Archive for the ‘Great Britain’ Category

Why do people cuddle by Monet’s Thames?

July 14, 2018

Monet returned to London for months to paint the light on the Thames by Parliament. He was enthralled by the changing effects, impressions, of sunshine and fog and rain, of sunrise and midday and sunset. He painted 19 canvases which, together, show a delighted and delightful kaleidoscope.

 Six of these Thames paintings were reunited for the ‘Impressionists in London’ exhibition at Tate Britain earlier this year. I sat and sat happily taking in Monet’s presentation of the glorious variety in the ordinary British.

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People went by and came. A woman who I had noticed on her own a couple of rooms previously came alongside a man facing the light blue and dark blue midday Thames. She threaded her arm around his waist. They leant into each other. Another woman turned her head as a man entered. He walked up to her; they kissed, lips lingering together. Unusual expressions of affection for London?

 A man in his 50s walked up behind a woman with greying hair looking at a Thames shimmering in the mid-afternoon sunlight. He put his arm across her shoulder and she leant into his neck. A younger couple stood in front of a misty, cooler, Thames. They turned towards each other, kissed briefly, before their lips returned for a longer touch.

 Four public cuddles seemed extraordinary. Might these paintings emit something romantic?

 A few weeks ago I saw the ‘Monet and Architecture’ exhibition at the National Gallery. I had noticed a solitary man in a blue jacket, about 60, like me, matching my pace through the rooms. I sat in front of the two ‘Thames by Parliament’ paintings. He sat on the same bench facing the other way, towards views of Rouen Cathedral. He talked to the woman next to him. Did they know each other?

 The woman stood up and walked close to one Thames painting. After a couple of minutes, the man in the jacket came up to the same painting. He put his arm round her waist and whispered in her ear. Surely this was confirmation of the effect of these paintings.

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Monet loved London. He loved the light on the Thames. He loved the safety he found as an exile from the bloody turmoil of the Franco Prussian war and the ensuing Paris Commune. He loved the stability of a country with a solid democracy and no revolutions. He loved the flowers, abundant in a land of sunshine and showers.

In exile Monet painted his wife in London. She sits in French mourning clothes, looking wistfully out of the window, unable to pay attention to anything present, not even her book.

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Monet’s attention is on his wife’s chair, more central in the painting. An English chair called a ‘chaise longue,’ a play on the French-English connection and maybe an expression of their long wait to return home. The viewer, as intended by the painter, sees mostly the bright flowers of the quintessentially English cloth. The centre of the painting, which indicates its overall atmosphere, is bright. Monet was loving what he saw in England, despite exile.

Monet painted the Thames by Parliament with affection, with care, with love. As people watch, they respond with affection, with care, with love. Art communicates. Alleluia!

 

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Last chance to stop the Brexit wrong turn

July 1, 2018

Last Saturday I  Marched for a referendum on the final Brexit deal On the train to Charing Cross I wrote my banner. The man sitting next to me, a retired taxi driver and newspaper printer, said he had voted Leave but would now vote differently.

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We ended with rousing short speeches in Parliament Square, albeit too many, Anna Soubry was the climax ‘I want to put love back into this country.’ Yes indeed: love your European neighbour as you love yourself.

In Tesco by Trafalgar Square, buying water for the journey home, a 17 year old white lad behind me was talking on his phone. ‘It’s like mad busy. There’s been a parade. What’s that thing with the seven gold stars?’ It’s future fellowship and prosperity from which we are cutting ourselves adrift.

Please sign the petition
https://www.peoples-vote.uk 

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British Companies ruined by the City of London.

February 2, 2018

The City of London demands that British companies put the short term interest of shareholders first. A ruinous demand.

Last Thursday the Governor of Thameside prison, operated by Serco, told staff, including me, that Carillion had been borrowing money to pay shareholders. ‘Serco don’t do this. Don’t worry that Serco is going to collapse like Carillion,’ was the message.

Most of us think, righty, that shareholders are only paid when the company makes a profit. The City of London thinks differently. Shareholders should be paid as a priority over anyone else. If there is no profit, you borrow money to pay shareholders. Carillion did it and the City of London was happy.

