5. Racism and Reality

10 10 2016

Brexit Blog 5:  Racism and Reality

Racism: Dictionary Defns: “the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics, abilities, or qualities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races” or “prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior.”

Now I put the above definitions up as a starter for the consideration about one particular aspect of the rumblings about Brexit that have come from the Remain side. We’ll look at it more fully in a moment or two. Things have happened post-Brexit and I would like start to examine in this blog the claims of racism that are made and then perhaps go on to consider other problems to do with immigration, which is an associated hot topic.

London thinking versus the rest?

It is a strange world we live in and certain aspects of Brexit suggest that London is a little island of liberal thinking that may be ahead of the rest of the nation in ‘reasonable’ thinking. It is clearly where the heart of the media resides but merely because London media and advanced liberal thinking (sometimes akin to Christian ethics but from different motivation) declares something, it doesn’t mean the rest of the country believes it and agrees with it. A recent example was the furor that arose over young people and sport and homophobic chanting and general opposition to the gay outlook. The fact that it hit media headlines shows what many already know, that not everyone in the nation agrees with the liberal agenda of London.

Racism does happen

The Independent newspaper recently wrote, “The full extent and true nature of the “blatant hate” that has beset post-Brexit Britain is today detailed for the first time after The Independent was given exclusive access to a database of more than 500 racist incidents compiled in the weeks since the EU referendum.”   Let’s assume the Independent figures are accurate.

So the Brexit equivalent is the apparent wave of racist incidents that have occurred since Brexit. Rather than take the popular apparent media view that this is caused by Brexit (although the Independent quote doesn’t say that) I would suggest that it was there long before Brexit and a study of headlines over the last three years, say, will show that job security and immigration have been linked subjects in some parts of the country for a long time.  All Brexit did was release in the minds of those who already felt this, a freedom to act wrongly to express their feelings.

Racism or simple defensiveness?

An observation of the Prime Minister’s final speech at the recent Conservative Conference clearly indicates she and her ministers are now patently aware of the hostility to those who have come into this country and taken jobs here, by some already here who felt threatened and aggrieved by that. The words ‘fairness’ or ‘unfairness’ cropped up 16 times and the word ‘fair’ a number of other times.  For example, “if you’re one of those people who lost their job, who stayed in work but on reduced hours, took a pay cut as household bills rocketed, or – and I know a lot of people don’t like to admit this – someone who finds themselves out of work or on lower wages because of low-skilled immigration, life simply doesn’t seem fair.”

It may be of academic interest, but nevertheless true, that merely because certain parts of the population feel threatened by (as they see it) their jobs taken, does not mean they fit the definition above of racism. Superiority or inferiority may not come into it – merely that “this is my land and you are taking a job that should be mine.”  Let’s face it, that has been a similar argument that has been used historically by a variety of Unions whose members fought off others encroaching their domain as they saw it.

Wider ponderings about racism

Let’s refocus on that original definition of ‘racism’: “the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics, abilities, or qualities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races” 

Already above I have suggested that protectionism or defensive anger against perceived threats to jobs is not necessarily the same as racism (although racism can be part of it). Now because so much casual hot air is expressed about such subjects as racism, we need to look more carefully at just what specific words being used actually mean in common usage.

Let’s consider the word ‘race’ in the above definition. Usually the first and more common definition found is:

“A group of people identified as distinct from other groups because of supposed physical or genetic traits shared by the group.” 

Notice the ‘physical’ or ‘genetic’

Now notice a wider definition that, I suspect, has sneaked in with questionable origins:

“A group of people united or classified together on the basis of common history, nationality or geographic distribution.”

From this second definition we would assume that long-term inhabitants of France would be called a ‘race’ or similarly inhabitants of ‘Germany’ are a ‘race’ by these standards. How about the Dutch or the Swiss or the Italians?

The inherent demand (because ‘racism’ is being used as a morally bad word in modern society) of the above definition is that it is wrong to suggest that the inhabitants of any particular country have particular characteristics that mark them out from other countries.

Tell a Frenchman this, or an Italian this, or a German this, and I suspect they will be offended. Cultural stereotyping in dangerous and so an inhabitant of the USA might be upset if someone suggested they were all ‘extroverts’ (which is clearly not true), while a German might be pleased if you said you thought a primary national characteristic (not the only one) was ‘industrious’. Websites referring to the English are likely to include such words as, “Stiff upper lip, resolute  in the face of defeat, self-depreciating and fair play,” all generalizations.

But here’s the point, both of my starting definitions speak about ‘superiority’. We’ve already noted that different counties are known (rightly or wrongly) for their national characteristics. Don’t confuse ‘different’ with ‘superiority’.  I would suggest that the language of racism is so often used as a weapon to demean the other person’s argument. It is also the language of the person who has had little contact with other nationalities. Do we have to like the apparent national characteristics of another country? No, but it will depend on what it is. Is it wrong to observe different characteristics? I suggest not. Is it wrong to look down on others for their characteristics? I suggest, yes. The demand to be like everyone else in Europe is both unrealistic and unknowing. We’ll say some more in the next blog. There is enough here to chew on.

Blame for Wars?

13 03 2014

In many ways this is a follow on to my previous writing about who was to blame for World War 1.  To even attempt to write this blog I have to confess my ignorance. Not only am I painfully aware of so many areas of ignorance about life in general, but specifically, here at least, I need to confess my ignorance about the two world wars of last century. I guess that this ignorance is shared by a great many, and many would say, does it matter? I suggest it matters if for no other reason than it should make us think (and pray) and learn from such times.

