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As enjoyable as being online is, the cyber-universe has its peculiarities.
Christians asking for blogging money
The most important aberration is when Christian ministers and laymen ask for money to spread the word of God.
Two come to mind, neither of whom I shall mention by name. Neither is a reader of mine.
One is a gainfully employed clergyman who has a prominent moneybox on his blog. It is unclear why he seeks small change to keep his site going. If he finds it too difficult to operate gratis in terms of time, then perhaps he should close it.
The other, a layman, says his blog needs to update its format, but this will cost money. He has now asked his readers to donate whatever they can.
Yet, when Jesus sent His apostles and disciples to preach and heal, He told them to carry no moneybag. St Paul was a tentmaker by trade. His calls for charity were for those in his congregations, not him personally. Bearing this in mind, asking for money to spread the Christian message seems a bit off.
As most people who frequent the Internet know, WordPress and other companies offer free blog hosting. Those who find these companies’ premium sites too expensive would do well to reconsider their standard free-of-charge option.
Those who threaten to close blogs
Then there are others who threaten to close their blogs. This is what could be called the ‘Do you really love me?’ tactic.
Again, none of these involve my readers who also blog.
One can assume only that their stats have taken a temporary dip. The blogger then announces his decision to close the site. In response come dozens of ‘Oh, no, please don’t!’ replies.
Some current affairs bloggers go further by describing a sudden, serious illness from which they recover in a few months’ time. ‘I feel so much better now’. Why not announce a leave of absence for unstated reasons?
In both situations, the blog stays open because stats rise once again. Phew, what a relief. I was so worried for a while. Not.
Commenters who announce their departure
One popular British news site which I read regularly recently acquired a new commenter a few months ago.
It seems he was looking for personal affirmation which he never received. The site, incidentally, is not one to offer warm fuzzies. So one day he wrote, ‘This will be my last day here’ then continued commenting. Most of the other readers encouraged him to stay. However, others, each time they saw a new opinion of his, asked when he was finally departing.
Did he expect them to beg him to stay? His comments weren’t that interesting. Was he in emotional trouble and sounding a cry for help? He didn’t give any indication. However, one thing is sure: he did become a nuisance by the end. It would have been better had he just said he’d enjoyed the site but it was time for him to go — then do so forthwith.
The tragic case of the deleted blog
However, the worst scenario — all too frequent, as it happens — is when a great (albeit relatively unknown) blogger just deletes his blog.
I’ve seen this happen twice with people whose perspectives and posts were worth keeping online for others to read. Both blogs were beautifully written. One had quite a lot of Christian history on it which would have come as news to many. The other, also church-oriented, vanished suddenly — also a loss to many Christians who could have benefited from what it had to say.
Neither would have cost a penny to keep inactive yet available.
As in offline life, the online world has its own mysteries to contemplate with regard to human behaviour.
The Lutheran pastor, the Revd Joseph Abrahamson, recently wrote a post for Steadfast Lutherans on the history of Lent, ‘Redeeming Holy Days from Pagan Lies — Ash Wednesday and Lent’.
Excerpts follow — please be sure to read Pastor Abrahamson’s well-researched post in full. Emphases mine below.
First, Abrahamson takes issue with those, past and present, who paint Lent as a pagan tradition. This started in the 19th century with the Free Church of Scotland minister Alexander Hislop‘s book The Two Babylons and, perhaps paradoxically, continues today with New Age followers:
There are two aspects of Ash Wednesday and Lent that need to be emphasized. First is the historical nature of the forty days of Lent; the second is the use of ash on Ash Wednesday.
To put it plainly: the claim that Ash Wednesday and Lent are based on pagan origins is a relatively new fiction that comes out of several different sources.
First is the irresponsible work of Alexander Hislop and those who followed him; both those who claim to be Christian and those who oppose Christianity.
Second is the neo-pagan movement today that falsely imagines that paganism is the most ancient of religions and rejects the Bible totally. But, in fact, Lent and Ash Wednesday have no origins in paganism.
You will find all kinds of websites on the Internet that claim that Ash Wednesday and Lent are not Biblical because Christ never commanded them.
