Innocent till proven guilty

With the slew of allegations launched in the media over the past few months, we must always remember this key principle of a just society – every individual is innocent until proven guilty.

Whilst I have the utmost sympathy for genuine victims of horrific crimes, we cannot ignore the fact that there are proven examples of false accusations, which also destroy the lives and careers of those targeted.  For example, consider the “torturous” experience of Simon Warr, subjected to “672 days on bail, in the glare of maximum publicity, during which time I suffered disgusting insults in the street and from the internet mob… my name and photograph were repeatedly published in the press and on the internet. After a nigh on two year nightmare, my accuser’s allegations were dismissed by a jury within a half an hour.”  He mentions the case of a fellow-teacher in a similar situation who, under the extreme pressure, committed suicide, as did Welsh Labour MSP, Carl Sargeant.

In the UK, we have seen the reputations of Sir Cliff Richards, Sir Ted Heath and many others dragged through the mud.  Lurid stories of a Westminster paedophile ring, stemming from one individual that never received any corroboration, were circulated with full page spreads by news outlets that said very little when the testimonies were disproven.

Even the Church of England has been targeted with serious questions raised about the case of Bishop George Bell who was posthumously ‘blackened” by an alleged victim – pocketed £16,800 “without sufficient investigation”.

So, given all the evidence of how much damage false accusations can inflict and the ease with which these claims can be concocted, why is there not more caution and less of a rush to judgement?  One case in point is the backlash against Lena Dunham, after a co-worker that she knew very well was accused: “Our insider knowledge of Murray’s situation makes us confident that sadly this accusation is one of the 3% of assault cases that are misreported every year … We stand by Murray and this is all we’ll be saying about this issue.”

She was effectively bullied by internet vigilantes to retract this statement by those who highlighted Dunham’s previous tweet – “Things women do lie about: what they ate for lunch. Things women don’t lie about: rape.”  This is clearly ridiculous.  How on earth can you make such a sweeping statement for all women on such a sensitive subject?

There seems to be a confusion between “believing” someone, and respecting their right to complain but then investigating carefully an allegation to discover the truth.  Again, we must highlight as misguided the likes of Hillary Clinton when she demands that all women be “heard and believed”.

Please don’t rush to judgement.  Give the accused a fair chance to defend themselves, just as we must afford victims the opportunity to seek justice.  Remember the context – are the complainants motivated by money, politics or ideology?  Above all ask… where is the evidence?

 

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Are you not moved?

Once again, the cynics sneer at the efforts of Comic Relief, the Disasters Emergencies Committee and a host of charities to raise awareness of, and funds for, the fight against poverty.  Their criticism is seriously misguided. Celebrities could just ignore the plight of other but are doing something to help.  Yes, of course, we need to address the structural issues but these are not going to be fixed overnight (if ever) and we have an immediate to give what we can to alleviate suffering.  Personal giving does not preclude activism and shows that we have skin in the game.  Individually, I cannot force Apple to pay their fair share of tax but I can remember how privileged I am and share what I have.

Look how insidious this argument can be: “By showing starving and sick children at their most vulnerable and exposed, it goes against the idea that their dignity is worth as much as his children’s, and creates an artificial distinction between “us” and “them”. Here we are, the resourceful and benevolent agents of change; and they are the passive others in need of our charity.”

Really?  These are people who are dying with the most appalling prospects.  Their plight cries out for mercy. Surely, the ire of this journalist should be focused on those who walk by on the other side of the road, not the Good Samaritans.  The priest and Levite no doubt pontificated later about how someone else should ensure that road was properly policed, but they are rightly condemned for doing nothing.

Sadly, the arguments advanced by the likes of Afua Hirsch (quoted above) only serve to provide fig leaves for those who can watch the evidence of immense human misery, close their eyes and whistle a tune.  In fact, they are – in some ways – modern-day versions of Scrooge, deaf to the pleas of their neighbours.

