Tuesday, 30 July 2013

One Law For All

Britain’s Muslim community of 2.8 million souls is currently in the middle of the season of Ramadan when individuals fast from sunrise to sundown taking no food or liquid. During this time, the faithful are supposed to focus on God and the things of the spirit in a disciplined way. For most British Muslims Ramadan is a serious time.

Ultra zealous Muslims however complain that they are unable to enjoy the full panoply of their faith in Britain. For this minority, the consummation of their faith would entail the full implementation of Sharia or Islamic law.

Away from the media spotlight, pro-Sharia lobbying is already taking place. In a recent BBC Panorama programme, a spokesman for the Muslim Arbitration Tribunal said that he was engaged in talks with the Crown Prosecution Service and police to find an "alternative form of resolution" for domestic violence cases involving Muslims.  This organisation openly acknowledges that it is aiming for the full establishment of Sharia family law in the UK.

Many commentators see this as an alarming development given the long struggle for womens’ equality and rights in the UK.  Writing in the June issue of STANDPOINT ONLINE, Anne Marie Waters argues that Sharia threatens all women, Muslim and non-Muslim.

“Sharia law is turning back the clock on hard-won rights for women in the West. This is a system which treats women as second-class humans who should be obedient and who, if they are beaten, only have themselves to blame............Domestic violence is not the only area of Sharia family law that causes concern however. Women have little right to divorce under Sharia. Children go in to the custody of fathers from a preset age (regardless of the circumstances) and marital rape was described as "impossible" by the President of the ISC Maulana Abu Sayeed.

So what is the response to all of this ? Absolute unequivocal condemnation ?  Not a bit of it.”

Waters goes on to highlight some of the more pathetic ‘mealey-mouthed’ responses of respected establishment figures to the vocal demands for Sharia.

“Instead, we have respected figures like Rowan Williams reiterate his white-washing of Sharia family law at Temple Church in Fleet Street recently. He again hinted at future integration of Sharia law when he said ‘it needs to be made accountable and professional in ways which the legal establishment and statutory authority is best placed to take forward’.

He is of course not the only public figure to sanitise Sharia. Former Lord Chief Justice Nicholas Phillips also argues that there is ‘no reason why Sharia principles, or any other religious code, should not be the basis for mediation or other forms of alternative dispute resolution".

Foreshadowing possible developments in Scotland, a Glasgow law firm has become the first in the country to offer clients advice on Sharia law alongside its conventional legal services.

According to the Christian Institute: “the firm offers Islamic guidance on areas of civil law such as divorce and child custody, but opponents of Sharia law have warned it is inherently discriminatory.

Maryam Namazie, spokesperson for the anti-Sharia campaign group One Law for All, said: “It is antithetical to laws that have been fought for and hard won by progressive social movements, particularly in areas of family matters............The civil matters Sharia law decides on here are an extension of the criminal matters it decides on in Islamic states, such as stoning, amputations and so on”.

In an age of reason it is hoped that most Scots of all faiths and none would take a similar view to the ‘One Law For All’ campaigners.  

As a Christian and a historian the facts are clear. Our laws have always been made by Parliament not by religious leaders. Superimposing an alien religious legal system which promotes inequality onto what already exists to satisfy the demands of a tiny minority is a recipe for division and disaster. It must be avoided at all costs.

Postscript: There is an e-petition to ban all Sharia law in the UK.

Responsible department: Ministry of Justice

This is to stop all 85 Sharia courts that are open and to stop anymore from opening. People residing in this country should obey by British law. No other law should ever be used in this country not now and not ever. I want to see all Sharia law banned and any one found performing these acts should be prosecuted by British law.

The closing date for signature is April 11 2014. Click on the link below to sign the petition:







Monday, 29 July 2013

Icons of the New Religion ?

I recently read an old blog by the BBC’s Northern Ireland correspondent William Crawley entitled: ‘Is celebrity culture a replacement for religion?’

