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Interviewers sometimes ask jobseekers questions which are beyond the pale.

Graduates and others looking for a new employer would do well to research what cannot be asked at a job interview.

An article dated April 29, 2015, revealed questions that British graduates have been asked, among them:

Can you flirt with customers to make them stay longer?

Do you get PMT?

Can you wear more makeup next time?

Are you planning on having children soon?

In the 1990s, it was still acceptable to ask about prospective children. I’m of two minds about it, because, whilst it is intrusive, I knew a woman who started a job only to become pregnant within a year, then return to work after maternity leave and, shortly thereafter, announce she was expecting another child. There was nothing the employer could do. After all, one cannot fire a woman for having children. Nevertheless, other employees began to write her out of the everyday work picture and resented her for ‘playing the system’.

As for the others — and there are more in the article — instead of getting angry, the applicant should discern that these types of questions reveal more about the employer than illegality or inappropriateness. Working in such companies is bound to be stressful and unpleasant.

The UK Government has a site which briefly explains what employers can and cannot ask when interviewing. However, women should be as honest as possible with regard to children and childminding arrangements. An employer generally will expect — at least silently — that a newly-wed woman of childbearing age would stay at least a year before becoming pregnant.

An American site, PayScale, has a helpful list of what is disallowed in interviews along with constructive ways for the applicant to respond. Citizenship is one example. Whilst it is illegal for employers to ask if an applicant has US citizenship:

If the intent is to find out if you are authorized to work here in the US, then that is the question you need to answer — that you do or do not have a work permit.

Their article states that questions with regard to arrests and/or convictions are legal in certain states. Those applying for a security-sensitive job should be aware of this and explain their own circumstances, if applicable.

In short — instead of getting defensive or testy — the applicant should evaluate why certain questions are being asked. Often, the employer has a reason. Be polite and, where possible, give a considered response:

as the interviewee, it is up to you to gauge the intent behind the questions and answer accordingly. You could also choose not to answer.

Anything offensive, such as the British questions, should be ignored or gently laughed off. One would be within one’s rights to terminate the interview politely. Tell them they’ve just lost an excellent prospective employee.

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On April 24, 2015, the Telegraph published a list of 10 towns that have changed their names for various reasons.

Readers who like offbeat history will find the article interesting. (Telegraph commenters added names of European towns which attract attention.)

Here are but a few:

Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, was originally called Hot Springs. When Ralph Edwards, the then-host of television game show Truth or Consequences, said an episode would be filmed in the first town to rename itself after the programme, Hot Springs applied in 1950. Edwards returned to the town annually to appear at its fiesta until his death.

Kitchener, Ontario, was called Berlin until the Great War. As the war generated much understandable anti-German sentiment, the townspeople were able to vote on a selection of new names. In 1916, the town was renamed after Lord Kitchener, the British Secretary of State for War.

Sleepy Hollow, New York, was originally North Tarrytown. Traditionally, the area was known by that name, which Washington Irving popularised in his eponymous legend. The town’s name changed in 1996. The film with Johnny Depp appeared three years later.

Controversially, one town has not changed its name, despite requests to do so during the Second World War:

Swastika, Ontario, chose to maintain the status quo, pointing out that the Sanskrit symbol signifies good luck, despite its having been hijacked by Nazis many millenia later.

Ballot box north-ayrshire_gov_ukOn Thursday, May 7, 2015, Britain will have a general election.

For five years we have had a coalition government with the Conservatives and centre-left Liberal Democrats. This was necessary because the Conservatives did not have enough parliamentary seats to govern on their own. Consequently, discussions took place with the most logical party that could make up the difference, as it were.

For the past several months, polls have indicated that the two major political parties — the Conservatives and Labour — are neck and neck. I look at these results daily, politics being my third passionate subject after the Church and diet. Yes, general conversation becomes difficult at times!

For my many readers overseas, this is how a UK election works. My British readers should feel free to contribute with any clarifications to the following.

Not a presidential election

In practice, this is not a presidential election. We will not be voting for a party leader but for our local Member of Parliament (MP) who will represent our constituency in the House of Commons. (We will also be voting for local councillors on the same day.)

However, as the party with the most seats will form the next government, most voters will be considering who will make the better Prime Minister: David Cameron (Conservative, second term) or Ed Miliband (Labour). One of those two will be (re)appearing on the world stage after May 7.

Therefore, in the sense where we need to consider who has the better policies for Britain, it is somewhat presidential.

Other parties

The UK also has other political parties besides the Conservatives (‘Tories’), Labour and the Liberal Democrats.

One party which is expected to attract the most votes after the Conservatives and Labour is UKIP — the United Kingdom Independence Party — led by Nigel Farage. (Photo courtesy of gewoon-niews.nl.) UKIP is likely to sap votes from the Conservatives, putting us in danger of having a Labour / Labour coalition government. UKIP, which was initially more libertarian, speaks for those who are angry with the Tories for not being conservative enough. UKIP supporters say that whilst David Cameron is Conservative, he is not a conservative.

The Liberal Democrats, led by Nick Clegg, are polling below 10% percent, so they are in a much weaker position than in 2010.

Embedded image permalinkThe SNP — Scottish Nationalist Party — has gained much traction with Scots after last year’s independence referendum. In fact, they are likely to wipe out Labour north of the border. Only Scots will be able to vote for them. (Photo courtesy of Tim Montgomerie.)

