a warning to not put ourselves in the place of God as ultimate judge. It does not condone the strange idea that we are not to use wise judgement. Scripture counsels us to judge wisely in doctrine and practice, in faith and action. We judge what company we keep, what we believe and what we reject as untrue, how we respond to the needs of others and who we trust. And James, so beloved of Mormons, wrote a whole letter about wisdom and sound judgement in how we conduct ourselves and live out our faith (Js.1:5 has nothing to do with finding truth but with the wise application of the truth we have. See how he develops his argument in Js.3:17)

Many Mormons are raised in almost entirely Mormon communities and many others come under no other influence. Until they serve a mission, or venture onto the Internet for the first time, or engage in this discussion they are so keen to avoid they never hear any other argument. They are drilled with these ideas by their families and church leaders who will shake their heads in regret more than anger that muddle-headed Christians, influenced by anti-Mormon elements, still misunderstand Mormonism and would rather contend than act in the grace so clearly taught in the Bible. But Jude wrote that we should “Contend for the faith.”

Jesus said that if we love our friends we only do what the heathens do. It seems to me that Mormons only want to love their friends and only want to keep company with those who love them back. But Jude said that we should contend for the faith; perhaps because he felt he had a faith worth contending for and because there are souls out there worth the battle.

Note: You may ask how a man like Krister Stendahl, Lutheran Bishop of Stockholm, religious pluralist, ecumenical and gay rights activist and champion of women’s ordination, came to be a champion for the anti-clerical, anti-gay, anti-women’s ordination and staunchly conservative Mormon Church.

It seems that in 1985 the Mormon Church met strong opposition to their building a temple in Stockholm. In a press conference Stendahl took the part of the Mormons and presented his three rules of understanding, developed in response to this crisis for Mormons. It was, then, not so much a meeting of minds but more a case of “my enemy’s enemy is my friend.” Strange bedfellows indeed.

Stendahl’s rules are:

(1) When you are trying to understand another religion, you should ask the adherents of that religion and not its enemies.

(2) Don't compare your best to their worst.

(3) Leave room for "holy envy." (By this Stendahl meant that you should be willing to recognize elements in the other religious tradition or faith that you admire and wish could, in some way, be reflected in your own religious tradition or faith.)

These are very helpful as a rule of thumb and we mustn’t dismiss them as guides to conduct but:

(1) what if the adherents of the religion are deceived or, heaven forbid, deceiving? Would we have been considered wise to ask Kenneth Lay about Enron?

(2) What if direct comparisons don’t help except in the most general of terms, since generalisation is a lie. Mormons are nice people but what does that tell us?

(3) What if you find nothing to envy and much to regret about their religion? How far would investigators have got in probing the truth about Enron if they had grubbed around determined to find something to like?

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Why Mormons Don’t Wear Dog Collars – Yet!

I recall, many years ago, a priesthood quorum meeting at the local Mormon Church where a discussion revolved around the question of how we could raise the profile of our church and make ourselves more visible to the wider world. We sat there lost for ideas (so much for priesthood) until one man said, “We could wear badges!”

All eyes turned on him with a mixture of scorn and pity and, with a depth of derision usually reserved for talking about the ministers of other churches, someone said sarcastically, “Oh! Why don’t we go the whole hog and walk around in dog collars?” The idea was quashed there and then and nothing more said as the culprit skulked away into the night to think about his apostate ways.

Not long afterwards we saw the first Mormon missionaries turn up wearing those badges so familiar these days. Typically, this innovation came in with no comment and no one remembered the scorn and derision that had been poured on the idea. This was different. This was at the behest of “the prophet”.

The story illustrates something that is so difficult to put across in a seminar or article; the sneering contempt in those words, “why don’t we go all the way and wear dog collars!” It wasn’t a case of “Mormons don’t do that sort of thing” but undisguised disdain and disrespect for those who do. Such contempt is a thread that runs throughout Mormonism like the writing in a stick of Blackpool rock. In barely veiled references to “men that preach for money!” and “Christians that take the easy option” Mormons informally and routinely speak contemptuously (among themselves of course) of Christian churches. Where does this self-reverential attitude come from?

It begins with the defining story of Joseph Smith who taught that all the creeds of all the churches were an abomination and all who profess those creeds corrupt (Joseph Smith History 1:19). Without this account of the Christian Churches Mormonism would be superfluous since it is claimed to be a restoration of things lost in the apostasy of those churches. It continues with the statement in the founding book of Mormonism, The Book of Mormon that the Christian churches are part of the “great and abominable church” founded by the devil and that  it slays the saints and corrupts the Bible and is the mother of abominations (1 Nephi chs.13-22)

It progresses through the statements of other Mormon leaders who proclaim that Christianity is “a sounding brass...as corrupt as hell” and an agent of the devil (John Taylor, 3rd Mormon president) and who identify the Catholic Church as a satanic organisation, the whore of Babylon, and Protestant churches as harlot daughters (Bruce R McConkie, Mormon apostle, Mormon Doctrine).