Aware that we were going into a centenary year this year,  in respect of The Great War, I determined it was time to remedy some of that ignorance and started with World War 2, simply because I had run across Max Hastings’ book on it entitled, “All Hell Let Loose.”   It is a meaty tome of some six hundred pages and I grab a few pages when there are a few minutes spare – which is not the best way to read such a book – and I am about half way through.  It is not all about strategies etc., but about what went on affecting ordinary people and ordinary soldiers and as such is, I suggest, compulsory reading for anyone with romantic ideas about wars. It was a most terrible time in history if for no other reason than the shear numbers of casualties and the ways they died or were injured or were treated.  If Max Hastings is half right no one comes out it whiter than white; in fact the exact opposite.

As I have picked up this book, again and again as a Christian I could not help thinking, “Where is God in all this?”  Now I know I covered much of this in the previous blog but it bears repeating or expanding upon.

The crusading atheists berate a God who is supposed to be love, and when it comes to examining the last century, a God who apparently either caused it or sat on the sidelines and laughed.  No the atheistic viewpoint gets two-faced at this point because if you don’t believe there is a God you can’t blame ‘Him’ for such events, and if you can’t blame Him then you are left with a simply miserable view of mankind.  All of the humanists’ optimism is revealed as complete bunkum when you examine the history of the last hundred years. You can’t just blame Hitler or Stalin, because they both had powerful underlings who could have stopped it all early on.  But more than that, the record shows that vast numbers of ordinary Germans were just as excited about their nation’s imperialistic aims as Hitler was.  The things happening in Crimea today indicate that Russian nationalism is as strong in ordinary people as it is in Putin and his leaders.  Little changes.   I think the optimism of the Humanist Manifesto has to be  one of the best examples of self-delusion that you can find on the planet.  Go to virtually any continent on the globe and you find self-important people being unkind to other people (the nicest way I can put it.)

Put aside the atheists for a moment, for they are a minority grouping.  The majority  grouping believe in a God, even if many of them think He is either impotent or not concerned with us.   But what are the options that you are  left with if you do believe there is a God, when you come to consider these two wars?  At first sight, there are just two: either that He caused them or that He just sat back and did nothing about them. Perhaps we need to consult the Bible for a parallel example to help us. The apostle Peter, preaching under the anointing of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, and speaking about how Jesus had died, declared, “This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.”  In other words Jesus’ death had been part of God’s plan and He foresaw the way events would work out as sinful human beings rejected His Son and eventually crucified him.

Now let’s take a mundane example from everyday life. You are a school teacher of a primary school and as you watch them play in the school playground you see they constantly fight. You go outside and tell them off and tell them to stop fighting. After this happens three times, you call them all in and they are all made to sit in their classroom in silence for half an hour.  So far no one is objecting to that.  Now, to change the picture, supposing some cattle or sheep contract a contagious and virulent disease. We know what happens, we’ve seen it in recent years.  The government order whole herds or flocks across the country to be destroyed and burned. Suppose a wounded soldier’s foot injury contracts gangrene. The only way to save his life is to cut off his leg.  Suppose ten terrorists take hostage a school full of children and start shooting them, one an hour until their demands are met.  We watch as the SAS go in and the body count of dead terrorists is 100%.  We all cheer.  We measure these things against the harm that will be caused if such drastic action is not taken.

OK, I’m speculating now.  Suppose God could see the direction and outworking of the 18th and 19th centuries and could see that in response to His enabling/allowing the advancement of science and technology, our foolish response was to reject Him and turn to godless atheism (examples of which were seen in Hitler and Stalin and many others). And suppose the logical response of that was to lift off all restraint which, if left unattended, would result in inhumanities beyond our present wildest dreams that would affect the entire planet and rob us of our very humanity.  If we had the eyes to see that, would we not stand in awesome silence and say, “God is just, God is wise, we are so stupid, this was the only course of action that could have happened to save us as a world.”

Of course we have not learnt and we are still so tainted by this self-centred godlessness that we probably laugh at such an idea, but it is the most rational one around. As with what Peter said about Jesus, suppose God knew the path that foolish and wicked men left to their own devices, would go down resulting in World Wars, and if that is what they chose, maybe, just maybe, they might learn from it and the future of humanity be saved.  But have we learned? The signs are not great.

If God allowed us a financial crash (brought about by the greed and folly of men) with some longer term effects, has that brought us to our senses?  The signs are not good.  Is God gently lifting off His hand of restraint again so that foolish and godless imperialistic semi-dictators can do their own thing yet again?  If not Moscow, might it be some other ‘power’?  Gloomy talk and I don’t like gloomy talk, but when will we come to our senses?  Have the various movies coming out of Hollywood portraying a nuclear disaster ending, been a warning?  Put this all aside if you like but the key question still stands – are you, are our leaders, is our nation, demonstrating godless, self-centredness, and if so, then what hope is there for our future?

Who’s to Blame for The Great War?