The Greens have gained more support in this election cycle, although their polling figures, like those of the Lib Dems are in single figures.

In other parts of the UK, the Welsh have the ever-popular Plaid Cymru (pron. ‘Com-ree’)  and Northern Ireland their various Unionist and Nationalist parties.

Some constituencies in Britain will also be featuring Independent candidates, representing their own views, not those of a political party.

How it works

We have a first-past-the-post system. The candidate with the most votes becomes MP for a particular constituency.

Ideally, a party leader will become PM if he/she wins 326 seats out of 650. However, as with the 2010 election, this is unlikely to happen. Hence, the very real possibility of a hung parliament or another coalition government. The Parliament.uk site explains (emphases in the original):

In the 2010 general election, however, no single party won more than half the seats in the House of Commons. The Conservative Party, led by David Cameron, won the most with 306. The Labour Party, led by Gordon Brown, came second with 258 seats. The Liberal Democrats came third with 57 seats. This election result is known as a hung parliament, where no single party is able to claim more than half the seats in the Commons.

So what happens in the case of a hung parliament? There are two main possibilities:

  • Two or more parties can agree to work together to govern the country.
  • The party with the most seats can also try to govern with a minority of seats in the Commons. If the party can’t get enough support on an important vote, however, it risks defeat, which may force a general election.

In the 2010 election, after several days of negotiations, Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg and David Cameron agreed their parties would work together.

By joining forces the two parties combined have a majority of seats in the House of Commons, enough to form a government. This is called a coalition government.

On May 7, previously registered British, Commonwealth (some restrictions apply) and Irish citizens will be able to go to their local polling stations to vote between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. We use paper ballots and pencils. The results, counted by hand, generally become available on Friday afternoon.

However, we also have a growing number of people who vote by postal ballot. Those voters are mailing their votes in as I write. Whilst convenient for shut-ins or businesspeople who travel a lot, they have been open to voting fraud in 2005 and 2010.

The Queen’s role

In The Independent, Philip Goldenberg explains what happens after the results are tabulated and what role the Queen — our Head of State — has in the process.

First:

Following an inconclusive general election, an incumbent Prime Minister should stay until he can give clear advice to the Queen. He is entitled to try to put together an arrangement under which he can obtain Commons approval for a legislative programme. If he concludes that he cannot do this, then he should resign and advise the Queen to send for somebody else who can [Heath March 1974; Brown 2010].

Then:

The Queen invites an individual to form a government.  The invitee can accept on the spot (and kiss hands [figuratively] on appointment), decline or [Home 1963] say that he’ll go away, try and then report back.

This is because:

a legislative programme can only be put to the House by somebody invited by the Queen to form a Government. 

However:

if the incumbent has resigned before facing Parliament, and his successor then fails and resigns (as convention dictates), then the position is reversed and he would be invited by the Queen to have his shot.

In 2010, Gordon Brown stood down in favour of David Cameron by the following Tuesday, although it was a contentious and tense few days whereby he did not wish to relinquish his position, despite the aforementioned results. The state of the economy demanded a quick resolution. As the state of the nation has improved since then, this year’s election might involve lengthy negotiations:

As in 2010, a longer period than has traditionally been allowed, with the State Opening of Parliament delayed until 27 May (which the Queen can further postpone). Unlike 2010, there is no financial crisis dictating that speed is of the essence; and the Commons is likely to be more kaleidoscopic. So expect a busy three weeks (or a bit longer) until it is apparent what will fly and what won’t get off the runway.

A note on the SNP

With regard to the SNP, whose leader is Nicola Sturgeon, The Guardian points out that if the party is involved in coalition discussions:

While Sturgeon is the SNP party leader, she is not in fact standing for a seat in Westminster. She is currently Scotland’s first minister (the prime ministerial equivalent north of the border) and sits in the Scottish parliament.

Instead, Angus Robertson, who led the party in Westminster in the last parliament, and Alex Salmond, who was Sturgeon’s predecessor as party leader and first minister (he resigned after losing the independence vote) and is standing in May for a national parliamentary seat, are likely to be key figures in the party’s negotiating team after the vote.

What might happen

The Guardian adds:

It’s very possible, for instance, that the Conservatives will have the most seats on 8 May, but will be unable to muster enough support from other parties to get over the magic 326-seat line.

That’s why many think the potential for SNP backing actually puts Miliband in a stronger position than Cameron going into the vote – regardless of what the polls say.

My opinion is that, if Labour get in, it will be a long time before we see another Conservative government. Let’s not forget they were in power between 1997 and 2010. Those conservatives out to ‘punish’ David Cameron for his centrist (and sometimes questionable) positions would do well to reconsider their ire before putting an ‘X’ on their ballots.

The morning of Sunday, April 19, 2015, proved to be fatal for fitness instructor Aurélie Châtelain who was in her car consulting her computer in Villejuif, just outside Paris.

Sid Ahmed Ghlam, 24, an Algerian IT student who has lived in France for many years, was planning a spectacular, intending to attack two Catholic churches in Villejuif as Mass let out.

Ghlam’s car contained a mini-arsenal of several weapons, including a Kalashnikof and a Sphinx revolver. He also had bulletproof vests, GPS co-ordinates for the two churches, their Mass schedules and pro-IS literature.

