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In reading the news blogs this morning, I ran across a comment about an Englishman who stands behind the belief that providing good education is more important than welfare in combatting poverty.
No link was provided to the man’s story, however, in short, his father’s business went bankrupt and the mother — a dentist — kept the household afloat whilst Dad was sorting out his debts.
He said that this concentrated the mind beautifully. He and his siblings linked his mother’s ability to support the family thanks to her education which qualified her for a profession. As a result, they took their school lessons seriously so that they would be able to support themselves as adults. The man is now an electrical engineer.
I do not know if this man might have spoken briefly at this week’s Conservative Party conference in Birmingham, however, what he says goes against the Labour Party philosophy that puts generous welfare ahead of education. Labour maintain that only when we resolve the issue of poverty will children become better educated.
I suspect the answer is a mix of the two. However, what is striking about the above story is how the children decided amongst themselves that education was the answer to their family’s financial problems. They studied more — and succeeded.
I am privileged to have The True Light‘s author as one of my readers.
Recently, the site published an outstanding prayer to be used in times of crisis. It includes petitions not only for our own households but for the world at large. It is inspired and could be used by any church or home in praying for ourselves and the world.
Please take a few minutes to read the prayer in full.
A brief excerpt follows:
Dear Father, we ask for comfort and peace in both the world and in our personal lives. We ask for the ability to stand firm in our faith, even when persecution may be rising up and testing us. For no matter what happens to us on this earth, we must not lose our faith. For heaven is our home and we live in this hope each day.
Guide our leaders, Lord God of all, that they may see they have turned away from you. For despite all of their efforts at peace and protection, regardless of whatever means of co-operation they may seek from and among other leaders, nothing will be accomplished unless you are at the very center of the process!
We end this prayer now with the note of hope which you have given us in the book of Hebrews, when you said you will never leave us, nor forsake us. Through everything in life, we have the eternal kingdom of heaven as our promise. Let us keep our hearts and minds on Godly things and look ever forward to the time of Christ’s coming!
This must be an outstanding church with an outstanding congregation.
I did tell the site’s author that if every church had a site such as this, there would be many more faithful Christians in the world.
Every post of theirs is a gem and one to treasure. I have added The True Light! to my blogroll and hope that you find it equally edifying. May God bless the site’s author and the Hemet Central Church of Christ’s ministers in their work for His great glory.
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.
The following Bible passages have been excluded from the three-year Lectionary used by many Catholic and Protestant churches around the world.
Do some clergy using the Lectionary really want us understand Holy Scripture in its entirety? You decide.
Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur (sermons cited below).
Let the Children Come to Me
15 Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. 16 But Jesus called them to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. 17 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”
This passage might look familiar to my longstanding readers. I covered Mark’s version of it in 2012: Mark 10:13-16.
That post will help grieving parents who wonder what happens to their babies that die before they are baptised. John MacArthur and Matthew Henry offer several analyses as to why they are part of the kingdom of God.
Today’s passage reinforces that reassuring message.
MacArthur says that a Jesus was addressing a large crowd. Some parents, moved by what they had seen and heard of Him, began bringing their young children to Him for a blessing (verse 15). However, the disciples had words with the parents. No doubt this might occur in some Christian circumstances today for the usual reasons: don’t bother our teacher with children; people are waiting to hear him speak; stop hindering proceedings.
MacArthur says the disciples acted within Jewish traditions. Although children were brought to their synagogues for blessings and certain high day and holiday prayers were said for children, by and large, teaching was seen as being for those who had reached the age of reason.
Even though the synagogue they had training for children, there were certain boundaries for children. And the adult world of theological discussion about the Kingdom of God was not an appropriate place, nor in their view was it appropriate for Jesus to stop what He was doing to pay attention to these little ones who had capacity to understand or to believe. So they strongly protested the parents’ action.
However, Jesus tells the disciples to allow the children to approach Him because, they too, are part of the kingdom of God (verse 16). Both MacArthur and Henry say that they ranged in age from infants to toddlers. Whereas Matthew and Mark use the word paideia (children) in their accounts, Luke the physician refers to them as brephos, children who were receiving their mothers’ milk. MacArthur says that mothers nursed their children for longer in that era, so some would have been two or three years old.
In Mark’s account, Jesus was indignant. MacArthur says that Luke’s account in the original Greek conveys the same strength with regard to the word ‘called':
Literally in the Greek called is summoned them, a sort of official word. He gave them a summons.
Henry’s commentary explains our Lord’s welcome to children:
The promise is to us, and to our seed and therefore he that has the dispensing of promised blessings will bid them welcome to him with us.
MacArthur says that Jesus’s welcome was unique (emphases mine):
This is the only time our Lord ever spoke blessing on non-believers, only time. It therefore puts them in a very unique category…very unique category. Jesus never pronounces blessing on people outside His Kingdom because there is no blessing for them. And certainly He is not obligated to bless them. But here it is right to bless them, it is wrong to prevent them from being blessed and He does bless them. And so in verse 16 He called for them saying, “Permit the children to come to Me and do not hinder them, for the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” Permit the children…literally, let them come…let them come. That’s the positive, aphiemi, let them come. Then the negative, “Don’t ever forbid them,” present tense. Let them come now and don’t ever forbid them ...