Finally, it comes via the infamous portrayal in Mormon temple ceremonies of a Christian minister being in the pay of Satan. This portion of the temple ceremony involved a dramatisation, originally played by live actors but latterly shown on film, showing a Christian minister, complete with dog collar, being summoned onto the scene by Satan who offers to pay him if he will preach “the orthodox religion” to Adam and Eve.

The minister proceeds to preach the Christian message which Adam finds “incomprehensible” and rejects in favour of the message brought by two agents from God who preach Mormonism. The conversation between Satan, the minister and Adam when I went through the temple in the 1970’s went like this:
ADAM: Who are you?

          LUCIFER: I am the God of this world.
ADAM: You, the God of this world?
LUCIFER: Yes, what do you want?
ADAM: I am looking for messengers.
LUCIFER: Oh, you want someone to preach to you. You want religion, do you? I will have preachers here presently.
(Lucifer turns his head as a sectarian minister approaches the group)
LUCIFER: Good Morning sir!
SECTARIAN MINISTER: Good morning!
(The preacher turns and looks into the camera.)
SECTARIAN MINISTER: A fine congregation!
LUCIFER: Yes, they are a very good people. They are concerned about religion. Are you a preacher?
SECTARIAN MINISTER: I am.
LUCIFER: Have you been to college and received training for the ministry?
SECTARIAN MINISTER: Certainly! A man cannot preach unless has been trained for the ministry.
LUCIFER: Do you preach the orthodox religion?
SECTARIAN MINISTER: Yes, that is what I preach.
LUCIFER: If you will preach your orthodox religion to these people, and convert them, I will pay you well.
SECTARIAN MINISTER: I will do my best.
(Lucifer guides the preacher to Adam and Eve, who stand nearby.)
LUCIFER: Here is a man who desires religion. He is very much exercised, and seems to be sincere.
(As Lucifer presents the preacher to Adam and Eve he steps back and observes the ensuing conversation. The preacher is made to sound sincere, although misguided and credulous. Adam appears humble, faithful and immovable in his determination to serve God. He is not swayed by the preacher, and is astounded by the doctrines espoused by the preacher.)
SECTARIAN MINISTER: I understand that you are inquiring after religion.
ADAM: I was calling upon Father.
SECTARIAN MINISTER: I am glad to know that you were calling upon Father. Do you believe in a God who is without body, parts, or passions; who sits on the top of a topless throne; whose centre is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere; who fills the universe, and yet is so small that he can dwell in your heart; who is surrounded by myriads of beings who have been saved by grace, not for any act of theirs, but by His good pleasure. Do you believe in such a great Being?
ADAM: I do not. I cannot comprehend such a being.
SECTARIAN MINISTER: That is the beauty of it. Perhaps you do not believe in a devil, and in that great hell, the bottomless pit, where there is a lake of fire and brimstone into which the wicked are cast, and where they are continually burning, but never consumed?
ADAM: I do not believe in any such place.
SECTARIAN MINISTER: My dear friend, I am sorry for you.
To find out more about the ceremony and its different incarnations and to hear an audio you can visit Mormon Coffee, the blog of Mormonism Research Ministry

There you will discover that this portion of the ceremony was finally removed, one of several radical changes made in 1990. Nevertheless, it defines the Mormon attitude to other churches and explains that conversation back in the early 1970’s when that minister was still routinely mocked and portrayed as a lackey of Satan.

As I have said, this is the hardest thing to put across in an article, attitudes passed from generation to generation, but it is an important insight. Another instance of it involves an encounter I had with Mormon missionaries earlier this year.

A young man of 20 approached me outside my house to talk about his religion and I told him I was a Christian. With a display of hubris that took my breath away he asked had I ever before met anyone like him who was giving up two years of his life to serve a fulltime mission. I thought of the many people I know who gave up half a lifetime to serve missions in places a good deal less comfortable and more dangerous than the second city of Wales. I answered that I had and it seemed to take the wind out of his sails for a moment.

I then told him that I had been a Mormon but had long left that church to become a Christian. He asked me why I had left and I was glad to share with him the message of grace that had won me to the Lord. This was when his whole demeanour changed and, his face contorted in a mocking sneer, he began barracking me about turning my back on “the church”. When I began to respond he positively bellowed at me, “DON’T YOU QUESTION MY AUTHORITY!” It was quite comical to see this 20 year old really believing he was an “elder” and had authority.

His companion, who had been pretty quiet throughout this exchange, I use the term ‘exchange’ loosely, at least had the good grace to shuffle his feet and look embarrassed. The young missionary then pointed imperiously at the house I had left and told me in no uncertain terms that my faith meant that I could sit at home for the rest of my life unconcerned for the lost since I had my ticket to heaven, unlike his which urged him on to go bravely to - Swansea?

You see, contempt is the attitude of the typical Mormon towards other churches and my missionary encounter confirms that it is not peculiar to older generations but colours the thinking of young Mormons coming through today to represent their church to the world.

But Mormons are so very nice, so very upstanding and responsible and of course this is true. But they still look upon Christians with that peculiar mix of pity and haughty disapproval typical of a people who know that they are God’s best and we are the rest. Perhaps one day, as with the badges, Mormons will adopt dog collars, but you can be sure that when they do they will hold in as much contempt those who don’t as they now do those who currently do.

