Wednesday, 14 December 2011
Wednesday, 7 December 2011
There was a fascinating discussion this week on Andrew Marr's BBC Radio 4 broadcast Start the Week in which the always interesting if controversial Baroness Mary Warnock spoke about morality in a “post religious world.” If you want to listen to her contribution follow the link and it can be found at around the thirty minute mark. She said that we assume, in a culture so heavily influenced by Judeo-Christian thinking, that morality is the product of religion. Her central assertion was that, “Being morally good is desirable but doesn't necessarily come from religion. Otherwise children brought up without religion may be in danger of casting off morality.”
In certain circles she would be met with the response, “But I am not religious. I am a Christian!” this designed to provoke the question – what is the difference? The answer comes back, “Religion is man's feeble and ultimately futile attempt to reach up to God while Christianity is God's reaching down to man in Jesus.” It is a point well enough made, if a little trite. I have never felt entirely comfortable with it myself. The issue, I suggest, is more to do with the correct use of the word 'religion' in Christian circles, rather than that 'religion' is something other than Christianity.
Baroness Warnock suggests that religion is one of a number of social influences that make us moral creatures; others might be parents, teachers, public figures and role models, etc. True, it doesn't necessarily follow that the absence of religion leads to moral decline (although it does lead to moral relativism, which may be decline by another name). But I do have to question where the moral lights of the non-religious person come from. To wonder about the the general influence of religion in a secular society nevertheless built on religious foundations. In other words, does religion have a subliminal influence even though it is overtly rejected?
The Bible takes a different view of both morality and religion. Where Mary Warnock sees religion as one root of morality among many, the Bible sees religion as an outworking of morality. Where she might speak of the religious man's morality, the Bible would speak of the moral man's religion. In one a man might be influenced to moral good by religion, in the other his morality would find its clearest and best outworking in religion.
God Made Man A Moral Creature
If man's moral instinct precedes religion where does that instinct come from? The Bible tells us that man was created a moral creature. In Genesis man, made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26), is described as a moral agent. God commanded him, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die” (Genesis 2:16-17) Here we have the three elements of moral responsibility: an injunction to obey; an agency with which to choose and a penalty for disobedience. Man's moral instinct, whether he is religious or not, is ultimately inherent rather than instilled. Teaching and example can enhance or blunt it but does not create it.
His failure to choose obedience has made man ever after inclined to the grossest immorality, while simultaneously capable of the noblest acts of moral service and sacrifice. It is not that man is incapable of acts of kindness and service. Rather, it is that his inclination always is to go against his inherent sense of moral good. The image of God is broken in man yet not entirely, his morality is no longer intact yet remains. Paul describes people who, without knowledge of the law, nevertheless, “do by nature things required by the law...they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them” (Romans 2:14-15)
This is the confusion of fallen man. He knows right from wrong because he is a moral creature yet his own conscience so often condemns him because he is a fallen creature. Paul later describes perfectly the problem: “I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing” (Romans 7:18-19) Even in his best moments man is aware of his failing to be all his moral instinct tells him he should be. The prayer book speaks of those things we should have done but have failed to do, of those things we have done that should have been left undone. It speaks of our sinning in thought, word and deed. Paul sums it up, “There is no one righteous, not one” (Romans 3:10)
Fallen man is yet culpable for his choices before a just God and will stand before his Maker at the final day. “I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done which was recorded in the books” (Revelation 20:12) The gospel is the good news that Jesus has paid the price for our sins and that, by putting our trust in him, entering into a saving relationship with him we may be saved from our sins. That relationship is key to what describes the religious man in Scripture.
The Religion of a Godly Man
We tend to think of a godly man as pious, devout, church-going – deeply 'religious'. In Scripture 'godly' translates the Greek eusébeia which denotes, not a life of religious observances, but a true and living relationship with God. This is described in one of Peter's letters. “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness (eusébeia) through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness” (1 Peter 1:3) In the first instance 'godliness' does not describe the man that has chosen a 'religious' life so much as a man that has chosen a daily life lived out of a new and vital relationship with the living God.
Dr Spiros Zodhiates of AMG International said, “When eusébeia is applied to the Christian life, it denotes a life that is acceptable to Christ, indicating the proper attitude of the believer toward Christ who has saved him. It is both an attitude and a manner of life.” What form does this godly manner of life take in the Christian?