25 01 2014

As we moved towards and into 2014 we started hearing references to the centenary remembrance of the start of what we now call World War 1, otherwise referred to as The Great War.  But no sooner has the new year arrived than voices are raised debating who started it off, who caused it, who was to blame for it?  My understanding, which may well be over-simplistic is that a number of people agreed with a number of other people to support and defend them if others raised hands against them and when it appeared that someone was doing just that, everyone found themselves embroiled in a fight that produced images of “trenches, mud, wire and poets” (Max Hastings in the introduction to ‘Catastrophe – Europe Goes to war 1914’).   Although the numbers killed or seriously wounded were horrific in that war, statistics tell us that the numbers killed in the Second World War make that number almost pale into  insignificance. To say that we had learnt nothing in that intervening period would be unfair because the ambitions of a little German with a moustache didn’t give the rest of us much option but to fight. Yet the first stage of that second war seemed to indicate that just possibly after the initial battles, the fighting might have slowed to a trickle if one man by the name of Churchill had not said we will not be overrun and raised his voice to rouse the rest of us to freedom.  Again that might be too over-simplistic but there is a lot of truth there.

But I am a Christian and we try to make sense of the world with the help of God, and when I read the book of Revelation  (putting aside all the difficult detail for the moment) I see God’s warnings come again and again to a foolish mankind who, just like Pharaoh of old, refuse to take note of the awful things happening and refuse to come to their senses and desist from their godless, self-centred, self-destroying ways of life.  And then I read in Romans how there are times when “God gives them over to…” even worse self-destructive practices and I realise there is a form of God’s judgement that is worse than Him bringing bad things to happen; it is Him standing back and saying, “Very well, I lift my hand of restraint off you; you are free to do whatever your sinful hearts want to do,” and to quote the title of Max Hastings book about the Second World War, “Hell Breaks Loose”.

Was that, I wonder, what happened in the twentieth century? Did God step back and allow humanity to move forward in its folly and do things that brought forth utter destruction?  Don’t blame God for the Wars because there are very human elements in both First and Second World Wars that are observable  that brought both about. Did we come to our senses after those times? Clearly not. We are still, here in the West at least, still as godless and still as self-centred as ever. Was the financial crisis that has engulfed so much of the world in these recent years been another instance of God lifting off His hand of restraint to allow the folly of mankind to prevail? Have we learnt from it?  Be quite clear, these three things I have referred to have been the work of humanity let loose.  In my previous blog, almost a year ago, I wrote about facing the truth of our situation. The book of Revelation shows the folly of mankind failing to learn from the things that happen. The last hundred years show us the folly of mankind failing to learn from the things that happen.  The question should not be so much, who was to blame for World War 1, or who was to blame for World War 2, or who was to blame for the financial crisis, but have we learned that as a godless human race we need help?

Is God standing on the sidelines impotent? Most definitely not. He works in and through His Church and He works in and through His world to say ‘Thus far and no further’.  (Was Churchill one such agent?)  Where people do start coming to their senses He is there – as always – instantly ready to be our Saviour, in little things in our personal lives and in big things in our national lives.

Psalm 2 asks, “Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the LORD and against his Anointed One. “Let us break their chains,” they say, “and throw off their fetters.”  Still the presence of sin in the human heart says, “We don’t need God. We can manage,” but the evidence clearly points otherwise.  As the old song goes, “Oh when will they ever learn, when will they ever learn?”  ‘They’ is you and me. The evidence for God’s love is there for those who want to go looking, there is plenty of it. The evidence for the folly of living without God is piling up. Every now and then a Hollywood film postulates a future after a Third World War and it is never a pretty sight. May we come to our senses and turn to our God before the next idiot or bunch of idiots provoke such a scenario – but it starts with you.

Disillusioned with Humanity?

7 02 2013

Disillusioned with Humanity?

Job’s wisdom came with an interview with God. I often think how different we would all be if we each had ‘an interview with God’ and would thus be able to realise how great He is and how small we are, but it’s not like that. It seems that the Lord in His wisdom allows us to go our own way but then He either brings or allows (and there is room for debates in individual occurrences) things to cross our lives that make us question the views that we had of ourselves as almost divine-like beings.

But real life for us begins when we proceed along, to use a picture that Jemima Khan has recently used in respect to her attitude to Julian Assange over the principles of WikiLeaks, “a journey of admiration to demoralisation”.  So much of the time we live with self-admiration but we only come to a place of reality when we become demoralised over what we are really like. Then we come to God for help.

Our society in the UK is going through a journey from admiration to demoralisation. We, as a society at least, abandoned God back in the last quarter of the twentieth century and became a self-admiring society that, free from its religious shackles, could now grow up and reach its full potential. Yet the truth is that in any and every area of our society over the last ten years we have been found to be drastically wanting and demoralisation is setting in.

Being cut free from the strictures of absolute morality, government authorities and media, all made up of self-admiring individuals, have opened the doors to liberal freedoms –  but these chickens are now coming home to roost.

In the financial realm, the mockery of the bankers continues unabated after over five years of mismanagement. I recently came across a comment written by Clive James a couple of years ago that seemed to describe it all so well: “Even the legitimate financial system had all the trappings of a racket, including a wonderful mechanism whereby which the banks that lost your money were saved from ruin by being given more of your money so that they could award it as bonuses to the very people who lost your money in the first place.”  That is the bizarre nature of the world without absolutes that we have created.

