Championing the Truth

I’ve written before about what I called the Belief Police. See last post here. You may want to reference it after reading the following.

So . . .

Poor Sarah Champion, Labour MP. She felt the need to resign from the shadow cabinet after writing an article in the Sun in which she described rape gangs in the following way:

“Britain has a problem with British Pakistani men raping and exploiting white girls”.

Her crime? It’s not just Pakistani men. It’s also men from Iraq, Bangladesh and Iran, plus other Central Asian countries. Apparently, the article also included the line: “These people are predators and the common denominator is their ethnic heritage.”

What is the offence here? That she mentioned ONLY Pakistanis in that first quote? That what she described is false? That she mentioned race at all? I draw the following conclusion regarding our Belief Police:

A person’s race CANNOT be mentioned when talking about that person’s illegal or offensive behaviour. To draw a connection between a person’s ethnic origin and their crime is verboten.

Curiously, the BBC does use this phrase, ‘gangs composed mostly of men of Pakistani origin,’ but I guess Champion was missing that word , ‘mostly.’ Her slight mistake in not mentioning the other countries has lead her to believe she must resign.

So, let’s be absolutely clear about this. “Britain does have a problem with British Pakistani men raping and exploiting white girls”. And Iraqi men etc. That’s not really an opinion, it’s a fact. Go do some reading on what’s happening and has happened around the U.K. The common denominator, I’m afraid, and Champion knew better than to go here, is that these are Muslim men. Sharp intake of breath.

If a society cannot write and speak truth, even when treading on the sensitive territory of race and religion, then it is slowly becoming a less open, less democratic and free society. We must be able to speak the truth, even if the truth offends those who patrol our ‘free speech.’

Why can’t Champion reply, ‘Sorry, I meant to mention other Central Asian countries. And strictly speaking, I’m not wrong. Pakistan is among those countries. What’s your problem? I’m just speaking the truth. This country has a problem. A BIG problem.’ I wish she were able to respond like this, but apparently in our current climate, she cannot. She felt the need to resign.

All truth is God’s truth, wrote Augustine, or some form of that quote. Truth about the Crusades, truth about slavery, truth about Pakistani men, mostly, who run rape gangs. To quote a cliché, the first casualty of war is the truth. Feels a bit like that right now.

 

 

 

 

 

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THE BELIEF POLICE

What are you thinking about right now? Did you know that if you’re someone famous, what you believe – inside your head – could get you into big trouble?

If it gets out.

Okay, so you’re not someone famous. Nor am I, but my point is that this ‘trouble’ is generated not by behaviour, but by revealing the contents of your mind. Reveal beliefs which offend the dominant cultural belief-system and your entire sporting reputation may be on the line.

Welcome to the world of Margaret Court. (What a great name for a tennis player. If I’d been named Mikey Outside-half or Tommy Left Wing, my sporting destiny would have been revealed.) But back to serious commentary.

Margaret Court. Winner of the most Grand Slams by a female tennis player, 24. 11 in the Open era when it became much harder to win them. She is a tennis sporting great, no question. The equivalent of Rod Laver, another Australian great.

Until now. Until she revealed some of her beliefs.

Bad move. She’s a Christian and she told a Christian TV station that she disagreed with gay marriage. Apparently, her language was un-PC also, which didn’t go down well.

She didn’t lie, steal or hurt anyone. She just revealed her beliefs which conflict with our culture. Especially women’s tennis culture. Billy Jean King and Martina Navratilova are especially important in this regard. Both tennis legends, both gay, both activists for their sexual orientation. In female tennis culture, it’s a very bad move to offend them. Martina, in particular, is ticked.

In fact, it’s such a bad move that the court named Margaret Court Arena may now lose its name at the Australian Open. Having a court named after you is a great honour. But Sam Stosur, Australian former World number one, wants it removed. She has started corralling women’s tennis players for the cause, threatening to boycott the court. Because of Court.

They will probably win. Margaret Court’s name will probably be removed.

Our ‘tolerant’ liberal culture is tightening up. It’s more aggressive, more judgemental, more punitive than it once was. If you put a foot wrong, it will punish you.

Not for your behaviour. For your thoughts. Your beliefs.

