Postscript

I have just caught up, on anglicanmainstream.org, with one of their most recent posts. It is a transcript of a speech, by someone called Gabriele Kuby, delivered in Stuttgart in April last year. It confirms that sex madness is not just restricted to English speaking countries.

You can read it all for yourselves if you so wish but three bits of information stood out.

1. Genderism is an ideology.
2. Gender neutral, explicit sex education is compulsory in German junior schools. (I hope parents can opt out)
3. (Wait for it.) The anus is a sexual organ.

Do we have enough fervour, zeal and passion to turn around this sort of insanity? The Church in Wales certainly doesn’t; the higher clergy positively support 1. I hope the Church of England can do better.

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“With a spirit of fervour sustain me.”

Since my last post just after the Paris massacre I have been feeling overwhelmed. Ten days ago this was a physical overwhelment when a two foot drain in the parking area below the house got blocked. This was relatively easy to clear once I’d found two hefty chaps to help me, but the resulting torrent had dislodged a log from the woodpile which then blocked a second drain 50 yards further down the lane. By the time the stream was back where it belonged most of my lane was a quarter of a mile away down on the road leading to the village.

In reaction to all this, instead of blogging, I have been knitting and contemplating. That’s a word you don’t see much, anymore. Contemplation. Not the same as mindfulness—a bit of a buzzword these days and frequently misused. Not the same as meditation, either, which aims to empty one’s mind of thoughts. To me contemplation means pondering on thoughts to see where they lead you. So I have been knitting—to keep my hands busy—while I try to make sense of the increasingly insane world in which I find myself.
It surprised me to find I was not thinking much about Paris. Since my earliest memories date back to the early 1940s there has scarcely been any time since then when I haven’t been living with wars and rumours of wars somewhere in the world.

It’s all the other Stuff—I can’t think of any other word to describe it, and I have no vocabulary to describe some of the people causing the Stuff. Mind you, they don’t have, either. Some of them I can put a name to. Trevor MacDonald, for example. He’s the person born a woman who decided to become a man called Trevor, so she had her breasts cut off but kept her womb and vagina so that she could give birth to a child to which he then became the breastfeeding father on television. Given that sex education in my day was so limited we used to read Tampax instruction leaflets to learn about our intimate anatomy, small wonder Mr MacDonald leaves me literally speechless.

And while we’re on the subject of sex education I wonder how many grandmothers of five to seven year olds know the sort of sex education books their innocent little ones are exposed to. The present government has refused to make this compulsory but a labour government would, and this at a time when many are bemoaning the pressures on small children to grow up too soon. On their website the Christian Institute warns that ‘This booklet contains explicit material not suitable for children’! I think they’re right. Does a five year old really need to know about homophobia, lesbians, incest and masturbation? Will learning, by the age of seven, what a clitoris is and what it will feel like when you find it, help to lower the abortion rate (184,571 last year). How much will such knowledge at 7 help 17 year olds of both sexes who suffer appalling peer pressure, and many other sorts of pressure, to do what many of them know by instinct they would rather not be doing. Incidentally, there’s not much about love in the booklet and no mention of marriage that I can see, but there wouldn’t be, would there?

T S Eliot said ‘Human kind cannot bear very much reality’; not very much truth, either, apparently, or at least, ITV thinks we can’t cope with religious truth. In Downton Abbey the Crawleys and their guests are always shown already seated at the table with their napkins on their laps, because people would be offended (there’s that word again) by the truth that the napkins would have been folded like bishop’s mitres and the meal would have begun with a Grace. Earlier episodes showed Downton turned into a hospital during the First World War. Presumably seeing men who’d been gassed or with legs and arms blown off didn’t offend anyone. Manipulating history to make it fit modern ideas is the sort of thing dictators do. Manipulating Downton Abbey by taking out any mention of religion in order ‘not to put people off’ is downright lying.

