Friday, 28 June 2013

Stand Up and Fight...

I see that the Holyrood SNP political elite is determined to press ahead with legislation to legalise same sex marriage. Indeed, it would appear that anyone who is a supporter of the current definition of marriage is in danger of being labelled as ‘homophobic’ or intolerant in the same way as racists and other extremists are labelled.

As a former teacher of history and modern studies, pupils frequently asked me for my views on a whole variety of issues. I always tried to give an honest answer, stressing that the view being explained was my personal view and that others would take a different position on the issue in question. I always emphasised that a fundamental tenet of democracy is that we defend the right of fellow citizens to hold different and often contrary views to our own.

I was therefore deeply concerned when I read Andrew Whittaker’s report in the Scotsman earlier this week stating:

“Teachers who oppose same-sex marriage could face disciplinary action if they speak out against it, under government plans to legalise gay weddings, a senior SNP figure has said.

The warning from Nationalist MSP John Mason comes as the Scottish Government this week prepares to formally introduce its Marriage and Civil Partnership Bill at Holyrood. Mr Mason claimed teachers who oppose gay marriage could end up being “persecuted” if they state their position on the issue at school.

Tim Hopkins, of the Equality Network, said: ‘Schools will deal with same-sex marriage in the same way they deal with divorce, which some teachers also personally disapprove of. Teachers would need to confirm the facts of the law, and must be supportive and fair to all pupils regardless of their family background, but no teacher will be required to say that they personally approve of divorce or same-sex marriage.’

Scottish Green co-leader Patrick Harvie said opponents of gay marriage should not ‘use their position to promote homophobia’.

Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association acting general secretary Alan McKenzie said the union would ‘encourage our members to watch what they say at work.If somebody made racist comments they’d be in danger of disciplinary action and it’s no different from that’.”

If the current situation south of the border is anything to go by, assurances from politicians mean nothing as Christians continue to be persecuted by the ‘PC Fascists’. Recently the case of a Christian teacher was raised by Lord Dear in the House of Lords.

A teacher from London is under investigation because she refused to give a lesson telling children that all opponents of gay marriage are homophobes. The unnamed teacher didn’t think that it was a “fair characterisation of the debate”, she says, but is now under investigation at her school.

Quoting from the teacher’s letter during a debate on same sex marriage, Lord Dear said: “The head teacher investigated the incident and concluded there was no case to answer. Another colleague, who is also a union rep, then followed up the complaint, and has formally raised additional concerns about my Christian beliefs and my membership of a church.

The union rep has demanded an investigation of my beliefs and my membership of the church, and whether it had any negative impact on my job as a teacher. That investigation process is currently underway, and at the time of writing I do not yet know the outcome”.

I wonder if the teacher would have been treated in the same way had she been a Muslim ?

For too long, Christians, both locally and nationally are now reaping the harvest of decades of craven and divided leadership which has been indifferent to the advance of secularisation in Scottish society. Surely the time has come to stand up and fight.

In the 1930’s Pastor Martin Niemöller wrote about the sloth of German intellectuals following the Nazis' rise to power and the subsequent purging of their chosen targets, group after group. Evangelical Christians should take note of this poem.......they might be next !!!

First they came for the communists,

and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.

Then they came for the socialists,

and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,

and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,

and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew.

Then they came for the Catholics,

and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Catholic.

Then they came for me,

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

‘Digital Dementia’...No Thanks

Since the day Mrs Wiselmo and my daughters purchased various models of the iphone 4, I’ve been feeling a little out of things. Although my mobile is one step up from a brick, I’m really happy with it because I rarely use it, and when I do it’s for phone calls only. None of this ‘net surfing’, ‘Facebooking’, ‘Twittering’, ‘apps’, texting and social networking for me.

I am however intrigued by the use of this type of technology as I see ever increasing numbers of people, usually younger, spending hours of their daily lives talking, texting or using the internet via their phone. The proliferation of phone use has even added a new word to the English language.......’nomophobia’.....fear of being out of mobile phone contact.

In February 2012, the Telegraph reported on a study of 1,000 people in employment which focussed on mobile phone use. Commissioned by SecurEnvoy, the data reveals some really interesting facts and trends about the nation’s growing attachment to phones:

·         two thirds of those surveyed fear losing their mobile phone

·         70 per cent of the women surveyed worry about losing their phone 

·         61 per cent of the men surveyed worry about losing their phone

·         47 per cent of men have two phones 

·         36 per cent of women have two phones

·         Young adults aged 18-24 are the most ‘nomophobic’

·         The least ‘nomophobic’ is the over own age group.

