Rugby Sermon

I had intended to make one of my rare appearances in my village church last Sunday morning but clearly the Holy Spirit had other ideas. My old fashioned clock was running an hour slow so I got a much more interesting sermon by staying home and watching the Rugby World Cup.

There is so much more to watching sport than just sitting in front of a TV screen cheering or groaning as your favourite team wins or loses. It can be both a thought-provoking and a spiritual experience.

The game I watched was Wales v Australia in Pool D. It was an excellent match, ending on a most satisfying cliff hanger. We — I speak for Wales — were ahead by 4 points but in the last ten minutes it looked as if Australia were very likely to get another try and win by one point. There were many terrific, unrelenting struggles on the touch line. Exactly the sort of situation where tempers can fray, but they didn’t. Far from it.

At one point, a few minutes from the finish, both George North and an Aussie player leapt high into the air for the ball. It slipped through George’s fingers into the hands of his opponent, who then tripped and fell to the ground. The ball rolled into touch.

Were you watching? Did you see what happened next? George held down his hand to his fallen opponent and helped to haul him to his feet. As they walked back together George ruffled the other man’s head and they grinned at each other.

I can’t see that sort of thing happening during a meeting of the General Synod of the Church of Englalnd. It’s even less likely in the Church in Wales. From all I’ve read, and I’ve read a lot of the discussions in Synod, if I were there I would have many opponents. Anyone who supports Same Sex Marriage and all the other sex/gender shenanigans would undoubtedly consider me to be a homophobic bigot lacking any compassion. In which case, I suspect they would be more likely to push me over than give me a helping hand, and, when I staggered to my feet, would trip me up again.

That’s the difference between the Welsh Rugby Union and the Anglican Church in Britain. The former may be gentlemanly hooligans but they know there is a strict rule book which must be obeyed. Of course, the players will try what they can get away with when the Ref isn’t looking — the odd sly shove or a muttered rude word — but the players and the spectators know there are consequences for broken rules. You can get a Penalty against your whole team or you can end up in the Sin Bin.

It’s quite otherwise with the Church. For a start Anglican bishops don’t really do sin any more. Not only do the senior clergy not get penalised for disobeying the rules but they are much more likely to get promoted. It’s the traditional law-abiding Parish priests who land in the Sin Bin or act as scapegoats.

Could it be that falling church numbers have a lot to do with our competing love of sport. We admire and respect our top sports men and women for their single-minded devotion and dedication to what they love. Few of them would take time off from training to waste time on Brexit. It’s different for Bishops. Having thrown away the rule book they don’t know what else to do. Organise a fun-fair or a fashion show, perhaps.

**Computer problems, so no pictures I’m afraid though I do have a lovely one, on my screen, of George North racing for the touch line

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Surely This is the Wrong Way Round!

A schoolgirl is offended by a bus driver’s view of Pride marches so she complains and the driver is suspended.

An habitual criminal, offended by a judge’s kindly meant advice, which he interprets as abusive language complains, too. The Lord Chancellor and the Lord Chief Justice (no less) uphold the complaint and reprimand the Judge – twice. Once for making the remarks and secondly for refusing to apologise.

This seems to me to be completely topsy turvy, if not barking mad. Since when have middle aged bus drivers been told what they may and may not believe by school girls? And, even more bizarrely, when have judges been condemned for hurting the feelings of habitual criminals?

Let’s take the judge and the fat man first.

Recorder Julian Malins QC was the judge in a case that, in the end, was dismissed. The accused, who was so obese that he had had to be helped into the dock, said that the verdict was a weight off his shoulders. Mr Malins replied ‘You had better not worry about the weight off your shoulders, but should rather worry about the weight on your body’.  The defendant then asked the judge to repeat himself, which he did, along with sound advice about the benefits of losing weight and getting a job.

In the circumstances I think it was very kind of Mr Malins to take the trouble to bother with the defendant at all. Most people would have washed their hands of him.  He is now in his fifties, has appeared in court 40 times in 35 years, has accumulated 60 convictions and served several prison terms including a lengthy sentence for GBH with intent. 

Mr Malins, an eminent QC with an international reputation, on the other hand, took the trouble to tell him the truth. The obese gentleman in the dock, whoever he is, would definitely be better off if he lost some weight. In addition, if you are unemployed and have a propensity to commit crimes, it’s a very good idea to try and get a job. This shouldn’t be too difficult if you were a chef, as this chap was, given the way cafés and food outlets are replacing shops on every high street. These are common sense facts of life. If at all possible you are better off in work and healthier if you are slimmer rather than fatter. Mr Malins was telling the Truth. 

