Saturday, 31 July 2010

Ian Huntley’s Occupational Hazard

I admit this story got my hackles up. When you have taken two innocent young girls and murdered them you should count yourself lucky that you are still alive, have a room and a bed and three square meals a day, let alone doctors, psychiatrists, counsellors, recreations…  When even the worse of the criminal classes are so disgusted with what you have done that one of them takes a pop at you, then surely that is an occupational hazard and goes with the territory.

I am no flog ‘em and hang ‘em merchant and I do believe in rehabilitation but I wonder sometimes at the rights the worse of us enjoy that the rest of us can’t have. The one that always gets me is when someone has been prosecuted, tried and judged guilty of some terrible crime but fails to appear in court for sentencing. They refuse to come. Refuse to come!? They have forfeited any right to refuse and should be dragged kicking and screaming if necessary to face the full wrath of the society they have offended and should count their blessings that all they must face is the stern verdict of a judge and not the wrath of the mob.

Surely the first step to rehabilitation is facing what you have done. These days, if someone is caught standing over the body, with a gun in one hand, a blade in the other and a bottle of poison in their pocket they plead not guilty and, if found guilty, launch an appeal straight away, demanding a reduced sentence if not acquittal. “Fair cop guv’”? Not a chance these days.


BBC News - Soham killer Huntley 'should not sue' over jail attack

Friday, 30 July 2010

Editorial – Kay Parris: Glimpses of metanoia

An excellent and thought-provoking comment by Kay Parris in the new online Reform magazine. Maybe it is the cult of personality that explains how we ended up with this dreadful chimera of a government that my daughter-in-law calls "The ConDemnation."

Editorial – Kay Parris: Glimpses of metanoia

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Religious Liberty Monitoring: USA: not immune from Western religious liberty trends

 “The principal religious liberty trend of the multicultural West is that religious liberty is disappearing as the traditionally Judeo-Christian culture's Biblical foundations are being excavated. The excavation is integral to the social engineering/renovation project underway aimed at producing a 'post-Christian' culture. Unfortunately, most Christians do not comprehend the implications of this phenomenal strategic shift, and likely will not until the new social order has been consolidated and direct persecution starts to impact them personally.

Christians in the West are losing the right to criticise non-Christian (minority) religions (particularly Islam) and witness to non-Christians (particularly Muslims). They are also losing the right to conscientiously object to new social norms being imposed upon them essentially at the behest of radical feminist and Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender (GLBT) lobby groups.”

This quote is from an excellent commentary on the threat to religious liberty posed by post-Christian, liberal social norms. The non-thinking nonsense in the two stories illustrating the piece is breathtaking. Its a long blog but, I think, well worth taking time to read.

One of my favourite quotes is from George Orwell who wrote,“Liberty is the right to tell people what they don’t want to hear.”  This , as the blog illustrates, is being taken from us in the truly meaningless name of multiculturalism and tolerance. Some Christians are being taken in by this message, mainly because “tolerance” seems so right somehow, so typical of what Jesus would do. They need to remember that this same Jesus declared, “I am the way and the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me” (Jn. 14:6) Let’s define a couple of terms that are frequently abused today and bring them back to their true and original meaning, the meaning they had before the liberals got hold of them:

TOLERANCE: My dictionary gives the definition of an allowable variation from a standard dimension. In the liberal world there is no standard dimension and every worldview, philosophy and “lifestyle choice” is equally right.  Tolerance, according to my dictionary, means indulgence of beliefs or practices different from one’s own. One who is tolerant is said to be practicing forbearance, to be enduring something. The language of tolerance then is endurance, forbearance, indulgence, allowance. To tolerate something is not to give it approval but to indulge it, to endure it for the greater good. Liberals would have us treat the words “tolerance” and “approval” as synonyms and fiercely condemn anyone who isn’t “tolerant” by this definition.

Democratic principles demand that, while I disagree profoundly with the tenets and practices of Islam, I am willing to endure its presence in a democratic society. I am not, however, bound to like, appreciate or approve of Islam and I am certainly not bound to welcome the  colonisation of Western societies by Muslims with the attendant cultivation of Muslim principles and ideas.

PHOBIA: A phobia is defined as an exaggerated and illogical fear. Common phobias include fear of spiders, the dark, flying, indoors, outdoors etc. It does seem irrational for a grown person to fear a common house spider, or to fear going outdoors, but plenty of people do and many seek help to overcome them. This word has become almost meaningless as people are encouraged to think of those who disagree with them as phobic. The previous paragraph would, in the eyes of many, identify me as “Islamophobic.” I also adhere to the biblical view that homosexual practice is wrong in the eyes of God and this, to many, makes me “Homophobic”.