Nothing is said about the parents faith. Nothing is said about the parents having circumcised the children so that they were then covenant children. Nothing is said about any covenant at all, parental covenant, national covenant. Nothing is said about baptism. There are no caveats. There are no qualifications. The simple statement is the Kingdom of God belongs to these in this category…babies and children. Jesus uses the word children. They brought babies and He expanded the truth to encompass children. Children would simply be the category of those who are unable to believe savingly. They have not reached the condition of personal accountability. Not an age, it’s a condition and it varies from child to child. They belong to the Kingdom and the Kingdom belongs to them because they’re babies. This is wondrous truth. This is rich truth.
Now if Jesus ever wanted to teach covenantal inclusion in the Kingdom, this would have been the place to put it. If He had said, “The Kingdom of God belongs to all the children of faithful Jews who are part of the covenant,” or if He wanted to say, “The Kingdom of God belongs to all circumcised children who have manifest the sign of the covenant,” or if He wanted to say, “All children who are baptized,” or if He wanted to say, “All children who are not Gentiles,” or if He wanted to say, “All children of parents who are faithful to their covenant to God, all children of those who know God,” but there are no such exceptions, or limitations. Babies because they’re babies, children because they’re children belong to the Kingdom and the Kingdom belongs to them.
Therefore, although they are born with Original Sin, they are too innocent to understand what that is. Condemnation to hell would be unjust.
Listen to what Calvin said. “Those little children have not yet any understanding to desire His blessing. But when they are presented to Him, He gently and kindly receives them and dedicates them to the Father by a solemn act of blessing. It would be cruel to exclude that age from the grace of redemption. It is an irreligious audacity to drive from Christ those whom He held in His bosom and to shut the door on them as strangers when He did not wish to forbid them at all.”
… B.B. Warfield, the Princeton theologian said this … if death in infancy does depend on God’s providence…and it does…it is assuredly God in His providence who selects this vast multitude to be made participants of His unconditional salvation. This is but to say that they are unconditionally predestinated to salvation from the foundation of the world,” end quote. Warfield says if babies die, they were elect…they were elect.
This raises an important theological point with regard to Arminianism (free will semi-Pelagianism). MacArthur paraphrases what Warfield went on to say:
If only a single infant dying, a single infant dying is saved, the whole Arminian principle is traversed … any infant that is saved without any works. If all infants dying such as…such are saved, not only the majority of the saved, but doubtless the majority of the human race have entered into heaven by a non-Arminian pathway.
It is important to note that this is a special dispensation for those who are too young — or mentally disabled — to understand.
However, that is no reason to leave it there. Faithful, conscientious, loving parents will want to bring their offspring up to embrace the Gospel message. MacArthur gives them this advice:
So what do you do as a parent to maximize those years to bring your children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord? Let me just make three suggestions. Teach them … They have limited knowledge, we’ve heard that. They don’t know right from wrong, good from evil. Teach them. They have limited reasoning power. They have virtually no discretion. They must be taught … Teach them the Word of God. Put them in an environment where others are teaching them the Word of God.
Secondly, model the truth that you hold them to. It doesn’t do any good to tell them it’s good for them if it’s not for you. That kind of hypocrisy is counter-productive totally. You tell them this is the truth and then you show them how important it is by living it. You must be aware absolutely the personal value of truth for your own sake, not just for the sake of your children. You can’t expect your children to really believe something is right if you don’t demonstrate that same conviction. Their perceptive spirits will see through your hypocrisy when you’re doing something to engineer or manipulate them to respond in a certain way instead of authentic parenting, instead of authentic godly living according to the truth that allows your children to see the freedom and the joy and the blessing that comes when you walk in God’s truth. You pass the truth on in teaching and you live it.
And then thirdly, let me suggest that you love your children. What do I mean by that? Let them know your heart is on them. Be affectionate, tender, compassionate, sensitive, sacrificial, generous. Weep with them, laugh with them, sacrifice for them. Protect them from all the avenues of harm that can come into their lives. Don’t provoke them. Don’t exasperate them. Be utterly unselfish. Serve your children. Show them by your actions that the things that matter to them matter to you and sometimes the things that matter to them matter more to you than the things that are important in your world. Reward them when they do well. Make your home a joyful place. Do fun things with them. Love them.
Jesus concludes by pointing out that those who do not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not share it (verse 17).
What does this mean?
It’s that same innocent pleasure toddlers show when we present them with a treat — a toy or sweets. Their faces light up instantly. They express their thanks with a beaming smile.
Our Lord says that we, too, are called — perhaps summoned — to enjoy the promise of salvation in the same way, as Henry says:
with humility and thankfulness, not pretending to merit them as the Pharisee did …
May we express this same delight every day of our lives.