To pay shareholders Carillion borrowed money from its own workers, as well as from banks etc. For several years Carillion paid less than its obligation to the company pension fund.  The workers lost money on their pensions while the shareholders gained money in dividends and inflated share price: In 2012, outside advisers said Carillion had prioritised growing earnings and supporting the share price ahead of the pension scheme. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-42871054  This led to a shortfall in the pension fund of £990million. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-42853895

In the short term the shareholders benefited. In the long term, of course, they lost out, as the value of their shares has now collapsed. But the City of London is not interested in the long term interests of either companies or shareholders. The City of London concentrates on making sure shareholders can get out at signs of trouble, not on helping companies through difficult circumstances.

Last Friday someone who works for Severn Trent Water said that it is company policy that no work will be undertaken unless the cost can be recouped within 3 years. ‘It’s simply a matter of finances,’ is how this is explained.

Nonsense! It’s simply a matter of short term thinking. If a water main is leaking about £500 worth of water a year, and the repair will cost £2000, Severn Trent say the repair is ‘uneconomic.’ The company choose to lose £500 ever year for years and years, rather than pay for the repair. Of course it makes economic sense, in the long term, to repair the main. But Severn Trent only think in the short term. They ‘cannot afford’ this repair because it would reduce their short term profit and the City of London insists that their short term profit grows rather than reduces.

No UK farmer would expect to recoup the cost of land improvement within 3 years. No UK house-owner would expect to recoup the cost of extra insulation within 3 years. Ordinary people know we have to invest for the longer term. Not the City of London. They have their own twisted thinking, their own rigged rules.

The City of London serves the short term interests of shareholders, against the long term interest of British workers, British companies, the British nation. The City of London are flagrantly not loving their neighbour as they love themselves. It is time we found a different way of investing in British companies.

See http://www.laddermedia.co.uk/about-us/4561595889 for one different way.

Roger Harper

 

A woman Bishop of London? God’s not bothered. 22 December

December 22, 2017

I remember the Big Deal that the ordination of women was in the 1980s. Battle-lines, campaigning groups, bad disagreement. Predictions of disaster brought about by ‘fundamental change’ to Bible teaching and Church tradition.

An Evangelical Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, took a bold stance by disagreeing strongly with the Conservative Evangelicals. Carey called the Church to make the general principle of ‘in Christ there is no male nor female’ more important than particular instructions to particular churches on women in church. Jesus had gone as far as he could in welcoming women as forefront disciples, not least in giving women the responsibility of witnessing to his resurrection. The focus had to be first and foremost on Jesus rather than equally on Moses, Paul and Jesus: ‘Listen to him!’

George Carey, and others, also made sure that no-one would be coerced contrary to conscience. The Church would have two, apparently conflicting, practices to match the conflicting theologies. Some churches would have women in leadership, some would not. Room was made for both. The same decision was made for marriage after divorce, some clergy and parishes taking the weddings of divorcees, some not. Without this, Prince Harry’s marriage to a divorcee would have been tricky, at least.

The Church of England took the step that has now led to Sarah Mullally the next Bishop of London, a Bishop in a direct line of succession from the first Apostles. Paul wrote that an Apostle had to be a witness of the resurrection. It took the Church a long time to recognise the implications of the gender of the very first witnesses of the resurrection. The Holy Spirit leads into truths which, sometimes for a very long time, Christians cannot bear.

Predictions of disaster were not fulfilled. (The gut human belief: change = disaster is another sign of the fall and the fear that we all inherit.) The Church of England has not fared notably worse with women leading parishes and dioceses. Yes, there has been continuing decline, as would be expected in the most Christendom Church as we leave Christendom, but not because of women in leadership. Churches led by women vicars grow, generally, much the same as those led by men vicars. (I don’t think anyone has dared to do these statistics; this is my view, mostly from across the West and East Midlands.)

What about churches who refuse to have women in leadership? My experience is that these churches too grow with the same variety as Anglican churches generally. I think of one Midlands church officially unaccepting of women priests and bishops, running thriving Alpha courses with remarkable Holy Spirit Days and healthy congregations. Predictions of disaster here too have not been fulfilled.

The Gamaliel Principle is that we should allow people to go ahead as they deem best and see if God blesses their ministry (Acts 5:33-39.) The experience of the last 30 years is that God, the Holy Spirit, seems happy to bless ministry whether by those pro or anti women in church leadership. He’s not bothered. Women in leadership is not a Primary Issue for Him. If it were, the results would be obvious by now. He loves all who faithfully follow Jesus within their own limited understandings.