While I find the whole idea of ‘nomophobia’ no more than mildly amusing, recent research flagging up the possibility of ‘digital dementia’ needs to be taken very seriously.

Julian Ryall, writing recently in the Telegraph has pointed to recent research in South Korea, one of the most digitally connected nations on earth. According to Ryall ‘digital dementia’ is, ‘a deterioration in cognitive abilities that is more commonly seen in people who have suffered a head injury or psychiatric illness.’

Researchers have identified a link between the over use of computer games and other platforms and devices to the development of ‘digital dementia. The Balance Brain Centre in Seoul maintains that: ‘over-use of smartphones and game devices hampers the balanced development of the brain.............heavy users are likely to develop the left side of their brains, leaving the right side untapped or underdeveloped. The right side of the brain is linked with concentration, and its failure to develop will affect attention and memory span, which could in as many as 15 per cent of cases lead to the early onset of dementia. Sufferers are reported to be emotionally underdeveloped, with children more at risk than adults because their brains are still growing.’

According to Julian Ryall, ‘the situation appears to be worsening, doctors report, with the percentage of people aged between 10 and 19 who use their smartphones for more than seven hours every day leaping to 18.4 per cent, an increase of seven per cent from last year.’

Last year German neuroscientist Dr Manfred Spitzer’s book, "Digital Dementia" warned parents and teachers of the dangers of children spending too much time on their laptop, mobile phone or other electronic devices.

As a Christian and an educator, I am crucially aware of what is required to promote healthy brain and spiritual development in the young. Dr Spitzer has sounded a timely warning.

We should pray that parents and teachers will have the wisdom and strength to enable children to make proper and healthy use of their computers and phones.


Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Real Happiness

At the age of 82, Bernie Ecclestone is thought to be worth around three billion pounds. Widely considered as the main authority in Formula One racing, he is frequently described by tabloid journalists as the "F1 Supremo".

His first involvement with motor racing was in 1958 as a competitor. He entered two Grand Prix races as a driver but failed to qualify for either of them. He then managed various drivers eventually buying the Brabham F1 team in 1972 and running it for fifteen years.  He was also a member of the Formula One Constructors Association.

Ecclestone’s control of the sport grew from the sale of television rights in the late 1970s. Today his companies manage the administration, setup and logistics of each Formula One Grand Prix.

Sadly, wealth and power does not seem to have brought a life of happiness and contentment to Bernie Ecclestone. Controversy has never been far away.

In 2005 he caused outrage with women when speaking about Indycar racer Danica Patrick, remarking: "You know I've got one of those wonderful ideas ... women should be dressed in white like all the other domestic appliances”.

In a Times interview in July 2009, Ecclestone stated: "apart from the fact that Hitler got taken away and persuaded to do things that I have no idea whether he wanted to do or not, he to get things done."

He also said that his friend Max Mosley, son of British fascist leader Oswald Mosley, "would do a super job" as Prime Minister, adding, "I don’t think his background would be a problem."

Ecclestone is currently facing the prospect of up to up 10 years in prison. He has been charged with bribery by federal prosecutors in Germany, relating to the sale in 2006 of Formula One by German bank Bayern LB to CVC Capital partners.

In a recent newspaper interview he is reported as saying: 'If I get sent to jail I will have to deal with it. But I don't think I will like it very much.’

Writing in the Mail Online, Jill Reilly reported today that: “The 82-year-old is worth an estimated £3billion, but claims that his fame and fortune have not bought him joy.  'I am not sure what happiness is. What do those feelings mean? I have experienced satisfaction when I have planned something and it has come off. But happiness ?...... I am not so sure”.

As a Christian I feel desperately sorry for Bernie Ecclestone. To reach the age of 82 with all the accrued wealth and power and yet be unsure about ever having experienced  happiness, is bleak in the extreme.

The Bible has a lot to say about happiness. Psalm 1 verse 1 says: "Happy are those who don't listen to the wicked". Additionally, the book of Nehemiah in the Old Testament says, "The joy of the Lord is our strength”.

Finally, regarding wealth, Matthew’s Gospel is pretty direct when it says: "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal.  But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also".

I am neither wealthy nor powerful, but I am most certainly happy because I know where my heart is. Where is your heart Mr Ecclestone ?


Monday, 24 June 2013

Valueless Parenting

As the father of 2 girls now grown up, I can truthfully say that the role of parent is one of the most difficult and demanding that I have had to undertake. Neither Mrs Wiselmo nor I had any training for the job. Apart from advice and encouragement from parents and friends we ‘muddled through’ by our own efforts. By the grace of God our girls have grown up to be well adjusted, successful good citizens.

For the last twenty years the government has offered parents assistance and advice in their role through its ‘Positive Parenting’ programme.