In part this is true. And Satan likes to use truth to give credibility to his lies.
The false logic is this: If Christ didn’t specifically command us to do something, then it is a sin to do it. So, think about how little sense that logic makes. Take this example: Christ did not command that I have my children wash dishes. Is it therefore a sin to have them do so? No.
No human can require a Christian to use the fast of Lent as a saving work. A congregation can recommend the practice as a serious self-examination of one’s own sin and sinful appetites; of one’s own weaknesses. No human can require Christians to use ash on Ash Wednesday or any other day as a way of proving their faith.
And neither can any human forbid the use of the Lenten fast or the use of ashes either. Both are legalism, a replacing of the Gospel for a new law.
Abrahamson tells us that Lenten observance began with St Athanasius — of the Athanasian creed. The bishop — from Alexandria, Egypt — also led at the Council of Nicaea in a condemnation of the heresy of Arianism. Athanasius encouraged his congregations to observe Lent; documentation from 331 and 340 AD affirms this.
We learn from this that even at the time the Nicene Creed was written, at the time Constantine the Great ruled, the Western and Eastern Churches practiced a voluntary fast for 40 days before Easter.
As for Hislop,
The 40 day fast does not come from the so-called “weeping of Tammuz” as claimed by the radical anti-Roman Catholic writer Alexander Hislop in his book The Two Babylons. Hislop made up myths and connections out of thin air because of his hatred for Roman Catholicism. Hislop’s views were adopted whole cloth by the Jehovah’s Witnesses, who continued to republish Hislop’s book until 1987. Hislop’s book was cited in 22 different issues of the Jehovah’s Witnesses periodical The Watchtower from 1950 to 1978, and several times in the 1980s. From 1989 the Jehovah’s Witnesses stopped referring to Hislop’s book, but they have kept Hislop’s teaching and use other sources.
Two basic facts: 1) The weeping for Tammuz was not a 40 day thing. That is Hislop’s fiction. 2) The month of Tammuz is 4 months after Easter. They aren’t even in the same time of year. ( From the The Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature: Inana and Bilulu: an ulila to Inana: c.1.4.4 English Translation)
The pastor examines the many references in the Old Testament to wearing sackcloth and/or ashes as a form of penitence, among them 2 Samuel 13:19, Esther 4:1, Job 2:8. He cites and explains several more.
Abrahamson makes an important point:
The ash on the forehead is a confession that the person is worth only ashes, has no righteousness, is not better than another, and needs God’s grace if there is to be any hope for him or her.
Can the symbol be abused? Yes, of course it can. But that does not make it a bad symbol. Every gift of God can be abused by sinful people. We should expect that because of sin.
However, the goal of the penitent in observing Lent concerns his awareness as being one in desperate need of God’s grace and Christ’s redemption.
And, no, regardless of what past Wee Frees or New Age pagans have written, Lent is purely Christian.
As I write this, many in the world today will have celebrated some form of Mardi Gras — Fat Tuesday — often including a dinner which features a sumptuous or high-calorie foodstuff.
The end of Epiphany and beginning of Lent traditionally occurred in Europe at a time when fat and flour stored over the winter were in danger of going rancid or wormy. It had to be consumed in order to avoid household waste. The Tuesday before Ash Wednesday became the perfect opportunity to do this. In France and the UK, this means eating crêpes. In other European countries, a dish which is fried, sautéed or high-calorie features prominently.
My Christianity / Apologetics page has a selection of articles about this time in the Church calendar. Here are a few:
Controversy continues today as to whether Protestants in particular should mark the Lenten period with a willing — not enforced — period of Christian devotion or activity.
My psalm reading this morning just happened to be Psalm 32 which begins,
“Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.”