In his letter James writes:“If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight reign on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (James 1:26-27)
The word translated 'religion' here is thrēskeia. While eusébeia translates as godly and relates, in Christian terms, to our relationship with God in Christ, thrēskeia describes outward forms of worship. James makes clear that a Christian's outward acts of worship are to do with the conduct of his life rather than any overtly 'religious' observances or ceremonies. Indeed, the New Testament is almost entirely silent about gathered worship. There are fragments of hymns (1 Timothy 3:16), doxologies (Ephesians 3:20-21) but an indifference to forms of worship. Rather, the New Testament emphasises what John Piper calls whole of life worship.
The writer to the Hebrews urges, “Let us consider how to stir one another up in love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another ...” (Hebrews 10:24-25) In meeting together to encourage one another Christians follow certain forms which become traditions involving hymns of praise, liturgical worship, prayer, doxologies etc. These may vary widely in different cultures and times simply accomodating how a particular group expresses gospel truth in prayer and confession. But in any legitimate form it is the people of God, gathered around the Word of God, ready to do the will of God.
This reflects the description found in Acts: “They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers...And all who believed were together and had all things in common” (Acts 2:42,44) It fulfils the imperative to meet together (Hebrews 10:24-25), pray always (1 Thessalonians 5:17; James 5:16) and to be devoted “to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching” (1 Timothy 4:13) These of themselves neither make us godly nor religious. We know that “going to church” doesn't make you a Christian. Rather, these are one outward expression of a godliness (relationship with God) expressed in a whole of life worship (a life lived for God).
We are, then, made moral creatures, created in God's image, but our fallen nature has broken that image and ended the relationship with God we had in the beginning. We are still moral creatures but now our moral sense condemns us as sinners. Christ came to mend our relationship with God, making us godly, and it is in that relationship that we find the strength to change our mind and change our ways – repent. The outworking of that new life – born again in Christ – is what, to a Christian, is religion. In this way a Christian seeks to be evermore religious, being salt and light in a world of morally compromised people - sinners.
Tuesday, 29 November 2011
Last night my wife and I enjoyed the Swansea visit of the Seriously Funny Tour featuring the music of Nicki Rogers (You really must hear her new single I Bless the Day. No, I insist. No, really, you’ll kick yourself if you don’t, all your teeth will fall out and people will point and laugh) and the wit and wisdom of Adrian Plass and Jeff Lucas. It was mostly location humour and I doubt Christians have ever laughed so much in church – mostly at ourselves. There was blessing in abundance as we walked out with permission to take the gospel seriously while not take ourselves too seriously.
Some think humour doesn’t belong in church but I have a high doctrine of humour. Indeed, if humour is essential anywhere it is in church. Having worked for many years in ministry to the cults I have found humour one essential marker in the progress of the former cultist/new Christian in their journey out of the cult and into the church. It is when someone stops being precious or fearful about their cult past, can look back and chuckle at themselves and where they came from, that we begin to see real progress.
That said, there are pitfalls. It is the case that, especially among men, jokes can become very competitive. As each one-liner or shaggy dog story is told and the laughter rises to a pitch of hysteria (or so we like to think) things can get out of control. In the race to be the funniest someone tells an off-colour joke which gives permission to others to become more risqué. Soon the contest seems to override all sense of propriety until you are stopped short by the sudden realisation that you are laughing at the a dirty joke, or worse, telling one.
If we can see where the joke is going we might have the courage to object or, failing that, make excuses and go to the toilet or something but sometimes an inappropriate joke can be upon us before we know it. Years ago someone uttered a one-liner in our company at work and before I knew it I had heard a grubby little joke (a pretty lame one at that) that comes unbidden to my mind every time a particular Christian teaching is preached or discussed. Wild horses would not induce me to tell it and I deal with it by giving it to God and asking for his grace, but it does spoil things.
Perhaps like me you have learned the hard way to guard yourself against these things. People who maintain a standard whose value is so hard-earned can find themselves the object of mocking and derision, described as prudish and judgemental. A meaningless nod is sometimes given to our sensibilities as we are warned that what is imminent is not for people who are easily offended. I get angered by this misrepresentation of people with values as somehow milksop weak and old-womanly and want to say, “I am not easily offended. You are simply offensive!”