‘Positive Parenting’ advises parents to focus only on positive aspects of their children's behaviour without criticising or punishing negative behaviour. This approach, which has been adopted as the official parenting guideline by the UK government, instructs parents to be constantly positive. According to the programme, children develop and continue to exhibit behavioural problems when there are poor parenting skills and insufficient positive reinforcement. The idea is that a child who receives enough positive reinforcement will not misbehave.

Recently however the 20 year old state sponsored policy that children should not be punished has been robustly challenged by LSE academic and barrister Helen Reece in her report ‘The Pitfalls Of Positive Parenting’. 

In his article in the Mail Online Steve Doughty reports that:

“Her report, in the journal Ethics and Education, says that failing to reward or punish a child gives them no chance to make a choice between what is right and wrong.

 ‘Parents should be left to trust their own instincts,’ she said. ‘I am not saying what they should do, whether to punish or not to punish, or to smack or not to smack. I am saying they should be themselves.

‘We all have times when we are tired or grumpy and we don’t want to play, and sometimes we should be able to say I want to watch a film or talk to my friend.’

She added: ‘Positive parenting means the authorities can always find ways in which the parent’s own behaviour is lacking. And if any of us were observed for any length of time, we would be bound to transgress. The Government should not be putting parents under pressure by issuing parenting advice. Parents should trust their own intuition.

‘Positive parenting is arduous, if not impossible, and can be damaging because it sets parents up to fail.”

Other academics seem to agree with this view. As a former secondary depute head teacher who had to deal with a growing minority of pupils with behavioural problems, it is clear to me that some had only ever experienced poorly implemented positive parenting. As a result they were morally bankrupt.......incapable of making sound ethical decisions with behavioural patterns based on impulse not reason.

As a Christian I know that there is much better child rearing advice than any government can offer in the Bible. In his letter to the Christians in Ephesus, the Apostle Paul said: “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord”, and in the Old Testament, the Book of Proverbs exhorts parents to: “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it”.

The Biblical advice worked for my children....they know the difference form right and wrong.

‘Positive Parenting’ leaflets/brochures should be immediately placed where they the nearest dustbin!

Betrayed Jesus.

Reminiscent of the late Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s betrayal of the people of Czechoslovakia in 1938, are the 350 Church of Scotland evangelicals who met in Perth recently and voted to remain within the Church of Scotland. In doing so, they cravenly broke all unity and solidarity with their brothers and sisters in Christ of the evangelical congregations who had already left the denomination.........effectively ‘hung out to dry’ and abandoned.

The decision to remain in the Church of Scotland was announced in a press release which reads: “Many evangelicals within the Church of Scotland are deeply concerned about the current crisis over the ordination and induction of those in same-sex civil partnerships. Some have left the Kirk and others are considering doing so.

Today in Perth there was a large gathering of 350 evangelicals from the Church of Scotland (ministers, elders and members). The result of this was the formation of a network of evangelicals who have made the clear decision to remain in the Church of Scotland and to work for its reformation and renewal. We believe that the Church of Scotland remains an important vehicle for reaching the whole population of Scotland with the Gospel and, despite recent decisions, believe that God is still at work among us. We also believe that we can remain with integrity.

We urge others to join with us and to remain in the Church of Scotland, as we seek to restore and rebuild our Church.

Our vision for this network of evangelicals within the Kirk will be developed over the next few months.”

An Economist article on May 25 anticipated some defections from the denomination, predicting: “It is still possible that the Kirk will divide formally into traditionalist and reformist synods. But its leaders suspect that tempers will cool as the slow process of changing church law grinds on, and that most will stay put. As David Fergusson, a divinity professor at Edinburgh University, notes, the vote means enough traditionalists have “crossed the Rubicon” to some acceptance of gay clergy. Those who remain are a minority.”

As a born again Christian I like to be absolutely clear about language and meaning, and for me, this means ‘calling a spade a spade’.

Accordingly, in the context of the Economist article above, the ‘traditionalists’ are those who are ‘born again’ and who accept the Bible in its entirety as the infallible Word of God. The ‘reformists’ are the liberal thinkers, who do not accept that the Bible in its entirety is the infallible Word of God and are not born again other words they are not Christians!

Sadly, by choosing not to follow the congregations which have already left the Church of Scotland, the so-called ‘Evangelical Network’ will, as the Economist article says, remain a minority.

From the press release, it would appear that the leaders of this Church of Scotland Evangelical Network are: Rev Professor Andrew McGowan, Alistair Morrice, Kenny Borthwick, and Colin Sinclair. They all spoke at the Perth meeting and seem to have had a major input into the unfortunate outcome.