This strikes me as a perfect entrance into a Lenten season of repentance and self examination. The gift of God’s forgiveness to the one who turns in sorrow for sin is the beginning point. It is the moment of greatest blessing. Many things come after it—love, grace, maturity, knowledge, enlightening of the heart and mind—but none of them can be had in their fullness without repentance, without turning around and walking towards God rather than away from him. And yet this beginning step is usually always the hardest, whether it is a first time repentance, or one of the many many times of contrition the Christian faces …
I pray you will take the time in this blessed season of Lent to open yourself to Jesus and let him look at your whole heart, your whole mind, and allow him to adjust things according to his own plan and purpose. Blessed is the one whose transgression, whose sin is forgiven!
This isn’t to say that you and I are obliged to ‘do something’. No Christian has to ‘do’ anything during Lent — a topic which I’ll explore once again in tomorrow’s post.
A number of us have grown up with Lenten traditions, however, and look forward to a dedicated time of year when we can focus more on Christ, who gave His life for our sins. If we willingly decide to devote this to prayer or self-examination — and it is hoped that we carry this on after Lent ends as a means of sanctification — who is to say we cannot use this time productively in our Christian walk?
To any American clergy — and there are a few (but not regular readers of this site) — who say that Christians in the United States are not persecuted, I would kindly ask them to read the comments following the NBC News article, ‘Federal Judge Strikes Down Texas Gay Marriage Ban’.
The dozens of bile-filled comments are testament to what is happening today in the United States. A decade ago, such opprobrium would have been unthinkable.
Detractors often say, ‘Well, no one would ever say those things in person’. To which I would respond, ‘No, because such hostility indicates what really is going on in that mindset.’
I happened to see the article only because a commenter mentioned my post on Harry Truman’s discourse on the American Founding Fathers taking their inspiration for the nation from the Bible. My thanks go to L_Robinson for mentioning the piece and for having the mettle to defend his position.
L_Robinson was rounded on in a vulgar fashion as were others who oppose same sex marriage on biblical or natural law grounds.
One of them wrote:
Read through the posts. 90% of the name-calling comes from the fans of same-sex marriage. This same-sex marriage concept was recently created to motivate atheistic useful idiots… to get them to the polls, call people names and create animosity.
It has worked perfectly…divide and conquer the Alinsky way.
If you believe in a multi-gender definition of marriage, they’ll call you a ‘bigot’. The useful idiots have been trained to believe their own mother is a hateful bigot.
Joseph Goebbels would be proud.
So would Stalin.
Someone replied with this:
You know something very good must be happening when all the bigots, Christofascists and [Tea Party supporters] are [te]ed off.
So now we’re ‘Christofascists’? Hmm.
Clergymen who say that there is no persecution of Christians occurring in the United States are woefully misguided — even if their confessional theology is highly sound.
If I were they, I would try to be a bit more aware of what laymen are enduring when they defend the family and the Bible online. It won’t take long for this to escalate into physical violence.
Kennedy’s ‘The Perfect Agony’ explores the dichotomy between experiencing happiness in the Lord and the fear as well as the sorrow which accompany significant events in our lives. He uses as his text Mark 14:32-42.
Christians read and hear much about the potential pitfalls of experiencing negative emotions. As Kennedy says (emphases mine):
… this is a hard text for many American evangelical Christians who have been taught that God became incarnate to give us happy lives and therefore any lack of joy, peace, and/or happiness is the result of some kind of faith deficiency. But Jesus, the sinless lamb, experienced emotional turmoil on a level unknown to any other human being. And he wasn’t doing anything wrong.
Citing a real life example — one which is typical in every congregation — Kennedy describes how the more a cancer sufferer he knew (in another church) heard happy verses parroted from the New Testament, the worse she felt.
The problem is ours. We read scripture emotively. Paul says: “rejoice.” We think: feel happy. James says: “Count it all joy”. We think: feel joyful. John says “love casts out fear” we think: If feel love I won’t feel fear. Jesus says: don’t worry. We think: I mustn’t feel worry.
No. God doesn’t say to the mourner, the frightened, the anxious: Don’t feel emotion. He says: Don’t let sorrow, fear, worry, rule you as if they were your gods. You have One God, And I’m greater than your emotions. Let me bear them with you. Come to me. (Matthew 11:28)
Therefore, it is perfectly normal to fear and to grieve. It is normal to experience the panoply of negative feelings, such as loneliness and the blues. However, as with so many other things, it depends on how we treat these feelings. Will we be enslaved to them or will we use those experiences as an opportunity to pray to the living God for help and guidance?