Comedy, it has been said, is the new rock and roll. Given the drive to shock, the rise in irreverence and sometimes downright insolence and cruelty in that field I can see the parallels. I find myself sometimes asking whether anything is sacred to people and that, I suppose, is my point. There are some things in life altogether too sacred to be mocked. Adrian Plass and Jeff Lucas demonstrated that nothing need be out of bounds for well- handled good humour but they also demonstrated that, while it is good to laugh, even then some things are simply sacred and even our humour should revere the sacred.
If nothing is sacred to us I suggest our lives are impoverished, even as they are colourless without a good sense of humour. Without a good sense of the ridiculous we risk becoming far too self-regarding and serious. Without a sense of the sacred our sense of humour becomes a vehicle for bitterness and snide cynicism. I thank God for the lessons and laughs of the Seriously Funny Tour and hope we can find more and more inventive ways to laugh at ourselves while holding the sacred in the highest place in our thinking and living.
Saturday, 29 October 2011
Happy New Year!
These Islands (UK) are rich with history, moments and events of great significance. Among our many customs and traditions we have had, at different times, three New Years. The current New Year with which we are all familiar dates back to the days of the Roman Republic. January is named for Janus the Roman god of endings and transitions, of doorways and entrances. This was the time when two consuls were elected to lead the Republic for the year ahead. This is a metropolitan new year.
Another New Year, marked in England until the adoption of the modern calendar, is 25 March, which coincides roughly with the Vernal Equinox when day and night are of equal length. This is an agricultural new year. It marked the end of winter and it was a time when taxes were paid, contracts ended, were renewed, or first entered into.
If you have ever wondered why our tax year ends on April 5th it is because in 1752 the new, Gregorian calendar was introduced and the following Spring people woke up to find that March 25th had suddenly and mysteriously become April 5 because of an 11 day disparity between the old, Julian, and new, Gregorian calendar.
We might think history is dry and academic but we are influenced by it more than we can imagine. So often what we do today is dictated by what they did then.
In the ancient world 1 November marked the Celtic New Year's Day which, when you think of it, has its own logic. Another agricultural new year, it too was related to the seasons. By this time the crops should be harvested and stored in barns and animals brought in from distant fields.
In Wales November 1st was Calan Gaeaf, Winter Season, and October 31st was known as Nos Calan Gaeaf, Winter Night, and sometimes Ysbrydnos , Spirit Night. It was also the Winter Eve Massacre, when prime stock was prepared to be wintered ready for the next season while other animals were slaughtered to supply the meat over the coming winter.
In the Celtic world this time was known as Samhain (pronounced sow-in). While the New Year was “born” on 1 November, the old year “died” on October 31st – Halloween. This was seen as an appropriate time to honour the dead. The Celts believed it was a time when the barrier between our world and the spirit world was at its weakest, a time when evil spirits roamed the land. It was considered a time of the wandering dead, when the dead revisited their homes. The tradition of putting pumpkin candles in windows goes back to a time when folk would light candles to guide their departed loved ones home.
It was felt appropriate to placate supernatural powers abroad on this day, especially those controlling nature. Folk left offerings of food and drink for masked and costumed revellers representing evil spirits to keep the spirits out. Bonfires were lit and a combination of fire and noise were said to frighten away evil spirits. In England bonfires were moved to 5th November after Guy Fawkes but retain their pagan roots.
Druids were concerned with making contact with the dead, who were seen as sources of guidance and inspiration, guardians of the root wisdom of the tribe. Others thought this a good time to seek the Devil's help concerning marriages, health and various enterprises.
The Devil was thought to be a master builder and anyone facing a building project, especially bridges, that seemed beyond the skill of man might enter into a contract with the devil in which he would build the structure in exchange for a soul. Stories abound of how he was usually cheated out of his reward. There are at least forty nine places in the UK called Devil’s Bridge.
People tended graves to honour the dead but avoided grave yards after dark, journeys had to end before dusk. Folk believed they would encounter ghosts if they left their homes on this night and so they wore masks and dressed up so that the ghosts would mistake them for fellow spirits. Trick-or-Treat originated in the fact that this was also Mischief Night when children would knock on doors demanding treats – a sort of early-medieval protection racket.
So am I saying that the children who will be knocking our doors at Halloween are in the service of the Devil? Are they in thrall to evil forces? Of course not. But I am suggesting that this is not simply the harmless fun they so obviously have as they dress up for the occasion..
