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Saturday, 29 September 2018

The Cell Phone, Eugenics, and Darwin

One example of forgetfulness occurred last week when my wife and I booked into a hotel in London for a couple of nights. It was late on the first evening when that characteristic and instantly recognisable sound began to issue from within my rucksack at approximately ten-minute intervals:


"Oh no!" I exclaimed. "The cell phone battery is dead and do you know what? I have forgotten to bring the charger."

After a while, as my wife and I were together in bed, she asked,
"Can you remove the battery? I can't sleep with that sound."

I was reluctant at first, as I'm one of those people, where anything is involved, after taking something apart, I always find it impossible to put back together again. So instead, I arose, took the rucksack and wrapped the Vodaphone in thick clothing and placed it back inside the bag. No use. The bleep has that capacity to penetrate any material, regardless of how thick the wrapping may be. Therefore, I managed to pry the phone open and removed the battery from its place. At last, no more bleeping.

Only to replace the battery once back at home, and seeing no response after connecting with its charger. And so, what was wrong? Was it the phone? Well, the unit screen lit up and it started to bleep again, confirming that the battery and back cover were both replaced properly. So could it be the charger itself? Or even the wall socket? So I plugged the charger into another socket. Still no response. And then the phone beeped. It never does that during the powering-up process. So I guess the fault must be with the charger.

Oh, the mystery of technology! It's as if the length of wire had taken offence at being left behind at home, and decided to call it a day at that particular weekend. After making several inquiries at different outlets and getting nowhere, I decided to buy a new cell phone altogether. After all, I had the present one for several years already. And I wanted a phone - yes, just a phone, a device for making calls and to speak to the person at the other end. None of this smartphone lark, which is basically a miniature mobile computer, complete with the Internet.

Never in a million years would I look like and act like a zombie, walking with half-glazed eyes fixed on the device held in front, not looking where I'm going, and being totally unaware of a fast-approaching cyclist or a crushingly-dumb dog-walker who, in all his wisdom, had decided to let his Staffie off its lead in public. Neither would I ever carry an Internet terminal with me wherever I go. After all, I have recently read that Google is able to track you down through the smartphone, no matter where you may be. After all, I don't feel comfortable having someone gawking at me whilst having a pee at a public restroom.

Therefore, a new mobile phone I was after. As I approached the Vodaphone outlet, this woman, half my age but considerably taller, sprinted to the door just as I was about to enter. I was furious! But all I did was mutter under my breath. British stiff upper lip? Or rather I did not want to create a scene. After a couple of minutes, an assistant appeared from the stockroom behind the shop, and he approached me. I directed him to the tall lady who was browsing nearby. At least she was decent enough to realise what she had done was wrong, or that her conscience was bothering her, because she redirected the assistant back to me, and I proceded with the purchase of a new phone.

With my wife, I spent a couple of nights at a rather expensive hotel in London. It has nothing to do with poshness, this particular hotel was step-free from street to our room, a necessity for one confined to a wheelchair. There are many cheaper hotels around, especially in Pimlico, but all have a flight of steps leading to the front door, and furthermore, each being set in a former Victorian residence, lifts were never included in its design. 

This trip was made to attend a two-day Creation International Conference held at the beautiful and large Emmanual Centre, not far from the Houses of Parliament. Three of us attended, a very good friend of ours from another church, my wife and myself. All three of us are devout Young-Earth Creationists, and this conference was in full support of what is taught in the Bible. Just to add, this was not our initial meeting. Creation International had its first ever conference two years previously at the same venue. Back then, as this time, the talks delivered were very edifying.

Creation International Conference 2018, Emmanuel Centre.

The opening talk I found very powerful. How the authority of the Bible was destroyed in Western society by the advent of Darwinism. For me, this is very serious stuff! Because, although hard it may be to believe, I do see a connection between Darwinism and the behaviour of the female at the entrance of the Vodaphone outlet, namely in a sense, being part of her struggle for survival and with such belief, blocking her mind from the truth of the Gospel.

This also brings grief to me. Yes, I have a concern when I looked in an old edition of The Guinness Book of Records which featured a photo of the largest crowd on Earth, which was made up of Hindus gathering for a national festival in India. The crowd was massive. I thought about babies born, grew up, and living a normal life there, without any opportunity to hear and believe the Gospel of Christ. It was easy for me to be grateful that I was born in a Christian country where the Gospel is, or meant to be, available at any mainstream church I called at, regardless of denomination. What hope is there for these Hindus? Or for that matter, having been born in a Middle Eastern country where Islam has full reign? Or even born in Soviet Russia, or in China, back then both under the grip of atheistic Communism?

