Why I don’t agree with Steve Chalke

Posted: January 20, 2013 in Religion

Steve Chalke has done great work in bringing young people to know and love Jesus. In the eighties, I took my two youngest children to numerous events organised by Oasis and they both belonged to a group led by an Oasis trained youth pastor. Sadly, I think that moving amongst young people who have been exposed to  a secularist agenda at school has  resulted in him taking up a position that is in opposition to a foundational (note that I don’t say basis or fundamental) Christian belief.

At the time I was taking my children to Christian events, i belonged to a group that was barely accepted in church. One married Christian friend told my that she wouldn’t invite my to lunch and the minister at another local church invited my children without me. I am a divorcee. Things have changed and I, and others in the same position, are not only welcome in church but are part of the leadership team. So why do I regret Steve Chalke’s article and why am I not sympathetic to equal partnership?

I must say first of all, that I do regret the treatment of  lesbian and gay people, some, but not all of whom, are inclined that way from birth. I believe that we live in a broken world, one that does not conform to the maker’s original design. Broken relationships, including my own, are the result of sin. Since I was baptised, I have tried, and often failed, to lead a new life in Christ. The reason I disagree with Steve Chalke and agree with the Evangelical Alliance, is that I believe that in continuing in a same sex relationship and performing the homoerotic sex act lesbians and gay men are making no attempt to lead a new life.

My own church included homosexuality in a series of ethical talks we had last year in conjunction with other local churches. The speaker was an evangelical gay man who struggled with his inclinations but did not support gay marriage. If we support equal partnership we are jumping on the bandwagon of secularism which says that we should do whatever feels good. We all struggle with a range of issues that arise from our brokenness. I have not overtly used the bible in my argument but my understanding of it is the same as Steve Holmes of the Evangelical Alliance who wrote:

“The Bible tells a narrative of the marring of God’s perfect creation by human sin, and of God’s response to that, motivated by His determination never to let go of that which He has formed and loved, and centred in Christ. This story is sometimes summed up as ‘Creation; Fall, Redemption; Consummation’.”

Yes, we should welcome all, including lesbians and gay men, divorcees, those with mental health problems and all kinds of disabilities. Jesus would have done so but he also told people to go and sin no more. In affirming equal partnerships we are affirming the values of our society not the values of God.

David Cameron and Gay Marriage

Posted: December 8, 2012 in Politics, Religion

So David Cameron has moved from merely supporting gay marriage to wanting it to take place in church. Why do you think he has done this? And why now? Why is he making such a big thing of it when there are other issues (the economy and the continuing war in Afghanistan to name but two) of greater importance?

The minister from one of our  local baptist churches, who comes from Sweden where the culture is even more secular that the UK, has the answer. He can risk he wrath of his back benchers because it is popular with all parties and the public at large. Right now, he has successfully manoeuvred media attention away from the autumn statement. It is nothing more or less than a populist tactic. There is something very inconsistent about the leader of a party that wants to slim down state intervention trying to dictate on matter of individual conscience.

As a bible believing Christian, I am unwilling to redefine marriage to include same sex couples. I agree with Nigel Wright, former president of Surgeon’s College that there needs to be a separation of church and state. Let all couples have a legally binding civil partnership, as in other countries like Japan, followed (if the couple so wishes) by a wedding according to religious, or non-religious, affiliation. The Church of England does have a problem, because it is the state church, and we baptists, as a self- funding theocracy, are in a much more favourable position. Earlier this year, we debated several issues, including gay marriage, and the speaker, a non-practising gay man, was not himself in favour of gay marriage.

Although there is currently not going to be any pressure on churches to marry gay couples, this latest thoughtless act of David Cameron is another step in that direction.

What is a Socialist?

Posted: December 6, 2012 in Politics, Religion
Tags: ,

When I read that the Christian Socialist Movement (CSM), of which I’m a not very active member, was thinking of changing it’s name to omit the word ‘socialist”, I wasn’t well pleased. Why? I suppose it was a gut reaction to what happened when Labour became New Labour. A move I considered to be a move away from socialism and towards big business capitalists and bankers. I regarded myself as definitely ‘old’ labour and definitely not a Blairite. I can understand that the Labour party needed to get the press on its side if it were ever to get in power but, like the late Dennis Potter, who called his cancer Rupert, I deplored this man’s power and influence long before it was fashionable to do so.

So what does the word ‘socialist’ mean to me, and how does this relate to my Christian values? First of all, it means social justice: a fairer society in which there isn’t an ever widening gap between rich and poor with the rich getting ever richer and the poor being told that there is opportunity there if only they are prepared to work. I’d like to see a society in which there is a much fairer distribution of wealth. It’s not yet as bad as America, where the absurd electoral system puts power directly into the hands of the country’s richest citizens, but it’s going that way. Jesus teaches us to have compassion for the poor and the vulnerable and i see a socialist political ideology as most conducive to this.