But in this mad world of 2019 the law was firmly in the side of the fat old lag.

Fortunately, Mr Julian Malins, QC is senior enough, eminent enough and sensible enough not to take his formal warning too seriously. Had he been much younger with a career still in front of him, make no mistake, the statement from the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office could have done a lot of harm.

The schoolgirl and the bus driver is less serious in some respects but just as worrying in other ways. To those of us who thought we knew the difference between right and wrong, truth and falsehood, feelings and facts this incident shows how offended feelings trump common sense every time, particularly young offended feelings. Have you noticed how often young students win hands down over older, experienced, wiser, cleverer teachers? What makes it worse, though this is becoming increasingly common, the complaint was made and the driver condemned on Twitter!

This story begins with a Norfolk bus driver. 

“I am not driving this bus because it promotes homosexuality,” the driver told passengers at Norwich Bus Station. It was promoting something which was against his religious principles. He said they would have to “wait a minute” for him to swap buses.

This appears to have been a red rag rather than a rainbow flag to sixth former Rebecca Sears. While the bigoted driver swapped buses she complained to the front desk of the bus station, then she took a photo of the driver, then she twittered.

“Today I was waiting for the 501 bus to Thickthorn and we were told by the driver we had to wait for him to swap buses as ‘this bus promotes homosexuality and I refuse to drive it’ due to the multicoloured ‘501’ sign. Norwich doesn’t appreciate homophobia,” she tweeted.

 “I’m aware everyone is entitled to their own views however, if you can’t do your job properly because of your bigotry, maybe you need rethink your choices,” she wrote.

Quick as a flash the bus company responded.

“As a company we do not condone any behaviour from our drivers that does not support this view. The driver involved in this incident has been suspended and a full investigation is underway.”

Well, we can hardly blame the bus company for reacting like that since they have the example of the Lord Treasurer (David Gauke MP at the time) and the Lord Chief Justice jumping straight in to support offended feelings.

I still have limited hope for Common Sense because, in the eyes of the Law of this Land, discrimination on the grounds of beliefs is just as bad as discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. Not in the eyes of all its minions, however. If we aren’t careful we will soon have Law by Twitter. Perhaps we should try and reach agreement over Brexit by Twitter.

Twisted Truth

I saw this on the blog of Rebel Priest, also known as the Revd Dr Jules Gomes. He is a wise man, full of common sense and to be trusted.

A 15-year-old Polish boy is being hailed as a Catholic “hero” after daring to block an LGBT pride march with a raised crucifix and rosary in his hand.

After reading the whole story I was reminded of these lines from Rudyard Kipling’s poem “If”. 

“If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools”

I expect it’s one of many poems that have been banned now, having been written by what must obviously be a “homophobic, racist, colonialist bigot.” Quoting Rudyard Kipling probably makes me an HRCB too.

This brave lad, Jakub Baryła, was inspired by “a similar gesture by Fr. Ignacy Skorupko during the Warsaw battle with the Bolsheviks in 1920. Father Skorupko was a Polish army chaplain who was killed on Aug. 14 1920, at the battle of Ossów during the Polish counter-attack. Standing with soldiers leading a charge on the front lines, the priest was holding a cross to encourage Polish soldiers.

Jakob was, of course, removed from the scene. He must have known that would happen and he says the police behaved “impeccably.” Since he describes himself as “Catholic, traditionalist, conservative and patriotic” on Twitter, the other side are out to get him. Here’s where the truth gets twisted. 

The Monitoring Center on Racist and Xenophobic Behaviour, Warsaw, has issued a statement calling Baryła’s action “another example of nationalists using children for political struggle.”“Irresponsible parents have jeopardised the life and health of their 15-year-old child by sending him to a riot to intentionally hinder the police. The lost boy stood in the middle of the road clutching the cross. The child was confused and completely deprived of care by adult caregivers,” the statement said, insisting that Baryła was a child and no one had the right to send him to fight the police. “It seems that the parents have been indoctrinating their child for a long time,” the statement added, accusing Baryła of being “seen at meetings with racists and homophobes.”

The Monitoring Center on Racist and Xenophobic Behaviour said it intends to notify the prosecutor’s office of a “crime committed by parents who sent a child against police officers,” and will provide the Family Court in Płock with information “about a boy who, unaccompanied, hindered police operations.”

I’ve looked at those two pictures again and again and I can see neither ‘a lost boy’ nor a ‘confused child’. On the contrary. There has been plenty of praise for him on social media where people have remarked on his courage and his quiet confidence in his faith.

