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Saturday, 19 August 2017

A Terrible, Terrible Loss

A good friend of mine whom I knew from church took my wife Alex, our three year old daughter and myself in his car to Hayling Island, a rather sedate Hampshire resort on the South Coast. Since neither of us as a couple had ever owned or driven a car, it takes the devotion of an unattached male friend with a car to escort us to one of the nicer parts of the English coastline, free of excess commercialism, no railway station, no amusement arcades lining the streets, no abundance of shops selling trinkets and souvenirs, no lavish or towering grand hotels forming the skyline, and no heavy road traffic - and most important of all - no pleasure pier jutting out to sea. All of these features being the traditional characteristics which makes a typical English holiday resort. No, Hayling Island has none of these. Instead, it is a literal island separated from the mainland by a tidal channel about two hundred metres across, which is crossed by a single road bridge. The island itself consists mainly of open fields and meadows, dotted inland with small residential villages, and its south-facing pebble beach backed by sedate residential houses.

However, at the beach there is an amusement park with restaurants and coffee shops, next to a large car park. Among the fun rides, a roofed bumper-car attraction caught my daughter's attention. She immediately made known to me that this is where she wanted to go.

My daughter's insistence reminded me when I was a small boy myself, and at that time I begged Dad if I could go on the helter-skelter which was located on the end of Brighton Pier. His answer was typical: No, such things costs money. It was always No. Such was his philosophy of thriftiness. Indeed, the family budget was well managed despite their rather low incomes, but what at the cost of his son's memories after growing up? And that is significant. It was on one of his more generous moods when father and son were walking along Lupus Street in the Westminster district of Pimlico, when he suddenly stopped at a roadside ice-cream vendor and bought me a vanilla cone. Of all the ice-cream confections I ever had, spanning from childhood to the present day, this particular cone was well remembered - because it was bought for me by my father, as if totally out of character. Coming to think of it, the timing of this act of generosity might have coincided with the news that I have a younger sibling on its way.

And as a result, it was no surprise that at my father's funeral, this ice-cream incident was featured in my epitaph speech which brought my listeners to tears. With the price of a few pence from his wallet, he had bought was not just the ice-cream cone, but something much more, something priceless.

And so as my own daughter pulled me by my hand towards the bumper cars, such memories were aroused. But also with a determination that my daughter's memories will always be worth more than thrifty budget management. We climbed into the nearest car, and in full view of both my wife and friend standing by the edge, I managed to steer the vehicle round and round the outer perimeter of the floor. Because of the presence of my daughter, none of the other riders had made any attempts to bump into us. And as I drove the car, I took a glance of my daughter enjoying herself, something which to me will always be priceless.

Becoming a father for the first time ever, even at the age of 48 years old, was definitely with Earth-shaking emotion. I sat alone with the newborn in my arms whilst my wife was recovering. As I watched her sleeping soundly in my arms, it was if my whole life flashed by, with memories galore, both good and bad. Even all the glories of world backpacking with all the highs and lows of independent travel becomes like a shadow when compared to the brightness of my daughter's birth. She was my everything. If her life preservation involved the cost of my own life, then I would have given it willingly. How the sight of my own offspring had brought out the full spectrum of emotions, from tears to laughter.

So what a disaster for us when the State believed that we were unfit to raise our own children because we were unfortunate enough to suffer from Asperger's Syndrome, which is on the mild end of the Autism Spectrum. I say "State" but really it came down to the opinions of just one adult female. A self-confessed atheist, a patriot, a proud advocate of classism, and of course - a university graduate. Whatever she says, the Court bowed in obeisance. A few words spoken from her mouth and a family is destroyed. I will never watch my daughters grow from toddlers to children, into adolescents, then into adulthood. I will never enhance their memories with good things, nor have the opportunity to lavish my love and affection. Indeed, I could gaze at an ice-cream parlour anywhere in the world robbed of the privilege of buying any treats for my daughters.

Raging anger towards this Social Worker persisted for months, and it was felt at its most intense in the mornings. Asperger's Syndrome? I wonder how many parents with A.S. had successfully raised their children into balanced adults throughout history? Not that A.S. was recognised throughout history, that is, until this Austrian doctor bearing the name Hans Asperger, who in 1944 discovered its existence and made a successful diagnosis of the condition. But for it to be diagnosed, it must have been around for some time, maybe spanning several generations. Even at present, I am aware of a happily married man whose father had A.S. That particular parent must have got something right somewhere. Then thinking about military life, especially when conscription was obligatory, I have wondered how recruits with A.S. coped with boot camp and rigorous discipline, let alone fighting in two World Wars.

Dr. Hans Asperger 

As I had already mentioned in the last post, Asperger's Syndrome is most probably a genetic defect, most likely occurring at conception, but perhaps also possibly developing during gestation. What it is, is that the brain is not properly wired up for normal social interaction, hence making group socials in particular difficult for the sufferer. But I was never convinced that having A.S. should disqualify us from parenting our own children. Hence my raging fury endured for months, maybe as much as a couple of years after our daughters were literally snatched from our home at three in the morning during February 2005, leaving my wife screaming. All because of one female's opinions!

Oh yes, it was easy to be angry at God, as well as with the State. We both felt mercilessly robbed. And then the emotional pain gotten from constantly seeing families all around us, has exacerbated the problem. It is also easy to become introspective, to constantly examine ourselves whether we have committed any specific sin. But no consciousness of any specific sin had ever come to our minds. Instead, we felt to be victims of an extremely unlucky set of circumstances.

And here I am left with a stark choice.

Either forget everything about God, his existence, his so-called "love" and his constant demand for personal holiness. Forget church, forget about reading the Bible, do my own thing - eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we shall die.

Or use this set of circumstances to draw close to God, pray for his mercy and goodness, pray for our strength in marriage, but above all, pray for the welfare of our daughters - especially for the salvation of their souls.

Christmas 2005 was approaching, our first Christmas without our girls. As was the seasonal custom, I opened the Bible to Matthew's Gospel and began to read his version of the Christmas Story, and after reading about Herod's slaughter of the Innocents, I came across these two verses:

Then was fulfilled that which was written by Jeremy the prophet, saying, In Rama there was a voice heard, lamentation and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.
Matthew 2:17-18 AV.

Immediately I felt a compulsion to turn to the verses from which Matthew had quoted, and continued to read:

Thus saith the LORD; A voice was heard at Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping; Rachel weeping for her children refused to be comforted for her children, because they were not.
Thus saith the LORD; Refrain thy voice from weeping, and thine eyes from tears: for thy work shall be rewarded, saith the LORD; and they shall come again from the land of the enemy.
And there is hope in thine end, saith the LORD, that thy children shall come again to thy border.
Jeremiah 31:15-17. AV.

Immediately I believed the word, and I felt my spirit comforted, strengthened and revitalised. A situation parallel to this:

And (God) brought (Abraham) forth abroad, and said, Look now towards heaven, and tell the stars, if you are able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be.
And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it unto him for righteousness.
Genesis 15:5-6 AV.

Or to put it in modern English:

Abraham believed the LORD, and he credited to him as righteousness. 

Reading Jeremiah 31:15-17 was practically equal to experiencing regeneration the second time over, although I had already been a Christian believer for the past thirty-three years. By reading such assuring Scriptures has played a major role in looking at the world with open eyes. However, waves of furious anger towards the Social Worker came and went, with times of peace between each wave. Over a course of time I began to feel concern over my wife's spiritual welfare. What was her attitude towards Jesus Christ? Was she a true believer?

Carrying her two daughters within herself amounted to nearly eighteen months in total. Little wonder that the loss of her children had affected her more intensely than the loss had affected me. So much so that her health began to deteriorate to the point that by the Summer of 2013, she was no longer able to walk upright. This was quite a contrast to when she was able to out-sprint me easily, leaving me in a cloud of dust. A GP recommended admission into hospital as an in-patient. Upon entry into her ward, she looked up at me as I stood over her and reassured me with these words:
Please do not worry. I know Jesus Christ as my Saviour.
What reassurance! For the next four months whilst she remains confined as an in-patient, I had to adapt to sleeping alone in our double bed. And every day without exception, straight after work, the cycle ride to the station for the train trip to Reading, where my wife had taken residence.

Knowing Scripture and believing the revelation God has given us had carried us through testing times, as if passing through the fires of Hell. But as I wrote last week, Hell was not able to break us, just as Jesus had promised:

Upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
Matthew 16:18.

