Holding space

Me at my desk!

Sometimes things occur in such a sequence or a timing that I’m almost converted to hyper-Calvinism! ALMOST, but not quite!

One early morning recently I was flicking through my Facebook feed. I came across three posts from entirely different sources, in this sequence;

First, one of the many posts I have read from my friend Patrick. We were friends before Facebook, even though I’ve never met him. He lives in the US, and we were members of a Yahoo writing group, spread across the UK, Ireland, Norway, Brazil, Canada and the US. Now most of us have become Facebook friends and the group on Yahoo is hardly used. Many like to belittle ‘Facebook friendship’ and while I agree it is no substitute for ‘real friends’ whom we meet in person, I know that I have been able to experience empathic emotions of joy and sorrow for many through social media that I have not physically met. The people at the other keyboard thousands of miles away are still people!

Patrick shared a beautiful piece about love. I thought it was his own words since he is a great wordsmith, but he assured me the bulk of it was a well-known and oft-quoted piece. His addition were his words to his late husband, Thom. You see, they were together for about 13 years, but took up the chance to marry when it was legalised. Shortly after that, Thom died from a heart attack, in Patrick’s arms. His grief was tangible. I shed tears for him, real tears – they’re even returning right now; damn empathy! I know he loved Thom, and counted him as his soulmate. He is still grieving over him, after many months. Who knows how long his healing will take?

The second post I read was this truly beautiful blog. It’s short, give it a read:

PEOPLE WHO HOLD SPACE WILL HEAL THE CHURCH

The third one, which must have been posted by one of my atheist friends (yes, I do have friends of many persuasions!), was a humanist blog having a go at a Christian Facebook page (it’s short too):

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/progressivesecularhumanist/2017/06/christian-facebook-page-fights-rainbow-flag-emojis-loses/

Here was my original thought which I planned to posit as an answer to the ‘Warriors for Christ’:

Yeah, if you’re preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ, you need to point out all the ramifications of it. That includes listing sins as Jesus himself warned us about, so start proclaiming warnings to the very rich; the millionaires who might wish to come and join the church. You might not be thinking about what I mean since it’s not something that is prevalent (or even counts as extant) in our peculiar wee subculture, but it was the clear warning that Jesus gave to his disciples after the ‘rich young man’ left him, unable to give up his wealth;

Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God. (Matt. 19:23,24)

I’ve said this a lot in previous blogs, simply because I read it in scripture. Jesus said it. Greedy people are condemned right alongside the ‘sexually immoral’ and Paul even commands the Corinthian church to not have anything to do with them, and not even eat with them! (1Cor. 5:11). Yeah, I can hear all your excuses now before you even comment, so please don’t bother. If you’re adamant about following the Bible and doing what Jesus did, you’d simply want to warn rich people, because ‘in love’ you’d want to make sure they would know if they continue in their sin, Jesus has given them the sternest warning!

So before I posted this, I had to ask myself if I wanted ‘The Warriors’ to start shouting to the world about the sin of greed and excess wealth? Actually, no!

I’ve known people who have faced the gauntlet of the screaming faces as they approach an abortion clinic/ advice centre, all telling them they’re murderers. I’ve known people who have entered churches to be told by a red-faced preacher what awful sin their sexual orientation causes them to do. However, I do not know of anybody who has wealth to be challenged so openly by any church! I’m always calling for preachers to list all of the sins they can find in our holy book, cause I’m sure there are a few we all need to be told about ourselves; nobody’s perfect. In light of of all this, I have no desire for anyone, rich or poor, straight or gay, Christian, Jew, Muslim or atheist, to face a blanket condemnation as they visit any church, or encounter a Christian organisation on the internet. While I often place blame for the world’s woes on the super-rich, the real blame lies not in those people, but in the sin of greed that is prevalent in them.

So I decided not to reply to the Warriors.

One of our church leaders came across a homeless man outside the building, who was thrown out of his parents’ house when he ‘came out’ – I’ve often heard of ‘come out and get thrown out’ but here was a real example! He was gay before he came out, now he’s gay and homeless! Kudos to the parents and a high five!

Whatever problem there is in my life, Jesus is working on it, through his Spirit in me. He can do the same with every other follower who goes after him. I just want to be the one who heals the church from this abject hatred of certain people/ things (that is what it is, face it!), by holding space, as Kaitlin so succinctly blogged it.

Grace be with you.

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Why I am voting to REMAIN in the EU.