Please don’t ignore this because it happened in Poland. Think about it and about why it couldn’t happen here in Britain.

Why couldn’t it happen here?
Because the Bishops have already gone over to the other side

An Antidote to Percy

It may have been pure chance or, given where I ended up, it may have been the Holy Spirit tapping the computer keys. I prefer the latter explanation, especially since this interview took place over a year ago. Why else would it pop up on my screen? Whatever happened, I found myself watching a Vodcast, put out by “Unbelievable” on Premier Christian Radio.

A bright, cheerful, personable young man in a casual shirt was interviewing the youngish, well known, popular historian, Tom Holland and an older, bearded gentleman called Tom Wright. (It turns out T. Wright is also known as N T Wright when he’s writing erudite, heavyweight theology.) Tom Wright is right up there with  Martyn Percy (see my last blog “No, No, No!”) being a retired Bishop of Durham and now a Professor at St Andrews University. But there is a difference.

The Right Reverend Tom Wright

The two Toms were discussing Tom Wright’s book, “Paul A Biography”, and what resulted from that discussion kept me riveted for a whole hour. Since then, and a second listen, I’ve tried to work out what made it so powerful. I came to the conclusion it was because it made sense. There was no pushing of a secret agenda, no twisting of simple facts to suit a particular ideology. Good, old-fashioned Common Sense. The words rang true.

Words don’t ring true anymore. Think of the beginning of John’s Gospel.

 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

That’s how important words are. They matter. We’ve got away from that awesome fact and we’re suffering because of it. Words are twisted and contorted or have become downright lies.

Take the word ‘Marriage.’ Fifty years ago everyone knew what marriage meant. A man and a woman joined together in holy, or at least, civil legal marriage. I’ve always thought marriage was one of those bedrock words that was included in any description of civilized society. Now it seems to mean any sort of sexual coupling that any individual, of any sex or none, feels is a marriage. How on earth can you build any sort of stable civilization on such a foundation. 

Bishop Gavin Ashenden

Another Bishop who talks a lot of sound common sense is Gavin Ashenden. He recently wrote an article for a Jersey newspaper – for which he has written for years. He happened to mention that children brought up in a family with a mother who is married to the father do better on the whole than any other coupling. That is a fact that has been proved in scientific studies over and over and over again. He got the sack.

It’s getting worse. I suppose it wouldn’t matter very much if one individual decides she/he is the father of the child she/he produced from his/her retained women’s bits. (To complicate things still further it involves denying the existence of a male sperm donor.) The true horror begins when the High Court is asked to endorse this individual as legally not only the ‘father’ but the only parent. That is heaping lie upon lie upon lie.

Historian Tom Holland

Tom Holland is not a Christian though he was heavily influenced by his Anglican mother. He also knows a lot about Islam. At one point there was an interesting discussion about how Islam is imposed from above, whereas Christianity grew up from the bottom. It struck me then that that is exactly what is happening in Anglicanism today. Bishops are imposing their modern, leftist, liberal, secular, sexual ideas on to their hapless congregations. It’s not difficult for them. They have the power and the money, to say nothing of the support and active intervention of the government and the media. The tiny congregations of most of the remaining churches are so busy struggling to keep the roof on or stop the damp that they never have time to put their heads above the parapet to notice what’s truly happening.

Jesus has become a soppy, social worker. “All you need is love.” Unless it’s tough, disciplined love, in which case forget it. Cathedrals, once sacred spaces for worship, prayer, rejoicing and contemplation, are now fun fairs with helter-skelters and crazy golf.

Crazy is the right word

If you take the time to listen to the two Toms and then listen to almost anything from either of the Archbishops, Welby or Sentanu, or almost any other bishop, you will be able to hear exactly what I mean.

No. No. No! She did not abandon him.

I am an old-fashioned, elderly Anglican who struggles with a lot that is going on in the modern Anglican Communion.

I am not a theologian, nor an academic, nor a scholar. However, in an effort to retain my marbles, and my faith, I do try to keep up with modern Anglican thought. Which is how I came to be reading an essay, or possibly a polemic, in the latest instalment of the ViaMedia.News series ‘Does the Bible Really Say…?’ 

In this particular blog the topic is ‘Does the Bible Really…Advocate the “Nuclear” Family?’ and it was written by the Very Reverend Professor Martyn Percy(BA, MA, M.Ed, PhD). He is the 45th Dean of Christ Church, Oxford and he presides over both the College and the Cathedral. So I assumed he knows what he is writing about.

