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.

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Over the hill – Part One

I wrote this for a sermon I preached on 1 Corinthians 15. Death and Resurrection very much on my mind right now.

This is Part One.

OVER THE HILL

Adam was walking steadily uphill, the day bright, the breeze rustling the grasses which lined the path. As he passed a field on his right, he stopped short. Not far off, near a school building, a game of football was taking place. He watched as the boys flowed back and forth up and down the pitch. The strip one of the teams was wearing seemed familiar. And then it dawned on him that he was watching his team from when he was 12 years old. Yes, there he was, dancing round a fullback and sending a shot just past the post. And then in an instant, the players, the goals, the supporters who stood on the touchlines . . . they were all gone.

Adam continued on his way and came upon a busy street full of people. The scene was immediately familiar to him – yes, there was the watch shop where he’d taken his first job. Mr. Judd, the owner, hair wild and disheveled, crouched over the counter, peering down at several timepieces, a monocle squeezed into one eye. Adam moved on, but as he walked, his surroundings began to take on the appearance of a pencil drawing. Slowly, they faded away. He rubbed his eyes and was heartened to discover that the world was still there.

He found himself in a park, where families strolled and fed the ducks. The sun was setting and off in the far corner, he noticed a couple sitting together. His heart warmed as he watched the woman. She was so beautiful back then. The man knelt down and pulled a small box out of his pocket. Adam could hardly bear to watch. He could see beads of sweat forming on the young man’s forehead and when the woman peered down at the open box, she immediately tilted back and howled with laughter. In his rush, he’d left the ring at home and his belovéd, Jane, couldn’t hide her amusement, much to his embarrassment. It was a long time ago, but the memory still stung a little inside.

And so Adam walked, the gradient becoming steeper as he progressed further uphill. His first job, his promotion, his holidays, first house, the time when he’d come home distraught at being fired, he watched each scene and his heart and mind, well, he remembered it all as though it was yesterday.

And then he reached the top of the hill. When he looked back, he remembered well the many things for which he was grateful and all those things which had hurt and wounded him. His life was a mixture of joy and sadness, pain and exhilaration.

Adam knelt and gave thanks for it all. From the top of the hill.

And then he began the descent down the other side. Ahead of him the land was covered in a thin grey mist. He couldn’t see what lay ahead at all. Yet all of a sudden the mist cleared and before him in the far, far distance, an ocean stretched out all the way to the horizon. As he came down the path and strained to see, he made out two people, one his great-aunt, Doris, the other her best friend, Ethel, whom he’d come to know in the care home where she and Doris both lived.

He pulled out some binoculars. Yes, there they were, walking along a cliff arm in arm. Adam had to strain to see them but it wasn’t hard to work out what happened next. One moment they were there, the next they had disappeared over the edge. And then the scene became clearer. Dozens and dozens of elderly people reached the cliff and were taken from sight. On occasion, Adam saw young men and women running down the slope and throwing themselves over the cliff. Such a sight filled him with great sorrow, for such things should never happen.

And then he saw his parents. One after the other, they disappeared from sight and Adam wept for a loss too great to contemplate.

When he looked back, he realized that he could no longer see the gentle slopes of his earlier life. He was over the hill and could no longer see them as he had before. Instead, his attention was captured by the vastness of the ocean before him. It was endless and he began to turn his attention to the space between his footsteps and the cliff which drew him relentlessly towards his fate.

To be continued . . .

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 – 5

You can’t buy God. That’s religion, isn’t it? Paying for God’s approval. Good behavior that earns God’s favour and love. Or let’s face it, a much baser assumption, you’ll get what you want. The prosperity gospel. Ugh.

But you can’t download God either.

This is a truth we struggle to cope with. Really? Stay with me.

Almost everything we do nowadays is done through the medium of the computer. All our shopping. Our social interaction. It’s the source of our news, our entertainment, our information, even our wisdom. It’s a tool so powerful, surely it should be possible to download the Creator himself.