I was undecided. Genuinely. There are pro- and anti-EU pundits on both sides of the right/left divide, so it was not straightforward, I knew. I wished to analyse all the arguments and make a decision based on what would be best for the majority of the British people. I knew this would be especially difficult for me, since the main protagonists are all from the Conservative party; it is an internal spat, after all! (And I had already dealt with Farage and UKIP a couple of years ago, here). While I find it very hard to trust any Tory, I have always had more respect for Boris Johnson than for David Cameron or George Osborne, so at first I thought I might be swayed by the ‘leave’ campaign.

What is obvious to everyone with even a few brain cells is that there has been lies and exaggerations on both sides. This has exasperated all of us who simply seek the truth, of course. When I sat down to read the leaflets, with access to sources that sought to impartially verify or debunk the various claims of both sides, I was stunned as soon as I read the ‘leave’ leaflet; I didn’t even need any help, since from my own knowledge, I could see the glaring lies peddled on those pages! While much of the ‘remain’ campaign’s lies were basically conjecture based on nothing, or sheer exaggerations, the lies of the ‘leave’ campaign were bare-faced deception! However, that was not the reason I decided, even though it was a blatant insult to the intelligence and integrity of its audience! Politicians are a peculiar breed, and they will do almost anything just to get you or me to vote in a particular way, so I had to dismiss these lies as nothing more than overeagerness to persuade us to vote ‘leave’. Though I wondered if there was actually some hidden agenda.

Then Jacob Rees-Mogg (a posh Tory who comes across as a really old school MP but is actually younger than me!) said “We need to leave the protectionist fortress of Europe!”

I am a protectionist! Basically, this is the belief that our own industries and businesses need to be protected from unfair competition. For instance, Chinese steel has been flooding into our market, which has been heavily subsidised by the Chinese government, and our own industry cannot compete with these artificial prices. If action is not taken, China could corner the entire market, and then start charging whatever they like. There’s a bit more information on protectionism here.

The opposite opinion to protectionism is ‘free trade’ or the ‘free market’, and as I was listening to debates on the television, I noticed how often these terms were used by proponents of the ‘leave’ campaign. This is the hidden agenda! They do not like the policies that are prevalent within the EU to protect European industry and support it, but seek a ‘free market’ across the world. Alarm bells rung in my head! I have already exposed how this belief springs from an early Christian church heresy, three years ago, here. The real problem with this belief, even if it is worthy and true, is that all nations need to subscribe to it. The Chinese government, by subsidising their steel, are not competing within a ‘free market’ but are interfering with the prices. Free marketeers would complain that they’re ‘not playing fair’ but the Chinese government are perfectly entitled to behave with regard to their own industries as they see fit! They are protectionists, so we need to be too!

I was watching a documentary on BBC4, by the inimitable Bettany Hughes, on Karl Marx. I was surprised to find that in his Communist Manifesto, he actually praised the bourgeoisie and their capitalism! He saw the value of it for producing profits and gain from industrialisation, but his gripe was that they kept all the profits for themselves when the actual labour that produced the profits was not given its proper value. He developed some philosophy on a phrase ‘surplus profit’ (or surplus value) – more information here. His argument was not against capitalism, but unfettered capitalism, where there is no means for the labourer(s) to bargain for their worth, and receive a fair share of the profits of the industry. His revolution was a ‘bottom-up’ one, where the working class majority fight for their rights to decent wages and working conditions, with little recourse to governments to instigate change, but rather to legislate as the people demand. It was designed for industrialised capitalist economies, but unfortunately the resulting communist revolutions that occurred were in Russia and China, both very undeveloped agrarian societies, and both ended up becoming a ‘top-down’ revolution, with the likes of Stalin and Mao, who imposed an ideology upon the people. What has been achieved over decades, by working people in the UK and across Europe, demanding more rights and higher wages, largely by unionisation, is actually what Marx dreamt of, not Stalinism.

One of the things that Marx pointed out was that capitalists will find themselves slaves to an abstract concept of ‘the market’ with the example of trading hours: with no restriction on the hours businesses can trade, one factory owner will be totally unwilling to reduce his workers’ hours since his competitors will most likely not reduce their hours and so he would end up becoming uncompetitive. Over 150years later, this has been seen recently in the UK with the debate over Sunday trading hours. A concession years ago to allow stores to open from 1pm to 6pm was, in the eyes of the ‘free market’ lobby, simply a stepping stone to allowing full 24/7 trading, with no respect to any day as special, sacred or set aside. The argument against this is that small family-run businesses cannot remain open all these hours, whereas the big companies like Tesco can. I heard one of these MPs state boldly: “If uncompetitive small businesses fall by the wayside, so be it!” They literally do not care for the small guy!

