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.

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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.

 

Answering Owen Jones’ questions

I recently came across this article by Owen Jones raising certain interesting questions about God. Happily, Jones acknowledged that he was a “former university roommate of an evangelical” and I hope this means others have attempted to answer his queries, but here’s what I would say:

Why is God “hidden from view“? Actually, the Bible teaches that God’s invisible attributes, His power and glory, are clearly revealed in the immensity of His creation. Atheists have a much greater challenge trying to explain how a universe of such complexity, beauty and scale suddenly came into being ex nihilo (out of nothing). We have never observed spontaneous generation of any matter, so why should we assume that’s how our world began?

If God was in plain sight, then we would have no free will. It would be obvious and no-one would rebel against the Deity they can see with their eyes. God does not want unthinking robots to serve Him but those who choose for themselves. Therefore, he gives us enough clues and signs to believe, without beating us into submission. Remember, this life is only for a relatively short time; eternity is forever.  As the Bible says “anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him” (Heb. 11:6). God cannot be found in dry, detached academic study but must be discovered by sincerely praying to Him and learning from His words in the Bible.

Most marvellously, God came down from heaven to reveal Himself in Christ Jesus – “the Word made flesh” (John 1).  Later in that article you draw an equivalence between all religions but Christ is utterly unique.  No other leader willing submitted to be crucified on a cross (and rose again three days later, as recorded by over 500 eyewitnesses).  Whereas Muhammed spread his dogmas through violence and conquest, Christ was completely different: “love your enemies; pray for those who persecute” (Matthew 5).  These were not just words but realities lived out repeatedly in the most testing of circumstances.  God is not “hidden from view” but much closer than you think.

How can God be “omnipotent and perfect”, whilst granting “free will“?  As already explained, the King of Kings does not rule by force, compelling submission, but through love, inviting obedience.  Whilst you might use your freedom to ridicule the concept of a deity, many more people whom God has made have, are and will engage in acts of kindness that delight our heavenly Father.  Mainstream news always concentrates on the negatives, as acknowledged by your colleague Simon Jenkins, but there is so much more happening as mothers patiently nurse their children, farmers work together to feed their villages, old enemies learn to forgive one another.

I remember when contemplating becoming a father  struggling to imagine what it would be like helping to bring another human being into this world who could become anyone.  What if he brought me great grief and heartache?  Was sent to prison for murdering someone else’s precious child?  What reassured me most was that God faced this same dilemma and chose the path of life.  Clearly, He knows that evil is time-limited and will one day be swept away in Judgment as all of us are accountable to Him.

Which leads onto your third main question about that “eternity of damnation“.  Ultimately, if we are to be given free will, capable of choosing good or evil in this life, then there must be some accountability mechanism or wickedness would run rampant.  If you think about it – who are we to argue with the One who crafted us and gifted us this wonderful world in which to live?  In your ideology, the likes of Hitler, Stalin and Mao who murdered millions got away with it and escaped justice.  Not so if you believe in the God of the Bible.

Related to this was your offhand caricature of the Old Testament deity “casually engaged in smiting”.  Now, God “takes no pleasure in the death even of the wicked, but rather that they turn from sin and live” (Ezekiel 33:11).  Nowhere in Scripture is there any evidence to the contrary.  Where His judgment does seem severe, there has been great evil.  For example, in the land of Canaan that was to be conquered and cleansed by Joshua and the children of Israel, the natives for hundreds of years were sacrificing their children to Moloch, burning them alive before idols.  They were given numerous opportunities to repent but they refused.  Note also that this was one specific, isolated incident in the Bible that gives no precedent for any future actions and is designed to warn the Israelites how God will punish sin.