What Kennedy says has implications regarding how we minister to our fellow Christians, including those facing death. Instead of sounding glib by prooftexting, we might well advise prayers for emotional strength during difficult, seemingly impossible times.
One wonders whether reading the New Testament emotionally is a 20th and 21st century trend. I do not recall my parents or grandparents understanding it as such. My grandparents’ generation born in the 1890s would have been used to infant mortality. For my parents’ age cohorts, living to 75 and beyond was an achievement. The deaths which, today, we would consider premature were an occasion for family and friends to pray fervently (a popular word at the time) whilst feeling sorrowful.
Strangely, few of them lost their faith. Churches were full.
These days, instead of looking for wisdom in the New Testament, many of us disregard it. Again, as Kennedy says, it’s all in the way we read it. If we mistakenly read it as an emotional self-help manual — ‘if I really loved, I wouldn’t feel afraid’ — we’re bound to be disappointed, even angry.
Perhaps it is time for us to focus more on God in times of need, when we need to overcome a devastating situation. May we ask Him for help, for grace, for comfort. He will provide.
28But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! 29And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. 30For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you. (Luke 12:28-31)
Continuing a study of the passages from Luke’s Gospel which have been omitted from the three-year Lectionary for public worship, today’s post is part of my ongoing series Forbidden Bible Verses, also essential to understanding Scripture.
Jesus Rejoices in the Father’s Will
21 In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 22 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”
23Then turning to the disciples he said privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! 24For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.”
The timeframe for today’s verses is the return of the 72 disciples whom Jesus invested with His gifts of preaching and healing. This explains ‘in that same hour’ (verse 21).
The disciples were elated to relate to Him the many successes in their ministries, including subduing demons. (John MacArthur surmises that they were sent out in groups of two. Each duo went to different towns and villages.)
Jesus told them (Luke 10:20):
20 Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
Jesus’s focus on the big picture is the subject of today’s reading. Although the Gospels tell us of His many disappointments in preaching, primarily the rejection by the Sanhedrin (Jewish hierarchy) and the people who experienced His miracles (the feeding of the 5,000), never deterred him from ‘rejoicing in the Holy Spirit’ (verse 21).
In this opening verse He rejoices in the Spirit that he had everyday people around Him as His followers: ‘little children’, not men with tremendous intellects.
For this we should thank God every day. The Gospel is for everyone, even children and those of limited intelligence. You don’t need a PhD in astrophysics to understand it. Although great theologians throughout history have delved into the greater complexities of the Holy Trinity and other divine mysteries, you don’t need to know all that in order to be saved. Frequent prayer and Bible study will bring that grace and faith to you. This was God’s divine plan.
Matthew Henry says we have much for which to be grateful in this regard (emphases in bold mine):
[3.] That, at the same time when he revealed them unto babes, he hid them from the wise and prudent, the Gentile philosophers, the Jewish rabbin. He did not reveal the things of the gospel to them, nor employ them in preaching up his kingdom. Thanks be to God that the apostles were not fetched from their schools for, First, they would have been apt to mingle their notions with the doctrine of Christ, which would have corrupted it, as afterwards it proved. For Christianity was much corrupted by the Platonic philosophy in the first ages of it, by the Peripatetic in its latter ages, and by the Judaizing teachers at the first planting of it. Secondly, If rabbin and philosophers had been made apostles, the success of the gospel would have been ascribed to their learning and wit and the force of their reasonings and eloquence and therefore they must not be employed, lest they should have taken too much to themselves, and others should have attributed too much to them. They were passed by for the same reason that Gideon’s army was reduced: The people are yet too many, Judges 7:4. Paul indeed was bred a scholar among the wise and prudent but he became a babe when he became an apostle, and laid aside the enticing words of man’s wisdom, forgot them all, and made neither show nor use of any other knowledge than that of Christ and him crucified, 1 Corinthians 2:2,4. [4.] That God herein acted by way of sovereignty: Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight. If God gives his grace and the knowledge of his son to some that are less likely, and does not give it to others whom we should think better able to deliver it with advantage, this must satisfy: so it pleases God, whose thoughts are infinitely above ours. He chooses to entrust the dispensing of his gospel in the hands of those who with a divine energy will give it the setting on, rather than in theirs who with human art will give it the setting off.