Of course, the old way of presenting the same idea is by dubbing people “anti” this, that or the other. Critics of Mormonism are dubbed “anti-Mormon”, of the Roman Church as “anti-Catholic” etc. In those days it was easier to see that these tags were often ways of avoiding the issues and dismissing the critic by naming and blaming. In those days fewer people got away with it.

Things have changed however and the liberal lobby has such a grip on society that people indifferent to faith issues don’t just tut in disapproval when they hear people declaring strongly held beliefs contra to the beliefs of others. These days, to hold strong beliefs, no matter how tolerant one is prepared to be towards others, is to risk vilification and possibly prosecution. Because you are allowed to be anything in the brave new world – as long as it is liberal and adheres to the new dictionary definitions prescribed by liberals.

Some Christians fail to see that, while democratic principles, tolerance, liberty and freedom are precious, nevertheless, our first loyalty is to the God of the Bible. I note that many who enjoy this new way of looking at the world move away, very quickly, from Scripture and instead embrace the values of fallen man. If freedom and tolerance mean immorality, compromise, idol worship and worldliness then we had better get back to the true definitions of those terms. More urgently, we had better get back to God’s Word. Click on the link to read the Religious Liberty Monitor review.

Religious Liberty Monitoring: USA: not immune from Western religious liberty trends

Friday, 23 July 2010

Something for the Weekend: Plaid MEP, Jill Evans heralds Historic day for Welsh language in the European Parliament (From Western Telegraph)

The language of heaven is finally accepted in the European Parliament as Plaid Cymru (Party of Wales) MEP Jill Evans delivers a seminar on language policy in her native tongue. Mrs Evans insists that the EU could develop a better relationship with its citizens by using the languages people actually speak.

"Currently Welsh enjoys a semi-official status after a long hard campaign. It is now my goal to use this historic day to push for Welsh to be a fully recognised EU language" she said.

The EU translates documents and speeches into 23 “official languages.” At its inception the official languages of the EU were Dutch, French, German and Italian but as it has grown more languages have been included, such as Danish, English and Irish (added 1973), Greek (1981), Portuguese and Spanish (1986) and Finnish and Swedish (1995).

The first thing that often comes to people’s minds when the subject is raised is the cost and, of course, this has to be a consideration. The argument is often put that most people speak English, certainly everyone in Wales does, so what exactly is the point? The argument is made that if we stick with a few languages that most people speak then why go to such trouble and expense just to please people?

“Just the Facts Ma’am”

This famous line attributed (incorrectly) to Sgt. Joe Friday of the Dragnet police drama perhaps epitomises the spirit of a world that puts a high premium on data,  facts and efficiency, a world imprisoned by literalistic ways of thinking. In such a world the ability to convey “just the facts” seems paramount. But he world is about a lot more than simple facts, and language conveys more than facts, it conveys culture, heritage, custom and creates identity and belonging. As the Welsh anthem has it:

Mae hen wlad fy nhadau yn annwyl i mi,
Gwlad beirdd a chantorion, enwogion o fri;
Ei gwrol ryfelwyr, gwladgarwyr tra mâd,
Dros ryddid collasant eu gwaed.

(Cytgan - Chorus)

Gwlad, gwlad, pleidiol wyf i'm gwlad.
Tra môr yn fur i'r bur hoff bau,
O bydded i'r hen iaith barhau.

Don’t try it at home, you’ll only hurt yourself. The following is one translation of the whole song:

The land of my fathers is dear to me,
Old land where the minstrels are honoured and free;
Its warring defenders so gallant and brave,
For freedom their life's blood they gave.

Home, home, true am I to home,
While seas secure the land so pure,
O may the old language endure.

Old land of the mountains, the Eden of bards,
Each gorge and each valley a loveliness guards;
Through love of my country, charmed voices will be
Its streams, and its rivers, to me.

Though foemen have trampled my land 'neath their feet,
The language of Cambria still knows no retreat;
The muse is not vanquished by traitor's fell hand,
Nor silenced the harp of my land.

Who Are You?

What is the harp, the bard, Eisteddfodau (Welsh cultural festival), valley and mountain, choir and chapel, coal mine and slate quarry, Welsh Rugby, Welsh history and politics to one not Welsh? In the same way, each culture claims its own distinguishing features, its foods and customs, its traditions and festivals, its habits of mind and action and its language in which all these are expressed in a way not entirely possible in translation.