If we move into the realm of relationships and sexual freedom, even the most liberal of writers is now forced to concede that it is not going well.  In a world freed from absolute morality, it is no wonder that promiscuity so often undermines marriages and committed cohabitation alike, it is no wonder that many men struggle with sexual imagery in their minds that drifts into reality and produces sexual abuse, rape, child abuse and so much more, it is no wonder that teenage pregnancy rates, abortion rates and STD rates are at almost epidemic proportions, it is no wonder that young people and old alike despair at ever finding that elusive quality called love.

It takes a Sunday journalist to state it clearly: “Children fare best, and are less likely to be a problem to society, if they are raised by married parents. Those married parents are far more likely to remain together – and so provide a stable home life for their families, as well as being a socially cohesive force in the community – than are those who are unmarried. These are just bald statistical facts.”  But it seems most of us don’t like the facts.

Perhaps the icon for demoralisation should be Jimmy Saville. If he was guilty as so many seem to claim he was, wasn’t the guilt also spread through those who turned a blind eye to him. Expediency was obviously the name of the game in the world freed from absolute morality. Only now, it seems, after he is dead, is the curtain being drawn back and the magnitude and extent of the sin revealed.

Demoralisation is striking in every quarter. In the realm of politics, in recent weeks I have now twice heard, from what were once staunch Conservatives, about both Prime Minister and Chancellor, the equivalent of “This man must go!” and yet the alternatives seem equally bad. Moral ethics appear to have no part to play in modern politics, only what is expedient or seems good at the time to an unanchored mind. Much of the malaise experienced within this society today must be laid at the feet of politicians and media people alike who have their own present-day agendas built on nothing less than what seems good to them today. Already we have said, the chickens are coming home to roost, but still they plough on opening further doors to future social chaos. Today’s laws thus create tomorrow’s chaos.

I have heard a few comments of “There must be an alternative to all this,” but generally society acts like the frog in the saucepan of water bring gradually brought to the boil, and seems unaware of just how bad things are. Self-admiration is a difficult thing to overcome; indeed it often takes crisis to shake our self-sufficiency. Whether we are suffering from the effects of global warming or from a cycle of unpleasant weather systems, as a country we have been getting pounded by the weather for the last few years.  Perhaps it is only those who suffer flooding again and again who begin to face the reality that they are small and puny and have little or no power in the face of such things. We will eventually learn to build flood-proof houses but we are slow to learn how to do that, and to recognise our own frailty and need of God’s help.

Perhaps the process would be accelerated if London was seriously flooded. That would be a wakeup call! But would that bring such people as our national leaders to their senses? The book of revelation shows crisis after crisis but still the stupidity of mankind meant they failed to turn to God for help. Self-admiration can be both the most blinding and the most stunting characteristic of the human race. How tragic.

In the midst of the process that I have referred to as “a journey of admiration to demoralisation”, we fail to face the truth that all of us are human beings prone to getting it wrong.  The recent classic case of Chris Huhne, a man who found himself getting caught doing one relatively small thing wrong (speeding), shows the folly of self-admiration that desperately seeks to cover up any failing. In his case he sought the help of his wife, but when the marriage broke down, found himself exposed and then had to tell lie after lie for years to try to cover it up. One sin (speeding) + one sin (conspiracy with wife) + multiple sins (lying and denial) = rejection of an MP by society. How much more simple would it have been if he took a driving ban originally and the whole thing passed into obscurity. Instead self-admiration dragged on for ten years before demoralisation set in and the truth was faced.

At a corporate level we are hearing yet again of the failings of the NHS, this time because of deaths occurring while in NHS care. Yes, of course we can do better but for the moment we are going through the media frenzy yet again where truth is hazy. Only this morning I read of nurses who dropped an 86 in the ward and two weeks later the lady died. Whether the two things were linked is unclear, but people (nurses) are human beings and from time to time they get it wrong. Did they drop that lady purposely? Of course not!  In fact so fearful were they of repercussions that they pretended it had not happened. Self-admiration seeks to cover up and avoid truth.

The recent snow brought many school closures and with them, criticism about wimpish schools. One good article on the subject suggested it was nothing to do with that, but more that head teachers were fearful of litigation. The payouts that have been paid in recent years by education authorities for even minor natural injuries, things that happen in day to day living, like tripping over, have been incredible in both numbers and size. This is a society failing to handle its demoralisation by blaming whoever it can – except yourself – and, along the way, making capital out of others. Greed and selfishness walk hand in hand with self-admiration. And all the while, God in His goodness, is quietly working to bring people to their senses. As I’ve asked before on these pages, how long will it take?

Declining Christianity – Clear your head

13 12 2012

Declining Christianity – Clear your head  (December 13th 2012)

A Statistical Bulletin from the Office of National Statistics of the UK included the following in its ‘Key Points’ that has just been published:

“The number of residents who stated that their religion was Christian in 2011 was fewer than in 2001. The size of this group decreased 13 percentage points to 59 per cent (33.2 million) in 2011 from 72 per cent (37.3 million) in 2001.”

What is remarkable about that is not the fact of fewer people declaring themselves Christians but that the figure is as massively high as that. I say this because other figures suggest that less than 5% of the population are in a church on a Sunday morning. Be generous and say there are people who work, can’t be in church or others who are Christians but disenchanted with church and it might be reasonable to say that there are say 7 or 8% of the population who have a faith worth expressing in some corporate form. (In the USA the figures are larger but the same decline IS taking place).