Communism has been described as a ‘religion’ or a ‘cult’ since it demands allegiance to ‘the state’ and will not allow any dissent to that worship. I agree! What we saw in the USSR and China, and other nations, is so akin to religion that it fits the definition. North Korea has a clear cult of worship of the Kims! Likewise, what Marx warned about is true of the worship of ‘the market’. Unfettered capitalism pays homage to the omniscient and omnipotent power of allowing this ‘market’ to decide our lives and our means, and we must devote ourselves to it without question. Any protectionist policies go against the received wisdom of the high priests of the market. We have seen many of our industries and state services sold off to foreign investors, and this has been the result of the pursuit of this religion by our British governments (both Tory and New Labour), not by any policy coming from the EU.

This is why I am deciding to vote ‘remain’! I do not wish to allow this false religion to take any further hold of our nation and our economy, since it has already eroded many rights of the hard-working majority, and it will do more harm, if unchecked. If the Brexit does produce more profit for British industry, it will continue to rise upwards to the rich, since we the people will not have any power to take our fair share of it! All the talk about the ‘ridiculous regulations’ of the EU include such terrible things like how employers have to ensure their workers’ safety and cannot treat them like possessions! So if you wish to allow our own politicians to ‘take back control’ of our economy from the EU (even though most decisions are made locally!), go ahead, but I look at their track record and conclude that they do not speak for the common man. We need something to curb them before they make the ultra-rich the hyper-rich!

And just in case you’re a fellow Christian who still thinks of the EU as ‘Babylon’ or some other terrible apocalyptic demon, see my recent blog on that, here.

Gift or Reward?

ParentingSupport-1600x600So often I see links across things that seem to others to be totally unrelated. Maybe it’s the sort-of-skewed way my (unofficially autistic) brain works, like an internal synesthesia. The main way this occurs is in lessons I find myself applying from theology to politics, (or sometimes vice versa), or in seeing patterns in scientific phenomena that reflect the mind of God; the problems within quantum mechanics portray the paradoxes in scripture. Stuff like that.

What I do not see so easily is how certain politicians try to apply a verse or two of scripture to justify a political position that is at direct odds with biblical teaching. So many of the things that are held up as ‘Christian values’ are at best only selective to the detriment of ignored ones, or just plain false! Knowing full well the difficulty of trying to apply theological concepts into the complex society we occupy, not least being that the majority around us are not followers of Jesus, let me suspend that skepticism for once and offer what surely must be the most basic and fundamental principle of our Christian gospel: grace!

The gift

Pocket_Money1I was sitting watching a daytime phone-in show with my mother, who has to stay with us for a period to recover from her latest stroke. The question being asked was “should your children work for their pocket money?” The usual reasons given were that children must learn not to expect ‘something for nothing’ and be taught that work brings reward. Fine. Fair point. Then I remarked to my mother; “we didn’t have to work for our pocket money, Mum! You and Dad just gave it to us without a condition, but I remember doing a reasonable share of the chores around the house. I recall Dad throwing me a duster and saying that we should tidy the house for you coming home. I was to dust and he hoovered. I didn’t object.”

So in my childhood, I wasn’t made to work for my pocket money, but that never made me lazy or caused me to grumble about chores (well, I was a child, so I’m sure I grumbled a bit, but I never refused to do work around the house). Why was that? Did my parents not spoil me by giving me unconditional pocket money? Some friends thought I was spoilt, since I got gifts from my parents even right between my birthday and Christmas! However, they did not just give me anything I demanded; they had limits and boundaries. They were great parents, very giving and generous, but not spoiling. I learnt the value of money and of my good parents. I strive to reassure Mum now that looking after her in her old age is just repaying all the faithful years she gave me.

Heavenly parenting

That is how it is also with my heavenly Father. Mum and Dad did not raise me ‘in a faith’ in God; I discovered Jesus for myself. I knew very quickly, I recognised this ‘Good Good Father’ since he was my good parents times a million! How generous is he? The gift of eternal life, freely given, with no preconditions, for someone undeserving as me. Those of us who have experienced grace must surely grasp it! Our Father is not a pushover, he does not spoil us, he has his limits (it’s called sin!), so I know I cannot just do as I like and not displease him. Just as I felt shame when I displeased my earthly parents, so I also feel shame at sinning. No shame, no relationship, I say. But on top of that, there is the most incredible, all-encompassing, belief-busting, incredible truth of grace that all sins in my life are forgiven, without condition! My salvation is secure. What is insecure is my closeness to God: that is down to me completely since there is only one flawed member of this relationship. He desires nothing else but my fellowship with him and his presence in my life: obedience to his commands is the best way for me to maintain that.