Next time: Luke 18:18-23
The Pope’s discourses, as those of his predecessors and many other Catholic clergy, are impenetrable because of unnecessary complexity.
Why, for heaven’s sake, talk to the faithful and enquirers in such a way?
Make Christianity easy to understand and a joy to embrace!
The other day, I wrote about the Anglican Bishop of London, Richard Chartres, who suffers from the same affectation. Complex words can disguise a host of theological errors!
Today’s post concerns Pope Francis quoting G K Chesterton. How many translations did that go through?
I happened upon the Catholic site Crisis Magazine whilst trying to source a Chesterton quote Chartres used.
I didn’t succeed but found Catholic complaints about the clergy’s (and Chesterton’s!) use of language. Frankly, that’s been happening since John Paul II. Have a look at some of the essays and books he wrote for the faithful. They are impossible to understand.
First to the comment on Chesterton and the ‘smarty-pants’ intelligentsia’s use of language. This from Julia B (emphases mine):
Most of the working class folks in my area couldn’t care less about Chesterton or Teilard or even John Allen – that all bores them and they turn off. They are sincere about living their faith – more than the smarty-pants atheist ex-Catholic seminarians I know. It isn’t necessarily the smartest people who will get to heaven. I need to remind myself of Flannery O’Connor’s people whom she took very seriously.
Further downthread, she writes:
None of the blue collar people I know have ever heard of him.
Maybe it’s where I live. I grew up in East St Louis Illinois and now live in the town next-door where people are still overwhelmingly blue collar Democrats – union members or their children. We did that “Catholicism” series by Fr Baron at our parish and folks who attended thought it was boring and too difficult to understand.
Later, reader Redfish makes an excellent point:
Chesterton was speaking to a certain understanding of language, which was fine to make his points clear, which he did, but its also a certain understanding of language that ultimately formed the foundation of postmodernism, which ran wild with it and took it to its logical conclusions.
Well said, Redfish.
Frankly, I’d rather read Flannery O’Connor than Chesterton, and I have a degree in English. But that’s just my perspective. Your results might differ.
Evangelising depends on making the point clear and comprehensible for the reader. After we explain it, there should be very few, if any, questions afterward.
But do clergy care about using simple language? This is what Dr Timothy J Williams had to say about the Pope’s discourses:
The real question is, is it wise to listen to this Pontiff talk about anything? Wading through his labyrinthine comments in a desperate, good-willed search for orthodoxy is at best an arduous and discouraging activity.
Now onto the Pope quoting Chesterton. He said the following during a Mass in December 2013 during Mass at the Church of St Martha in Rome:
Isaiah says: “Have trust in the Lord always, for God is an eternal rock!” The rock is Jesus Christ! The rock is our Lord! A word is powerful, it gives life, it can go forward, it can withstand attacks, if this word has its roots in Jesus Christ. A Christian word that does not have its vital roots is a Christian word without Christ. And Christian words without Christ deceive. An English writer, once talking about heresies, said that a heresy is a truth, a word, that has gone mad. When Christian words are without Christ, they begin to go by the way of madness.
The Italian newspaper citing the quote said it came from G K Chesterton. Dale Ahlquist, who wrote the post for Crisis Magazine explains:
… it didn’t quite sound right. But we have to keep in mind that this is an English translation of an Italian transcription of a spoken homily by someone who is giving an off-the-cuff Italian translation of a text he is quoting from memory of a Spanish translation of an English text that he never read in English. It is possible that something was lost—or even added—in translation.
Ahlquist goes on to cite two more Chesterton quotes which might have been those which the Pope had in mind.
I much prefer the quote from St Thomas More which Ahlquist uses. That explains heresy so much better and in far fewer words:
‘Never was there a heretic who spoke all false,’ said the great Sir Thomas More” (New Witness, April 4, 1919).
A heretic always states part of the truth. Otherwise, false and damning teaching would not appeal to so many.
It’s a pity that more clergy of all denominations don’t bother to adopt Sir Thomas More’s plain speaking.
In closing, one of Crisis Magazine‘s readers, Marcelus, points out that Benedict XVI’s thoughts about the future of the Catholic Church are similar to what Bishop Chartres thinks about the Church of England:
… did you know ['P]ope Benedict called the charismatic “the future of the church” or something of that sort? …
An ill wind is blowing. Stick to a good Bible translation and a good Bible commentary. Get the truth. It’s out there and not far from you.
Most of us know that the Church of England has been in deep trouble for decades. The less our clergy believe, the emptier our Anglican churches become.
As every sheep follows his shepherd, the English instinctively know that what they hear from many of our pulpits does not come from dyed-in-the-wool Christians. Hence, they flee, rightly abandoning aberrant preaching.
Although we do not have eyes into the soul of our clergy, some really do not inspire confidence that they are men and women of profound, unshakeable faith.