The challenge and influence of Culture
Our culture and history have a profound influence on how we live our lives today of which we are often unaware. As Christians we are as much a product of our culture as of our faith and thoughtful Christians find themselves challenged about where we can compromise and where we cannot.
Consider Daniel who co-operated with Nebuchadnezzar the Babylonian king when he and his companions had their names changed and were given a Babylonian education but who stood firm and refused to eat meat from the king's table because it was forbidden in the Law.
We too compromise on some things and not on others. Any JW will tell you that Christmas and Easter are originally Pagan festivals on which the church has painted a Christian gloss but then our days of the week and months of the year are named after Pagan gods but we don't insist on giving them Christian names. To do so might make us not of the world but it would make being in the world impractical, impossible. Some things we compromise on.
spiritual forces of evil
The Bible tells us that we struggle against “the rulers, authorities and powers of this dark world and against spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realm.” (Eph.6:12) We are told that Christ ascended far above these powers, conquering and ruling over them (Eph.4:8; Col.2:15) We might ask then whether we should be “celebrating” those things from which Christ died to free us.
You see, this is a time of year that is taken very seriously by pagans, witches and Satanists (three very different groups). It is a time when ancient rituals are recited, gods and spirits are worshipped, some worshipping the Devil, others repudiating Satanism but conjuring the dead to help them in life and love. It is a time for divination and spirit worship.
The ironically named Christian Day, a “modern day warlock”, has written The Witches Book of the Dead. In it he claims to help you “summon the spirits of our beloved to help you discover hidden opportunities, influence the minds of others, seduce the object of your affection, and even reach into the dreams of the unwary.”
As someone who has ministered to the cults for many years I know people who have been wonderfully saved out of witchcraft, Satanism, the occult – occult meaning hidden. They tell stories to make your eyes water and cause you to thank God for his power and grace in salvation. They have seen the powers of darkness at work. Halloween for them, far from being the fun event it might be to others is a time to lock their doors, ignore the persistent knocking and pray for it to be over.
It is not that they haven't faith in Christ so much as that they know first hand what this night means to millions around the world who are trapped by principalities and powers, spiritual forces of evil.
Come Out of Her
When Abraham was called by God he was called out of such a Pagan society (Genesis 12), in which gods were worshipped, the help of spirits sought and in which men sought to become gods themselves. In the Bible’s last book God’s people were urged to, come out her my people,” Rev.18:5) meaning pagan Babylon. This has been the pattern throughout the history of God's people, a people set apart by God.The Bible tells us, to be a nation of kings and priests to God. (Rev.1:6) A people so different that in the Old Testament even what they ate and what they wore marked them out from all other nations.
With Daniel we are challenged to consider carefully our choices, where we can safely and reasonably compromise to continue being in the world and where we must stand and not compromise to avoid being of the world.
Like Paul we are to weigh what the world values and counts gain, what we once valued and counted gain, against what we now hold dear above all things, counting everything else loss compared to this one thing – knowing Christ Jesus as Lord, for whose sake we are surely prepared to lose all things (Philip.3:7-11)
So, when spooks, ghouls and witches come knocking on Halloween by all means smile on them, have a treat and an appropriate look of horror ready to make them giggle at having shocked you. But think soberly also about what this time of year is all about. Remember the most innocent of fun can blind us to dangers that others know first hand and warn us about Remember, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.” (Ps.1:7)
Saturday, 30 July 2011
We have the builders in and I hope and pray the outcome will be a nice new bathroom. A situation like this does not fill a person with confidence and I am sure I’m not the only one who finds it all very stressful.
It took weeks – even months - to get to this point with the first plumber mysteriously disappearing, then the second plumber not being available the same time as the plasterer then the roles were reversed and the plasterer couldn’t make it the same time as the plumber. Finally it was sorted out (we thought) when the plasterer said he couldn’t come after all because he “had a big job on but will ring when he’s free.” I am still waiting for the call and the term “hell will freeze over first” springs to mind
Another plasterer has turned up and things are actually happening but not without a few more problems with scheduling. I didn’t know for sure the plumber would make it until the morning he turned up to take out the old bathroom and so I couldn’t give the plasterer the notice he would have liked but, hero that he is, he turned up anyway and fitted us in somehow. If anyone in Swansea and environs needs a good plasterer I can recommend this one. The plumber has turned out alright too – in the end.
In all this what was interesting was the way the conversations went as we tried to negotiate this nightmare and smooth over the frustrations and misunderstandings that seem inevitable in these circumstances.