What’s wrong here? Well, the idea that it’s how we think, or believe, which is so offensive. In just the same way that a ‘hate-crime’ criminalizes thought and belief, Margaret Court’s beliefs are on trial and found guilty. A ‘hate-crime’ is a criminal behaviour which is considered that much worse and therefore punished more severely because of the beliefs which are behind it. That’s why I don’t agree with the designation ‘hate-crime.’

Because only God knows the heart. Only God knows what we truly believe. And only he can judge us for our thoughts and beliefs. Hence the tenth commandment, which is a commandment relating to the heart: Do not covet.

In our society, we should criminalize behaviour, not thoughts and beliefs.

Because we’re not God. It’s as simple as that.

MANCHESTER CITY UNITED

I’m sure you were as shocked as I was by Salman Abedi’s suicide attack last week in Manchester. There can be few horrors worse than losing a child. I can only look into the abyss and shudder.

Here are some – perhaps rather uncomfortable – thoughts on Islamic terrorism.

1) There’s a cancer in the heart of one of the world’s major religions and it’s no good talking about ‘one bad apple.’ Apparently, the security services – Harry to you and me – can’t keep up with the number of ‘potential bombers.’ They can track, what, one to two thousand at the most, and there might be more than that. All living in the U.K. No wonder, even though the chances of becoming a victim of terrorism are still very very small, the media attention has generated a great deal of fear.

9/11?

One bad apple – or 18 bad apples, is no way to represent what happened back in 2001. A rough assessment of support for the 9/11 bombers in Iran has been calculated at around 30-40%. Sure, very very few would commit the crime, but like St. Paul at the martyr of Stephen, they approved. Millions approved. I know the U.K. isn’t Iran, but extrapolating from the numbers of ‘potential terrorists’ tracked by MI5, that means there are possibly thousands in the U.K. who approved of Salman Abedi’s act. That’s worrying.

2) Why did Salman Abedi choose an Ariana Grande concert? Have you asked that question?

Islamic fundamentalists hate liberal Western culture. It’s an abomination to them. And their attitudes towards British culture were on view in the recent BBC mini-series, Three Girls, which dramatized the cases of child grooming in Rochdale between 2005 and 2013. Nine men, mostly Pakistani, were jailed for up to 25 years for their crimes of child rape and abuse.

While in the dock, one of the men started shouting. He lambasted the entire court, accusing ‘the British’ of their permissive customs, namely allowing our young girls to get drunk, wear skimpy clothing and have sex before marriage. The shocking hypocrisy was not lost on the viewer. The man speaking was guilty of plying several under-age girls with alcohol and then raping them.

But what’s been revealed here? Self-hatred on the part of the man in the dock, that’s for sure. But also his hatred of our liberal British culture.

A couple of days after the Manchester bombing, I went on the Ariana Grande website to find out more about the artist. I watched a video in which two women made out, then a couple started having sex in an office setting, removing clothing with abandon and finally, an elderly couple started to become amorous on a bus. I won’t describe what happened towards the end.

This is the liberal culture which Islamic fundamentalists hate. It’s what Salman Abedi hated. Of that I’m fairly sure. Who knows how deep his own self-hatred went, but in blowing himself up in that location specifically, I’m sure he thought he was attacking our decadent Western culture. Or at least one of its representatives.

What lessons can we learn?

Well, I’m probably preaching to the converted when I say that the only antidote to hate is love. Christians know that love is costly, it hurts and even if we’re misunderstood, it’s always better to love and reach out than cast out and condemn. And if that includes reaching out to Muslims, all the better. Some Muslims are currently attending an Alpha course in my church. They’re ‘seekers’ and open to the truth. We pray they’ll discover the Way, the Truth and the Life. We pray they experience love in our midst.

But what are we to make of the sexually permissive culture which produces Ariana Grande, Miley Cyrus and the like? Would you take your 8 year-old to see an artist who sings about ‘walking side to side’ because she’s had so much sex, that’s how she walks now? How uncomfortable as a follower of Jesus to find myself horrified by the outrage of a terrorist and yet realize his views on our liberal culture might contain similarities with my own. It’s very unsettling.

It’s enough to make sure you don’t ever write about it on a blog.

Too late.

We live in a very uncertain world and frankly, even though it might sound like a platitude, what’s more important is that it’s true: Only the God of the universe can provide security. Only he can keep us safe, because he holds all our lives in his hands. He gives and he takes away. And all he does is good, for he himself is goodness by his very nature. And he is love.

So, as Jesus urged so very often . . . don’t be afraid.

