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Sunday, 29 March 2015

The Samson Complex

Sharing what did last week has given me a new sense of liberation when it comes to blogging. Gone is that feeling of restraint when writing about my faith, thoughts, and emotions. And furthermore, thanks for your comments, all positive, and none negative - such as the judgemental attitude shown by my former sister in law on my brother's side, who unfortunately, had driven us apart rather than drew us together in mutual support. This was a shame, as I was particularly fond of her.

And that is the gist of this week's contribution, especially after a junior airline pilot, Andreas Lubitz, from Germany, deliberately bringing a plane down into a ravine at the French Alps. Since the Voice Box Recorder was found, an enormous amount of speculation had arisen over his mental and emotional state of mind, which compelled him to lock the captain out of the cockpit and with full intent destroyed the airline, taking all 150 lives on board. And all this struck a chord in me, who happen to love travel and long haul flying in particular, and hold glorious memories of both long and short haul flights. Like the overnight flight to Israel in 2000 with my pregnant wife sitting asleep next to me. We were over Germany where I watched towns and cities far below us glowing with luminance, like white diamond jewels set in inky black velvet.

However, despite the worldwide condemnation of Lubitz, after what I went through, I can feel an element of sympathy for him. Please don't confuse the issue, I'm in no way condoning his actions. Maybe the system should have been more thorough. For example, the discarded sick notes written by the doctor disqualifying him to fly that day were found in his residence, when these notes should have been sent direct to his employers by email or text. Having said that, I can imagine his twisted cord of anger, frustration, and depression hidden under his calm, stiff upper lip expression of apparent serenity, even to the point of a friendly chat with his captain after all take-off procedures were accomplished.

In the months that followed the removal of our daughters from our home, I was equally consumed by the same cord of emotions as the young pilot had suffered. There were times that I too wanted revenge for the arrogant Social Worker, who had a very strong and persuasive tongue which she used to destroy our family. There were also times that I wished that I could have dynamited the whole of the office building where she worked. But I guess these were fantasies of the imagination, yet indulging in these fantasies has helped me cope with the situation and calm my rage. I knew how impossible it would have been to have turned such mental images to reality - the ability to access dynamite and installation without alerting Security would have been an impossible feat, especially on my own. And back then there were many times that I was enraged towards God himself.

But where I have kept my wishes fully within the realm of fantasy, Lubitz was able to bring his to reality, with the cost of not only his own life, but the lives of all who were with him. Something of the Samson Complex. This ancient judge of Israel wanted revenge against the Philistines for the gouging out of his eyes, and for his imprisonment. Not only did he took his own life but made sure he took the lives of all who were with him. Looking at these three characters - Lubitz, Samson, and myself - the first two had brought their raging mental images to reality, while I have kept mine totally within the realm of fantasy. But the fierce anger underpinning us all must have been the same - in want of revenge, but nevertheless, and most likely fortunately, such emotion does not work the righteousness of God. Anger wants to kill the oppressor, frustration and depression turns in and eats away at the sufferer. But neither highlights or makes aware of God's love. 

And here is the crunch. The Samson Complex. Except that one is regarded as a Biblical hero sent by God who fought for deliverance and justice for his people Israel. Even the writer of the letter to the Hebrews had included him in the Men of Faith Hall of Fame. The other, however, is regarded as a criminal of the worst kind, a mass murderer who took his own life with the lives of 149 others. He, of course, is fully deserving of worldwide condemnation, both from within and without the churches. Fair enough. Funny too, that Samson used the same kind of method to kill as Lubtz did, except with the pillars of a pagan temple instead of the cockpit of an airplane, and a heck of a lot more victims. There was also the same kind of contempt Samson had against the Philistines as the pilot had against his employers, and maybe towards the Establishment as well. Also overlooked are those little things about the ancient judge - that he caused his wife and father-in-law to be burnt alive, and he also slept with at least one prostitute. In fact I would say, that his casual approach to the one harlot recorded in Scripture may indicate that he was already experienced with the practice - a bit of a fornicator at heart. But we as a church at least, would assign Samson to Heaven while the other to Hell.

So what's the difference? Samson murders his foes by many thousands, while the pilot kills less than two hundred. Yet one is saved while the other, we assume, remains lost. The issue here is faith. Faith, or trusting in God for both physical and eternal welfare. Paul wrote to the Romans that faith alone brings justification, that through faith, God acquits the wicked. But what I have seen among church attitudes, this does not seem to be the case.

One particular example is found in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, where ...fornicators... shall not inherit the Kingdom of God. Over and over again I have seen, heard and read church ministers as well as other Christian believers quote these verses as proof-texts that whoever does these things are either not saved at all, or were saved but had lost their salvation some time afterwards. And these lines of thought usually irk me rather than edify. By reading the whole chapter, the issue the apostle had was that the saints in Corinth were bringing their disputes before unbelieving judges to decide their differences. Paul then cries out, What are you doing? Are you so dim that you can't even sort out your disagreements among yourselves? Instead, you go to unbelievers to decide for you? Come on! Don't you realise that you will one day judge angels? And you go to the lost to settle your disputes. Good grief! Don't you realise that they are guilty of so many sins, including sexual immorality? They will not inherit the kingdom of God (because of their unbelief) but you will. Therefore flee from sexual immorality yourselves. For how can you who have the Spirit of God be united with a prostitute?Not only are you uniting the Spirit of Christ with her, but you are also making yourselves a disgrace among those you dwell.
1 Corinthians 6 - my own paraphrase, to bring out the best I can Paul's thoughts on this issue.

Nothing to do with not being saved in the first place, or losing salvation. The letter says that they will judge angels (v.3). Then the very fact that Paul was telling them to flee from fornication indicates that these saints were committing fornication, in other words, they were sleeping around, as Samson did before them. But they were all true believers, saved, of the Kingdom of God, regenerated by the Holy Spirit. And the apostle forces this home to them in verses 19-20. Yet, to put it bluntly, they were still shagging around, regardless of their spiritual standing. 