There is clear guidance on the matter from the Bible. Writing to the Church in Corinth, the Apostle Paul said: ‘Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness’.

Whether ignorant of the scriptures, or deliberately choosing to ignore Biblical truth, the Church of Scotland Evangelical Network ought to be ashamed. History shows that those who betray the genuine people of God always end up being consigned to the dustbin of history.


Friday, 21 June 2013

Uncovering Abusive Churches

Following on from yesterdays’ blog, I have listed some simple questions to assist in discerning whether a church is acting in an abusive manner. The  questions come from the book:  Recovering from Churches That Abuse, by Professor Ronald Enroth, Grand Rapids, Michigan, Zondervon, 1994.

If the answer to a majority of the questions is ‘no’ the church is abusive.....leave immediately. If you are in need of advice contact this blog. Be encouraged, there is life after spiritual abuse.

1. Does an individual’s’s personality generally become stronger, happier, more confident as a result of contact with or membership of the church?

In an abusive church, the use of guilt, fear, and intimidation to control members is likely to produce members who have a low self-image, who feel beaten down by legalism, who have been taught that asserting oneself is not spiritual.

2. Do members of the church seek to strengthen their family commitments?

Nearly all unhealthy churches attempt to minimize the commitments of their members to their family, especially parents. Church loyalty is seen as paramount.

3. Does the church encourage independent thinking and the development of discernment skills?

Controlling leaders attempt to dictate what members think. Where a pastor or leader is viewed as God’s mouthpiece, it minimises a member’s decision making and ability to think for oneself.  Pressure to conform and low tolerance for questioning make it difficult to be truly discerning.

4. Does the church allow for individual differences of belief and behaviour, particularly on issues of secondary importance?

An emphasis on keeping rules and a focus on the need to stay within prescribed boundaries is always present in unhealthy spiritual environments. Lifestyle rigidity in such churches increase a member’s guilt feelings and contributes to spiritual bondage. This rigidity is often coupled with an emphasis on beliefs that would not receive great attention in mainstream evangelicalism.

5. Does the church encourage high moral standards both among members and between members and non members?

In intense churches and religious organizations, the official, public proclamations usually place special value on high moral standards but iIn some instances, there is a double standard between those in leadership and those in the rank and file membership.

6. Does the church’s leadership invite dialogue, advice and evaluation from outside its immediate circle?

Authoritarian pastors are usually threatened by any outside expression of diverse opinions, whether from inside or outside the group. When outside speakers are given access to the pulpit, they are carefully selected to minimize any threat to the leadership’s agenda. Coercive pastors are fiercely independent and do not function well in a structure of accountability.

For the sake of public relations, they may boast that they are accountable to a diaconate of some sort, when in actuality it is composed of “yes-men/women” who do not question the leader’s authoritarian behaviour.

7. Does the church allow for the development in theological beliefs? 

Another hallmark of an authoritarian church is its intolerance of any belief system different from its own. They tend to measure and evaluate all forms of Christian spirituality according to their own carefully prescribed system, adopting an “us-versus-them” mentality.

8. Are church members encouraged to ask hard questions of any kind? 

A cardinal rule of abusive systems is “Don’t ask questions, don’t make waves.” A healthy pastor welcomes even tough questions. In an unhealthy church disagreement with the pastor is considered to be disloyalty and is tantamount to disobeying God. People who repeatedly question the system are labelled “rebellious”, “unteachable”, or “disharmonious to the body of Christ”. Persistent questioners may face sanctions of some kind such as being publicly ridiculed, shunned, shamed, humiliated, or dis-fellowshipped.

9. Do members appreciate truth wherever it is found even if it is outside their church?

Whether they admit it or not, abusive churches tend to view themselves as spiritually superior to other Christian groups. This religious elitism allows little room for outside influences. There can be no compromise with external sources, who, the leadership will say, really don’t understand what is going on in the ministry anyway. Members are actively discouraged from participating in any events and organisations unless approved by the pastor and leaders.

10. Is the group honest in dealing with non-members, especially as it tries to win them to the church?

Sometimes abusive churches illustrate a “split-level religion”. There is one level for public presentation and another for the inner circle of membership. The former is a carefully crafted public relations effort, the latter a reality level experienced only by the “true believers”. A healthy Christian group should have no qualms about revealing who it is and what its intentions are.