Then, there is this problematic phrase “poverty porn”.  Excuse me but there is a world of difference between watching titillating videos to be sexually aroused and making genuine efforts to raise awareness of the struggles faced by the world’s most destitute with the hope that concerned citizens will be moved to give.  Considering how comparatively luxurious our lives can be, we need these reminders of what is actually happening to our fellow human beings.  How is that even remotely comparable to pornographic smut?

Tragically, we have become desensitised and indifferent to the horrendous suffering of, for example, desperate kids living off the pickings they can glean from dangerous garbage sites.  We need to keep (or start?) giving generously AND campaign vociferously, so that these scandals poverty become history.

Stop the Tax Dodgers

The furore surrounding the latest revelations about industrial-scale tax avoidance in the Paradise Papers seems, tragically, to have subsided but momentum must not be lost in the fight against injustice. Government must act swiftly and decisively to close the loopholes that allow the richest to opt-out of the system and ensure everyone pays their fair share. We must keep reminding them – and each other – what is at stake.

According to authoritative estimates, wealth concealment (by “ultra-high-net-​worth individuals”) deprives governments of about €155bn a year in revenue. In Britain alone, annual revenue losses are €6bn. Those not earning mind-boggling sums of money but instead scraping by on £20-40K per year cannot avoid paying taxes as these schemes are only affordable for the wealthy. How is anyone on a median wage expected to enjoy a reasonable standard of living? Whilst, we are constantly counting every penny and struggling to make ends meet, they are acquiring luxury items with even paying any VAT. This inequality is appallingly unfair.

Meanwhile, almost €12.7bn in UK taxes is dodged by multinationals and, across the world (facilitated by Britain’s “offshore” empire) data suggests more than €600bn is artificially shifted by multinationals to the world’s tax havens each year. One example is Glentorran President, David Chick, who used artificial loan structure to hide the sources of money for various projects in Northern Ireland, one of which evaded a 45% income tax bill on a £600K development. He also claimed to have “influence at the highest political level”.

Such cosy connections were also evident in 2013 when a new UK tax break, set at a mere 5%, was introduced on diverted profits (those held offshore in “controlled foreign companies”) to make Britain “more competitive” and attract business. Analysis of this change has demonstrated that it only succeeded in bringing back “brass plates”, a top holding company, employing a few accounts and lawyers, to exploit the loophole but bring virtually no benefits to our country.

In fact, this tax break, which under close investigation by the EU, was designed by series of working groups packed with big companies, such as Vodafone. Big accountancy firms apparently seconded staff into the Treasury to help write rules and then, subsequently, made money on advising clients how to exploit the new dodge. The initial estimated cost to the Exchequer of this scheme was £900 million by 2018 but behavioural changes have significantly increased this total. According to HMRC, multinationals avoided paying £5.8bn in taxes in 2016, some 50% more than government forecasts. That figure, which was reported by the Financial Times, does not even include losses from changes to the aforementioned CFC rules.

Most egregiously amongst the corporate tax dodgers, Apple paid just £12 million on a £1.9 billion UK profit, meaning they dodged about £400 million in corporation tax, according to accounts filed in September 2014. Now we know they are using Jersey after their previous tax haven (Ireland) was shut down. Surely, you can see how this corrosive to democracy? Obviously, this money could make a huge difference to millions in the UK, balancing the books without further painful cuts to benefits for the poorest and vital public services.

Companies spend vast sums on image-burnishing, public relation projects, whether planting some trees in Honduras or dance projects in Burkina Faso. However, all I want from them is to pay a fair amount of tax in the countries where they earn their sky-high projects. Is that too much to ask?

Even the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development is now warning of the damage to the developing world caused by all this profit shifting.

Back in the UK, according to Deutsche Bank, London itself receives about £1bn a month in what it calls “hidden capital flows”, much of it Russian. However, if ordinary people want to purchase a property they have to go through multiple checks to make sure the money is not laundered. Why is this tolerated by our political representatives?