Now how would you feel if I say that I have an account on a Gay website with a full profile, photos included. Here again is another issue the churches get all hot up about! Does having a profile on a Gay website make me a gay person? Rather, isn't it having sex with another guy and enjoying it defines me as homosexual? Actually, I never slept with another guy in my life, and I have no desire to. But if you believe that having a profile on such a site will arouse suspicion, and make you ready to jump on me with criticism and judgement, consider this. Every time you point a finger at me, three more points back at you. For example, do you, as one well educated, look down on someone who isn't so brainy? Or you who are wealthy consider yourself above him who is not so wealthy? Or consider this. In your church there is a window cleaner or dustman in the congregation. Would you be happy to have such people attend your posh, black tie party or dinner? If you feel unsettled about any of these things, then according to James 2:1-11, you are not only a law-breaker, but a murderer.

I recall 1978. In that year a small group of singles in my church was planning a week's trip to the East Anglia wetland boating holiday. All were graduates. Then I came along and with money in hand, asked if I could join them, with the essence of feeling loved and accepted. I was told "No" straight away. Feeling rejected, I settled for a month's backpacking across the USA instead, on my own. For them, to have a rather immature factory production line worker in their midst was a little too much for them.

All these experiences has made me to what I am today. And that includes why I have a profile on a Gay website. Aside from all the homosexual discussion found on the message boards, the forum also has a spiritual section. And it's here where I focus my attention. 

The vast majority of the homosexual population have a distinct dislike and distrust against organised religion, and particularly of Christianity. And just about in every case the reason behind this hostility lies in the church's condemnation of their lifestyle, or even just of their orientation. Worst of all, they see this judgement coming from the leaders, all straight, married couples who having successfully raised their children to university levels, and therefore able to enjoy sex and intimacy in their ivory towers without the slightest sense of guilt, and totally free of condemnation. They see this as grossly unfair, condemning their orientation from their high horses while at the same time enjoying sex with their wives to the full. So the vast majority of homos remain lost, and this gives the impression of a critical, judgemental Christ, who is pleased with the heterosexual husband and wife, but has no love or anything to offer to the homo who may be deluded with his orientation. It is hard for them to believe that Jesus Christ does love them, and he wants them, along with all other men, to come to the knowledge of the truth.

I have written a lot about the love of God through Jesus Christ in their forum. In the vast majority of cases I was met with hostility, labelled a "Fundie" and ostracised. But regardless of their attitude, I continued to present the Gospel as simply as I could, even matching their educational levels with discussions about the reality of Creationism, Evolution, and particularly of the genome, and the impossibility for such to evolve solely by chance.

Like Lubitz and perhaps Samson as well, I too felt angry and with bitter antagonism against the Establishment for destroying my family. And like them, I wanted revenge, to avenge my sense of injustice. But unlike the pilot in particular, instead I threw myself on the mercy of the Lord, asking the Holy Spirit within to strengthen my faith in him. And to this day I can testify of his steadfast love and faithfulness, a proof of the truth about eternal security. God will never let me go. Furthermore, he has promised through his word, backed up by another believer, that one day my children will return "to their own borders" - something which gives hope and able to face day-to-day challenges.

Believe me, this is far more fulfilling than bring other people's lives with me to the grave in order to gain some infamy. 

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Coming Clean...

I have quite a number of friends on Facebook, not a great many, mind you, but all who I know personally, and one whom I have known closely for up to 45 years. Sooner or later the inevitable will start to appear on the main scroll. That is photos of babies, cute infants, giving me the wanting to gently lift and cuddle close to my heart. Friends who are young enough to be my own son or daughter proudly displaying their newborns, often with a slightly older sibling standing nearby, along with my older online pals, nearer to my age, displaying grandchildren at various points of their young lives as they grow up towards school age.

To them I give all my congratulations and blessings. No doubt, if I had young children living at home, we would have done the same thing - posting photos of our offspring at intervals as they grew up. Therefore it was during a discussion with my wife Alex that we fully agree to come clean, just over ten years after what we consider to be the darkest hour of our lives. And by sharing this, I hope it will throw light on why I think and feel the way I do, my dislike of celebrity worship, the problem with forgiveness, our faith in God, our future hopes, and the glory to come. But because this is a public blog, no names will be revealed here, except the first names only of adults involved.

I was 47 years old when I married my wife in 1999, the first ever in my life. This was after 27 years after I was dumped by my last girlfriend in 1972. It was during this period of my life when I started backpacking, the first only a year later when I boarded a train to travel across France and into Italy. It was also during that time when I flew my parents' nest, started up a business, trained and competed in half-marathons to raise funds for a charity, then peaked in fitness by cross-training and competing in Triathlons. Meanwhile, this was also the period I turned to Jesus Christ as Saviour, which began the long process of sanctification and Bible knowledge, which were intertwined with visits to Israel - backpacking there as with other countries visited, eventually circling the Earth.

My first daughter was born February 2001, fifteen months after our wedding. I could say that our unborn had also been to Israel, as I took my wife, then eighteen weeks pregnant, to celebrate our first wedding anniversary in the Holy Land. Here I will admit that Alex was more spiritual than I was. At various Holy sites such as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and at the Garden of Gethsemane, both in Jerusalem, she knelt and gave thanks to the Lord, while I stood by, as these sites were so familiar to me from previous backpacking trips during those 27 years as a committed singleton. 

By the time of delivery, the unborn remained in a breech position, therefore a cesarean operation was necessary. At the hospital theatre, I partially buried my face until I heard the first cry. The surgeon held the purple infant high, and as she cried, my legs gave under intense emotion, and two of the staff had to support me while the baby was wrapped in a hospital garment and handed over to me. And I sat there, in a small room just across the corridor from the theatre, I held in my arms my daughter. A father for the first time at 48 years of age. As Alex was transferred to a recovery ward, I saw like a mental video of my life leading to this moment, while also watching her chest rise and fall in rapid breathing, as she slept peacefully.