Discussing the impact of the singer Michael Jackson’s death on his fans, Crawley argued that, “one of the reasons why so many people are building "shrines" at locations related to Michael Jackson's story is that celebrity culture has taken the place that religion once had in our society. Celebrities are secular saints. Their deaths become moments of pseudo-religious intensity. People make pilgrimages to celebrity sites where once they travelled to Canterbury.”

Michael Jackson was a very talented but personally flawed individual whose fame was rooted in his musical skills. However many of today’s celebrities have no unique skill, gift or talent....... they are simply ‘famous for being famous’. 

According to Wikipedia, “famous for being famous in popular culture terminology, refers to someone who attains celebrity status for no particular identifiable reason, or who achieves fame through association with a celebrity e.g. Judy Murray is famous as Andy Murray’s mum, similarly Pippa Middleton shot to fame as the sister of the Duchess of Cambridge.

The term is a pejorative, suggesting that the individual has no particular talents or abilities. Even when their fame arises from a particular talent or action on their part, the term will sometimes still apply if their fame is perceived as disproportionate to what they earned through their own talent or work.”

Jon Hamm one of the stars of the TV series Mad Men recently summed up the views of his more seriously talented showbiz colleagues. Interviewed by Elle magazine he said: “whether it’s Paris Hilton or Kim Kardashian or whoever, stupidity is certainly celebrated.......being an idiot is a valuable commodity in this culture because you’re rewarded significantly”.

In a disturbing development, the culture of celebrity is now infecting the church. Adept in their use of the media, there is today a generation of evangelists, pastors, worship leaders and conference speakers who act like celebrities and are sadly often treated as such by their adoring ‘fans’ .

According to the Bible, man is 'made in the image of God'. This is why people feel a need to worship and, if not God, they focus on something, or someone, else.
The 17th century French philosopher Blaise Pascal talked about 'a God-shaped void in the heart of every man’. This void can only be filled through a personal relationship with the living God and His Son, Christ Jesus. No celebrity, secular or religious even comes close.

As the old hymn says: Now none but Christ can satisfy,
                                    None other Name for me!
                                    There’s love, and life, and lasting joy,
                                    Lord Jesus, found in Thee.


Welby’s on the Money !!!

The Archbishop of Canterbury’s recent pronouncement that he wanted to see payday lenders such as Wonga put out of business should be cheered to the rafters. At last we have one Christian leader who is an exception. Why ?....... because he is prepared to take a public stand for the values of the Gospel.

We should not allow the fact that his church’s investment arm had previously invested a small amount of its funds in one of Wonga’s backers, detract from the potential benefits of his plan.

Interviewed by Total Politics magazine, the Archbishop said: “I’ve met the head of Wonga and we had a very good conversation and I said to him quite bluntly ‘we’re not in the business of trying to legislate you out of existence, we’re trying to compete you out of existence.’ He’s a businessman, he took that well..........

We’ve got to have credit unions that are both engaged in their communities and much more professional, and the third thing is people have got to know about them. It’s a decade-long process.

We’re putting our money where our mouth is, we’re starting a Church of England staff credit union. You’ve got to have a corporate interest body to identify who’s members of the credit union. We’re starting one of those so we’re actually getting involved ourselves. We’re working steadily with the main trade bodies for the credit unions.”

The Archbishop wants the Church to open up its network of 15,000 church premises to existing credit unions and offer volunteers to assist with their promotion and operation. A former business executive who has been fiercely critical of the banking industry, the Archbishop wants to help expand the credit union movement as an ethical alternative to an industry which many ordinary Christians consider to be morally bankrupt.

The Revd Dr Peter Mullen, writing on the Archbishop Cranmer blog has hailed Archbishop Welby for his plain speaking: “We should be thankful for that we have for Archbishop no Regius Professor of Obfuscation but a man who speaks as we speak in the street.”

Dr Mullen is right. Justin Welby by speaking plainly about the issues that really matter to ordinary people might just have found a way of helping the church reconnect with society.