That bastion of liberal thinking, The Times, in its first leader yesterday, under the heading “Change not Decay” had a sub-heading, “The decline in Christian affiliation noted in the Census, is a challenge to the Church. It should respond by embracing, not rejecting, modernity.”

Now of course the Times, in a world where we value free speech, is entitled to pontificate on church matters but whether the editor is qualified to do so is another matter. It’s a bit like saying to Nick Clegg, “You know the Lib-Dems ought to think differently and lose the values they have campaigned on for the last twenty years” and of course papers do just that, but we accept that such political  ‘bodies of belief’ have come to such an organisation after careful thought and, although in Nick Clegg’s case it varies from Labour or Conservatives (or Democrats or Republicans), we accept that that is their way of thinking and their beliefs – and we accept that; we may not agree with it but we accept that that is where they are.

Now when it comes to the Christian faith we are in slightly different ball game because here we have a body of beliefs that start from the fundamental belief that there is a God and He is the One who communicated what we now have as our beliefs. So if we start, as no doubt many of the writers for the Times start, with a belief that there is no God, then you are wasting your time arguing baldly against the Christian faith because you fail to understand the basics.

If we are part of that declining majority, or are someone wanting to seriously think about the real issues here, may I suggest some key points of belief and then make some key suggestions to remedy that declining number.

Key Beliefs

1. Belief in the Bible

The vast majority of critics of the Christian faith, experience shows, have very little or no knowledge of the Bible or of its background. They therefore have never bothered to find our that, contrary to much public opinion, what you read in the Bible is quite reasonable and portrays a lifestyle that is better than most exhibited by modern culture. More over they have never bothered to look into the history of how the Bible came into being, and how it is made up and, therefore, do not realise that of all ancient documents it is the best attested and that there are very good reasons to accept it as it stands and it is not full of errors, contradictions etc., that modern society like to suppose. Modern society is largely ignorant of these things.

2. Lives based on the Bible

Moreover these cultural critics have failed to understand and choose to ignore the facts that:

  • Those with a strong faith, with strong beliefs in the validity and claims on them of the Bible, and specifically the New Testament, are statistically (yes, statistically, surveys again and again show it) likely to be healthier, more conscientious workers, more conscientious parents, more likely to remain in committed relationships, and be more likely to be contributing to the well-being of society.
  • Those churches that hold weakly to those beliefs, are the ones declining and actually they only exist because of the strength and financial well-being of those churches who do hold strongly to those beliefs, and declines in belief come from those have been part of such weak churches.

3. The Uniqueness of the Christian Faith.

As I have recently written elsewhere, let us not have any silly talk, as those in the secular world might assert as they look in from outside, that all religions are the same. That is born out of ignorance; all religions are different. For the outsider, you may look at the claims of the particular ‘religion’ and make your own assessment, but never say they are the same.

Christianity is unique in its claims that:

  • God has come to this earth in human form (Jesus Christ),
  • lived on this earth for some thirty three years in the land of Israel two thousand years ago,
  • the last three of which were spent teaching and performing signs and wonders to reveal who he was to those with eyes to see.
  • At the end of that period he was killed and after three days rose from the dead and a number of weeks later ascended bodily into heaven.
  • The claim is that in his death, the Son of God took the punishment due to the human race so that whoever may come to God and receive forgiveness and enter into a life of love and goodness,  empowered by God, a life that is all about, not trying to win God’s favour but simply receiving it.

Suggestions for Recovery

For those of us with faith, we are to reject the temptation that puts on sackcloth and ashes and bemoans the awful times we live in and declining church figures, and instead reclaim who we have been and who we are, and when we do that, we will find sensible people coming to their senses and returning to God! .

1. A People of Assured Beliefs

Now obviously from what I have said in the earlier part, a starting point has to be a people who are confident in their beliefs and confident that they know WHY those beliefs are valid. Sentimental ‘thoughts’ or mushy ten-minute meditations on a Sunday morning do nothing to equip a people to realise who they are and what they have going for them!  The church needs to return to the historic role of teacher of truth as clearly seen in the New Testament of the Bible. When we do that, the rest can follow.

2. A People of Love and Concern expressed in Goodness

Listen how one historian speaks about the church in the past. He said it was known for its care of widows and orphans, its alms houses, hospitals, foundling homes, schools, shelters, relief organizations, soup kitchens, medical missions, charitable aid societies and so on.”  Yes, down through the ages it has been the church that has worked into society providing the things that today the Welfare State tends to provide. When there was no Welfare State, when no one particularly cared for the needy, it was the Church who stepped forward, expressing the love of Jesus to his world.

The world looks for a church that is not introspective but moves with the love, care, and compassion of Jesus Christ, to bring God’s goodness into the society round about it.

3. A People of Revelation and Power

The early Church of the New Testament reveals a people who were not afraid to say, “God says,” because they were a people who heard God. We need to teach all new believers to learn to listen to God through the various means He has given us, and then live our lives and perform our serving on the basis of what we hear. That will change the world.

But Jesus and the early church also exhibited the power of God to bring (good) change to lives. Millions of testimonies down through the centuries have been, “I came to God through Jesus Christ and my life has been utterly transformed,” or, “Well, I’m not sure I understand all this but all I know is that He has healed me,” or “All I know was that I lived a life of addiction, and when I came to Christ he set me free, and life is now wonderful,” or “I was lost, lonely, drifting and without meaning in life, but when I came to Jesus Christ I found, love, friendship healing and purpose in life and now I feel utterly fulfilled.  Those are genuine testimonies that have been repeated millions of times – because God IS, and God is ALIVE, and God DOES STUFF when we come to Him – and it is good!