Really, what is happening in the world? Why such hostility against the truth of the Bible and the Gospel of Christ? It seems as though there are invisible forces in the air, carrying a ferocious hatred of the Truth, and ensuring that mankind as a whole either rejects the Gospel or kept in ignorance of it, so I was reminded at the conference. Europe under Christian influence? This might have been the case during the 18th Century when the Reformation was underway and sporadic revivals took place. But in the 19th Century, something incredulous happened. How could a tiny acorn grow into a mighty oak tree which branches had covered the entire globe? 

It was at the conference, which boasted a Christian bookshop based mainly on Creationism, that I bought a book, Hitler and the Nazi Darwinian Worldview, by Jerry Bergman. A fascinating book, it confirms what I have already suspected, and featured in one of my previous blogs, that there is a direct connection between Darwin's theory of evolution, the survival of the fittest, and natural selection. Darwin's book, On the Origins of Species, was read and absorbed by Darwin's cousin, Englishman Francis Galton, who transferred the universal biological idea of survival of the fittest to social evolution. He wrote, Hereditary Genious, a book on eugenics which became very popular among German scientists and academics. His work was about humans who are physically, mentally or psychologically weak, along with the deformed, the cretin, the homosexual, the non-white, even the politically deviant, all must be wiped off this planet in order to make way for the strong, that is the Aryan Race, which is the tall, white, intelligent German society.

One thing which struck me whilst reading Bergman's book. That is if Darwinism, along with Galton's writings, had never taken off or even ever published, the chance was there would have been no World War II, neither would the Holocaust had ever taken place.

Survival of the fittest involves the mass death of "the weak" in order to make room for "the strong". Not only does this mean the elimination of up to six million Jews, but also the elimination of five million Slavic peoples, making a total of eleven million innocent people exterminated at Nazi death camps during the War. The idea of all this was to allow the German Aryan race thrive and prosper, allowing them to spread across the globe under intense nationalistic and imperialistic beliefs.

Kill the weak! Exterminate the deformed! Put an end to the mentally handicapped! Also, destroy all other "subhumans" including non-Caucasians! Make sure all Jews are exterminated! Make way for the strong! Be patriotic for Germany! Build a worldwide Empire! How diametrically opposed to the teachings of Jesus Christ all that is!

Academics, particularly Darwin, Galton, Hitler and many of his educated supporters hated the teachings of Christ, even if both Charles Darwin and Adolf Hitler, along with others, might have put on a religious front to suit their own purposes or to advance their cause. Yet, Darwinism with its evolutionary theories, the concept of survival of the fittest through natural selection dominates our thinking to the extent that only a tiny minority here in the UK accept the Bible as factual history, whilst the evolutionary concept is constantly pushed as fact by the likes of David Attenborough, Andrew Marr, Brian Cox, and others.

At the opening talk, Creation International Conference 2018.

The only way to combat such deadly heresy is to accept the Bible as the true and historic Word of God. And that includes the historicity of the first chapter of Genesis:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth - Genesis 1:1.

That is no myth, it's history. As much history as the facts about Henry VIII and his six wives. The early chapters of Genesis are not a myth, neither should it be equalled with the legends found in the Babylonian Enuma Elish with its mythical tale of Creation, or from the Gilgamesh Epic, also Babylonian, depicting the legendary version of Noah and the Deluge. Earlier this year we had a graduate preach on the equality of Genesis with the Enuma Elish, thus denying the historicity of the Biblical version and relegating it to mythology.* That is a very dangerous road to take! Perhaps without the graduate realising it, it's not far from believing in Theistic Evolution and eventually to apostasy.

My plea to this graduate and his ilk is: Renounce any mythical dimension of the Creation story and accept and preach the historicity and truthfulness of the first eleven chapters of Genesis. None of these chapters is myth, legend or fable. They are as much factual history as any textbook on British history.


*For my blog in direct referral, click here.

Saturday, 15 September 2018

The Joys and Regrets of Autumn.

Autumn. Well at least according to the Meteorological Office, which makes September 1st the start of Autumn. To me, the season begins at the Autumn Equinox, when the sun is directly over the Equator, on its way towards the southern Tropic of Capricorn. Thus making the day and night exactly the same length around the whole globe, with the exception of the Polar regions, where there is a perpetual twilight of dusk at the Arctic Ocean in the North, and an equal dawn over Antarctica. And that happens around September 21st or 22nd. Not September 1st. Therefore, while this is being written, technically it's still Summer. 

And so the world turns. And at the same time, it flies through space at a set path around the Sun, its axis remains at a constant 23.5 degree tilt from vertical, giving us the seasons, essential for life. Indeed, who would ever think that this is a well-designed cosmic mechanism? Back in the 70's, I was sitting at a G.C.E. Geography lesson in an evening class when the lecturer challenged us with a question: What do our planet and a spaceship have in common? No one could answer, including me.