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Youth is Curable, Age Inevitable - Eventually

Two stories that caught my attention this week were the news that children born into  affluent homes today can expect to live considerably longer and the details of Michael Jackson’s autopsy.

Times Online reported:

More than half of babies born today in affluent homes are expected to live to the age of 100, based on current life expectancy trends.

Analysis of life expectancy and the quality of life in older age indicates that ageing processes can continue to be extended.

Using demographic modelling, scientists calculated that the average British child born in 2007 could expect to live to 103, while in Japan they would live to 107.

While the BBC Online reported of Michael Jackson:

His weight was in the acceptable range for a man of his height, according to the Associated Press.

But the singer, who died of a heart attack in June, had punctured arms, tattooed lips and eyebrows and suffered from lung damage and some arthritis.

Because of the influence of people like Michael Jackson, of those ubiquitous women’s magazine’s (and men’s magazines these days), and of celebrities queuing up to explain how the latest product means they haven’t any wrinkles except the one their sitting on we have fallen for the lie that we will never get old.

“Forever in blue jeans”, we are in denial and turning to Botox and surgery for appearance and drugs for comfort and to kill the pain. But it turns out that we may be older for longer. In which case we should remember that pop music was always meant to be a joke, teenagers were an unfortunate consequence of war, and maturity is meant to produce the elders of our community and not aged rockers.

We need to be reminded that it is not unusual for a fifty-year-old to need treatment for arthritis; that that irritating phase of our lives, youth, can be cured by age; that you don’t have to stay callow and irritating forever, and age should be embraced gracefully and with some style. Otherwise who will pass on wisdom to the next generation?

Babies born into affluent homes can expect to live till 103 - Times Online

Friday, 2 October 2009

Two Iranian Christian Women Still Held in Evin Prison

I know this is not a popular message in these “liberal” times when you only have to add the suffix “phobic” to a noun to instantly create a new criminal offense. I know that many people think that all we need to do is find that little spark of niceness inside, realise that “war is over if you want it…and the world will live as one” (to quote the Lennon doctrine). But here in the real world there is as much inequity as ever there was, as much violence, hatred and persecution and we forget the real threats to our freedoms at our peril.
As we rush towards secularisation with glee at our apparent freedoms from the “shackles of religion” we should remember that faith is important still to the vast majority in this world and if we really want a better world we need to fight for their rights as well. Not all religions are the same and my, Christian, religion gave us the foundations on which we have built this more equitable and fair-minded country. It saddens me that people forget the Judeo/Christian roots of our values yet rush to the defence of Islam that dances to a very different, more discriminatory drum.
Maryam and Marzieh boldly defended their faith when they appeared in an Islamic court on Aug. 8. When asked to deny their faith, they proclaimed, "We love Jesus. We will not deny our faith."
Maryam and Marzieh
Maryam and Marzieh are just two of the estimated 1 million Christians in Iran today. Many of these Christians continue to boldly proclaim and defend their faith, even as the fires of persecution grow hotter.
Special Offers from VOM

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Government Criminalises Quid Pro Quo

In a recent post I discussed a Christian couple running a hotel in Aintree who are being prosecuted for disagreeing with a Muslim guest over issues of faith. It seems it is illegal to hold and express a view that is unpopular, especially if it contradicts the claims of Islam.

Today we discover that this micro-managing government has effectively criminalised quid pro quo! They will be picking the company we keep, the books we read and how late we stay out soon. It was GK Chesterton who declared:

Once abolish the God, and the government becomes God”

BBC NEWS | UK | Childcare help 'could be illegal'

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Why I Left the Mormon Church

In a comment on Monday's post Dayanna asked me about why I left the Mormon Church. Monday's post wasn't about Mormonism and I thought I would post my testimony here and then if there are follow-up comments and questions they will relate directly to Mormonism.

I was a member of the Mormon Church for 14 years, and find myself frequently disappointing people when I tell them that I enjoyed being a Latter-day Saint. You will understand that people expect to hear a little scandal with my kind of testimony, but I have none to offer. My wife was a member for 18 years in all, and we left together in August of 1986. Our time in the church was mostly happy. We started a family there and have much for which to be thankful, and very many happy memories. The church was good to us, being supportive through some very difficult times.

I served in various capacities including various clerical duties. I served as Sunday School teacher, Seminary and Institute teacher, teacher in both Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthood quorums, and Ward Missionary Leader. At the time of my leaving I was Elder's Quorum President. Up to the time of my leaving I was a temple recommend holder and regularly attended the London Temple (right).

Why I Joined the Mormon Church

I remember my first contact with Mormonism, and the elders who taught me. I remember vividly the conviction with which I embraced the church and it's teachings. I recall experiencing a burning in the bosom, not just once but many times, and can picture to this day where I was kneeling when it first happened. I could barely contain my excitement as I discovered more through the missionary discussions. This revolutionary message that the heavens were not sealed and that God spoke again through living prophets. I recollect my baptism  at the District Centre then, before Wales had a Stake; It has two now.