Well there we are. Think on this and see where it take you.



The Folly of a Godless Society

22 07 2012

I once thought that as our society here in Britain degenerated,  people would cry out for an alternative and turn to God.  Well it may be that we have got to cry some more before we will come to our senses.

These days I only write on this blog when it seems my level of frustration has reached such a peak that, like a boiling kettle, I need to vent.   The past five years have been a revelation but it seems that for most of us we don’t have eyes that can see. Every single major national institution has been discredited during this time and the reason for that is because people have been exposed and shown to have been acting unrighteously – government, media, police, the money-world, people generally.  Again and again our papers and TV news channels have been full of the failures of people.

On one recent political analysis programme recently two journalists both asserted that that nation is in a state of giving up and both warned that this could have repercussions in the collapse of society.  Increasingly people are asking, “What is wrong?” The answer of obvious but unpalatable for godless men and women.

I have written this before but it bears repeating.  Thirty four years ago I started teaching Law and for seventeen years I started off the course (which in those days meant two hour periods!) by getting the class of usually 18 to 23 year olds to imagine a new society, and I asked them to consider in small groups whether they needed rules, and why and who should make them. After an hour of deliberation they then fed back their answers. They always agreed we need rules to protect the weak. The crucial point was that at the beginning of that period, thirty four years ago, 100% of the class always said they believed in absolutes so there were some thing that were definitely right and some wrong. Over that seventeen year period they were a gradual shift until by the early 1990s probably only 5% believed in absolute right and wrong and the majority now believed it was just what you thought it to be.

A variety of writers (apart from me) have linked good ethical behaviour with belief in God, and declining ethical behaviour with a loss in belief in God. Humanist optimism has been proved to be hollow and empty and our society is proving it day by day. When you remove the one base for ethical standards is it any wonder that we are left with an ‘anything goes’ mentality.   You can scrabble around for whatever temporary fix your can dream up, but it won’t be a fix. We are learning that a society reaps what it sows, and if you sow godlessness, you find that unrighteousness, greed, injustice and folly spring up.

Those are not necessarily the primary reasons for turning back to God, but they certainly point us in the right direction. We are about to start the Olympic Games and yet again – but now with ordinary people – we are being exposed as a shallow, self-centred, greedy people.  The fiasco of the security firm failing its mandate is only made worse but many of those supposedly being employed not bothering to turn up for the work. On the other hand we have passport control staff threatening to strike just before the Olympics start. Greed and self-concern rule OK!

No, not OK, but we are reaping what we have sown but I suspect that it will need the grace of God for those in authority to have their eyes opened.  In the meantime, get ready for the next plug to be pulled to let flow away any self-confidence we have left. When, oh when, will we come to our senses and realise that actually, God’s design and God’s way works

Consider for a moment what is found so often in ‘the world’, see it through some of the things we’re warned against in the New Testament,  for example, “sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, …. anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language.” (Col 3:5,8)  Which sort of community is it best to be living in, that one or one that is described as with, “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive … put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” (Col 3:12-14) It’s pretty obvious really, isn’t it!

Those are two glimpses that the New Testament gives of the two possibilities; we could have used many other similar verses. The first Colossians quote cites just some of the things seen in our modern godless society; that’s the lifestyle we’ve chosen as a society, egged on by the media. The second is the world of the Christian believer, a world that works because it is how God has designed it.  So, I ask again, when, oh when, will we come to our senses and realise that actually, God’s design and God’s way works, and is best?





Three Levels of Christian Experience

31 10 2011

There is a song that goes with a mine that i have have seen a couple of times over the year called, “Sitting at the Window Praying” and is all about Ananias, a Christian  who lived in Damascus minding his own business until the Lord sent him to meet Saul.  I have the feeling that I’ve gone through a period of life when I’ve just been, “sitting at the window praying” and minding my own business and wondering what God was about. I’m probably still there but something has been seeping through to me.

We are at an ‘interesting’ time in our nation (rather like the Chinese curse – ‘may you live in interesting times’). We are in financial difficulties but I hear calls for rich people to become givers. It set me thinking. There are three levels of the Christian experience that we ought to be aware of – and you’ll see where this is going in a minute.

The first level is the foundational level – the basics of the Christian experience, founded in Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. Without that nothing else makes sense.

The second level of that which is our response to that level and what happens to us. This level is the level of testimony. The epitome of this  is the blind man of John 9 – “One thing I know – I was blind but now I can see.”  This doesn’t try to rationalise it, but simply state it. We’re often not very good at this – recognising the amazing changes that take place when a person is born again and becomes a new being (as Jesus put it in John 3).  The reality is my life has been dramatically changed and, if you’re a genuine Christian, so has yours been. We just to stop and give serious thought to the various ways they have changed so we can verbalise it when challenged.  There is an ocean of testimony out there that is of immense value.

The third level is the good life that I can now live and, again, we’re often not very clear about this or very good at working it out I may risk saying. The truth is that God has saved us to be salt and light and we are that when we express His love and goodness to the world around us. Now this is actions far more than words.