Although authorities do not have the full story yet, Ghlam’s plan appears to have been to steal Châtelain’s car then use it to drive to the two churches for his bloody assault.

To cover his tracks and ensure she could not report the incident to the police, Ghlam would have to murder her. Subsequent ballistic evidence has matched the bullet to the Sphinx.

Then Ghlam ran into a spot of bother. He accidentally shot himself in the leg and was bleeding profusely. He drove his own car for some distance, then ended up ringing the emergency services! Police arrived on the scene and arrested him. He is currently in custody, although he is only answering certain questions from the authorities. Another weapons cache was found in his dorm room.

Le Monde reported that the Paris prosecutor has revealed that investigators have uncovered correspondence between Ghlam and someone overseas, possibly in Syria. A police source told the newspaper:

His contact seems to have to organised the operation long distance. He asked him to specifically target a church. He even indicated where to pick up the weapons — in a car parked in Seine-Saint-Denis — which, apparently, had been paid for. At one point, Sid Ahmed Ghlam explained that he wasn’t yet ready, but his contact pressured him into taking action.

Although resident in France since 2010, Ghlam spent his youth between family in France and in his native Algeria. Some of his family members belong to the literalist, fundamentalist Muslim sect Tabligh.

He is also friendly with a French female convert to Islam, at whose house he was planning to take refuge after the attacks. The 25-year-old mother of two is also being held for questioning. Her neighbours told Le Parisien that she wore full Islamic dress and had little contact with her neighbours. Ghlam visited her on weekends, and weapons were found in her flat.

Police hope to find out if he had any accomplices and if they can obtain any leads whilst Ghlam is in custody.

Last week, some legislators and members of the public appealed to the French government for police presence at churches throughout the nation. However, their sheer number prevents this from happening.

France’s Conference of Bishops is appealing for Catholics to remain calm though vigilant, pointing out that 200 of the most vulnerable and high profile churches are already under police protection. Their communique states, in part:

Terrorist menaces, of whatever magnitude, have as their objective spreading fear; Catholics will not give in to that. [Churches] must remain open places, places of welcome, conforming to the Catholic spirit.

An article from l’Internaute, another news site, explains at length that the Islamiscist objective is to launch attacks on churches as a way of inciting violence by non-Muslims, especially Christians, against them. In this way, the Islamic radicals can then say that it’s an all-out two-way war of religion and civilisation of which they are the victims.

Jean-Pierre Filiu, a professor at the esteemed Sciences-Po Paris, said that subsequent targets could be business districts and shopping centres.

Filiu said that the peaceful demonstrations of solidarity in January 2015 foiled Islamic aspirations for a violent backlash.

Alain Chouet, former intelligence officer with the DGSE, said that this reasoning dates back to the Islamic Brotherhood of the 1950s. IS is employing the same strategy, to make themselves hated by everyone else and, simultaneously, victims of society.

The radicals hope to make us react with violence. So, let’s try to keep calm instead. As for our governments and intelligence services Filiu recommends neutralising IS leaders and contacts in Syria, notably Boubaker Al-Hakim, said to have influenced the Paris attacks in January 2015.

On April 17, 2015, Le Monde reported that 12 Christians were thrown overboard from a ship sailing from Africa to Libya.

Fifteen men were arrested when a rescue boat on which they were travelling landed in Sicily. The suspects are Muslims from Mali, Ivory Coast and Senegal. The victims were Christians from Niger and Ghana.

Survivors said that the Muslims did not want to be in the company of the Christians:

‘I saw with my own eyes nine Ghanaians and three men from Niger thrown into the water,’ recounted Yeboah. ‘I survived because, together with my companions, we banded together for an hour to resist our aggressors. Then a boat came to rescue us.’

Le Monde reported that authorities in Palermo are taking charge of the situation. As the incident took place in international waters, the Italian justice ministry will obtain any necessary authorisations to investigate the case.

With the weather improving, more boats and ships have been arriving in Italy and Sicily. Last year, more than 170,000 persons arrived.

In January 2015, The Atlantic explained a new trend on the seas — ghost ships:

… in lieu of the small, unsteady boats typical of such journeys, border forces have contended with large ghost ships full of people and abandoned by the smugglers.

“At first we wondered if it was a one-off, but it now seems to be a trend,” an official from Frontex, the European Union’s border control agency, told the Telegraph. “The smugglers acquire a decommissioned cargo ship, recruit a crew, pack it with migrants and then abandon them at sea, telling them to call the rescue services. It’s a very dangerous new development, especially in bad weather.”

This is all very sad for the migrants but also for European countries which must find some way to shelter them then, once they obtain official paperwork, find them jobs at a time when many young Europeans cannot find work.

This phenomenon puts a huge strain on national infrastructure and funds, Italy’s in particular. There is no solution at hand, and whilst death is tragic, there is also little future for mass waves of illegal immigrants in Europe. It’s a topic no one, especially in government, wants to discuss in any constructive detail.

At some point, whatever system is in place will be overloaded. Le Monde went to Sicily to investigate the charity work and accommodation of the boat people, mostly young men:

‘I see their pain and it makes me angry. They’re marked by what they’ve experienced, but we don’t have the means to help them. They really need psychologists, but that notion is foreign to them,’ Valentina laments. Father Don Piero is torn between confusion and indignation. ‘We opened our centre in 2006. We served 30 meals a day. Today, we serve up to 500. We have a project to double the size of the refectory. There are always benefactors to help. The Catanian generosity is great, but institutional help is lacking.’

