And so after a vigorous two-hour workout in the gym, I was looking forward to relaxing at home to ease my legs. They were aching and as stiff as an ironing board with an oversupply of lactate in the muscle fibres. I browse the current news on the Internet. Then I thought, Oh no, not again. What is it all about this time? It was a report about a teenage schoolgirl in the North of England, whose tie was worn slightly out of kilter. A passing teacher reminded her of this, and she immediately corrected the mistake. That, with an apology from the student, should have concluded everything and allowed to attend class as normal alongside everyone else.
But no. Instead she was ordered to go to the Consequence Room, an area of isolation to sit in as punishment. Funny that. In my day, back in the mid-sixties, if a student - or pupil as we were known back then - was told to straighten his tie, he would have made the adjustment immediately without further ado, knowing full well that any resistance to authority would have led to the Headmaster's office for a caning. Then that was it. Back to the classroom. The Consequence Room was totally unheard of. But in this case, the teenager, who has Asperger's Syndrome, was unaware of her attire, and when it was brought to her attention, her condition immediately compelled her to sort the matter out. She could not understand why further punishment was required, and she protested against the order to go into isolation. As a result, the school sent her home for the day, forcing her to miss out on her education.
It is my opinion that female pupils at school should be exempt from wearing a tie as part of the uniform. To me it looks ugly, a form of masculinisation, especially when the tie is very short, the knot very large, and the top button left undone. Very untidy, and not only that, but also a sign of rebellion. But all this is only my own opinion. You may strongly disagree. But apparently, many other schools see the girl's uniform in the same way that I see it, and compulsory V-neck collared blouses are instead worn. It looks much more smart and tidier. Furthermore, with a possible exception of the Forces, no grown woman wears a tie, ether on or off duty. Indeed, for a female adolescent having to wear a tie at school is a typical example of British cultural idiosyncrasy.
|A scene from the BBC soap, Waterloo Road.|
But this does not deter the majority of comments in the long forum which trails the article. These comments were aimed at the schoolgirl's rebellion against school rules, condemning her and serving her right. Typical comments included: Her Asperger's has nothing to do with it. She was a wilful rebel and deserves to be sent home. Good Heavens! Has anyone read the article properly? It was emphasised that the student corrected her attire immediately afterwards, a natural reaction of an Asperger's sufferer when confronted with such a situation. Oh well, I guess there will always be an England, eccentric as it might be. The nation's obsession with the necktie has not faded despite its decline among many male professionals. I recall the Daily Mail right-wing national newspaper heavily criticising the BBC for allowing foreign and home correspondents to deliver their reports dressed without a tie. Clive Myrie, for one, was heavily criticised for this, but others such as Mark Lowen and Will Gompertz readily deliver their reports tieless. Then there was this massive hoo-ha over Robert Peston's refusal to wear a tie while on air, which stirred another long forum of controversy following the article. By contrast, among female correspondents, a tie is as rare as an oasis in the Sahara Desert, but not a single whimper had ever sounded. Something which makes me wonder how an average school girl feels about compulsory wearing of a tie.
Why such controversy? I know, it's all to do with discipline. In many ways, it is well known that a school with a strict uniform policy delivers graduates with a higher educational level than the more liberal school, and with a greater percentage going on to university. Statistics constantly bear this out. But I do wonder whether the willingness to shed the tie before the commencement of university, for example, is due to a level of physical discomfort caused by the restriction, or a sudden sense of liberation until the job interview, or even whether it's a sign of rebellion against stuffiness - the "stuck-up" image, or a combination of two of the three, or of all three. But one thing seems guaranteed: Going about tieless creates controversy, stirring feelings.
And I can see a stark similarity between the controversy over going about tieless, and that of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Both are very controversial. Especially over whether one is saved by pure unadulterated grace, or whether one has to play a role in his salvation. I for one, believe in pure unadulterated grace. That means that by dying on a cross, he took all my sins - past, present, and future - upon himself, reconciling me to God forever. That means, as a believer, I can enter his eternal rest, free from the Law of Moses, and therefore irrespective of how I think, feel, and act, as the word unadulterated simply means without any human effort or contribution. Therefore Once Saved Always Saved. And that is through the grace of God through Jesus Christ, who offered himself as the one sacrifice - once and for all time - so that the one sanctified is forever made perfect (Hebrews 10:14).