As such, to this day our childless marriage remains strong, robust and stable. And just this week we received letterbox contact after a long time waiting. This features a letter on their progress, especially at school where they are preparing for their GCSE exams along with three latest photos. They are now teenagers and how beautiful they both look! It was the receiving of this letterbox contact which was the inspiration of this blog, although we are not allowed to publish these pictures here. Sorry about that.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

A Genetic Defect...

A typical evening social. It could be a group of Christian men sitting at an extended table at an Indian restaurant. This particular group being of the Ascot Life Men's Curry Club, which is part of our church social agenda. Or I could be one of a smaller group of secular friends enjoying a drink at a pub. Or it could be a group of lifeguards sitting around a bar table over a drink, following a pool training session on how to save a swimmer in trouble, together with resuscitation techniques. Never mind that a time gap of more than forty years separate the Reading Life Saving Club (no longer in existence) from the Ascot Life Men's Curry Club. The circumstance has always been the same. While all the others are engaged in conversation, I sit quietly by, taking it all in - unless the subject under discussion is one I'm particular interested in. 

The subject in discussion could be about football (soccer, England's national sport) along with type of car ownership, political issues, computer technology, project details or problems at work (office), money matters, or just general chit-chat - for example, some odd or amusing incidents which had added some colour to the otherwise mundane daily grind. Most of these had never aroused much interest. This could be because I know too little about the topic to make a worthy contribution into the conversation. Yet if there were just two of us - just one other person with me sitting at the bar table - then even for me, the most boring subject - football, car ownership, insurance, or intricate computer technology - these could still stir a healthy and lengthy conversation between the two of us. But never so well in a group.

Unless it's a topic that would stir my spirit. Such as Jesus Christ and the Bible, religion in general, travel, individual sports such as running and cycling, together with the triathlon, along with anything which can ignite a conversational spark whilst in company. So in a social group, Christian or secular, I tend to be the quiet one. Something I had noticed for decades and could not understand why. Neither could I cope with any notion of recording my voice on tape, like I did when I was a youth. This was because my accent is, and always have been, unusual. It has nothing to do with Italian origin as some had suggested. Listening to any Italian speak, sure enough, he may gesticulate wildly as a typical stereotype, but his tone of voice will not be unlike any other "normal" masculine accent. Then I wonder whether my social impediment and accent could have been linked with a prolonged bachelorhood. After all, I did not marry until I was 47 years old.

But having this accent has put me at a disadvantage. That is, what ever I say seems to have not been taken seriously by others. I even wonder whether, even in the subconscious, there may be a connection between disregard of both my vocal and written contribution and remaining quiet during a social. I eventually became aware there was something wrong when after our daughters were born, the health visitor made a reference about us to social services. To cut a long story short, our beloved girls were eventually taken for adoption. It was a shock which shook the very foundations of the Earth. And it was during the parental assessments prior to the adoption when a long session with a psychologist that a diagnosis was made. I discovered that I was on the mild end of the Autism Spectrum, with Asperger's Syndrome, or A.S.

Although I have already heard of A.S, I never suspected that I had it. Yet I could see straight away that this is the answer why I am who I am. But it could have been much worse. The other end of the spectrum, which is in the realm of severe autism, this often goes hand-in-hand with mental retardation, or slow-learning. If I had been there, then I wouldn't have been allowed out of the house (or institution) without constant supervision - let alone backpacking the world on my own! Instead, the psychologist also revealed a positive side of the assessment - that my intelligence quotient was high average - a trait common among men with Asperger's Syndrome.

This brings to mind a Christian friend of mine (not in my church). The psychologist, most likely the same person who assessed me, has revealed to him that he too has Asperger's Syndrome. A few years younger than me, his voice tone is rather high pitched and authoritative, which tend to stand out in a group conversation. And he remains single to this day, which might have been the reason for consulting a psychologist in the first place. But when it comes to intelligence, this man is way above me. Not only had he graduated at university with a maths degree and also being fluent in French, but his learning abilities has qualified him for Mensa membership. It is this high intelligent quotient and dual language that has enabled him to fit in a group social better than I could, because of his rich knowledge and impressive talk. His liking of sport tends to be towards badminton and squash rackets, the latter he regularly competed with me during the 1980's, around thirty years ago. But when it came to overseas trips, unlike me, he preferred the comfort and security of group travel, usually with the Christian holiday company Oak Hall.

But what I find rather remarkable is that although he is a Christian, he favours Evolution over Divine Creation. Of all his cleverness, I find this to be an anomaly. What is the actual cause of A.S. even experts cannot be certain. But it's most likely a genetic defect, either handed down at conception or maybe occurring during gestation (Mum lived in London whilst carrying me throughout 1952 - a city known for its thick smog before the Air Pollution Act of 1955 and the Clean Air Act of 1963 were passed). As a young boy, I recall the outside of nearby Victoria Station literally black with soot before 1963, when a massive clean-up programme got underway. If either the London smog played a role in the development of A.S. whilst in the womb, or whether it's a genetic defect handed down from either side of the family, then this must be more to having been a victim of Natural Selection rather than a beneficiary. In other words, the law of entropy at work with the downward trend from high-ordered complexity of initial Creation, to a state of disorder and degeneration of the genome. This seems to fly in the face of Darwinism rather than support it. Yet despite such obvious evidence, my Christian friend still believes in the gradual upward trend of biological and genetic evolution.

Which brings to mind the Holy Scriptures. The psychologist has noted that people with A.S. has a greater tendency to lean towards spiritual matters, and likely to be more accepting of religion. And here is where I believe the Bible has played a major role in development of intelligence. When I wore the school tie during the sixties, not only did I suffer from A.S. - even if this was still unrecognised back then - but I was further down the spectrum. That is to say I was a slow learner, although not to the level of retardation, since I was still allowed to be out and about without supervision. During Spring of 1968, I left school without any qualifications, a status which "condemned" me to a life of unskilled manual labour.

It was less than five years after throwing out the school tie that something occurred towards the end of 1972. Some time afterwards, I voluntarily enrolled for evening classes at a local college. The first subject I took on was General Certificate of Education: Ordinary Level, or G.C.E. "O" Level English Language. I passed the exam which I should have left school with. Later I decided to give Geography a try. Again I walked away with another G.C.E. certificate under my arm. If only I kept up the motivation. I could have walked out of college with a biology certificate, and maybe a history or physics certificate as well, which either along with the other two, could have qualified me for a clerical occupation - a massive step in vocational progress. However, in both these cases I had already flown the nest to set up home in a bachelor's apartment, therefore there was nobody else at home with me to urge me on. Yet I still passed both exams. But I didn't believe that mere maturing of the mind as I grew older was the only groundwork, although this most likely have played a part as well. Instead, over the years I became convinced that in addition there was another factor which played an important role.

Constant reading of the Bible since conversion to Jesus Christ in December 1972 has without a doubt played a major role in the heightening of intelligence quotient. Perhaps I could be wrong in this, but according to years of observation, there seems to be a definite connection between Bible reading and higher I.Q. This applies to others as well as to myself. And this also applies to atheists alongside believers. For example, famous atheist and scientist Richard Dawkins knows his Bible well. By his own admission, he sat through Christian assemblies during his school days when he attended Oundle Public School in Northamptonshire, known for its affiliation with the Anglican Church. There he embraced Christianity until about age sixteen, when after reading Bertrand Russell's book Why I'm Not A Christian, he began to believe that the works of Charles Darwin to be far more to his liking than Holy Scripture. Although without a doubt, Dawkins was most likely to have been born with a high average I.Q. - I wouldn't put it past him that Bible knowledge gained throughout his school days had enhanced his quotient.

Christopher Hitchens is another example of an Independent School student. From thirteen years of age he attended the Methodist-affiliated Leys Boarding School in Cambridge, where Christianity was the central core of all education. Along with attending services held at the school chapel several times a week including Sundays, Hitchens must have accumulated much knowledge of Holy Scripture before attending Balliol College in Oxford. Unfortunately the raising of his I.Q. by studying the Bible resulted in setting against Holy Scripture from which later this author wrote books such as God Is Not Great, and The Portable Atheist, along with his other writings, including his critique over the British fetish with the Royal Family. Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, along with Sam Harris, and not to forget Bertrand Russell, all with brilliant intellects. All these academics have demonstrated a high familiarity with Holy Scripture and thorough knowledge of the Bible, as revealed in their books.