Waiting

Waiting . . . waiting . . . waiting . . .

I feel like Bilbo . . . thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread. I’ve been holding my breath for so long now, I’ve forgotten how to breathe properly.

Been waiting for over five months now for an answer to a very important question. It’s like hanging, being suspended, at the mercy of ‘other.’ But it shouldn’t be.

It’s all about faith. Of course it is. Isn’t most of life about faith?

I often take inspiration from my favourite OT character, Abraham. Promised a son by a Voice. Then kept waiting for 25 years. 25 years! I have thought deeply about this. Why did Abraham have to wait for so long?

How are faith and waiting connected?

We tend to think of waiting as a sedentary or at least, a static act. Waiting at the bus stop. Waiting by the phone. But godly waiting can’t possibly be static. Abraham certainly didn’t stay where he was. Indeed, he travelled a huge amount. All over the place. He never stayed in the same place for very long.

So, when I think about waiting, I have come to see it as something we do actively.

But how can you wait actively?

Abraham, we’re told, believed God. He believed. And every time he failed to live as though he really believed, he got himself into trouble. He lied – twice – about his wife on visits to Egypt, because he feared man, not God. And he slept with the maid, when the waiting was just too much. His faith evaporated, and his life reflected the unbelief.

In some ways, we’re all waiting. During the day, we wait for the quiet of evening. During the week, we wait for the weekend. During term time we wait for the holidays.

But we don’t stop living.

We live as faithfully as we can during the week, with eyes on the present, but hearts also anticipating a glorious future. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. (Rom 8.19). Along with the creation, we’re waiting for the Day of the Lord, when God’s glory will be revealed.

This thing I’m waiting for is out of my control. I’m tired now and I struggle. But I believe. And if Abraham had to wait for 25 years for the son of the promise, then I’m in good company. One of my chapters is entitled ‘Greater Goods.’

In fact, the whole book is really about growth.

Why did I think I could write about growth without actually growing?

Over the hill – Part Two

Adam stopped and sat down on a boulder next to the path. He drank deeply from his water bottle. Over to his right, he thought he could see his son, Ben. Yes, his son was scaling a rock face, ropes tied to his waist and his partner guiding him from above. No, hold on, who was that? He recognized himself on the ledge above, recollected the exhilaration of watching Ben make his way up. The day was one of sun-drenched perfection, wasn’t it? Yes, there they were enjoying the view out towards the mountains.

Adam placed his hand over his eyes and peered down towards the ocean, far far away. It seemed to undulate like a vast blue blanket buffetted by the breeze. He started walking and walked all afternoon. However, when he took a rest, he discovered he was no closer to his destination. The last scene he remembered was from yesterday. He’d helped a couple move into their new house. A whole crowd from church had been there, carrying wardrobes and tables and beds. All working together in a shared act of love.

And then it struck Adam. There would be no more scenes from his life because he had yet to live them. Before coming over the hill, he knew about the ocean, but thought little about it. Now he felt himself drawn towards the vast expanse that lay ahead. Not because he was eager to die, but because he had come to understand the value of every step of the journey. And because he felt deeply inside the truth that those steps were finite. One day, they would end. Which meant that each one was priceless, gifts held out to him by a loving Father. And yet when he contemplated the ocean far far away, he felt no fear. Only gratitude. And as he walked, he began to hum one of his favourite songs,

Teach us to count the days
Teach us to make the days count
Lead us in better ways
That somehow our souls forgot
Life means so much.

SHORT AND SWEET – 13

‘Are you having great sex with your wife/husband nowadays?’

I wonder how you’d react if someone asked you a question like this after church one Sunday. And imagine if they wanted details. I doubt if you’d start sharing.

In Britain, we’re relatively private, so we don’t ask questions like this. Actually, I’m not sure I know of any culture where people make inquiries of this sort. However, there’s another question we never, ever ask and it’s this one:

‘Would you mind sending me your bank statements for the past year?’

When you think about it, your financial affairs are probably just as private as your sex life. You don’t want people knowing how you spend your money. Why is that?

Just as the question about sex focuses on the most private details of how you use your body, your financial data tells them something far more important.

It tells them about your soul. Who you really are.

Your spending, your giving, your priorities, your values, they’re all to be found in your bank statement. And who wants to give away that kind of information?

So be careful of judging people based on appearances. You have no idea how much they are giving away, or even what their expenses are, let alone their income or savings.