Of course, both fly through space and both are crewed. Damn it! Why didn't I think of that? The only difference is that the crew of the spaceship has full control of the speed and direction of the ship. As for our planet, no human has any control, despite its large population of seven billion. However, he should have added a third. That is, both are designed. After all, nobody would bat an eyelid with the idea that the spaceship was designed and built by human (or even alien) hands. But the thought that the Earth has a Designer? That is a different matter altogether. Somehow, we seem content that our planet, with its dizzying complexity of life, had come to be by absolute chance, the result of a condensation of gas and dust floating across a vast cosmic expanse, and all by sheer coincidence as well.

And so, back in July, it was a joy to see many cheerful faces walking the pedestrianised streets, to watch them relax at a Starbucks or Costa Coffee, lightly dressed in casuals. Some of the younger men showing off their chests and bare arms through a tank top, others wore crew-necks, still others with open collars. The tie was more difficult to find than an oasis in the desert, such a well-to-do cloth status symbol looks to be confined to school children, news anchormen, estate agents and insurance brokers.

Newspaper photos show beaches packed with sunbathers, many daring to venture to their waists into the sea. Meanwhile, businesses thrive with high sales of ice cream, popsicles and seaside rock. Further inland, theme parks boasting gut-wrenching roller coasters, spinners, rifle stalls and water chutes, are all experiencing overcrowding, with long queues snaking from the gates to the more thrilling rides. But as with all things, there is always the underbelly. Many who were too pessimistic over our British climate headed to the airport for a flight out to Spain, Majorca or the party island of Ibiza. 

They tell us that they fly to the sunshine to escape the wet and windy British "Summer" but really it's little more than a booze cruise, with a touch of sunburn to complement. Most make it back home in fairly good form but not without the reported minority who had to pay a visit to a hospital or even banged up for the night. There are even reports of assaults, even murder of our tourists by the locals or by other tourists.

What has happened to travel, real travel? Like the trips I made which involved hiking the Grand Canyon on the Bright Angel Trail to stand by the fast-flowing Colorado River and then looking up at the fantastic display of stars on a clear night. Or snorkelling at the Great Barrier Reef followed by time spent gazing up at the Southern Cross constellation with the whole sky streaked from horizon to horizon with the hazy band of the Milky Way. Or wading through a 2,700-year-old tunnel hewn out of solid rock deep beneath the ancient city of Jerusalem, a work of a team led by an Old Testament Biblical king. Then not forgetting the sub-tropical zoological gardens of San Diego with its spectacular canyon, nearby Sea World where I got thoroughly soaked by an orca, watching seals relax at San Francisco's Pier 39, and even admiring Vaillancourt Fountain, considered by many to be the city's ugliest monument.

Vaillancourt Fountain, San Francisco. Visited 1995.

Sure, I was not a teetotaler. I did allow myself an alcoholic drink or two, but never to excess. I did not find drunkenness to be a necessity. The sights I came to see were enough to blow my mind without the need for any stimulant! For me, just a mere sight of palm trees and cacti thriving in their own environments, the latter especially around Phoenix, Malta and Lanzarote; along with the mangroves with their roots underwater at high tide at the Pacific coast of Australia. All of these reminds me of such a beautiful world, rich with variety, which God had made for a combination of his own glory and as an inhabitation for mankind, for whom God the Son himself allowed incarnation in order to rescue us from our shortcomings.

Although when I was Down Under during June and July 1997, their "Winter" meant that it was slightly less warm, and wetter than had I gone in January, although it was in the thirties Celcius in North Queensland, but considerable cooler once in New South Wales. By the time I reached Sydney, I had to dress more heavily. But such a change in temperature from cool to hot was noticed immediately after stepping out of San Diego airport, after an overnight trans-Pacific flight to Los Angeles from Sydney. I was back in Summer. The point of all this is to emphasise the real joy of travel without the risk of drunkenness, hospital visits, a possible imprisonment, or even suffering from an assault.

And now, as I write this, another UK Summer is about to end, and Autumn is soon to begin. People have already begun to wear heavier clothing, the kids have taken their school uniform out of their wardrobes, and in the Press, reports of parents' displeasure over their school's overstrict discipline on what to wear and what not to wear begun to appear in newspapers. As some people have already complained, these articles keep on appearing around early September year after year. I guess this is part of British idiosyncrasy, this obsession with school uniform. Perhaps if I was able to rejuvenate myself to a teenager without losing a single strand of memory, I would like to walk into a school minus a tie and watch the reaction from the staff. And then if challenged, point to a nearby office and ask why most, if not all employees, can come in with their own freedom of expression. I would love to hear what the teacher or headmaster would have to say to that. 