As I told my sorry tale to the plumber his response was, “Plasterers! They are a nightmare. You can’t depend on them.”
When I apologised to the plasterer for giving such short notice and explained about the plumber he said, “Oh, you know what plumbers are like.”
These two men are not going to meet, at least not on this job, but if they did I am confident they would close ranks, share horror stories and say, “Oh, you know what customers are like. They’re a nightmare to deal with.”
It has nothing, or little to do with the facts and my experience is that there are good tradesmen and bad, as I am sure there are good customers and bad. Its just what people say in those awkward moments when they need to move on from an unfortunate conflict of schedules and ideas to a place where they can be comfortable with each other again and get the job done.
When two parties have fallen out, had a misunderstanding we must find some common ground on which to stand and to start all over again if we are going to move on. At such times what we agree we are against is an easier option than what we agree upon. This may have started with a misunderstanding between us but we are very good at redirecting our frustrations by reference to an absent “other” which we can all agree is the real fly in the ointment (Eccl.10:1) Having laid the blame elsewhere, we can mend fences, build bridges, on the basis that “its not me and its not you – its them!”
When we are talking about plasterers and plumbers no real harm is done and it is, after all, just something people say. We just need to remember that and take it all with a pinch of salt saying, “One day we will look back on this and laugh.” But talking this way about the “other” can be harmful when it becomes gossip and the character and reputation of the absent “other” can receive real damage. Then it becomes personal and the “other” becomes a real victim and not just the butt of your fleeting frustrations.
I hope the talk behind my back is no more than run of the mill “something people say” and maybe I should remember when speaking of others that the things I say can cause real damage. The New Testament leader James wrote:
“The tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire…no man can tame the tongue, it is a restless evil, full of deadly poison…(James 3:3-12)
But what good we can do with our speech if we just realise it. Just “something we say” can encourage, inspire, lift up, strengthen resolve, contribute to building good character in ourselves and others. What potential for good God has given us in this gift of speech – if we consider carefully how we use it.
Wednesday, 29 June 2011
An excellent comment from George Weigel in the National Review on the recent decision to legalise same-sex marriage in New York.
“Marriage, as both religious and secular thinkers have acknowledged for millennia, is a social institution that is older than the state and that precedes the state. The task of a just state is to recognize and support this older, prior social institution; it is not to attempt its redefinition. To do the latter involves indulging the totalitarian temptation that lurks within all modern states: the temptation to remanufacture reality. The American civil-rights movement was a call to recognize moral reality; the call for gay marriage is a call to reinvent reality to fit an agenda of personal willfulness.”
Read the article here.
Saturday, 14 May 2011
Friday, 1 April 2011
They like to appear rebellious, contrary and generally careless about rules and regulations but about the most conservative, reactionary people in the world have to be teenagers. They dress different to be like all their friends because the last thing they want is to stand out in a crowd. They are the best recruits to causes because they know exactly what is right and wrong and will go to any lengths to express their righteous indignation – except maybe get up early.
We forgive them their naivety, understand that they haven’t the maturity that comes from experience. Experience that tells us our first instincts are not always our best.That any fool can have an opinion but it takes wisdom to understand. That not every battle is worth fighting and not every hill is worth dying on. That a soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger (Proverbs 15:1) We encourage our children to grow and learn and time and experience bring them nearer that maturity written about in Scripture, and we hope and pray that what we have done as parents has prepared them for the grown up world.
Unfortunately it is a truism that some people grow up while others just grow older. Such is the case with Pastors Wayne Sapp and Terry Jones who, after a ludicrous mock trial, proceeded with a mock execution in which the Koran was burned. Wayne Sapp described this act as an effort to incite tension between religions. Most people would describe it as an immature act of vandalism designed to provoke a response; the kind of thing kids do when they don’t feel they are getting enough attention. They have effectively stamped their little feet and screamed, “Its not fair!” Well, we all know what is and isn’t fair but do we know what is wise?
Actions do have consequences however and to date as many as twenty people have lost their lives, including two who were beheaded, as Muslims stormed a UN compound in protest at this act of provocation. But Terry Jones sees no connection between the burning and the rioting, declaring that these people would have found some other excuse to riot if the Koran hadn’t been burned. This is childish too.