Christian leaders at local level could take a leaf out of Welby’s book if they really want to be taken seriously by ordinary people. Plain speaking in the public square works. After all, that’s what Jesus did.


Thursday, 25 July 2013

Evangelism Emergency

A recent Daily Telegraph headline announced: ‘Christianity declining 50per cent faster than thought – as one in 10 under-25s is a Muslim....... Christianity could be facing a catastrophic collapse in Britain according to official figures suggesting it is declining 50 per cent faster than previously thought.’

John Bingham, the Telegraph’s religious affairs editor has analysed the 2011 census figures and his conclusions make chilling reading for Christians, while humanists and secularists rejoice. The key figures outlined below reveal a picture of near irreversible decline:

·         The total number of people in England and Wales who describe themselves as Christian fell by 4.1 million – a decline of 10 per cent.

·         This figure is bolstered by 1.2 million foreign-born Christians, including Polish Catholics and evangelicals from countries such as Nigeria.

·         There are 5.3 million fewer British-born people describing themselves as Christians, a decline of 15 per cent in just a decade.

·         The average age of Christians is over 50, with almost a quarter of Christians over 65.

·         The number of Muslims in England and Wales grew by 75 per cent with 600,000 more foreign born followers of Islam.

·         Almost half of British Muslims are under the age of 25.  The average age of a British Muslim is 25.

According to Oxford Professor of Demography David Coleman.....‘this is a very substantial change – it is difficult to see whether any other change in the census could have been remotely as big.  But I wonder how far it reflects an overarching change in society where it is more acceptable more normal to say that you are not religious or are not Christian.’

Given the downward trajectory of Christianity in the UK one might hope that such a near catastrophic situation would have a galvanising effect on our churches and their leaders both nationally and locally. Sadly, apart from a little hand wringing in some quarters, heads seem to be placed firmly in the sand.

One might at least expect our evangelical churches to be leading the way in programmes of national and local evangelism. Sadly this does not appear to be the case either with most simply deciding to batten down the hatches, retreating behind the church walls and concentrating on social club activities.

The Bible is quite clear about evangelism......it is the primary mission of the church and Christians, set out by Jesus himself when he said: ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’

Many will argue that they are involved in outreach by providing finance to support missionaries in third world countries which is commendable. However, the foremost task of the local church is to reach out to the people of the local area with the message of salvation through faith in Christ. This cannot be done by hiding inside the church building. It’s time for leaders to step up to the mark......... no excuses and no opt outs !!!!

Monday, 22 July 2013

It’s a........baby!!!!

We all remember that famous episode of the BBC sitcom ‘Only Fools and Horses’ where ‘Del’s’ wife Raquel gives birth to their son Damien. Emerging from the hospital delivery suite to announce the good news to the waiting relatives, uncle Albert and Rodney, Albert enquires about Raquel, ‘what is it son?’ to which the overwhelmed ‘Delboy’ replies, ‘it’s a......baby’.

No such ‘faut pas’ outside the delivery suite for the announcement of the birth of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s son. Following tradition, the announcement was made via a formal written statement displayed on an easel in the forecourt of Buckingham Palace.

For days there has been massive media interest in the birth of the royal baby with the worlds’ media camped outside the hospital. The Daily Telegraph summed up the media ‘feeding frenzy’...... ‘From France all the way to Australia, international television stations appear to be offering their audiences in-depth coverage of the Duchess of Cambridge's condition as the birth of the new heir to the throne gets underway.

News anchors on ABC News entertained their viewers as they attempted to guess the time of birth, the baby's sex and name - with one presenter making the unlikely prediction that the child will be named Rutherford.’

The Daily Mail focussed on describing the public reaction to the royal birth: “They had waited all day, and in some cases weeks, when the news finally came. It’s a boy, they told us – and a massive cheer went up outside the hospital where hundreds had been crammed together to play a small part in a most historic day.