But for me, Autumn has a wider meaning to life as a whole. It means the latter part of my life after retiring from work, a gradual decline in health, and for that matter, a greater restriction of travel. No, not quite housebound, at least not yet. For example, my original plan for this year was to take Alex to Marseilles on the south coast of France. Throughout the season, Eurostar runs trains directly from London St. Pancras to Marseilles St. Charles, passing through the Channel Tunnel. The idea was to visit the fantastic cliffs and rock formation of nearby Calanques National Park, with spectacular views delighting any landscape photographer.

But with Alex experiencing excruciating back pains, which are imminent, such a trip would be ruined, as I have to constantly monitor her condition, constantly looking out for any sign of distress. Not that the hiking trails are easily accessible to wheelchairs anyway. 

Therefore we enjoyed a train journey to North Wales instead, as this was her choice. Although feeling much safer staying in a country where any NHS hospital is free to the point of use, nevertheless, towards the end of our return journey into London, she was in agony with excruciating back pain. We left London Euston for a taxi ride to a nearby hospital where she eventually made a good recovery. But the dreadful thought of, for example, having to alight from the Eurostar train at Lyon for a dash to the city hospital, then face a mountain of French bureaucracy, and still be landed with a huge bill - this cannot bear thinking about.

As for me, in my present condition, I cannot imagine attempting another hike down into Grand Canyon. Now diagnosed with heart failure and on a lifelong course of Warfarin, this 19.2-mile return trip to the Colorado River and Phantom Ranch could do me in, especially at the last three miles up Jacob's Ladder, the series of tough switchbacks up the South Rim wall. Yet I still have some regrets. I have never tried the nearby South Kaibab Trail, which offers even more spectacular views. But as with the Calanques National Park, such a loss is something I will have to live with.

With me being well into my sixties, I always consider how fortunate I really am. Past generations were fortunate to reach this age, and if they did, it was normally visualised as a white-haired gentleman smoking a pipe, confined to his armchair in front of a blazing coal-fire and surrounded by his grandchildren. Rather how one in his mid-eighties would look like in our present day. The Beatles even released a hit in 1967, When I'm Sixty Four, in their album, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, depicting the typical character that would befit an eighty-four-year-old gentleman of today. It was a song I thought much of after my 64th birthday, however, I do not think that a weekly routine of lane swimming, long walks, gym workouts and cycling over five miles each way were any part of the Beatles' equation for one of my age.

And I am thankful to God for my being, the ability to reach an age of retirement, yet still regularly swim, cycle, walk and use the Concept 2 rowing machine. These exercises were the advice my Doctor delivered to me at the end of my convalescence following my heart surgery in 2015. But not all for nothing. I have a job to do, a job which I believe God has assigned to me to last throughout retirement. And that is to love, care for and look after my partially disabled wife.

If it takes sacrificing that which I love most - international travel - then so be it. I know it hurts, it hurts me quite badly, but with God's help and through his grace, my love I have for my wife will triumph. However, I do believe that God can and does work in mysterious ways, who knows, one day we could be on board a Eurostar train once again or even, heaven forbid, heading for the airport. But these things I leave in God's hands. I am aware that he knows best, and he wants to have the best for us. Indeed, to have the National Health Service free to the point of use is something to thank God for. Whether we ought to believe in divine miracles or not, the NHS is certainly a very useful, life-saving channel, and I thank God for giving us all brains capable of retaining knowledge no other animal species can retain, and then putting such knowledge into such good use.

I'm lucky to be alive! Sure, so very true. And as God keeps me breathing, the breath of life entering my nostrils which then passes through the trachea to fill the little alveoli which make up my lungs, with oxygen, which in turn enters my bloodstream pumped by my heart - indeed, the moment God withdraws the breath of life, my spirit and soul departs from my body, leaving a corpse ready for burial...

Suddenly, everything falls into place, I'm in the autumn of my life, only God knows how many days I have left to live under the sun. But it is my hope, my prayer, that I fulfil God's will in my life, whether I will ever travel again or not, for the remaining days I have left.

Saturday, 8 September 2018

Stop the World, I Want to Get Off.

If you are a Londoner or have lived in London, or one who commutes to London, or even a tourist, and you have stood at a typical Transport for London bus stop, do you stand, or have you ever stood, and waited for a ridiculously long time while no bus arrives? Then three or four suddenly turn up, one behind the other, and each for a different destination? Why this happens I don't really know, but one theory is that these buses have adopted the "safety in numbers" ethic, for their own protection against predators. At least that was what I experienced a few months ago while I was at Fulham, West London, and simply wanted to jump onto a specific bus after taking a wrong direction on foot.