It is also worth noting the words ‘Lord of heaven and earth’. MacArthur explains:
That leaves room for no other deity in heaven or on earth. That simple little phrase was completely Jewish, a traditional Jewish expression, the single supreme and only God of the universe is the true and living God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the Creator God, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, there is no other God. And He joyfully praises His Father who is the sovereign of the universe, Lord means sovereign, who is in charge of everything in the heaven and the earth. That is to say He’s in charge of all of it and He is doing whatever is well-pleasing in His sight. That word “well-pleasing” interesting word, eudokiaI, means whatever gives Him pleasure, whatever He purposes, whatever He intends and whatever He desires. It’s working exactly the way God desired it to work.
In verse 22, Jesus rejoices that God’s revelation works as it does. It is helpful to look at the other version of this episode in His ministry, Matthew 11:28-30, which ends with:
28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
… He’s saying to you, “Come to Me, all you that are willing to be meek and lowly and broken and contrite and penitent and want to off load the horrendous burden of trying to earn your way along.”
… He rejoiced not only the Father’s purpose was indomitable but His power was unassailable and in the end all those whom the Father had chosen who were given to the Son, John 6, He would receive, He would keep and He would raise, none would be lost. And it was all because their names were recorded in heaven before the world began. But still, all of you, any of you, if you’re weary of your sin and sick and tired of carrying the burden of having to save yourself through morality or religion, come to Jesus…come to Jesus, and He’ll give you…what? Rest…rest. “Take My yoke on you,” He says. “Link up with Me and learn from Me. I’m gentle and humble in heart.” That’s the amazing reality. This one supreme in power is humble in heart. Learn humility, He says. Learn meekness, I’ll give you rest. You will find rest for your souls.
MacArthur goes on to say that Jesus’s words come from Jeremiah 6:16. Even there, we see the rejection of this invitation:
16Thus says the LORD:”Stand by the roads, and look,
and ask for the ancient paths,
where the good way is; and walk in it,
and find rest for your souls.
But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’
People rejected the call in the Old Testament, later in Jesus’s presence and continue to do so today. Notice the Lord’s call via Jeremiah for his people to ‘ask for the ancient paths’. For us, our primary source of divine revelation is the Bible, in particular, the New Testament which unlocks the Old Testament.
We would do well to reject new theories and Christian practice: mysticism (no biblical support for that one), church growth (read my aforementioned link on what happened after the feeding of the 5,000 when ‘many’ of His followers left for good) and N T Wright’s semi-Pelagian New Perspectives on Paul (does Wright reject Hebrews and Romans?).
Our Lord said His yoke was light. Why do we reject it by adding legalistic or extra-scriptural burdens to it?
The last two verses in today’s reading — 23 and 24 — are particularly important. Jesus told His disciples how blessed they were to be with Him. Many ‘prophets and kings’ who came before (i.e. in Old Testament times) yearned for the Messiah, and here the disciples were in His very presence. After His Ascension into heaven, He then sent them the Holy Spirit.
We, too, receive the Holy Spirit via Confirmation in the oldest denominations or via adult baptism (immersion) in others. Henry exhorts us to take this revelation seriously:
Note, The consideration of the great advantages which we have in the New-Testament light, above what they had who lived in Old-Testament times, should awaken our diligence in the improvement of it for, if it do not, it will aggravate our condemnation for the non-improvement of it.
Next time: Luke 11:14-23
In ‘Preach the Word: Because It Is the Means God Uses to Sanctify His People’, John MacArthur begins with:
You wouldn’t withhold food from a starving man. Nor would you deny air to a drowning child. Frankly, that kind of monstrous behavior is hard to imagine. But that’s effectively what many pastors and church leaders are guilty of today, as they withhold that which is vital to the spiritual lives of their people: God’s Word.