On the other side of the equation we are surely increasingly aware of the immature responses in the Muslim world to any sleight, real or imagined. It is astonishing and very worrying to see vast numbers of people kept in a state of social, emotional and psychological immaturity by their leaders and one wonders if this is deliberate. Certainly, it seems easy enough for Muslim leaders to stir up anger and violence when deemed necessary. Books are burned, people riot and some get killed as a consequence, and each party insists their response to the other is proportional and right.
I remember my father teaching me to hold doors open for ladies and other such gentlemanly characteristics. Of course, that was before women’s lib came along and swept away the qualities of chivalry. On one occasion I proudly held open a door and a woman swept through it never giving a backward glance. I remarked to my father that she wasn’t much of a lady if she couldn’t even say a civil thank you. I have never forgotten his reply.
“You didn’t hold the door open because she was a lady,” he said, “You held it open because you are gentleman.”
Surely, as Christians, it is our Christ-like qualities that are the measure of who we are and not our ability to be indignant in the face of provocation. And didn’t Jesus say, “Love your enemies”? Actions have consequences and someone’s indignation has caused people to die horribly. Surely it is not a question of whether a link can be identified between our actions and the consequences in others’ lives. Surely the test is whether, regardless of the actions of others, we have been Christ-like in our walk, mature in our response to a world that is increasingly immature and lost in sin.
The role of the pastor is not to incite tensions between religions but to speak a message of peace to a world where war is common and familiar, of salvation to a world headed to a lost eternity. These men have failed spectacularly and, to the shame of all Christians, very publicly. It is frightening when such immaturity finds its way to the pulpit and the public square and does such things in the name of Christ. We can excuse such behaviour in our teenagers, they are still learning and growing, but in men who insist they are men, and men of God? Shame on both of them.
Thursday, 31 March 2011
As a child I was energetic enough, wiry and fit, but team and competitive sports didn't, and still don't particularly interest me. Sitting on the side-lines watching a cricket match in the comfortingly warm sun of a late summer's afternoon was activity enough for me, even though I didn't understand cricket. Alternatively, perhaps a sauntering walk to a favourite spot beneath the shade of an old oak where I could sit with a book and sense the evening creeping up on the world to envelope us all in night-time’s comforting blanket.
Come sports day, of course, every effort would be made to ensure no one felt left out, it never occurring to anyone that a person might simply dream of being left out. Consequently, we timid touchline layabouts were drafted into some games considered so easy that anyone could play. Quoits, the sack race, different versions of the egg-and-spoon race, throwing bean bags about and, of course, the three-legged race.
Two children would be tethered together at the ankle and, incredible as it may seem, were expected to run towards a finish line such that they would prove the acme of triumph in co-operation. Of course, the true intent of those into whose charge our innocent parents had entrusted us soon became apparent as a series of stumbles, falls and tearful cross words met with peals of uncontrollable laughter from the side of the track where, if there was any justice, I would have been sitting during this three-legged farce.
You never saw the much celebrated top athletes of the school taking part in this absurd buffoonery and for good reason. Athletes are fiercely competitive and the last thing one needs is to be hobbled by some spotty Herbert with a flare for sonnets and coming in last. The school athletes would compete on their own terms and just as well or who would play the games at whose side-lines I might sit and dream?
On May 5th UK citizens are being asked to vote on electoral reform, on whether to replace the first past the post system currently used in general elections with the alternative voting system. Make no mistake, this is important because it will determine the method and outcomes of all future elections; You can find out more from the Electoral Reform Society.
Who gains from this reform? We are led to believe that the voter will benefit because his or her vote will have a greater chance to count but I have serious doubts. Do we really want a three-legged government, with two (or, heaven forfend, maybe more) parties tethered together in a forced marriage hobbling down the track, stumbling, falling and uttering increasingly louder complaints about how unfair it all is that this or that party's agenda is being subsumed by the other?
What would that look like? Well, you only have to look at the growing resentments at the grass roots of the current coalition government. There is a sense that the Tory party is being hobbled by its farcical partnership with the bookish Liberal milksops while the liberals hear this government routinely referred to as Tory because no one believes the Liberal party is in any way setting the agenda for change and governance.
There is no illusion about which party in this three-legged race is the athlete and which dragged from the touchline to run a race in which they never expected to be entered. The liberals have not been in government for almost 100 years and I can't help think this is because not that many people want a Liberal government and perhaps we should consider the possibility that the current system works very well in that it has recognised that fact. Maybe the alternative voting system is going to give us what we have consistently rejected for almost a century, a Liberal government.
