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Saturday, 21 January 2017

Am I Being Morbid?

Being retired from work does give me several privileges. Aside from going to the gym up to three times a week, there is also the opportunity of visiting Bracknell Town Centre during a typical working day, especially around the time of the lunch period. And the fact that over here in what the Americans may refer to as "Downtown Bracknell," much of it is a huge building site, at a midst of a major redevelopment project, featuring a new shopping and leisure mall which will attract retailers and businesses which have not existed here before. 

Last week I passed a group of workmen who were milling around during lunchtime, and I overheard one calling out some instructions to another - in a foreign language, probably Polish. Suddenly, my perception of the construction project, the issue of immigration, and the result of the Referendum, all seemed to have come into focus. Many of the builders, if not the entire workforce, are no longer of the traditional English working-class builder, known for his drum-sized mugs of tea, a half smoked cigarette carefully poised between his fingers, and his casual humour as he wolf-whistles a passing young female, or as they say in their language, "a nice-looking chick." Rather, it looks to me that the redevelopment of Bracknell town centre is carried out by foreign workers who keep themselves mostly to themselves.

Reconstruction project at Bracknell town centre.

Like the time when we had a complete kitchen and bathroom overhaul, a project which lasted three weeks. Several different contractors were involved. The first took down all the old plaster and fittings, the next dealt with the plumbing, another took care of the electrical rewiring, another re-plastered the walls, still another installed all the new furnishings, another re-tiled the flooring, and the final contractor re-painted the walls and ceilings. Quite a number of workers we had in our house every weekday, and I'll be the first to say that they all done a magnificent job, up to professional standard. Yet every worker involved in the project were foreigners, even with a level of difficulty in speaking English.

So the cry of the indigenous Brits as we voted whether to remain in the EU or to leave and regain our national sovereignty - we voted to leave by a narrow margin. One of the main issues here being immigration - people from the European Union coming here and taking our jobs, often with low pay. As a consequence, employers are to be blamed for paying such low wages whilst at the same time the foreign workforce seems to be content enough not to protest and withdraw their labour, as the British workers were reputed for doing so on such a large scale. It was even noticed globally, particularly back in the 1970's, with the Winter of Discontent of 1978/9 reaching the pinnacle of the crisis, something I remember well. Maybe it was these Capital-versus-Labour conflicts which were a factor to this widespread immigration. Then after watching Degree-Inflation beginning to creep into the academic world during the 1990's, with more and more students choosing Further Education in preference to vocational apprenticeships, a culture of occupational snobbery began to rise. Young men in particular wanted to match their female colleagues in the professions, and therefore turned up their noses at traditional vocations for a desk in the office.

And so the dominant Prime Minister of that decade, Labour leader Tony Blair delivered his mantra: Education! Education! Education! - with Universities becoming the new yardstick for personal and occupational success. The Labour Government of the 1990's was also responsible for the Open Doors Policy, a relaxation of our national boundaries to allow greater freedom of movement across Europe, including into and out of the UK. No doubt, small businesses, retailers and farmers took advantage of the inflow of Europeans with a promise of accommodation and "a reasonable pay" - which although low by British standards, it was still higher than these workers would have received had they remained at their home countries.

And so with an added excuse of the NHS becoming clogged up with "Health Tourists" coming into the UK with their expectation of free treatment, when former Prime Minister David Cameron called for a Referendum to ask the nation whether to leave or remain in the European Union, the Vote to Leave won. And that despite that the clogging of the NHS was due mainly of the ageing indigenous population rather than health tourism - which makes up a tiny percentage of the patient flow - there is a certain high feeling of optimism, even excitement as not only the UK regaining its own sovereignty, but with great expectations of great glory equalling to imperial days. Indeed the modern Tower of Babel will one day be completed! 

And so with the inauguration of the 45th President of the United States, Donald Trump, is hardly completed when a group of highly professional, right-wing English Media journalists gets in on the act. This being the case of the gloating and sneering attitude towards us who voted Remain at last year's Referendum. One good example of sneering is quoted here, word for word, from Daily Mail columnist Richard Littlejohn, in his article praising the victory of the new President. He writes:

One of the great joys of watching the unlikely rise of The Donald has been witnessing the deranged reaction of his opponents, who have behaved exactly like the hysterical Remain camp at home.

They still can't accept that they lost and will do everything in their power to prevent Trump (and Brexit) from succeeding. But they are doomed to failure.

A phalanx of Democratic politicians boycotted the inauguration, in a playground gesture of dissent. Like our own Remoaners, they saw everything which they disagree as "illegitimate" or "undemocratic".
The Daily Mail, Saturday January 21st - Page 17, emphasis mine.

This is totally untrue, we have not behaved like the protesters in the streets of Washington DC. Instead, Littlejohn looks to be exaggerating so to throw a stronger punch. In what way? Well, first of all, the majority of Remainers still believe that the result of the Referendum was democratic enough for the divorce from the EU to proceed. Secondly, and more to the point, I cannot recall even a single reported incident of Remainers causing violence in the streets here in the UK, throwing rocks, setting cars alight, and breaking glass shop-fronts of banks and McDonald's restaurants. These violent protests were against the rise of Donald Trump and this took place mainly at 12th Street of Washington DC. Yes, we might have made a verbal protest or two, but it looks to me that the vast majority of us who voted Remain accepted our loss with a level of grace. On the other hand, the murder of Labour M.P. Helen Joanne Cox in West Yorkshire by a deranged would-be Brexit voter just before the Referendum, is kept rather quiet by columnists such as Richard Littlejohn.