This is important, not just because the culture, heritage and identity of 611,000 Welsh speakers in Wales are represented in the European Parliament but because if we don’t know who we are, don’t have a clear idea of our identity we risk losing it.

Civitas is the Institute for the Study of Civil Society and in a recent report claimed that new hate crime legislation is preventing free speech and singling out alleged crimes by white Christians. A foreword to its report ‘A New Inquisition: religious persecution in Britain today’ argues that prosecutors and police are interpreting laws in favour of ethnic and religious minorities.  The report calls for a public enquiry into whether religion-based groups in the criminal justice system are driving a campaign of bias against the majority population defined as ‘white’ or ‘Christian’.

In a week when the despicable Nick Griffin was barred at the last minute from a Buckingham Palace official party and is making capital of the fact, complaining on the basis that he represents 1million voters in the UK, it is well to remember that if the majority population feels under attack the fault lies as much with ourselves as anyone. If we see richness and colour in others’ cultures but not our own, if we are unsure about our place as a people in the market of world cultures and if we too easily concede to others who have strong cultural identities then it lies with us to stop blaming those others, rediscover who we are and be proud of our heritage and values. Maybe this weekend we could think about who we are and what it really means to us.

Monday, 19 July 2010

BBC News - David Cameron launches Tories' 'big society' plan


Speaking to the BBC before the speech, Mr Cameron rejected suggestions that the plans [for a big society]were "cover" for substantial cuts in public services in many areas as the government tries to cut the deficit.

"It is not a cover for anything," he told BBC One's Breakfast. "This would be a great agenda whether we were having to cut public spending or whether we were increasing public spending.

"This is not about trying to save money, it is about trying to have a bigger, better society."

Margaret Thatcher told us that there is no such thing as society, meaning of course that there is no autonomous entity called society to catch you if you fall and we all have to take responsibility. Now David Cameron tells us that there is little else but society, meaning – well the same thing really.  They are two sides of the same coin.

It was worrying to hear him tell Phil Redmond that he got his “Big Society” idea from watching Grange Hill. What I want to know is, if we are all going to take more responsibility for things and government is going to do less, will we pay less in taxes, moving the resources as well as the task to the big society, or will we pay the same or more in taxes leaving the weak to go to the wall – Social Darwinism which has always been a key Tory philosophy?

BBC News - David Cameron launches Tories' 'big society' plan

Friday, 16 July 2010

Something For The Weekend

When I first saw the headline “Christians Complain about EastEnders” I thought perhaps some group of culturally savvy Christians had had enough, made a stand and demanded this poor excuse for a TV drama be taken off our TV screens. But no, this country’s taste for low end, badly-written, poorly acted and depressingly repetitive kitchen sink drama is nowhere near being satiated.

I remember when these programmes were interesting portrayals of lives lived out on the gritty streets of Northern towns, or farming communities in the Dales. But I haven’t watched one since Ena Sharples got buried under the railway viaduct and everyone in the snug of the Rover’s Return commiserated with Ena’s best friend, Minnie Caldwell, buying her milk stouts and lending a shoulder to cry on.

These days, soaps are a grotesque parody of themselves as they present increasingly implausible plots in a breakneck race to top the previous week’s plot with ever-more improbably complicated relationships and more incredible cliff-hangers to keep an increasingly credulous public on the edge their seats awaiting the next excruciating episode. Anyone who followed Jimmy McGovern’s groundbreaking drama, The Street, in recent times will surely have been spoiled for this sort of pap served up three times a week, the opiate of the people.

No, the complaint is about the portrayal of a Pentecostal pastor who turns out to be your typical neighbourhood wacky Christian wife murderer. It is a negative portrayal, they insist, and wonder if the BBC would have portrayed a Muslim cleric in such a bad light. I see what they mean, of course, but it isn’t as if this is a departure from the norm when it comes to portraying Christians in TV dramas. And isn’t this “you wouldn’t do it to Muslims” lark wearing a bit thin. It’s true enough but it is a tired old argument that everyone knows is true but it falls on deaf ears.