All along the street outside the Lindo Wing, from windows on nearby buildings and on an overhead walkway, they waved flags, held up placards and applauded. Everywhere you looked you could see little pockets of joy erupting.

The dedicated ones had already been here for days, however – those hardy souls who make a hobby of following the royals. Thus, the crowd of well-wishers boasted several faces that would be instantly familiar to Prince William or Kate should they have chanced to peek from their hospital window.

Veteran royal fan Terry Hutt, 78, had been on duty for 12 days, sleeping overnight on a bench – and wearing a Union Flag suit. The former soldier, who served with the Royal Ordnance Corps, said: ‘At night we’re watching the hospital in two-hour stints, like the Army. I’ve lost my voice with all the excitement.’

If only someone was on hand to record the scene in oil on canvas. Oh, actually, there was. Artist Kaya Mar turned up with a specially dedicated portrait of the Duchess cradling a new-born baby on her lap. The baby wore a crown and Kate had a halo.”

From my own perspective, the royal birth pales into insignificance when compared to the birth of Jesus. No media feeding frenzy here or state of the art hospital, just an outhouse, Mary, Joseph and perhaps some animals to welcome the most significant figure in history into the world.

The prophet Isaiah, writing hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus, announced his coming with these powerful words: ‘For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.’

While we all offer our congratulations to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, we should also pray that as their child grows to maturity, he will develop a personal relationship with the King of Kings. 



Saturday, 13 July 2013

Salt and Light or......Busy Doing Nothing!!

There is no doubt that the church has been marginalised as secularisation has advanced in society. A major reason for this has been its own silence on the very issues which affect the lives of people at a local level. Thus the perception of the man in the street is that the church lives in its own ‘spiritual bubble’, has nothing to say because it does not care.

Currently in Scotland the only exceptions to this ‘head in the sand’ apathy would seem to be same sex marriage where the national church is now hopelessly divided, world poverty, which everyone is agreed should be ended, and of course the need to raise money for the replacement of the church roof !

When I talk to individual Christians, only a tiny minority would appear to have any views about anything other than the weather and their own personal wealth, health and wellbeing.

Do our local churches, their leaders and followers care about the very real issues which affect ordinary people like unemployment, the paralysis of our local government and the effects of austerity?

Are the local newspapers being flooded weekly with letters from local Christians speaking up for Jesus on local issues? Are our local church leaders using the power of the web, Facebook and Twitter to engage with society on key contemporary issues or to simply promote themselves?  Sadly it appears that Christians are too busy, too lazy, too self-absorbed or too scared to speak up for the values of Christ these days.

Who needs strident secularists when the church is doing an excellent job marginalising itself. Unfortunately things will continue unchanged in our local communities unless and until individual Christians and their leaders wake up and smell the coffee!  

The Bible has a very different message from this present reality. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Followers of Jesus are commanded to be salt and light in their communities. Jesus has not called his 21st century disciples to live disconnected lives inside the ‘spiritual bubble’. Thus for Christians, silence on the day to day issues which affect the lives of ordinary people is not an option.

Finally, ordinary people do want Christians to speak up about issues affecting their locality. Ministers, Pastors, elders and deacons are still recognised as individuals who in the distant past held and publically expressed distinctive views which were welcomed and which counted.

It’s time for Christians to stand up and become the salt which savours, and the light which truly illuminates before it is too late.       

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Criminalisation of Christianity

It would appear that what many believers have feared has happened. Despite the assurances of politicians about freedom of speech and conscience, the law is being used to harass and persecute Christians.

Today I am posting the highly disturbing report from the Archbishop Cranmer blog in its entirety. (http://archbishop-cranmer.blogspot.co.uk/)  The incident in question occurred at Wimbledon, England this week. It should serve as a warning to all born again Christians that we have now crossed the rubicon in this country.

Surely for Christians, silence on such matters is now no longer an option !!!!!