Scenes of the Anti-Trump protests in Washington DC 

I voted to remain in the EU, and after suffering the loss, all I did was make a few comments on Facebook. That was all. I certainly did not go out onto the streets to protest, not even on a peaceful level, let alone violently! Furthermore, I am against any idea of a second Referendum, as proposed by both Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron and Virgin Group founder Richard Branson. Rather, we all have already voted. A result emerged. Those who voted Leave has won the vote. So let's get on with it.

Right-wing newspapers are glorifying both the victory of Brexit here in the UK and the inauguration of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States. Both groups of supporters are extremely proud, self-confident, and optimistic for the future. I could even add that there were many evangelical churches in America who persuaded their members to vote for Trump. And here is the rub. Churches vying for a political leader. Quite contrary to how the Apostles felt about their leaders of their day.

Because although I voted to remain, I am also aware of the imminent: Death, which could happen at any moment. Especially as one retired, I have become more aware of this unstoppable journey to the grave. The apostles knew this as well, and lived as if each day might be the last. Suddenly, with such a realisation - everything in this world becomes irrelevant. What use is it for me if we leave or remain in the EU if God will call me home tomorrow? Oh more important, if my unbelieving friends, colleagues or neighbours were to die tomorrow without Christ in their lives? Yes, what then? Am I being morbid?

In Romans 13:1-7, Paul writes that there is no authority which has not been established by God. Therefore as Christians we are obliged to submit to those over us. The American believer has a duty to submit to Donald Trump as President as it is for us to submit to Theresa May as Prime Minister, whether we all agree with their policies or not. It is what Paul the apostle has written. Peter backs this up, exhorting us to fear God and to honour the King (1 Peter 2:17) - even if the Roman Emperors in Peter's day were at their peak of wickedness, and guilty of murdering potential rivals and family members. Both Paul and Peter knew that God himself has placed each one on the throne for the purpose of keeping evil in check. In this sinful world, the need for authority is a necessity.

There was something glorious about the ancient Roman empire. Despite the wickedness of its ruler, the Pax Romana has made the empire look glorious to the average Roman citizen, including richly aesthetic public buildings, marketplaces, forums, theatres, and of course - the public baths, so beautifully decorated, and areas of public gardens and its numerous fountains to delight the eye. Indeed, there was a lot of beauty in the ancient Roman Empire along with its economical and political stability. The kind of world which Donald Trump has aspirations for the USA, and for Brexiteers have for the UK. The wanting of the heart of every human being to restore his lost paradise, bathed in glory and earthly splendour, the Garden of Eden lost at the dawn of history. 

And that how poor Demas must have felt. Demas was a companion of the Apostle Paul out on an evangelical mission, along with Cresens, Titus, and Luke. In 2 Timothy 4:10-11, Paul writes that only Luke remains with him, after the departure of Titus to Dalmatia, Cresens to Galatia, and Demas having gone to Thessalonica, having loved this present world. 

With the richness and man-made glory of the Roman Empire, I can't blame the attitude of Demas, on how he was overcome by the beauty, political and economic stability of the world he lived in. But a few years ago I have read an online article written by one of the leaders of an evangelical church in the Californian city of Sacramento. This church, like I do, believes in Eternal Security of the Believer, and therefore I value many of its teachings. But one teaching I have objections with is that concerning Demas. According to this church, Demas was never a true believer, or else he wouldn't have deserted Paul for the love of this world, according to their reasoning, the promise of the true believer being kept by the power of God, as stated in 1 Peter 1:3-5. Therefore this church has classed Demas as a false convert, still in his sins, along with any other like-minded church-deserters as false converts. This is utter nonsense. Not only does this deny the beauty in the truth of Once Saved Always Saved, but also becomes a form of Lordship Salvation. Only in this case, a life of continuous performance being proof of salvation. Failure to perform adequately only leading to grave doubts whether he is truly saved, hence becoming a sitting duck for adverse spiritual forces. Surely, this kind of thinking can place an unbearable yoke on the neck of the believer.

Jesus advises us to seek the Kingdom of God and not to love this present world. This can only be done through the power of the Holy Spirit within. It is an act of love. An act of love for God and his Kingdom which will surpass everything that is good in this world. Not only it's the work of God in the heart, but it also take time for such love to be reached, and it's easy to fall back from time to time. But that does not make us false converts. Rather, it's part of spiritual growth.

To the apostles, along with the majority of early believers, the Kingdom of God and its glory was so close to their own reality, that all the glorious things of this world had become like shadows by comparison. They honoured the Emperor in full knowledge that God has put him there to keep evil in check, but still their hearts yearned to be in the presence of their True King, the risen Jesus Christ who has atoned for their sins and has credited his own righteousness upon them, and made them children of God and heirs to his inheritance. Donald Trump cannot achieve any of these for his followers. Neither can Brexit bring such salvation to us either.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Frank,
    It saddens me that we cannot unite to improve our country, which first requires honoring and supporting the God-ordained powers that be, no matter how much we agree or disagree with the politician and/or his/her policies. The only exception should be if the leader demands that we break God's law, in which case, God must be obeyed at any cost. Then again, those committing the acts of senseless violence and destruction are not likely those who fear God to begin with. Thanks as always for the excellent, thought-provoking post.
    God bless,