11. Does the church foster relationships and connections with the larger society that are more than self-serving?

First impressions are not always correct. Sustained contact with an unhealthy church, however, will usually reveal a pattern that is consistent with the characteristics identified above. Members will be requested to serve, to become involved, to sign up for a variety of activities that, upon closer inspection, appear to maintain the system and serve the needs of the leadership rather than carrying out the real mission of the church as outlined in the Bible.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

When Victims are Failed

While continuing my own research into the prevalence of spiritual abuse in Scotland’s institutional and independent evangelical churches, I carried out a web search. To date I have located no fewer than 35 websites (USA, Canada, Australia and the UK) dedicated to the matter of spiritual abuse. It is quite clear that this type of abuse is a major problem in the church. 

I was particularly drawn to the platform for the work of Dr. Barb Orlowski a Canadian Christian who lives in Langley, British Columbia.  A remarkable forthright and incisive lady, Barb’s doctoral research on the topic of spiritual abuse was published in a book called: 'Spiritual Abuse Recovery:  Dynamic Research on Finding a Place of Wholeness'.

Her book gives voice to those who have experienced spiritual abuse in their home church and how they recovered from this devastating experience. Her research gives insights into this complex and sensitive church ministry issue. Her book is a superb resource for caring church leaders and for those wounded by abusive and toxic churches and their leaders. I have personally found her work to be invaluable.

Professor Ronald Enroth’s definition of spiritual abuse is used by Dr Orlowski:

“Spiritual abuse takes place when leaders to whom people look for guidance and spiritual nurture use their positions of authority to manipulate, control, and dominate.... Whatever label we apply, spiritual abuse is an issue the Christian community must acknowledge and confront. It is far more prevalent and much closer to the evangelical mainstream than many are willing to admit.”

On the homepage of churchexiters website Dr Orlowski writes: “The spiritual abuse stories of people who have left their home church because of a negative and hurtful experience paint a picture of a widespread occurrence, which beckons consideration by church leaders and church congregants alike.”

Dr Orlowski then poses a series of highly pertinent questions which lead the reader to consider the health of their home church:

Are you grieving over circumstances in your home church?

Have you been hurt by the church-particularly by a church leader, like a pastor?

Do you feel like: you have no one to turn to in your church?

Do you feel like: you cannot talk about your church or leadership concerns or people will brand you as a gossip or a troublemaker?

Do you feel that: if word gets out to your leadership about your concerns, that you might be shunned or disciplined? Do you feel lonely?

Research reveals that some of the key elements in abusive churches are a lack of transparency and accountability by leaders.....pastor, elders and or deacons and an environment of bullying and intimidation.

Dr Orlowski asks the question:

“Why don’t we hear much about spiritual abuse?

If it is supposed that it is the individual or a couple who ARE the PROBLEM, then this matter can be dealt with privately, behind closed doors.  The individual takes the brunt of the situation, but the church leadership is never called into question and is seldom held accountable in any way.  The organization and its leadership are rarely included as a factor that might need to be considered in these concealed situations.

Many times, others in their church have no clue what has just happened or why these members are no longer attending. When a tale is spun about the cause of the situation being some kind of sin (that no one talks about) and church members are warned not to associate with these people, then the issue cannot be discerned as being spiritual abuse, but is considered a matter of ‘church discipline’–though very little information seems to be available.  The facts are hidden from view and the situation is now considered dealt with.

After an individual or couple have experienced harsh treatment by their leaders, they are usually so devastated that they can hardly grasp what exactly has happened to them.  Their usual posture is to go into seclusion and to try to process the extreme grief and confusion that they are experiencing.  Little support seems to be available to congregants by denominational overseers.  Overseers tend to favour church leaders, while those wounded in the church are left to suffer in silence without any hope of remedy.”

Dr Orlowski’s research is extensive and although based on churches in Canada, chillingly and accurately describes what is happening in some Scottish evangelical churches right now.

As a former public servant, I am all too aware of the need for external regulation in crucial areas such as health, education, and law and order. Sadly in some parts, the church seems to be either unwilling or ineffective in dealing with spiritual abuse.

Is it therefore time to consider bringing in a robust system of external regulation to promote transparency and accountability and to ruthlessly root out those ‘wolves in sheep’s clothing’, actively engaged in harming good people. It is surely not impossible to develop a non-state system of robust regulation tasked with investigating and dealing with abuse .

Finally, a major component in all forms of abuse is secrecy. At present, churches, mosques, synagogues and religious organisations are not subject to the Freedom of Information Act. Perhaps this legislation  should be extended to these organisations. After all, those with nothing to hide should have nothing to fear.   

Rain Again ?

One week to go before the start of the long anticipated Glastonbury Festival. This year is special because the Rolling Stones are playing. It could be a last chance to see the ageing rockers play a live set, so let’s hope that the rain stays off unlike some of our more recent summers.