Professor Martyn Percy

Professor Percy gives five reasons for rejecting the idea that Christianity is “right behind the nuclear family.”

The first reason: “Jesus advocated leaving one’s parents for the sake of the Kingdom.”

Yes. Right. There’s plenty of evidence for that, but at what age? I don’t think there is any indication that Jesus suggested that children should be snatched away from their parents although there is plenty of evidence that that is what happened in the later church. Was it the Jesuits who said: “give me a child until he is seven”? And monasteries certainly took children into their care from the age of seven. Boys, anyway. 

On the other hand Jesus had something to say about widows (who, inevitably were often also single mothers) and orphans. He clearly thought they needed special care, rather than being treated as an equally satisfactory alternative to a proper household, which Archbishop Justin Welby seems to believe.

Secondly, Prof Percy argues that the Bible “contains many patterns of family life” and that the Old Testament in particular “offers us dozens – literally – of family patterns”, which “should not necessarily be honoured today.” 

That’s absolutely true. We don’t have polygamy any more, and I imagine few wives would offer the nanny or the au pair or the ‘Help’ to their husbands while they pursue their careers. Extended families have disappeared. By and large, we don’t even look after our elderly, and working ‘children’ who still live at home seem to be a bone of contention. There is also no mention in the Bible, as far as I remember, of families with two fathers, families with two mothers, of even, most recently, of a mother-cum-father family. [See my last blog – A Very Tangled Web – if you think you can cope with the intricacies of the situation.]

Now we come to the third reason.  Moses, Buddha, Mohammed, and Jesus – the founders of the worlds four great religions – were all adopted, Prof Percy tells us. If you want to learn the significance of this fact you’ll have to read the whole piece for yourself because, after reading his next statement, I gave up.

The Reverend Professor wrote:

‘Moses was abandoned by his birth mother and left to float in a small coracle in the River Nile, and had the good fortune to be picked up by the daughter of one of the Pharaohs, and nurtured as one of her own.’

I gave up because he lost my trust. He was just so wrong, on a simple, fundamental matter, that I felt I could no longer rely on him to tell the truth. 

No. No. No! Moses wasn’t abandoned. He wasn’t ‘left’. It wasn’t mere good luck. It was a carefully orchestrated plan, by a desperate mother, to try and save the life of her precious baby son. She’d already hidden him for three months from Pharaoh’s assassins. She knew exactly what she was doing. She chose the place and the time because she knew where the Princess walked, and she knew when the Princess walked. Moreover, she had contingency plans in place. The baby’s sister, Miriam, well primed with what to say, was there to make sure all went well or come to the rescue if something went wrong.

Read it for yourself — Exodus, Chapter Two, vv 1-10.

The writer spells the story out very clearly for those who have eyes to see. 

Much of the Bible is not easy to interpret which is good for theologians. I just hope Prof Percy isn’t often as careless or misguided with his real theology as he appears to be with this simple bit of exegesis for the masses.

A Very Tangled Web

There is a problem with blogs. We bloggers try to keep our posts short, but in making them concise it is easy to give the wrong impression. I think this happened with my last blog, “I’m Back Because I Can’t Stand Sham”. I was trying to explain how I sometimes try to imagine how I would explain some aspects of modern life to my father, were he still alive. He fought all through WW1 and writing about him has emphasised what a different world we inhabit now. 

In that blog I mentioned a man called Freddy McConnell. He is someone presenting with either complicated and complex problems or, at the other end of the scale, a tissue of lies.

So, let me reassure readers that I’m not a full of hate bigot and I do have compassion — a lot of it — for anyone finding themselves in a perplexing and difficult situation.  

What is worrying me about Freddy McConnell and his baby son is the utter unreality of it all. Common sense has flown out of the window. 

I would have nothing against Freddy if I met him – say at a play group – with his beard and moustache, and I would have no trouble calling him Mr McConnell and describing him as ‘he’ and Daddy. I have the evidence of my eyes and, in any case, I wouldn’t want to be rude or hurtful. There is no harm in being courteous in any merely social situation, particularly if surrounded by small children and other parents. This will surely happen frequently as Freddy Jnr grows

But, and it is a big BUT, Freddy was a woman when she gave birth. At that stage she had been registered as a man but had stopped transitioning in order to conceive. So the truth has already been mucked about with and feelings had already trumped facts. It wouldn’t just be stupid, it would be every shade of wrong to change the law so that Freddy appears as his child’s father on the birth certificate and there is no mention of ‘mother’. There’s also the problem of the biological father. Freddy is not a hermaphrodite. Even if he were he couldn’t impregnate himself. The donor of the sperm with which Freddy got pregnant may be just a name or a number but biologically he is the child’s father and to change the law in order to make Freddy the father — the only parent — is another whopping lie.