Can we learn from this for our current debate about Gay Marriage? Might this be something into which the Holy Spirit is leading the Church, though it could not have been borne before? Might the principle of loving faithfulness, to one person, for life, coming out of the heart, be more important than particular mention of particular physical practices? What happens when we do not listen to Moses, Paul and Jesus equally, but listen to Jesus first and foremost?

(Welcoming Gay Marriage is not welcoming all relationships of all LGBT people. The life-long commitment to one person specifically excludes anyone wanting to be a practising bisexual.)

How would the Gamaliel Principle be applied today? Could the Church of England allow, even encourage, two different, apparently conflicting practices, to match the conflicting theologies? Then we could see how the Holy Spirit blesses the different ministries.

Some people say that Gay Marriage is so definitely a Primary Biblical or Church Tradition issue that there can be no fellowship with those who adopt a new understanding and practice. How do they know? How do we know? 30 years ago people were saying the same about women in leadership. Maybe God will be proved to be not so bothered about gay marriage either.

Roger Harper

Surprised By Government Grace: 6 February

February 6, 2017

At the beginning of this year I drove without due care and attention and knocked a man off his motorcycle. He was taken to hospital by ambulance. In other circumstances, what I did could easily have killed him. I tried not to think about how I would live without my driving licence. 

My first reassurance came from the policewoman who attended the crash. She showed no anger or judgement against me, rather care and concern as she made sure everything happened from them on as it should. The injured man’s brother came, furious with me, and she kept him away. She kept coming to me, as I sat in my car, asking if I was OK. Eventually she explained that she was worried that I had my eyes shut. I was praying hard for the man. 

This kind government official took time to phone me a couple of days later. She wanted to reassure me that the man had been discharged from hospital the same day with bruising and some skin damage, nothing more. What a relief! I was, and am, deeply grateful that I live in a country where I had to do nothing to help repair the damage I had caused to this man because it was all taken care of by the government, the NHS. They didn’t even charge it to my insurance. (Maybe they should..?)

The policewoman also said she thought that I would be invited to go on a course rather than face a charge in court. This was great news but seemed to me unlikely, much less than I deserved. She said I would hear within a month. 

Two days later I received the official letter inviting me to register for a course instead of being charged. Another huge relief! The people at the busy government office, understaffed compared with a few years ago and catching up after the holiday period, had made and processed my decision immediately. I was spared even three weeks of wondering. 

I was given a choice of where and when to attend the course. Six of us bad drivers came to learn Driver Alertness. Again no hint of anger or judgement from the trainer. He was calm, respectful, and subtly talked about his own impatience with elements of ‘the system’ to assure us that he understood those of us narked by being there. He focused on the learning, with only a little mention of what we had done. We were keener to talk about our driving ‘incidents’ than he was, starting with waiting in the lobby for the course to begin. 

The trainer gave time and detail to explain a key factor in my crash. This, and him pairing me up with another man with a similar crash, makes me think he knew our crimes. They key factor is that, if we look far left and then far right, our brains fill in the middle without us actually seeing it. (This is true for multi-tasking women as well as for one-track men.) Because I was not looking at the road near me, only at the gap further away, my brain did not register that the motorcyclist was there, so I pulled out. This knowledge is a great relief. There is nothing seriously wrong with me. I suffer from a common human fault of which I need to be aware and to correct. I now look far left, middle left, near left etc. This takes practice but is not too difficult. 

The ‘classroom’ learning was well led, with an impeccable mixture of lecture, delivered sitting, individual and pair exercises. It brought out the complexities of responsibility for driving accidents and therefore the need for all to be alert. We were then paired up and taken on the road by a driving instructor in his car. Mine was a BMW Mini. I have now driven one! (Once is enough.) 

We each drove for about 20 minutes and then the instructor gave his comments. He too was calm, cheerful, making suggestions rather than giving orders. He overrode the instruction given when I first learnt to drive, to move smartly through the gears to 4th. With modern cars especially, it is better to drive at 30mph in 3rd. He said that I would do better not to wait until the last minute to brake for an obstruction ahead. The gentle way he said it made it easy for me to accept. My fellow criminal drove most of the time with one hand on the steering wheel. The instructor picked this up gently and clearly, not arguing when the man said he didn’t think it mattered, but calmly mentioning it again and again. After lunch we drove for longer. The instructor was quick to praise the good, especially the improved, driving. A very helpful day. 