As several commentators have noted, those who gratuitously avoid tax, such as Lewis Hamilton (private jet VAT refund) or the stars of Mrs Brown’s Boys (millions sheltered in Mauritius and “loaned” back to circumvent income tax) rob the country that has provided the education, health care and infrastructure, which has supported their ability to make their jaw-dropping fortunes.

The sums involved are mind-boggling and if you are struggling to fathom the numbers, then link them to their consequences… “The money we lose because people like Lewis Hamilton don’t pay some VAT on their private jet means thousands more visits to food banks. The budget cuts leading to rising homelessness might not have been necessary if Apple had paid more tax. Fewer people might have killed themselves after a work-capability assessment if companies like Alphabet (Google) had not registered their offices in Bermuda, and the downward pressure on benefits payments was not so intense.”

So how can this mess be cleaned-up?  I think the key to sorting out this mess and restoring faith in the system is to insist on transparency: how can we catch the crooks if they are allowed to keep their finances top secret? Britain’s PAYE is virtually impossible to fiddle but these other systems are just too prone to abuse. HMRC is over-stretched and opening-up the data would allow many more people to scrutinise the dodgy deals. We need a UK-wide land register, so we know exactly who owns what, especially as our island becomes increasingly crowded and pressure grows to build new homes. Government must re-write the tax evasion vs avoidance distinction to declare illegal any artificial construct that serves no purpose other than to avoid tax. Those responsible must be punished accordingly.

After the Panama Papers, not much seems to have changed. Gordon Brown is leading a petition to shut down tax havens, which is exactly what needs to happen now and a campaign I hope you will support. We all, but most particularly those privileged to sit in Parliament, must act now and not ignore this fundamental injustice.

Digging deeper into the “flat earth”

Reading British comedian David Mitchell’s article, “The Earth may not be flat but it just possibly might be doomed” was eye-opening.   The fact one peddler of this total nonsense, Mark Sargent, has 43,415 subscribers to his “Flat Earth” YouTube and there has actually been a conference to discuss this drivel clearly flags-up a serious problem.  We seem unable to persuade people to work together, to unite around truth, such as basic facts about our universe, or more alarmingly, the need to do all we can to tackle global warming.

Mitchell pinpoints how a “safety-first, unquestioning scepticism about absolutely everything could lead to the thoughtless discrediting, and chucking out, of huge swaths of our collective achievements.”  He argues that this “boundless doubting” is linked to “this nasty internet-contaminated era.”

However, I think we have to dig deeper.  These weeds spread much more widely than he dares to consider.  The primary culprit is postmodernism, which prioritises the subjective individual and distrusts all universal narratives, claiming that the truth is relative.  This has trickled down from upper echelons of universities to seep into the pores of society, leading to the rejection of authority, alongside an unthinking embrace of whatever “feels right” for “me”. Thus those born as a boy, for example, are encouraged to question the objective evidence of their eyes and listen to their insecurities or pander to their passing whims with devastating consequences.

Similarly, the dangers of pornography are dismissed and the facts conveniently ignored.  In 2016, a court in Cheltenham heard how a 12-year-old boy repeatedly raped his younger sister after becoming fascinated with hardcore online pornography; in 2014, a 13-year-old boy from Blackburn admitted raping his eight-year-old sister after watching porn on a friend’s Xbox and ‘deciding to try it out’.  Tragically, hundreds of school pupils in the UK have been disciplined in the last four years after perpetrating sexual acts, including seven who were only five years old, according to recently released Freedom of Information data.  These might represent just the tip of the iceberg as numerous Local Authorities have neglected to provide data.

Any sense of what is right and true has been reduced to “moralistic mood swings”, jumping on bandwagons to denounce the latest uncovering of someone else’s dirty laundry.