Two other points in this Freddy saga concern me. 

He went to court to claim anonymity because he says forcing him to register as the child’s “mother” breaches “his human right to respect for private and family life.” Where is his respect for truth and honesty?

National newspaper editors wisely challenged the order after McConnell featured in a documentary film and a newspaper article about his journey to parenthood. Not much anonymity there.

This is a photograph few men will recognise but many women will immediately identify with it. Except that most women in this situation would be without their trousers. I suspect it may have been posed for the film.

Credit: http://www.seahorsefilm.com

According to The Sun newspaper Freddy McConnell wants his child to be the “first child in the world to legally have no mother. Why? Where is the benefit to his son there? Except to make him an object of curiosity.

Changing the law of this land in order to perpetrate a lie is to take the highway to chaos and confusion. 

“O, what a tangled web we weave when first we practise to deceive!”

Walter Scott was so right, as society will soon discover to its cost. 

I’m Back Because I Can’t Stand Sham

I stopped writing blogs ten months ago. I popped back to comment on Curry and Churchill but that was as long ago as January and February. Now, however, I think there are things I must say or I shall burst! 

I gave up blogging for two reasons. I seemed to be saying the same things in slightly different ways over and over and getting nowhere. Every time I grumbled about something that seemed to me wrong or stupid something even worse happened.

I thought I could find something better to do with my time, so I did. I decided to tell the story of my father’s experiences in Flanders, Greece and Palestine during the First World War. (Yes, I really do mean my Father and not my Grandfather.) Inevitably, I have also been trying to look at the modern world through his eyes, like this item from The Sun on July 16th.

 How on earth would I begin to explain to my father the convolutions and complications involved with a woman who changes to a man and then goes back to being a woman so that she can have a baby – father unknown – and then demands that the law of the land is changed so that he can be registered as the father. Since children need a mother and a father perhaps he should be registered as both — although that is still a lie, because he isn’t.

Let’s get back to my father and my memoir. Everyone knows the horrors of the trenches; most people have heard of the disaster that was Gallipoli; but Palestine? That was something to do with Laurence of Arabia, wasn’t it? Well, yes – he was there, along with many thousands of assorted troops from Britain, France, Australia and India, as well as local Arabs.

It hasn’t been an easy task. While I was describing the first couple of years of his training it was often quite amusing There was plenty of frustration but also a lot of fun. When “Tubby” moved to France in 1916 telling the story became emotionally much more difficult. My father was a small, quiet, very gentle man. The thought of him in the trenches was horrible. Soaking myself in eyewitness accounts and sorting through endless photos day after day left me feeling like a chewed rag.

Then he was sent to Salonika. He’d never talked about Flanders and I had no idea he’d ever been in Greece. This was a strange discovery and very interesting. The whole story became even more fascinating when he went to Egypt.

Let’s get back to my father and my memoir. Everyone knows the horrors of the trenches; most people have heard of the disaster that was Gallipoli; but Palestine? That was something to do with Laurence of Arabia, wasn't it? Well, yes – he was there, along with many thousands of  assorted troops from Britain, France, Australia and India, as well as local Arabs. 

It hasn't been an easy task. While I was describing the first couple of years of training it was often quite amusing There was plenty of frustration but also a lot of fun. When "Tubby" moved to France in 1916 telling the story became emotionally much more difficult. My father was a small, quiet, very gentle man. The thought of him in the trenches was horrible. Soaking myself in eyewitness accounts sorting through endless photos day after day left me feeling like a chewed rag. 

Then he was sent to Salonika. He’d never mentioned Flanders and I had no idea he’d ever been in Greece. This was a strange discovery and very interesting. The whole story became even more fascinating when he went to Egypt.

From there he walked all the way to Jerusalem, interrupted by some rather nasty battles along the way.

In this photo, dated 9th December, 1917, the Mayor of Jerusalem tries to surrender the city to two British Tommies of the London Regiment.

Then he returned to Flanders just in time to win a medal, about six weeks before the Armistice.

I began by telling the story for the family — it’s a wonderful example of how a very ordinary man came to do extraordinary things. Now I’m wondering if it could find a wider audience, because people I’ve talked to are amazed to hear about this “other” war. At the moment I’m struggling to edit the fourth or fifth draft so perhaps I’d better finish that first.