Talking about the weather, yesterday afternoon’s Radio 2 phone-in had an assortment of people bemoaning the unpredictability of the weather in recent years. One family was so fed up with our summer weather that the parents had decided to sell up and move to California for the outdoor lifestyle and an average of 285 days of sunshine per year.

There are concerns at the highest levels about the weather. Scientists are currently meeting at the Met Office to try and understand the reasons behind last summer's washout and identify new priorities for research.

According to Matt McGrath, BBC News Environment correspondent writing on the BBC website, “over the past three years, British weather records have been under increasing pressure. The big freeze that gripped the UK in December 2010 saw the lowest temperature for the month in 100 years. Even the buzz of the London Olympics could not disguise the washout that was last summer, the second wettest for the UK since records began. Puzzled by these events, scientists from across the UK are meeting at the Met Office in Exeter to try to understand the reasons behind this run of what they term, ‘unusual seasons’.

They will also try to work out why this spring was the coldest in 50 years - with a UK average of 6C (42.8F) between March and May.”

As a born again Christian, I am convinced that God is in control, despite the unpredictable and sometimes catastrophic weather events which would appear to be occurring more frequently.  From the Bible I can see that God has used the weather to influence nations and individuals in the past.

The Bible teaches us that God will use severe weather events to 'speak' to the nations at the end of this age. Many Bible scholars agree that prophetic signs and the state of the world suggest the end of this age is approaching.

Am I worried ........certainly not! Those who trust in the Lord Jesus Christ are eternally safe in the hands of the living God. So I’m  trusting not worrying.....and if anyone reading this is worrying, perhaps they should consider turning to Jesus.  

And Glastonbury.......Sean Michaels writing in the Guardian last week advised, “pack your wellies if you're off to Somerset at the end of the month, because Glastonbury is probably going to be a little muddy. With two weeks to go before the festival begins, meteorologists are predicting a mixture of sun, cloud and rain.”

No wellies for me....I’ll be watching the Stones on telly from the comfort of my own living room with a glass of fine claret in hand.  



Monday, 17 June 2013

For Nigella

It was with a sense of pure disbelief, then outrage, that I viewed the photographs of one of my favourite TV chefs apparently being publically assaulted in a posh London restaurant. The person dishing out the pain and humiliation was not some ‘drug addled crazy person’, but wait for it....................yes it was none other than her husband, Mr Charles Saatchi, millionaire art collector.

Writing in the Telegraph yesterday, Alice Arno put this question: “Let’s just suppose you are in a restaurant. It’s lunchtime. It’s broad daylight. There are many other diners about and you are in a well-populated area. Then all of a sudden you see a couple clearly having a bit of a row. The argument gets a little heated and you notice the woman looking fearful. The man then puts his hand on her neck. What do you do? ........................The answer, apparently, seems to be nothing.

While people on the street walked past and a member of the paparazzi was in the vicinity taking photographs, no one thought it might be appropriate to intervene in any way.”

I listened to a debate about the issue of intervention on Radio 2 yesterday afternoon.

 Apparently there are two schools of thought:

The first says that non intervention should be followed on the grounds that information about the background to the incident is unclear and that any intervention might actually make matters worse for the (alleged) victim..............Sorry..... as a Christian I can’t buy that !!!

The second view is that fellow diners and waiting staff should have intervened. Indeed there was a moral imperative for them to do so.

As a Scot I like to think that the assault of a woman in a Glasgow or Edinburgh restaurant would be promptly opposed and faced down by fellow diners and waiting staff.

Polly Neate, the chief executive of Women’s Aid had this to say: “While it is shocking to see someone as high-profile as Nigella Lawson linked to an alleged attack by her partner, it is vital to remember that domestic violence is actually extremely prevalent, with one in four women being abused by a partner at some point in her lifetime.

Many women do not tell anyone because they feel embarrassed or ashamed. Having this story in the news is likely to resonate with many women currently living with abuse, and it is important to remind everyone that there is help and support out there.”

While women sometimes don’t speak up preferring to suffer in silence, their pain and anguish is noticed by God ! The Bible gives very clear advice to husbands concerning the treatment of wives.

In Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus, husbands are exhorted to: “love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendour, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church.”

Charles Saatchi take may be rich and powerful, but the living God who judges the living and the dead always has the last wise up, repent and start acting like the husband God intends you to be. Prove to the nation that you are a worthy husband for Nigella rather than the ‘prat’ that’s starring in the newspapers.


Miracle Urgently Needed

When Scotsman James Alexander Fleming developed penicillin in 1928, it was seen as a miracle cure which would deal with previously untreatable bacterial infections. Since that time a host of different antibiotics have been developed by scientists and successfully marketed by drug companies.

Routinely prescribed by doctors and vets, antibiotics are even added to animal and fish feed in order to ensure their continued health and the profits of the fish and animal farmers.