Then, of course, you bring up that God “demanded men who have sex with men be executed” (Leviticus 20:13).  This is a difficult question but notice that it is the “detestable act” itself, not merely feeling the desire, that is being censured. I’ve written elsewhere about how highly the Bible prizes male-female marriage and that’s why the punishment for perverting his perfect plan, and leading others astray, is so severe. Remember the warning is crystal clear and there are no recorded cases of this ever being followed through, meaning that the children of Israel actually listened to this command. That’s also why Jesus never directly mentions this verse because homosexuality was not an issue in Jewish society. On the other hand, Paul who preached to the Gentile/Greek world clearly did encounter these issues and spoke out forcefully on the subject (Romans 1:18-27).

So, this leads onto another article you published just a few days ago in response to Dr Michael Davidson, or as you ridiculed him “the gay cure quack“.  Nowhere in your article do you actually engage with his arguments and his record of providing treatment, instead preferring to dismiss his views as beyond the pale. However, has Jones even read the actual testimonies of those who have sought the “counselling interventions for unwanted same-sex attractions.” Their stories are as harrowing as Jones’ friend, the ex-crystal meth addict, and even more so because no-one is giving them a platform to share their experiences. In fact, they would be horribly trolled and shouted down, just as Mike Davidson was called a “stupid old bigot”, if they spoke out.

Here’s just one testimony of a media agency director, aged 40 and a Cambridge graduate who professes no religion: “Having sought in vain to find happiness in gay-affirming society and active gay life over the course of 20 years, I finally discovered the truth about myself, and deeply satisfying alternative solutions to my relational and life problems. This was by working with a Core Issues Trust therapist for about two years, who helped me to move away from inauthentic, unhealthy and destructive homosexual relationships, and towards infinitely more fulfilling and meaningful relationships, that are leading to lasting happiness and profound spiritual growth.

I believe I was born a heterosexual man and I do not identify with gay culture, and I don’t want to engage in gay life any more. I have the right to pursue truth and happiness as I understand it; and that is what this therapy has allowed me to do.

I find it unacceptable that bigoted, intolerant people are seeking to disallow others their truth and their happiness, by seeking to ban this type of therapy; effectively telling people like me that I don’t know what’s good for me, and that their world view should dictate how I live my life. How intolerant, how patronising and how ignorant!

I am an educated professional who did not find happiness in the gay life, but instead disillusionment, sickness and a lie. Now I have sought out and found my own truth and happiness, with the help of a kind, respectful and trustworthy therapist who accepts me just as I am, where I am, and who is supporting me – without imposing any agenda – as I strive to be the person I want to be. I sought this therapy out for myself, and I am more satisfied than I ever was in the gay life.

What right has the Church of England Synod to ignore other world views, to take my happiness away, and to tell me how I should live my life?”

You see, Owen Jones, when are those voices ever listened to? Dr Davidson is not arguing for anyone to have therapy forced upon them, but simply pleading for a chance to treat those who willingly and voluntarily come to him for help. Your agitations to close down the debate and completely ban this kind of support are actually harming vulnerable individuals. Don’t hide behind the smokescreen of “personal” and “private beliefs”, trying to limit what can be expressed where, because that is just another form of thought control.

Ultimately, I think the reason you refuse to respond in faith and repentance to Christ Jesus is because you wish to cling to your homosexual identity. That matters more to you than truth, love and justice. To type that is (for me) a heart-breaking conclusion. However, I hope and pray that you will discover the light of Christ and stop walking in darkness.

 

 

 

What’s really going on?

Why on earth is Jeremy Corbyn still Leader of the Labour Party and potential future Prime Minister of the United Kingdom?

On Venezuela, he refused to directly criticise his old “socialist” ally, President/Dictator Nicholas Maduro who has locked-up political opponents, unleashed police violence against desperate protestors and sought to bypass democracy by rigging elections to a new body that aims to re-write the constitution. Corbyn could only manage a feeble objection to “violence… by all sides”, completely ignoring the reality of what it must be like to live in increasingly impoverished communities that are not being served by their government and have no means of redress. His moral equivalence on this issue bears comparison to Trump’s reprehensible comments after the outrages in Charlottesville, USA. How would Corbyn react if his Labour colleagues in the UK were incarcerated and the House of Commons bypassed as the primary decision-making body of our nation?