Whether denying that abortion involves the killing of innocent babies and should, at best, be an absolute last resort (rather than a form of contraception) or declaring that the earth is flat, the roots of delusion can be traced back even further to Descartes’ famous ditty, “cogito ergo sum” or “I think, therefore I am”.  By placing human beings, and the evidence of one’s senses, at the centre of the universe, this movement closed the door on the possibility of divine, authoritative revelation.  Man is drawn to rationalising the inexcusable, be that gas chambers or gender reassignment surgery; only God shows us the true Way.

We need One who is outside of our moral morass to reveal to us the path we should follow and give us the Saviour who frees us from the chains of arrogance as He walks with us on the journey to “fully knowing, even as I am fully known” (1 Cor. 13:12).  Are you worried that the world is “doomed”?  Turn to the Christ Jesus: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

 

Fifty years of legalised murder

There’s no shades of grey here – abortion is the extermination of innocent lives.  It’s a not merely a fetus or a blob of cells, but a living person with the most amazing potential.  Yes, society should give much more support to couples who feel unable to look after a child, whether through better adoption services or improving the likes of child benefit, but we need to reverse a change in the law that has led to over 8.6 million murders.

As a History graduate, I was saddened to read how the record of the past has been twisted to support what is indefensible.  Kate Lister’s article tries to critique the law, which originally criminalised abortion in 1803, because it focused on actions taken after the “quickening”, the first felt movements of a baby in the womb, usually about 16 weeks.  The problem with this approach is that, prior to ultrasound scans, women – and anyone else who was interested – would have hardly any knowledge of what was happening before those first, wonderful movements.  Using this to lambast what she labels a moral inconsistency is just nonsense and completely unfair, given our greater medical knowledge.

There is only a brief acknowledgement of how social attitudes have changed towards extramarital sex and children born out of wedlock, which makes irrelevant all her descriptions of the dangerous means some women resorted to in an effort to end pregnancies.  After only focusing on the United Kingdom, she also refers misleadingly to “The Lancet”, which “estimates that unsafe abortion is still responsible for approximately 69,000 deaths and millions of injuries each year.”  This is actually a figure that refers to the worldwide situation that obviously includes many countries where the stigma still exists and there is a lack of even basic healthcare, so of little help in understanding what would happen if abortion laws were tightened (and proper care in place for families).

She asserts that “the Bible make no claims that life begins at the point of conception”, which ignores Psalm 139:13 – “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb” and the bold declaration “I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (v. 14).  Then there’s Jeremiah 1:5, where God speaks to the prophet – “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart.”

Now, some cite Exodus 21:22-25 as proof that a fetus has less value than a person because the punishment for causing a woman to miscarry is only a fine.  Well, actually that translation of the Hebrew is contested and most probably the text is referring to a “child going forth” and there being “no injury” to anyone.  Please do follow that last link to John Piper’s verdict on this matter as he very carefully examines the text.  Of course, this is still clearly highlighted as a crime against another person – hence the need for restitution – so whatever the precise meaning, these verses actually support the protection of innocent children.

Returning to Kate Lister’s concluding statement, “A minority of women will always want an abortion. Therefore, it must be done properly”, again misses the mark.  A tiny percentage of the population enjoys stealing from other human being, or even murdering them.  Should the law just ensure that this proclivity is “done properly”?

So, please stand-up for life and stop the slaughter.

 

Crucifixion in Saudi Arabia?

I was listening to the BBC Radio 4’s News Quiz last Friday (29th Sept) when one of the comedians happened to ridicule Saudi Arabia’s alleged practice of crucifying individuals. I was quite disturbed by this claim and searched online with about the fourth or fifth “hit” being from the Guardian.

The article clearly seemed to suggest that one member of the gang was slated to face being “crucified for three days”. The article does go on to state that “Human rights groups have condemned crucifixions in the past, including cases in which people are beheaded and then crucified” (emphasis added). Note how the word choice implies there must be other crucifixions where the victim is attached to the cross alive and left to die. Consider that the Amnesty International quote, “…inhuman and degrading punishment” should really not be applied to someone beheaded and then crucified as how can you “punish” a dead body!?