Not by works

The single most repeated phrase within evangelicalism regarding the preaching of the gospel of Christ is that salvation is not by works:

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast….

Ephesians 2:8,9…

I realised that my willingness to help out around the house (not gleefully, I’ll admit, and seldom without direction from Mum or Dad) came from a sense of responsibility, not a desire for reward. It was because I belonged to this family, where I was loved and nurtured, and provided for. It was simply borne from gratitude. My works were not to gain something as low as money, nor even my parents’ approval or love. I already had that in bucketloads! They were a response to the love…

… For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

… Ephesians 2:10

The works I do as a Christian must come from a sincere heart that simply wants to please my Father, and not even to ‘repay’ God for the gift of the Son crucified for me, since we know we can never repay that. Just as my mother does not expect any sort of ‘repayment’ for her parenting, so our Father God knows in his infinite wisdom that we mere mortals can never repay Calvary!  That is the Debtor’s Dilemma i.e. why should I think I must repay it? [which John Piper covers very well in his book Future Grace].

‘Remuneration theology’

As I pondered the debate on the TV, I realised that if I had been taught to earn my pocket money, then when Dad threw that duster my way, I would have replied “what are you paying me?” In other words; “what’s in it for me?”, and right away I saw the flaw in this ‘Protestant Work Ethic’ mentality. A society built on the sole principle of reward is not one of love, giving, volunteering, sacrifice, common cause, or altruism, but a collection of individuals all grasping for their share, asking one another “what’s in it for me?”Milton-Friedman

Seeing an old interview of Milton Friedman, one of the chief architects of the recent outing of the old heresy masquerading as ‘free enterprise’ and a ‘pure’ form of capitalism, I clearly heard this attitude in his words, as he vaunted self-interest and the desire for personal gain as the paragon of human endeavour and mocked ‘virtue’ as never having achieved anything! I truly could not think of anything less Christian than that! Not in the light of the gift of grace!

People often talk of sin being disobedience towards God. That is it in a nutshell, so when I realise that I am not forgiving and loving everyone I meet, even my enemies, I am disobeying Jesus’ direct commands. That is sin! Imperfect me fails this test over and over,… but I’m getting there. In all my dealings with those around me, whom I encounter every day in my life (and on t’internet), I have to be a living example of obedience to those amazing and compelling, yet devastatingly difficult, words Jesus spoke on that mountainside in Judaea almost 2000 years ago. If  we are to apply ‘Christian values’ to our nation, our society, to the world around us, is this not the archetype? We are to love unconditionally, as we have been. We are to forgive any wrong done to us, unlike the unforgiving servant, who was cleared of an almighty debt, yet failed the test. Believe me, I don’t want to write these words! Life would be actually easier were I to just follow the herd and agree that there are people I am perfectly entitled to hate, and join in the chorus of disapproval, and reject and dispossess them of what they have to claim for myself. But that is a false gospel; it is a direct contradiction of those awkward commands in favour of an agreed accommodation with the world that we can behave just like those who have never known the grace of God.

We cannot!

quote-there-s-nothing-in-this-world-so-sweet-as-love-and-next-to-love-the-sweetest-thing-is-henry-wadsworth-longfellow-55-68-87

In accepting that Jesus has my best interests at the forefront of his thoughts and intentions as he gives me these commands, then giving up those ingrained cultural principles, and maybe some cherished feelings of animosity towards others means that I can exchange my tiny box for his huge one, and trust it is worth it when he asks me ‘deal or no deal’!

The Christian message is not one of rewarding good behaviour, it is one of creating right behaviour in response to the gift of love.

Grace be with you.

21st Century Paraphrase: James 1:27 (true religion)

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. (James 1:27 NIV)

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after the rich and those who already have all they need and to keep oneself from being put off trying to emulate them by the bleeding hearts. (James 1:27 21CP)

Why I am a socialist.