My firstborn changed my life completely. She was my sheer joy, my treasure. In the months and the first years to come, it was I who got up in the middle of every night as she cried, and cuddled her close. And you know what? I never ever regretted a single moment of this. I was never annoyed, or frustrated at any of these small hours awakening, as I had always considered holding my daughter a sheer joy and privilege. And that presented a problem for Alex. As I devoted myself to my daughter, my wife felt that I could have given more attention to her. And this difficulty was noted by our health visitor, who was near to reporting us to Social Services.

When my second daughter came into the world just over three years after the birth of the first, she too spent the first hour of her life in my arms, while her mother, this time having went through a natural birth, rested nearby. It was after we took her home that unwittingly, I allowed problems to develop at home. How? By devoting myself to my firstborn in expense of the other two. For example, if my wife said we needed to top up the groceries, I always responded with, "Get my firstborn ready." Except for work, wherever I went, my daughter came with me. I always took her shopping, to town, even on train trips to Reading and even for a day trip to London - the two of us - my firstborn and myself. I adored her. I sat and watched her run about at an open yard. I saw her explore and learn about her immediate environment. I fed her. Whenever in a cafe, I took joy in slowly spoon feeding her. You see, throughout all this, I believed that I was doing my wife a favour by allowing her to spent time alone with our second-born, and therefore acting as a de-stressor. It was soon after then that Social Services were contacted, but not by us.

To cut a long story short, we had to attend a conference at the Borough Council, and we were assigned a Social Worker, a female graduate named Wendy who looked to be in her late twenties or early thirties - a lot younger than me. She had already been in trouble with the local authority. The previous family she was working with fled from her to Scotland. She was given us as her last chance to redeem herself, and save her career. In my mind that was a massive mistake, demonstrating a shocking lack of foresight among her superiors who should have heeded the warning signs. After all, we are humans, not a product to be tested or laboratory guinea pigs. Then I suppose her academic credentials were far more important to them than our personal needs.

During the four months that were to follow, she proved to be the nasty-minded individual she was. It was known by us that even in the office, she was disliked by her colleagues, and even the nursery school teachers who taught our daughter, made an effort to stay clear of her whenever we had to attend the weekly meetings (known as Core Groups) chaired by Wendy, after having lost her temper with one of the school teachers. There and then I wanted to physically hit her, but the thought of prison deterred me. Even Alex stayed away on a couple of occasions, inflaming the situation. The things about her that stood out enough for me to take note: Her arrogance. She sometimes appear late at Core Groups, insisting she'll leave her desk when ready. She also kept on reminding us that her income was much higher than ours, along with her level of education and social class. She was also a self proclaimed atheist, but had a fair knowledge of the Bible. She was also patriotic and proud of her Yorkshire upbringing. Taking a peek at her credentials while she was not looking, I found that she attended a privileged school for girls, and then attended University to study Psychology and other subjects related to child care, quoting past famous Psychologists such as atheist Sigmund Freud and Alfred Kinsey as examples.

Then by February 2005, things came to a head when my patience snapped while she was checking our kitchen and criticising our food stock. We ordered her out of our house. Shortly after this, our beloved two daughters were removed from our home at three in the morning, and they were never returned. Instead, they were put up for adoption. By the end of March 2005, the Social Worker cleared her desk, not having her contract renewed, and we never saw her again to this day, and I guess we never will. 

During the assessments which followed the removal of our two daughters, I found out two important matters which had escaped Wendy's analysis of us as a couple. First I have an above average I.Q. - which was contrary to Wendy's evaluation of me because she was surprised at my ownership of a cellphone, let alone knowing how to operate one. The second matter was that we both have mild autism. It was this - mild autism - which was the underlying factor to the cause of the breaking of our family. However, I did not feel back then, and I certainly don't feel at present, being mildly autistic as justification for tearing a family apart. Rather, I have heard tales of a mildly autistic parent or couple raising their offspring successfully, and I believe even to this day that we could have raised our daughters with success, especially as they got older. 

For many months afterwards, I was held in a grip of fierce anger, not only towards Wendy, but for England as a whole, because not only the State had taken away our two beloved daughters, but I also saw the Social Worker as an embodiment of England in its cultural entirety. In a sense, Wendy was England. Nearly every morning, while making breakfast for my wife in bed upstairs, I had wished that I had inflicted physical harm on that arrogant female, who believed she was so much above us and thus behaved accordingly. But in another way I was glad that I hadn't, or else I could well be inside, and as such, separated from my wife too. But it took a very long time for the anger to calm, until in the state of dormancy, enabling us to live a normal life as a childless married couple. 

But what has happened since then? Well our marriage has strengthened in many ways. We have become fully devoted to each other, having learnt to put the other welfare before our own. Also my faith in God through Jesus Christ has grown and strengthened. With Alex, she has a deep distrust in organised religion, and refuses to attend church, as our Elders had sided with the Social Services during and after the conference. But my beloved, encouraged by me, has developed a deep trust "in the Trinity" as she likes in referring to God, even to the point of encouraging me to trust in Jesus when my faith weakens. We used to go out together, and quite a number of occasions, have flown to one of the Greek islands three times, also to Malta, Sicily, and to the Canary Islands. I recall our intimacy on the beach, the night time strolls under the bright stars, as well as exploring ancient history and beautiful countryside arm in arm.