Then, there is his lamentable failure to stand-up for Sarah Champion, hounded out of her job as shadow minister for women and equalities for simply stating the facts: “Britain has a problem with British Pakistani men raping and exploiting white girls.” Instead, he accused her of “demonising” a “particular group”. Maybe the ex-minister could have expressed herself a little more carefully but she was rightly outraged and upset about a cancerous culture in our society.

Sarah Champion argued insightfully that people are “more afraid to be called a racist than they are afraid to be wrong about calling out child abuse.” We’ve become so obsessed with political correctness and avoiding truths we find offensive that we’ve allowed evil to advance unchecked. It’s easier to look the other way but the results are tragic. We should be shocked and appalled that so many Asian men have been involved in these grooming gangs and ask (sensitively, yet searchingly) why? Social workers from Rotherham who raised concerns about the safety of children from these predators were instead sent on “anti-discrimination” courses. What is going on?

Firstly, we must address the rampant sexualisation of society, especially our young people. We need to restrict online pornography, which is easily available and frequently encountered by Primary age children (at least 44,000 individuals, according to 2013 research). Similarly, one NSPCC survey found 65% of 15-16 year olds have seen pornography. The harm caused is increasingly well-documented and contributes to people being viewed as sexual objects for someone else’s gratification, rather than precious human beings. Another example of this is the sickening practice of “upskirting”, which England and Wales don’t even have proper laws to prosecute. Of course, the “raunch” culture expounded in music videos where skimpily-clad, almost-naked women, especially the artists that girls idolise like Katy Perry, strut their stuff must also be tackled. Then, we should be zeroing-in on those parents/carers who let their children roam free on the streets, encountering all kinds of dangers, without any proper supervision or debriefings.

Back to those Asian gangs. There is an insightful article on this issue back in 2010, which demonstrates how entrenched this problem has become. Perpetrators of this horrific child abuse apparently referred to their victims as “white trash”, which sadly echoes the views of the Prophet Muhammed who claimed that the “majority of the dwellers of Hell-fire were women” because they “lack common sense.” Note, moreover, the numerous reference in the Islamic writings to Muslim soldiers being permitted (even encouraged) to have sex with female captives and slaves, who “their right hands possess”. This rape would have, of course, often occurred after male family members were murdered as Islam was spread by the sword. It’s disturbing that there is so much ignorance about the roots of this religion.

So, what needs to happen? Well, ultimately, as individuals, communities and nations, we must come to Jesus Christ who is the Prince of Peace, the Lord of love, who rejects utterly what is evil and rejoice in all that is good. He is the one who welcome little children, fiercely warns against anyone who would lead them astray and insists that sex is only for marriage. When we see the moral filth, bitter hatred and vile abuse all around us, wouldn’t we rather embrace His path of righteousness? Same initials as Jeremy Corbyn but a world of difference!

Forcing diversity?

I was really disappointed to read that Google fired an employee who wrote an internal memo questioning the utility of their policies on gender diversity.  He argued that perhaps tech companies that try diversity programmes to get more women into the industry are looking at things the wrong way.

It’s not just because of recruitment practices or education or discrimination that more men than women work in the tech industry, he contended, but because of biological differences.

Women are “on average more interested in people” as opposed to things, he claimed, “more co-operative” and “more prone to anxiety” – all things that stop them going into the tech industry or rising to the top of it.

Moreover, he said this couldn’t usually be said by people who worked for Google, because of an “ideological echo chamber” and a “shaming culture and the possibility of being fired”.

Well, that last point proved true, but what about the wider thesis?  There does seem to be evidence supporting his arguments and please note the crucial caveat – “on average”.  Of course, there are exceptional men who flourish looking after children and women who love coding, but that’s not the norm.  Any speculation that there is absolutely no biological component to these kinds difference, especially given the blindingly obvious fact that women have mammary glands, has never been proven and is purely hypothetical.