But of course, that’s not possible. Downloading is initiated and controlled by the user. Genesis 3 reveals that we have an innate desire to be God, to be in control, the ultimate master of our own destinies. And we know how Genesis 3 ends.

You can’t download God because you can’t control him. He is unfathomable and like the wind, he blows who knows where. The desire to download God is like wishing you could herd cats, lasso the moon, make a woman love you.

You can’t. Because ultimately you’re not in control.

Time, instead, for a little faith.

SHORT AND SWEET – 4

No clearer example of morality being based on heart and not head is the issue of abortion. But let me start with some short observations on language.

Pro-choice. If you’re into marketing, this is possibly the best example of clever marketing you’re ever likely to find. It is quite brilliant. Why?

First, because words matter. They really do. Words create pictures, worlds; they build up, destroy, they exert immense power. Christians know this better than anyone. After all, we follow a man called The Word, whom we believe created the universe.

Pro-choice. Genius. The subject is abortion and you’ve framed it as choice. It isn’t actually about choice, but you’ve sold us the lie that it’s about choice. Nice work. Who could possibly be against ‘a women’s right to choose?’ Oh, there’s another tasty word, ‘right.’ Or maybe ‘a woman’s freedom to choose.’ Even more powerful. Freedom and Choice. Words don’t come more powerful than those two.

So, before we even get started, those who oppose abortion are up against it. We’re up against the power of language, and the other side is using the big guns.

Want to know why our culture approves of abortion?

Start with language.

Fight or Journey

What’s your life? Fight or Journey? No contest, right? It’s got to be Journey.

Ah-ah, no mixing the two. Enough of ‘well, what about a fight while I’m on my journey!’ The point about the metaphor is that you have to choose one. Just one. Fight or Journey.

First some reasons why we either reject or avoid the idea of ‘fight.’ First, of course, because it involves violence and most of us are not physically violent. We might engage in arguments – let’s call them fights – but for the most part, we avoid physical violence. Very understandable. I love Elton John’s Saturday Night’s All Right for Fighting, but I’m not familiar with that kind of scene. Be thankful you don’t live in the Middle Ages, where your lifespan would probably have been determined by your physical ability with sword or bow.

Second, a fight has winners and losers and this is anathema to people who are committed to community. A community – the church – is surely about downplaying conflict and highlighting shared values. Furthermore, who wants to think of life in terms of what you’re against? Fighting is so . . . unpleasant.

With me so far? Hope so.

What’s the attraction of the journey? Well, for one, it has great antecedents. Pilgrim’s Progress, for example. The life of faith has to do with progress. We’re moving closer to God. Movement is surely a journey. We feel this inside instinctively. Not surprising, then, that ‘journey’ is a well-worn theme in art and culture. Dante’s Divine Comedy (Hell, Purgatory and Paradise) is surely the archetype of the Christian journey, second to none in its depiction of the soul’s progress towards God. Also in its favour is the fact that people who aren’t Christians often talk of ‘journey.’ Oprah, for example, is very much one for the journey.

So, which one should we favour? If we had to choose. Which one aligns most closely with Scripture?

It’s a close call, but I’m going to make a controversial case for Fight.

But first, Journey. What about Journey in the Old Testament? Yup, it’s there. From Abe to Zerubbabel, the Israelites are on the move. No question. There is almost no OT figure who doesn’t travel long distances. They may be seeking to stay still, but they don’t do it. They move and as they move, they learn and make mistakes and more importantly, we learn about God’s character in the process of their journeying.

New Testament. More movement. Jesus, the itinerant preacher. Luke emphasizes Christ’s decision to travel to Jerusalem (Luke 9.51) as a high point of his gospel. Indeed Luke-Acts uses ‘journey’ as its dominant motif. Not only this, but some of the most famous parables include journeys. The Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son both use journeys as metaphors into which spiritual truths are poured. You could also add The Parable of the Tenants, when the King leaves and sends his son back to his land.

Finally, St. Paul’s missionary journeys form an essential part of God’s message about mission. All believers are called to ‘go.’ We’re all to journey and while we go, we will experience the presence of the Spirit, who is with his journeying believers. A strong metaphor for our spiritual journey towards God, surely.