The UK Government has said to me: ‘We’ll take care of the immediate human damage, and make sure you have insurance to take care of the vehicle and maybe longer term human damage.’ (My insurers, NFU Mutual, were also impeccably kind and efficient.) ‘We’re not going to throw the book at you, not this first time. We know people make mistakes driving, we’re with you in that. We don’t want you to feel terrible about your driving, we want you to understand human weakness. We want to help you to drive better.’ 

What an amazing attitude! It’s called grace. Like Jesus who shows care and concern for everyone, aware of the requirements of the Law, but more focused on helping people feel better about themselves. (Jesus knows that most of us, prodded by the devil, feel plenty guilty enough about what we have done.) Jesus who is with us in our guilt, to take care of the damage we have caused, to deal with our accuser, and to help us to live a better, less damaging, life. Jesus who offers us a choice: law or grace, like I was offered the choice of a criminal charge or a helpful course. It’s great news and seems at first too good to be true. .

If our government act, sometimes at least, according to grace, maybe the UK is closer to being a Christian country than I had thought?

Roger Harper

 

Rethinking Hell in London: 10 November

November 10, 2016

Rethinking Hell in London was a great conference with stimulating speakers, interested and perceptive attenders. Much fascinating talk about the subject at meal times, not usual at Christian conferences. We would have liked more people to share the truth-seeking. I left heartened and energised by gracious engagement with an important subject.

My message was that the traditional Hell is a distortion of the Biblical message of Hades and Gehenna. Part of the distortion is talking of one place instead of two, assuming that when Jesus used two names, He meant the same place.

This distinction was new to many there and challenged by one of the other speakers. Some said that the most useful part of my presentation was to chart the differences between Hades and Gehenna:

Hades                                   Gehenna

Torment                                Destruction

After death                            After Judgement

Has gates and keys                Is a fire, a lake of fire

Presence of Jesus                   Away from Jesus

Presence of holy angels          Same place as beast, devil, false prophet

No fear                                  Fear

Gospel preached                     ?

Jesus risen as first fruit           No resurrection from this second death

Ends at Final Judgement         ‘Eternal’

Part of the distortion is that on entering Hell, understood as after death, wicked people are supposedly told ‘Abandon hope all you who enter here.’ Jesus, in contrast, says ‘Don’t be afraid… I have the keys of Death and Hades.’ This means that Jesus has the power and authority of entry and exit to Hades, where the wicked go when they die. Jesus can go in and out of Hades and take people in and out of Hades. I consider Jesus not only can, but does. Jesus can and does seek and save the lost even in Hades. This is why we are not to fear.

You can hear me explaining this at the first, 2014, Rethinking Hell Conference in Houston, here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YyNeF4CF8hU

This year, as requested, I talked about responses to the message of Hades and Gehenna.

Complexity: An honest response might be: ‘One hell, that of endless torment, was bad enough. Now you are talking about two hells!’ We are so used to thinking that eternal life begins the moment we die. It takes time and effort to take in that there is life after death before Final Judgement and more, or no, life after Final Judgement.

Clarity and Confidence: ‘I have got really excited about the whole thing. Now you wouldn’t expect someone to get excited about hell, but you might understand someone getting excited about there being no hell…’ The words of David Munby to his congregation in Barnsley, Yorkshire. A Church Warden wrote: ‘Now there is more clarity and less mystery, more appreciation of Jesus as my Saviour and the Saviour of others, more connection with God as my loving Father.’

Comfort: One elderly woman in a Malaysian home group had tears in her eyes as she thought about the hope of Jesus using his keys for her good non-Christian parents. She is far from alone.

One man in my prison was much disturbed by being inside when his mother, not a Christian, was terminally ill and then died. He had had sessions of bereavement counselling but was still distressed. As his release approached, the issue became more acute. I talked with him of Jesus being able to take messages to people who have died, (because He has the keys of Hades and came to serve us.) The man wrote a letter to his mother with all he wanted to say. We placed it on the Communion table. I told him that this was not only a symbol. Jesus really was taking those words and delivering them to his mother. A few weeks later the prisoner considered that he had no further need of talking about this either to myself or the bereavement counsellor. He was simply less distressed than before and could face his upcoming release in a better frame of mind.