That was until she went down with a psychosomatic illness around July 2013. She became lame in her spine, and lost the ability to walk freely ever since. She had to spend four months as an in-patient at a general hospital. After this, I had to buy her a wheelchair, and she uses it whenever we need to go out together. It breaks my heart to see her this way. And also having to renew her medical prescription every week, including antidepressants, along with required G.P. appointments. Psychosomatic illness. This means "upset mind, sick body." We both agree that this goes back to that awful, dreadful night in 2005 when our two daughters were taken away at three in the morning, leaving my wife screaming hysterically before I was able to calm her down.  

But as for our daughters, we have up-to-date photos of them along with letters written by their adoptive parents and sent to us via the Adoption Agency. As such, they are forbidden to tell us their surname or their whereabouts. Although this is very hurtful to us, at least we can gain some satisfaction that first, they are brought up in a better environment than we could have provided. Secondly, there is evidence that they are doing well at school, and the younger one was diagnosed with above average intelligence, and is now University material, if she keeps up with her school work. Thirdly, they are both good at sports, with swimming and athletics being their favourite activity. But still concerning for us, is that I long for them to know the Lord personally. Out of our reach, we can only commit them to God, and trust in Him to break into their hearts as he had done with us. Then I recall the Scripture I read through which I felt God speaking to me personally. It was from Jeremiah 31:15-17, where God himself had encouraged Rachel not to weep over the loss of her children, for he will bring them back to their own border. Another believer in our fellowship had also endorsed this promise as well.

This has been ten years now. As this was written on the 10th anniversary of Wendy's departure, I was reminded last week on Facebook about forgiveness. Forgiving that arrogant woman? A good friend of mine suggested that I should, based on how both Jesus Christ and Stephen forgave their enemies whilst nearing their deaths. But there is a difference between them and myself. With both Jesus and Stephen, they requested their forgiveness out loud, in the presence of their enemies. This most likely resulted in the conversion of some who stood by the Cross, especially among the three thousand who heard Peter's sermon on the day of Pentecost. Then Stephen's request for God's forgiveness, according to many scholars, had resulted in Saul's conversion. With the martyr's request pricking the Pharisee's conscience, Saul had covered up his conviction by a fresh anger towards all who followed the Way. When the Lord revealed himself from Heaven, Stephen's request to God was answered.

But in Wendy's case, this is different. She is not around. She would never know whether I forgave her or not. Even if I did, she would not know about it, neither would she care. What is left of her is now just thin air. How I would feel will have no impact on her at all, no matter where she is at present. No address. No phone number. Out of our lives forever. So the best thing I can do is simply let her go, with no part of our lives whatsoever.

And no, I won't try to look for her on Facebook.

Saturday, 14 March 2015

A Case of the Puffed Up Presenter

In my last blog I opened with the case of a university vice chancellor drawing on expense allowances to jet around the world in business class. This was to encourage foreign students to come into the UK to study at Bath University. In order to highlight the difference between a celebrity and the commoner, I then made the comparison between Expense Allowance, and Benefits, which is exactly the same thing - revenue contributed by the taxpayer - but with very different meanings. While I was writing that blog, something was going on in the celebrity world elsewhere which, once having gone public, would be controversial enough to split the nation.

It's about the BBC presenter of Top Gear, a hugely popular programme about cars, and fast, sporty cars in particular. Hosted by Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson, and James May, this show has attracted a wide audience to the television channel, a reflection of how the topic of posh cars goes down well with national pride. But I must be one of a minority who have no interest in the show. That is because I had never driven, let alone ever owning a car, throughout my whole life. Instead, for local travel I use a pedal cycle, and rely mainly on trains for longer distances. Then again, I can relate stories of long distance cycling: burn-ups, flat tyres, time trials, triathlon, and simply touring, but I suppose all that is for another day. Rather, what I have found astonishing was that over the last few days, the Media had not ceased to publish ongoing articles about one presenter in particular, Jeremy Clarkson, whose recent behaviour not only had served to endorse his character, but his present suspension from his post had split the nation down the middle whether he should be sacked by the BBC, or reinstated. 

With my interests roused, by reading various newspaper articles, I managed to piece together the events which led up to all this publicity, so at least I believe. Apparently, the Top Gear team had a hotel booked up in Yorkshire, where they were to spend the night after a full day filming. At the end of the day's filming session, they went into a pub, where they spent up to three hours, before arriving at the hotel late in the evening, about an hour after the chef had gone home. As a result, the programme producer, Oisin Tymon, could only dish up a "cold platter" instead of the hot cuisine of sirloin steak they were expecting. It was at this point when Clarkson flew into a rage, and using plenty of expletives, punched, or threatened to strike his boss, in an altercation which lasted up to thirty minutes. The story goes that he felt compelled to admit his tirade to the BBC after persuasion from his team mates.

As I see it, this was a reaction of a spoilt brat, like a child throwing a tantrum when he does not get his own way. As a result of this, the presenter was suspended from his post at the BBC pending further investigation, and as far as I know, the final three episodes of Top Gear will not be shown as scheduled, although I would not be at all surprised if the BBC was forced to change their minds and present these programmes after public and international pressure. And this is what surprises me - national support, mainly from Conservative voters, for Clarkson to be reinstated despite such truculent behaviour. Even our Prime Minister, Conservative leader David Cameron, who is second in Government only to the Queen, backed the presenter's reinstatement. Then came the article one would expect from a right wing newspaper, The Daily Mail, written by Richard Littlejohn, and headlined:
Too White. Too Male. And Too Damned British. No wonder the Beeb wants shot of Clarkson.

How amazing. Not only that such wording has made its way to the public press, but rather it's content. Aside from being inaccurate, it's also a revelation that our nation glorifies wickedness! Now, how different the whole scenario would have been if something like this had taken place that evening:-

It has been a hard day filming Top Gear. But there were a couple of spare hours before the need to return to the hotel. So Jeremy Clarkson, himself a millionaire, invites the entire team into the pub restaurant and offered to treat the entire crew with a sumptuous meal of sirloin steak, or anything of each member's choice. At table, Clarkson phones the hotel reception to announce that they were all eating out, and asked for the chef be relieved of his duties. Then the whole atmosphere is instantly transformed from work stress to that of camaraderie.  