The Guardian recently carried a report of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s — Justin Welby’s — interview with Lucy Tegg of BBC Bristol. I’ve read the article several times and am deeply disappointed with — although not totally unsurprised by — what he said. (Incidentally, this is the same man who in July 2014 told the paper we are ‘too hysterical’ about radical Islam and again mentioned the usual tiny minority — ‘extraordinarily small’ — engaging in it.)
If we are going to persuade people to follow Christ, then, may we never miss an opportunity to do so.
The Archbishop told Ms Tegg that he sometimes doubts — his word — if God ‘is there’. Welby then mentioned Psalm 88 as being one of doubt. Actually, it expresses a feeling of abandonment.
Perhaps that is what Welby meant to say. Perhaps not.
Before going to Let us look at definitions of the two words from the Collins English Dictionary (emphasis in the original below):
- uncertainty about the truth, fact, or existence of something (esp in the phrases in doubt, without doubt, beyond a shadow of doubt, etc)
- (often plural) lack of belief in or conviction about something ⇒
all his doubts about the project disappeared
- an unresolved difficulty, point, etc
- (philosophy) the methodical device, esp in the philosophy of Descartes, of identifying certain knowledge as the residue after rejecting any proposition which might, however improbably, be false
- (obsolete) fear;
- desertion, leaving behind ⇒
her father’s complete abandonment of her⇒
his abandonment by his mother⇒
Childhood experiences can leave behind intense feelings of anger or abandonment.
- cessation, discontinuation ⇒
Constant rain forced the abandonment of the next day’s competitions.
- giving up, relinquishment ⇒
the government’s abandonment of the policy
Psalm 88 was written by Heman and is a song of the Sons of Korah. The Sons of Korah wrote laments which express abandonment but then move towards hope and redemption. The first set encompasses Psalms 42 to 49. The next group of Sons of Korah songs are Psalms 84, 85 and 87. Nathan Albright has excellent explanations of the Sons of Korah psalms.
He also has a marvellous commentary on Psalm 88, which I would commend to the Archbishop and to all my readers, especially those who are suffering from depression and feeling very alone. It says, in part (emphases mine below):
In Psalm 88:10-12, Heman asks a series of (seemingly) rhetorical questions about God working wonders for the dead. Though the questions appear to presume a negative answer within the psalm itself (given its grim and deeply frustrated mood), the whole context of the Bible provides a positive answer to these six questions. God will work wonders for the dead (Ezekiel 37, I Corinthians 15). The dead will arise and praise God (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). The lovingkindness of God will be declared in the Grave (Revelation 20:11-13). The faithfulness of God will be declared in the place of destruction (Isaiah 58:12, 61:4). The wonders of God will be known in the dark. The righteousness of God will be known in the land of forgetfullness. This is not only true for death and literal ruins, but also figurative ruins. As our body is the temple of God (1 Corinthians 6:19), the restoration of our spirits and bodies, our thoughts and our emotions, is itself rebuilding the ruins. It is not only waste places and destroyed towns and cities, but also shattered lives, broken hearts, and wounded souls that need to be healed. Heman is far from alone in his plight, or his anguished longings to be made whole once again (or perhaps for the first time).
It would have been salutary if the Archbishop had mentioned some of these aspects of Psalm 88 in light of the fact he took the time to specify it in his interview.
Fair enough, he did say this:
It is not about feelings, it is about the fact that God is faithful and the extraordinary thing about being a Christian is that God is faithful when we are not.
He then went on to discuss his faith in Jesus Christ:
Asked what he did when life got challenging, Welby said: “I keep going and call to Jesus to help me, and he picks me up.”
For many of us, our belief in Christ makes us ever more convinced that God is everywhere and with each one of us every day, regardless of whether we choose to acknowledge it. Why would this not be true for the Archbishop?
Perhaps the Archbishop could have mentioned those passages, because many secularists ask the same question: why do so many bad things happen and why doesn’t God put an end to them?
Perhaps the Archbishop thought that his more encouraging words about his own personal faith would make the headlines. Sadly not.
It would have been better for him to have said that, like anyone else, he sometimes feels abandoned but that, even during those times, he believes that God will work everything to His divine plan and for a divine purpose.
If we are evangelising for Christ, let us measure our words carefully and put forward a positive, biblical case for Him, the Church and God the Father of us all.
It is unfortunate that senior Anglican clergy express themselves every bit as poorly as senior Roman Catholic clergy have been since John Paul II’s days.
What are they saying when giving interviews or writing books? Their language is impenetrable. It’s easier to understand French intellectuals than it is these men.
Gentlemen, we are supposed to be winning souls for Christ, not dissuading them.
My thanks to James Higham for alerting me to two Anglican news stories. This is one of them. The second appears in tomorrow’s post.
On Sunday, September 21, 2014, the Independent carried the Bishop of London’s — Richard Chartres’s (pron. ‘Charters’) — perspective on Christianity, taken from Jules Evans’s interview with him on the Philosophy for Life website.
Chartres’s views are such a mixed bag, it’s hard to know where to start or end — or interpret their meaning with any confidence. Some make sense, others do not.