Further in the post, he states:
Even if I never preached another sermon, I would thank God every day of my life for the sanctifying grace that has come to me through the daily study of His precious Word. Pastors, then, should study to know God, not just to make sermons. For me, the greatest joy of preaching comes not in the final step of proclamation but in the transformation of my own life, as the truth pervades my thinking throughout the entire process.
If only more clergy thought the same way.
Lack of biblical exposition is one of the main reasons why churches are failing. Hence the gimmicks of church growth and mysticism (e.g. contemplative group prayer).
Clergy blame the general public. They are not wrong. However, they must also look inside themselves to examine their own preaching — as well as liturgy and music. Is it scriptural? What example do they set for their congregations? Are they living a holy life?
As for preaching, a lady commented on MacArthur’s post with a lengthy comment about her own church, the upshot of which was that the former pastor returned to preach for a fortnight. Below is part of Sharlene McKelvey wrote (emphases mine):
Since for many months our church has been seeking a new Senior Pastor, last Fall our beloved [former] Pastor, now in his 80′s and having suffered two cancer surgeries, open heart surgery, and survived the recent death of one of his two beloved daughters, returned for two weeks of teaching … I cannot begin to find words to describe the delight to hear him teach; people came back to hear him and there was no parking space available for miles; our church was once again packed with people who had been faithful to our church for years. He taught a sermon in the same manner you teach. Someone who had never known him said to me, “This is the first time in my life I ever heard a real sermon be taught.”
Faithful preaching of Scripture, not sermonising on socio-political issues, is the reason many go to church. Congregations and denominations can experience an increase of attendance and membership when the message pewsitters hear is true to the Bible and Christ’s enduring truth.
I find it sad — although I certainly empathise with those — many people commenting on GTY blog posts who cannot find a good church. So many churches are ailing or closing. Yet, there are so many souls out there who are desperate to see a good priest or minister exegete the word of God and receive Communion from him.
The solution does not lie in church growth or unbiblical practices (e.g. mysticism). Nor does it lie exclusively in praying for vocations. It lies in praying that clergy represent scriptural values and a grace-filled life.
In January 2014, my post on care.data — the proposed NHS patient data collection project in England — described how to opt out of consenting to giving one’s health profile to third parties.
General practitioners’ (GPs) surgeries were to begin transferring patient data to a central database this Spring for the HSCIC (Health and Social Care Information Centre).
This is different from the Summary Care Record data programme of a few years ago whereby patient information is shared with hospitals nationwide. Patients had to actively opt out via a letter to their GP’s surgery.
The care.data information would be made available to interested parties — companies large and small — outside of the NHS system. It is unclear how this would be used, but the patient would have no say as to his privacy.
Although the first tranche of data is said to be anonymised, later data transfers are set to include post code and more sensitive information (e.g. mental health disorders). There is nothing to stop the eventual addition of names or circulation of these data a few years down the line.
On February 18, 2014, the BBC website reported that the data transfer has been postponed to autumn 2014. That’s good news for all NHS patients living in England:
The organisation has accepted the communications campaign, which gives people the chance to opt out, needs to be improved.
There has been widespread criticism that the public have been “left in the dark” over the plans amid reports not everyone received the leaflets explaining the project.
The Royal College of GPs, the British Medical Association and patient watchdog Healthwatch England have all voiced concerns in recent weeks.
The central database will involve taking records from GP practices and linking them with hospital records …
Dr Chaand Nagpaul, of the British Medical Association, said: “We are pleased that NHS England has listened to the concerns.
“With just weeks to go until the uploading of patient data was scheduled to begin, it was clear from GPs on the ground that patients remain inadequately informed about the implications of Care.data.”
Association of Medical Research Charities chief executive Sharmila Nebhrajani said any sharing of data “must be done with care, competence and consent” …
Nick Pickles, director of Big Brother Watch, said: “NHS England has failed to properly communicate to patients or GPs what this new database involves, how it affects our medical records and what the risks are.