So there’s three examples of Stuff, amongst much else, that I’ve been contemplating. Unhealthily explicit sex education for children who should still be in an age of innocence; a transgender person, who seems to me to be living one hell of a lie and who will have an even more difficult job than most of us when it comes to explaining to his children where babies come from; finally the distortion of historical truth, which is actually the most alarming. Downton Abbey may only be a TV drama, not much more than a super-soap, but obviously hugely popular. So much so that it mustn’t be allowed to give offence. And that is the real danger. The more the easily offended, the constantly demeaned and the traumatized victims of whatever get their way, the more freedom of speech is threatened, and with it our whole way of life.

What has all this got to do with the title? “With a spirit of fervour sustain me”. Psalm 51 v.10. (I don’t know which translation but I feel it fits the bill.) More than anything else it is apathy that we should fear. We have been tolerant, easy going and smilingly understanding of others’ foibles, which was good, but that has settled into a debilitating apathy. Fervour means passion and zeal and that’s what we need. Not the LGSSM etc way. No shrieking and shouting; no marches; no threats of lawsuits and tribunals; just sensitivity and the patience to listen to the still, small voice of common sense and then the zeal and passion—and the courage—to stand up for the truth.

In the Sure and Certain Hope . . . .

I took these photos on Thursday 12th in a brief lull between the gales and the Kaffir lilysqualls, the rain and hail. Any flowers blooming now are blooming marvellous – sorry! – and these delicate, fragile beauties (Kaffir lilies and Nerenes) seem to offer more hope and bring more joy than even the first snowdrop in Spring.

In the face of the terrorist attacks in Paris a simple sign of hope can do more for my faith than any words. For a time, when I lived in Cambridge, surrounded by theologians and academic clerics, I did study quite seriously. I struggled with John Robinson, wrestled with Romans and Karl Barth, lapped up Revelations with John Sweet, did Mark with Morna Hooker and worked for the Bishop’s Certificate. And all that actually gave me the courage to abandon the floundering ship that is the Church in Wales. Now I have reverted to the simple faith of my youth.

A few weeks ago I was advocating the Bible as a brilliant textbook, or possibly Nerenes“resource material”. The Old Testament could be used for religious studies, citizenship, relationships, learning from experience, social history, and the New Testament covers almost every other aspect of human life, with St Paul as a Self-help, Body, Mind and Spirit Manual.

Aged 15 I attended a confirmation class and when the Rector asked which bit of the Sunday service we liked least we answered with one voice – the Psalms! He assured us that when we grew up we would come to value them and how right he was. The Psalms have sustained me through some very tough times; it’s amazing how often I can find words in the Psalms of the day, which are entirely appropriate to that particular day.

Today, for example, Morning Prayer began with Psalm 42. Verse 6: ‘why are you so full of heaviness, O my soul, and why are you so disquieted within me?’ Well that’s obvious, isn’t it? The horrific events in Paris last night have left me wondering what on earth to say, or think or how to form prayers that make sense. But almost immediately there is hope. Psalm 33, which begins with a call to rejoice and sing songs of praise because ‘he loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the loving kindness of the Lord.’ And it is. We can watch on TV as Parisians react with calm dignity, probably fearful but nevertheless travelling around the city to lay flowers and light candles. But make no mistake. Calm dignity and civilised behaviour that dreads making a terrible situation worse isn’t the extent of loving kindness. Loving kindness isn’t a wishy-washy, anything goes liberalism. Real loving kindness demands passion, commitment, tough core values and the backbone to fight for the truth you believe in, without descending to strident shrieks, obfuscations, lies and downright bullying. If we can’t face up to the strident shriek brigade who are getting away with it gender-wise at the moment how on earth are we going to face up to ISIS? And, if you need firming up in the tough love stakes may I recommend some early David Attenborough films about mother love and survival.