Among Christians, the vast majority of British Christian males of my age range and younger, according to my own observation across a time span of over forty years, have attended grammar school, followed by university graduation and then successfully holding down a profession. A large percentage of Christian men who held degrees were raised in Christian homes, although this does not rule out a minority of graduates with non-believing parents who made it into university and were converted there. But in general, I have found that children growing up in Christian homes and are fully familiar with the Bible are more likely to attend grammar schools followed by university graduation. This seems to be endorsed by the presence of the Christian Union, a student-run group found in all colleges and looks be be popular and well-attended. In turn, I have known men who were converted to Christ later in life but still retained their manual jobs. Two builders I once knew were in this group, along with myself who was converted at twenty years of age yet had never graduated. But apart from these, working-class men are very far and few-between within a typical English church.

If I'm right about what I have seen over the years, then although a vast majority of present-day undergraduates are unbelievers, far more Christians, along with those familiar with the Bible are likely to graduate than those who don't. And Christians who never made it into university are those more likely having met their Lord later in life. What I have observed over the years looks to have backed up my own assessment that reading the Bible and becoming familiar with it has the potential of raising the reader's Intelligence Quotient.

Nevertheless, I was never set free from Asperger's Syndrome. It's still there. But not only being familiar with Holy Scripture has raised my I.Q. but has provided spiritual strength for us as a couple to pass through the fires of Hell when our daughters were taken away from us, yet Hell was unable to break us. Our marriage remains strong and robust. Each day I want to love my wife as Christ loves the church and gave himself up for it. A sacrificial love for my wife emanating the love Christ has for his people. Today I attended a friend's wedding (yes, both bride and groom were Christian graduates - an inspiration for this blog). During the public prayer section of the ceremony, I exhorted them to read their Bibles every day. Read their Bibles every day and feast on the goodness of God's holy Word, and Hell will always remain powerless to break them or destroy their marriage. 

Saturday, 5 August 2017

The Wisdom of Sun Seekers...

One particular day in an English town of Gotham, a group of men were rejoicing when they erected a fence around a bush on which on one of its branches a cuckoo was perched.
"Now you can sing for us!
But the bird took off and flew away without a single note sung.
"Oh dear. We did not make the fence high enough."
The official who witnessed the incident rebuked them with the words:
"You fools! Don't you realise that the bird would fly away no matter how high the fence is?"
"Dear me! We never thought about that!"

The official walked further along, and eventually came to a brook where twelve men had spent the day fishing. As some were wading into the water, they decided upon a head-count to ensure nobody had drowned. But as one counted all the others, he did not count himself, and therefore numbered eleven only. The passing official asked if there was a problem. 
"Yes there is! Twelve of us came here this morning, but there are only eleven of us now. One of us must have drowned!"
Then the official instructed, "Do another head-count."
Each of the men counted the others except himself, and each time the number came up to eleven.
"What will you give me to find your missing brother?"
"An agreed sum of money."
The official snapped his whip across the shoulders of each man present whilst counting each one until the full twelve was reached.
"There is your missing brother."
Oh thank you sir! Thank you for finding our missing brother!"

The next day the official came across a trader who was on his way to the market, pushing a wheelbarrow loaded with round blocks of cheese. One of the cheeses fell off the barrow and began to roll down the hill.
"Well I wonder! Why should I carry you all the way to the market if you can make your own way there?"
 The official then watched the man empty the barrow of the cheeses, and each one rolled down the hill, one at one direction, another at another direction until they were all out of sight, whilst others made their way towards the bushes where they came to rest. Feeling optimistic, he then declared to the official,
"These cheeses have certainly gone far. I guess they know where to find the market by themselves."
He then called out:
I'll see you all at the market!
But as he arrived at the market, he saw no sign of any of his merchandise. He spent the rest of the day there looking for his cheese blocks, strolling along the rows of stalls in the hope of meeting his stock, and even asking other stallholders whether they have seen any of his cheese come this way, but as far as the officials were aware, this fellow never saw his cheeses again.

So all the officials, who were scattered around the town, returned to King John, and told him everything they had seen and heard, for there were several other foolish acts which took place in Gotham which were witnessed by all of them. The king was indeed amused by it all.

Much fiction has been made about King John, son of King Henry II of England. King John reigned for seven years between April 1199 until his death in 1216. These stories were based on real history. One of his historic campaigns was to raise revenue to fund his efforts to reclaim the French province of Normandy after Philip II's invasion of the land in 1204. One way to raise such funds was through heavy taxation of his subjects. And that is where the above three stories of the men of Gotham fits in. King John, hated by many, was to pass through Gotham in order to reach Nottingham, a few miles to the north. By checking Google Maps, Gotham does exist in real life. It is a small town south of Nottingham, and a road from the south passes through on the way north to the city.

And so when the citizens of Gotham heard that their king was to pass through their town, they were immediately alarmed. Their fear that any financial security they had enjoyed was under threat of taxation, and therefore they cut down trees to lay across the road, forming an adequate barrier blocking the monarch's progress. Angry, he returned to London while his ambassadors remained in Gotham to both assess their tax potential and to have the blockade dismantled. And while such assessments were made, these officials came across such foolishness among the town's residents. They reported the matter to the king, who in turn laughed and promised not to disturb a town of fools.

Their ploy had worked. Rather than being foolish, instead they were at their height of wisdom. Their incomes remained safe from the heavy tax burden King John had levied on the rest of the nation.

Wind forward over eight hundred years and at present there seem to be another apparent act of foolishness which was reported nationwide through the media. That is in a story of a hotel by the Atlantic Ocean. Indeed, as I write, the first weekend of August - and in the midst of the holiday season - little wonder that I have heard of this time of the year being "the silly season". A story appeared in a national newspaper this week of how all the guests in a hotel all got up early each morning to reserve their sunbeds by the poolside by throwing their towels on them before filing into the restaurant for breakfast. Hotel Servatur Waikiki in Gran Canaria opens its doors for access of the pool precisely at 8.00 every morning. In readiness of this opening, a crowd of mainly British sun-seekers are waiting. As soon as the doors are open, it is a literal stampede to the better located sunbeds for reservation before breakfast. A towel is thrown on a chosen sunbed, and its owner returns to the hotel until later. A whole stampede - not of cattle - but of grown-up humans! 

They give a wise word of wisdom. First, if these sunbeds are left free until mid-morning, they would find them all taken by their rival German tourists. Secondly, because the UK have such drab Summers, there was a national medical report about a threat of low levels of Vitamin D, a vital health sustainer mainly sourced from sunshine. Although I have not come across any cases of rickets, nevertheless, to have a lack of Vitamin D is certainly not nice to health, and could even lead to cancer and cardiac problems, as well as weak bone structure and muscle pain. And so, blessed with such information, sun-seekers desperate for that much-need sunshine ensure that they get it, stampede notwithstanding! After all, two weeks of sunshine out of fifty-two weeks of the year of constantly miserable British weather is a must-have. And therefore I tend to wonder how many times such scenarios are repeated in sunshine spots, especially around the Mediterranean as well as at the Canary Islands.

The Hotel Servatur Waikiki has five hundred beds, according to the media, and there are only 150 sunbeds. Indeed for the need of a pre-breakfast stampede. What a contrast, for example, to the hotel where Alex and I spent our tenth wedding anniversary in the Greek island of Rhodes. I recall the first morning after our arrival when we decided to visit the poolside. We were the only two people there. The few sunbeds which were around the poolside were all vacant. Having the entire swimming pool to ourselves at eight in the morning was a dream-come-true - before mid-morning, which by then the area was crowded with British tourists. 

But then, that's not the point. Pardon me if I seem to lack wisdom here, but if sunbathing to boost Vitamin D is so crucial, then I cannot work out why such a need for a sunbed is so necessary if there is a beach so close by. And I wouldn't be at all surprised if there are more sunbeds awaiting hire - Wait! That's it! Sunbeds awaiting hire. That means paying extra for a day's use of the sunbed. That was how it was like in Greece. The entire beach lined with sunbeds which has to be paid for. We Brits don't like that. An all-inclusive holiday should mean exactly that - every facility already paid for. No surcharges. No extras. Yet we went to a Greek island three times: twice to Rhodes and once to Kos, and if I recall, we only used the beach sunbed twice - once in Rhodes at a resort of Lindos, some miles away from our hotel, and once at Kos. Generally, sunbeds are far from a necessity whilst away from home. A short walk along the beach and there is always a suitable spot somewhere to lay down the towel. And some of these spots are among rocks which adds a touch of drama to the scenery, as well as greater chance of avoiding sand lodging between our toes, which is often why I find sandy beaches irritating.

