Why I fear the “phobias”

All too often, when someone wants to introduce another “phobia” to our lexicon, they fail to fully appreciate the dangers this brings.  Witness the latest debate about “Islamophobia” and those lambasting the government for delaying any decision because of its “potential consequences for freedom of speech” and that the combination of race and religion would cause “legal and practical issues”.

Whilst I have profound sympathy for those who spout hatred at Muslims and would be one of the first to argue against anyone who compares people to an “infestation” that causes “mayhem wherever they decide to invade”, I still think we must understand why the concept of “Islamophobia” requires “further consideration”, as the government are rightly doing.

By saying this neologism is just a “working definition”, proponents like Nesrine Malik fail to appreciate how other such pejorative labels have been used to muzzle debate and shoot down any who dare criticise an ideology, most notably homophobia.  Take, for instance, the case of Felix Ngole, whose fate as a social work student is to be determined by a court of three judges, all because of politely-presented comments he made on Facebook presenting what the Bible says about homosexual practice in Leviticus (and, of course, elsewhere).  Or the vilification of rugby player, Billy Vunipola, for asking anyone who would listen to look again at Israel Folau’s social media post and understand the context behind why Christians warn people about the reality of hell and the need for repentance from specific sins.

Turning to a different “phobia”, what about the UK tax researcher – Maya Forstater – fired from her senior researcher job at a think tank for tweeting that “men cannot change into women”.  Listen to how LGBT ideologues has moved far beyond defending victims of prejudice to become persecutors: “I support transgender people’s human rights and I believe that trans people are vulnerable, but no one group should overrule others. I lost my job for speaking up about women’s rights, in a careful way and in a tone of ordinary discussion and disagreement. I worked for a think tank and I thought you ought to be able to think and talk about things. I found out I was wrong about that.”

That’s why we cannot trust Labour MP Naz Shah’s protestations: “Let me put this to bed once and for all: this is a non-legally binding working definition, which is why that assertion is simply plain stupid.”  After all we’ve seen in the last 20 years (there are so many other cases I could cite) does she seriously expect us to believe that this would be the end of the matter?

Whilst there are downsides to people speaking freely, the consequences of trying to use the law to muzzle words (except in instances where they directly incite violence) are much more pronounced.

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All lives matter

Pause for a moment and think of the world’s most endangered ecosystems, the living organisms at greatest risk from man’s rapacious self-interest, our decisions to let nothing restrict our pleasures or stand in the way of what we construe as essential to our happiness.  Who suffers the most from our selfishness and greed?  Is it the polar bear, whose ice caps are melting due to climate change?  Or the Sumatran orang-utan, which has lost about 80% of its population in the last 75 years, their forests chopped down to make way for palm oil farms, and is reduced to an alarming 6,600 apes?  Or even the Amur leopard, whose numbers are thought to have dwindled to mere double digits, just 70 creatures?

Of course, we should be concerned to protect these critically endangered species but why do so many who wax lyrical about the lives and futures of these animals say nothing about the threat to unborn babies in the womb from abortion, the self-interested choice of parents to terminate the life of their offspring?  You see, the most endangered ecosystem is not the Amazonian rain forests but the human womb.

Social Justice Warriors bemoan the lack of sacrifice for future generations, the oppression of the poorest and most vulnerable on society… yet say nothing about the monstrous injustice of abortion.

Listen to the “Extinction Rebellion” protestors calling on Britons to “honour the Mother Earth”, brandishing signs declaring “business as usual = death” and claiming “I love people as I love the world and I want it to prosper”. Why can’t they see the relevance of these sentiments to the scandal of abortion?  How much more should we respect, cherish and honour life in the womb or recognise that pursuing our own selfish pleasures without any checks leads to innocents being terminated.  Plus, how can your love for people and planet not extend to those who are defenceless and friendless?

Maybe you think abortion is a relatively small problem and eminently justifiable in extreme circumstances.  Well, globally, there are 125,000 abortions every day – that’s an estimated 40-50 million every year, according to the World Health Organisation.  This no tiny drop in the ocean but justifiably described as a Holocaust or genocide.  Moreover, only 1-1.5% of abortions are actually “hard cases”, terminations where the reason reported is rape or incest – even then why should the innocent baby be punished for the crime of one parent?

