Tag Archives: ethics

Nothing to be frightened of

I haven’t blogged for some weeks, but the recent news stories around assisted dying prompted me to share with you a fantastic book I have just finished. It is called The Welcome Visitor and is co-written by John Humphrys and Dr Sarah Jarvis. I have touched on this book in a previous post when I was reflecting on the death of my brother-in-law last year see https://unfinishedchristian.wordpress.com/2009/07/03/dignity-and-death/ .

This book is incredibly moving, and I would recommend it to anyone who has not yet mulled over the practical issues around caring for a loved one as they may pay the price for living longer and not dying as you are they would want them to. You see Humphrys and Dr Jarvis deal with the ethical, mental, physical, physiological ,spiritual and practical issues around the death of a loved one with such care, dignity, empathy and humanity. These are people who care about people;  they know what it is to have loved and lost for themselves and they want to see others learn from their experience. They take a wider look at how our attitudes to death have changed as doctors have learned how to prolong life beyond anything that could have been imagined a few generations ago. So, are we keeping people alive because we should or simply because we can? As the book itself outlines; “there are no easy answers, but the first step must be to accept that death can be as welcome as it is inevitable.”

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Speaking out and hitting home

What makes a difficult personality- is it someone who tends to see the problems and things that need still to be done rather than to praise the achievements and successes of what has been delivered? I am thought to be blunt, direct, lacking in thought, insensitive and confrontational- and these are just the views of my family! Yet others tell me I am thoughtful, sensitive, patient, tolerant and a good listener. I sometimes struggle to understand which version of me people are getting and how much I am letting God down in how I conduct myself. I always feel that I act  consistently and that I am “a what you see is what you get” personality. Is it just possible that those  who are closest to me are likely to get the harshest treatment because I love them the most? Jeff Lucas has in the past made fun of  Christians who use the phrase “speaking the truth in love”, as a thinly veiled excuse for giving someone a verbal kicking. Throughout my life I have always got into difficulties when speaking up or taking a stand, so should I stop?  Thanks once more to Nick Fawcett’s Daily Prayer who reveals a truth through prayer that is tailor made for me:

“Help me to know when it is not only right but necessary to speak, and when such moments come, give me wisdom, sensitivity and courage, so that i will know the words to say and be enabled to say them. Give me that rare ability to speak the truth in love..Loving God, help me to speak your challenging, reforming and renewing word of truth, for your name’s sake. Amen.”

So, it’s not so much what I say as when and how I say it and the motivation of my heart in raising it. Let me be a builder up more than a knocker down!

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Run Terry, Run

terry waiteThe Times Newspaper recentlycarried an interesting piece from former hostage and special envoy to the Archbishop of Canterbury on the importance of Independent MPs at Westminster. Terry says about recent events; ” As spectator sports go I have to confess to mixed feelings. I take little delight in seeing anyone publicly injured and humiliated. But along with the vast majority of the population, I am amused and angry. Amused at the ducks, the moat, horse manure, dry rot and phantom mortgages. Angry that, as Jonathan Aitken (who ought to know about these matters) said on the Today programme, compliance has replaced conscience. The truth is that the gunpowder has been accumulating for a very long time. Increasingly a professional class of politician has grown and the more professional they have become, the more remote they are.”

The former Church Army Evangelist  was irritated by Roy Hattersley recent observation that independent MPs were a waste of space.  Waite says, “ He knows as well as I do that there is virtually no difference between the two main parties in Westminster and the vast majority of Labour and Tory politicians are gagged, bound and beaten by the whip. No self-respecting individual in touch with the the people of this country and wishing to represent them could possibly submit to that. It reduces the individual to mere voting fodder and that is what the majority have become. Small wonder that they turn their attention to dealing with dry rot at their second home rather than speaking boldly in Parliament.”  It seems as if Terry’s frustration  that politicians see themselves as an elite class has had an impact “Quite truthfully my mind is not yet made up and I guess there are a number of people in the same position as myself. We want the best for our country and if we take on the burden of office we will not take it on lightly and certainly not for personal gain. Perhaps a main contribution will be to put a bit of ginger into Parliament and encourage the long overdue reform of both houses. It is a total disgrace that once reform of the Lords was set in motion it was put on hold mainly because further reform would be too great a threat to the Commons. . Parliament is important but not the moribund Parliament we have suffered for far too long. The transformation from duckhouse to doghouse was rapid and took everyone by surprise. Now is the time for the people of this country to rally round those men and women willing to serve their country as independent Members of Parliament. They won’t have all the answers but they may well bring some fresh air into a political hothouse that has been suffocating for far too long. “

Sounds to me like this is the beginning of a stump speech. Terry’s autobiography  “Taken on Trust”was considered a classic account of man’s survival at the limits of human endurance. If he can survive the Lebanese gulag with the three resolutions of no regrets, no false sentimentality and no self-pity- he sounds like the right sort of independent guy for Westminster.