Then again, the idea of spending the whole day on a sunbed, whether at our hotel or at the beach, has never been my thing. Maybe once in a while, but certainly not every day. There are far more fulfilling ways to spend a vacation than just sunbathing. That is to check out the environment we found ourselves in. A bit of exploring, sightseeing - even if it means standing in a crowded bus or train. To walk through an archaeological site, to admire the tropical or Mediterranean flora making up a beautiful garden, to hike a trail passing through spectacular environment - whether its a waterfall cascading through a rain forest, admiring a mountain range, snorkelling over a coral reef, or hiking through a desert populated with cactus - or craning my neck inside a beautiful cathedral. And there is always room for fun - swimming in the sea or pool, a ride on a roller-coaster, enjoying some nightlife without the need for alcoholic intoxication. Such life-enriching activities to be enjoyed without the need to stampede for a hotel sunbed.  

Cairns, Australia 1997 - on a ferry to the Great Barrier Reef

And perhaps that was why before I married, package hotel holidays were anathema to me. Back in those days I would have shunned such hotels for the backpacker's hostel, a double bedroom for a dormitory bunk-bed, ranger-led tours for a map or guidebook, and a luxury coach for a hiking trail. From single-destination trips to go-as-you-please independent multiple-stop itineraries. Even after we married, trips abroad was far more to do with sightseeing than chasing a sunbed. To sum up: a fulfilling trip while still soaking in the sun. And an album of interesting, memory-enhancing photos.

And all this has made me ask: I wonder what Jesus Christ would have said or done had he found himself surrounded by a crowd of people about to stampede to the poolside, all in a rush to grab a sunbed? Interesting point. Coming to think of it, I wonder how he would have made out with the people of Gotham during the start of the Thirteenth Century? Would he had commended them for their shrewdness? Or exhorted them to pay their burdening taxes to an egocentric king? Or would he have made a comparison between the wisdom shown by these Thirteenth Century men of Gotham with the present horde of sun-seekers out to grab a sunbed?

I guess I already know what to do in this present-day situation. Stay in bed until it's time to file down for breakfast. Then shower and have breakfast before planning where to go for the day. As for the sunbeds, leave us out. Let them have them. They are welcome to them. While they stampede, we head off to the bus stop or railway station.

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Andy Pandy and Teddy - Ahem...

Throughout the mid-to-late 1960's, during my last couple of years of compulsive schooling, my parents were successful in acquiring a Border Collie puppy from a choice of two pups available from the same mother bitch. We chose the male in preference over its sister. It spent the whole of its life with us. A rather spoilt life as such, as none of us trained it to stay away from the dinner table. As a result, it kept on whining as it begged for scraps of morsels as they were finger-fed into its mouth whilst we sat at table. But I always remember the times when the main bone of the Sunday roast lamb was left for the dog, and it would saunter to its basket with it in its mouth. But dare you approach whilst it's chewing on the bone! Its snout would furrow, its upper teeth bared whilst tightly shut over its bone, and emit a low, threatening growl. We all knew better than to tempt fate by teasing it.

Border Collie

With a newly-acquired puppy, it was my idea to name our pet Bruce, after the comic multi-millionaire Bruce Wayne, played by the late Adam West, who also was the costumed crime-fighter of the fictitious American metropolis of Gotham City, as the heroic Batman. This series of family viewing topped the statistics during the late 1960's, especially among us teenagers. Batman's sidekick Robin, was played by a younger and rather good-looking actor Burt Ward. When not in costume, both Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson lived at the Wayne Manor, a mansion a little way outside the city. Meanwhile, the head office of the Gotham City Police Department was occupied by two incredibly gullible heads: Commissioner Gordon and Chief O'Hara. With both of these officers having dined with Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson at their manor more than once, it remains a mystery on how neither had ever sussed out that Bruce Wayne was actually Batman and Dick Grayson was Robin. After all, both "pairs" were of the same physical build, the same age, and most obvious - the same voice tones and accents. 

But that is the mystery of innocence. Coming to think of it, the only room in the manor we were able to look into was the lounge which boasted a sliding panel, secret enough for one of the servants to be totally unaware of - despite her many years of working there. Whilst she was always elsewhere, the panel would slide open to reveal a fireman's pole which took them to the underground basement, or the Bat-Cave, already fully dressed in their costumes, in a matter of a couple of seconds. The innocence of it all. As a teenage fan of Batman and Robin, it has never once crossed my mind on why we never saw the inside of the kitchen and bathroom, nor for that matter, the bedroom. Neither I, nor any other Batman fan at school I was aware of, had ever questioned the sleeping arrangement of Wayne and Grayson when not in their costumes. After all, we may never be able to prove that they didn't share a double bed, but we cannot disprove this either. Could this be the reason why the more recently made Batman Returns sequel of movies which were made in the early 1990's, he was featured as being alone, without Robin as his sidekick. This, along with later re-makes of the movie, Batman remains alone, fighting his own demons as well as crime within his metropolis.

Most likely at present it would be too controversial to feature Batman and Robin living in the same house without any thoughts of personal intimacy occurring behind the closed bedroom door. And so we go back a few more years to my primary school days. As a young boy, Thursday and Friday teatime were my favourite evenings of the week. On Thursday, preceding the 17.50 News, was twenty-five minutes of cartoon animation Popeye the Sailor Man, with is long-suffering girlfriend Olive Oyl. A handy can of spinach always gave him that super-strength in his biceps to ward off his persistent bully Brutus, a bearded giant of a man who had his eye on Oyl, and always attempting to win her over. It was through these cartoons that I developed a fondness of spinach. And Fridays? Oh yes, on the same time-slot it was Huckleberry Hound, along with Mr Jinks the cat with his two mice, Pixie and Dixie. The upright-standing feline always ending up chasing his rodent companions around the house after being outwitted by them. And Yogi Bear and Boo-Boo, both living in a cave at Jellystone Park. Innocence prevented me from pondering what those two got up to inside their cave after the cameras were no longer filming! 

And throughout the fifties, I could I ever forget Watch with Mother, a daily fifteen-minute afternoon slot featuring lovable puppet characters. These were the days when mother stayed at home to raise her young children while the husband and father was at work, fulfilling his role as sole breadwinner and provider. It was on Tuesdays that Andy Pandy, along with Teddy and Looby Loo made their appearances. When the cameras were off, Andy shared a small basket with Teddy, and they can be seen at the start of the show popping up together and then dropping back down out of sight in a game of peekaboo before both of them jumping out of their basket to play in the garden.

Looby Loo was the incredibly shy little girl who only made an appearance after Andy and Teddy were out of sight. After a few minutes of performance, she made a quick disappearance before the other two returned. The show ended with the two jumping back into the basket, where they would, I suppose, remain for a full week. The age of innocence. Boys like myself would watch all these programmes without ever a single thought or hint of any homosexual connotations. Indeed, the creators might have thought that any dalliance Andy Pandy would have made with Looby Loo would have sent Teddy into a jealous rage. We can't have that can we?  So to keep her a secret, even out of Andy's awareness, was the best solution to avoid in-basket fighting!

Are you sitting comfortably? Then let us begin.

As this week has celebrated fifty years since the Government has discriminated homosexuality between two adult partners within the privacy of their home, gay-themed docudramas were shown on the BBC. These stories were based on historical facts, including interviews with the actual individuals who were represented in these dramas by actors. Before the legislation, for two men to even hold hands in public warranted arrest and possible imprisonment. This also included two men hugging, even in privacy of their own home. One victim of such circumstances was journalist Peter Wildeblood, who in 1952 had an affair with Naval officer Edward McNally. Apparently they were both caught whilst on board a ship sailing towards Malta. Wildeblood, during his Court hearing was promised a reduction of his prison term from five years to twelve months if he disclosed the names of any other partners he was involved with. So he betrayed his partner McNally to the Court. Indeed, his sentence was reduced to twelve months, but McNally himself, unable to cope with the prospect of Court, committed suicide before his first hearing.

After his prison sentence was completed, Wildeblood pleaded his case with a Member of Parliament to consider strictly private affairs between two consenting adults to be decriminalised. After, on his way home, a stranger stopped him in the street and began beating him up. One punch followed another with full force until Wildeblood lay on the ground, his bloodied face receiving more punches until he was barely able to speak, until he finally gasped, 
Why are you doing this to me?
Because your'e a f- homosexual! The assailant shouted his answer before rising to walk away, leaving his victim lying unattended on the ground. It would be another ten years or more before the legislation became effective in 1967.