In the Mormon church I met some of the most wonderful people you could wish to know. I remember my wife and I being prepared for our first visit to the temple by one of the counsellors of the District President. He was a lovely man, larger than life and full of love and encouragement. I remember the young people we grew alongside in the church and the times we had at District and Stake meetings, Gold and Green balls, temple trips, Fathers and Sons camps, even a visit to London to see Spencer W. Kimball (left). We married and grew up and had families and knew tragedies and triumphs, disenchantment and inspiration.

When we left, we left behind a full life, cherished friends, and good memories. Believe me when I say that our decision to go was not made lightly. And unlike some you might come across, we had nothing against the church, no complaints. Our friends were shocked at our leaving - so were we.

It took less than a month for us to make our momentous decision and, whilst this may seem hardly enough time to fully consider the issues, I assure you we were convinced and had no doubts. I realise now that that month was the culmination of a longer period of questioning and seeking. In the end ours was a real "road to Damascus" experience and, like Saul, it was as if scales fell from our eyes.

Contrary to what you might think, I am not part of an anti-Mormon group. I am not an anti-Mormon at all but a Christian. I am a member of a local Baptist church and my life is taken up with full involvement there. My time is not spent pouring over anti-Mormon literature, nor is it spent finding ways to "get at" Mormons. I do, however, share my experiences and findings with others in the same spirit in which Mormon missionaries go around the doors. I have found the truth and, especially in relation to Latter-day Saints, wish to share it.

I am sometimes asked why I now "fight" the Mormon Church. Mormons I meet ask why I try to convert church members who are, after all, already Christians. I might ask the same question of Mormon missionaries. When they find a Christian on the doorstep do they back away saying "Oh, you already know Jesus"? They do not, because they believe that there is no salvation outside the Mormon church. I believe there is no salvation inside the Mormon church and so, by the same token, I proselyte Latter-day Saints.

Why I Became a Christian

I have already said that I was happy as a Mormon and that I have no complaints about the way the church treated me. The inevitable question is, "Why, then, did you leave? There must have been something wrong".

I recall it was one Friday evening, the children were in bed, and there was a quiet moment when we looked at each other apprehensively. We had not been discussing church, either that evening or that week, except in the general way. I remember how we tentatively but finally agreed that there was something wrong. There was an unspoken, undefined, significance to that word "something" precisely because we had nothing to complain about.

One of us, I don't now remember who, said, "It's not working, is it?", and the other one agreed. Again an unspoken understanding of something we had never discussed or given the vaguest expression to, yet we each knew what the other meant. Our faith was not "working". What did we mean by that? We didn't then know or understand, but we felt an earnest desire to put right whatever it was we felt was wrong because our church membership was important to us.

It was then that we made a decision that, to this day, makes people stare. We turned to a Christian friend. It seems almost inconceivable, especially since we had no reason to shun our church friends, that we should do such a thing. I believe God was in all this. Of course I would say that, wouldn't I?

I believe our friend John could barely contain his excitement at being presented with such an opportunity. He did hold himself back, however, and simply invited us to church. "Come and see" he said to us. It was in that church that we experienced such a love for God that we were left wondering what it was that we thought we had been experiencing for all those years. Don't misunderstand me. I am not suggesting that Mormons are loveless, or that they have no genuine desire to serve God. But this was different.


So far we had seen something special in our friend John, something that had caused us, inexplicably, to trust him. We had experienced something amongst John's friends - an intensity of love and devotion that was so new to us as to be heady, like new wine. Now we wanted to understand. If this was right how did it square with what we had experienced and understood until now? If this was wrong how did these poor people come to be so deceived?

John gave us a modern translation of the Bible (NIV) and encouraged us to read it without any commentary or Bible study aids. He suggested we start with Paul's letter to the Romans. It was important to us that we should gain an understanding of things and so we now decided to review what we had already experienced, and what we could say for sure we knew, before we went any further. We had already agreed that God would not condemn us for honestly seeking his face and striving for a better understanding of his will. We now agreed that we would trust God to answer our prayers and resolve for us the, so far undefined, misgivings we had about our faith. Not about the Mormon church, but about our faith.


A Message of Grace

The thought that the Mormon Church might not be true had never entered our minds. No-one had spoken against the church in our hearing and we had not looked at any anti literature. Our struggle was not over doctrine. It was about our experience of God. In this spirit, then, of seeking God and trusting him for direction in a very personal pilgrimage, we read his word. It was here we discovered grace.

For all the Mormon church had going for it there was one area in which it singularly failed me. I was looking for something when I joined and I began to see that it was the one thing the church was incapable of delivering. Peace with God. When my wife and I became troubled we really did not understand why. We just knew - I knew - that something fundamental was missing from our spiritual experience. It was only as we began seeking with a determination we had never known before that we saw how radical would have to be the change in our lives if we were to go on with God.

When I set out to read Romans I was looking for a solution to the problems of my faith as a Mormon. I was not trying to sort out the Mormon Church. I was trying to sort out Mike Thomas. I wanted to get right with God so that I could be a better Latter-day Saint. Now you might say that I had a peculiar way of doing this. After all, going to a non-member etc. But God was in this from beginning to end so how could I do otherwise?