‘There are around 200 who come every night, all year round,’ Sebastiano Cavalli explains, running a sentry box across the way. ‘Especially younger and younger Africans. I can understand their situation …’ Carmelo, 32, who works at the railway station sees more and more young Africans. ‘When we stop one or two, they run away, never to be seen again. There’s no control. They could be spreading disease.’

The article explains that juveniles, or those perceived to be so, are sent to youth centres. As these adolescents do not wish to be caught up in a government institution, they insist they are of majority age.

Francesco Rocco, director of the Italian Red Cross, says that without Libyan intervention, the migrations will continue. He is appealing for a stronger humanitarian effort from Africa.

In the meantime, a migrant cemetery exists and, for survivors, two former military camps have been allocated for accommodation — Mineo and Sigonella:

John, 29, a Nigerian, who was living in Libya before the fall of Khadafi, is losing patience after one year and seven months in the camp. ‘There’s nothing to do. We eat pasta and rice every day. What I’m waiting for now are my papers to get a house and a job here in Italy.’

What can one say? At least he has a roof over his head and eats daily. The Italian taxpayer is footing the bill. Going through the correct channels — legal immigration — avoids the camp situation. Choices, choices.

Meanwhile, French towns on the border with Italy are receiving an influx of migrants. On April 24, 2015, Nice-Matin reported that the police had questioned 800 migrants during the previous six days. Also, according to the policemen’s union, Alliance, during the first four months of 2015:

border police processed interviews with over 2,200 migrants, double the number from the previous year.

A source close to the Ministry of the Interior disputes these numbers and says only 540 have been questioned.

However, Christian Estrosi, UMP (Conservative) mayor of Nice and parliamentarian, agrees with the union:

‘Fifteen days ago I sent a request to Prime Minister Manuel Valls asking for more police reinforcements. The reality in our region is the record explosion of asylum demands, up 44% over the course of one year, a trebling of irregular immigration in 2014 and already an increase of 50% during the first trimester of 2015.’

Nice-Matin carried a follow-up article on April 26, explaining that this sudden influx is related to the recent arrivals in the south of Italy over the past few weeks:

Arrested at railway stations in Garavan and Menton, on the tollroad near Turbie, on the coastal highway or in the Roya Valley, these migrants with no documentation become part of a process for readmission into Italy. They are sent to the Transalpine authorities after a simple ‘verbal’ check.

Legally, the paper says, this is all the police can do. They are not allowed to take photos or fingerprints. The deputy director of the border police, Emmanuel Grout, assured Nice-Matin:

We are trying to do this with humanity. We know these people are fleeing war.

Nice-Matin readers were of divided opinion. Some think the police are exaggerating. Others, however, said:

‘Everybody’s arguing over numbers without giving a solution to the reality that’s hitting us in the face.’

‘Yeah, politicians only do politics. Reality is of no interest to them …’

It is unclear whether this phenomenon can be contained and how far it will spread. European leaders have discussed options, but no one wants to be seen as the bad guy discouraging further migration or encouraging African countries to help their own people.

There will be no quick — or satisfactory — resolution.

Bible oldThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Matthew 5:25-26

25 Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. 26 Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.[a]

—————————————————————

This passage comes from the Sermon on the Mount, which includes not only the Beatitudes from Matthew 5:3-11 but also the rest of Matthew 5 as well as Matthew 6 and Matthew 7!

Jesus delivers a lot of hard-hitting messages in this lengthy sermon comprising three chapters.

The preceding verses to today’s are as follows:

Anger

21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother[c] will be liable to judgment; whoever insults[d] his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell[e] of fire. 23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

Therefore, if we are angry at someone — even if we have a nonviolent grudge against them — we are to mend our fences with them before worshipping.

If we make these overtures and the other person does not accept them, then we have done our best and cannot change their minds. We can still pray that divine grace brings them a change of heart in time.

There is something insidious and destructive about anger and grudges. Our Lord says:

whoever insults[d] his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell[e] of fire.

When we destroy — and continue to destroy — a person’s reputation unjustly and unreasonably, we are in danger of being condemned ourselves when we reach the Final Judgement. Let’s make up now!

On the other hand, some of us have business associates, neighbours or, worse, family members who conduct character assassinations against us. Note the word ‘assassinations’ in that commonly used turn of phrase. Christ says that such harsh words and thoughts in chronic anger are tantamount to murder. Food for thought.

John MacArthur has an interesting take on this with regard to church worship. Even when he gave this sermon on Matthew in 1978, he was already getting requests for the contemporary folderol (trifling thing) so in vogue these days: better aesthetics, modern music and so on to bring in more people.

His response was as follows (emphases mine):

The way to increase the meaningful worship is to get the people out who don’t have any business being here, because there’s something wrong.  You know, I believe that every Sunday there are people who come here, husbands and wives who have bitterness between the two of them and they try to worship God, and God doesn’t want anything to do with it.  I believe there are families that come where there’s animosity from the kids toward the parents or the parents toward the kids and God isn’t interested in their worship

I believe that there are times when we come to church and there is a feeling against somebody else in the fellowship, or a neighbor in the street or somewhere, and we know there’s a bitterness.  We do absolutely nothing about it.  There’s a fellow Christian that we don’t particularly care for and something has happened, and we let that thing settle in a bitterness.  And the Bible says, “Go away.  You offer nothing to God.  He is not interested in your worship.  It’s a sham.” 