Watching the beating in the street on television has reminded me of a true Mid-West story of a young homosexual male out one evening cruising (out looking for a partner) when a car containing two or three burly men pulled up alongside. They got out, grabbed hold of and bungled the lad into the vehicle and drove off to a remote area, where he was murdered. And with another beating of a gay celeb which took place more recently in London's Clapham Common which attracted publicity, "queer bashing" is something that can still prevail, even up to half a century after legislation. And such are dramatised, like in the fairly recent incident in the soap EastEnders, where two young gay men: Ben Mitchell and Paul Coker, were accosted by a gang of men in the West End whilst on a night out together, resulting with the murder of Paul, followed by the difficulty for Ben in getting these killers to face justice. If soaps are meant to reflect real life, then this must be an indication that "queer bashing" still occur, albeit rarely.

It could be said that hatred towards gays is to honour Britain as a country with strong Christian ethics and morals, as homophobia is often linked to far-right extremism, along with racism and antisemitism. Not that long ago there was a documentary about the far-right hate group against Muslims, Britain First, whose activities were centred mainly in Luton, and who argued for Christianity against Islam in the UK. The very issue of making homosexuality illegal seemed to have stemmed from the Empire days of Christian constitution. Or in short - from Religion. And so men and women with a same-sex preference are held by these moralists as anti-Biblical and a pariah of society. And here is the irony. Despite its religious-based origin for homophobia, much of the Christian faith here in the UK has been discarded into the trash bin, mainly because of the so-called "Creationist myth". It should be noted here that if Adam and Eve had never existed, but instead we are all descended from apes or similar primate species as Darwin himself taught, then without the Fall there would have been no need for the Atonement to be made on the Cross, and no Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. This makes the Bible and the Christian faith totally worthless. Atheists, many who are in support for homosexuals, would be right in discarding the Bible as a book of useless fables, together with their perception as the source of the homosexual's misery.

Ben (left) and Paul in EastEnders

This leaves these moralists with an ironic situation. They say that same-sex relationships are wrong because such relationships are unbiblical. But the very same people who says such things are themselves denying the verity and historicity of the Bible. In other words, homophobia is only Biblical when it suits them. Other passages found in the Bible, for example, in rebuking classism and wealth favouritism - ah! That's a different story altogether, even though James classifies this sin as Murder (James chapter 2). If classism is the bulwark for a strong Britain, then let classism flourish because that is perfectly fine, murder notwithstanding!

It is very unfortunate that even regular church-goers can be get caught up in this homophobic scenario. Often I have quoted the late infamous Fred Phelps, one time leader of Westboro Baptist church in the Kansas city of Topeka. His stance against homosexuals, along with calling down God's wrath and his campaign to send them into the hottest realms of Hell, has become a notoriety on an international scale. And there many other church leaders who calls down God's wrath on gay men in particular. Their followers carry their hateful spirit into their homes, their schools, their workplaces, and out into the streets, as well as through the Media. The trouble with all this anti-gay lobbying and cursing by church members, is that this kind of attitude throws fuel onto the flames of atheism - the fuel being petrol or gasoline to be more precise. It also makes the gay person feel less uncomfortable in a secular surrounding, as well as providing a cause to hate God with a vengeance. Indeed, church morality is the homosexual's deadliest enemy.

How Jesus was so different when he was around to minister to the people! He was accused by the Pharisees and other religious people of "mixing with tax collectors and sinners" - the same pariahs to them as church leaders see gay men and women as pariahs at present. He even said that these "tax collectors and sinners" will enter the Kingdom of God before the Pharisees will (Matthew 21:31). The "sinners" depicted here are the prostitutes. Both prostitutes and tax collectors were despised by the Pharisees as gays are despised by moralists today. But Jesus loved them. He loved them so much that he was willing and ready to give his life for them - and in a cruel and torturous method. He was willing to give them eternal life whilst at the same time give the Pharisees the most stern of rebukes, as recorded in Matthew chapter 23.

Jesus would never attempt to pull the bone away from the dog's jaws. He knew full well that such an action would bring out the worst in a dog. Fierce growling, angry barking, along with a few bleeding wounds. No, it's not nice at all. So what would Jesus have done? Or what would any sensible man do? He would show the dog a piece of sumptuous steak. Only then will the dog willingly drop the bone in order to receive the meat.

No church would bring a homosexual into the arms of God's mercy by censoring and rebuking. Trying to take away what he has will never lead to a conversion. Rather, the Christian can only demonstrate that what he has is far better than what the sinner has. If the sinner can perceive that the Christian has something far better to offer, only then will the sinner be more willing to leave behind his former lifestyle if it means becoming a recipient of something more fulfilling - eternal life through Jesus Christ.  

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Gay Away the Pray!

As I strolled along London's Oxford Street one Summer in 1991, I turned into Poland Street and entered a bar specifically catering for gay men and women. Not long after buying myself a drink at the counter, two young men entered, obviously partners. The better-looking of the two caught my attention. Sporting a moustache, he was otherwise clean-shaven with long hair reaching past his shoulders. His partner, also with long hair, was fully bearded.

I approached their table and asked permission to sit with them and talk. The better looking fellow was not only willing to have my company, but also began to praise me for having such courage to approach a complete stranger to open a conversation. Shortly after, he came up with this question:
You are religious, aren't you? Into Christianity?

I gasped. How did he know? And that wasn't the first time that has happened either. I recall January 1980 whilst at a temporary job at a Reading warehouse. A female colleague who I hardly knew came up to me and affirmed that I was a Christian believer - before ever opening any conversation with her.

My new friend then went on about his involvement at his local church where his pastor was fully accepting of his lifestyle. In those days I couldn't accept any idea that this pastor, whoever he might be, was a true Christian, but one of many who just had a mere profession. Of course, I had absolutely no idea of the state of this minister's heart in relation to God. I just thought that by being friends with this person, who happens to be in a relationship with another of the same gender, has exposed this pastor to be a fake, a phoney.

This gentle, softly-spoken man must have developed a crushing fancy for me, even to the detriment of his partner, because a while later he began to ask whether I would like him to take me to his home. At this point he became more persuasive. At this I began to feel my skin crawl, as I realised that his home really meant his bedroom, and I politely turned down his offer. However, we were both clinched in a tight hug before I walked out of the bar.

I have wondered about this church minister, whoever he might be. From this time of writing, I'm going back more than a quarter of a century. Things might be different now. But who he was and where he was, he was a far cry from many of his contemporaries who preach condemnation towards homosexuals and making them the subjects of God's hatred. I wonder who is really the better representative of Jesus Christ? This unknown church minister somewhere in London, or the late Fred Phelps, the pastor of Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, in the State of Kansas, who paraded the city streets with "God Hates Fags" placards. (Fags, short for Faggots, is a degrading nickname for an effeminate male homosexual.)

Fred Phelps was, of course, a representative of the extreme, the zenith of religious hatred and bigotry. But there is a general anti-gay sentiment in most churches. But their efforts to "pray away the gay" seemed to have been a disastrous failure among Christians who are homosexual or with gays seeking counselling altogether. One such advocate of "deliverance from homosexuality" is Franklin Graham, the son of the famous American evangelist Billy Graham. Franklin did not graduate in theology or in any spiritual or pastoral degrees. Instead, he graduated in business. But in his attempt to match his father's credibility, he latched on to the idea that any homosexual can be delivered from his orientation by "asking Jesus into his heart" and presto! The gay man becomes straight, that is, a "normal" hetero.

Such "successful" attempts to change one's orientation, according to what I have read, are extremely few and far between. Such rarity has made me question whether such "healing" can really be genuine. More likely that the "cured" person has married and even fathered children, and there seems to be some records of this, but his orientation is still present, although repressed. Sooner or later such arousal resurface when just the right set of circumstances were to occur, and I have read plenty of records of this too. That is why I tend to believe that the "cured" person is really bisexual, a term meaning to be attracted to both genders. This may be more of a case when it comes to having a fetish towards a particular part of the body, such as the thigh, the feet, or even the neck. Many years ago in the early 1970's, I recall an article published in The Sun national newspaper about four images of a man wearing a shirt.
The first pic was of him with his shirt fully buttoned up and wearing a tie.
The second was him without the tie and with just the top button of his shirt undone.
The third had him with the upper two shirt buttons undone.
The fourth showing him with his shirt totally unbuttoned.