The label

Right away, there’s something wrong with this blog; it’s in the title: I hate labels! I even considered changing it. A big problem that I face is that when I say “I’m a socialist” some immediately picture me as Che Guevara in camouflage with an automatic rifle (I do have the long hair and beard, but that’s as far as that stereotype goes), or they just decide that I mean that I’m a Leninist, Communist or Marxist. Each of these descriptions could be interchanged in some settings but they are not all the same thing. Just as I have realised that a few billion people use the label ‘Christian’, from gun-toting KKK members to Universalists, and I know what I mean when I use that word (though I prefer ‘Jesus follower’ to distinguish it), so I also know what I mean when I say that I’m a socialist, and no stereotyping or preconceptions anyone else has will affect that. One thing I have learnt is that politics, and economics, like theology, are all very complex. So I’ll try to simplify things and define where I am at.

che-guevara-face-b-w-art-poster-print

Maybe if I coloured the beard blue…?

 

Firstly, I am a democratic socialist. Outside of democracy, any attempt to create a socialist utopia will fail miserably, since the will of the people must be paramount; the very basis of socialist philosophy is that all are born equal, and each human being has a right to life and liberty. Once you step beyond the bounds of democratic control, it is only inevitable that these basic rights will be undermined. Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely, as the memorable saying goes.

Stereotypes abound in all perceptions, and for socialists like me, that includes people believing that I just must subscribe to particular things, like atheism and being pro-choice. I get this from both sides, yet when I was younger and attended meetings of the Socialist Workers Party, I met others who were also religious and pro-life; almost all of the party attendees were Roman Catholic, since in Northern Ireland, a protestant is just not allowed to be left-wing (search me where that came from, and I’ll not theorise here), so they had an ingrained belief in the unborn’s right to life. Those within the party who were ‘fully paid-up’ socialists and could not even see the pro-life argument, were almost wanting to expel us from meetings for not being ‘proper’ socialists. Yeah, we’re all equal and all entitled to an opinion, but it must follow ‘the party line’ – the irony!! My political beliefs, like my theology, have many facets, but were I to plot a Venn diagram of them, my circle would lie very much over the ‘socialist’ area.

The problem

Politics is about power, when you break it down, and in whom power is vested. Money equals power, so it is safe to say that a lot of political wrangling is about just where the cash flows to. Those who have plenty of money already have power, and as we know, this can be a corrupting influence. Our modern politics were birthed in events like Magna Carta, where English nobles had suffered enough under King John, who was demanding more tributes and taxes from them to fund his desire for more wars to gain more land and power. They made him sign their bill of demands, God-appointed King or not! The rights enshrined in Magna Carta were originally for the knights and landed gentry, but such rights have filtered down through history to the rest of us commoners. Other similar documents followed, like the British Bill of Rights in 1689, which shifted power more securely into the hands of parliament from royalty, and the US Constitution was a similar attempt to establish rights of those who had subsequently rebelled against the excesses of that British parliament. And so it goes on…

Now, in 2016, practically everyone sees a broken political system in the majority of the Western world. Many commentators try to apportion blame in various sectors, and in the melee, I find myself agreeing with those of very different persuasions, particularly some Libertarians. This is because they hold the same basic belief that we are all born equal and have a right to life and liberty; we agree that there’s a lot wrong in our political system and seek to change it. Where we differ is in the method.

For me, the best way to define right-wing v. left-wing (and which has always been the definition!) is that right-wing philosophers have a belief in the right of ascension i.e. that those who are able to ascend to a higher status have shown their ‘right’ to enjoy that place of privilege, while left-wing philosophers believe in the right of anyone who contributes to society to be given an equal right to share in the rewards and profits within that society. Where there has been an imbalance of wealth, we have often seen revolutions hellbent on redistribution, and this only gives left-wing rhetoric the label of ‘theft’ since it seeks to take wealth from those who already have it. The problem is that when you have individuals who do work hard and are not remunerated properly, it is only human nature to feel aggrieved and to seek ‘justice’ – if wealth was properly distributed in the first place, there would be no need for redistribution! We all know (those of us who have not stuck our heads in the sand) just how much money is going to the tiny 0.0000008% of the world population. This has just become the latest record figure; we are seeing records on the wealth imbalance broken year after year, and it just has to stop; latest figures here.

However, some politicians have a twisted agenda to present a different view of politics; chiefly that either…

a): right-wing thinking is about ‘less government’ and more for the individual’s liberty, while left-wing thinking is about government control and the diminishing of the individual, and the promotion of the importance of ‘the state’ – this does sum up non-democratic Marxism/ Communism since it views democracy as a corruptible thing and that a totalitarian regime is required to ‘protect’ the state from being undermined. or…

b): both left-wing and right-wing thinking are the same thing, and removing government regulations is about getting beyond this to a pure utopia where everyone is free to pursue their own dreams/ ambitions/ aspirations.