So why choose Fight?

First exhibit: The Old Testament. For reasons that reside deep inside the mind of God, he chose to form a nation and then set that nation on collision course with other nations. You can’t get away from this truth. The Israelites fought pretty much every nation with an –ite on the end of its name. It is true that they were sometimes condemned for such behaviour, but on dozens of occasions, they are commanded by God to go and slay their enemies. Yes, commanded. God’s use of warfare to achieve his ends must, of course, be placed within the context of his redemptive purposes, but he surely does not avoid warfare as a means to an end. Fighting, a violent physical activity, and yes, a symptom of our fallenness, is used by God as a tool in his hands to achieve his ends.

Second and most important exhibit: The gospels. The gospels present Christ in direct opposition to the Devil. His temptation in the desert, followed by his myriad healings and exorcisms bring him into conflict with his Opposition, the prince of the air. Furthermore, he is opposed constantly by people who want to kill him. In addition, he frames his teaching in terms of ‘with me or against me.’ Even in the Sermon on the Mount. Blessed are you when you are persecuted ‘in my name.’ That’s Fight. With me or against me. You must pick a side. No fence-sitting permitted.

But the crucial one must be the highpoint of history, when the Son of God hung upon a cross, died and was then resurrected. This act is represented as a triumph. A victory over sin, death and Satan. It is Fight which lies at the very heart of the Christian faith. A fight which God wins and into which he calls us.

It is, of course, tragic that European Christian leaders and Popes thought that capturing Jerusalem or fighting each other on behalf of God was a correct interpretation of Scripture. They were wrong. The Fight is internal – for purity – and yet it is also focused outwards.

Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.… 

I wonder if you have attended churches where the dominant idea was ‘fighting the devil.” I have. Every prayer meeting was a duel with the devil. Off we went, ‘taking the land,’ ‘declaring spiritual truths to each other and to spiritual forces.’ It can get tiring after a while. I’m bound to say, however, that when the sense of Fight is absent, a church can lose its confidence.

And it can lose its way.

Ask yourself as you look out over your congregation on a Sunday morning: ‘Do we look like an army? Do we live like people who are in a fight for the Kingdom of God, praying with fervour for the glory of God to be revealed and for his kingdom to come?

I love these lyrics from Our God Reigns by Delirious:

Yes he reigns, yes you reign, yes you reign,
For there is only one true God,
But we’ve lost the reins on this world,
Forgive us all, forgive us please,
As we fight for this broken world on our knees. 

As we fight for this broken world on our knees. What passion! What drive!

I favour Fight right now, because we need it more. Simple as that. I don’t wish to pit Fight against Journey. They are both valid, both important. But in our desperate world, we need more fight right now. We need to care more, sacrifice more, pray more, believe more.

We fight on our knees because we know that our God is already victorious. Believe it. May his Kingdom come. May his will be done! Amen.

 

 

 

 

New vision for the colour-blind

This article is a follow-on from the article – Hate Crime, Love the Criminal – published by LICC (The London Institute of Contemporary Christianity) on Friday 26, June 2015. To read it, click here.

Disclaimer: The following article is a blog post. It contains my own views and is not endorsed by nor does it represent the views of LICC.

NEW VISION FOR THE COLOUR-BLIND

June 17, 2015. Charleston, South Carolina. Dylann Roof shoots nine African-Americans in a church after a Bible study. It is a hideous, hate-filled crime and is roundly condemned. On this, all commentators are in agreement.

It is described and classified as a ‘hate crime.’

The term ‘hate crime,’ however, is open to debate. Here are my thoughts.

A ‘hate crime,’ is ‘a violent, prejudice-motivated crime that occurs when a perpetrator targets a victim because of his or her perceived membership in a certain social group.’ They are on the books of many Western nations.