What if the mother’s life is at risk?  Again, this is actually extremely rare.  While he was U. S. Surgeon General, Dr. C. Everett Koop stated that in his thirty-eight years as a pediatric surgeon, he was never aware of a single situation in which an unborn child’s life had to be taken in order to save the life of the mother.

If we are serious about safeguarding future generations and defending life on earth, we must stand-up against selfish, convenience abortions and challenge the lies of a lobby that profits from encouraging promiscuity.  We need to be consistent: we must campaign to see tough actions taken that protect our planet AND the tiny little baby in the womb.  All creatures of our God and King deserve better.  All lives matter.

Are facts really sacred for The Guardian?

Once again, the framing of abortion by mainstream news sources is deeply problematic. Adrian Horton in The Guardian online, “It’s not a little child: gynaecologists join the fight against six-week abortion bans”, quotes Dr Jen Hunter’s description of a fetal heartbeat as the “throbbing of some human tissues”, which is never challenged and renders the article seriously faulty.

You could, for example, describe an adult “heartbeat” mechanistically (and reductively) and the result would look very similar: the valves between chambers in a body’s internal organ snapping shut, making a thumping noise. However, that fails to capture exactly what is happening and the unique human life being sustained. Never once does the article mention the amazing fact that a “fetal heartbeat” is throbbing up to 121 times per minute.

There is also no reference of the Democrat-backed bills to allow effectively unrestricted abortion up until birth, most notably in New York, which illustrates the refusal of the pro-abortion lobby to see any shred of humanity in the unborn baby and celebrates their destruction.

The closest to any sort of “balancing” viewpoint is underneath in the “Related Stories” section where there is a link in “related stories” to the story of one person who supports “heartbeat bills”, Janet Porter. However, most of the article sets out to discredit her by association other controversial issues (homosexuality) and persons (Ray Moore), rather than actually quoting any arguments for defending life from the moment of conception (or the “heartbeat” being detected).

For example, the “zygote” (formed when sperm fertilises egg) is composed of human DNA and other human molecules with a genetic composition that is absolutely unique, different from any other human that has ever existed, including that of its mother (thus disproving the claim that what is involved in abortion is merely “a woman and her body”).

In that fraction of a second when the chromosomes form pairs, the sex of the new child will be determined, hereditary characteristics received from each parent will be set, and a new life will have begun.

Moreover, at about 22 days after conception the child’s heart begins to circulate his own blood and at just six weeks, the child’s eyes and eye lids, nose, mouth, and tongue have formed. None of this is mentioned in either article.

Finally, a survey of U.S. obstetricians and gynaecologists reported in February 2019 found that while nearly 3 out of 4 had a patient who wanted to end a pregnancy in the past year, fewer than 1 in 4 were willing and able to perform one themselves. How representative are the views of Dr Jen Hunter, which the Guardian article presented as authoritative and incontrovertible. Note the views of Dr Donna Harrison: “We have two patients: both the unborn child and the mother. As physicians, we’ve taken the Hippocratic oath… So we don’t kill our patients.” That is just one example of a perspective that could have provided an important balance to Adrian Horton’s one-sided propaganda piece.

We must ask again how committed are Guardian journalists to their “Facts are sacred” dictum and how concerned they really are about fair, balanced journalism.

Don’t dare quote the “abomination”

I’m truly saddened by how orthodox Christians beliefs are being subjected to all-out assault by those in positions of authority.

You may have heard in the news this week about Australian Rugby player, Israel Folau, almost certain to be sacked by his club and country for saying “hell awaits drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolators” — adding they should “repent” as “only Jesus saves.”

Of course, outlets such as the BBC only focused on one small section of people that stand condemned by the warnings of Scripture “gay people”.  Fornicators, incidentally, is anyone who has sex outside traditional, male-female marriage but somehow the reality of what the Bible says is lost in the caricature.

An English rugby player, Billy Vunipola, defends Folau’s stance, calling for people to “live their lives how God intended” and saying “man was made for woman to procreate”.  He will be spoken to at the earliest possible opportunity by his rugby bosses for what is seen as utterly indefensible.  Whatever happened to free speech and religious liberty?