Psalm 66:18 says, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.”  First Samuel 15:22 says, “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offering and sacrifice, as in obeying the voice of the Lord?  Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken is better than the fat of rams.” 

This brings us to Matthew 5:25 in which Jesus exhorts us to arrive at an agreement with our accuser on the way to court, lest the judge impose a greater penalty than we had anticipated.

Worse, should we find ourselves imprisoned, we will not be released until we have paid our last penny in recompense (verse 26).

Although those verses have practical application, the more pertinent message is about our spiritual state. If we are angry — including bitter — or have not attempted to reconcile ourselves with those who feel similarly towards us, then, we are vulnerable to judgement on that fateful Last Day.

Longtime readers of Forbidden Bible Verses might find this passage sounds familiar. I covered it in an exposition of Luke 12:57-59 in July 2014:

Settle with Your Accuser

 57“And why do you not judge for yourselves what is right? 58 As you go with your accuser before the magistrate, make an effort to settle with him on the way, lest he drag you to the judge, and the judge hand you over to the officer, and the officer put you in prison. 59I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the very last penny.”[a]

The verses about never getting out until we have paid the last penny implies ‘never’.

Matthew Henry warns:

It is a fearful thing to be thus turned over to the Lord Jesus, when the Lamb shall become the Lion. Angels are the officers to whom Christ will deliver them (Matthew 13:41,42) devils are so too, having the power of death as executioners to all unbelievers, Hebrews 2:14. Hell is the prison, into which those will be cast that continue in a state of enmity to God, 2 Peter 2:4. [5.] Damned sinners must remain in it to eternity[;] they shall not depart till they have paid the uttermost farthing, and that will not be to the utmost ages of eternity: divine justice will be for ever in the satisfying, but never satisfied.

What sort of hell are we talking about? I am still researching the nature of this place. Whether it is literal fire or an existential emptiness devoid of God’s presence which the condemned constantly seek, it will be eternally unpleasant.

MacArthur offers this insight:

Now you notice the word “hell fire” at the end of verse 22?  It’s a very serious word, the word “hell.”  The Greek word translated “hell” here is the word gehenna, and I want to tell you about it.  It’s fascinating.  Gehenna is a word with a history.  Gehenna is used and translated “hell” very commonly.  It’s Matthew 5:22, 29, 30, Matthew 10:28, Matthew 18:9, 23:15, and 23:33, Mark 9, Luke 12.  It’s used in James.  It’s a very common word.  It means “hell.”  But gehenna – now listen – is a reference to Hinnom, gehenna is a form of Hinnom.  It means the valley of Hinnom

When we were in Jerusalem, it was pointed out to us where the valley of Hinnom was.  It is southwest from Jerusalem.  It’s very easy to see.  It’s there today.  It is a notorious place.  I’m going to read you a little of its history.  It was the place where Ahaz had introduced into Israel the fire worship of the heathen god Molech to whom little children were burned in the fire.  “He burned incense in the valley of the son of Hinnom, and he burned his children in the fire.”  Says 2 Chronicles 28:3.  Further, Josiah the reforming king had stamped out the evil worship of Molech in the place of Hinnom, and ordered that the valley should be forever after an accursed place.  Because of what had gone on, because it had been defiled, because in the valley, there had been the fire of Molech. 

Now in consequence of this, the valley of Hinnom bore that curse throughout all of Israel’s history.  It became a place where the Jewish people dumped their garbage.  The valley of Hinnom was the garbage dump of Jerusalem.  And what they had there was a public incinerator that burned all the time, all the time, all the time, never went out, never went out.  And when Jesus referred to gehenna or hell and described the eternal state of the wicked as gehenna, what He was saying is it is an eternal, never ending fire, in an accursed place, where the rubbish of humanity will burn and be consumed.  Vivid language. 

Always, says the historian, the fire smoldered in Hinnom, and a pall of thick smoke lay over Hinnom at all times, and it bred a loathsome kind of worm which was very hard to kill.  That is what our Lord refers to in Mark … “where the worm dies not.”

So gehenna, the valley of Hinnom, became identified in peoples’ minds as a filthy, vile, accursed place where useless and evil things were destroyed, and Jesus used it as a vivid illustration of hell.  And He says if you’re even angry and if you ever say a malicious word to sort of put down some person, or worse than that if you ever cursed them as it were to hell, you are as guilty and as liable for eternal hell as a murderer is.  And so Jesus attacks the sin of anger, the sin of slander, and the sin of cursing, and with it He destroys their self-righteousness. 

I know people who have held grudges against a family member — sometimes members — for decades. The grudges extend through their offspring and grandchildren. The latter say, ‘I don’t even know what it’s about, only that we’re not supposed to talk to them.’

In other cases, the person who refuses to put the grudge aside makes sure that every other family member knows what the grudge is about, sometimes exaggerating and embellishing the circumstances. The notional villain of the piece tries to make up with the family member guilty of character assassination. The angry family member refuses to put bitterness aside. Even worse, this person deprives the family of unity and the isolated person of familial love and affection, which sometimes leads to intense loneliness.