Interestingly, there is no follow-up to this article on the Guardian, explaining what actually happened to the men. Apparently, they were all executed by firing squad.

However, from reading other sources, I was more concerned at the reference to crucifixions. According to the Atlantic and the BBC, this actually involves first killing the “criminal” (usually through beheading) and then displaying the body for up to three days.

So, I think the original Guardian article is misleading and dangerous. I agree that Saudi Arabia does much that is shocking and abhorrent, including their practice of beheading and then (sometimes) displaying the body. However, I think most readers (like the comedian) would take a reference to “crucifixion” to imply the “criminal” is strung-up until their last, agonising breath. As the Guardian boldly states on their website banner that “facts are sacred”, I sincerely hope this will be corrected, especially as though this is from 2013, the article still features quite prominently on search results and clearly has an ongoing influence.

If you followed the BBC Magazine link, you will have noticed an Islamic scholar trying to excuse the Koran’s reference to the matter: “Indeed, the penalty for those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger and strive upon earth [to cause] corruption is none but that they be killed or crucified or that their hands and feet be cut off from opposite sides or that they be exiled from the land. That is for them a disgrace in this world; and for them in the Hereafter is a great punishment.”

The apologist encourages us to read the context: “Except for those who return [repenting] before you apprehend them. And know that Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.” However, I do not find this at all comforting. Basically, the verses say “surrender or die”. Islam means submission and Muslims’ ultimate aim is for everyone to conform to Muhammed’s view of the Deity.

Whereas the Christian Bible repeatedly insists that judgement belongs to the LORD and instruct us to “forgive our enemies”, the Koran incites its readers to take matters into their own hands and destroy those who disagree with their view of God, permitting even the cruellest of punishments. I suppose “exile from the land” does not sound quite as bad but, given that the Caliphate’s borders were continually expanded by conquest until the 16th Century, even this would only provide temporary relief.

What kind of depraved religion is this? I pray that our Lord Jesus Christ will open their eyes to the truth.

The Brexit “divorce bill”

As previously argued in this blog, I think Brexit is a tragic mistake and I predicted that the EU would make negotiations of the details as tough as possible, both to extract as much money as possible to maintain their bureaucracy and also to discourage any other bids for independence.

Sadly, this has proven true with their negotiators refusing to move on from discussing the “divorce bill”, insisting that Britain honour all possible commitments made, even including pension liabilities.

What troubles me is the fact they ignore the estimated £390 billion net contribution Britain has already made to the EEC/EU since 1973.  Yes, of course, there have been many benefits accruing with membership, though it is impossible how these would have compared to NOT joining in the first place.  However, there’s so little gratitude or appreciation for the vital role Great Britain has played in developing the EU thus far, the largesse that has funded numerous projects from Portugal to Estonia.  No, instead they demand more money and refuse to even discuss future relations, which is actually a rather sickening attitude.

I would still vote again to Remain in the EU – I think the process of leaving is just too complex and fraught with difficulty when there is so much for the other side to lose and they have rigged the process of triggering Article 50 in their favour.  However, if we must go – respecting the referendum result – then at the moment I would rather just leave now.  Not a penny more to the EU, stuff their budgets, accept the WTO tariffs and look for new trading opportunities elsewhere.  It feels like we’re caught in a hostage situation, which is just ludicrous.

Maybe I’m being too hasty but I definitely do think that we must start highlighting to our EU neighbours (minus Germany) how much we have bankrolled their countries’ development.

Playing the “racism” card – some serious flaws

Marina Hyde‘s article in the Guardian this week pinpointed a critical problem with current thinking on this issue of racism.

Firstly, the Romalu Lukaku chant is rude, crude and deserves to be banned from football stadiums where the focus should be on the Beautiful Game.  It’s just not suitable for a recreation that anyone should be able to enjoy, especially kids.