My father was not a churchgoer. He pooh-poohed everything to do with the Church of England,  mainly on the grounds of hypocrisy. He saw hypocrites everywhere and wanted nothing to do with them. The antics of the present Anglican church would have proved how right he was to be wary. On the other hand he would have been horrified to know that these days you can lose your job just for quoting from the Bible.

He wouldn’t have understood “unplatforming” or “safe spaces” either. Foxholes and dugouts were safe spaces for him. He was fairly left wing and delighted in discussion and argument where facts mattered and you could give as good as you got in verbal battles. If I’d tried to tell him that nowadays feelings trump facts he’d have thought I’d gone raving mad.

That is what has encouraged me to begin blogging again.

I don’t want you to get the impression that the book I am writing is unrelieved gloom. Tubby and his mates found plenty to laugh about. In this little scene they are in the Judean Hills in early 1918. They are almost at the end of the supply lines and food is short. 

These hills are what stopped Richard Lionheart and they did their best to stop us, too. For most of our route there was a precipice on one side and a steep hillside on the other. It was a long, arduous trudge, with my pack feeling as though it were gaining weight with every step I took.
Finally we reached the crest of the first range of hills and descended into a valley and to a village called Enab. This place looked closer to paradise than anywhere we’d been in months. The hillsides were wooded, covered with orchards of olive and fig trees or terraced for vineyards. There was even a monastery, where wine was made. Not that that helped the troops much; the officers had most of it before it ran out! Here we stayed for over a week.
Needless-to-say, paradise was an illusion. The trees were bare of fruit and the torrential rain not only soaked everything, but seriously impeded the camel convoys. A camel’s feet are designed for sand, not mountain passes. Heavily laden as they were they kept slipping and sliding on the wet, rocky tracks and too often these falls caused serious and even fatal injuries. After a few days “Someone” found 2,000 donkeys from “Somewhere” which were much more sure-footed on the steep rough slopes. Sometimes miracles still happened! 

The extra supplies they brought in were desperately needed, mainly for the transport animals.
We were utterly exhausted so we stayed in our bivvies and groused. There was quite a lot to grumble about.
‘I don’t want to grumble,’ Charles said, ‘but I’m bloody cold. As well as food I wish they’d issue us with some winter woollies. It would have been bitterly cold last night, even if I hadn’t been soaked to the skin.’

‘Thank God for the socks I got in one of those parcels,’ I said. ‘My boots have had it.’

I stuck out my feet in front of the other three, showing how the sole was coming loose on one boot and the toecap was flapping on the other.
‘Don’t be hard on them,’ George said. ‘Think where they’ve been. First the desert, then the sandhills around Jaffa, then the Palestine plain and now these bloody foothills. No wonder they’re falling to pieces.’
‘Not as bad as the animals,’ Lanky piped up. If he worried about anything it was most likely to be about the four-legged troops. ‘D’you know,’ he paused, looking solemnly around at us. ‘The horses have been on half rations for nearly a month.’
‘So’ve we,’ said Charles.
‘They didn’t get oranges and things when we did,’ Lanky insisted. ‘Those really bucked us up, remember. One transport bloke told me some of the horses have been trying to eat the leather of their harnesses.’
‘I wonder if they’d like my boots,’ I said.
‘Better hang on to them,’ George said. ‘You may be glad to have them to gnaw on yourself soon, by the look of you.’
I looked around at the other three and I could see what he meant. The truth was, like the horses, we were all half starved.
The three of them returned my gaze, then George said, ‘Look on the bright side. Far fewer flies and bugs around now.’ He grinned and his face was transformed. That at least was true, though the cold and wet seemed to have no effect on the lice.

Hero or Villain?

 

 

Screenshot 2019-02-25 at 12.48.01.png

Yes, of course he was — Churchill, that is.

He was a great man so everything about him was larger than life. He drank too much. He smoked too much — even though those cigars were often unlit. He had unacceptable views about non-white people.

 

 

He also had enormous courage, faith in the people he served as a politician and was prepared to tell the truth no matter how unpalatable.

 “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.”

Imagine anyone having the guts to tell us something like that these days.

I can remember seeing him. I was taken to the Victory Parade when I was seven and I saw Mr. Churchill on the balcony of Buckingham Palace with the Royal Family. Aged 15 I can remember being in a cinema in France. When Churchill appeared in a newsreel there was a burst of applause and cheering.

So, all you, who think you are valiantly fighting for justice and liberty, don’t get too cocksure of yourselves. You need to begin looking at things from the ‘Both/And’ perspective.