Today’s reading from Isaiah is pretty brilliant too. ‘I will wait for the Lord, who is hiding his face from the house of Jacob, and I will hope in him’. Not so easy to accept in the face of so much slaughter by so few but then I get to the thrilling words I know well. ‘The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in the land of deep darkness – on them has the light shined.’ There’s something I can hang on to, and it gets even more appropriate. ‘For all the boots of the tramping warriors and all the garments rolled in blood shall be burned as fuel for the fire.’ Why? Because ‘a child has been born for us, a son given to us.’

Which is what Christmas is all about, though not many people know that any more, and here in Wales a lot of people are probably hoping that the son be a daughter!

“The Sensitive Liberals Who Would Censor the Raindrops”

Ireland’s national TV station is to give up on its traditional Angelus after 53 years. It will be replaced by videos showcasing aspiring filmmakers and artists of all faiths and none.

I suppose 50 years is barely the length of a sneeze in the history of Christianity, but it’s all part of the same trend. Let’s get rid of the Cult Leader, JC —no, not Jeremy Corbyn —and all his deluded, mindless, self-righteous followers. I won’t list any more of the terms with which Christians are described these days on line. Given how few of us there are it makes you wonder what on earth they are afraid of. When Isis beheads Christians I’m not surprised; after all they behead the wrong kind of Muslims, too. But I am amazed by the vitriol and verbal beheading of Christians that goes on on-line. I wonder why they bother. But then Richard Dawkins advertised There is No God all over a London bus, which seemed positively bizarre.

I was going to muse here about the Angelus anyway, having read a nice little snippet on another blog—that of “Paddy with his words of will.” Last week he posted a piece which someone who likes what he says had translated for him from the Irish.

“They’re let off the leash again. They’ve been let out again. Moving through the world in order to condemn freedom. The sensitive liberals who would censor the raindrops. These tough people who are ‘wounded’, who become arrogant if a syllable is mentioned which is not sweet to their ears. Certainly not sweet to their ears sweet is the ding-dong of the Angelus which deafens them for a full two minutes a day.”

I remember the Angelus in Cambridge. It sounded at midday every day from Little St Mary’s church and even to a non Catholic it was a welcome and comforting sound. It’s one of the things I appreciate whenever I am travelling through France. It always brings to mind the painting by Jean-Baptist Millet; the one with a couple in a wide field with a church spire in the distance, pausing for prayer in the midst of their labours.Attachment-1

Traditionally, the bells were sounded not just at midday but also at 9.00 am and 6.00 pm, and the Angelus prayerwas said. If you also said a prayer when you woke up, probably Our Father, and another, perhaps a brief thank you, God, before you went to sleep that would have been your 5 a day—a bit like the Muslim call to prayer five times a day.

I wonder if the Little St Mary’s Angelus has been silenced. The church does stand in the midst of many colleges whose students could be disturbed or offended by the noise. I wonder what Thomas Gray would have thought—the poet of the Elegy. His college window in Peterhouse overlooked the churchyard and presumably he liked the noise, not only of the curfew that ‘tolled the knell of passing day’, but also ‘the pealing anthem’ that ‘swells the note of praise’, both of which he could have heard from his window.

Many moons ago I worked in an office overlooking the Civic Centre in Southampton. Every four hours the bells in the clock tower played the tune of Isaac Watt’s hymn, “O God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come. Our shelter from the stormy blast and our eternal home.” They were silenced last year for storm damage to be repaired; I do hope they are back singing away again. Perhaps they are safe because so few people know the words of the hymn.

My husband, a Calvinistic Methodist/Quaker wanted to know why the Angelus. I came up with three reasons, one of which is still relevant today. To tell the time, especially lunch time, in watchless ages; because it’s a comforting noise, reassuring you that the day is progressing as it should; and a time to pause—time for a prayer or time for a three minute Mindfulness session. That’s always supposing you can hear it above the noise through your ear-phones.

Sadly, it’s still safest to watch what you say.