Worse, is that the person leading the hate campaign perceives himself or herself as being saintly and righteous. It happens all the time. To them, this post is dedicated. May they seek reconciliation and, if this is impossible, may they ask for divine forgiveness — then worship God in full peace.

Next time: Matthew 5:31-32

I have enjoyed reading G P Cox’s superb site, PacificParatrooper for several months.

Cox, also one of my readers, brings the Second World War to life, discussing in detail battles and soldiers not only from the United States but also her allies. The research into first-person stories, newspaper articles and photographs is extensive and fascinating.

I have added PacificParatrooper to my blogroll. Anyone who wants to know what happened outside of the history books would do well to visit the site. One may also send in personal or family military accounts for possible inclusion:

… a sincere Thank you to YOU out there – my Readers and Friends for helping to make this blog a part of your own family histories and yourselves.  Your story and link contributions do more to make Pacific Paratrooper what it is than I ever could. I don’t believe I show my appreciation often enough for your time and effort to keep our veteran’s services to us alive in our memories and our hearts.  Thank you___ GP Cox

PacificParatrooper has to be one of the best Second World War sites on the Web. Its anecdotal nature makes it a must-read. Cox has

dedicated [the site] to my father, Everett A. Smith, aka “Smitty”, who served in the Headquarters Company/187th Regiment/11th Airborne Division in the Pacific during WWII and the 11th A/B as a whole; therefore it is only right that I do so. Smitty never said, “I did this” or “I did that,”  it was always – “The 11th did IT!”

Cox also looks at the Korean War. Read, digest, learn.

These valiant men — and women — should be an inspiration to us all.

My sincere thanks to reader John J Flanagan, who has kindly taken the time to discuss his experiences in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) and the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS).

His guest post follows. Please feel free to comment or ask him questions to which he can respond directly.

———————————————————————

What are the differences between the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) and the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod (LCMS)?

I freely admit I am not an expert and certainly not a theologian, but I would refer interested parties to read for themselves the websites and Q&A sections on this topic posted at both the OPC and the LCMS websites.

I was a member of an OPC church for a few years, and eventually returned to the LCMS. Prior to that I was on a spiritual journey after 40 years as a Catholic, looking for the truth of God and His word first in the Bible, than checking out various denominations, like Baptists, non-denominational, Reformed, and OPC and PCA. I had been a member of an LCMS congregation as well, but I felt so confused by the varying interpretations each denomination had that I could not be sure in which church I belonged.

The OPC is a solid and faithful church, in my view, but I do not agree with all of the doctrines taught. First, the positives: Sola Scriptura, noting as the Bible declares that we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, and by Christ alone, apart from any works. The OPC believes in infant Baptism, as do Lutherans. End times: Lutherans are amillennial, however, while most OPC ministers are amillennial, some are Post Millennial. The OPC tends to regard communion as a memorial or symbol but Christ is present by His spirit, while Lutherans believe Christ is bodily present at the sacrament. The OPC and LCMS also views Baptism differently, in the sense that Lutherans believe one is regenerated or born again, while God does not necessarily regenerate a person being Baptized, although it is within His sovereignty to do so.
The OPC views Law and Grace differently than Lutherans. The Reformed view is that the Law is designed to suppress wickedness and promote righteousness, whereas, the Lutheran view is that the Law leads us to Christ and repentance.

This is a thumbnail sketch. I have often been struggling with varying interpretations that sincere and God loving Christians apply to the same scriptural verses. It can be confusing, but I have found that Lutheranism explains scripture better, in my view, and the OPC and Reformed lean heavily on the Westminster Confessions. In any case, I suppose Our Lord will determine which church reflects the most accurate interpretation of these things.

Those of you interested in understanding the various denominational teachings should read further materials, but the first and primary way to do that is to keep your hand on the Bible as you read, and pray for wisdom.

I must add that the OPC is, of course, Calvinistic. It follows the five points of Calvinism, also believing in double predestination, which Luther rejected. Other differences, like the Presbyterian form of government, the simplicity of the worship service, rejection of icons, set it apart from Lutheran traditions. The OPC has about 300 churches and about 30,000 members. On the plus side, they rejected post modernism long ago, and split from the very liberal Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA), as later did the group which formed the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). But having looked at this as closely as I am able, in my humble opinion, the LCMS is where I shall remain, and I pray that we remain faithful in the years to come.

St George Paolo Uccello Musee Andre Jacquemart ParisIt’s April 23, the feast day of St George, patron saint of England and several other countries.

George was a soldier and martyr. Several legends about his valour soon circulated after his death.

We continue to connect him with slaying the dragon, as depicted in Paolo Uccello’s painting above. This is said to have taken place in a town in Libya called Silene where a dragon terrorised the townspeople. They tried to placate the beast by feeding it animals. When they ran out, they began giving him human beings. The princess Cleolinda, daughter of their king, was about to be sacrificed in desperation. At that point, George rode up on his white charger, dismounted and fought the dragon on foot. When he had subdued the beast, he dragged it through Silene and slayed it in front of the townspeople. Cleolinda’s father offered George a bag of gold for his efforts, but the valiant soldier asked that the money be given to the poor instead.