Screenshot 2019-02-25 at 12.56.18.png

The solid rock of Snowdon

Can’t you see how limited and illiberal your ‘Either/Or’ attitudes are? Things are almost never strictly one thing or another. Certainly a rock is a rock, solid as the Snowdon Range which I can see outside my window. So was the sand in the Conwy Estuary which I can also see if I turn my head.

Screenshot 2019-02-25 at 13.18.12.png

Sand on Conwy Estuary

People are always ‘Both/And.’ Good and bad. Saint and sinner. Hero and villain. Straight as a die and as crooked as a corkscrew. Right and wrong — all together in the same package.

Please remember that, you who are so sure you are all right, and the rest of us are all wrong. Don’t be so loud in your condemnation of those with whom you disagree.

All you tinpot little heroes, don’t try to stop free speech in order to silence the villains. You may think you are rocks today but you could well be mere grains of sand tomorrow.

 

I love curry . . .

There’s nothing like a good takeaway curry on a Friday night for rounding off the week and giving a spicy start to the weekend. I also love reading and knitting and a good straight malt.

And I “love” God. For that reason I think the English word love is one of the weakest, niggardly, most pathetic words in the English language.

However, over in America there’s a Curry that doesn’t love Love and a Love that doesn’t love Curry! Which is awkward because both Curry and Love are Bishops in the Episcopal (i.e. Anglican) church.

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“Love” says Bishop Michael Curry

Over here in Britain millions more people now know about the Right Reverend Michael B Curry, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal church thanks to the impassioned sermon he preached at the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, all about love. Not at all the sort of sermon we’re used to in your usual society wedding but certainly memorable.

This same Bishop Curry is now at odds with one American bishop – ironically with the name of “love”! The problem is simple. Bishop William Love is the only bishop in the Episcopal Church who believes, deeply and sincerely, that marriage is between a man and a woman. (There may be other bishops who don’t much like SSM but Bishop Love is the only one who is prepared to stand up and be counted.)

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Bishop William Love of Albany, USA

Bishop Love cannot support something called resolution BO12, which basically says if you won’t allow same-sex marriages in your diocese nor allow other bishops to come in and oversee them for you then you have to go. So much for good disagreement and embracing diversity.

Type ‘love’ into the thesaurus and you get dozens of synonyms, from ‘affection’ and ‘adoration’ to ‘mad for’ and ‘soft spot’! ‘Lust’ is also included but it’s interesting that the word ‘charity’ doesn’t appear. Perhaps wisely. Charity doesn’t always show itself in the best light these days. There have been too many charity workers who have clearly mistaken lust for love.

The Greeks had six words for genuine love, but Christians are usually happy with three. When we use love, and we don’t just mean “I very much like . . .” we mean eros, romantic love; passionate, over the moon love.

Romantic love is wonderful. Even thinking about it sends shivers up my spine! But, it has its limitations.

Imagine five years down the romantic line and you and your wife have three children. The youngest has a stinking cold, which she has given to you, a stuffed up nose so she can’t breathe and it’s three in the morning. Number one son has an ear infection and is screaming with pain.  Your wife has fallen and sprained her wrist. Half way through a full wash load yesterday evening the washing machine died.

I know, from long experience, that memories of candle light dinners, watching fireworks while drifting along on a boat on the Seine or tumbling abandoned in the hay, will be no help whatsoever in that scenario. If all you’ve got is Eros one or other of you will walk out at first light.

What you need – what we all need all through life – are masses of Agape and Philia.

Agape was a word we used to hear often in church years ago although Bishop Curry didn’t mention it and I never hear it in the church I now attend.

Agape is selfless, sacrificial, unconditional love. After five years of marriage and three children, don’t forget Eros, but Agape is the love that will get you all through. Marriages thrive on romantic moments but only Agape will get you through the inevitable grim bits.

Then there’s Philia. This describes brotherly love and true friendship and in family life you need a lot of this—shown by loving friends and neighbours who will rally around in a crisis.

However, the addition of Agape and Philia will more than see you through. Because by now your love will have deepened to such an extent that you have compassion and tolerance and generosity which has not only enriched your own lives but those of your friends and neighbours. You are no longer alone living in an exciting erotic bubble.

This is why I thought Bishop Curry’s wedding sermon was inadequate. This is why I don’t trust Jayne Osanne and her Just Love slogan. That’s why I think love is the most inadequate word unless it’s attached to Bishop William Love who is a brave man.

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And I just love Milly!

We still live in interesting times.

I more or less gave up blogging last Autumn. I had a little flurry of activity in August when I posted four blogs in quick succession, and a re-post. Then nothing.

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The first of the August blogs recorded my difficulties in trying to spend some of the £10 million that the Church in Wales was giving to us for evangelism.