Away from sport, a student social worker is on the verge of being completely expelled from his profession for arguing what the Bible clearly teaches – that homosexuality is a sin.  Apparently, according to the case for the prosecution, Mother Theresa would not be deemed fit to practise social work in modern Britain.

To be clear, “Counsel for the University of Sheffield said that Christian views on sexual morality could never be expressed in a public forum, at a meeting, in a newspaper article or on any social media. She said that the social work profession would need to consider whether such speech may be permissible in a church or Bible study group, but that was a decision for a later date – the implication being that such views will not be permissible even within the walls of a church.”

Lord Jesus, we lift up this tragedy to you.  We pray for our courts, our politicians and our nation to see that Christians must be free to express what your word clearly teaches.  Lord, we tremble for our society if they choose to persecute your Body, the Church, if they opt to silence the voice of truth.  We pray that they would see the Light and repent of their addiction to darkness, to shades of grey and despicable deeds.  Lord, may the abomination that causes desolation be cast out of your holy temples and may truth, righteousness and justice reign.  Have mercy, Lord Jesus, on sheep who are straying and sleepwalking into destruction.  Awaken them from their slumbers and lead them in the Way of life.

Just consider for a moment – we as Christians sincerely believe what the Bible teaches, most importantly that salvation is found in Christ Jesus alone.  We would betray our conscience if we kept quiet about all the things that we are certain lead to eternity without God, a punishment that far outweighs anything the courts of this world can mete out.  Crucifying Jesus and his disciples, or throwing them to the lions could not stop the spread of this revolution over the last 2000 years.  Is this a fight a society bitterly divided by Brexit, social deprivation and myriad disunities really wants to pick?

Revoke Article 50

Democracy is a beautiful gift.  About 3.822 million at time of writing have signed a petition “Revoke Article 50” and keep Britain in the European Union.  As the clock ticks down to a new Departure Day of 12th April, all those who believe that:

a) the 2016 Referendum was fundamentally flawed, dominated by spurious claims, false promises and Russian propaganda

b) the Brexit negotiations and Parliamentary process towards Leaving have been even worse than anybody feared, involving near-meltdown of our Parliament and a huge pile-up of issues that desperately needed resolved but for which there is no time amidst the shenanigans of “May’s deal or no deal or…”

c) “the people” have a right to change their minds – you cannot use one faulty plebiscite from nearly three years ago as carte blanche for the dog’s breakfast that has become Brexit.

d) we must find ways to make our voices heard and this petition represents a brilliant opportunity to show the strength of feeling, the earnest and sincere desire that exists across this country, to end this madness and Remain in the EU.

If not now, when? We’ve watched the politicians make such a hash of Leaving but maybe the 2016 Referendum set them up for failure.  Can you just walk away from decades of shared history and deepening integration between our economies and societies?  Did anyone clearly explain how preserving peace in Northern Ireland would lead to an indefinite backstop that seems to please no-one?

You know, one of my big regrets was not saying enough before the Brexit vote, assuming that the majority would be able to see what was clear to me that one country negotiating with a bloc of 27 would be fiendishly complex.  I thought the logic was inescapable but now I realise more than ever that we must fight against what are dangerous delusions.

Surely now we know much more and it’s time to unite and plead with our politicians to do what is best for our whole nation – from Belfast to London, Kirkwall to Penzance. Please sign the petition and do whatever you can to stop this madness: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/241584.  Imagine if 17 million signed this petition – our MPs could definitely not ignore that mother of all messages!

Fixing Facebook?

It’s been a little over a year since Mark Zuckerberg announced his focus for the year was to “fix Facebook”.  Apparently, this mission will take 36 months to achieve that target.

Whilst I believe much of the many anti-Facebook pundits are very biased and the politicians who jump on the bandwagon just love to find a scapegoat to distract from there failure, there is one key issue.  You cannot fix Facebook because the problem is ultimately how the human beings use the tools technology offers.  As long as hearts are hardened against love and minds closed to truth, there will always be outbursts of hatred and malice.  Too many people worship technology as a panacea and fail to appreciate the limitations of even the best app or coolest gadget.

In terms of Facebook, you can and should keep improving the code to encourage better behaviour and remove dangerous content more promptly.  Governments can introduce sensible but realistic regulations, just as the European Union devised emissions targets for reducing pollution from cars, which gradually are becoming tougher over the course of time.  Yet we must all accept that there will always be issues and posts that slip through the net (generally because individuals actively are working to “game” the system and find the loophole).