It was now that I did the one thing I had never done before. I knelt before God and asked Jesus to be my Saviour. I had believed in him for years, but I had been taught that the way to salvation was by obedience to the Mormon church. The church had effectively stood between me and God.

I came to see that there is only one mediator between men and God, the man Christ Jesus. I realised that the head of every man is Christ, not an organisation. I saw that all who came to him would not be condemned but would receive eternal life. I had an assurance of eternal life, something I had never known before, something no Mormon knows because the Mormon church teaches that salvation is by obedience, and so it is arrogant and presumptuous to say that you know. The Bible told me that I could know, the Mormon Church told me that I couldn't. I chose to believe the Word of God.

Now I was faced with a dilemma. Could I give up all those things that had been my life up to now? Leave my church friends? People think that obedience is all about the ten commandments and that sort of thing. Really it is about attitude. What really is the most important thing in your life? Put like that there was no other choice. I left the Mormon Church and embraced my newly discovered joy. My life since really coming to know Jesus bears no comparison to all those years when I only thought I knew him. Iremember the sobering realisation of what was happening when my wife one day said, "You realise we can't go back?"

I made the right choice and discovered a God who truly proves his faithfulness. So many scripture promises came true for me when I sought him and and discovered that "if you seek him, he will be found by you" (1 Chron.28:9). Coming from a system that saw obedience to law as the way to God I was brought to rejoice in the fact that "a righteousness from God , apart from the law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify" (Romans 3:21). The assurances of God's Word are a blessing to me beyond anything I could hope or ask. I know that through faith in Jesus I have eternal life as a present possession and a guaranteed inheritance (John 5:24). I just thought you would like to know.

What we Discovered in Romans

What did we find in our reading of Paul's letter to the Roman? We travelled what we later found was called The Roman Road. It is one of many journeys through the Bible designed to help us understand the fundamentals of God's Word. I reproduce it here:

THE ROMAN ROAD


This is a simple explanation of the gospel, using scriptures from the Book of Romans - hence the name. It can be easily marked in your Bible by writing the first reference at the beginning of Romans, and then in the margin by each reference writing the reference which follows. Thus when you want to share the gospel message from the scriptures, you do not need to remember a string of references, you just need to look at the book of Romans and follow the road through it. The references and a brief description follows. Feel free to explain them in your own words.

3:10 - There is no-one righteous, no matter how good we are or how hard we try.

3:23 - All have sinned and fallen short. It is impossible for us to measure up to God's standard.

5:12 - Death came to all men, because all sinned. It is our nature to sin.

5:8 - Because of God's love for us, he sent Christ to die for us - while we were still sinners, not because we had done anything to earn it.

6:23 - The wages of sin is death - wages are what you earn as a result of what you do. The gift of God is eternal life - you do not earn a gift, or deserve it. God gives the gift because He loves us. We do not need to work for it, only accept it.

10:13 - Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved, regardless of who they are or what they have done. You only have to call.

10:9,10 - True, heart-felt confession of faith in Jesus is what it takes to be saved, not works.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Christian hotel owners face ruin after 'defending their faith' in row with a Muslim guest | Mail Online

 It started as a religious discussion over the breakfast table at a private hotel.
Several months later, the Christian owners face ruin after a Muslim guest complained that she had been insulted. Ben and Sharon Vogelenzang are being prosecuted under controversial public order laws designed to target yobbish and abusive behaviour on the streets.

While everyone is making the economy the central issue in the run up to the next election an equally serious issue is going unnoticed; this government’s obsession with policing and micromanaging our lives. This story is a case in point.

A Christian couple who run an hotel in Aintree got involved in a religious discussion with one of their guests, who turned out to be a Muslim lady having treatment in a local hospital. Exchanges were said to be “warm”, the couple insisting they were simply defending their faith against remarks made by the guest. The lady complained to the police and the couple now face a possible £5,000 fine and a police record, as well as losing regular business from the hospital as a result of the incident.

I have to say that if you are running a business that depends on the good will of the public it seems the height of folly to be so forthright in your views as to risk your reputation and damage your livelihood, especially when the woman is a patient in the hospital on which you depend for 80% of your business; you are asking to make her a victim and you a villain. “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1) I am all for being “fools for Christ” but I don’t see anything in the Christian faith that demands foolishness. That having been said since when was it against the law to be foolish?

The issue here, however, is that the views we hold, the thoughts we have, our right to express them and the common and well-established principle that we all occasionally have to hear things we don’t like without being a girl about it are all under threat. George Orwell observed:

Liberty is the right to tell people what they don’t want to hear”

The thought police don’t agree and, sponsored by the liberal agenda prevalent across parties today, they are all over us like a rash and they are showing an alarming bias.

You remember the story of the woman caught “in the act” of adultery who was brought before Jesus (John 8:3). The question often asked is, if she was caught “in the act” where was the man? In the same way, since this was a “discussion” why is only one party in the dock?