Talking to Jesus, asking Him to pass on a message, is much better than the common, unhealthy, practice of talking directly to the dead, either at the grave or when looking at the stars.

Repentance: When our emphasis is ‘Don’t be afraid. Jesus has the keys, even after death,’ this feels like ‘Don’t be afraid. Jesus has the keys to unlock a better future for you in this life as well.’ There is always a point in repentance. All will need to do it, and the sooner the better. It is never too late.

Disturbance: Many people, particularly in the UK, believe that ‘we all’ (except maybe the few really wicked people) go to heaven because we’ve led decent lives. The message of Hades and Gehenna can make these people uncomfortable, disturbed. When talking in churches it is best to begin with the more comforting message of Paradise and the New Universe. The words of Jesus, and of John the Baptist, however were deliberately disturbing to those who considered they were basically all right on their own.

Being ignored: David Hilborn, Principal of St John’s School of Mission and Editor of the Evangelical Alliance Report The Nature of Hell wrote of my book The Lie of Hell ‘it deserves serious attention and a serious response.’ Instead there has so far been virtually no response.

Why carry on with the message of Hades and Gehenna?

Because it is Jesus’ truth.

Because it can unite Christians. Traditionalists who hold to the idea of ongoing torment for the wicked after death can see that this happens in Hades. It is ‘for ages and ages’ but not eternal. Universalists who hold to the idea that most, maybe all, people will eventually reach ‘heaven’ can see that Jesus having and using the keys of Hades makes this likely, though not certain.

Because it might unite Protestants and Roman Catholics. Can Protestants accept Hades as Biblical, separate from and preceding Gehenna, the Hades to which Jesus has the keys and to which the Church has access, the gates availing nothing? Can Catholics accept Hades as the lost ancestor of Purgatory, the truer, more original, teaching of the Church founded on the revelation given to Peter? Protestants would have to learn what is the role of the Church beyond this life, instead of dismissing the idea of any such role for the Church. Catholics would have to learn the true nature of Hades, of which Purgatory is an artificial shadow, and from which release is not earned through penance or prayer, but given as free gift through the gracious forgiveness of Jesus and to which the Church bears witness.

Because it might improve society. Sociologists have shown a link between a general belief in an ‘or else’ after death and both lower crime rates and economic growth. See https://rogerharper.wordpress.com/2012/07/22/hell-on-the-net-controversy-and-crime-july-22/

With the message of Hades and Gehenna we help the Church, and the nations, to be transformed by the renewing of our understanding. We spearhead a unity that the Church has not known for hundreds of years. We annihilationists become redundant because there are no more conflicting schools of thought but one Church built on the foundation of Jesus’ teaching, Hades and Gehenna. We are agents of renewal in faith and hope and love for everyone.

 

A hell of a message? My paper at the Rethinking Hell Conference: 15 September

September 15, 2016

A hell of a message? Proclaiming ‘the other place’ after death, to people in the UK is the title of the Paper I will be presenting at the Rethinking Hell Conference in London, October 7 & 8, in one of the ‘Breakout’ sessions. http://www.rethinkinghellconference.com/

Breakout is a good heading for what I have to say.  Jesus enables people to break out of ‘hell.’ This understanding, drawn from the Bible, breaks out of usual, historic, Christian teaching.

The organisers asked me to cover more of the ‘So what?’ particularly in the UK context. I have explained in detail the Biblical basis for the ‘breakout’ view of ‘hell’ in my book The Lie of Hell (www.laddermedia.co.uk) and in my Paper in A Consuming Passion (http://rethinkinghellbooks.com/resources/aconsumingpassion ) So what difference does the message of Hades and Gehenna make to people, to churches, to society? This year’s Paper gives my answers along with those of others who have grasped this understanding.

I will give an overview of how people in this country now see ‘hell’, and have seen it in the past, particularly in the 19th Century. Then look more closely at the Church of England understanding, somewhat muddled (not unusual) but surprisingly Biblical. Jesus taught of two places for the wicked after death, using two different names, Hades and Gehenna. Hades is the remand prison before Final Judgement. Gehenna is the destroying fire into which the devil will ultimately be thrown, along with any people who still want to be attached to the devil and his ways. Jesus has said he has the keys of Hades and this is to take away our fear. He can let people in and out of Hades. This means that there is hope and comfort for everyone, along with a warning that all of us will need, sooner or later, to admit our mistakes. Through this understanding there is a possibility of bridging some of the great Christian divides, including the divide between Protestants and Roman Catholics.