The aforementioned Ena Sharples, if I recall, was the caretaker of the local mission hall back in the ‘60s, and she was a right busybody, criticising the lifestyles of other inhabitants of Coronation Street and telling them to “think on.” A popular ploy for drama writers is to make the vicar gay (I think that was EastEnders too), or a woman in a comedy role – the vicar of Dibley, a limp and overwhelmed by it all liberal, as in the latest TV comedy “Rev”, or a hellfire and damnation, Pope-hating, Presbyterian with a Northern Irish accent (you couldn’t make it up)

What concerns me, however, is not how Christians are portrayed on television. After all, dramas revolve around conflict, that is built on character flaws and the bible is chock full of those, and comedy is founded on an oblique look at the ridiculous, and how can that happen if the vicar isn’t somehow funny, intentionally or otherwise. No, what bothers me is that Christians watch EastEnders. I think people who watch these things can distinguish between a dramatised portrayal of the clergy and the local pastor in their street. But what will they think of the faith when Christians show themselves so unimaginative in their choice of entertainment? Like sin, poor taste is something you expect from the world but, surely Christians need to aim much higher.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

I’m Glad You Asked…

I am at an age when I am increasingly dependent on the wonders of modern medicine to keep me upright and functioning. “It comes to us all” is what they say and it certainly hasn’t given my house a miss, although there are times when I wish it had. As part of my drug-dependent regime I take a glass of water to bed every night and take my two final pills of the day.

Every Tuesday evening I have the thrilling task of emptying the bins around the house and putting out the rubbish, recycling etc. and when it comes to my bedtime routine, I reach for two tablets from the strip at my bedside and, would you believe it, they are the last two in the strip, every fortnight the last two in the box and so I throw the strip in the bin. Now call me fussy but it offends my fastidious nature that a bin so recently emptied should so soon begin to fill.

How can this be? What is going on that every Tuesday I should suffer this frustration? That strip, that box could have been out on the pavement with the rest of the rubbish waiting to be picked up early next morning. It is one of those things that irks you each time it happens but you just as quickly forget about it and get on with your life (I think I ought to say that my wife thinks I’m more than a little unhinged to worry about this, but she doesn’t throw an empty strip into a bin she has just emptied – or have I missed something here?)

This week I decided to get to the bottom of this mystery, sat down with a strip of tablets, a calendar and a calculator and figured it out. (I lied about the calculator actually and only put it in for dramatic effect. Also, I did have a calendar but in my head. I don’t want people to get the impression I can’t count and don’t know what day it is) There are fourteen tablets on a strip and two strips in a box. I take two tablets every night, start a strip on a Wednesday and, therefore, come-to-my-last-two-tablets-the-following-Tuesday-evening and the last two in the box every other Tuesday. The sense of relief, I can’t tell you! (I know, I ought to get out more)

Its with not a little pride I can tell you that I broke the cycle last night – today being Wednesday and the day the rubbish is collected. When I emptied the bin in my bedroom I took the two remaining pills, placed them on the bedside cabinet, and threw said strip, and the box as it happens, into the rubbish to be taken away. Oh, the sense of triumph! Tomorrow the WORLD!

Life can be like that. Something troubles you but not enough for you to actually give it serious thought. But each time it arises this bothersome and unresolved issue winds you up. For a lot of people questions of faith can be like that. Something is reported on the news, or happens locally, and someone asks, “If there is a God why…” Someone close to us dies and for a moment we feel prompted to ask some of the bigger questions, the “God that’s not fair!” questions. But then life presses in on us and soon the questions are laid aside for another day.

I’m Glad You Asked…

When I am asked such questions, sometimes quite challenging questions I can find it a struggle to answer, not because I don’t have an answer, but because I don’t have a neat, glib sound-bite answer to do justice to what is often a very good question. I want to say, “I’m glad you asked. Can you set aside some hours to talk about this?” And, of course, people are busy and very reluctant to commit the time, afraid perhaps of what they might be drawn into.

But, just like my puzzle over tablets and bin day, sometimes you just have to stop and give it some serious thought. Just as I sat down with a calculator, a calendar and blister strip (OK, there wasn’t a calculator, but you get my meaning) so you, if your questions are serious, must sit down with a Bible, a Christian friend and maybe a good book or study guide if you are going to get real answers.

I often ask people if they are readers because many people are not these days, which is a great pity for all sorts of reasons. If they are, or at least are open-minded enough, I suggest they go and browse around their local Christian bookshop. They would be amazed, I insist, at how many of life’s questions, how many big issues are addressed in Christian books, journals and magazines and how determined, serious-minded Christians are to understand the world. A Christian bookshop is just that, i.e. a bookshop. It isn’t a “truth shop” where all issues are answered definitively and where dogma is sold by the pound but a bookshop where people with different views are represented and ideas are presented to get explored, tried and tested.

Why don’t you come to church? I ask them and, as they give a wary look, explain that churches hold courses where these questions are addressed and answers are sought. Sermons inform as well as challenge, enthuse and convict. Why not come and listen to a few? Why not come over for a coffee and spend an hour or two talking about things, maybe make a start on the journey of discovery that begins with the kind of questions you are asking? Because the big questions are not destinations but departure points and you have to be prepared for the journey of discovery that leads to the answers. Otherwise, why ask?