The newspaper reports, “It is alleged they suggested that Mohammad, the founder of Islam, was a warlord when the guest challenged them about their Christian beliefs. The woman also claims that the couple, who vehemently deny the allegations and say they were simply defending their faith, described her traditional dress as a form of bondage.”

She said something, they said something, feelings ran a little high and the thought police ran to the defence of the perceived victim. But there is no victim, only an exchange of views, a disagreement and what used to be called, before the world went mad, “ a bit of an argy-bargy”. In political circles such exchanges, when they occur, are euphemistically labelled “a frank exchange of views”, everyone picks up on the sub text and moves on. Why is religious discussion treated differently?

It is because we live in a secular society and officialdom “can’t be asked” to bring wise and equitable judgement to these situations. In their efforts to achieve a “fair” and liberal society they have developed a vision of the future that sees religion effectively privatised. Influenced by such “fine philosophers” as Dawkins and Hitchens (that was a joke) they feel they can dismiss religion as socially insignificant, even dangerous.

The problem is that, notwithstanding the bad-tempered pronouncements of curmudgeons like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens et al, people have faith and express and practice it in a variety of ways.

Notably, both Islam and Christianity are evangelising religions so trying to privatise religions with declared society impacting intentions, and with those religions making up the greater part of the earth’s population, seems ambitious to say the least. I suppose the default position in that case is to placate the religion that is perceived to pose the greatest threat and oppress the religion that is little more than irritating and and inconvenient.

If these darling liberals are determined to defend the rights of Muslims to live and express their faith, sometimes in very offensive and threatening ways it must be said, they must defend the right of Christians to the same degree, even if they can be foolish about it sometimes.

I have said that both both faiths are evangelising religions but that has not always been true of Islam. In his book From Babel to Dragomans the orientalist Bernard Lewis writes of Islam as a conquering religion observing that:

“In traditional Islamic states, the business of government was carried on by two main groups, known as the men of the sword and the men of the pen. The former were the armed forces, the latter the civilian bureaucrats…the two together were commonly considered to be the twin pillars of the state…The Fatimids, for the first time in Islamic history, added a third – the Mission.”

Note that until the coming of the Fatimids mission was not part of the Islamic state. The Fatimids emerged in Egypt towards the end of the first Millennium (Christian calendar), following in the footsteps of the Abbasids whom they attempted to overthrow, and held that other branches of Islam had gone astray. Believing themselves to be the true heads of pure Islam (why does this sound familiar?), they followed the traditional policy of conquest and subjugation against other Muslim states. But the rest of Islam was bigger and better prepared and they resorted to the novel policy of mission.

It is interesting that one of the complaints made by the guest at the hotel was that the proprietors insisted that Islam’s founding prophet was a warrior. Perhaps not a wise thing to say to a paying Muslim guest who might take offense and her business elsewhere nevertheless quite accurate. Which raises the question, are they being prosecuted at least in part for stating, not a religious conviction, but an irrefutable historical fact? Is the state now insisting on a role in defining what is and what is not legitimate historical reporting?

This all leaves me, and I am sure others, in something of a dilemma when it comes to voting. On the one hand I don’t believe the alternatives to this current government are viable for all sorts of reasons (I might be persuaded otherwise). On the other, I am convinced that something must be done to stop this petty-meddling juggernaut before the freedoms we have for so long taken for granted, that our fathers fought and died to preserve, and that make our country great are totally taken from us.

Christian hotel owners face ruin after 'defending their faith' in row with a Muslim guest | Mail Online

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

'They won't come and help, sweetie. Make the best of the time you have with him,' says a midwife to a devastated mother - CCFON.org - Christian Concern For Our Nation

A dystopian society is one in which people experience the worst of all possible worlds while the government condition people to think that everything is as it should be, that they have never had it so good. Welcome to our dystopia.

A devastated mother, who watched her premature baby die when doctors refused to help him because he was born two days early, has condemned medical guidelines which said the baby should not be saved.

'They won't come and help, sweetie. Make the best of the time you have with him,' says a midwife to a devastated mother - CCFON.org - Christian Concern For Our Nation

Sunday, 13 September 2009

District 9

I am not a science-fiction fan; it always seems so worthy, so two-dimensional, sanitised and precious (beam me up Sooty! Ooh, now that's a handy portal) relying far too much on the device of deus ex machina and on people being dazzled by the unfamiliar. But this weekend I saw the film of the year - District 9. It is more a science-fiction/horror and it is gritty, dirty, gripping and engaging. If all science-fiction ran to this standard I might be a fan.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

BBC NEWS | Wales | Pudding renamed Spotted Richard

It is one of my favourite jokes and is entirely childish, even infantile. Someone is introduced to you as Richard and you respond, “Well, are you a Richard, or are you a Dick?” It is especially effective when the Richard in question is a youth who would blush uncomfortably at your remark, shuffle his feet and mumble “Richy actually.” Apparently there are those who don’t appreciate this kind of humour and I suppose if you have to listen to it day after day it must quickly wear thin.

