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.

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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.

 

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.