Now that is being a British male. And at the same time his popularity soars among all in the team, including producer Oisin Tymon. And he would have the approval not only from every Top Gear fan in the entire UK, but from the BBC as well. But instead, and quite contrary to Littlejohn's opinion, the broadcasting corporation had to cover for the presenter's past gaffs, including rhyming Eeny Meeny Miny Moe, which contains a racist insult, as well as apologising to a local council on behalf of the celebrity, who drove deliberately into a horse chestnut tree to test the strength of the car, together with other wrongful acts which when combined, would have gotten any other employee eventual dismissal.

Yet according to the latest statistic, up to 875,000 supporters had signed a petition for Clarkson to be reinstated. And I think this is rapidly growing, and I wouldn't be surprised that the number will break the million barrier before the weekend is out, particularly by Sunday evening, when the programme would have been aired. Going by numbers, 875,000 is nearly 1.4% of the entire UK population of 64 million. That may be a tiny proportion, but I believe it represents a much larger number of supporters who for some reason either could not be bothered to sign the petition, or simply hadn't got round to it, or even needed encouragement to do so. What ever the total number of supporters might be, I felt dumbfounded when I saw on Facebook that one of those who had signed the petition was a true Christian believer.

Statistics on who attends church on a regular basis is difficult enough to analyse, let alone how many true believers found among them. But the last time I read the stats, between two to three percent of the UK population attend church on a weekly basis. Taking the lower estimate, two percent of 875,000 would amount to 17,500 Christian supporters who had signed the petition, a minuscule proportion of the entire British population, but still, in my mind at least that amount too many! Of course, such a statistic could be misleading. There could have been far, far fewer Christian believers who had signed the petition without throwing the statistics out of balance.

Am I being political correct? Or judgemental? I don't think so in either case. Certainly not politically correct, for I myself hate the garbage that is associated with this modern way of thinking. Just as any commoner who violently throws a wobbly at his boss or team mate would be instantly dismissed from his post, why should this guy be reinstated just because he is a celebrity? Does this reflect God's point of view? Then, going by what I have read in the Media, there seems to be a leaning towards Conservative values among Clarkson's supporters, including our own Prime Minister. There was even voices heard among Chelsea football fans backing the presenter - the same crowd from where a group of racists had recently insulted a black man at a Paris subway.

Ah, the land of Hope and Glory, so the British love to believe, which by the way, a phrase originally referring to the land of Israel, as Jesus Christ will one day reign as King in Jerusalem, Israel's capital. For a country such as ours referring to itself as Christian, or with a Christian Constitution, I have wondered how much the Brits are able to see how supporting Clarkson flies in the face of Bible principles. Does the Bible encourage God's forgiveness? Yes it does, but usually on the condition of repentance and faith. But what about forgiving others? Yes, certainly among true believers, especially if the one in the wrong repents. Then again, it is true that love covers a multitude of sins. However, going by what I have read, there seems to be no sign in the presenter of a change of heart towards faith in Jesus Christ as Saviour. If that proves to be true, then to whom the British idolise, after death he will face Judgement.

Contrary to the heading of Littlejohn's article, there is nothing either British, white or male about Clarkson's tantrum at that hotel. What he had demonstrated was sheer selfishness, inflated by pride in his celebrity status, and adored by a large percentage of Brits. The true definition of masculinity is found in Galatians 5:22, which reads:-

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. Against such things there is no law.

What a contrast to Clarkson and his British supporters! Really, when you think about it, one is not a real man unless he is a believer in Jesus Christ and is indwelt by the Holy Spirit. As Isaiah, has written, ...and by his wounds we are healed. In other words, unless a fellow has the Holy Spirit dwelling in him, he is not all there, and such drama by the presenter and his supporters is proof of this. Oh the English bulldog spirit, which is a substitute for the Holy Spirit. The bulldog might be strong, courageous, unemotional, have the stiff upper lip - along with carrying the threat to punch the producer on the face for getting Clarkson into trouble - which in reality, he didn't - springing up among Internet trolls, all of these pandering to the self rather than glorifying God. Maybe tying with the Darwinian concept of Evolution and the survival of the fittest. Such thinking has no room for the Gospel of Christ, as this would mean death to self, to be born again to serve God and others.

Yes, I would support Clarkson's reinstatement as a Top Gear presenter, but on one condition: That he would turn to Jesus Christ and trust God to save him, and be filled with the Holy Spirit. As a result, he will be feeling new desires within. No longer would he look down on the non-white man, but recognise that he too is loved by Christ, who desire him, along with all mankind, regardless of colour, race or nationality, to come to the knowledge of the truth. His presentation will be softened with grace, a virtue which could cause him to lose a number of fans. It is unfortunate that there are many Brits who, like Richard Littlejohn, regard Clarkson as a model of the true English Bulldog - tough, arrogant, conservative, xenophobic, patriotic, racist, proud, aggressive, confident, lacking compassion for the poor or needy, loving wealth, and finding joy in fast cars. Many viewers adore such a rugged character of a man. That is why such a large number has signed the petition.

But unfortunately, his type does not reflect the character of Jesus Christ, who did not find it shameful to weep in public, and on two recorded occasions as well. The tremendous amount of good he did to others is well known to us over two thousand years later. Fighting over food? I can't see the Lord doing anything like that! Rather, he would have happily gone without if this meant others receive their share. And not to mention his time of fasting, I believe over several weeks, while preparing for his ministry. And during his ministry, finding time to bless little children, as well as showing compassion towards women steeped in sin. The difference between the Lord and our hero is at present as wide as the Grand Canyon. But believing on the Lord and being filled with his Spirit is that bridge which can bring the two opposing sides together.

And only then will Jeremy Clarkson become a real man.