I cannot tell you how many times people many years ago, on finding that I worked for the now defunct gent’s outfitters John Collier would break into song: “John Collier, John Collier, the window to watch".” That advertisement hadn’t run for years but it demonstrates the power of advertising that it stuck in people’s minds and, even now I am sure, people of a certain age will have sung and not just read that line.

I accepted it and either smiled benignly or responded sardonically with, “That’s the first time I’ve heard that – today.” It would never occur to me to complain since that was the firm I was glad to work for and the song went with the tag. Now, however, canteen staff at Flintshire council, North Wales, have responded to “immature comments” from “a few customers” about the traditional 19th century pudding Spotted Dick by renaming it “Spotted Richard”. I can’t help but think someone is bound to ask, “Is that a Richard, or is it a Dick?”

BBC NEWS | Wales | Pudding renamed Spotted Richard

Friday, 28 August 2009

Hollywood, Moscow, Idaho

Did you know that there is a Moscow in Idaho, USA? It is in Latah county up there in the North West near Washington State and some distance north west of Salt Lake, Utah. The population of Moscow, Idaho as of July 2008 was 22,798. Moscow boasts among its educational establishments the University of Idaho and Mr Leon’s School of Hair Design. Tourist attractions include the Appaloosa Horse Club and Museum, an Historical Society and a couple of theme parks. Visitors can choose from a selection hotels including The Royal Motor Inn on 120 West 6th Street and Pantry on 1516 West Pullman Road. You can find out more here

There is another Moscow; it is in Russia. The population of Moscow as of March 2009 was 10,514,400. The city of Moscow is one of the world's great cities. Situated on the picturesque Moskva River, the Kremlin and Red Square mark the heart of Russia's capital city.  Gorgeous palaces, churches and historical buildings are among Moscow's many attractions.  For entertainment, one can enjoy a Russian ballet, a river boat cruise or a day excursion to the Trinity Monastery. You can find out more here

Now if I say “Moscow” you might be forgiven for asking which one I had in mind; Moscow Russia or Moscow Idaho. But if I mentioned Moscow in relation to the Kremlin, Red Square and the Bolshoi ballet would I really have to explain? Then why, when I watch American movies, do they feel the need to put up the caption “Moscow, Russia” over a shot of minarets, monasteries and the Moscow Metro?

Why, when I am looking at pictures of the Eifel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe and the Champs Elysees do they feel it necessary to tell me that this is Paris, France and not Paris, Texas? or when I am looking at Big Ben, black cabs and Red Rover Double-Decker buses do I need to be reminded that this is London, England and not London, Ontario Canada?

What am I? American!

I don’t need these hints so beloved of the Homer Simpsons of this world. I don’t need laughter tracks to tell me when something is funny; I have my own sense of humour. I don’t need long, lingering camera shots of the clue in a detective drama; if I was that disinterested I wouldn’t watch the thing. I don’t need the good guys to wear white hats and the bad guys to wear black hats; I know that life is not as simple as that and the “good guys” do bad things while the “bad guys” can have good motives. But sometimes it is as simple as that, like the fact that Moscow, Idaho doesn’t boast minarets and the Eifel Tower is in Paris, France and always has been; maybe somebody ought to tell Americans? Maybe Americans ought to tell Hollywood?

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Marriage is Not About Justice, but Jesus

For those of us looking at the issue of Homosexuality and the church “from the outside” as it were here is an excellent, thoughtful and thought-provoking  commentary from Peter Ould. If you want to understand this issue on a more mature Christian level you could do a lot worse than spend time reading Peter’s blog commentary on the issue.

Marriage

Marriage is Not About Justice, but Jesus

For those of us looking at the issue of Homosexuality and the church “from the outside” as it were here is an excellent, thoughtful and thought-provoking  commentary from Peter Ould. If you want to understand this issue on a more mature Christian level you could do a lot worse than spend time reading Peter’s blog commentary on the issue.

Marriage

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

BBC NEWS | Technology | Multitaskers bad at multitasking

I knew it! I just KNEW IT! All those smug beggars out there who thought so well of themselves (especially among the female population), who looked down on the rest of us getting one thing done at a time and made such a fuss about “juggling home and work” yadayadaya and all that guff are just shallow and ineffectual. Say it loud and say it clear:

MULTITASKERS ARE NO GOOD AT MULTITASKING!

If multitasking equals  shallow and inattentive then unitasking equals depth and attentiveness. Remember that you who blame memory loss on the pressures of multitasking; huh! PAY ATTENTION! (especially when driving). As I have always maintained – wherever you are be there because if your not where you are you are nowhere!

BBC NEWS | Technology | Multitaskers bad at multitasking

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Wading in Skubala

I so wish I had written this. The subject matter is controversial and the author addresses that very point in a powerful, no-holds-barred commentary on Paul’s words in Philippians. Go to Jeff’s blog and learn something really worth knowing.