This leads to some crazy ideas, like how Fascism is left-wing, since Fascists seek to appropriate government (unelected if possible) to strengthen their control of the cash flow! Who else would propose this but right-wing nationalists who want to distance themselves from what we saw develop in Europe between the wars, but right-wing beliefs, if taken to an extreme, end up in this place of utter belief in the ‘rightness’ of your own national cause and the place of your established elite, against the ‘wrongness’ of anything else that challenges that, from within or without. Let us note that the political prisoners who were in the German concentration camps alongside the Jews were the Communists, not the Capitalists! Socialism is, I will admit, much more international than nationalistic, since we believe in the value of all workers. Hence why I detest the name ‘National Socialism’ (Nazism) – it’s an oxymoron.

These views are gaining ground in the USA, where there is a vast subculture of mistrust of any government; it is a nation borne from revolution against a government, so that’s no surprise, but I wonder how a nation that managed to set up its own government democratically could end up being consistently mistrustful of what is constituted from their own candidates and votes – a huge debate, especially since we are heading that way too in the UK.

I only recently discovered that there’s a saying in France: “only right-wingers believe that right-wing and left-wing are the same!” Such misrepresentations are done by those in power to garner votes and to make you think that they believe in the same values you do, and this is the hub of my argument here…

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Party positions are fairly fluid depending on the membership but this is a basic diagram of where they are ‘meant’ to be! I would place the newer ‘neoconservatives’ (or Thatcherites) about an inch to the right of UKIP.

When we look at the ‘credit crunch’ of 2008, we all come to one conclusion: it was the bankers! This happened before (as I’ve blogged on), in the Wall Street Crash of 1929, which led to the first Great Depression in the 30s. Our grandparents mistrusted banks then, so why do we still trust them now? “How was this allowed to happen?” is an oft-heard question. The answer is simple: our governments deregulated the financial market and opened up the possibility for greed to go off the scale for an elite few, who naturally succumbed to the temptation. As a Christian, I do believe in the fallen nature of man, so I am never surprised when such things overtake educated and smart people and cause them to lose all sense of proportion: for them, making another two billion just would not do when there was a possibility to make three!

The credit crunch happened because of greed, and it was allowed to happen. We all know that government regulation was not to blame; it was the lack of regulation, and this is what the ‘free market’ exponents wanted all along – they tell you it’s about ‘individual freedom’ but it actually means that power shifts from government to individuals, and since money is power, it is the wealthy who gain! [If you want to know about where free market ideology came from, I blogged on this three years ago here].

The bottom line

This is what socialist philosophy is about: we recognise that power is vested in too few individuals in ‘natural’ society and believe that to achieve a more egalitarian (equality-based) society, our governments, elected from us, by us, and for us [nod of deference to you, Mr. Lincoln] must enact laws that grant more power to the disempowered, the poorer parts of society, who have little capital but provide their labour i.e. the democratic majority of us, that allow us all to share in the fruits of production. Such regulations redress the imbalance and provide a better, happier and more stable society that is less likely to rise up in revolution and behead the ruling class! Free market proponents can deny the existence of society all they want, until it does come back to bite them at the end of a gun barrel. Since I am a democratic socialist, this is the last thing I want! The ‘natural’ society that the free marketeers wish for is natural, but that means it’s either Darwinian (if that’s your scientific basis) or sinful (if you believe in a religious view of a righteous god). I know that I am a tiny krill in the vast ocean of the world’s finances, so I’d rather not be eaten by the whales, thank you very much! I want my elected government to be there to fight for me and everyone else like me, in the same great tradition of Magna Carta.

Our steel market is facing layoffs and shutting down of production. The excuse is made that “this is the will of the market” as if ‘the market’ was some all-powerful deity who ruled according to their own thinking! Somehow China is able to produce steel at a much lower price and are beating the rest of the market hands down; c’est la vie! However, China does not believe in a free market, and have heavily subsidised their steel production with government funds! Xi Jinping is making an economic attack on our industry, and the free marketeers in charge here are agreeing to what is happening due to their blind devotion to their false god: to protect our industries would be a capitulation to that horrible policy that is derogatorily called ‘protectionism’ – nice to know that should I wish to act in the interests of those close to me I could be labeled a ‘protectionist’! In order for ‘the free market’ to work for everyone (if that was ever possible), it would require, before anything else, every country in the world to subscribe to it! And they say that we are the dreamers!?winston-churchill-democrasy

So often I hear people say “socialism failed! Look at the collapse of the Soviet Union!” Yes, that particular form of socialism (non-democratic Communism!) did fail, and there is no system of government that is perfect; each brings its own problems along with its solutions. Surely the last 30+ years of free-market experimentation has also shown it has failed!