Back on my schools sports fields if anyone had suggested reforming sport so that someone who came in behind the winner, the first past the post, might still take the trophy would have been laughed to derision. If anyone had suggested the athlete coming in first, having trained long and hard all year, should share the glory with another who has been consistently rejected for the team would have been considered mad. The also rans and the three-legged hobbledehoys were expected to be good losers and if it didn't suit them to lose urged to make a greater effort next year.
In the race of life there are winners and losers and coming in last is a mighty clue to the fact that you didn't try hard enough. Maybe the Liberal school report should read, “Must try harder next time.”
Wednesday, 16 March 2011
I am not ashamed of Jesus Christ and want everyone to know that this short message on John 3:16 by Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali is what I believe about God's purpose.
Tuesday, 15 March 2011
This has to be the biggest load of nonsense the PC brigade has come up with in a very long time. Midsomer Murders is the product of the writer’s and producer’s imaginations. Insisting on ethnic minorities being “represented” in the show is rather like insisting landscape artists put more people in their paintings, that historical novelists tackle more contemporary issues, or that rap artists sing more ballads.
Midsomer Murders represents archetypal English village life as conceived by the writer. That world doesn’t actually exist, or at least we all hope so since this sleepy village has witnessed 251 deaths since 1997. There are no ethnics in the Vicar of Dibley, Last of the Summer Wine ran for almost forty years with an all-white cast.
Asking why there are no ethnic minorities in Midsomer Murders is rather like asking why the majority of people in The No 1 Ladies Detective Agency are black. The great majority of people in Africa are not white just as the great majority of people in the UK are white. There are almost 3 million Welsh people in the UK so should the Welsh insist they are better represented in Eastenders, or maybe the Geordies should complain that they are under-represented in the Welsh language drama Pobol Y Cwm (People of the valley).
Some people seem to spend their lives skulking around our world looking for things to complain about. They want to be offended in almost a Munchausen Syndrome like attention-seeking mania. Maybe that is the answer. Well, some people are put in this world as a warning to the rest and it seems to me that this is a classic example.
Friday, 4 March 2011
Nick Clegg has said people should not "write off" the Lib Dems despite the party slumping to sixth place in the Barnsley Central by-election.Think about it for a moment. This by-election was triggered because the Labour incumbent was convicted of expenses fraud. Yet the Liberals couldn’t do better than the Nazis (BNP) and someone who was practically a passer-by (an independent candidate did better). Meanwhile, the Labour Party, despite being under a cloud over the corruption charges, increased their majority.
The party finished behind UKIP, the BNP and an independent as its share of the vote dropped to just over 4%.
Labour, which won the poll on a 36% turnout, said voters had sent a "very clear message" to Mr Clegg about their dislike of his role in the coalition.
People have already written you off Nick. I am no expert but maybe its the lies and broken promises. Or maybe it was that puppy dog look on your face as you followed David Cameron into Downing Street on a promise. Wake up Nick! They’ve stamped “MUG on your forehead while you weren’t looking; and you made it so easy for them.
BBC News - Clegg defiant despite Lib Dems' slump in Barnsley poll
Tuesday, 1 March 2011
Insurance companies don’t discriminate on the basis of gender but on that of risk. This latest development is absolute madness. Who are these people that they can’t understand the basic principles of insurance?
An insurance policy is fundamentally a gamble, a bet. You bet the insurance company so much a month that you will have an accident and claim on the policy and they bet you a lump sum that you won’t. No matter how sophisticated it becomes that is what it is.
Taking the betting analogy to its natural home, if you bet on a horse the odds you get depend on the likelihood of that horse winning. The greater the chance of a win the shorter the odds based on the degree of risk to the bookmaker. The bookie doesn’t “discriminate” on the basis that the favourite is a mare but on the basis that it is a horse with a better chance of winning on current form.
Going back to insurance, actuaries working for insurance companies are basically bookies who calculate the odds on who will be more likely to win the bet and have the accident. Women are less likely to have accidents than men and more mature women much less likely to have accidents than young men under 25 years. IT ISN’T ROCKET SCIENCE!
Who will gain from this latest wacky European dictat? Not men drivers whose risk to insurers is already established and won’t change and whose premiums will therefore not go down. Not women drivers who are reckoned to constitute less of a gamble to the insurance companies but whose premiums are bound to go up to achieve this unnatural parity with men. Who always gains when insurance premiums go up?