A group of volunteers gave their verdict on their sexual arousal. It turned out that stimulation was strongest at the third image, meekly followed by the second. There was hardly any arousal with the first picture, and it also dropped significantly on the fourth. Gay forums on the Internet seemed to have backed this up. Under the heading Popular Fetishes, the open neck of the shirt was on the list, although not at the top of the chart. If this is true, then the bisexual, for example, could be aroused by the open-neck shirt of both man and woman, making possible for straight sex and fathering children. My point is: this praying away the gay looks to be nonsense, without any veritable evidence that it works.

The homosexual world does fascinate me. This fascination might have arisen from being bullied at school, and being accused of being homosexual in the classroom and the school playground. This accusation has reared itself over and over again throughout adult life. Yes, even right up to the present day, I actually had to answer a question asked by one of our present church elders, most likely motivated by hatred from a very English Pharisee who also attends our Sunday services. I told him that even if the Bible was to give consent to same-sex activity, I still wouldn't go for it, for the simple reason that such activity has no appeal whatsoever, as demonstrated by my refusal to go home with such a good looking fellow back in 1991. It has much more to do with personal lack of appeal rather than religious conviction.  

That said, before marriage, I tended to gravitate towards a gay bar in order to seek friendship of the "bromance" level. Bromance is a level of companionship without the sex. The friendship between David and Jonathan recorded in the Old Testament is a good example of bromance. And according to reading gay forums posted on the Internet, there is a considerable number of gay men who are also put off various same-sex activity, particularly anal-intercourse, but still have a preference of same-sex friendship over opposite sex relationships. As for myself, I believe that church attitude against excess showing of emotion was what made the gay bar attractive, especially in London, a city where I was able to remain anonymous. As for the church, according to my own experience, is generally very reserved, with emotion frowned upon, middle class, very heterosexual, and tend to be judgemental over those who don't fit the ideal English model.

Exactly like back in 1978. As the Summer of that year approached, a small number from the singles group were preparing to hire a narrow boat to ply the canals of the Broads of East Anglia for a week. The group consisted of both young men and women, each sharing cabins according to gender, and each contributing to the common purse. While the team was still in formation, I approached one of them with my share of the financial contribution. I was told flatly "No!"

I felt crushed as I wallowed in such rejection. But at least God was good to me, and I walked into a travel agent to book a flight across the Atlantic to New York, the start of a month-long backpacking trip across the States, taking in the Grand Canyon and California. But still the rejection had a long term effect. How much more intense would this be to the average homosexual?

No homosexual chooses such a way of life. Even psychologists admit that one can be born with a predisposition towards homosexuality, later developing towards full same-sex orientation. Although the ratio of the gay population to the straight population is only about 4%, the rate of suicide among gays can be as high as 40% - which is much higher than among heterosexuals. They are the ones who suffer social rejection and harassment - even falling victim of murder, family rejection, shame and embarrassment, loneliness, a want of a family of his own, church condemnation and a feeling of alienation from God, a fear of Hell disguised as scepticism, together with unfulfilled sexual desires, along with the threat of disease. Indeed, no child would have chosen this way of life if the alternate straight life was of easy choosing.

And so to see church leaders condemning gays - even if they don't necessarily practice the sex - driving them away from God and towards atheism. Their anger towards God can be so intense that it is impossible to turn their hearts towards him short of a miracle. And the negative spirit felt towards them is continued to be felt in the assembly. And that what makes this so wretchedly unfair. He feels alienated and condemned because of who he is, and not just what he might have done. A gay person walks into a church for the first time and he is ghosted by someone who, just by glancing, has decided that this person is evil and is to be avoided. Yet this same judgemental person may be a lover of money and tend to give in to greed as well as to nurture snobbish superiority. He may be standing next to someone with a history of adultery, but is looked upon as "one of those human weaknesses" and so far better tolerated. And there could be someone else who has suffered a divorce, or his son is divorced, and that's too is reasonably okay. Another standing in the church may have a constant affray with his next door neighbour, another wishes he could quietly poison his boss and secretly dispose of his body, yet still looks calm and collected while he is singing a hymn. Yet another cannot control his temper whilst driving his car. And not to pass over the young man who keeps glancing at a pretty lass standing by her husband.

The reality of human nature, whether in church or outside. Yet all can take comfort with the Biblical fact that God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, not imputing their trespasses against them (2 Corinthians 5:19). God's wrath was lifted from the whole world the day Jesus Christ died on the cross, and by his resurrection, eternal life is given to all believers, including homosexuals. God is no longer angry with us. If only a trace of anger remained, then nobody would be saved, as everyone of us have broken the Law, even by a minor stumble (James 2:10). If God is no longer angry with us, then we have no grounds for homophobia, whichever form it takes. No person has any right to shun a homosexual, or to refuse friendship. If God loves that person enough for Christ to die for him, then he is no worse than anyone else, for without Christ, we are all guilty of sin. That's why I find people like Franklin Graham, alongside with Fred Phelps of Topeka, Steven Anderson of Phoenix, and Roger Jimenes of Sacramento, to have taken a bad attitude towards gays, singling out their sin for special condemnation and to hold special prayers to "pray away the gay" in them without paying too much attention to these other "secret sins" lurking among their hearers. Then we wonder why gays are so hostile to the Gospel.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Sitting on a Park Bench...

Retirement certainly has its benefits! No more getting up in the mornings to survey the weather, and then after breakfast and Bible reading, having to hobble off to where my ladders and associate equipment had always awaited my arrival. But then again, retirement is a constant reminder that as each day comes and goes, every morning as I look into the bathroom mirror, I could see that I'm not getting any younger. Instead, I watch as I gradually age and my awareness of the grave approaching remains an inescapable reality.

Therefore, together with having to take five different pills everyday for life, I also accept my GP's recommendations seriously enough to visit the gym twice a week for a thorough two-hour workout. Other days of the week I put on my hiking boots and saunter off to Nowhere - just for the benefit of exercise. Then as if the icing on the cake, each Sunday I crack off five miles on the bicycle for church before repeating the journey home.

What a lovely day it was during the week as towards the end of one of those walks, when I paused at a park bench located within a copse of tall trees, mostly silver birch, but with a variety of other species too. It was while I was sitting to rest, pray and meditate, that a powerful thought crossed my mind:
God is not angry with me anymore. His wrath is completely removed.
His wrath against sin completely removed. Not only from me, not only from all other believers, but for the whole world. At this point a verse of Scripture comes to mind: 2 Corinthians 5:19 - To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation (AV).

Although I was fully aware of this verse for many, many years, this time it was almost like a Damascus Road experience, the kind both Paul the Apostle and Reformer Martin Luther had experienced. God is not angry at us anymore! I think this is so difficult to take in. For example, all I had to do was Google Once Saved Always Saved, and 6,960,000 results appear in just half a second. And two of my blogs on the subject appears on the first page. But directly above my link there was one submitted by the Assemblies of God church, thoroughly debunking the concept of Once Saved Always Saved. And above that, another link to the Watchtower Society also led to a rebuke against the doctrine. By scrolling down the listing, I could see that the vast majority of links led to articles debunking Once Saved Always Saved.

And these articles weren't necessarily written by laymen. Rather they were written by church pastors and roving ministers, some of them even holding a doctorate. By reading some of their articles, I have come to the conclusion that they centre their opinions on three main New Testament passages: Romans 1:18-32, 1 Corinthians 6:8-10, and Hebrews 6:4-6. Other verses are quoted as well, including Philippians 2:12, where we are exhorted to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. Ah, the threat of Hell-fire yet again! 

And so it is easy for them to assume that once you are saved, you will always be saved. Therefore eat, drink and be merry, for Heaven is guaranteed. Go out and revel in your sin - wine, women and song for you - as one eternally saved, you have no fear or worry about the consequences. Really. These pastors, teachers, and academics, some having the title Dr. in front of their names - come on! Are they so ignorant? How could I ask this about such a well-educated person? And with such teaching prevailing throughout our churches, what has come out of all this?