When I read in the Mail on Sunday about the Rev Barry Trayhorn losing his job because he quoted some verses from Corinthians in the prison chapel I thought— here we go again! All these words I have trouble with: homophobia, offensive, demeaning. But I was wrong. This is an infinitely more complex problem, and certainly incredibly confusing for one who tries to use common sense to navigate her way through life.

The Revd Trayhorn is now taking the prison authorities to a tribunal for wrongful dismissal. I’m writing this before the result of the tribunal is known but that doesn’t matter because it’s the rights and wrongs of the case that is worrying me. It’s all the odd twists and turns that have occurred along the way that a puzzling.

So I’ll begin at the beginning. The Rev Barry Trayhorn, married with three children and now aged 51 (not a good age at which to get the sack) joined the staff at Littlehey prison near Huntingdon—a category C prison for sex offenders—at the beginning of 2011. His actual job was supervising the gardeners and here’s a fascinating fact; his job description was tent maker. St Paul was a tent maker and it was verses from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians that have caused all the fuss.

First Corinthians, chapter 6, verses 9 to 11. The online sources that I read thought it was probably the NIV translation of the Bible. That certainly spells it out.

Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. 

One prisoner in the congregation who objected to these words apparently complained four days later. As a result, Barry was suspended from his work in the chapel.

There’s a lot here for me to muse about. Suppose, for a start, Barry had used the RSV version.

Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor sexual perverts, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the spirit of our God.

Is that version a bit less ‘in your face’?

Why complain in the first place? Chapel going is not compulsory – why not just walk out? I never actually walked out of the church during a service although I did come very close to it at the beginning of this year. Had I done so, I learned later, that four other people would have probably walked out with me. And yes, it was about sex. Homo-sex in fact. The preacher chose to walk up and down the aisle brandishing a Bible aloft, explaining that the rules in Leviticus no longer applied and if we didn’t all agree with same-sex marriage we were Pharisees. It was undoubtedly the most unpleasant, uncomfortable time I have ever spent in any church anywhere in the world.

Why wait for four days to complain? In the white heat of anger wouldn’t you be more likely to rush immediately to the chaplain or the governor or ask for a private cell meeting to discuss your problem; a sort of combined confession, instruction and anger management course with the chaplain. Barry is a Pentecostal minister, after all, and not likely to appeal to a traditional Anglican. On the other hand, boredom must be one of the worst aspects of prison life—little hope of sharing your cell with someone with the wit and wisdom of the redoubtable Norman Stanley Fletcher – and a real rabble-rousing Pentecostal fire and brimstone sermon, with music and alleluias will surely brighten up a bleak Sunday. This happened in May.

Soon after Barry joined the prison, the chaplain, Rev David Kinder, enlisted his help in providing music for chapel services, since Barry is a Country and Western singer. In February last year there had been a complaint about a remark Barry was supposed to have made on same-sex marriage. Remember, this is a prison where many of the inmates have committed “horrific sex abuse crimes” according to the Mail. Even within the chapel you would need to be careful how you chose your words. In April 2014 Barry was told he couldn’t actually preach in the chapel “because he had not completed anti-terrorist paperwork for clearance to work as a chaplain.”

Were the prison officials beginning to realise they had a bit of a firebrand in their midst? If this was the case why on earth did they not sit down together at this stage, Barry, the chaplain, the governor and probably a line manager of some sort, and try to work out exactly what Barry could and should safely say within the limits of his conscience. Then he would never have got to the point where he chose the most controversial translation of St Paul.

This muzzling of people, after one complaint, is not just worrying; it’s terrifying. And never more so than when university students—supposedly liberal, intelligent, educated—demand that someone should be ” unplatformed.” What a word! It’s yet another nail in the coffin of free speech. If you are clever enough and privileged enough to be a student at Cardiff University no one has the right to bully you into going to listen to Germaine Greer. If you think you won’t like what you think she might say don’t attend her lecture. If you are a sex offender in prison for your crime no one will force you to go to chapel. If you don’t like hearing about sin—and few people do these days—stay away.