It Makes You Think

Sometimes a simple story appears in the newspapers that stops you in your tracks

This is a photo of six year old Siddak Singh Jhamat of Walsall, who was given a fossil hunting kit for Christmas. He was digging for worms and bits of pottery last week when he dug up something that looked like a piece of horn. The fossil markings showed that it was a Rugosa coral that existed between 251 to 488 million years in the Paleozoic Era. 

That means it could be as much as 268 million years older than the dinosaur footprint found in January by a four year old girl called Lily Wilder, in Barry, South Wales.

A 220 million year old footprint

488 million years! That is really, truly old. Certainly makes my 83 years less than the blink of an eye. There’s no way I can get my head round that. How does anyone even begin to count in such numbers? However, it is a very helpful subject for Christians in Holy Week. At least, it is if you think about it in relation to God. God Almighty, the Creator of Heaven and Earth, and also of dinosaurs and rugosa corals. 

I’ve thought for a long time that over the last 60 years we’ve been cutting God down to size. Just as quietly and plausibly, we’ve been turning His Son, Jesus Christ, into more of a human and less a God. Worse than that, into something closer to a universal social worker. 

There are many reasons for this but two trends stand out. We — human beings — are getting cleverer and cleverer. Forget the Moon; we’re now considering the possibility of package tours of space and colonies on Mars. That may not be a good idea, given the bad press ‘colonialisation’ has been getting, for all the harm it’s done in the past. I don’t think it’s a very good idea at all, until we learn to take our rubbish home with us! 

Medically we work daily miracles compared with what we could achieve even 20 or 30 years ago. It’s taken a global pandemic to show us that we’re not quite as all conquering as we were beginning to think. You will be able to think of many other examples of human brilliance.

Psychologically, we have also cut God down to size because we have convinced ourselves that we, you and I as individual human beings, are getting pretty god-like all on our own.

We used to have two sexes but now you can claim to be one of up to 100 different genders. If you don’t like being a woman become a man instead. Anything is possible. What you feel is what you are. 

As a child I used to have it dinned into me by my parents that things were either right or wrong and I had to learn to accept responsibility for my own actions. Now my own truth can prove – at least to my satisfaction – that nothing is my fault. I am a victim.

Consequently, just as I become more and more god-like, God has inevitably shrunk down to a manageable size. These days we think He is only too happy to go along with what we want and the Bishops are happily re-writing the rule book.

Then along comes a bit of coral which is estimated to be 488 million years old. That rather puts the Almighty Creator God into perspective, don’t you think. He hasn’t changed in all those years. He has said so and we really ought to believe him.

Psalm 8.v4 What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?

Tomorrow is Maundy Thursday, followed by Good Friday; both days for meditation and contemplation and a perfect time to reflect on How Great Thou Art, my God.

Holy Week and Conversions — are they mutually exclusive?

I have suffered for a month from an antibiotic resistant bug.  That, at least gave me plenty of time to ponder on the liberal, woke world in which I now seem to live.  It’s a world I find constantly confusing. I have come to the sobering conclusion that I must be a misfitting, orthodox, traditional, illiberal dinosaur. But I do grow nice flowers.

In an effort to keep up to date I tried to follow a Parliamentary debate; to be exact the LGBT Conversion Therapy debate held in the Boothroyd Room in Portcullis House on Monday 8th of March.  I know what the individual words ‘conversion’ and ‘therapy’ mean. Conversion means changing; from bad to good’, or from ‘not too bad’ to ‘much better’ or from ‘the best I can manage right now’ to ‘something pretty special’.  Therapy means ‘curative medical treatment’ or ‘healing’. But ‘Conversion Therapy’ as a danger needing banishment is harder to understand.

Here we are in the middle of Holy Week and for many of us, church-goers and ‘anti-church but pro-Christ’ Christians, this is the greatest week in the Christian calendar when we read, and pray and hope that Christ’s death and resurrection will give us the healing we need to convert us from sinners, to people trying hard to hope more, worship more, love more and, God-willing, sin less.  Who on earth would want to ban all that.

However, when I got to read the debate for myself – pages and pages of it – I realised this conversion is nothing to do with God.  It is all about Sex; more specifically LGBTQI+ sex. 

Eliot Colburn (Carshalton and Wallington( (Con), who had initiated the debate, began by explaining that the petition is entitled, “Make LGBT conversion therapy illegal in the UK”. 

To clarify exactly what he was talking about, Colburn, MP, said “Conversion Therapy was an umbrella term used to describe interventions of a wide-ranging nature.”  Moreover, it was necessary because of the erroneous, “widespread belief that sexual orientation can and should be changed.”  One and a half minutes into the Debate and I was not happy.  I don’t like umbrella terms when it comes to banning things and I’m not happy with that sweeping generalisation that “sexual orientation can and should be changed.” 

As the debate continued I was impressed by how much a politician can say in a short time!  390 words in two minutes, though very few kept to the 2-3 minute rule.  I had ploughed through many pages before a doubt occurred to me. What does the word ‘debate’ mean in this context?  I was thinking in terms of debating societies in school and college.  Two sides, for and against, with arguments back and forth, claim and counter claim, until the final vote.  These speakers I was reading had not had a debate.  There was only one side, no one put points for the opposition, and many (most) speeches were couched in highly emotive language.  Moreover, the so-called evidence lacked any real science; it was almost all anecdotal.

These two rhododendrons (above and below) have been around so long they’ve lost their labels, and I’ve lost the book in which I recorded their names.

When I read on further I still couldn’t see the need to ban anything.  The anti-gay practices of the past – electric shocks, chemical castration and other actions more reminiscent of Tudor times, have already been outlawed.  This liberal age is all about individuals deciding for themselves what they would like to do.  Would like, not should like.  Put simply, if a man, say, who is sexually attracted to other men, nevertheless decides that he would like to marry a woman and have a natural family, surely he should have to right to have psychotherapy if he wants it and thinks it will help him.

One speaker, Crispin Blunt, (Reigate) (Con) included in his comments the issue of trans people.  “They are by far and away the most vulnerable group among the LGBT community.”  Well I agree completely there, as does the recent report of the Quality Care Commission who rated The Tavistock Clinic worryingly ‘inadequate’. Something else that worries me is the fact that many of the children being treated at the clinic are either on the autistic spectrum or have complex mental health issues. That is worrying.   I would certainly like to ban the horrific conversions available to even quite young children who want to change their gender and their physical genitalia.  Not only can children as young as 12 be given puberty blockers, followed by hormone treatment but, after the age of 16, mutilating surgery is also available.  It’s hardly therapy but it certainly converts a female body to a male body, so why isn’t it banned as well.  What sort of conversion therapy for trans people does Mr Blunt have in mind?

There is just one more conundrum I can’t get my head round.  My daughter was a psychiatrist who specialised in anorexia and psychosis.  She preferred her psychotic patients; they were much more fun and their difficulties sorting out what was real and unreal in their lives encouraged her to look at her own life in new and fascinating ways.  There wasn’t so much laughter on an anorexic ward and you needed masses of patience to sit for an hour persuading a stick thin individual to add just one raspberry to a small pot of yoghurt for lunch.  Anorexia is extremely difficult to treat, let alone cure, and frequently fatal.  Yet never once, even when treating a skeletal creature with a body mass of 10, was she tempted to agree with her that, yes, she did look fat and perhaps it would be a good idea to stop eating.

I pray that, despite the threatened ban on conversions, and freedoms of speech and religion, that you will all* have a spiritually uplifting and holy Easter.

*Paul’s letter to the Galatians 3.v28

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

This shy, humble little periwinkle has been blooming since Christmas!