Classifying certain crimes as ‘hate crimes’ is a bad idea. It’s bad law. Why? Because the legislation seeks not simply to criminalize the violent act, but the motivation behind the act. In short, it seeks to criminalize what goes on in the human heart. And only God can judge what goes on in the human heart.

At the heart of the Christian faith is this truism: Laws don’t change human hearts, only God can do that.

Furthermore, these laws seek to criminalize motivation and motivation is closely linked to one’s beliefs. You shouldn’t criminalize what people think, what they believe, what drives them. You should only criminalize external behaviour. We know what happens when you criminalize beliefs – we have lived through the horrors of the Twentieth Century, in Vietnam and Germany – and we don’t want to repeat those experiences.

Second, ‘hate crime’ legislation privileges – if that’s not an inappropriate word – certain social groups. It is therefore a kind of social engineering; assessing the evil of the act based not on the act itself but the value of the victim. That’s not right. It’s bad law and bad policy. Some argue that these groups ‘need protection.’ That won’t wash. ‘Hate crime’ legislation doesn’t protect anyone. It certainly doesn’t stop people like Dylann Roof.

Third, these laws go against the very thing they seek to affirm – that all people should be equal before the law. Homosexuals, blacks, etc, they don’t want to be seen as ‘special,’ but treated equally in society. Indeed, the Christian position is that all human beings are equal because we all bear God’s image. Privileging one group over another goes against this principle and sets groups against each other.