“Tony Miano is a street evangelist. He is also a retired veteran of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. During his career, he has served as a gang and juvenile crime investigator, field training officer, drug recognition expert, and a DUI enforcement specialist. According to his biography, he has 'received more than 60 commendations and citations for meritorious service, arrests, criminal investigations, and community service'.

He knows a thing or two about the law.

Mr Miano has recently been out preaching in Wimbledon. He very much enjoys biblical evangelism, speaking about spiritual growth, personal holiness and the person and work of Jesus Christ. On Monday, his theme was sexual immorality - all forms (1Thess 4:1-12). He talked about sin - heterosexual and homosexual - without discrimination. As he was preaching, a lady heard him say that homosexuality was a sin, and promptly summoned the police, who duly arrived.

Mr Miano was then arrested for violating Section 5 of the Public Order Act: he was accused of using homophobic speech likely to cause anxiety, distress, alarm or insult.

He was escorted to Wimbledon police station, where he was photographed, finger-printed and had a DNA sample taken. He was then incarcerated in a cell for seven hours.

And he was interrogated about his faith in Jesus Christ.

He was asked if he believed homosexuality was a sin. He was asked from which portion of the Bible he was preaching. Incredibly, he was asked whether, if a homosexual was hungry and walked up to him, he would give them something to eat.

He was then informed that there was sufficient evidence from his responses to forward his case to the CPS, and that the judge could order him to remain in the country for 4-5 months while his case came to trial.

Even before Parliament has legislated for same-sex marriage, we see the threat to religious liberty. Not since 1559 has there been an Act of Uniformity requiring everyone to assent to a particular worldview, and it took more than 300 years to eradicate that. But now we have a new Act of Uniformity which elevates equality and sexual orientation to a quasi-religious status which trumps any religious worldview which opposes it. It is secular pluralism by statute law.

Christians are harassed, intimidated, persecuted and interrogated. What manner of inquisition is it that asks: "If a homosexual was hungry and walked up to you, would you give them something to eat?"

And what manner of theological ignorance is it which has no grasp of the Christian divine command to love your neighbour by giving them food (Mt 25:35); or any understanding of the fundamental liberty to preach liberty to the captives?



I see that Channel 4 is at it again. Always keen to promote debate in society, the channel is to a broadcast the daily Muslim call to prayer during the holy month of Ramadan, beginning next Tuesday July 9. The announcement was made by the channel’s head of factual programming Ralph Lee who said he hoped the channel would be a ‘nationwide tannoy system’ for UK Muslims and would promote a move away from associating Islam with extremism and terrorism.

During Ramadan, Muslims fast from sunrise to sundown during which they are prohibited from consuming all food. It is similar to the Christian season of Lent during which believers focus their minds more sharply on God and spiritual matters in disciplined manner.  For many of the 2.8 million Muslims living in Britain, observing the fast is an important time and a matter of serious devotion.

Media reaction to the Channel 4 decision has been mixed. Writing in the Daily Mail, A.N.Wilson accused the channel of promoting social division:

“Are we sure that by broadcasting a call to prayer in this way that it wants to help Muslims? Or is it — much more likely in my opinion — yet another case of the liberal establishment, of which Channel 4 is, of course, the mouthpiece, sticking its fingers in the eye of Christianity?

In so doing, by using Islam as a deliberate provocation, it is being socially divisive and possibly making Muslims a target for extreme Right-wing vitriol. Further to that, it is all part of the anti-Christian bias of the intellectual establishment.”

In the SUN, Muslim writer Anila Baig condemned the announcement and accused Channel 4 of ‘worshipping controversy’ at a time when actions were required to promote good community relations: “So, do I agree with it? Not at all.  According to Ralph Lee, Channel 4’s head of factual programming, the broadcast is an act of deliberate “provocation”. Ain’t that the truth.

This is the channel that recently aired ‘Dogging Tales’ and ‘The Man With The 10-Stone Testicles’........With the killing of soldier Lee Rigby and a number of retaliatory attacks on mosques across the country, this is the sort of provocation we can all do without. The world doesn’t need more provocation, it needs more understanding.”