Second, bank statements don’t lie. If you’re ready to be challenged by God, then get on your knees with a Bible in one hand and your bank statement in the other.

And please don’t worry. If I see you in church, I won’t be asking you about your income.

Or your sex life. Promise!

SHORT AND SWEET – 11

Apart from watching The Wizard of Oz, ever met a straw man? Straw man is code in discussion forums for ‘an argument I’m not making.’ You struggle to make progress against the actual argument, so you mischaracterize your opponent’s argument, making it easier to dismantle.

Presumably because a straw man collapses so easily. Poof! It’s gone.

Here’s one you’ll hear a lot:

We secular humanists, we can be good too! You high-and-mighty religious people, you claim we can’t be good. That’s so unfair!

Behold the straw man.

So-called religious people – that is a perjorative very often, for Christians – never claim that secular people can’t be good people. That’s the straw man. Poof! Down he falls.

The argument we make is this:

Secularism cannot give a sound basis for ‘the good.’ There’s nothing here about a secular person not being virtuous or anything of the sort. It’s a philosophical argument, and it takes deep thinking to tease it out.

Doesn’t matter if you’re a Christian or secular, don’t mischaracterize your opponent. It’s wrong and misleading. Christians do it too. So, be careful to understand what your opponent is saying, so you can answer. How else will you be faithful to 1 Peter 3.15 if you’re not listening properly?

Have a great day.

SHORT AND SWEET – 10

So why doesn’t objectivity provide the basis for morality? Isn’t it clear what is good and what is bad? Well, no it isn’t. The reason is found in the meaning of two words:

Descriptive.

Prescriptive.

Descriptive means the act of describing. You can describe as much as you like and what you have is information. How things are. Science is great for this. It tells us all kinds of things about our world.

Prescriptive means the act of expressing ‘how things should be.’ Politics is the art of trying to turn the world into the kind we think it ‘should be.’ Ethics is the discipline of determining how we ‘should behave.’

Descriptive activities, like science, tell us ‘what is.’ Prescriptive statements tell us our desires and our moral sensibilities.

From ‘what is’ to ‘what ought to be.’ Now, that is a vast chasm. Can it be bridged? I think it can.

But you need some imagination. Join me next week for an adventure.

SHORT AND SWEET – 9

Yesterday, I noted that prominent atheist Sam Harris doesn’t believe in free will. He follows the majority view among science writers. He’s a neuro-scientist.

His answer? Science can give us morals. No kidding. That’s his answer. Essentially, it’s this. Science describes the world. It is by far the best (and possibly only) source of knowledge that we have, so they argue.

It is not hard to come up with a description of human flourishing. Not subjective, but objective. Then, all we have to do, is use science to show us how to get there. Eg. A child dying of malnutrition in Africa is a worse state of affairs than a healthy child attending school in the West, where good parenting and positive social interaction and learning lead to a happy life. We just have to figure out – using science – how to increase the latter while decreasing the former.

Sounds appealing, doesn’t it? I think he’s right.

Half right. The half he’s right about is this: The world can be described objectively. In other words, there is such a thing as Truth. We can discover and evaluate, through a whole variety of disciplines, what leads to beneficial results for ourselves and our children.

But then we come to that word ‘moral.’ Objectivity, I’m afraid, doesn’t lead to morality.

Tomorrow, some thoughts on why that is.

SHORT AND SWEET – 8

Most atheists don’t believe in free will. Did you know that? In The Moral Landscape, Sam Harris writes,

From the perspective of your conscious mind, you are no more responsible for the next thing you think (and therefore do) than you are for the fact that you were born into this world. 

Why is this? Because in a purely physical world, every event can only be caused by physical stuff. There’s no room for a ‘ghost in the machine.’ There is only the machine, whirring away. Consciousness is, therefore, something for which they have no real explanation. It just is. And free will is an illusion.

So far, so good. Your assumptions lead you to believe that free will doesn’t exist. Be my guest. But be bold, Sam, Richard D and Steven P. Follow the logic wherever it leads. Surely, no free will means no responsibility for our actions, right? Well, how could we be responsible if we’re not responsible for what we think?

Yet, suddenly, cold feet appear. Sam Harris certainly doesn’t want to exonerate those who commit hideous crimes, does he? No, he doesn’t. No one wants to look like they don’t believe in morality.

Tomorrow, his answer, which will make your head spin.