Some people may well think that I am making some outrageous claims. There should be lively debate.

Please join us if you can: http://www.rethinkinghellconference.com/

Afterwards I will post more of my claims and the response to them.

Roger Harper

Justin Welby depressed at Greenbelt about Gay Marriage: 2 September

September 2, 2016

Justin Welby is depressed about gay marriage. On Saturday, at Greenbelt, he was interviewed by Kate Botley. He was delightful, engaging, humorous, positive. He talked about himself, when asked, honestly and humbly. He talked about the Church with love and hope. He emphasised the church being filled with the Holy Spirit. He talked about Jesus and how he, Justin, has to, and delights in, talk about Jesus. In South Sudan in a Cathedral with the dead bodies of some of the staff in plastic bodies outside, he talked about Jesus. What else can you do?

Then a question was asked about gay marriage. As Justin answered a dark cloud seemed to grow and grow over him. He was no longer expressing hope and love, but heaviness, anxiety, depression. He didn’t seem to see or have much faith for a way forward. He talked at length about how homophobia is not on and what the Church has been doing and how hard the issue is. Very hard. Very very hard. Gloom.

Justin seemed to forget his guiding principle of talking about Jesus. Yes! Talk about Jesus and gay marriage. That’s part of the way forward. We’ve talked enough about Leviticus and Romans and how we all feel about gay marriage. We’re Christians, for God sake! We follow the Christ. Let’s talk about Jesus and gay marriage. When we read through the Gospels what light do they shed, about gay marriage? My reflection on doing this is at https://gaymarriagemaybe.wordpress.com/listening-to-jesus/ This is one view. Let’s all do it and see what comes.

Justin seemed to forget about being assured that the Holy Spirit is in the Church, leading us into all truth, including the truth about gay marriage. Let’s also listen to what the Holy Spirit is saying to the Church of England. Justin knows about guidance and prophecy and discernment. He just needs to bring out his knowledge and say ‘Let’s work out how to listen to the Spirit and then do it. Let’s aim to be people like those in Acts who came to being able to say “It seems good to the Holy Spirit and to us that…” Let’s all be open to the Spirit surprising us.‘ My reflection on this, for what it’s worth, is at https://gaymarriagemaybe.wordpress.com/listening-to-the-holy-spirit/

All Justin has to do is be true to himself, talk about Jesus and the Holy Spirit, and smile and relax. Justin wants ‘good disagreement.’ On Saturday he was so taken up with saying what he thought needed to be said officially that he missed a lovely example of good disagreement.

The question at Greenbelt was ‘My partner and I will be married next year. I know God will be blessing our relationship. I know the Church won’t now be blessing us. When do you think the Church will be able to?’ All delivered in grace and good humour.

Justin could have said ‘Thank you for your gracious attitude. You’re not castigating the Church for being homophobic and unjust. You’re accepting, with regret, where the Church is now. You want the Church to move ahead on this. You envisage it taking some time yet. Your attitude is lovely. You have given us a great example of good disagreement. And no, I don’t know when (or if) the Church of England will move ahead as you want. Jesus doesn’t know when He’s going to come again. Only the Father knows. There are some things the Archbishop of Canterbury doesn’t know either! If we can all have your gracious patient attitude we may well come to agree sooner than if we castigate each other. Part of the trouble is that people get up on their high horses to discuss this. Let’s ban the high horses, listen to Jesus and to the Holy Spirit. Amen?’

Peace and joy be with you Justin.

Roger Harper

Jesus on the Fringe: 23 August

August 23, 2016

Some of my experience of last week’s Edinburgh Fringe is here. http://www.premierchristianity.com/Blog/Why-Jesus-is-more-popular-than-ever-at-Edinburgh-Fringe

Thanks to Nigel Harper I also met an old school mate, now musician, who did not dismiss my idea of working together on ‘Jacob: The Musical.’ Who knows?

Roger Harper

Leaving Europe for Bad Reasons: 15 July

July 15, 2016

Britain’s Leave Europe vote is significant and needs to be recorded clearly. When the consequences are experienced we will know what to apologise for.  Here is the view of one who was predicting a Leave majority, not surprised on June 24th.