Over time, all the efforts made in schools and companies to remove any obvious barriers to employing women (i.e. childcare, work placements) should bear some fruit but there should never be any direct, positive discrimination – hiring a less able woman simply because of her gender and to make the ratios look better on company audits.  That’s an insult to everyone and totally counter-productive.

Incidentally, I’m not sure about the “more prone to anxiety” comment but this former Google employer is merely trying to articulate a position we urgently need to hear.  If society keeps trying to destroying a key very foundation on which our personhood and identity is built, male and female bodies, then we will be causing untold damage and misery.  It’s like Canute trying to hold back the tide.

I would urge you to read the employee’s actual memo.  I sincerely hope that this case is taken to an employment tribunal and some sense starts to prevail in these matters.

Thinking about self-building? WARNING

Please read this if you are thinking about self-building.  There are so many pitfalls and risks that you really need to be aware of what could happen.  Keep your eyes wide open and don’t let smooth sales talk and breezy optimism mask what could cause your costs (and stress levels) to spiral.

I know this is very different from the usual content of this blog but I feel so strongly that it’s important to warn people about these dangers, so I’m willing to share my personal experience and I hope you can learn from this, if you find yourself in a similar situation.

I live in Elgin, Scotland, and I applied for a self-build mortgage, making exploratory phone calls to find out how this all worked from December 2015 onwards.  It soon became clear that there was very little competition in this market and I would be forced to deal with Buildstore to access the finance necessary for my self-build.

Due to the fact I’ve remortgaged my current home and have some savings, I did not need any upfront capital to purchase the land or pay for architect/planning fees, but I thought it was important to secure a measure of certainty regarding funding the full project.  Working with my budget I required a self-build mortgage of £220K (of a total £420K), which was all explained to Buildstore.

Of course, I paid my £600 brokerage fee to Buildstore (plus various other valuation and application fees to Newcastle Building Society totalling an additional c. £1500) and I was swiftly accepted (significantly quicker than I was led to believe).  The focus of my complaint is that I was never once properly informed, until at least £1000 of fees were paid, that I needed to start drawing down the self-build mortgage from – at the latest – THREE MONTHS after the mortgage offer was made.  Moreover, another reason that I was “rushed” into applying for the self-build mortgage with NBS was that the advisor told me that the deals were all due to be refreshed at the end of February – he claimed that the interest rates and terms could/would all worsen, advising that I apply before the deadline to lock in the 4.99% “Accelerator” product.

Admittedly, at this stage, mid-to-late March, I was fairly confident (as a complete novice in these matters and going on the upbeat sales pitch of our architect) that we would be actually building by this point, so the money would be required shortly thereafter the 23rd June date for releasing the first £80K from the mortgage (80% of the land value and non-negotiable).

However, by mid-October 2016, with winter fast approaching, the project is now out to tender with various builders and I am paying £332.67 EVERY MONTH in interest (thus far totalling £1,330.68).  After the Bank of England reduced their base rate to 0.25%, I contacted NBS to ask if they could reduce their rate by a corresponding amount – to be told the sum was fixed, which admittedly was in the contract but (to my mind) demonstrated contempt for their customers.

It should also be noted that – as a condition for my self-build mortgage – NBS demanded that I take out site insurance for what is STILL merely a plot of land, costing £1132.  All that has happened on site have been a few hours of exploratory test digs to work out how best to put in foundations.  Afterwards, the hole was filled right back-up.

Between January and March 2017, the ground works were finally completed, costing about £46K (considerably more expensive than the £30K that we were advised by the person who sold the plot).  We were still able to cover this with our original funds, not using a penny of the money that we continued to pay such extravagant amounts of interest on.  Even the first payment to the builder for the actual construction of the house, £70K paid in June 2017, a year after the Building Society lent the £80K, we could still have met with our own monies (thanks to a very generous gift from my father-in-law).