The most obvious reason for advocating Once Saved Always Saved, also known as Eternal Security of the Believer, is because God is omniscient. That means that God not only knows absolutely everything which is happening at this moment, but everything that will happen in the future. And that includes the life of every single individual who are yet to be born. And that where ignorance among these academics kicks in. With the abundance of prophecy found in the Bible, many which are already fulfilled with startling accuracy, can they really believe that God does not know what a person, especially a Christian, is going to do next? Especially if the believer is fully acquitted, has the imputed righteousness of Christ credited to him, a new creation, reborn of the Spirit, and adopted into God's family as a gift from the Father to the Son, and becomes a citizen of Heaven.

Then God himself being gullible as he is, a believer falls into sin which remains unconfessed, and he slips into apostasy. Then God has to undo everything he has already done - first he would impute his sin upon him, making his imputed righteousness of Christ null and void. Then somehow become unborn. Then he would remove the Holy Spirit from him, next he is disenfranchised from God's family and left to be claimed by the Devil again. Finally, he loses all his inheritance and has only the consequence of eternal loss. Talking of the Devil, this shows that Satan is stronger than God himself, whom with his lack of foreknowledge, the Almighty does not know what's going to happen next! Really, does the atonement made by Jesus Christ on the cross have any power at all?

Can you see what wretched blasphemy all this is? Yet doctors of theology constantly preach and write such heresy, knowing that they will be listened to, just because of who they are. And the average Christian bow the knee to their authority, not because of a sound knowledge of the Bible but through admiration of the preacher's academic background. 

But where does it, for example, leave me and many other Christians? Or, for example, someone who is homosexual? That is a case in point, because this is mentioned in Romans 1:18-32. Generally, the LGBT community is hostile to God and the Bible, because on how the churches quote these Scriptures as proof  of their sin without assurance that God has already made peace with them, and he is no longer angry with them. They don't need to be told that what they are doing is wrong. Instead they need the love of God through faith in Christ. So this gay man has faith in Christ, but despite all assurances from the rest in the fellowship, he will be aware that he will be peered at from the corner of the eye by not a few with a Pharisaic attitude. 

The worst thing about being gay is that it is not out of personal choice to have his libido excited by a presence of someone of the same gender. It just happens, even without initial intention. And he was aware of his orientation from childhood without making any conscious choice to be gay or straight. Then an elder, pastor or visiting speaker raises the issue on how wrong and sinful homosexuality is. Of course, the speaker is a married man with children, and when he gets into bed later in the evening, he can enjoy his relationship with his wife without a strand of guilt and with full approval from God. The homosexual is fully aware of this. However if a dashing young man also walks in and he is sexually stimulated, the feeling of guilt within the crowd could well make him feel uneasy. Quite likely he has that longing wish to be "normal" with a wife and family. Instead, he listens to a guest speaker condemning homosexuality as a serious sin, yet still uttering the inept statement "to love the person, hate the sin" - and quoting Romans 1:18-32, 1 Corinthians 6:8-10 and Hebrews 6:4-6 as proof-texts that either he was never saved in the first place or he is in danger of losing his salvation.

The homosexual feels trapped, and cannot enjoy a loving relationship with Jesus Christ in the same way as the heterosexual speaker can. Oh, it's all very well for him! His wife will be waiting for him in bed. But for the gay, he feels trapped and cannot find a way out of his natural orientation. Rather, knowing and being fully aware that God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself and not imputing their trespasses against them will go a long way towards personal holiness. 

It is human nature to anthropomorphise God. That is to liken God to "a big man" in the sky with human attributes and characteristics. True enough, we are made in his image. We have his threefold characteristic of thought, emotion and free will. Also, like him, each man is a trinity, having spirit, soul, and body, just as God himself is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. But we are not omnipresent, neither omniscient, nor omnipotent. And because of our fallen state, by nature we don't have his holiness either, but we do have a sense of morality put in us by God himself and a conscience to bear witness of this morality. If, as an example, my natural father had been overbearing, then it's most likely that I would perceive God in the same way - overbearing.

The idea of a Holy God reconciling a sinful world to himself without imputation of transgressions is rather too hot to handle. Probably that was why churches has struggled with this throughout the centuries, even to this day. The trouble which such struggling is eventually the rise of the Pharisee. And sadly enough, the Pharisee is not confined to some Jews living at the time of Christ. They are with us now, sitting in the same church as the rest of us. They debunk any idea of Once Saved Always Saved, they make great efforts to keep the Law, they are prone to be judgemental towards those who don't fit their model, and they are great believers in nationalism, classism, and culture. And they have a strong dislike for mavericks. 

And that is why not everyone likes me in our fellowship. I'm too much of a free-thinker. Pedantic too. And perhaps quite controversial. I stick up to by beliefs. More important, I will always uphold the historicity and verity of Holy Scripture. If the Bible teach that the Earth is only six thousand years old, then it's only six thousand years old. If the Bible imply eternal security of the believer, then I'm willing and ready to stand up and face down anyone who thinks otherwise, no matter how clever he might be or where he attended university. I would be willing to rebuke a doctor for dishonouring God in such a despicable way by teaching salvation by works, and placing a stumbling block at his hearers and hindering them from walking in holiness, which is the same as walking in love, as God himself is love.

I guess I am who I am. I stand up to what I think and feel. If some people don't like it - tough! I love independent travel, I love my church, I believe in hugging, I love the spirit of internationalism because that is a far better representative of the Kingdom of God than nationalism, especially here in England with its isolationist bulldog spirit which breeds hatred, prejudice and even physical violence. Not exactly godly, is it? And I am convinced that this "bulldog spirit" is actually a demonic entity dwelling invisibly in the air. After all, by deceiving people with pride, self-confidence and optimism, along with a history of imperialism sustained by Darwinism, this entity continues to send up to 95% of Brits into a lost eternity. It is a dreadful thought. Facing such a startling reality gives me no pleasure. Indeed, this is an awful and sorrowful tragedy. But it does not have to be this way. Instead, as I already mentioned in my last blog, anyone can come to Jesus Christ and be saved. Even if this means learning about who he is and what he has achieved by his sacrifice made on the cross for us, his burial, and three days on, his resurrection, conquering death and making eternal life accessible to all believers.

And then to change his mind to believe in his heart that this Jesus of Nazareth is the risen Christ, the Son of God. We call this change of mind Repentance. And here is something I still find very difficult to understand: If God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, and not imputing their trespasses against them, then how is it that the vast majority of Brits are heading for a lost eternity?

The best illustration is at a Magistrate's Court. The defendant is proved guilty of a crime serious enough for a death penalty. However, his uncle, totally innocent of any offence, steps in and offers to die in his place. Therefore his uncle is executed and the defendant is free to go. But to be set free he has to accept it. But he doesn't. Instead he insist that his uncle was telling porkies. Eventually the judge had no other option but to execute him. Such a needless tragedy! 

Such as the state of Britain, deceived by the lie of Darwinism.

Saturday, 8 July 2017

The Cliff, the Beach, and the TV.

Perhaps as any married couple would agree, that taking a break and going somewhere for a few days, a week, or even a fortnight, is a nuptial booster and a marriage refresher. So it was with us. And what better place for us was at that part of the world well known for its geological magnificence and uniqueness, together with beautiful people. And that is at the length of coastline stretching from Christchurch, through to Boscombe, Bournemouth, and Swanage. Of the four place names, only the resort of Swanage can be regarded as part of the true historic Dorset, as I recalled the other three resorts as being in Hampshire, and therefore sharing the same county as the heavy shipping docks of Southampton, and the naval centre of Portsmouth, before the boundary change which occurred on April 1st, 1974 which took in Bournemouth, Boscombe, and Christchurch as the three towns of the new East Dorset.

Thus, in 1962, when I was a nine-year-old London schoolboy, our primary school took us to Swanage for a two-week educational trip shortly before the Summer closure. Immediately I was impressed with both the chalk cliff of Ballard Down to our left as we looked out to sea, and the smaller, more built-on Purbeck limestone promontory of Peveril Point to our right, which were actually to the north and to the south of Swanage respectively, as this particular stretch of English coastline faced east rather than south, with the far-away outline of the chalk cliffs of West Wight appearing on the horizon on any clear day.

It was when our strict teachers got us all in twos, making a neat double line, that we began walking along Peveril Point that as I glanced towards Ballard Point on the other side of the bay, that this unique phenomenon occurred. And that was the gradual appearing of the Foreland and Old Harry Rock, very much like a telescope slowly extending from behind the main cliff. Then when we returned to town, the cliff slowly telescoped back behind Ballard Point, as if it was never there. This unique geological phenomenon has stuck with me ever since, with memories of such a view remaining with me throughout my childhood, extending into adulthood. Rather surprisingly though, our teachers, who were pretty good in smacking our bottoms, did not explain anything to us when I asked, maybe due to their lack of local knowledge of the area to fill this curious young mind. Either that, or we were perceived by them as too immature to understand a little of geology combined with vectorisation.