‘The referendum was about openness and tolerance versus insularity and fear of “the other”, self interested nationalism versus the common good of the nations of Europe working together.’ Paul Oestreicher writing in the Church Times. Yes indeed.

A picture from Facebook about British insularity:

InsularBritain

A majority in Britain chose a nationalism that is not only self interested, selfish, but proud and based on a slanted view of history. ‘We won two world wars. We don’t need that lot!’ This was said to me by a leave supporter with the agreement of others at the pub bar. Bad history. We needed our Allies to win the wars. Britain did not win the wars all by itself.

Remembering the wars is big in Britain, too big. TV programmes, books, films, hark back, especially to the Second World War. People like remembering because it brings a warm proud feeling. We naturally remember our own people. Yet this constant remembering of the plucky Brits gives us the mistaken impression that other people, other nations, had an insignificant role. Our excessive one-sided looking back gives us a slanted one-sided view of the present and the future.

Other Leavers wrote or said that Britain used to be great, you could walk out of one job into another, you could afford, with hard work, your own house, people were friendly and helpful to each other. They blame Europe and immigrants for diminishing their quality of life.

Yes British life has changed dramatically. This has far more to do with leaving Christendom than anything else. Most Brits grew up with Sunday School and Christian RE. Loving neighbours, not walking by on the other side, hard work, education, kindness, including to strangers, church-going, were promoted. Bullying, materialism, individualism, partying, alcohol, sex, were all restrained. We didn’t have much choice; that’s just how life was.

Now we have the choice. We can be as individualist, materialist, free-loving, with as much alcohol or drugs, as we like. Most people have gleefully chosen ‘freedom’ to indulge over ‘having religion rammed down our throats.’ This works at all levels, to the top where the City of London pursues more money more relentlessly with less concern for the well being of this or any other nation.

This has been the Great Change in British life, chosen by us not inflicted on us by Europe or immigrants. (I don’t bemoan the Change. We now also have less hypocrisy, more truth, more authentic Christian faith and enthusiasm.) If anything, Europe and immigrants have helped restrain the excesses of the new materialist ‘freedom.’ Europe has restrained bosses wanting their workers to work 50 hours a week when convenient. Europeans have bought up and maintained British companies when their City owners only wanted to sell them for short-term profit. Many immigrants have brought with them Christendom attitudes of hard work, appreciation of education, and church-going. These attitudes are an influence for good in areas where they are only a memory among the local Brits.

Europe or immigrants have not brought only the good, but the balance is on this side. Last Sunday, early evening, walking down the main street in Normanton, Derby, I mixed with East European and Asian immigrants shopping, chatting, looking and acting smart and responsible. The two people who accosted me for 20p / 50p were scruffy, semi-spaced out, White British.

Some Leave voters had genuine concerns about further European integration, the cumbersome working of a coalition of 28 nations, and the negative effect of large scale immigration on wages. For most it was much more instinctive, based largely on selfishness, pride, false history, suspicion of foreigners, blaming others instead of recognising our own faults. ‘If only we were on our own, controlling all our own affairs, life would be better!’

We’ll see. If life outside Europe turns out to be far from better, indeed notably worse, repentance will be needed. Repentance for selfishness, pride, false history, suspicion of foreigners, blaming others instead of recognising our own faults. And not heeding the many warnings given at the time.

The Church will have to join in the repentance, for not looking and speaking more clearly. ‘It beggars belief that the Church of England chose to have no official view on all this…’ continues Oestreicher. Yes indeed. The Leave campaign was based on values very different to loving your neighbour as you love yourself. The Church should have pointed this out.

This week truth about invading Iraq was conveyed in the Chilcot Report in findings almost identical to what was said at the time by people like Robin Cook, former Foreign Secretary and Leader of the House of Commons. Then too the Church neither looked nor spoke clearly and so shares some of the blame.

Even now the Church is officially saying ‘We just need to be nice to each other. Leaving or remaining makes no difference, is certainly not something which God might have a view on.’ This attitude ‘lacks the biblical sense that God acts in history in wrath and chastisement as well as in deliverance,’ according to Bishop Michael Bourke in a letter to the Church Times. He goes on to write of a call that ‘requires our nation to stand under God’s judgement…’ Time will tell if this judgement comes.

To me it looks that Britain’s post imperial and post Christendom, decline will only be accelerated by leaving the European Union. We’re in this mess together. Will we repent when needed?

BritainUpTheCreek