Be as wary as you like, sit near the door at church, tell the bookseller you’re “just looking” but don’t put it off any longer. Make a move, get a Bible, ask a trusted Christian friend, put that best seller down, good as it is, and pick up a Christian book that looks like it might be interesting, informative and helpful. Come over for a chat some time and lets talk about God and what’s fair and not fair, and what’s it all about, and why you want to do the right thing but so often find yourself doing the wrong thing, and what happens when you die, and does evolution disprove God, and…well you get the picture. Give it time, and effort and you might be surprised what answers come if you just ask.

Here are some books I have personally found very helpful:

  1. A Fresh Start, by John Chapman and published by Matthias Media tackles some of life’s fundamental questions.
  2. God That’s Not Fair, by Dick Dowsett, published by OM, addresses some of the really hard questions people ask
  3. Six Modern Myths, by Philip Sampson, and published by IVP, is a look at six popular myths about the church in history and society, from Galileo to Environmentalism
  4. Knowing God and Knowing Christianity, by JI Packer and published by Hodder and Staughton and Eagle respectively are excellent insights into the God of the Bible and the faith of a Christian
  5. Why I am a Christian, by John Stott and published by IVP is a refreshing insight into one man’s reasons for embracing the Christian Faith.
  6. The Puzzle of God, by Peter Vardy and published by Harper Collins is a more philosophical look at the subject
  7. You Can’t be Serious, by Michael Green and published by Monarch is a serious look at 12 reasons for avoiding Jesus
  8. At the Heart of the Universe, by Peter Jensen and published by IVP is a close look at what Christians believe about God, man and the purpose at the heart of the universe
  9. There is a God, by Anthony Flew and published by Harper Collins is, in the words of the author, an account of “How the world’s most notorious atheist changed his mind”
  10. Simply Christianity, by John Dickson and published by Matthias Media, is a reading of Luke’s Gospel with simple but challenging commentary designed to discover what is simply Christianity when all the extraneous stuff is stripped away.

There must be something there that caught your attention and made you think it might be worth turning off the TV and curling up with a cup of tea and a book. If you do take up the challenge to do more than ask the questions, more than dismiss God with a wave of your hand as you walk away still bemused, let me know. Write to me and we can have a chat about it. I always like to chat about my faith and hear what others have discovered on the journey. Your here until you go so you may as well make the best of it. Who knows but that it might turn out better and more meaningful than you ever dreamed or imagined?

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Italy appeals against ban on school crucifixes - Telegraph

Why are so many non-believers such miserable nuisance neighbours? They have a real dog-in-the-manger attitude to religion. Not happy to have God in their own lives they are determined that no one else should either. I hear people sometimes say, “Don’t push your religion down my throat!” I feel like saying, “Don’t push your secular, neo-Darwin, aimless and nihilistic word-view down MY throat!”

Freedom of religion does not mean freedom from religion. If you want freedom from religion you will have to find another planet to inhabit because this world is filled with believers of one kind or another. It colours our lives, informs our society and, when it comes to Christianity, it is the foundation of the very schools from which you want to remove all signs of it. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you.

Italy appeals against ban on school crucifixes - Telegraph

Exclusive: The Breathless Celts

With the new Condem alliance threatening cuts of between 25% and 40% across the board and in all departments this column can exclusively reveal how the regions, and especially the peripheral, Celtic nations of the UK will carry the brunt of those cuts.

A  leaked document today reveals that the North of England will be closed from Friday to Monday, while the Midlands will close early on Tuesdays and Fridays. Regions further south will remain open, but will see a ban on every mode of transport except walking and piggy backs. Residents across the UK are encouraged to go to bed early, especially as the days get shorter, to save on electricity. The Home Counties are under review, although there are no plans for any such radical money-saving measures because that’s where David Cameron lives.

But in a move that some commentators say makes Margaret Thatcher look like a socialist citizens of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are being asked to hold their breath when there is an ‘R’ in the month. The leaked document reveals the government’s concern that there isn’t enough air to go around after MPs have debated the issue. Other ideas for making such savings include restricting women to only breathing out, an idea that was rejected when someone pointed out that most women can talk breathing in, a feat of multitasking considered vital to the nation.

A member of the Welsh Assembly, when asked to comment, said that policies were still under consideration and everyone was holding their breath in anticipation of official announcements. “After all”, she observed, “we might need the practice.”