However, the arguments that Hyde uses in the article are deeply flawed and likely to promote a backlash.  Here’s the nub of her logic: “the trouble with supposedly positive stereotypes is that they tend to be accompanied in the minds of those who hold them by distinctly less complimentary ones.  Time and again research papers have showed you couldn’t have one without the other: people who saw Asians as great at maths also thought they were cold and remote, and terrible drivers.”

By calling compliments  “racist” and threatening punishment, these politically correct aficionados are effectively undermining the central premise of our judicial system: “innocent until proven guilty“.  Yes, by all mean, if the chanting or behaviour turns ugly against group of people take appropriate action.  Yet to infer that praise for a particular individual who happens to be an Asian, woman, African, whatever… must mean there is a dark reservoir of hatred lurking beneath is ludicrous.  They are attempting to police thought!

This erroneous principle enunciated by Hyde seems to extend, for her, to all corners of behaviour/human interaction: “It may come as a shock to the system for men given to paying a certain type of compliment but when women heard men praise them for conforming to one positive stereotype – being ladylike, for instance, or nurturing – they stated they were more likely to think the man also held negative stereotypes about them. And why wouldn’t he? He’s a stereotyper. Stands to reason he does it both ways. He may not be saying them out loud but they’re there.”

Hang on – what if the woman really is nurturing, caring for other members of a team or clearly demonstrating a wonderful compassion towards her own children?  What’s the negative flipside of being ladylike that she’s so anxious to avoid?  The word means “wellbred, decorous woman or girl”, so to me that seems straightforward appreciation for a female displaying pleasant manners.  In fairness, I can see how this “compliment” could be abused in certain situations (sinisterly implying the “lady” should be seen, not heard) but I can also think of other circumstances where it’s only meant as genuine praise (i.e. someone who doesn’t engage in vulgar, drunken antics!).  Of course, there’s a deeper issue here as sections of our society seek to abolish any notion of gender difference, which is probably even more damaging.

To compound this error of attempting to police thought and assuming the worst about anyone who utters words that are not deemed PC anymore, there is a terrible arrogance in this sneering attitude, which will only fan the flames of resentment.  Who are you calling a racist?  That’s not what I meant!  By generalising about this particular issue surrounding the Lukaku chant, it’s only going to alienate more individuals who are being accused of a crime without any evidence.

There needs to be some humility and realism here.  We should all examine our assumptions: “take the log out of your own eye before removing the speck from someone else’s” (Jesus – Matthew 7:3-5).  The greatest teacher ever also warned: “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you cross land and sea to make one convert, and then you turn that person into twice the child of hell you yourselves are!” (Matt. 23:15).

There’s a serious danger in zealously promulgating half-baked ideology on others, adopting a position of “right-on” smugness at the perceived failings of those who haven’t studied psychology and allegedly don’t have a clue about what goes on in their minds.  A little knowledge truly can be dangerous.

In fact, we should all remember that before God’s holy and perfect standard, we all fall woefully short.  But, hallelujah, our Lord Jesus Christ still loves us and gave His life for us.  I need to realise that first about myself before I can dare to point others to the Truth. Any other approach is doomed to failure. We’re all messed-up but there is abundant grace to cover our failings and leads us to be who were created.

Sporting Success is a Cruel Mistress

This week saw the return of proper Champion’s League football as the group stages kicked-off and the pressure on all those competing ratcheted up.  As I listened to the “build-up” and subsequent commentary on 5live, I was struck by the impossible expectations clearly in evidence.  Everyone seemed to agree, and repeatedly stressed, that success for Tottenham (the club under the microscope yesterday evening as they played Borussia Dortmund) must involve actually winning something – being runner-up again was not good enough and the squad would inevitably fall apart without a shiny trophy to kiss.

Now, there are six teams in England’s Premier League desperate to win any of only five available trophies.  Manchesters United & City; Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham and Liverpool can only hope to win the Premier League, FA Cup, League Cup, Europa League and/or Champion’s League.  Realistically, real fulfilment will only be provided by either triumphing over 38 games in the domestic league or beating Europe’s best in the arena of Champions.  In fact, Louis Van Gaal was sacked by United after ONLY winning the FA Cup in 2016!