Socialism believes in society, and that the answer to one of the oldest questions is “yes, Cain, you are your brother’s keeper!” Hence why so many neoconservatives wish to make us believe that ‘society’ is only a myth. Sorry, but I have eyes in my head, and behind them a reasonably functioning brain! We have had the pursuit of the freeing of the market from regulation for a few decades now, and it has been so insidious in pervading political thinking that former socialists were caught up in the new religion. It was making the working majority impoverished anyway with the upward flow of money, the stagnation of wages and the ridiculous hikes in property prices, but 2008 just killed off any last vestige of hope that it might ‘turn out better in the end’ – yet what do we have now? George Osborne telling us that we need to undergo a bit more austerity, a bit more hardship and pain, just so we can get through this to the land of milk and honey! I don’t see you suffering that much, George!

This is not homeopathy! We don’t cure the ills with even more ills! We4b00b-da turn around and go back to the crossroads where we took that wrong turn and we choose a different path. If at all possible, we find that path we were already on, which created the greatest rise in living standards ever and fantastic achievements like the NHS! We do not allow them to dismantle the remnants so there will be no going back, for that is their wish and desire, believe me!

Anyone who reads my blogs will know that I believe passionately in separation of church and state, but I do accept that Christian standards have to be applied to my political aspirations and must influence what I seek from my government. [I understand that varying political views can exist within the body of Christ, but each believer must be informed and must be able to square their stance with scripture]. Reading my Bible, I see clearly just how much greed is condemned, and believe that it should be curbed; I hear my Lord give one of his clearest commands ever when he said “pay your taxes!” and I know that:

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

James 1:27

Orphans and widows were the lowest financially in the ancient world, so for me, welfare being provided by the state is a fulfilment of a guiding biblical principle!

I choose to vote for those who champion the lower parts of society, not the higher! I know that now includes practically everybody who might read this, since the current incumbents in Westminster (and Capitol Hill) only serve the top 0.1%!2016-01-12 02.01.07

Too many believe the right-wing media and their attempts to redefine my political beliefs into falsehoods, like the idea that socialism is about rewarding laziness and penalising hard work: nothing could be further from the truth!

Capitalism vests value in capital and property, and thus rewards those who have it. Socialism vests value in labour, and rewards those who produce it!

Grace be with you.

 

In Praise of Taxation

Here’s a brief argument: it is short, believe me, simply because it’s simple and clear, and it comes from a little news item that was debated today on a discussion show. While all my ‘right-leaning’ friends have an inbred disdain for government taxation, they miss the basic value and merit that good taxation and spending brings to society i.e. everyone who lives under such a government.

Amidst all the austerity cuts we are facing, it is clear it’s not just ‘welfare scroungers’ and ‘wasteful councils’ who are being dealt the bad hand. It is slicing away practically everything that we hold dear in our society, but if you have people in power who have no real belief that society ‘exists’, what were you expecting? Perhaps the most incredible of these cuts is in policing, since even the most venomous libertarian who cries for minimal taxation and minuscule government wants protection from the criminal elements in our society (sorry for using that ‘defunct’ word, but what else should we call it?). As the rich grow ever further away from those beneath them, one inevitable result is that criminals come calling to their houses to rob them of their vast hordes of money. Yes, they will face criminal elements, or even those who have found themselves choosing crime over any other means of eking out a living since being law-abiding members of society (oops!) doth not butter any of their parsnips.

The wealthy borough of Hampstead in London has seen a rise in violent crime, but also saw their 100-year old police station close due to cuts! So the residents (well, some of them) have decided they could get together and pay £13/ year each for three extra officers for their borough, but these officers would not be allowed to be diverted to any other events outside their borough if needed. The basic story is here. The debate then inevitably ensues that it may not be right that wealthy boroughs can simply pay for extra policing while poorer boroughs have to put up with less police, and cannot even call upon the police from the wealthy boroughs if things ever get bad. Then the proposal is made that maybe these boroughs should be allowed to pay in a ‘contribution’ to policing in general, and they get half the extra officers and the rest of us get the other half. Maybe their borough postcode could get a gold star?