Whether I kill a heterosexual white man or a homosexual black man, I should be equally guilty before the law. It’s murder and I should go to prison. Both are crimes. Both men lie dead. I am guilty of the same crime, regardless of my motivation.

~~~

Colour-blind?

Some believe that America should be colour-blind. Perhaps rather surprisingly, given the above comments, I don’t agree with that approach. Why? Because it is foolish to pretend that a) The past never occurred and b) Because now the legislation is better, somehow the slate is wiped clean. Colour-blindness is the belief that because all are now treated equally before the law (that’s questionable) then no difference exists between the races. That’s not true.

Injustice persists and there’s no denying it. Calling for the nation to be colour-blind doesn’t help.

I don’t have the answer to the Race question. It has created immense discord in American society. As a white man, I cannot possibly imagine what it’s like to be pulled over by the police again and again and again. Racism, expressed unconsciously or subliminally in all kinds of ways is experienced by black people every day and it won’t go away. No laws can change that. (See my comments on the human heart above).

The American response – Affirmative Action, which privileges certain racial groups, is not a solution. It sets races against each other. Blacks who succeed in life, can’t stand it. Those who struggle at the bottom, become tied up in a dependency culture, playing the Race card to gain unfair advantage. It’s all messed up and especially as a white, British man (albeit one who lived in the U.S. for 12 years and is married to an American), I certainly don’t have a solution. As someone with ‘opinions,’ how depressing to admit that I don’t even have any suggestions.

One final comment, however, regarding colour-blindness. Ever since Babel, we have been scattered around the globe and have developed the kaleidoscope of different cultures which enrich our world. When I meet a black or Asian or European or Pacific Islander, I want to discover the richness of their culture. And as a Christian, I desire to cherish and celebrate both what unites us (our humanity) and what differentiates us (our cultures).

I can’t be colour-blind. I don’t want to be.

Consider the church. She is composed of both Jew and Gentile. God doesn’t seek to have us pretend we’re all the same. We’re not. He simply calls us to be united. To reach out beyond our cramped social circle. To take risks. To love those on the outside.

And you need good vision to do that, not (colour) blindness.

You need a better vision of this beautiful world.

And that’s a gift.

© Richard Collins 2015

 

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The Encouragee

So, last K of Parkrun . . . I’m fading a little. Not too much. Just a little. Parkrun? Don’t know it? It’s a national movement – literally – of people who run 5K each Saturday morning in parks around the U.K.

Successful? If you took the distance each parkrunner has run since it started and put those metres end to end . . . the moon? Nope. More like Mars.

So, I’m nearing the end and I notice a lady nearby who’s also flagging a bit. My back is tightening and the pain is starting to kick in but I’m starting to ease past her. Then, for no particular reason, I decide to gee her up.

“Come on, you can do it!”

“You’re doing great!”

“Not far now, come on, keep up with me!”

She smiles. I smile too. She speeds up a little. We run together. Doesn’t take much, does it? The power of words, the effect of encouragement is a powerful thing.

But here’s what I didn’t expect.

The moment I opened my mouth, something happened physically inside me. It was as though I had received an injection of endorphins straight into my veins. The surge of energy inside my body was remarkable . . . and unexpected. I thought, ‘I gotta find someone to encourage every week!’ I could run a marathon like this, just telling other runners they’re doing great!

I’m not telling this story to claim some kind of moral virtue. Far from it.

I have two points:

1) Encouragement is easily done, but often neglected. The NT is full of encouragement, but how often do we do it? Not enough. Not nearly enough. Is it our cynical age or embarrassment or not quite knowing how to do it? Here’s a quick lesson. See the woman who’s been serving coffee every week for the past year in your church. Here’s your line: “Hi Carol, just wanted to say how much I appreciate your service each week. You do a fantastic job.” It’s not that hard. Encouragement should focus on something specific, be sincere and yup, you have to remember to do it. It doesn’t cost you anything but it can quite literally change a person’s day, even week.

2) That surge of energy inside my body on Parkrun? There was a message in that, I think. For me, certainly, and maybe for you. Encouraging others, doing good to others, nourishes the soul. It certainly nourished my body. The act of speaking to my fellow-runner drove me on, generated increased energy for my own race. It cost nothing, helped her and made me feel like I could run the course again.

So, here’s a thought. The injunction to ‘love your neighbour as yourself,’ maybe those two are so interconnected, they are indivisible. The best way, by far, to love yourself is surely to love your neighbour. And the degree to which you care for others – on Parkrun, that meant encouragement – is the degree to which you truly love yourself.

So, this next week, why don’t you identify someone in your life who could do with some ‘geeing up?’ Don’t be glib; don’t make it a joke. Mean it when you say you appreciate what they do. You may find your body surging with endorphins. Or your soul.

But one thing’s for certain.

Your encouragee will appreciate your words.

And you might even make their day.

© Richard Collins 2015

Notes for Voters

May 7. It’s coming and don’t we know it here in the U.K.

Wall-to-wall TV coverage. Baby kissing. Politicians in shiny suits promising us the earth. Pundits commenting endlessly.

That’s right. The General Election. The Big One.

Allow me to quote Eddie Izzard on his reading habits. ‘Some people are widely read. I’m not. I’m thinly read.’ And in the same way, I do not hold strong political views (widely read), but rather weak ones (thinly read).