What a tragedy if we destroy a new technology with amazing potential simply because we are unable to manage the inevitable downsides and dangers.

Brexit – here we go again

Sadly, no-one seemed to read my previous thoughts on how to break the Brexit log-jam.  I can understand the reluctance of MPs to countenance another referendum on the issue – yes, it is more delay and has the potential to turn tumultuous. However, given last night’s astonishing events where May’s deal was voted down by a historic margin of 230 votes, Parliament needs to seek a fresh mandate from the people to deal with this monumental issue.

In effect, MPs should “test the will” of the people and confirm if they really want to leave the EU on the only feasible terms – May’s painstakingly negotiated deal. Personally, I believe they will reject this Brexit but, even if they say vote to Leave again, at least we can all unite behind that and our MPs will have no excuse to vote it down. It’s surely the only way out of this deadlock.

This is not a second referendum per se because we would actually know exactly what we are voting for (or against!). Of course, maybe some sort of deal will emerge that commands a majority in the House of Commons but that seems highly unlikely. That means it’s either a General Election (which would be folly – would the result really be that much different?) or a fresh referendum on the EU.  I also think that this could establish a positive precedent whereby major constitutional changes – such as Scottish independence – cannot be decided on the basis of one referendum. Such upheavals should be only allowed based on a confirmatory ballot once the full terms of the deal are known.

To be honest, if I was in Parliament, I would have voted for May’s deal as a way out of the log-jam. However, if as is frequently stated by May it is that or “no deal” or “no Brexit”, then she should have the courage to go to the country and put that choice to us, given the huge ramifications. Brexit has sucked so much energy from fixing our public services, leading to a host of problems piling-up in the governmental in-tray. Do we really want to be responsible for “lost generation” where all political energies are consumed by this incredibly complex issue?

We have seen that the EU is more concerned with protecting the unity of the 27 and making Britain pay a price for trying to Leave, which from their point of view makes sense. Is the UK really ready to endure that suffering – job losses, reduced prosperity, public services slashed further – for a poorly-understood point of principle about sovereignty? Given that Leavers promised us we could “have our cake and eat it” and that we would frolic in “sunlit uplands”, no MP can make that assumption. A referendum would establish exactly how committed the people who will be most impacted by Brexit really feel about this whole project.

Christmas – it’s all about love actually

As Natalie once memorably said in that famous 2003 film “If you can’t say it at Christmas, when can you, eh?”  Well, she might have been referring to her love for the Prime Minister but surely there is a much greater truth that needs to be shared all year round, but is especially appropriate to dwell on at this particular time of year.

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You see, love did not magically appear out of some primordial soup.  Love is not some evolutionary trick to aid our survival.  Love is summed-up in the Good News: our heavenly Father, who created each one of us and placed us on this planet, did not want to see us destroys ourselves in orgies of violence, debauchery and reckless over-consumption.  No, He saw the mess that we made of the freedom He gifted us and knew the only solution was to send His precious Son.

Jesus Christ left the glorious riches of heaven, where He was worshipped and adored by countless angels.  He willingly chose to enter the darkness of a virgin’s womb, the divine becoming human and being born into the grotty squalor of stable.  You could not make this up.  Our sin problem was so serious but God’s rescue plan was even more audacious – the only way our world could be saved.  Yet the price He paid was everything, a lifetime of sacrifice, humility and toil culminating in the cross.

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That is the real love at the heart of Christmas, which we must never lose sight of and must always be ready to share.

 

Breaking the Brexit-jam

Whilst many are quick to mock those who offer only “thoughts and prayers” when another tragedy unfolds, I believe they deride what they do not understand and dismiss the one weapon that has won countless seemingly impossible battles.

The apostle Paul urges us to offer-up “petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving” for “all people” with his first specific example being “those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” (1 Timothy 2:1-2)

As we survey the seething mess that is Brexit and Westminster at the moment, all I can offer is prayer: may the LORD God Almighty guide our politicians to a way forward that is just, beneficial for everyone and promotes peace across our nation.  May our MPs be given grace and wisdom to work together, putting aside petty rivalries and sacrificing egos for the sake of our society.  May Westminster serve as an example of how democracy and compromise can break an impasse.  May Britain be able to move forward together and focus on fixing the numerous problems that blight communities.  O Lord Jesus please have mercy on the United Kingdom, rescuing us from crisis and leading us to a place of stability and positive relationships with our neighbours.