The Royal Society of St George explains (emphases mine):

The story is a powerful allegory, emblematic of the triumph of good over evil; but it also teaches of enduring Christian faith in the extreme and the trust that at all times should be placed in the Almighty by the invocation of the name of St. George, Soldier, Saint and Martyr.

George was born around 280 AD in Cappadocia, in present day Turkey. He became a cavalryman in the Roman army at the age of 17 during the reign of the Emperor Diocletian. He quickly earned a reputation for his remarkable virtue, military bearing, physical strength and good looks.

He was promoted to the rank of Millenary or Tribunus Militum, the equivalent rank of a colonel today. He commanded 1,000 soldiers and was a favourite of Diocletian.

Although we do not know at what point George became a Christian, he practised his faith at a time when most Christians in the Roman Empire hid in fear. Persecution was rife. Diocletian’s second-in-command Galerius decreed that Persia, which he had recently conquered, would be subject to the pagan religion and all Christian places of worship destroyed. Any scripture would also be burnt. Furthermore, Christians would lose their rights as citizens and perhaps their lives.

When George saw an edict to this effect as he entered the city of Nicodemia, he immediately tore it down. The local Christians were relieved to have such a staunch defender of the faith on their side. He, in turn, was compassionate towards them.

As both Diocletian and Galerius were in the city at the time, George knew that he would soon be tried. In preparation, he sold his worldly possessions and freed his personal slaves. The Royal Society of St George tells us:

When he appeared before Diocletian, it is said that St. George bravely denounced him for his unnecessary cruelty and injustice and that he made an eloquent and courageous speech. He stirred the populace with his powerful and convincing rhetoric against the Imperial Decree to persecute Christians. Diocletian refused to acknowledge or accede to St. George’s reasoned, reproachful condemnation of his actions. The Emperor consigned St George to prison with instructions that he be tortured until he denied his faith in Christ. 

St George, having defended his faith was beheaded at Nicomedia near Lyddia in Palestine on the 23rd of April in the year 303 AD.

George’s head was taken to Rome where it rests in a church which was named after him.

It is no wonder that the exploits and faith of George circulated around Europe.

Today, community celebrations are taking place around England. Lytham St Annes has four days of events, Southampton has scheduled a St George’s celebration, Nottingham has a parade, and the West Somerset Railway a special fish and chips lunch. In London, the Coldstream Guards are giving a St George’s Day concert, Trafalgar Square has live music with food stalls and St George’s Hanover Square will feature a concert with the Royal British Legion’s Central Band.

May St George serve as an example to us all. As the Britannia site explains:

Saint George is a leading character in one of the greatest poems in the English language, Spencer’s Faerie Queene (1590 and 1596). St George appears in Book 1 as the Redcrosse (sic) Knight of Holiness, protector of the Virgin. In this guise he may also be seen as the Anglican church upholding the monarchy of Elizabeth I:

But on his breast a bloody Cross he bore
The dear remembrance of his dying Lord,
For whose sweet sake that glorious badge we wore
And dead (as living) ever he adored.

My previous post cautioned parents on notional children’s classics.

This post, also inspired by the 11-17 April 2015 issue of the Radio Times, discusses children’s dictionaries, specifically the 2007 edition of the Oxford Junior Dictionary.

Having recovered from the UK’s Book Trust salami slicing of children’s books, I had hoped for lighter fare. Then, I ran across the article ‘Wild words’ (pp. 146-147) by Robert Macfarlane, Cambridge Fellow and author of a new book Landmarks, which explores the richness of British nature terminology.

Macfarlane tells us that the Oxford Junior Dictionary no longer contains the words for commonly found flora and fauna, including acorn, adder, ash, beech, ivy, kingfisher, lark and too many others to list here (p. 147).

He cites the then-editor of the dictionary, Vineeta Gupta, who said that children do not need these words so much anymore as we are living in a technological society, not a rural one.

A Daily Telegraph article from 2008 has her quote in full. She had also dropped words relating to Christianity (emphases mine):

When you look back at older versions of dictionaries, there were lots of examples of flowers for instance. That was because many children lived in semi-rural environments and saw the seasons. Nowadays, the environment has changed. We are also much more multicultural. People don’t go to Church as often as before. Our understanding of religion is within multiculturalism, which is why some words such as “Pentecost” or “Whitsun” would have been in 20 years ago but not now.

I couldn’t disagree more.

Nor could mother-of-four Lisa Saunders from Northern Ireland who, the Telegraph says:

painstakingly compared entries from the junior dictionaries, aimed at children aged seven or over, dating from 1978, 1995, 2000, 2002, 2003 and 2007, said she was “horrified” by the vast number of words that have been removed, most since 2003.

“The Christian faith still has a strong following,” she said. “To eradicate so many words associated with the Christianity will have a big effect on the numerous primary schools who use it.”

Ms Saunders realised words were being removed when she was helping her son with his homework and discovered that “moss” and “fern”, which were in editions up until 2003, were no longer listed.

“I decide to take a closer look and compare the new version to the other editions,” said the mother of four from Co Down, Northern Ireland. “I was completely horrified by the vast number of words which have been removed. We know that language moves on and we can’t be fuddy-duddy about it but you don’t cull hundreds of important words in order to get in a different set of ICT words.”