The Archbishop Cranmer blog condemned Channel 4 for its broadcasting ‘double standards’ where there is one rule for the treatment of Christians and another for other faiths and none.    

“They could, of course, broadcast a service or two from within a mosque, as they might do from a church for Christians at Easter or Christmas. They could make a documentary or two about the origins of Ramadan, as they might do about Lent. They could even 'cater' for millions of Muslims by mocking their religion and lampooning Mohammed, as they habitually seem to do for Christians and the character of Jesus.”

It’s time the broadcasting regulator put Channel 4 under the microscope. It’s also time for Christians to stand up for themselves by flooding the regulator with complaints every time Channel 4 and its fellow travellers deliberately insult their faith and culture. Our Muslim community would do no less!  



Tuesday, 2 July 2013

‘Whistle-blowing’ Heroes

Could 2013 become the ‘Year of the Whistle-blower’? It would certainly seem so given the on-going controversy over NSA contractor Edward Snowden’s revelations about British/American global surveillance and the unfolding story of courageous NHS whistle-blower Kay Sheldon.

While some whistle-blowers are motivated by malice, self promotion or financial gain, most are ordinary grounded individuals, motivated by the highest of moral and ethical standards. Whistle-blowing is a risky business. Many honest whistle-blowers have found that far from being supported for exposing wrongdoing, they have been abused, maligned and in some cases seriously persecuted.

Kay Sheldon was a non-executive board member of the Care Quality Commission. When she discovered the commission was passing hospitals which were later found to have serious problems likely to affect patient care and welfare, she ‘blew the whistle’. It was then that Ms Sheldon’s real problems began.

Writing in the Mail on Sunday online she said: “Mentally ill, paranoid, troublemaker. I was branded all of these things when I blew the whistle on the body set up to safeguard patients and ensure that standards among care providers in the NHS were met.

The past two years have been the most stressful of my life. I’ve felt bullied, isolated and victimised – just because I was trying to do my job of holding the Care Quality Commission, the healthcare watchdog, to account. It’s only now, after months of trying to prove the CQC was not fit for purpose and that patients’ lives were at risk, that I have been vindicated.”

The Public Interest Disclosure Act (PIDA) is legislation which currently protects whistle-blowers in public bodies and the private sector from harassment by employers. It does not yet apply to protection from harassment by co-workers or fellow members of organisations. In a proposed amendment to existing legislation, the Coalition proposes to extend the Act to cover abuse from co-workers. Campaigners are however demanding that PIDA be scrapped and rewritten as it is currently not fit for purpose.

Whistle-blowers in the Bible were called ‘prophets.’ In the New Testament, Jesus himself acknowledged the heavy price that some of these people paid for exposing wrongdoing. Recorded in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus said: ‘Wherefore you are witnesses unto yourselves, that you are the children of them, which killed the prophets.’

I will be joining that campaign to press for assurances that any new legislation will legally compel churches and other religious organisations to protect individuals who expose wrongdoing from abuse by their members.

Monday, 1 July 2013

‘Phobic’ Name Calling

Recently I have noticed that the use of the word ‘phobic’ as a suffix seems to be increasing. Every day I see it being attached to a widening range of objects, activities, points of view and specific forms of human behaviour.

According to Wikipedia, “the English suffixes -phobia, -phobic, -phobe occur in technical usage in psychiatry to construct words that describe irrational, disabling fear as a mental disorder e.g. agoraphobia. In common usage they also form words that describe dislike or hatred of a particular thing or subject.”

Used as a suffix, the word ‘phobic’ is being increasingly used by some groups in society to smear those who oppose or dare to ask questions about their view of the world. This is a highly disturbing trend which is stifling the very values of freedom, transparency and tolerance which should be the norm in a 21st century democracy.

I was disturbed to hear that in the wake of the Boston bombings, Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, the Coalition’s ‘minister for faith’ tell a news conference that the government was now dealing with ‘Islamophobia’ as a priority.