Ballard Down Cliff, viewed from the town and from Peveril Point.

This geological curiosity has enabled me to visit this area many times over, and staying at Swanage Youth Hostel, I took walks along the chalk Down and followed the trail running along the edge to Old Harry Rock, then onwards into Studland Bay, north of Ballard Down. In the other direction from Swanage, the trail winds around Peveril Point, over the grey Purbeck cliffs of Durlston Bay until reaching Durlston Head with its castle-like restaurant and coffee bar perched on the clifftop, then the trail swings left as the coast, from this point remaining preserved by the hard and resistant Portland Stone cliffs, resumes in facing south over the Channel, eventually towards the resort and harbour of Weymouth, passing along spectacular but strenuous rises and dips which makes up the Jurassic Coast, now a World Heritage Site.

Just a little past Durlston Head the loud fog-horn of Anvil Point Lighthouse wails across the sea on one foggy morning back in the 1980's. And I can interpret this as a wail of mourning - after all, the whole of the Jurassic coast, stretching from Studland Bay, taking in Old Harry Rocks, Swanage itself, all the way past Weymouth towards Lyme Regis which borders with Devon - is one huge graveyard. Fossils of dead marine life tells me of a long-forgotten world which was drowned by a global Flood. It is throughout my life as a Christian who believes in the historicity of the Bible, that the whole of the Jurassic coastline held a fascination over me, combined with a sense of universal mourning, and a deep feeling of curiosity on how that forgotten world must have looked, once so fresh from initial Creation.

This Flood which wiped out the first world, all because of human wickedness which came dangerously close to eliminating the Messianic Line from Adam to Christ. Had that line been cut, then the initial Promise would have been broken, and we would all be left in our sins to face Judgement. And that would have included Abraham, Moses, David, all the prophets, and every saint recorded in the New Testament ending up in Hell, neither would churches exist to this day. Indeed, the Flood and the Holy Spirit working through Noah's faithfulness had played an important role towards our redemption. Yet the fog-horn wails, one mighty blast following another, an endless chain of loud blasts echoing across the landscape and sea alike, as if weeping over the huge graveyard that was once such a beautiful antediluvian world.

As such a combination of a fascinating coastal landscape combined with Biblical revelation has always attracted me to this part of the world, and therefore it's no surprise that we have been visiting as a married couple more than once. Even right up to this week. We stayed at a hotel accessible for wheelchair users which was close to the shore on the East Cliff of Bournemouth. From there we spent a full day at Swanage under glorious sunshine, and once again for the umpteenth time I watched the Foreland and Old Harry Rocks telescope out from the end of Ballard cliff as we walked along towards Peveril Point. 

But it was on the next day when we took a stroll eastwards towards Boscombe that we came across a large crowd of what appears to be foreign students, some of them engaged in beach volleyball. Although many spoke English, I can tell by their accents that these were not home-born. There was a very cheerful atmosphere as they all enjoyed each other's company. I could not help but feel my heart warm towards them. Among them there was no sign of aggression, no disputes, apparently no drugs or even alcohol, just joy shared among them, with a few cooking food over a small bonfire on the sandy beach. There was not a cloud in the sky, the sun was preparing to set, the distant view of the Isle of Wight on the horizon looked more stunning than ever.

I thought, Wouldn't it be wonderful if all the churches had that same joyous contentment. No theological disputes between denominations, no judging over other members, non of this Pharisaic behavioural attitude constantly pouring over us every time I walk into church, no peering with condemnation out of the corner of the eye, no fussy dress codes, no hatred, no division. Just joy and sweet fellowship. If only every one of these beautiful people knew Jesus Christ as their Saviour! All each has to do is to believe that the crucified Jesus is the risen Christ, and to trust in him. It is that easy. And each one would be forever saved, being eternally adopted as a child of God.

These people on the beach were not hippies, I assume they were students. But they represent an international unity, including any of the British among them. And I have no reason to doubt whether there were any English students or by-passers among them. It was a very happy atmosphere. Furthermore, there was not a single shirt-and-tie to be seen among them. Many wore tee-shirts, others singlets or tank-tops, others were topless altogether. But those who were engaged in the volleyball looked be be quite committed to the game. Then I made a mental comparison with the reputation the English have while abroad. Unfortunately not so much with beach volleyball or backpacking as drunken revelry which is a quick lead into violence and hospital visits. And with such a stinking reputation, many, if not most of them, would be Brexit voters who "despise foreigners".  

Boscombe - Overseas students enjoy an evening on the beach.

And so we began to make our way back to our hotel, we passed some elderly Jews.
Alex then asked, What can I say to the Jews that would please them?
I answered, Greet them with "Shalom" - which means "Peace".

There must be a Jewish community east of Bournemouth, because we encountered several more Jews as we headed back.
"Shalom." Alex greeted.
"Shalom." was their reply.

I was pushing Alex's wheelchair up a cliff face switchback walk. As I was struggling a little, a couple of gentlemen in red tee-shirts approached us, offering their help with the wheelchair. Although I turned down their offer, whilst sitting on a bench to rest, we struck up a conversation, with them admitting they were Christians.
"Yes, we are Christian believers too." I replied.
We already knew that. One of the men answered. When we first saw you, our spirits testified that you are both believers. God bless you, God indeed bless you both!

We arrived back at our hotel and turned on the TV in time for the 10.00 News. After the end of the bulletins, David Dimbleby's Question Time followed. Among those on the panel was Conservative Jacob Rees-Mogg, a startlingly handsome youngish Etonian who was smartly dressed in suit and tie, constantly repeating his defence that "We will be stronger out of Europe." Despite so many different questions thrown at him by the audience, the MP kept on repeating the same words like a drugged up mantra. And whenever he kept on repeating the same words, he received a greater applause from his supporters in the audience. The subject was about how our economy would fare after leaving the European Union. And all he could answer was, We will be stronger out of Europe. He then insists that We will fulfil the will of the people. The will of the people?

No, at 52/48% to leave the EU - that, in my opinion, is not "the will of the people." 52% over 48% is too narrow a margin to be called "The will of the people." Now if the result was more like 65% over 35%, or dare say 75% over 25%, then that would be more akin to "the will of the people" - not merely a margin of just 4%. 

But Rees-Mogg continues to use this statistic to defend his point. But he would not bring himself to the real reason why we must leave. And that is pride in national sovereignty and xenophobic nationalism as a whole. Rees-Mogg knows that such a reason given to leave the EU would stir angry debate from the opposition. Rather than face such hostility, this member of Parliament ducks out of the debate during the TV programme. 

I sat on the bed feeling despondent, if not actually angry. Because, after reaching the dizzying heights of the joys of holiday spirit, including the Bible's revelation of Creation and Noah's Flood in the stunningly beautiful coastline of Southern England, along with the camaraderie and happy atmosphere felt among international students, I come crashing down back to Earth! The real world taps on my shoulder to remind me just where I am.  

I suppose that there is some similarity between Rees-Mogg and the opinions of many traditional churchgoers. Even in my own church, because of my maverick standing, I feel constantly watched by a cowardly Pharisee who also attends the same fellowship. His attitude reflects his own perception of God - a very unlovable deity who is quick to judge and send to Hell anyone who strays from the faith or even thinks and behaves at odds with our national culture. The sort of entity from whom I would run away, be in fear of punishment, not having in my heart to worship with loving awe. Exactly the kind of "god" who has spawned generations of atheists throughout history. Yet the apostle John has written that this is how we know that we are true children of God: To believe that Jesus is the risen Christ and to love one another (1 John 5:1). To believe that Jesus is the risen Christ regenerates the heart, and the fruit of this regeneration is to love my brethren, fellow believers in Christ. Therefore I cannot dislike this Pharisee, but only wish, and maybe pray too, for a reconciliation. But for this to happen, a radical change in his perception of God must first take place in his heart. 

England has some stunningly beauty spots - Dorset being one of these places. The sort of venues I have no hesitation in visiting over and over again. And England acts as host to a multitude of foreign students who can teach us a lesson or two about social respect and joy with each other's company without discrimination and prejudice. Some thing many of our traditional churches can learn a thing or two.