If we’d been properly advised, I would have sought Buildstore’s services over one year after I actually did.  Given my experience, they seem far too eager to lure in customers, without any appreciation of the risks and then take no responsibility if things do not go as anticipated.

So, to summarise my complaint against Buildstore:

– poor advice resulting in self-build mortgage application made much earlier than necessary and costing me serious amounts of interest paid to a company that has no concern for the plight of their customer.

– terms of self-build mortgage, specifically the THREE MONTH window from application accepted to funds transferred and interest accruing, not properly explained and warned about.

What of Newcastle Building Society?
– typically, residential mortgages are very flexible but – for some reason – their self-build mortgages (I’m not sure if this applies to other providers?) seem designed to milk as much cash from their customers as possible, making building projects much more difficult than they should be.

– why am I paying for self-build site insurance when nothing is happening on my plot?  I simply cannot fathom the logic of this charge and I’m outraged that there is not a more tailored approach to individual customer’s unique circumstances.

It’s also disappointing that I’ve pursued this complaint with the Financial Ombudsman (FO), the fact at least two companies are involved in the financing means they can duck any blame.  They also claim to know little about actual house build – why should they be expected to foresee the problems, is their defence to the FO?  Well, they are lending the money, making these projects possible and I think they should take some of the risk (or at least properly advise against the potential pitfalls).

To sum up… please, ask the awkward, difficult questions before starting a building project.  Don’t accept anything less than a proper quotation in writing as actual evidence of what your plans will cost.  Be careful – it’s a jungle out there!

NB – 25th September 2017: my complaint was rejected by the FO on their strict criteria for regulating companies.  This week I discovered that the 4.99% two-year interest rate switches to 5.99% SVR on 31st January, adding yet more money to the scam that is Newcastle Building Society.  Even though the loan wasn’t even drawn down till the end of June 2015, the timing on the product recommended by Buildstore started to tick down before the actual application was submitted at the end of February.  The build is very unlikely to be finished before the interest rate hike and the interest paid to NBS is now nearly £5,000.  Ridiculous!

Hated, reviled and destroyed

Who are the most abused, victimised and persecuted group of human beings in the world?  Who are the most oppressed in our society today without any voice of their own and virtually no rights in law?  Who is consistently ignored by politicians, news media and the general public?  Surely, when you dig a little into the horror that is the abortion industry, you must conclude that unborn babies face this horrendous injustice.

Once again, the UK government has legislated to undermine the rights of unborn babies, promising to fund abortions for Northern Irish women travelling across the Sea to seek a termination, undercutting the laws in Ulster that protect these vulnerable, innocent babies.  Why?

Well, proponents claim that this will primarily benefit those who are adjudged by medical professionals a “non-viable” pregnancy – these are the cases publicised and designed to extract maximum sympathy.  Whilst this must be a truly awful prognosis to receive, does that justify murder?  Consider that doctors do make mistakes, as demonstrated by (amongst many others) this case of Jett Morris who “survived for five weeks in the womb after his mum’s waters broke when she was just 20 weeks pregnant. He was born prematurely at 25 weeks weighing just 1.4lbs – less than a bag of sugar – and has now grown into a healthy one year-old.”

Then there’s the instances of women who have survived breast cancer and given birth to healthy babies, again defying prevailing medical opinions.  There is lots of research into exactly how pregnancy and cancer interact with some evidence suggesting that the former can actually help against the latter.

Note that in Northern Ireland currently, an abortion is offered if “a woman’s life is at risk or there is a permanent or serious risk to her mental or physical health.”  That’s clear and unambiguous, rightly stating what should be the only permissible reason for this last resort.  The sad fact is that as “health” is virtually impossible to define, a woman who is even mildly upset that she is pregnant can abort her child under this ambiguous phrase, which is the only legal check in Scotland, England and Wales.