Message to Oxford Dictionaries staff: Britain has plenty of mosses, ferns, acorns, kingfishers and tons of ivy, never mind the rest of the plants and animals named by the words you omitted. Then there is the matter of Christianity (deleted words emboldened in the next sentence). We still have plenty of vicars; we still celebrate Pentecost which some of us call Whitsun; we go to churches named after saints; some of us were taught by nuns and nearly every church or chapel service includes a psalm. Furthermore, most children today will already know the meanings of the new IT-friendly words: blog, cut and paste, MP3 player and voice mail, among others.

In 2009, Wildlife Promise picked Oxford University Press (OUP) up on the omission of so many words describing the natural world. They tell us that OUP has no intention of reinstating them:

Oxford University Press released an official statement: The dictionary “is not designed for children to use as they progress higher up the school years, and should be regarded as an introduction to language and the practice of using dictionaries.” The words included in it, the statement continues, are selected based on the “language children will commonly come across at home and at school.” The books also must include words “covering the main religious faiths” and must now pay special attention to computer-related words. These concerns, says the company, must be balanced with keeping the book small enough to be accessible for children between the ages of 8 and 11.

Digging around, I found more people who, happily, are just as upset about the nature omissions, although not the Christian terms. Even in 2015, they are asking OUP to reinstate the words for flora and fauna which are commonly seen not only in Britain but elsewhere in the world.

Authors Margaret Atwood and Michael Morpurgo are two of 28 writers who addressed an open letter to OUP in January 2015:

“We base this plea on two considerations. Firstly, the belief that nature and culture have been linked from the beginnings of our history,” reads the letter.

Secondly, childhood is undergoing profound change; some of this is negative; and the rapid decline in children’s connections to nature is a major problem.”

“There is a shocking, proven connection between the decline in natural play and the decline in children’s well-being,” they write, adding that obesity and anti-social behaviour are some consequences.

“We recognize the need to introduce new words and to make room for them and do not intend to comment in detail on the choice of words added. However, it is worrying that in contrast to those taken out, many are associated with the interior, solitary childhoods of today.”

Laurence Rose of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds told Huffington Post Canada that, when he complained about the omission of names for still-common birds, the OUP responded as follows (summarised):

All of the words that were reportedly removed from the 2007 version of the Oxford Junior Dictionary, geared towards seven-year-old readers, are included in the Primary Dictionary, intended for those eight years old and up, according to the statement.

Odd that, having one dictionary for seven-year-olds and another for eight-year-olds. However, that is one solution: buy the Primary Dictionary rather than the Junior edition.

Back to Robert Macfarlane now. His book Landmarks introduces all of us to words we’ve probably not heard of before from all British dialects. The Guardian‘s review says:

Is there another book – fiction or nonfiction – so generous in its nature, that has in its very structure the matrices of other writing and study and poetry fixed intricately into its threads and lines like webs within webs or currents within streams within rivers within seas? Landmarks may be single-minded in its pursuit of the exact, the particular, but in its articulation it sounds a chord of voices – of communities, writers, literatures – that may include the reader’s own.

This comes from the idea of placing at the end of every section a swath of words cut and lifted from dictionaries and phrase books, from common usage, idiolect, slang and poetry. Words for stones and rubble, chucky, clitter, and fedspar; for ice, pipkrares and shuckle; for hill and gully and livestock and branches and leaves and weathers and, in “Ways of Walking”, for a certain kind of mud – muxy rout and slunk. These glossaries are both summaries and a way ahead, where words are like “migrant birds, arriving from distant places… or strangers let into the home”, that they may enliven us with their meanings and stories and give back so much that has been culled.

The Telegraph says:

The languages of forestry, mountaineering, archaeology and geology mix with the coinages of poets. Gerard Manley Hopkins is a prominent contributor: his “wimpling”, the action of wind on a bird’s wing, is joined by “shadowtackle”, shifting patterns of light and shade on woodland floors, caused, Macfarlane says, “by the light filtering-action of the canopy in the wind”.

Landmarks presents hundreds of words and phrases for weather and natural phenomena, and for working and playing in the countryside. Suppose you jump into a lake or pond and muck about. If you are in Shetland you are “bumbelling”. In other parts of Scotland you are “dooking”, in Galloway you are “jabblin” or “puddling”, in Northern Ireland you “skite”, and in Kent you “squashle”.

If few readers are likely to memorise 50 terms related to peat and turf, none will forget that in North Yorkshire steams rising from a wet moor under bright sun are called “summer geese”. Macfarlane is beguiled by a fiery light produced by sun on hoar frost, called an “ammil”, at least in Devon, but his purpose is anything but whimsical. “We have become experts in analysing what nature can do for us, but lack a language for what it can do to us,” he writes.

In the Radio Times, Macfarlane elaborates on ammil, which is the

thin glittering film of ice that lacquers leaves and twigs when freeze follows thaw

and the Shetlandic term pirr means

a light breath of wind, such as will make a cat’s paw on the water

whereas, to someone from Exmoor, zwer is

the sound made by a covey of partridges taking flight

whilst, in Sussex, smeuse is

the gap in the base of a hedge made by the regular passage of a small animal.

What a lovely book written by not only a naturalist but also someone who truly loves the English language.

It’s reassuring to know in the natural world ‘there’s a name for that’.

Yes, darling, it’s a buttercup. And that, over there, is a bluebell.

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