When I consider my Christian experience of the past forty years, I think we in the Christian world have  focussed on level 1 a great deal, level 2 of little bit and level 3 not much – there are notable exceptions –  but for the vast majority of us, we have been happy to tell about Jesus life, death and resurrection, but haven’t been  very good at articulating the changes that have come about within us, and therefore have had little confidence to be major players in bringing goodness to the world.

Briefly yesterday I heard Baroness Cox on an early morning radio programme and was struck by her brilliant clarity to speak some of what I have been saying here. Very often we Christians have focused the “Good News” on the historical events involving Jesus but it is staggeringly more than that – it is about life transformation and then even more of bringing God’s goodness into this world.

And that’s what bring me back to this whole question of giving or, for that matter, bring goodness and help in whatever we can into our ailing society. When Israel were carried into captivity into Babylon, God’s instructions to them were,  “seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile.”  (Jer 29:7).   The call was to look for the good of this godless nation and through that God would work.

So what talents and abilities are we sitting on that God can take to bless this nation?  What resources do we have – money, possessions, talents, businesses etc. – that God can take and use to enable us to be salt and light. When the world sees our genuine goodness (not that done to impress) they will ask, what is it about you that has you doing this? Then we will testify about the life changes that we’ve experiences (WHEN we’ve genuinely thought through what they are) and then they will be open to believe the level 1 foundational information which will then start the process off in them.

Jesus did the good (healed and changed people) THEN taught (testified of his Father’s love) and THEN gave his life as a ransom for us all, and on which we now focus our faith. Let’s genuinely love and serve this world and then they might ask questions and then thing might change. Have a good week!








Crumbling Morality

22 07 2011

I nearly didn’t write this blog. One gets so used to what goes on that I sometimes think we’re all like that proverbial frog that doesn’t realise that as the water starts heating up it is going to boil to death. The ongoing nature of what happens in our Western world – and I’m writing about Britain – means that we become blasé about it.

I mean how many of us us still think about the bankers and money movers who essentially caused what we now refer to as ‘the credit crunch’ by their greed? They are past history and as imbibers of modern media we simply move on to the next big news item – but their greed is still there waiting to emerge when given a chance. Since then we had the scandal of MP’s expenses – again greed  stepping over acceptable boundaries, but again that is now past history.

The present chaos has become an even bigger mess of wrangling people who stepped over acceptable lines – MP’s,  journalists, news proprietors, and police, they’re all in the mix and what a messy mix it is. Jaded opinion says, they’re all as bad as one another. Jaded opinion says the MP’s are out to get the Press for having exposed their fiddling. Jaded opinion says the Press involve the police just to spread the muck and involve the MP’s. Pigs fighting in the mud in the sty it seems.

But why are we surprised? This site has a Christian dimension to it and we and many other Christian commentators have been saying it loud and clear for a number of years – when you remove God from the equation you have no other absolute by which to measure what is right and wrong, and therefore our society is left not so much as that famous quote at the end of the book of Judges – “everyone did as he saw fit”, but more as “everyone does what he thinks he can get away with.”

And there is the folly. You can shout as much as you like that there isn’t a God but the fact is, there IS  and He does act into His world and what we are seeing is one of the many proofs of that. The Bible portrays it and we’ve been seeing it – God who brings out into the open all the dirty goings on so that they may be seen and judged.

A number of us have also said, that the ‘credit crunch’ was but a warning and worse would follow if there was no repentance. Well the repentance is not obvious so get ready for worse. When the IMF warns that Europe is on the edge and may cause global financial collapse don’t be too hasty in breathing a sigh of relief when ‘historic’ packages seem to be agreed.  It may be that or it may be something else, but we have been warned. The only problem is, as I have found many times, sin is equated with stupidity. So often, in retrospect, we look at what has now been revealed and wonder how people could be so obviously stupid as to step over such ethical lines and put themselves in such positions as they now try to squirm out of. Well, sin is equated with stupidity.  Saying sorry genuinely (not merely because you’ve been caught) and changing outlook and behaviour is the only answer. In the absence of that, watch this space for the next episode in the ongoing saga of sinful, godless men and women who still think that “they can get away with it.”








Rape is Wrong

14 06 2011

Rape is Wrong

I am trying to think clearly. We live in a strange age where emotions often rule over cold logic.  The sentence that set me off on this train of thought was this: “The Slut Walk through London drew 5000 marchers, angry at the assumption that immodest dress invites rape.” Now this is a page which, by its very title has a strong Christian edge to it. I sometimes think that we Christians don’t realise the importance of the world view that we have and how opposing views contravene common sense.

Before anyone throws a brick, verbal or otherwise, at me, I had better say that I am utterly against all form of rape and find the very concept of rape horrendous. But it doesn’t stop there, or at least it shouldn’t. In Common Law, contributory negligence declares that if you contributed towards the harm caused by another’s negligence your damages will be reduced, which brings us back to the suggestion that immodest dress invites rape.

So let’s be right upfront about this: no it shouldn’t – if you lived in paradise (or heaven), but we don’t!  In a perfect world we, the male population, would look on the scanty beauty passing by us (or sitting infront of us in a bar) and go, “Wow! How beautiful!” but if anyone thinks that is how a large part of the male population thinks, then they have lost track of reality.

So here is a person on a diet, and you offer them a burger. Is that kind? Here’s a guy fighting to stay off drugs and you offer him a free supply. Is that kind? Am I equating sexual availability with food or drugs? Not quite but in today’s climate, it’s not too far off!