Douglas Murray writing in Standpoint magazine argues that Baroness Warsi needs to refocus attention on the real problem......militant Islamism.

“In the first years after 9/11 there was some success in turning the global spotlight onto what Islamic fundamentalists believed, taught and aimed to achieve. But then, at some point in the last five or more years, that spotlight was turned around.

It was not on the extremists but on the rest of us, Muslim and non-Muslim, that it settled. It became all of us who were the problem, not the crimes of the fundamentalists but our response to them. The primary problem was no longer Islamic fundamentalism but ‘Islamophobia’. This narrative has not only become pervasive in our societies, it has become dominant. It is stopping us from dealing with the most severe challenge to our security. It is time to unfold the lie.”

The ‘PC brigade’ will doubtless label Douglas Murray as an ‘Islamophobe’ for simply raising such a serious issue.

In the same way, Christians and others who have stepped up to the mark in order to defend the concept of marriage between a man and a woman, have been labelled as ‘homophobic’ by the promoters of same sex marriage. Again the tactic is to use the word to smear. The unwritten narrative of these ‘name-callers’ is that those who are homophobic are extreme, intolerant and out of touch with modern society.

I have sometimes thought that I should join in and start to label people such as Baroness Warsi, Peter Tatchell, and Richard Dawkins as ‘Christophobic’, but then again, I’m a civilised, tolerant, grown up Christian and I don’t do name calling.   

Robbers Advertise on TV!!!!!!

There have always been shady money lenders, loan sharks and gangsters ready to lend money to the vulnerable and the desperate. In 21st century Britain, these people are known by names such as WONGA, Quickquid and Pounds to Pocket: businesses which are part of the burgeoning payday lending industry, estimated to be worth around £2 billion annually.

Fortunately the government would now appear to be responding to pressure from debt charities such as Stepchange and Citizens Advice Bureau as well as newspapers like the Independent. They have accused payday lenders of a catalogue of sharp practice, verging on the criminal. SKY News recently highlighted some of these activities such as:

·         Failure to carry out proper affordability checks before lending or rolling loans over

·         Extortionate penalties for late payments

·         Failure to explain adequately how payments will be collected 

·         Acting aggressively to claw back debts

The Mirror recently highlighted an extreme case:  “After pocketing just £150 from a payday lender, a borrower found out the hard way how the rip-off fees can mount up horrendously. The customer’s debt rocketed to £15,500 in two years, an increase of 10,000%.

Appalled debt charity StepChange, which revealed the case said it highlights how people who do not repay loans on time, and who are already in desperate financial trouble, can be hit with extortionate charges and interest rates.

In another damning probe, Citizens Advice has found payday firms lending at sky-high rates to under-18s, the mentally ill, and people who are drunk.”

Today at a Government-led summit including the regulators and campaigners, the payday lending businesses will for the first time be asked to explain themselves.  Part of the agenda will be to discuss whether the new regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority, has sufficient powers.

Last week the Office of Fair Trading referred the payday lending industry for investigation by the Competition Commission. Its report earlier in the year condemned the industry for, “widespread irresponsible lending.”

It is good to see that some Christians have been speaking up about the scandal of payday lending. The Bible calls this kind of activity ‘usury’ which Wikipedia describes as “the practice of making unethical or immoral monetary loans......a loan may be considered ‘usurious’ because of excessive or abusive interest rates”.

The Bible sanctions usury (lending with interest), but disallows it when it comes to the poor. The Book of Exodus is clear about usury: “If you lend money to one of my people among you who is needy, do not treat it like a business deal; charge no interest. If you take your neighbour’s cloak as a pledge, return it by sunset, because that cloak is the only covering your neighbour has. What else can they sleep in? When they cry out to me, I will hear, for I am compassionate.

When it comes to the poor, we can lend to them without interest and even better we can give to them. My God is compassionate, and desires us to be compassionate toward others.

Payday lenders must get their act together or be shut down.