“The scheme’s benefits are no justification for not properly informing people what will happen and a delay is the right thing to do.
One week after the BBC article appeared, Yahoo!UK carried a Press Association item which says that ATOS, the private firm which carries out disability assessments for the British government, is behind care.data. Hmm. The plot thickens.
The article says, in part (emphases mine):
Under-fire firm Atos is behind the extraction of patient records from GP surgeries as part of the controversial NHS data-sharing scheme, MPs were told today.
The House of Commons Health Committee heard that Atos is implementing and managing the software for removing personal data from GP records.
The data-sharing scheme has been pushed back until the autumn after NHS England bowed to enormous pressure from groups including the Royal College of GPs and the British Medical Association (BMA).
Atos has repeatedly hit the headlines over “fitness for work” tests on disabled benefit claims it carries out for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). Last week, it confirmed it was seeking an early exit from its contract with the Government in the face of persistent death threats to staff.
Atos Healthcare said it had been in discussions with officials for “several months” about ending its £500 million work capability assessment contract which is due to run to August 2015 …
NHS England plans to make this “amber” data available to organisations outside the NHS, such as medical charities, think-tanks, data analytics companies and universities.
Private firms such as pharmaceutical companies might also be able to obtain the data under plans to be discussed next month …
This is a diabolical scheme which should not see the light of day, especially if ATOS are planning on terminating their contract with the government.
Let us hope that GPs nationwide can help to put a stop to this outrageous invasion of privacy.
I’ve now concluded my series on Josef Stalin, based largely on historian Simon Sebag Montefiore’s book Young Stalin.
I’ve purposely covered less than a third of the book in an effort to encourage as many readers as possible to borrow it from the library or buy a copy (available from the usual online retailers).
This volume gives an unprecedented insight into Josef Stalin’s early life. When Montefiore began researching it, Russia had begun opening up their archives on Stalin. Over the next ten years, more information became available. Montefiore was also able to contact more people who remembered Stalin and felt comfortable discussing him for the first time.
The book takes the reader through the Russian Revolution and Montefiore provides an equally fascinating epilogue recapping the years up to Stalin’s death in 1953. This material comes from his earlier work, Court of the Red Tsar.
Before I begin more about the Red Tsar, it remains for me to say that my Stalin posts are available not only below but also on my Marxism / Communism page under Josef Stalin.
Stalin’s parents’ marriage by way of a history of Georgia (please study the map)
End of series
After the Russian Civil War of 1918, Georgia became an independent republic.
Lenin was happy with that — and he was the man in charge. However, Stalin wanted Georgia to become part of a Transcaucasian Federation of republics (Young Stalin, Simon Sebag Montefiore, p. 383).
In 1921, Stalin and another Bolshevik, Grigory ‘Sergo’ Ordzhonikidze engineered an invasion of Georgia. Sergo, who was ruthless and mercurial, rode into Tiflis (today’s Tbilisi) on a white horse. The Georgians soon began calling him Stalin’s Ass; he was brutal, no doubt because many Georgians remained Menshevik, favouring a more measured approach to Marxism. They also hadn’t forgotten their long struggle to regain their independence.
Two leading Georgian Bolsheviks were adamant that Georgia retain its new independence. A heated discussion ensued. Sergo punched one of the Georgian Bolsheviks.
When word reached Lenin — who supported the Georgians — Stalin, still furious, insulted Lenin’s wife.
Afterward, Lenin wrote in his Testament that Stalin must be relieved of his post as General Secretary of the Party.
By then, Lenin was near the end of his life. He died of a stroke in 1924.
Stalin went on to succeed him.
But what happened to Lenin’s Testament? Wikipedia says that it was posted to the Central Committee to be read aloud, except that:
the ruling troika—Stalin, Kamenev, Zinoviev—suppressed Lenin’s Testament; it was not published until 1925, in the United States, by the American intellectual Max Eastman. In that year, Trotsky published an article minimising the importance of Lenin’s Testament, saying that Lenin’s notes should not be perceived as a will, that it had been neither concealed, nor violated; yet he did invoke it in later anti-Stalin polemics.