Turning to the Manchester clubs for a moment, they both face the same insatiable demands for silverware and, arguably, their imperative is even more acute given their stratospheric transfer and wage bills. Notably, Pep has yet to win anything in England and failure will not be tolerated by City’s fabulously wealthy owner, Sheikh Mansour.  For United, fresh from triumph in the Europa League and League Cup, there is a burning desire to prove themselves on the biggest stage.

Meanwhile, in London, Arsenal’s FA Cup last season was seen as very much an inadequate consolation prize, especially as they missed out on Champion’s League qualification.  So, the pressure is definitely on Wenger – at least from the fans.  Chelsea’s Premier League title was an outstanding achievement last season but, as Claudio Ranieri discovered back in February 2017, previous accolades count for very little if present form is deemed inadequate.

Let’s think about this situation: six clubs desperately chasing five trophies, only two of which really matter.  Lots of individuals will be bitterly disappointed and the fallout will be brutal.  Surely this set-up is madness.  It is ridiculous when you think of how we’ve become so accepting of this cut-throat competition where a manager is deemed to have failed and loses his job if he misses out on a prize by the width of a crossbar, or a referee’s mistaken penalty decision.  The title of this article is an understatement: Sporting Success has become a Tyrant!  We need to allow our teams to compete with realistic expectations where we are more interested in the performance and entertainment factor, rather than the result.

Some thoughts on Zoe Williams’ comments

Once again a Guardian columnist has reacted to the latest example of a Christian in the public sphere speaking-up about what they believe with scorn and numerous mistaken assumptions. Zoe Williams’ “You ain’t no Catholic, bruv” is riddled with inaccuracies and shows a lamentable lack of research.  Here’s the lowlights:

1) professing Christians should speak out more about poverty and a failure to do so invalidates their comments on other (sexual) matters: “It’s all sodomy and foetuses”. Yes, we should be concerned about the impact of government policy on the poorest and most vulnerable in our society, but Williams cannot just quote one verse (Acts 4:34) and assert that this proves the silence of politicians is damning.

For starters, the early Church realised that charity and care for one another happened best in a context of community, where individuals were accountable to one another and shared common beliefs. They were concerned enough about what might be termed “scroungers” or “benefits cheats” to warn thieves to stop their bad habits and “do something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need” (Eph. 4:28). Although I don’t think some of the terms used in this debate are helpful, I’m more alarmed by the failure of Labour & co. to challenge this root cause of poverty. In fact, the Bible even gives this simple rule: “if you don’t work, you don’t eat” (2 Thes. 3:10 – only applying to those who are able to work, of course).

Of course, the Scriptures also say much about promoting social justice with the concept of Jubilee where every 50 years debts were to be written-off. Another example is Leviticus 23:22, which introduced to our world the practice of gleaning whereby those who were struggling to find work could collect leftover crops from farmers’ fields after they have been commercially harvested or on where it was not economically profitable to harvest. This actually became a legally enforced entitlement of the poor in a number of Christian kingdoms. Christ Jesus frequently encouraged his followers to display compassion and care to those who were less fortunate, which today is reflected in the amazing actions of CAP (Christians Against Poverty).

However, it’s a very difficult task to draw lessons from the Bible for how to govern a secular society in terms of intervening to forcibly redistribute wealth.  Christ’s teaching was aimed at challenging individuals to respond to the needs around them with their own resources, working together with like-minded peers. Managing the welfare state is a very different proposition.

2) the propensity of Christians to speak out about and criticise ruinous government policies on marriage and abortion: “Nobody wants Rees-Mogg in their bedroom, even if only in his imagination.” Well, on these issues the Bible is crystal clear and there really should be no debate. On marriage this foundational truth is set out in Genesis 1 – God “created them male and female” – and reiterated by Christ Jesus in the gospel – “what God has joined together, let not man separate”. Concerning abortion, Rees-Mogg is right to say that life is sacrosanct and should be protected from conception: “You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb” (Ps. 139:13). This insight was thousands of years ahead of its time and has recently been beautifully illustrated by ultrasound scans.