I was encouraged to read recently of Franklin D. Roosevelt‘s words to the American public on D-Day, the invasion of continental Europe to overthrow Nazi tyranny: “because the road is long and the desire is great, I ask that our people devote themselves in a continuance of prayer. As we rise to each new day, and again when each day is spent, let words of prayer be on our lips, invoking Thy help to our efforts.”  

Many people today look back at the heroism of our ancestors, wondering how their towering achievements were made possible.  Surely, the answer must be their faith in the One and Only LORD God Almighty and their earnest prayers for His blessing.

Of course, Brexit is very different from D-Day but I’m struck by that call to prayer from the leader of a great country, just as I was to hear of the Bishops of the Church of England releasing this statement: “In the light of this week’s turbulent events, the bishops of the Church of England pray for national unity – and courage, integrity and clarity for our politicians…”  Amen.

Lord Jesus, please help our political representatives to agree the best possible way forward, so we can live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.  I thank you that you are able to do “immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine” (Ephesian 3:20).  I trust that you will deliver us.

Next steps for Brexit?

This is the perplexing question of our time and I would like to offer some thoughts on the subject.

1) To claim that the UK should not be permitted a second referendum because the will of the people was clearly expressed in June 2016 is just plain wrong.  We know that the Leave campaign was riddled with dodgy claims, such as the ludicrously misleading £350 million per week claim that (as of 29th September 2018) apparently 42% of the British public still believed!  There is also the issue of Russian influence and interference, which is repeatedly swept under the carpet but must have been significant with such a close referendum result.

Most significantly, the 52% did not know exactly what they were voting for and were promised dazzling, bright “sunlit uplands“, a land flowing with the milk and honey of freedom from constraints and a trade bonanza.  Just take a look at these claims, which have been exposed as utterly hollow.

So, that’s why we should have another vote to confirm the will of the people.  We can clearly see now how complicated and costly untangling ourselves from the EU will be.  In terms of the price paid, please note that already we have lost the equivalent of £500 million per week due to the decision made on 26th June 2016 and our actions since.  Government forecasts suggest that the UK economy would be 9.3% smaller under a “no deal” best case scenario after 15 years, than if we stayed in the EU.  Surely, very few people voted to be poorer and those who did were certainly not considering the interests of those are most vulnerable in our society and subsist on the breadline.

2) Nevertheless, I can see the merits to accept May’s Brexit deal for now, working towards “near-frictionless trade” with the EU and keeping the “Norway-style” option as a “Plan B” if a bespoke arrangement does not emerge from the negotiations.  There are clear benefits to leaving the EU in terms of fishing and agriculture, which are hardly being mentioned at the moment but are important to many communities across the UK.

We have probably lost so much already in terms of EU agencies and bank HQs that have relocated away from the EU, maybe we should persist on a sensible, gradual uncoupling from Brussels and pursue the opportunities this bring, whilst seeking to maintain as much of our trading relationship as possible.  I can see that a second referendum would be very disruptive, though if Parliament is deadlocked then that will become the best way out of the impasse.

Mind you, how much of the current Westminster inertia is based on lack of an overall majority for any one party and what chance is there of a General Election delivering a more decisive, satisfactory result?  There is also some doubt about whether the UK can unilaterally revoke Article 50 and easily maintain our current EU membership.  Moreover, if there the first referendum result was reversed, would too many people feel betrayed and disillusioned by British politics, sowing the seeds of future discord.  Yet again, we can see the merits of May’s Brexit deal and only wish that she was better able to sell this across party lines…

3) Whatever happens, we must learn from this shambles.  Referendums are complex, emotive and divisive.  They do not solve issues but simply unleash mayhem.  They are a distraction from the serious and important business of government.  Think of how much could have been accomplished in the last 30 months if we were not so distracted by Brexit.  Is the price of a spurious vision, “Britannia Unchained”, truly worth the uncertainty and chaos.