Perhaps this week has been a little bit like that when it comes to our national culture. For weeks or even months, nothing specific occurs. Then just one or two days apart, the media comes up twice with something rather extraordinary. And I found both of these rather amusing, not annoying - as any reader who knows me well enough might have expected me to react.

The first published incident took place at an Oxford suburb. There a street was resurfaced. But only one half of its length. The posh end. The working class end of the street remained untouched, according to the media, and subjected to pothole damage. Many of the residents didn't like that, and someone sprayed the words CLASS WARFARE on the newly tarmacked surface using a paint spray can.

What's so extraordinary about this incident and the cause of such a fuss is that the line of demarcation - where the resurfaced area came to an abrupt end - happens to be opposite a circular plaque commemorating the exact spot where a wall, topped with spikes, once stood, dividing the street into two distinct halves, denying direct access each way, whether it be by vehicle or on foot.

During its 25-year history, the wall had a somewhat turbulent existence. It was first built by the Council at the request of wealthy businessmen who resided at an estate of privately-owned homes, with the intention of a complete segregation from the neighbouring Council estate of rented social housing tenancies. First erected in 1934, it was then demolished by the Council in 1938 against legal advice. But shortly afterwards, the original builders successfully sued the Council, and the wall was rebuilt. However, during World War II, a tank on a practice run damaged the wall, which was quickly restored. It was not until March 1959 when the wall was permanently removed, after a purchase the Council had made for the land in 1956.

I was already six years old when the wall finally came down. But supposing I was born just five years earlier in 1947, and my parents lived in that street? Being working class, we would most certainly have lived on the council estate side of the wall. With Mum and Dad being fervent Labour voters (as with the majority of voters in the estate), I would have felt befuddled over why such segregation exists. To answer my curiosity, Dad would have explained that on the other side of the wall, all the houses there are privately-owned homes owned by wealthy, Tory-voting businessmen and professionals with a high income, rich enough to buy their own homes, unlike us who have to pay rent to our Council landlord.

Then I would have asked why did we build the wall in the first place. He then would have corrected me, insisting that the divide was not our idea at all. Rather it was done on the wishes of those living on the other side. It was they who wanted the wall built because to allow integration would have reduced the value of their properties. It might have taken a further few years before realising that the mere presence of such a dividing wall implies that there is something terribly wrong with our so-called National Christian culture.

Supposing that I attended Sunday School and learned something about the Bible and the life of Jesus Christ. Whoops! I have hit an obstacle already. The Church of England? Very unlikely. My parents would have explained to me that the Church of England is really the Tory Party on its knees, and therefore I can't belong. Besides, I'm a Roman Catholic. Another division within Christianity which would have mystified me. So let's suppose I went to a Catholic school. There I would have learned about the homeless Jew gathering twelve followers, including a taxman, a political revolutionary, an intellect (who eventually betrayed him), and some fishermen. If there was some invisible barrier existing between the fisherman and a taxman for example, then Jesus surely knew how to demolish it.

And there were the school days of the 1960's. Morning assembly, which was based on Church of England liturgy, was all about a remote, punitive God who might have had some vesting interest in a congregation of smartly-dressed wealthy parishioners, but with a cane-wielding Deputy Head leading the 'worship' - if it can be called that - then all it produced was a school filled with agnostics and atheists, the latter especially among the boys.

And here is the irony. During the 25 years when the wall stood, a far greater percentage of the local population regularly attended church each Sunday, both Anglican and Catholic alike. Never mind that there was hostility between the two denominations. The way it looked, as church attendance was at its peak, so the class divide was at its most severe as if there was a link between the two. And there was a far greater likelihood that the majority, if not all, who attended church lived on the posh side of the wall.

At a typical Church of England service, a special prayer was always said on behalf of the monarch, as at present, the Queen is head of the State church, so a request to God on behalf of the Queen was delivered as part of the liturgy. This too is quite ironic. Well, considering that the monarch being head of our State church came to be from a dispute between King Henry VIII and Pope Clement VII. This had arisen because the King was refused permission for a divorce from his first wife Catherine of Aragon. Poor Catherine! She couldn't give her husband a son and heir, so he thought:
Stuff the Pope! I'm going to do things MY way! From now on, I'LL be head of the Church here in England! Like this, I can divorce and marry whom I want!