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Crushing Unfairness?

If there is a person I would be tempted to envy, or feel a jealous compulsion, it could be for a certain Mrs Slade, Vice Chancellor of Bath University. The fact that there is one person above her, the Chancellor, a rather posh way of describing a college Principal, or if you like, a posh name for a headteacher, has given me the impression that the professor in second place in the boardroom is relieved of much of the responsibility of leading a major institution, for a post I most likely wouldn't say "No" to either. That is, she is granted £42,000 of taxpayers money each year to jet around the world to encourage foreign students to come into the UK to graduate at the historic city of Bath, famed for its natural hot springs, the remains of a Roman leisure centre and spa, and the modern Pump Room where the Spring water can be sampled. But what can either give me the gripes, or allow me to sit back and contemplate with a cheesy smile, is that £42,000 is almost four times my annual income as a self-employed window cleaner.

But it is the semantics which I find rather amusing. What she is claiming is Expense Allowances. This is the same as the scandalous expense allowances claimed by Members of Parliament over the years until someone blew the whistle in 2009, by leaking to a newspaper. This resulted in the rise of public anger and the following resignations of up to thirty MP's, including ours who sat at our Constituency. But where the issue of semantics comes in is that the taxpayers revenue is claimed by the likes of Mrs Slade and among MP's is known as Expense Allowances, which sounds perfectly legitimate, while someone like myself who is temporary out of work due to incapacity, what I claim (or attempting to claim) is Benefits, quite a different term which has a contemptuous air of scrounger, or even courting the possibility of being criminalised as a Benefit cheat. The fact is, benefit cheats of a noteworthy proportion of dishonesty are so rare, that when one is caught, he or she makes it into the national press, maybe even on TV bulletins or documentaries.

Never mind that Mrs Slade has to jet around the world to promote Bath University to potential foreign students, and causing me to wonder why there is such a shortage of British-born candidates - the point is why such differences in terminology over something which is essentially the same, yet reflect two entirely different cultures. Another example of this idiosyncratic wording is the difference between salary, earned by all white-collar office staff, and wages, earned by blue-collar, or manual workers. Aren't they both exactly the same sort of thing - money earned by satisfying an employer? Maybe we as a society is beginning to realise this semantic inconsistency by greater use of the universal term Income.

There are times when I don't know whether to laugh or cry, throw a tantrum or show pity. Thinking about all this brings me back to Her Majesty's Diamond Jubilee in 2012, when thousands of entirely white British lined the banks of the Thames to watch the procession of boats sail down the river, which, according to one BBC journalist, the lack of presence of the ethnic minority shows that they don't see Her Maj as their queen. However, the pageantry was magnificent, yet ended with this choir of singers standing on the platform of one of the ships, getting thoroughly drenched in the torrential rain as they sang to the world their praises to the Queen.

Such British stoicism was, I think, was broadcast to the whole world. As was the wedding of the monarch's grandson, Prince William to Catherine Middleton just a year earlier. Then the birth of their son George was broadcast to the world as well. This has got me to ponder whether most on the global population know the names of members of the British Royal Family, yet here is some questions which only you as the reader may understand what I'm trying to say here, and they are:-
Does Spain have a monarch, and if so, who is he?
Who is the present royal couple of the Netherlands?
Who is the head of Saudi Arabia?
If Morocco has a King, who is he?
Easy wasn't it? Of course you knew all the answers! Footage of such foreign royal pageantry are thrown onto our screens fairly frequently, are they not? Maybe not as far as I remember. So what makes this nation so unique, so special? What is it about the UK which prompt not only us Brits to drop on our knees in adoration, but expect the rest of the world to follow suit? How is it that, I believe, the majority of Europe and the United States can rattle off not only the name of our Queen, but most if not all, her family members as well?

Don't get me wrong, I'm not anti-monarchist at all, although I'm far from being a devout royalist. I know for sure that throughout the past six decades the Queen had done a magnificent job, and wholeheartedly kept to her duties. But what amazes me is that whenever an event or anniversary comes round, the pageantry which accompanies these times are grand enough for worldwide broadcast. Little wonder that overseas, as far as I can recall, we hear very little of King Felipe VI of Spain, King Willem and Queen Maxima Alexander of the Netherlands, or for that matter, Mohammed VI of Morocco, or King Salman bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia. Then of course, how can I forget to mention that Prince Charles, along with his sons William, his wife Catherine and Harry all have university degrees? And that after attending a top public school such as Eton.

Ah, education! The higher the education level, the better prospect of a higher income, a more fulfilled life - which leads to greater social respect. And as I recently discussed with my wife, if I had a high income profession, and then had to take three months off work due to a cardiac operation, I would have had no need to even think about benefits. In fact, I tend to see State handouts as somewhat demoralising. But the reason why they are necessary is because of a comparatively low income. Actually, what I normally earn from my business has always been adequate enough not only to to pay every bill, but enough to support both of us, as my wife does not work. On top of this, we were able to fly out to a foreign destination (mostly Greek islands) nearly every year, and overall, live quite comfortably. However, with Alex's mobility recently limited, our inability to travel abroad allowed me to save, and just as well, as the forthcoming cardiac procedure was not foreseen until a year later. I am one of the luckier ones. The processing of temporary benefits is a long, tedious saga of telephone calls, Internet search, form-filling and interviews. With no money coming in yet until the Doctor's certificate has been processed (which as been over a week since I sent it off) - I am fortunate enough to live off on what I already accumulated over the past months to ride over the crisis adequately.

And this, I believe, is where our English language differentiates between Expense Allowances and Benefits. Where the former sounds like something not only legitimate, but also honourable, yet there seems to be something degrading, ugly even, about benefits. Such a term, although still legitimate, still carries with it a sense of being a scrounger, workshy, one without a conscience finding delight in sponging off the State, to have hard-working taxpayers contributing to my welfare. But having said all that, it is a wonderful system to have in place for cases such as myself to hit upon a crisis, and meant to be a temporary cover until I return to work again.