For the full report see http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/guest_contributors/article6367904.ece

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Shame and embarrassment

A Day of shame and embarrassment for the Catholic Church in Ireland. That’s how Roy Jenkins described the impact of stories about Roman Catholic run institutions who failed the children and young people in their care. A day of pain and anger for survivors too, who recounted nightmarish, horrific stories of how they were treated- and the burden and scars mental and physical that they carry to this day. The church is ashamed ,and rightly so,  and the whole Christia movement should be grieving about the way these young people were abused. We share in  the rebuke for trust breached. It is simply not enough to say sorry and expect to retain any respect and credibility when claim to love and care  for all people. We have a very real duty to protect those in our communities who are most vulnerable and at risk. We have shamed the Christ we represent. We have let him down and true repentance is what is called for.

This issue should not just be dealt with by our courts. I would like to see some sort of truth and reconciliation framework set up to help address the needs of these broken people and our broken faith. We need to show remorse and do what can be done to confront the pain of the past head-on. May we  be brave enough to cope with the consequences.

This week is one of  broken and failed institutions being found out for letting the people down. The people will have their say and their day. Who knows where this will all lead?

I share Roy’s view that In the tears of the  abused children Christ was weeping too.

Hear the full broadcast at http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/programmes/thought/

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The Virginity bill for education

Tonight commuting home from a meeting I read on page 7 of the free evening newspaper that an 18- year old auctioned her virginity for £8,782 to raise the cash to study computing at university. Defending her actions Romanian Alina Percea was quoted as saying that the auction was “not like prostitution because it was a one-off and I did this for good reasons.”  On page 8  I read that the LSE and ICL Universities have been granted £24m by millionaire Jermey Grantham to research the economics of climate change and to study climate science. Funny old world! Come to think of it my undergraduate daughter is struggling to make ends meet at the moment…I think I’ll give her a call!

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Our Muslim neighbours, our friends, our shared hope for community

In this morning’s  BBC Radio4 Thought for the Day  Abdal Hakim Murad shared that a new survey by the Gallup organisation has revealed that Muslims are much more likely than the general population to have confidence in British institutions such as the judiciary, the political process, the media and the police. 77% seven percent of UK Muslims say that they identify with the UK, compared to only fifty percent of the general population.

As politicians fret about social cohesion, and worry that our national identity is at risk. Some commentators mistrust religious and ethnic minorities, with their continuing desire to be distinctive. Yet if the concern is about our sense of belonging, the Gallup poll suggests that the Muslim minority is more part of the solution than part of the problem. Difference does not have to undermine cohesion. It is clear that one important part of being British is that there is no single way of being British. Pilgrims in Mecca, a city where the English language was never heard only a couple of generations ago, can now be heard speaking with the most perfect Glaswegian, Liverpudlian, or  London accents.

Both Jesus and the Prophet outline the importance of  loving  for your neighbours what you love for yourself. Abdal says that ” for me, that means more than sharing an occasional cup of sugar. It means affirming what is best in their own heritage. Religion, at its best, allows us to be different, while helping others to be true to themselves.”

To hear the Broadcast in full see http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/programmes/thought/

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Better red that dead?

Well known Christian author and speaker, Tony Campolo has coined the term “Red Letter Christians” as a new description for progressive Evangelicals. Like Tony,  I too am fed up with the term Evangelical being synonymous with right-wing, pro-war, anti-gay, anti-feminist, pro-gun politics . It is sad to see that progresive orthodox Christians have to resort to a new descriptor in order to show that our faith can stand for a progressive inclusive ethic.  I guess from time we all think “Lord save us from your followers!”

The term Red Letter Christians comes from a renewed focus on the words of Jesus in the Bible (often marked out in red)- a focus on the poor, the socially excluded, the prisoners, the homeless, the widow and the orphan. Tony argues that if we take these words and the ethic of Jesus at face value and  let it drive our Christian agenda then we really can transform society. It calls for us to stand up and be counted, get politically involved and transform society to better reflect  the teachings of Jesus.  Jesus made a difference everywhere he went and yet so often we are but a pale imitation of what he said and did.

I recall an old socialist anthem called the Red Flag  but however loudly it was sung it never really did fly here in UK  or make much difference: a great rallying cry but short on delivery- in fact it was replaced by “Things can only get better” (but they didn’t -it really was a D-REAM). Maybe it’s time to run a Christian red flag up the pole and give it the best salute we can manage as a broken, authentic unfinished church.

There is a well-known phrase “Paint the town red”- which means to go out, enjoy yourself and make it show in your community- to literally tranform the town with a new colour. Let’s hope that Red Letter Christians go out and do just that in their communities and make people feel included and not exluded. Let’s pray that no-one waters down their redness on the way!

A good account of Tony’s thinking  on this can be found at http://www.christiantoday.com/article/red.letter.christianity.a.new.name.for.progressive.evangelicals/22438.htm

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