Then the next question, of course, since this is not taxation but a voluntary choice, is “what if one millionaire in their mansion pays this charge, but their neighbour doesn’t?” They shouldn’t all get that gold star! Surely that would also mean that the ‘extra police officers’ would only be allowed to attend to the houses of those who have paid! They’ll not be allowed to apprehend a criminal on the lawn of the neighbour’s house! So… this becomes compulsory, if the majority of residents decide they want it, and so you have a local tax! It’s the only way it would work!

Hold on! Why don’t we all just agree that we do all live in one big society (‘Big Society’ – anyone get the sheer irony?), and accept that we all just pay our taxes and allow the revenue to cover things like law and order and the criminal prosecution service, and our roads and street lighting, and our children’s education, and… is this not just plain common sense?

Grace be with you.

The sin of Sodom will destroy this nation!

This is something I’ve blogged about before, specifically. The overall issue is one I repeat quite a lot since it’s one of my ‘hobby-horses’ i.e. something that people who know me might say I bang on about quite a lot. Guilty! I keep saying it because it seems that nobody wants to hear it these days. Now I feel even more sympathy for the Old Testament prophets, the weird bunch of misfits!

It should be safe for me to say that in God’s eyes, all sin is sin, and all that we might think are ‘righteous acts’ are to him, relatively, no more than ‘filthy rags’ – thank you, Isaiah! (64:6). God cannot bear sin in his presence, and so crafted the master plan of the atoning blood of Christ for all our sins to be covered so that he can no longer see them… A MASTER PLAN INDEED! Praise his holy name.

However, might it also be possible that certain sins or vices anger God more than others? He really did get very irate at that idolatry thing in the Old Testament, for instance, so might there be some things that we should avoid in order to placate his wrath against us? The way many preachers rant about certain things, you’d think there’s something in that! If it is true that God will judge now as he has done before (but in an age of grace that’s a HUGE debate!), then we would be wise to take note. Take just one example: Sodom (and Gomorrah – it’s often forgotten, poor city). Sodom is a byword right through the Bible for God’s judgment; prophets of the Old and writers of the New refer to it as an example of how God can expunge an entire city (sorry, two cities) in one act of divine retribution for their acts of disobedience – he reigned down fire from heaven upon them! In these references, there are differing approaches or contexts; idolatry is mentioned (e.g. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos & Deuteronomy 29), as is ‘sexual immorality and perversion’ (Jude). However, Ezekiel is particularly specific – as with most prophetic utterances, he is actually addressing Jerusalem, and comparing ‘her’ with her ‘sisters’, the other cities:

Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen. Samaria did not commit half the sins you did. You have done more detestable things than they, and have made your sisters seem righteous by all these things you have done. Bear your disgrace, for you have furnished some justification for your sisters. Because your sins were more vile than theirs, they appear more righteous than you. So then, be ashamed and bear your disgrace, for you have made your sisters appear righteous.

(Ezek. 16:49-52)

So in order to be careful we do not suffer the same fate (if we truly fear it may happen), then let us enact laws and campaign for such vices to be legislated against and hinder their development. Since one of the clearest ones is greed; Ezekiel said “this was the sin…”, we need to ensure our government provides for the poor and needy, and restrains the greed of individuals. If we let them become too arrogant and unconcerned (and let’s not forget overfed i.e. gluttony), we might incur such unquenchable wrath from God.

I find it incredible that greed (and gluttony) are hardly mentioned in evangelical pulpits. Well, no, I’m not surprised – the religious right mind control police have their agendas, and they are as clear as crystal to me. There are many Biblical references to the consequences of greed, or of not looking after the poor and needy – loads, in fact, and they are very scary (look them up)! Greed is even called idolatry in the New Testament (Eph. 5:5 & Col. 3:5)! We may think that idolatry is an ‘old thing’ but it actually still pervades everything today – it is when I see people making themselves very rich from “the preaching of the gospel” that I get irate myself and think of ‘the moneychangers at the Temple’, which is the only time we read in the gospels that our Lord Jesus let his anger get physical! Divine wrath indeed!!

But take heart, Ezekiel goes on to tell us in the rest of that chapter that God will restore the fortunes of Sodom (and Samaria), once the sin of his own people has been exposed and they are contrite and repentant for the worse things that they have done (and they – sorry, we – shall be restored too), and he foretells of the new covenant he will make for us. Praise him for his grace!

Let us repent of such things, and help ‘restore Sodom’s fortunes’ by showing the way of that new covenant.

Grace be with you.