Neither the Queen nor any member of the Royal Family will ever claim benefits. Neither will Members of Parliament will ever feel the need to claim benefits either, although I'm sure they will bicker on about expense allowances, as they still do to this day. Then I doubt that the vast majority of degree-holding professionals would ever feel the need to walk into the welfare office either, but some such as Mrs Slade, can travel the world, live a life of luxury among the cream of society on expense allowance, sustained by the taxpayer, therefore exactly like benefits, but carrying a posher name - while in the meantime, I struggle and wait endlessly for a positive response from the benefit office, while at the same time I perceive myself as a scrounger, and perhaps there are many out there who would see me in exactly the same way - a sponger - I can't help believing that life is grossly unfair.

Living in a country of which culture honours the rich, the well educated, the successful entrepreneur, as well as adoring the monarch to the state of being the national saviour - but holding contempt for someone who can't work for various reasons - does not reflect a Christ-like spirit, in my opinion. Reading the whole of the Bible, and particularly the Old Testament books of Exodus through to Deuteronomy, laws respecting the poor are emphasised, along with the teaching of Jesus in the Gospels, and in the Acts of the Apostles. For someone who is wealthy, he has a wonderful opportunity to show benevolence to those who are struggling to make ends meet. Here I would like to quote the case of John D. Rockfeller:-

A hard-driving businessman, this American oil tycoon became the nation's first billionaire. He drove his workers so hard in order to make every profit possible, that he was hated by all who worked for him. However, as he grew richer his health began to wane, and by the age of fifty three, he could only eat crackers and milk. He looked so old that everyone thought that he could not live to see his next birthday. Then one night he had a vision. He realised that he would not take a single cent of his wealth into the next world. That's when he decided to give away his wealth to all those in need by pouring his money into the Rockfeller Foundation he had formed. As a result, universities, hospitals, missionaries, and millions of underprivileged people benefited, along with funds to deal with the greatest scourge which plagued the South - hookworm.

I believe that, despite its bad image, the welfare system is an act of compassion and mercy towards the needy. The only difference is that it comes from taxpayers, who are generally not keen to see their earnings go towards the needy, hence our present Government's commitment to reduce welfare and encourage the needy to find work, a policy which has become so detrimental to the physically incapacitated that a number of those with mobility limitations have committed suicide. Not because it was against their will to have a job, but rather because many firms and businesses did not want to employ them, leaving them in a dire financial situation, so according to one Tory newspaper journalist.

It is a tragic that over the decades, our nation had broadcast our adoration of the monarchy to the rest of the world, have maintained a class system which looks up to the wealthy, the well educated, and to the professionals with respect, showering them with praise, while allegorically giving the poor and needy, as well as the physically disabled a kick in the backside. Hence our Ministers does practically nothing to stem the culture of banker's bonuses, which can add up to a million pounds, while we see the rise of the food banks, possibly as a consequence of benefit cuts made to those who need them.

Yes, I'm proud to be British.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Crude? Or Not?

I always recall when I was one of five young men having fun while on a cycling tour, having disembarked from a ferry at Rotterdam, then cycled through Holland, then into Germany, where we arrived at the city of Cologne. We spent a couple of days there before taking a different route homeward, riding through Belgium, to board the ferry back to England from the port of Ostend.  For one who has always travelled alone, to be one of a group of five free-spirited, unmarried men was a learning curve, as we were all Christian believers from four different churches, yet we remained united as one. It was June 1987, in the midst of building up my window cleaning business, and therefore unable to afford longhaul backpacking throughout the period between 1978 and 1993.

But it was not all peaches and cream. While staying at a backpacker's hostel in Cologne, I had all my cash stolen while having breakfast downstairs, as a result of being foolish enough to leave my wallet among all my other stuff in the dormitory. Penniless, I had to depend on the generosity of the other four men for the rest of the ride until I set afoot on English soil. But nevertheless, we made the most of our adventure, and I did not let the theft of my cash ruin the holiday. Instead if there were opportunities to laugh and joke around, at least this helped to take some of the grind from constant pedaling. 

During one of the city stops, one of my friends and myself needed to visit the gents (rest room, comfort station). It was in the days that the male urinal was just one unit which lined one of the interior walls, before the modern introduction of single individual units, and in this particular case the room being underground. When the two of us arrived at the urinal to answer the call of nature, I made a passing comment in a calm tone without the intent of being humourous:-

This is where they all hang out!

Suddenly, and much to my surprise, my friend burst into hysterical laughter. This was meant to be a statement of fact rather than a joke. I was taken in by his laughter, and we both ended up almost rolling on the floor with intense mirth. But this seemed to be the exception rather than the rule. In all my days of church life, I can remember very little of mirth and laughter among Christian men. So here I would like to ask: how would you have re-acted had it been you who had been with me instead of one of my friends in the group? Would you have laughed? Or gave me a stern look? Or even attempt to figure out the ambiguity of the comment? Do you see mirth and laughter as sinful? And in turn, do you believe that constant sorrow and mourning over your shortcomings is the sign of true godliness?

For this reason I would never tell a saucy joke in a church gathering. I suspect that rather than laughter, the response I would get is a cold, flint-hard look of disapproval. Saucy? This sounds to me like the fluid poured over a meal to enhance both the taste and flavour. I have to be honest with myself, but the majority of jokes which sends me laughing loudest have a dash of sauciness to them. The truth is, I do enjoy a laugh and a joke without incurring guilt. But over the years I have learnt not to tell downright rude jokes. Not only would it offend the Christian hearer, but by my own experience, I demean myself, even if I tell it to an unbeliever. But on the other hand, the above statement spoken in the toilets was neither rude, nor vulgar, not did it contain any swear words, nor was it sexually explicit. Yet the element of sauciness had sent my mate into fits of laughter.

