Stop the Tax Dodgers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Digging deeper into the “flat earth”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Fifty years of legalised murder

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Crucifixion in Saudi Arabia?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Brexit “divorce bill”

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

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

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

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

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

Playing the “racism” card – some serious flaws

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sporting Success is a Cruel Mistress

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

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

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

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

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

Some thoughts on Zoe Williams’ comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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!