The words that come to mind to describe the ‘slut mentality’ are hypocritical, ingenuous, or at best naïve. Does the modern woman not know what drives a male – especially in their younger years? If she wants to attract a male what does she do? Dress to attract, or perhaps undress to attract – at least in today’s climate.

My wife and I (presumably for lack of anything else to do) have recently been watching early episodes of the American hospital drama series (well fifteen series actually!), ER. These were made quite a number of years back but what is “normal” in these episodes are the couples jumping in and out of bed with each other so easily. Yes, they do confront unwanted pregnancies and AIDS but that doesn’t stop it happening. We live in a sex-soaked society and if you are a young male with the Internet, pornography is just screaming at you, and with that increased desire. From every angle the media tell us that we live in a totally permissive age where everyone is sleeping around – at least that is how some perceive it.

Here’s where the Christian realistic perspective kicks in. Yes, rape is bad, and yes rape shouldn’t happen, but in a Fallen World where people do bad things, if you lead them up to the line of acceptability, when all other standards are being made flexible, don’t be surprised when a number of men, having sex draped infront of them, push the line of acceptability back a bit.  After all, may go their thinking, if you have been behaving like a slut and have had sex with six different men in the last six days/weeks/months, what’s the big deal with you having it with me, because everything about you says you want it.

Of course that’s wrong says you and me, but I say it from a God perspective where God knows how we best work and he respects each and every person, but if you haven’t got that perspective, if you’re still trying to pull the “Respect me because…” line without such an absolute, I have to suggest you have lost touch with this society of ours and cannot read the minds of men who you’ve been leading on.

Rape is wrong? Of course it is, but so is leading men on. You can’t have it both ways in this modern permissive culture. Walk and demonstrate all you like, but all you’re doing is making yourself look foolish to many of us, and even more tempting to others. Not a smart move! I don’t agree with the permissive male thinking I’ve been referring to, but I believe our society has accentuated it.

The Loss of Truth

8 06 2010

It has been over a month since I last wrote here. I fear writing. I read so many good writers and wonder whatever have I got to contribute and how badly I compare with them. Yet I find myself here, clicking on a keyboard again.

The election has gone and the dust has settled. Our new Prime Minister makes seriously ominous noises about the difficult times to come, even with talk about our whole lifestyles changing, yet somehow I have this feeling of unreality. Yes, I am sure there are people unemployed now who were not two years ago. Yes, I am sure I  am paying more tax now than I was two years ago but bizarrely life continues on and on. I’m not sure what is real or true any longer. Where I live there are still as many people out shopping and still as many people taking holidays. Is that genuinely coming to an end soon?

I suspect that when we move into the realm of Government policy we should never try thinking about truth. The last government put much stress on the values of early learning and reports today say we spend £5B annually on early years provision.  A report from the Office of National Statistics now suggests there is little or no impact on outcomes from starting children off that much earlier.  On a day when my third grandchild is starting nursery school for the first time, I am grateful that it is there, but am under no illusions about its impact on her which comes far more, I am sure, from her parents (and hopefully grandparents!!!).  I have this horrible feeling that so many chickens bred in the past thirteen years are coming home to roost. The truth was not out there!

I recently stood in a Freeport, looking around as my wife shopped in this environment that is artificial and soulless. It is supposed to be a place where you can buy good more cheaply than in the high street, yet it seems they are cheap because they are the rubbish end of each firm’s products, the cheap and nasty end. The range of shoes or clothes didn’t even seem as good as in the high street. We were being sold a lie. I will stay away for a long time until my memory has dulled and my wife asks that we visit again. That Freeport appears a place of deception. The truth is not there.

In the past month we also had reported in the media, a court case involving three young children and questions of the ability of young children to tell the truth was questioned. I have also heard of a case of a man of otherwise impeccable morality being accused of abuse by a girl of eight – and being found guilty on no more than her word, despite contrary evidence and despite a dubious background of child and immediate family.  It is a seriously worrying world where our fear of abuse has frightened us into a loss of perspective where truth has been lost.

And then there have been the funny phone calls. The first one was several weeks ago, purporting to be  from a Building Society and started out asking for security information. I assumed a scam and put the phone down. A week later a similar call, apparently from NatWest bank starting out the same way. Ditto response –  but I started wondering. A few days later a further call apparently from NatWest. This time I asked questions which seemed to fluster the caller who talked about my loan application. I haven’t made one I insisted. He left sounding even more flustered. Yesterday a fourth call, apparently from a firm of surveys who had been instructed by a man from NatWest in Birmingham to carry out a survey for us on a house in the district we were thinking of buying. No, we weren’t. Is someone trying to take NatWest for money in my name?  Have you tried making contact with a bank recently on the phone – not easy! Eventually I gatecrashed  a girl at the security side of the credit card centre who eventually transferred me to the fraud people, who appeared very laid back. Perhaps it happens so often they don’t care. Oh well, I did warn them.   Identity theft is a major industry today and it’s all about lies and deception.  The truth is out there somewhere – perhaps!

I fear because my God is concerned for truth and justice and both seem to be in increasingly short supply in our society today. But it is Summer and so when the sun  shines we can forget about the nasty elements of life – but they are still there. My only hope is that even as truth seems to have gone out on the tide, one of these days it will come rushing back in and life will change for the better. A misguided hope? Time will tell.