You need to be warned that this post contains a bad word. But it does so only because the Bible itself contains a bad word. I never knew that. You don't know it either, because you've been protected from knowing it.
It appears in Philippians 3:8 (which I've recently been working on for my 3rd semester Greek class at seminary). Here it is in the original Greek:

ἀλλὰ μενοῦνγε καὶ ἡγοῦμαι πάντα ζημίαν εἶναι διὰ τὸ ὑπερέχον τῆς γνώσεως Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ τοῦ κυρίου μου, διὃν τὰ πάντα ἐζημιώθην, καὶ ἡγοῦμαι σκύβαλα, ἵνα Χριστὸν κερδήσω...
The word you want to keep your eye on is "σκύβαλα"--pronounced "skubala." Here's a literal translation of the verse.

Jeff Wofford: Wading in Skubala

Friday, 24 July 2009

Children to be baptised as their parents are married -Times Online

Well, of course! Didn’t Paul say in Athens:

“The times of ignorance God continues to overlook, and now he encourages all people everywhere to think about getting married, maybe getting baptised, having their kids done while their there, and perhaps calling into church a little more often. Who knows, maybe you’ll get to like it and think eventually about repenting. But, hey, no pressure.” (Acts 17:30-31)

The Church of England unveils a two-in-one wedding and baptism liturgy today as it seeks to make peace with families “living in sin”.

The “hatch-and-match” service allows couples to baptise their children after the wedding ceremony. Parents can even get baptised themselves.

The aim is to encourage cohabiting parents to marry as the Church tries to become more relevant to the way people live their lives, but critics said that it appeared to sanction having children out of wedlock.

Children to be baptised as their parents are married -Times Online

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

The Scrawny Pulpit: Daring Thomas

Did it occur to you that:

Thomas was not so much a doubter, as a “darer.”

This is profound lesson from the Story of “doubting” Thomas told with great brevity and a lesson to share with Mormons for whom the account of first hand witnesses is not enough.

The Scrawny Pulpit: Daring Thomas

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Children need Mothers and Fathers - Christian Legal Centre

Something needs to be said about the self serving nature of the homosexual agenda. Meanwhile this is an eye witness statement from Dr Dean Byrd, professor of Clinical Medicine of the University of Utah in the case of Andrew McClintock and published by the Christian Legal Centre. Here is the doctor’s conclusion:

Conclusion:

36. Traditional marriage has supported societies for millennia. Historical and current research clearly demonstrate that both adults and children benefit from this family structure. Differences emerge when comparisons are made between same-sex couples and opposite-sex couples. Same-sex relationships are less permanent and less monogamous. Homosexual practices place its participants at risk for mental illness and physical disease. Emerging research suggests potential risks for children raised by lesbian parents including gender non-conformity. The rejection of gender roles thus appears to be unhealthy.

Children need Mothers and Fathers - Christian Legal Centre

Friday, 19 June 2009

BBC NEWS | World | Middle East | Ayatollah demands end to protests

The story is told of Ayatollah Khamenei getting a phone call in the middle of the night. When he answered it an urgent voice said, “You must come and fix my TV!”

“But I am not a TV repair man, I am Ayatollah Khamenei, the Supreme Leader” he replied.

I know” said the man, “You are the only one who can fix my TV.”

“But I am Ayatollah Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran. How on earth do you expect me to fix your TV?”

“You are the only one who can do it” came the reply, “You are the only one who can get these Imam’s off my television!”

Such is the power of cultic leaders.

The Supreme Leader’s speech at Friday prayers illustrates very well how absolute power is wielded in a cult.

Step one: Assert that while people inevitably have different opinions nevertheless there is a power that stands above all the controversy and remains untainted by questions of authority. This power paternal and absolute always knows and does what is best and if you know what is good for you you will recognise this one fact. To do otherwise is to defy reason and risk disaster.

Step two: Create a ‘them’ to put fear into people and distract their attention from the issues at hand; in this case the ‘great evil’ of the United Kingdom. This is an old and trusted ploy and has been used by leaders all over the world based as it is on the sound reasoning that people vote with their fears and not with their hopes. For Mugabe the ‘them’ is ‘British Imperialism’. Reagan used it in the 1980’s when he spoke gravely of the ‘axis of evil’. Bush used it in recent times when he concocted his ‘war on terror’.

Step three:  Challenge your listeners about where, in light of the above, their loyalties lie. Fawn over the people by congratulating them on how great they have proved to be, what they have achieved by their sacrifices. Remind them of how much their leaders have sacrificed for the greater good (its all in his speech) and dare them to break that wonderful image with doubt and dissent. Threaten them with unnamed consequences if they fail and promise them great security and progress if they submit to the only authority.

It works for most people every time but of course there are those who see through the facade and insist on change. They are the ‘disappeared’, the political prisoners, the excommunicated and the examples to others of what can happen to those who dare question or doubt the wisdom of the Supreme Leader and his Revolutionary Council (or army council, or Governing Body, or quorum of apostles, etc)

Those who submit know, many of them, that as they beat their breasts, shed tears, chant slogans and swear loyalty they are playing parts in a fiction and that issues are not truly resolved. But what can one man do? But to do nothing is itself a choice and an activity and for evil to triumph requires only that good men do nothing. There are good men and women in Iran today who are determined to do something and maybe we should stop demonising Islam and start praying for those courageous Muslims in Iran who are pressing for change.

BBC NEWS | World | Middle East | Ayatollah demands end to protests