So he thought better to dump her and marry somebody else. The result was five more weddings with two of his wives sent to execution. Pretty grim stuff. And so, ever since his reign, the average Anglican gives special honour to the monarch as both Head of State and Head of the Church of England, with the idea that she is the intercessor between the congregation and God. Therefore it came to no surprise that here in the UK, personal titles matter so much. Because the higher status the title holds, the closer to the Monarch's status it becomes. For example, if a passport holder had the title Reverend before his name, he would have enjoyed greater travel privileges than the rest of the population.

Such I could imagine among those who live on the posh side of the wall. Job titles matter. Occupations bearing the title Accountant, Architect, Banker, Civil Engineer, Clergyman, Doctor, Journalist, Marine Biologist, Scientist, Writer, along with many other professions, all would have insisted on the wall separating them from the low-down plebs - Bricklayers, Carpenters, Cleaners, Dustmen, Electricians, Joiners, Mechanics, Plumbers, Welders, Yard Labourers, along with any other job which involve getting dirty hands, all confined to this side of the wall, with no access allowed either way.

Which leads to the second item brought up this week by the media. That is when a female passenger boarding a Qantas airline complained on Twitter that a crew member referred to her as Miss instead of Doctor. She threw a tirade. I have not studied for eight years at university just to be called Miss, she complained. I am a Doctor of Philosophy.

The response from the public was intense. She received around 4,000 comments, nearly all deriding her complaint. Many of them commented that only those who qualified in the medical profession are referred to as Doctors. Others have said that her qualification is hardly worth the paper its printed on. Still, others have dramatised the pilot asking: Is there a Doctor on board? There is a passenger with cardiac arrest! Perhaps it ought to be: There is a case of a sudden heart attack on board. Is there a Doctor of Philosophy flying with us?

Having said that, I can point to a very good friend of mine, Andrew, who holds a PhD in Genetics. Although his title is Doctor rather than Mister, I hardly hear him use his title when addressing himself. Furthermore, there is absolutely no wall or any form of social or spiritual barrier between us. Instead, we (Andrew, Alex and myself) have spent a weekend away together before now, we have gone on days out together, and we will soon spend a long weekend away together to attend a Creation Ministries Conference.

On the contrary, her attitude and apparent insult of being titled with Miss instead of Doctor by a member of the cabin crew shows that the social dividing wall is still very much in existence right up to this day. The only difference is that it dwells in the heart instead of being built across the street. But it could still have a devasting effect, especially in a church fellowship where the testimony of Christ can be destroyed in the eyes of the beholder. My own church experiences testify of this. For example, the proverb, An Englishman's home is his castle is definitely unbiblical. It goes against the teaching of Christ who has encouraged hospitality towards the stranger, the poor and desolate (eg. Luke 14:12-14, 1 Peter 4:8-9). Many of the Hindus in India, so I read, don't find this to be a problem, especially among the poorer, yet over here it is a problem, a big problem, especially among Christians.

Many middle-class Christians have built a wall in their hearts that makes them feel uncomfortable with fellowshipping with believers of a different social standing or even a different theological opinion. There is even a church couple who has blocked their Facebook profiles from me browsing them because of our differences. The word block is appropriate. The wall built across the street had also blocked access, causing division and segregation. And the trouble is, this Britishness is found in any church I would go to. And only a couple of years ago I visited twelve different churches, all within an hour's train journey from my home. And they were all the same. My church is by no means unique.

Oh, how we need a mighty move of God in our lives, I included. When Abraham saw the glory of God, he saw himself as dust and ashes. When David compared himself with God, he saw himself as a flea, the smallest creature seen with a naked eye. When Isaiah saw the glory of God filling the Temple, he cried out,
Woe is me, for I am undone. For I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell among a people of unclean lips. Yet I have seen the King, the Lord of Glory.

Only a revelation of the glory of God can really change our lives. I myself long for the glory of the Lord. Sure, the conviction of sin will hurt, but the glory of God revealed will bring lasting hope. And all the churches in the UK and worldwide need this same revelation - to break out of the upbringing which can be so restricting, and be set free to really live - to live for the glory of God.

The sad alternative is that I find all this quite a distressing situation. It is a culture, to be honest, I'm sick and tired of! But until God reveals his glory, or calls me home, I have to live with it. Or should I cry out:
Stop the world, I want to get off...

Saturday, 1 September 2018

A Wedding Reception Fiasco...

I was taken aback by the messaging board which trailed one particular online article in The Daily Mail national newspaper. Before you think to yourself, oh no, not another of this Remoaner's anti-Brexit fodder, I quickly wish to say that this time it's not political - rather it's to do with Jesus Christ changing water into wine at a wedding in Cana, often referred to as his first miracle.