Looking back on all this, I recall a gulf as wide as the Grand Canyon between a crude-minded working class yet experienced wood finisher, and a well educated professional holding down a desk job. And I learnt first hand by experience. Fresh from leaving school in 1968, at age just fifteen years, I joined a furniture-making factory as a trainee wood finisher. It was here, in an all-male environment, that I quickly became familiar of the most vulgar smut that could enter the ears of an innocent youth. Yes, some of it was funny, but on the whole, not only was it degrading to women, but also to our own gender as well. The volume of swear words uttered in between fifteen to thirty minutes of conversation became countless. But this was something I had to get used to, and became part of daily living without any more effect on my conscience.

And what makes this whole saga of special note is when I became a believer towards the end of 1972. Not long after I declared unashamedly my belief in Jesus Christ, there was a documentary shown on TV about a three thousand year old ancient mummy, found preserved at a frozen environment. During a discussion about the documentary the next day, our friend came out with this statement, as far as I remember, word for word:-

The presence of that mummy proves that this guy existed and was once alive. As for this Jesus, they never found even one of his balls!

If you find that statement so offensive, then please bear in mind what I had to go through as a young, inexperienced believer. So immature, I never thought about declaring the answer that would have instantly killed his blasphemous statement. I now wished that I had said,

Of course no one would find ANY part of the Lord's anatomy. He is risen from the dead and is now seated in Heaven. All of him, scrotum included!

By not coming out with such an answer is something I deeply regret, and sometimes I feel unable to forgive myself for allowing that statement to go unchallenged. But what did make an impact in the shop floor was the presence of a small New Testament which was given to all of us at school by the Gideons. I watched our foreman blush as if in fear at the sight of the book, while I found it nourishing to my soul during the breaks. Shortly after all this, I left the factory during Spring of 1973 to take on the Summer job as a qualified poolside lifeguard.

But I believe that the five year experience on that shop floor had changed me from a boy into a man. The daily torrent of smut had hardened my skin in a way to enable me to take on challenges which might not have happened otherwise. For example, more than once I was referred to as brave for backpacking both the Middle East and North America on my own, even though I had never associated travel with bravery. Rather, travel was always something I enjoy doing. But much more recently, in the days following my heart operation, I was commended for not moaning and wallowing in the luxury of pain. But that was because I had the welfare of my wife in the upper echelons of my mind. I had to think of that first, which necessitated my determination to recover quickly to resume my care for her.

Some time later from Autumn of 1973 onward,  I found myself working at a precision engineering factory, an environment of both gender, and therefore vastly different to the furniture factory of my former days. This company also gave me access to the adjoining offices upstairs, where I made friends with a couple of employees there. Although two of them were friendly towards the Christian faith without being committed, a third was an atheist, but without any of the slur which characterised the behaviour of the wood finisher. And that had gotten me to think about church, even to this day.

In a way I find it sad to see our churches, including the one I regularly attend, filled mostly with middle class men and women, college students, as well as a high percentage of senior citizens, but remaining absent of down to earth working class war veterans like our smutty friend. I have thought about the wood finisher (who by now has long died) and wondered whether it was the ravishes of war which made him the way he was. As a boy, did he attend Sunday School? That was something I had never asked. If he did become familiar with church life, then went to war for God, King and Country, only to witness the appalling suffering and death of his mates and colleagues, all in the name of God? Could this had an impact on his heart until worked up to a hostile frenzy? Somehow, I find it much easier to dislike a church going hypocrite than to dislike someone like that worker and war veteran. Yet it becomes too easy, in my mind, to pass judgement and write the person off as being without hope without first knowing the facts of his background beforehand.

That to be gives the impression that our churches are too much out of balance, favouring the middle classes, the well to do, the polite and well educated, and the professional. Many years ago I heard a pastor of a church I used to attend state plainly that he wishes that more of the wealthy, Corporation directors, the bankers, those from the yuppie culture, and so on would fill the pews - so giving towards a new building project can be quick and more effective. There are times that I can't help thinking: That somehow the ninth Beatitude in the Sermon of the Mount has been erased from the original manuscript by an early church father, for saying, Blessed are the wealthy and the well educated, for God has a preference for them. If you think that this is a dangerous tinkering of the Word of God, then it is only gotten from what I have seen in church life over the years.

There is only one answer that would help the churches make more of an impact on the unbelieving world, that is to walk in the Holy Spirit/to walk in love. So intertwined are the two suggestions, that only a forward slash is needed to define the two. Walking in the Holy Spirit is walking in love, I believe. But far more fortunate for the present rising generation is that the generation which consisted of world war veterans I had to face as an adolescent, is passing away at present, and none from that era will now be found at the workplace. By comparison with the 1960's, the present day student and apprentice had never had it so good. Gone too, I believe, are the dogsbody tasks every school leaver had to endure in the presence of their seniors, such as sweeping the factory floor, making the tea for all, and so on. But sometimes I can't help thinking, that in a modern industrial world relatively free of such humble tasks and dreadful smut, our present generation will be somewhat softer and less resistant to the challenges of life. I have seen this already, even in my own generation, there are men whose gentler, middle class and far higher educated upbringing has made them averse to any uncomfortable situation, such as carrying out a task in the rain, for example, something which I take in my stride, or visiting the Holy land as part of an escorted tour group, rather than as a free-going backpacker, and letting the land gradually talk back to him through day to day personal interaction.

But in all, thank goodness that perhaps we can have a good laugh, perhaps even border into sauciness, without the need to go into degrading and harmful smut. Really, we don't need this in life, and it doesn't edify anyone. I can certainly do without any smut, instead by giving thanks to God for his goodness and expressing joy for his salvation can lift the spirit in a way no amount of smutty language can achieve.

And that includes public toilet smut.