However, the age of the availability of a wide range of effective antibiotics is coming to an end.

According to the Washington Post in March 2012: “One of the most urgent global public health problems is the increasing capability of bacteria to resist antibiotic drugs. The crisis of antimicrobial resistance is particularly acute in hospitals, where superbugs able to resist multiple drugs have spawned. More than 70 per cent of the bacteria that cause hospital-related infections are already resistant to at least one type of antibacterial drug.

The spectre of a world without effective antibiotics has been looming for years, but recent evidence suggests that the superbugs are evolving ever faster. Meanwhile, the pipeline of new antibiotics is running dry, leaving some patients with no effective treatment for life-threatening disease.”

In March this year, Dame Sally Davis, the British Government’s Chief Medical officer warned that the “catastrophic threat” of antibiotic resistance should be seen as the medical equivalent of the war on terror or the issue of climate change. Failure to act could set healthcare and mortality rates back by 2 centuries unless urgent coordinated international action is taken.

Tom Chivers writing in the Telegraph said, ‘the Chief Medical Officer, who has very sensibly pointed out that resistance to antibiotics is a "ticking time bomb": unnecessary use of antibiotics, and the failure of drug companies to come up with new ones, could lead to a situation in which all the boring little infections that we thought we'd beaten suddenly become dangerous again. “If we don’t act now, any one of us could go into hospital in 20 years for minor surgery and die because of an ordinary infection that can’t be treated by antibiotics," she says, entirely accurately.’

Dame Sally and Chief Pharmaceutical Officer Keith Ridge are calling for tighter restrictions on antibiotic prescriptions by GPs and cooperation at international level.

The World Health Organisation has highlighted the causes of the problem which include: the lack of a comprehensive and coordinated response; weak or absent antimicrobial resistance surveillance and monitoring systems; inadequate systems to ensure quality and uninterrupted supply of medicines; inappropriate use of antimicrobial medicines, including in animal husbandry; poor infection prevention and control practices; insufficient diagnostic, prevention and therapeutic tools.

The mind boggles at a future where bacterial infections might be untreatable, and where only the brave or very foolish might be prepared to contemplate treatment as a hospital in patient. The tragedy is that this state of affairs has been self inflicted.

As a Christian, I’m an optimist because I know that God is in control. It’s when we turn to Him and put ourselves in His hands that miracles do happen. So let’s pray that our scientists and researchers receive wisdom and insight to remain one step ahead of the mutating superbugs.




Friday, 14 June 2013

C of S Double Standards

The Church of Scotland’s Israel bashing continued at the 2013 General Assembly. Despite being widely and angrily condemned by Jewish groups and the Israeli government as anti-Semitic and anti-Israel, the Church and Society Council report on Israel/Palestine titled "The Inheritance of Abraham? A Report on the ‘Promised Land,” was accepted by the General Assembly.

There was a lively debate about the theology and politics in the document, as well as about the friction the report caused between the Church of Scotland and the Jewish community. 

The Convener of the Church and Society Council Rev Sally Foster-Fulton, said:  “This is primarily a report highlighting the continued occupation by the state of Israel and the injustices faced by the Palestinian people as a consequence. It is not a report criticising the Jewish people. Opposing the unjust policies of the state of Israel cannot be equated to anti-Semitism..........The on-going conflict in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory has been an issue close to the heart of the Church of Scotland – we have a long relationship with the region and have many friends there......................The Church has kept on thinking about ways we can contribute to a just and peaceful solution.”

Meanwhile, the Church of Scotland........a supposed Christian organisation which claims the ‘Occupied Palestinian Territory is an issue close to the heart of the Church of Scotland’, has so far chosen to ignore the persecution of Palestinian Christians living in Gaza.

The Catholic Herald recently reported that five Church Schools are under threat in Gaza because of Hamas’s intention to extend its version of Islam throughout the territory. The writer of the Archbishop Cranmer blog has noted: “For some, this will be the first chill wind signalling what a Palestinian state dominated by Islamists will mean for Palestinian Christians. But such folk have missed warning signs going back many years.”

Back in 2005, the US State Department recorded abuse of Palestinian Christians by individuals and institutions, such as government and the police. The report noted:

“The PA judiciary failed to adjudicate numerous cases of seizures of Christian-owned land in the Bethlehem area by criminal gangs. There were credible reports that PA security forces and judicial officials colluded with gang members to extort property illegally from Christians. Several attacks against Christians in Bethlehem went unaddressed by the PA, but authorities investigated attacks against Muslims in the same area.”