Indeed, it could well turn political. After all, who among wine merchants in his right mind would wish for such a source for the best wine on the market, and make a huge profit so quickly? So much so, that the taxman will soon be sniffing around, perhaps rather like the tax collector Matthew did soon after Jesus instructed Peter and his mates to relaunch their boats as recorded in Luke 5:4-7. What a bountiful catch! Without a shadow of a doubt, the most hated Matthew would have been very interested indeed.

And hated by the Jewish community in which he serves - a servant to the Romans that is, whose empire having a dominant rule over all of Israel, both the Galilean region in the North and Judea in the South. Therefore it would have come as no surprise that Matthew the tax collector was perceived as a traitor to Israel, a wretched nuisance, like a bluebottle constantly buzzing around with its irritating presence. Sounds familiar?

Throughout his ministry, Jesus seemed to be interested in providing free food to the surrounding populace. The water-into-wine was the first case, then all four Gospel writers record the feeding of the five thousand from just five loaves and two fishes, followed by the feeding of four thousand from seven loaves and a few fish. However, the second near-identical miracle was recorded only by Matthew and Mark. Finally, John records an incident when, after his Resurrection, he instructs Peter and his fellow crew members to throw the net from the other side of the boat, resulting in another abundant catch after a whole night of empty nets.

Perhaps the political significance in all of this most likely have been, that the Conservatives would encourage business growth, pushing for greater profits by further capitalisation by performing miracles on a daily routine, and to build a cluster of shareholders. On the other hand, a Labour administration would have encouraged higher taxation in order to fund the Police, the NHS, Social Care, and other public bodies. Not at all popular this higher taxation idea might be, but if they so much want public services to be at their prime, somehow they all have to be paid for.

However, it's the water-into-wine miracle of more concern here. Only John records this sign. Here was a wedding feast, something very different to the rather stiff and formal British wedding reception which last up to only a couple of hours, and that's it. Here was a party, where everyone invited was having a whale of a time, talking, laughing, guffawing and dancing to music. The festivities lasted up to a week, and normally there would be enough wine to last the entire duration. But not at this particular instant.

It might have been the last day of the festival, or it might have been halfway through. Maybe those who did the accounting had gotten their sums wrong, and underestimated the supply. Whichever case it might have been, there sat Jesus along with his mother. Now here is an interesting scenario. How I would have loved to transport some of our church members at Ascot back two millennia and usher them into the festivity! What a shock they would get. All this "worldliness" and there is Jesus their Messiah looking on, even enjoying a chat with one or several of the guests. In horror, my church friends would most likely respond by asking Jesus:
Lord! Lord! Can't you see how worldly, irreligious and carnal this lot are? Surely you can't admit them into Heaven. Come on! Look at the way they are behaving! Back in our church we would never dream of such inebriated, shocking behaviour!

To which his reply would be entirely predictable:
The tax collectors and prostitutes will enter the Kingdom of God before you (Matthew 21:31).

And what's with the online newspaper article which appeared only a couple of days ago? It was about the location of the wedding. Yes, it was at Cana, a town in the Galilee region, not far from Nazareth. At the traditional area, the name of the site is Kafr Kanna, where a church was built to commemorate the event. But archaeologists have discovered a site some five miles north, in a cave tunnel among the ruins of a village, known as Khirbet Qana. The reason for their optimism that this may be the original location is because of several ancient artifacts in direct connection with Jesus has been found there. A dating of the ruins, along with historic manuscripts, confirmed that the settlement was a community at its peak at the time of the wedding, a flourishing town.

Therefore the actual site of the wedding is in dispute, exactly like the site of the Crucifixion and Burial of Jesus of Nazareth. There are two sites of the Crucifixion and Burial, at different parts of Jerusalem Old City. I was fortunate enough to visit both of them. The traditional site is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, situated within the Christian Quarter. Within the same building, both the site of the Cross and the tomb where he was buried are located. At least four churches have a claim to the site: The Roman Catholic, the Eastern Orthodox, the Coptic Church and the Armenian Church. Indeed it is a beautiful, historic edifice, but any sense of the real site has been lost due to its presence, its religious and commercial significance of the basilica.

Protestants don't have any part in the Holy Sepulchre, as these claims were already made long before the Reformation. Instead, they claim that a different site, just outside the Damascus Gate, and close to the Arab Bus Station, there is a hill which on its south side are two openings, or caves, resembling eyeless sockets, hence the name Golgotha. Nearby there is a ancient tomb, and if you were to go on a prayer trip or any church-organised Holy Land tour, it's here you will be taken to:- the Garden Tomb, also known as Gordon's Calvary, after a British military commander Charles Gordon who declared the site as authentic. But although the site remains under his name, there were also several Anglican scholars, mostly British, who endorsed the site as being the actual tomb of Christ some years before Gordon endorsed it. 