Religious people don't like this. They don't like it at all. In the dawn of history, Cain murdered Abel because he was the recipient of God's grace, while his older brother was religious. Later, the religious Pharisees threatened to put Lazarus to death for being another recipient of God's grace. Also the man born blind. He received his sight without working for it, and the Pharisees threw him out of the synagogue. But most intense, other than to Jesus Christ, must have been the stoning of Stephen. The Sanhedrin must have got so hot under the collar (pun intended) that they literally yelled and gnashed their teeth. And all this happened after Stephen tells of his vision of the risen Jesus standing up in his Father's presence to receive him at the point of death.
I believe that the Inquisition - Rome's effort to eradicate "heretics" for the preservation of the Catholic faith by torturing on racks to extract a confession - was another works versus grace episode, and what a bloody episode that was! On October 16th 1555, two Bishops: Nicholas Ridley and Hugh Latimer, were burnt alive outside Balliol College in Oxford as another case of works versus grace. Then to this day, works versus grace continues relentlessly. So what do I mean by "works"? It is the effort to keep the Law, to keep God satisfied and to keep his wrath or his disapproval in check. Because God is holy, and by nature we are not holy, it is human nature to try and please God one way or another. This natural human tendency to try and please God in our own strength is called the flesh. As Paul wrote, in our flesh we cannot please God (Romans 8:8 KJV) - so it's not worth trying.
|Martyr's Memorial, Oxford.|
It is so unfortunate that there are many who can be considered true believers who are prone to be controlled by the flesh rather than by the Holy Spirit, even if they declare that they are Spirit controlled. Here I am not talking about "sinning wilfully" or doing bad things. Rather, I'm talking about those who believe that salvation can be lost through abandoning the faith or excess sinning. Often known as Arminians, because it was originally taught by Jacobus Arminius towards the end of the 16th Century, these Christians feel the need of constant good works in their lives to keep the disapproval of God at bay. So they turn to Christ for forgiveness of their past sins, then turn to the Law to remain holy. The snag with that it doesn't work. For example, prayer is often begins by confession - to "clear the air" in case God has something against him and his prayers go unanswered. I have been through many years with this train of thinking, stemmed from my upbringing as a Roman Catholic. Throughout life, if my experience has anything to go by, God is perceived as constantly checking over my performance, and always finding something amiss. Nothing could be further from the truth. If all this is true, then Christ's death on the cross has failed to atone completely - a reasoning upheld by the Catholic Church.
Therefore it is not too surprising to have found Arminian Christians to be more judgemental of other believers, and tending to be more in want of patience against those who might differ. If they struggle to measure up to what the Law demands, it would be natural to see others failing to keep the Law perfectly as well, and therefore prone to judge. In my fellowship, I am under constant scrutiny, judgement, and even hatred by another member of our church. Not surprisingly, he is as Arminian as he can get.
This is where such controversies have in common. Whether a school girl must wear a tie to keep the rules of her school, or for a Christian to keep the Law to avoid divine punishment, the two are basically the same - to keep the rules or risk punishment. I have reason to believe that the majority of boys do not like wearing ties. Just walk through the High Street of any town on a Saturday, or stroll through a theme park in the Summer. You'll be hard pressed to find any young person, or even older people, of both genders wearing a tie. But at school they wear ties because it's part of their uniform and to wear uniform is the rules. Likewise, Christian believers try to keep the Law instead of resting in his grace because to obey the Law perfectly is the rules. And breaching of these rules brings judgement - whether for not wearing a tie at school, or that the tie isn't straight, or whether a Christian angrily shouts "F**k off" in church. Tut! Tut! A forum of controversial commenting to follow.
Finally, I need to say to any of you Arminian readers: I'm not here to get at you. Rather, I wish you to see the freedom Christ has bought for you, and enjoy your eternal rest in him. Recently I have lost a small number of followers. At first I thought it was due to calling the English eccentric. There may be some truth in this. But more likely, I think they were Arminians feeling "got at". Rather the opposite. Jesus Christ has set you free, nailing the Law to the cross. So enjoy the eternal security he bought with a very high price.