First, rightly, the bishop tells Evans that religious extremism is a dangerous thing indeed:
The great Bishop Butler says to John Wesley: ‘pretending to special revelations of the Holy Ghost[,] Mr Wesley[,] is a very horrid thing. It’s a very horrid thing indeed.’ And it is indeed a very horrid thing.
Then Chartres immediately adds this statement:
Unless it’s held firmly within a community of interpretation, with a shared communal experience of discerning between evil spirits and good spirits, then it’s very dangerous.
Hmm. That will confuse a lot of people, especially those in staunchly experiential charismatic churches (e.g. the snake-handling ones) and those congregations which drum you out if you don’t start speaking in tongues. Both would readily assert that they are on the same page with discernment.
Meanwhile, did Luther or Calvin put forward enthusiastic experiences in their churches? No, they did not. In fact, those Lutheran and Reformed denominations which stay true to their founders’ respective doctrines advise against such religious experiences.
Chartres then goes into an exploration of enthusiasm and mysticism during the Middle Ages — a useful and interesting piece of Church history. No wonder the Reformers didn’t embrace it! More importantly, however, they knew it was unbiblical.
Even the Catholic Church was sceptical of mysticism. Sadly, Chartres says this was because of:
rigid control, bureaucratic church authority, and the over-definition of mystery in the interest of polemics.
Dear me. What does the last phrase in that sentence even mean? He’s probably saying that the Catholic hierarchy just wanted to pick an argument. No, they also saw that Christianity should have sense and balance, because where we have mysticism or unusual experiences, there is often a darker spirit at work masquerading as divine.
In any event, the mystical Christian mediaeval movements resulted in the Holy Ghost (as the Holy Spirit was termed until the late 20th century) being expunged from various denominational liturgies, such as the Book of Common Prayer.
So far, it’s an informative but unbiblical interview. However, that no longer matters to today’s Anglican hierarchy.
Then, Chartres revs up a few gears praising the Charismatic nature of London’s Church of England services.
Even worse, he quotes G K Chesterton. Whether this is accurate, I cannot tell, not being a great reader of Chesterton outside of one Father Brown story in a secondary school English anthology. Did he really say this?
you can’t really be an orthodox Christian without having a charismatic life.
In the next breath, Chartres goes on to deny the ever-present gifts of the Holy Spirit such as wisdom, fortitude and piety (those which Chesterton would have learned when he was converting to Catholicism). Or is Chartres saying something else? It’s difficult to tell:
That doesn’t necessarily mean special gifts of the Holy Spirit. Such gifts are given to people at various stages of people in their pilgrimage, for good reason, often to break up the crust of convention which is keeping them imprisoned. Once a real fluency in spiritual matters has been achieved, they’re no longer necessary. It’s very dangerous to hold on to some of these psychic phenomena which often attend growing in the Holy Spirit.
Hmm. I would be highly wary of paying attention to anything this man says, as he concludes by advocating contemplative prayer and mystical experiences, recommending his favourite authors and false teachers.
Does the bishop speak of Christ and Christ crucified for our sins? No, he does not.
He also calls Christ’s Bride — the Church:
just as shallow as the rest of us … lacking in distinction …
Although he does say that the only way to God is through His Son, he says there are other faiths through which one can find ‘a way’, as all have an element of truth in them.
Heresy, like every other deception, also has an element of truth in it. That’s why people find error and damning heresies so easy to accept. It looks as if Chartres could be yet another clergyman taking that route.
A faithful Christian would not read this interview without thinking Bishop Chartres has served the Church or our Lord well in this exchange. One cannot imagine John MacArthur saying any of these things. I’d enjoy seeing the two debate this issue on video or television.
My ever-expanding left-hand column of links has good ones to discernment ministries which debunk mystical and contemplative prayer, which readers might find useful:
May God bless all of us — and may the Holy Spirit continue to work quietly through us — in finding eternal truth and salvation through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Keeping track of three countries’ politics — Britain’s, France’s and the United States’ — leads me to conclude that we have the politicians we deserve.
Britons are dissatisfied with the fallout after last week’s Scottish independence referendum. Scots are now unsure whether they will get devo-max. Elsewhere in the UK, many people of all political persuasions say some form of the Coalition’s pledged devolution or federal government must be established for England. But we wonder whether our notional leaders are being economical with the truth once again?
Our Labour Party’s annual conference is taking place this week in Manchester. Former Labour Party and union official Dan Hodges (who is also Glenda Jackson’s son) asks whether Ed Miliband is ‘really fit to lead our nation?’ He explains why not (emphases mine):
Miliband’s conference speeches have tended to be a reflection of his broader leadership: tactical successes, but strategic failures. On each occasion he has arrived at his party’s annual gathering under pressure. And he has departed on a high, sometimes even managing to set the political agenda for a month or two. But then the conference sugar-high has worn off, and the agenda has moved on. The big strategic questions – on leadership, the economy, Labour’s political direction – are left unanswered.