What makes these principles so difficult to accept is sin – selfish desires that rebel against the Creator’s plan and prioritise feelings above everything else, without considering the consequences for others. Why should an unborn child suffer for the choice(s) of those who conceived him or her?  A true Christian society would provide all the support and encouragement for vulnerable mothers-to-be, even in the most challenging circumstances (i.e. incest, rape), to see through the pregnancy to term.  Then, there would be sensitivity and compassion shown if a decision to put the child up for adoption was saved.  Of course, those kinds of situations are incredibly rare, even in the United Kingdom today, and are a drop in the ocean of death – 185,824 abortions were carried out on women and girls in England and Wales last year, the highest figure in five years.

Whilst Williams’ focuses on the more challenging questions (for pro-life activists) of incest and rape, how would she respond to the likes of Ann Freudi (CEO of BPAS) who openly support abortion on any grounds, including gender, and the fact the UN Population Fund estimates there are more than 117 million girls missing in Asia as a direct result of sex-selective terminations?  Did she speak-up in defence of Aisling Hubert who sought to expose doctors in the UK willing to abort babies because the parent(s) only wanted a boy?  This courageous campaigner found her private prosecution hijacked by the Crown and was then ordered to pay massive costs to those law-breaking abortionists! How on earth is this not the most outrageous discrimination?

3) what the Bible actually says about looking after God’s creation: “ardent environmentalism [is a position that it is] anachronistic to find Biblical grounds for, but I think we can easily enough imagine having God’s approval.”  This displays shocking Scriptural illiteracy.  Adam and Eve are commissioned to be “stewards” of what the LORD crafted for them to enjoy, caring for the earth and fulfilling its creative potential.  The Psalmist David perceives that the world belongs to God and displays His glory: “Let the sea resound, and all that is in it; let the fields be jubilant, and
everything in them! Then the trees of the forest will sing, they will sing for joy before the LORD, for he comes to judge the earth” (1 Chronicles 16:23).  Given this understanding, clearly God expects us to look after what He has made and is utterly appalled when trash what declared “good”.

4) “homophobia has a curious, expansionist tendency: it is never enough to simply think less of a person for their sexual preferences. There is always an undercurrent of wanting to prove that disapproval with violence, or the turning-a-blind-eye thereto” – really?  Firstly, what does Williams mean by “homophobia”?  This seems to include all criticism and objection to homosexual activity.  If so, that’s like saying that everyone who thinks Christians are – for example – mutton-headed sheeple also wants to beat them up.  Surely not!

Now, according to “Ditch the Label“, who produce a comprehensive annual survey conducted only amongst students. in 2017, 50% of those bullied say it involves attitudes to their appearance; 19% say it relates to them getting high grades, and 14% say it’s because of household income. Only 4% report being bullied because of their sexuality. The clear inferences is that you are far more likely to be bullied because of your body shape, for wearing glasses, achieving academically or for having red hair than whether you are gay or transgender. It would seem this agenda has, quite simply, been hijacked by LGBT rhetoric with money and training being poured into stamping out a mere 4% of the problem!

It’s this “us and them” mentality, the plea for privileged treatment and claim to unique victim status, as seen in Williams’ article, that actually is causing frustration and resentment to grow in our society.  David Sergeant, reflecting on the redefinition of marriage in the UK to help those balloted on Australia about a similar change, lists a number of alarming consequences that have emerged since 2013 that make for terrifying reading.  However, I know that true Christians will remember the words of Jesus Christ – “love your enemies” and “pray for those who persecute”.  So, that’s exactly what I will do: plead with the One who is able to do immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine, for His mercy upon those like Zoe Williams who misrepresent Christians, so they can advance their own agendas.  May they see the Light that gives Life and turn from the road that leads to destruction.