But views on how morality relates to politics? Well, that’s something else altogether. So, here is my appeal to voters who cheer loudly for their teams. You know who you are.

To Labour and generally Left-leaning sympathizers:

First, if you lean Left because you genuinely care for the less fortunate, then I resonate with your motives. Nothing wrong with caring for the poor and holding political views which you think will bring about greater support for those less fortunate. If we were pure enough to think only of others, perhaps the Left would win my heart. Sadly it doesn’t.

Here’s why.

My biggest objection to the Left has to do with the emphasis on re-distribution. I understand that budgets must be set. Got that. But the concept of re-distribution contains two ideas which I think are flawed. First is the idea that it is the role of government to correct the inequities of human society. In its extreme form, this leads to communism. That’s a bad idea.

I suppose we all have to have faith in something. I, for one, don’t trust the state. Second, the urge to re-distribute sets one group against another, based on nothing but pure envy and perceived injustice. It leaves a very nasty taste in the mouth. I’ve written about that here.

So, what’s the premise? Life’s not fair and it’s the job of the state to make it ‘fairer.’ For fairer, read ‘take from one group and give to another.’ But pointing at the rich and attributing immorality to them due to their wealth is just plain wrong. From a purely pragmatic point of view, it is also unwise to overtax the rich for the simple reason that the wealthy know better than anyone how to avoid tax. Sure, you can implement a 50% tax rate, but just watch. The actual take will go down.

In addition, let’s be clear about this one salient fact: The state has no money of its own. None. (Yes, it has assets but you can’t just sell off the assets) In fact, if anything it owes vast amounts of wealth it has borrowed on your behalf. It is hugely in debt. You and I are hugely in debt. And perhaps of more concern, our children are saddled with huge debts.

Politics is largely about sharing out the pie. But whose pie is it?

Let me introduce Colin. He’s a well-paid executive. He earns seven figures. Forget where he came from, that’s his wage. He has benefited from a good education and he has worked hard. Very hard. He is in the top 1% of the population which contributes 25% of the tax revenue. But it is not the state which supports people. It is a whole bunch of Colin’s and his like who disproportionately support the less fortunate.

Did you know that Colin pays for several nurses, teachers and a fair amount of school maintenance? Yes, he does. He earned his money and now he pays his taxes. The state doesn’t pay the teachers or nurses. You can only pay people if you have money and the state doesn’t have money. It has Colin’s money. And yours and mine. Colin supports others through his taxes, let’s be clear about that. Do the schools and teachers send him a thank you letter for his giving? No, they don’t. How could they? The donor and the recipient have no connection. And that’s bad.

One final comment. Political rhetoric which uses language like ‘the government is attacking the teaching profession’ is truly unsavoury. Let’s be honest about this. If it gains power, Labour must also tackle the deficit. When they make difficult spending decisions, will they be ‘attacking nurses and teachers?’ No. ‘Making difficult spending decisions’ does not mean ‘an attack’ and calling it that is unhelpful and unpleasant. Sadly, it’s one of the costs of living in a democracy.

To Right-Wing sympathizers:

Stop bashing immigrants. It’s unseemly, ungodly and like the Left’s rich-vs-poor, it sets one group against another. Historically, anti-semitism used to arise in countries which were unsure about their identities, were economically depressed and were looking for a scapegoat. I’m sorry but it doesn’t matter if the U.K. has lost its core identity and we’re taking time to emerge from recession, it’s wrong to attack a group within your midst. The Hebrews had dozens of laws designed to promote kindness towards the foreigner. Christians are called to reach out to the marginalized and you don’t get much more marginalized than being a poor immigrant. So, stop it with the anti-immigrant rhetoric.

You sound selfish.

In fact, that’s often your main problem. You worship the wrong God. Money can’t save you. The market can’t save you. And no, there is no level playing field. The strong manipulate the rules for their own advantage and we seem powerless to stop it. It’s a tragedy that global finance nowadays is more powerful than governments, but there it is. I don’t have a solution.

Most of us are but little people with limited resources. Go stand with a placard somewhere if you think that will help. At minimum, pay your taxes and stop using expensive accountants to help you avoid your obligations. If you manage to avoid tax, then use what you save to give to others. Please.

What we need are compassionate philanthropists, who support those in need. I know you pay your taxes. Thank you. But we need you to do more. If you’re wealthy, how much more could you give to charity? If you’re not, then remember that the desire to keep as much for yourself is thoroughly condemned in the Bible. God calls for compassion to reflect his nature. And that means your pocket. Yes, it does. And your time.

You may have worked it out by now. I lean slightly to the right, if truth be told. But you know, there’s a sentence in there which reflects my views most clearly. ‘The market can’t save you.’ And nor can politics. And perhaps most of all, the state. That’s probably why I don’t respond well to those on the Left. I don’t like envy (I don’t like it in myself) and I don’t think that the state is there to solve our problems.

I find it interesting that God doesn’t run a democracy. He runs a kingdom. He’s not particularly interested in whether we would vote for him. It’s his way or the highway and yet, what an invitation! To join him in reaching the world with his love.

It is people who have compassion.

Not governments. They just spend our money.

But I don’t put my faith in governments. I certainly don’t expect them to solve my problems.

I have a God in whom I trust.

He doesn’t need my vote, though I would give it to him a million times over.

© Richard Collins 2015