Fellow Briton and Telegraph blogger Tim Stanley says we need better political leaders:
Dare I say it, but I suspect that policy is being made up on the hoof! And that’s a particularly troubling prospect when we’re talking about the constitution of the country – the thing that frames decision-making and defines the nation state. Put it this way, do you really, really think that our current political leaders are the calibre of men capable of reframing the way our democracy works? Does Ed Miliband, with his little constitutional convention, strike you as the Benjamin Franklin of his era? Or David Cameron as its Robert Peel, bringing fresh powers to the shivering masses? Nick Clegg at least seems aware of his total irrelevance. The man who failed to pass even the most lukewarm variety of proportional representation knows that he ain’t no Lloyd George.
If we had strong leadership capable of building consensus and delivering results, do you think we’d be having what promises to be a long, boring, confused conversation about constitutional reform? If parts of Glasgow weren’t so depressed and blighted by poverty and socialist incompetence, do you think they’d have voted to leave the UK? If immigration was under control and the EU slimmed-down, do you think Ukip would exist? Oh for a politician who simply says what he/she wants to do and delivers it. The future of our great Union would rarely be called into question again.
It would be hard to disagree with either his or Hodges’s perspectives.
When was the last time we had a statesman? Like them or not, it was during the 1980s with Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher.
Today’s politicians aren’t even close to that. On a superficial level, you can see that just by looking at them. They look and act like middling executives or local government officials. And why is every government matter so complicated? Because they make it so. We elect people who are supposed to be the best in the country at what they do and all we get is disingenuous waffle.
Unfortunately, there is no one in the House of Commons truly fit to be a party leader or, sadly, even an MP. Not one of the 600-odd is impressive, world-stage material, even the handful I don’t mind listening to.
I haven’t followed US politics in such great detail lately, but I was somewhat surprised to see former Republican Senator Bob Dole, age 91, appear on stage at a political rally in Kansas at the weekend.
During his time, Bob Dole was considered a middling politician by those outside of his native Kansas. Today, he looks statesmanline, even if he is now confined to a wheelchair. Many Americans today would agree, judging from the comments following the article I read.
How times have changed.
Once again, it’s hard to come up with a single senator or congressman who is impressive. The same goes for the past few presidents, which takes us back to Reagan.
And, just as in the UK, the same old people keep getting re-elected term after term. Why? Can’t the Democrats and Republicans find better candidates? It seems they’re all on the gravy train together in one massive, comfortable ‘combine’ (machine politics).
RMC’s talking point on Monday’s current affairs shows revolved around the fact that 8m people watched former president Nicolas Sarkozy’s television interview Sunday night on France2 where he announced his re-entry into politics.
The hosts asked their panellists and listeners whether Sarkozy had changed, whether he was still electable after his campaign financing scandal and so on. And if the UMP (his party) don’t choose him again, what other UMP parliamentarians would fit the bill? Oh my, was that an unanswerable question! No one in the UMP is impressive.
It’s gobsmacking that the French are coming full circle to seeing Sarkozy as being able to save the country once again. It was only in 2012 when they turned their backs on him in disgust for François Hollande (PS, Parti Socialiste) who now has the lowest popularity ratings of any French president in history. I saw that coming as soon as he was elected.
Last week, some in the PS mooted putting forward disgraced but still highly esteemed Dominique Strauss-Kahn in the picture as a possible presidential candidate in 2017. One of RMC’s hosts said, ‘It sounds weird, but, after all, he is one of the world’s best economists!’
How low must we sink as a people before we start putting our thinking caps on and getting some morally decent and plain-speaking politicians who present a clear, concise plan and follow through with it?
Where are our leaders? Where are our statesmen?
Maybe our societies are just too decadent and perhaps we are too apathetic to deserve better?
To judge from popular home pages (e.g. Yahoo), it seems all most of us care about are celebrities, reality television and sports. It’s getting harder and harder to find national news on some of these home pages.
I read one rationale for this shift which was that people just cannot be bothered with reading the news.
If so, we Westerners are in more trouble than we realise.
Three weeks ago I wrote briefly about Great British Bake Off judge Mary Berry’s search for her family history on the BBC series Who Do You Think You Are?
The show was excellent, and if you have an hour of spare time you can see it on YouTube:
As I said in my earlier post, we have much for which to be grateful these days, and Berry’s ancestors’ stories demonstrated this clearly.
The show delved first into the life and times of her great-great grandfather Robert Houghton, a master baker, who lived and worked in a rough part of Norwich. He had a longstanding contract with the city council — and was himself a city councilman for many years — baking bread for Norwich’s poor.
Berry spent time with a baker who had researched what Houghton’s living and working conditions were like. He said that most bakers died in their 40s, often from lung conditions. (Houghton was fortunate to live to the age of 70.) He also said that Houghton and his few employees probably worked 18-hour days in order to meet their contract for tens of thousands of loaves per week. He took Berry through the daily routine, which, not surprisingly, she found daunting and couldn’t imagine doing that for a livelihood.