The Garden Tomb, also known as Gordon's Calvary.

Yet there is another reason why these scholars dismiss the Holy Sepulchre as being without authenticity. And that is because the church is located within the present city walls, whilst the Bible places the Cross and Tomb outside the city walls. However, archaeology has questioned the course of the ancient walls at the time of Christ, believing that the site of the Holy Sepulchre was outside the wall back then. There is apparently an archaeological site revealing the ancient course of the wall on the west side of the city, but doors of the building housing the dig remained closed throughout my whole stay in Jerusalem, something I have found to be very frustrating. 

By visiting both, I can make a first-hand comparison between the disputed sites. For example, I recall sitting in the bus bound for Hebron in 1993, actually facing the hill of Golgotha. As I waited for the bus to depart, I could see those two caves so clearly, just a few metres away from where I was sitting. No wonder Gordon and his ilk were impressed. Golgotha does have a resemblance of a skull. But there is one very small snag concerning the tomb itself. Because of the type of interior design when the tomb was hewn out, archaeologists have identified its age as between 7th to 8th Century BC. This flatly contradicts the "newly hewn tomb where no man had ever been laid" of Joseph of Arimathea, recorded by Matthew (27:57-61) and John 19:38-42.

Anyone who has familiarised with the history of the Reformation would realise the hostility which developed between the two parties. With no claim to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, I'm not at all surprised that the Protestants chose a different site to authenticate the empty tomb of Christ, mainly to discredit any authenticity the Catholics (along with associated churches) would have on the site of the Crucifixion and Burial. The Protestants (including the Anglican Church) would have had heaps of evidence to prove their point, except on the age of the tomb itself, enough to burst the balloon.

I have stood at the Garden tomb in 1994, and looked in. Like the apostle John, I did not see the body either, but I had already believed long before I arrived there. The snag was, I was not too convinced that this was the true site. It was a tomb alright, a genuine ancient tomb hewn out of solid rock, but it failed to convince me that this was the tomb of Christ.

But with the Holy Sepulchre, there was that authentic air about it. In all four visits to Israel (alone in 1976, 1993, 1994, and with Alex in 2000) I just stood there, transfixed at what I was looking at. Despite my multiple visits, I never cease to be amazed over the fact that I could be standing literally at the very foot of the Cross of Christ as he hung there, atoning for my sins.

Authentic site of the Crucifixion, Holy Sepulchre.

The Holy Sepulchre itself. Inside, Alex knelt and prayed.

And so going back to the wedding festival. Like with the Holy Sepulchre, the traditional site of the nuptials is at Kafr Kanna, and it where pilgrims has been visiting for centuries. But now a new site is claiming authenticity, at a ruin of Khirbet Qana, some five miles north of the traditional site. The Holy Sepulchre versus the Garden Tomb all over again, with the exception that I have never visited Kafr Kanna, mainly due to transportation restrictions, unable to hire and drive a car.

And the comment forum under the article. The greater majority of comments posted ridicules the Bible and any belief in a god. As one commentator wrote - about an invisible friend in the sky who has written ten things we ought not to do, and then sends everyone who had broken these rules to a smoke-filled fire where one will be tortured for all eternity. But never mind, he loves you, he loves you so much. Then someone further down, no doubt a typical Christian, quotes Psalm 14 - The fool who say in his heart, "There is no God..." and finishes with the words, "This applies to you."

I suppose that is what I would expect from a typical Western Christian - a punitive attitude, the sort of attitude that would damn the soul of a skeptic rather than lead him to salvation. And with more and more comments of unbelief filling the messaging board, it makes me gain a perspective of a country which calls itself Christian but tending to lean on agnostic and atheistic ideas. The irony is, all these skeptical comments which questions the authority of the Bible and the existence of God, they trail an article about a wedding in Cana, a wedding which Jesus attended, and a new site has been discovered which may be more authentic. Yet its readers instead lash out angrily against the existence of God. 

Much to do with sin and a guilty conscience, a conscience which can be allayed by belief in evolution. Rather, I'm coming to think it's not so much as religion versus science as science is used as a panacea against a troubled conscience, the awareness of sin and the thought of a possible Judgement. After all, if Adam and Eve had never existed, then Jesus of Nazareth never existed either (if he did, then only as another moral teacher, nothing more.) If Jesus never existed, then there is that possibility of no Judgement, no Heaven and no Hell. Death to the body will be the end of everything, a concept accepted and believed by many. And a concept which goes hand-in-hand with Darwin evolution, believed by the vast majority of Brits at present.

With much of the UK falling into apostasy, one thing I'm grateful for. Yes, very grateful for, and that God is very, very patient, as he waits, not willing that anyone should perish, but all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).