For all the other objections raised to restricting the “choice” of women, pro-life defenders blow their arguments out of the water but are systematically ignored by the mainstream media.  For example, did you know that cases of “rape or incest” account for less than 1% of all abortions in the USA – yet for the amount of coverage they receive, you would think this was an epidemic.  Yes, the zygote (created at the moment of fertilization) is unique being that is distinct from the mother; he or she has 46 unique chromosomes and is internally driven to grow into more mature stages.

So, just because the foetus (technical term for baby from nine weeks) cannot speak for themselves and is dependent on their mother, doesn’t mean they can just be destroyed without any thought for the consequences.  A baby also requires round-the-clock care but no-one (thankfully) suggests a mother should be aided and abetted to get rid of what might be perceived as an unwanted nuisance.  I am deeply saddened that our politicians are increasing funding for and access to state-sanctioned murders whilst, for example, we cannot seem able to properly fireproof our buildings.

There have been about 1.5 billion babies aborted worldwide since 1980, a mind-boggling number that dwarfs the Holocaust, Stalin’s purges and the “Killing Fields” of Cambodia.  Let’s speak, work and pray for true justice.

What is church all about?

Apparently, Mark Zuckerberg has been suggesting that Facebook could fill the gap in people’s lives left by the decline of churches, as well as other organisations: “A lot of people now need to find a sense of purpose and support somewhere else.”

Peter Ormerod‘s article in the Guardian gives an excellent critique of this proposition to which I would only add – the true Church is not driven by money or profit.  Facebook made $10 billion in 2016 but followers of Christ are not concerned about building a bank balance.  Instead we seek to share the greatest news of all time for free – Jesus died for sinners, that includes me and you, so that we might be able to enjoy life in all its fulness.

Peter, Paul and company were not motivated by garnering the most likes or creating the grooviest of memes, but were ready to die for what they believed would transform the world from darkness to light.  God’s gospel declares to those who recognise their spiritual poverty: “release to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind; to set free those who are oppressed; to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favour” (Luke 4:16-21).

The mission of Facebook – “to bring the world closer together”.  Not quite the promise of salvation. Of course, social media is a great tool that does connect people and can help accomplish much good, but what is of much more importance is what motivates our hearts.  Only Christ Jesus, working through His people (aka the Church) offers to perform the radical surgery that truly changes and redeems us.

 

Increasingly illiberal

For those who watched leader of the UK Liberal Democrat, Tim Farron, give his resignation speech and question just how liberal Britain actually is, I sincerely hope that his words resonated, penetrating the fog of hazy assumptions about the supposed superiority of secular humanism.  In the words of a man who has been hounded and persecuted for his faith, finding such a prominent position in public life impossible to maintain: “we are kidding ourselves if we think we yet live in a tolerant, liberal society.”

What a sad indictment.  This one man’s political fate is only the tip of an iceberg. I have previously written about the vilification of Andrew Turner, which ultimately also led to his resignation.  Two Christians in the House of Commons both being forced out in the space of a couple of months is not a blip, but a wider trend in our society where disagreeing with the recently inaugurated status quo is the ultimate sin.  No-one is allowed to mention that, for example, 61% of HIV infections are accounted for by 2% of the gay population in the USA or that 29% of adult children of homosexual parents had been specifically subjected to sexual molestation by said person who should be caring and protecting them.

Another very recent instance of an attempt to close down the debate on issues deemed too sensitive to challenge is abortion.  Thankfully, an Ontario judge rejected an attempt to hide abortion statistics from the public, stating that there was no justification for suppressing information vital to having an informed debate on a matter of life or death.  I thought liberals liked Freedom of Information and believed in reasoned discussion, based on the evidence.  Clearly, that’s only the case when the facts suit their prejudices.

I could go on, but I’m sure you see the problem.  What kind of society are we really creating and what horrors are we storing-up for ourselves and future generations because we refuse to listen?