The next ancestor investigated was her great-great grandmother, Mary Berry, also from Norfolk. Mary was the daughter of a local publisher, Christopher Berry, who went bankrupt after producing a local business directory which required more expense in time and employees than he’d thought.
Christopher Berry, his wife and children lived comfortably before then. Once he declared bankruptcy, he sent his dependants to the local poorhouse — workhouse. The courts later tracked him down and made him pay a stipend for their upkeep there. A local historian explained what conditions were like in the workhouse: filthy and disease-ridden. Vermin — from insects to rodents — were ever-present. The poor slept communally; not all of them were nice people to know. They ate their meagre meals by hand, as no utensils were provided. Some of Mary Berry’s siblings as well as her mother died in the workhouse.
Poverty was not seen as unfortunate back then. It was seen to be shameful, hence, the appalling conditions in the workhouse.
The historian said that young Mary Berry left the poorhouse to return home, possibly to keep house for her father, who, by then, had restarted his publishing business. She later had four illegitimate children, whom she named after her siblings who died in the workhouse. She turned to corset-making as a trade, working from home. Only one of her sons survived; the others died in infancy. Her surviving son learned a trade and took care of his mother until her death.
Bake Off‘s Mary Berry, one of Britain’s most respected cooks, was right to say that we are so ‘blessed’ today with our standard of living. Workhouses are a thing of the past as are bakers dying from lung disease. We have a welfare state and much better working conditions.
The comments following the Telegraph‘s review of the show flagged the question of why so many of Who Do You Think You Are?‘s stars had ancestors in workhouses. A few readers said that, statistically speaking, it was probable that most families in England did have at least one relative during that time who was sent to such an institution. Some would also have been sent to work on poor farms.
The United States also had workhouses and poor farms, run on a local or county level. My grandmother pointed out her city’s poor farm to me whilst we were on a family outing. The building which had once housed the poor was a grim brick structure. It closed sometime in the 1940s.
These places really were run like prisons. Thankfully, the Social Security Act of 1935 enabled a more humane provision for those in poverty.
In Britain, the National Assistance Act of 1948 resulted in the abolition of the workhouse.
Hush-a-bye baby, on the tree top,
When you grow old, your wages will stop,
When you have spent the little you made
First to the Poorhouse and then to the grave
– Anonymous verse from Yorkshire.
In many ways, we’ve never had it so good.
At the weekend, I read two comprehensive schools guides concerning the UK.
It astounded me to see how much term fees were for both prep (infant/primary) and secondary independent (including some top-end ‘public’ schools such as Eton and Harrow). Most were upwards of £5,000 per term. One sixth-form school (last two years of secondary school) charges £13,000 per term. With three terms per school year, parents are paying from £15,000 to £39,000 per annum.
And that’s not taking into account school trips abroad. I don’t mean a ferry trip to Ireland or France. These pupils and students go to Asia, Africa and the United States.
Then there are summer holidays, which, in order to meet with the rather recent British propensity for Jonesing (from the post-Second World War American envy of matching up to ‘the Joneses next door’), a man has to make an incredible amount of money and manage it wisely every year. More importantly, he must be able to keep his job, come what may — takeovers, reorganisations, redundancies and so forth.
I’ll talk more about schools in another post, because my jaw fell open in disbelief at several points when reading these guides. Thank goodness that I don’t have to worry; I just enjoy reading most objectively-written articles and books about school in general.
My point here — with apologies in advance to female readers — is that in my area, blessed enough to seriously consider the schools which these guides include, we have a number of middle-aged mothers who are not working outside the home yet they dislike their husbands.
Many of these men, executives or self-employed, are putting themselves through temporal hell in paying for their wives’ and children’s upkeep, school fees, the mortgage, dinners out, children’s birthday parties (very expensive and competitive here), holidays and so much more. One wonders how they can afford it all.
One mother I know — there are no doubt many more — has said that she doesn’t really enjoy her husband’s company. They barely meet up during the week. If he isn’t working late nights, he’s away on business, which entails flying overseas to distant continents for days at a time. Meanwhile, he has put no demands upon her and happily pays for their teenaged children to attend private schools.
Seriously, if he decided to leave — and I can name four offline husbands who have left their wives once their children become teenagers — she would be left in a huge financial abyss, despite whatever financial support he could arrange for her and the children. After all, he would have to get another mortgage for his own residence and be able to pay for all the expenses that home would require.
Even worse, suppose he died suddenly? The kiddos would have to go to state school like many others, and the widow would find it difficult to find a job paying enough to fill all the financial gaps.
It’s time that more well-heeled women were more grateful for the blessing of not having to earn their own keep yet get away with doing a minimum around the house, escape the ‘oppression’ of cooking a proper meal and expect to be taken out to dinner on Saturdays and Sundays — while their children are attending good private schools.
It’s time to be thankful for what we have, because things can always be a lot worse. Life isn’t fair; many have been dealt better hands (to borrow a card-playing expression) than others.