Friday, 18 February 2011
Thursday, 17 February 2011
Sunday, 13 February 2011
"We didn't seek legal advice, because we were enraptured," said Mr Curtis.
"We had a guru working with us and for us who had a direct link to god. What she said was good enough at the time."
There is such a thing as spiritual abuse and it can have a devastating effect on people’s lives. The answer to bad faith is not no faith but good faith. That is why Jesus said, “Go into all the world telling the Good News”
Friday, 11 February 2011
A Tory turns out to be a law-breaker; well who would have thought. Of course, this is typical of the party that considers itself the natural party of government. Just as Mubarak is driven from office after 30 years of emergency laws and phony elections the Tories are shown to be pressing ahead with their idealism-based reform without consulting anyone. The arrogance and flagrant disregard for people is to be expected but surely not to be tolerated.
“The education secretary's decision to axe Buildings Schools for the Future (BSF) projects in six local authority areas was ruled unlawful as he failed to consult on it.”BBC News - Councils defeat government over school buildings
Tuesday, 1 February 2011
A play directed by Michael Sheen to be performed on the streets, beaches and hills of Port Talbot at Easter is also to become a film.
Tuesday, 25 January 2011
At a time when the IMF are forecasting better than expected growth in the world economy the UK economy has suffered a 0.5% contraction. The Office for national Statistics reports that, even allowing for the atrocious weather in December, the economy has still experienced a 0% growth.
The figures have been described as “horrendous” and “disastrous” but when he was interviewed today on the BBC News Channel the Chancellor, George (Oik) Osborne, could only talk about the weather. It is a dreadfully awkward and obvious piece of political ducking and diving, depressing to watch, but to every question (and there were some good ones) he responded with talk about the weather.
People across industry are describing this government’s strategy as regressive and lacking imagination and direction yet the only thing on George’s mind is the weather and the question, “How can I get away from this intelligent and probing interview?” He has to be the most cack-handed Chancellor in many a long year, a political operative of mediocre qualities at best and his arrogance is matched only by his callous incompetence.
Saturday, 22 January 2011
Thursday, 20 January 2011
Sunday, 16 January 2011
A stark warning and a wake-up call.
“I think what's taking place is nothing less than the religious and ethnic cleansing of the Muslim world.
Christians are being particularly targeted -- churches attacked in Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, Indonesia, the Philippines; the assassination in Pakistan of a Muslim politician who dared defend a Christian woman sentenced to death for "insulting" Islam.
Other religious and ethnic minorities are also suffering intense persecution -- the black Muslims of Darfur, the Bahai of Iran, the Kurds, Sufis and Ahmadis in Pakistan, and of course the vicious anti-Israelism and anti-Semitism one finds throughout the region.
I think this is the most important issue not being reported by the mainstream media, not being studied by academics, not being taken up at the UN or made a priority by the large human rights groups.”
Wednesday, 5 January 2011
When are people going to face up to what is before their eyes? Islam is a religion of violence and death, that eschews mercy, celebrates vengeance and advances by oppression and subjugation. History shows it, current affairs demonstrate it.
The governor - a senior member of the governing Pakistan People's Party (PPP) - had recently angered Islamists by appealing for a Christian woman, sentenced to death for blasphemy, to be pardoned.
Mr Gilani has declared three days of national mourning and appealed for calm.
The bodyguard, Malik Mumtaz Hussein Qadri, 26, was showered with rose petals by supporters as he appeared in court in Islamabad on Wednesday.
News reports carefully avoid naming Islam when reporting these things by speaking of “religious extremists” but this is inaccurate and misleading; indeed, these are weasel words. Whenever we see these reports they are Muslim Extremists. Muslims blowing up Christian churches, Muslims blowing up mosques and killing each other, Muslims bombing our cities and killing our fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters.
When a Muslim leader stands up for what are called “liberal values” but what are actually “civilised values” Muslims far and wide go into their usual screaming fit of hysteria and he gets killed by his own bodyguard who, in turn, gets lauded and showered with rose petals as he appears in court.
There is no maturity, no reason, no civilised outlook and no mercy in Islam and it is time we demanded that Muslim Pakistan step up to the mark and prove itself capable of civilised involvement with the wider world. Time we stopped making excuses for a nuclear power with the mind and emotional maturity of a petulant child.