Few attacks on Christians and their property by fellow Palestinians in both the West Bank and Gaza are reported by the Western media e.g. the kidnap and murder by Jihadists in Gaza of Bible  Society official Rami Ayyad ; the torching of the YMCA in the West Bank town of Qalqilya and church schools in Gaza.

Most information about the harassment and persecution of Palestinian Christians by other Palestinians comes from Israeli-Arab journalist Khaled Abu Toameh.  Risking his life, he reports on ‘corruption within the Palestinian Authority leadership, and the way in which Palestinian leaders talk peace for eager Western ears whilst inciting their citizens (in Arabic) to believe that their Jewish neighbour can be eliminated.’

He insists that the exodus of Christians from Palestine is not caused, as many including the Church of Scotland would have us believe, to the Israeli ‘occupation’, but to their increasing persecution at the hands of Muslim neighbours.

The writer of the Archbishop Cranmer blog notes further that: “One young Christian Palestinian woman – who had to flee her West Bank home because she dared to challenge the narrative that holds Israel responsible for all Palestinian woes – has spoken to audiences of all faiths and none in the UK and Europe about the unnecessary poverty and misery which years of mismanagement and corruption have brought to all Palestinians. She has also given accounts of the discrimination Palestinian Christians suffer at the hands of fellow Palestinians from both her own and her friends’ experience.

 At a recent meeting in the Midlands, she told how, earlier this year, a student was beaten up by his classmates in a classroom in front of a teacher, with no action taken against the perpetrators. His crime ? Refusing to give up his Christian faith and adopt Islam. She tells tales of the way in which she and other Christian students were sexually harassed by Muslim boys on their way to university because, unlike Muslim girls, they had to share public transport with the boys.”

I always thought that the church should stand for the truth and should always strive to protect the defenceless, particularly if they are people who stand for Christ ....after all that’s what the Bible teaches.

When will the Church of Scotland abandon its double standards, take a stand for truth and start supporting the real victims of persecution...... the Christians of the Palestinian Territories.

Let’s hope that more Scottish Christians will stand up to the untrue and unchristian Palestinian narrative being propagated by the Church of Scotland. Christians owe that to their persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ whom the Church of Scotland would appear to have chosen to ignore.  

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Dads Matter

I always look forward to Fathers Day in anticipation of enjoying the generosity of my two beautiful daughters. My appetite was whetted by an article entitled ‘Possible Fathers Day Gifts’ by Jolyon Attwooll in yesterdays Telegraph. From Jolyon’s extensive list, my top two gifts would be:

·         A tour of the Bernabeu Stadium, the home of Real Madrid, where I could walk down the players’ tunnel and out on to the pitch, visit the Presidential Box and have a look at all those trophies up close.

·         A day long whisky course at the Scotch Whisky Training School in Edinburgh, including talks on the history of the Scotch whisky industry and the art of blending and a 90-minute tutored tasting session.

Back to reality.......the most precious gift for me is just to be able to spend time with the girls. Sadly for many families, the mere presence of a father is a gift to be wished for. Indeed in a survey of 2000 children aged 4 to 12 about popular items requested from Santa, the tenth most popular Christmas wish on the list was a "Dad".

It is clear that family life in Britain is changing and not for the better. Figures from the Office for National Statistics reveal that the types of families with children “changed significantly” between 2001 and 2011, with 62 per cent of children now living with married parents, 14 per cent with cohabiting couples and 24 per cent with a single parent.

Worryingly, the number of lone parents bringing up children on their own has risen “steadily but significantly” from 1.7m to 1.96m, rounded up to 2m by the ONS. Almost all (92 per cent) of these single parents were women: “Women are more likely to take the main caring responsibilities for any children when relationships break down, and therefore become lone parents.”

Commenting on the figures from the ONS, former director of the Centre for Policy Studies Jill Kirby makes the point that: ‘children need input from both parents in order to thrive. Research shows children growing up in fatherless homes are much less likely to do well at school and are at twice the risk of getting into problems with drink or drugs, or involved in crime.’

Stephen Green, national director of Christian Voice was even more forthright arguing that, “this ‘breakdown’ of traditional family life shows that ‘society has a death wish’. Marriage is the best foundation on which to raise children, with all the evidence proving that time and time again. Successive governments have failed to support marriage as an institution.”

I know that most lone parents do an excellent job in rearing children. They deserve our support and prayers. Christians should also be praying fervently for the missing dads. The Bible teaches us that fathers have a vital role in the family as providers, nurturers, protectors and consistent role models, particularly for boys.

Without the presence of a father in the home, boys will look to role models elsewhere and there is a whole raft of popular but morally bankrupt individuals in pop music and football waiting in the wings shouting ‘look at me !!!’