Finally, I would ask these women to consider what their husbands are thinking when alone on a plane for several hours. It could be they are wondering why their wives have not gone out to seek employment or at least be more productive at home.
By no means am I asking or telling women to become housewives or go and find gainful employment, but some of those who are at home with no demands from their husbands really should think their lives through a bit more and be grateful they have married such good, responsible, undemanding providers.
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.
The following Bible passages have been excluded from the three-year Lectionary used by many Catholic and Protestant churches around the world.
Do some clergy using the Lectionary really want us understand Holy Scripture in its entirety? You decide.
Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and Thomas Coke. Coke (1747-1814) was a Welsh lawyer and mayor who later became the first Methodist bishop and Father of Methodist Missions.
28 Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot—they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, 29 but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them all— 30 so will it be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed. 31 On that day, let the one who is on the housetop, with his goods in the house, not come down to take them away, and likewise let the one who is in the field not turn back. 32Remember Lot’s wife. 33Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it. 34 I tell you, in that night there will be two in one bed. One will be taken and the other left. 35 There will be two women (J)grinding together. One will be taken and the other left.”[a] 37 And they said to him, “Where, Lord?” He said to them, “Where the corpse[b] is, there the vultures[c] will gather.”
Last week’s post looked at the first part of Jesus’s discourse about the kingdom of God and the Second Coming.
Today’s passage concludes our Lord’s stark lesson on what it will be like. The sinful people of Noah’s time (Luke 17:27) were going about their business when the flood struck. Jesus now mentions another group, those in Sodom, who perished in fire and sulfur (verses 28 and 29).
When Christ returns in glory, there will be a similar dramatic end bringing with it condemnation to sinners (verse 30).
He warns us against being too attached to our worldly goods and our surroundings (verse 31). We mustn’t be like Lot’s wife (verse 32). Matthew Henry explains (emphases mine):
Let them not look back, lest they should be tempted to go back nay, lest that be construed a going back in heart, or an evidence that the heart was left behind. Lot’s wife was turned into a pillar of salt, that she might remain a lasting monument of God’s displeasure against apostates, who begin in the spirit and end in the flesh.
Thomas Coke elaborates:
This unfortunate woman had been informed by angels of the destruction of Sodom, and promised deliverance; but was expressly forbidden to look back, on any account, in the time of her flight; because it was proper that they should flee speedily, in the faith of this divine declaration, and perfectly contented, or at least endeavouring to be so, that they had escaped with their lives. Nevertheless, she presumed to entertain doubts concerning the destruction of her wicked acquaintance, because she did not fully believe the angels’ message. Moreover, being inwardly sorry for the loss of her relations and goods, and at the same time not sufficiently valuing the kindness of God who had sent his angels to preserve her, she lingered behind her husband, discontented and vexed, allowing him and his two daughters to enter into Zoar before her, thereby laying a temptation in Lot’s way to took back upon her, on account of the danger to which she was exposing herself. But no sooner had Lot with his children entered the place of their refuge, than God poured out the fulness of his wrath upon the offending cities. The thunder, the shrieking of the inhabitants, the crashing of the houses falling, were heard at a distance. Lot’s wife, not yet in Zoar, was at length convinced that all was lost; and being exceedingly displeased, she despised the gift of her life; for, in contradiction to the angels’ command, she turned about, and looked round at the dreadful devastation; probably also bewailed her perishing kindred and wealth, (Genesis 19:14.) But her infidelity, her disobedience, her ingratitude, and her love of the world, received a just, though severe rebuke. In an instant she was turned into a pillar of salt, being burned up by the flames, out of whose reach she could not fly; and so was made a perpetual monument of God’s displeasure to all posterity. Her looking back, though in itself a thing indifferent, yet as it was done contrary to the divine prohibition, and expressed such a complication of evil dispositions, was so far from being a small sin, that it fully deserved the punishment inflicted on it.
Jesus warns us not to be too attached to our own lives (verse 33); when the time comes, we must be willing to die that we might have eternal life.
However, at that time, Jesus was also warning the Jews about the impending destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, which took place a few decades later in 70 AD. Coke sees it as an instruction not to venture into the city for safety; the humble countryside would be a better refuge. Henry sees Jesus’s words as a command to leave the Jewish faith and to follow Him.
Our Lord goes on to say that God knows His own. Where a couple are together on the night of reckoning, one will be taken to eternal life and the other left to die, condemned (verse 34). The same will be true of two women at a handmill grinding flour (verse 35).
In verse 37, Jesus concludes His discourse by making a reference to the Roman eagle (the word used in older translations) — the bird of prey ready to feast on rotting carcases. He is alluding to the spiritually dead Jewish hierarchy and their followers who have rejected Him.
The verse has another interpretation, a positive one for those who have accepted Christ — the body (used in older translations). They will flock together, wherever they might be. Henry’s commentary states:
wherever the body is, wherever the gospel is preached and ordinances are ministered, thither will pious souls resort, there they will find Christ, and by faith feast upon him.
Next time: Luke 18:15-17