This is Allan Coote, a London bus driver, reading the Bible outside St Paul’s Cathedral last summer. But only for half an hour a week. The Dean and Chapter can’t cope with more than that.

 

In the second blog, among other things, I was expressing amused disbelief that the Freemasons had voted to include women—but only if they had first joined as men! The third blog, entitled ‘The Absurdity Goes On’ and posted on the same day, was inspired by a row over a wall plaque in York. It was to honour somebody called Anne Lister who was apparently the first famous English lesbian. The row erupted because the word lesbian did not appear on the plaque for fear of causing offence.

The fourth one, Storm in a Teacup appeared on August 11. It concerned the furore caused by Boris Johnson’s comment that a woman in a burqa looks like a letterbox. Actually he wasn’t completely correct. He meant the niqab – the burqa doesn’t have a slit in it.

Well, it was the silly season. So I decided to enjoy the summer and write again when I felt inspired. I re-posted one more blog – Tommy Tubby Again – on 28thSeptemeber as a tribute to my father. On September 28, 1918 he won the DSO. It was also his 25th birthday. After that nothing inspired me at all.

Three things have brought me back.

The first was checking my blog site for the first time in three months and discovering that people were still reading me. December 21st was the only day when I didn’t have a single visitor. Sometimes, someone obviously settled down to read many blogs one after the other. And when I counted I discovered I have readers far from the boundaries of Wales—in 28 different countries, in fact.

Well, I thought, perhaps I have still got something worth saying.

Secondly, serendipity. Several times in the last couple of weeks I have come across words and phrases, especially in the psalms, that seem to be nudging me to stand up and be counted.

And thirdly, the nudges and winks from my dear friends in Cardiff.

However, to be honest, I have nothing new to say. I still have just three things that I think are of fundamental importance.

The love of God as revealed in the Scriptures

The Anglican Church as it used to be but is no longer

Traditional marriage between a man and woman for the sake of family life which is the bedrock of a civilised society.

So while I’m wondering where to begin I am going to re-post my most read blog by far, from April 9th 2016. If I knew what there was about this particular blog that made it so popular I would do the same thing again and again. I suppose it must strike a chord with all the old Anglicans still sitting listening to meaningless words through empty services.

In any case, I suspect I shan’t be short of subject matter. Welby’s representative in Rome doesn’t believe in the Resurrection. Welby doesn’t want a lorry park in his Kent back yard. Curry is trying to silence Love. I’m sure I’ll find something to say.

Empty boxes, empty gestures, empty words

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“You Cubes” in a Welsh Cathedral-November 2014

When you leave something, whether it’s the Front Bench, a job, a marriage or a church, it may seem to onlookers that you have left after a row. When it becomes clear that it was a relatively small straw that broke the camel’s back, it may be thought that you left in a fit of pique, or on a whim, and that you’re too stubborn or too proud to apologise and return.

In fact, in almost every case, the small straw comes along after months, or years. In my case I came to the conclusion that I must sadly cut my ties to the Church of Wales after a couple of years of increasing frustration, irritation and hopelessness. After a Diocesan Conference in October 2014 which had left me feeling utterly disillusioned, the scales began to fall from my eyes the following month. That’s when I became convinced that the C in W was bumbling along a road I didn’t want to take, to a place I didn’t want to go.

Do you remember these boxes? The trendily labelled You Cubes.

For many years, in our village church, we used to fill old shoe boxes—at Christmas, or for Water Aid, or in response to a disaster like an earthquake. Some boxes were filled with baby clothes, others with small toys, games and crayons, and still others with toiletries—toothbrushes and toothpaste, scented soap, face cream and after shave. (In a crisis it’s important to restore self esteem and nothing does that better than a bit of luxury.)

The boxes in these photos are different. They are empty. Covered with shiny paper and all sorts of bits and bobs, they are supposed to tell the story of individual spiritual journeys. They seemed to me to be a perfect illustration of the saying “Fur coat and no knickers;” the complete antithesis of what our Lord Jesus Christ is all about. The more I looked at them the more I felt shock, puzzlement and finally outrage. Could no one, from Bishops, through Archdeacons, down to Area Deans, see the symbolism of the empty boxes, particularly just a few weeks before Christmas? Did no one in a lowly post in a Diocesan office dare say, what many must have thought, “this is a daft idea”?

Matthew 7:9-10 “Or which of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent?”

These empty boxes summed up what I thought of the Church in Wales. Empty boxes, empty gestures, empty words.

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An altar of empty boxes. This says it all.