Secondly, for me, Christian Socialism stands for the common good: a society in which everyone cares about everyone else, obeying Jesus’ commandment to love one another. It’s the antithesis of Thatcherism which encouraged greed and for us all to think only of ourselves. It doesn’t mean utilitarianism – the greatest good of the greatest number – although that’s an improvement on what we’ve got. Neither is it based on rights – a real buzz word these days – because one person’s rights clash with those of somebody else.  We’ve seen this having a negative effect on Christians when it comes to displaying symbols of our faith or offering to pray with people. The society that I think we should be aiming for is based on responsibilities rather than rights.

Left of centre governments are generally expected to tax and spend so what is my view on taxation? Well, I think we should all pay our fair share of taxes. It should not be possible for companies like Starbucks, Amazon and Google to avoid paying tax and stay inside the law. Again (and I really do abhor Thatcherism) the more people have the more they want to keep. I can avoid going to Starbucks and, although this is harder, I can stop buying books and other goods from Amazon, but Google has now insinuated it’s way into the browser of my MacBook!

On benefits, I have blogged before. I see them as a safety net rather than as a universal right. New Labour did hand out far too much money in housing benefit which went into the hands of landlords who happily put up the rent and invested in more properties.

The other thing Thatcher did in her war against socialism was to sell off the public utilities. The prices of gas, electricity and water, have got ever higher in the name of competition. I’m sorry but I don’t want all those choices and to keep having to shop around for a cheaper supplier when the one I’ve got puts its price up. These are things we all need and they should be available at a reasonable price. So, yes, I do believe in a degree of common ownership. I haven’t yet mentioned the railways which became a complete mess after they were sold off. It’s hardly fair that different people pay different prices for the same journey in the same railway carriage depending when and how they bought their tickets.

In conclusion, I cling to the word ‘socialist’ because for me it suggests a fairer society in which Christ rather than Mammon can reign.

Weekly Whinge

Posted: October 9, 2010 in Politics

I am a member of the Labour Party and CSM (Christian Socialist Movement) but I find myself in sympathy with David Cameron, and (even more unlikely) George Osborne. Yes, Osborne’s welfare reforms weren’t properly thought through – a family receiving joint income of £80 000 is to receive child benefit whereas one earning over £44 000 is not. But in my book, neither of them should get anything. The welfare state was not set up to provide pocket money for the middle classes. It should not be a universal right. Only the poorest and most vulnerable should have to rely on the state. The argument about rents in the south east of England doesn’t wash.Shame on you Diane Abbot – you were second on my list of preferences for Labour Leader! If the rents are unaffordable, landlords should be forced to put them down. The property bubble burst; the same should happen to lettings.

The last labour government was too generous with welfare benefits. A woman on a high salary received more than one on a low salary for child care. She shouldn’t have received anything as she could afford to pay. David Starkey talks about the unworthy poor, what about the unworthy rich?

Cameron? Well, I do occasionally like Conservative politicians. I have quite often found myslef agreeing with Ken Clarke. Cameron, apart from banging on incessantly about the legacy of the last Labour governernment, is doing an OK job. I’m keeping an open mind. Nick Clegg is a different matter all together. Take note Ed Milliband – we are watching.

Biblical Motifs

Posted: September 25, 2010 in Literature, Psychology, Religion

‘What you are experiencing now is the motif of many Greek tragedies’ Oshima tells fifteen year old Kafka in Haruki Murakami’s oddball novel, Kafka on the Shore. He’s referring to the prophecy made by the boy’s father that he would kill him and ‘be wiih’ his mother and sister; the well documented oedipus complex. There is no doubt that modern literary culture owes much to the Greeks. Just lately, however, I have being noticing more and more motifs that can be taced back to the Christian bible; some of them in unexpected places.

The latest of these is Murakami’s novel. During WW2, a teacher takes a party of schoolchildren into the hills, where they all become unconscious after seeing ‘a silver light in the sky’, moving ‘from east to west’. Surely this is a subversion of the biblical narrative of the three wise men from the east, who follow a star? Later, two thousand mackerel and sardines rain from the sky. This reminded me of Jesus’s  miracle of feeding five thousand with two loaves and and five fishes. It’s followed by the surrealist image of Nakata, an ageing simpleton (the only one of the schoolchildren to be permanently afflicted), putting up his umbrella whereupon leeches rained down from the sky. This had me thinking about the plague of leeches sent when the Israelites were in Egypt. I don’t know where Murakami stands in relationship to Christianity, but he does seem to have a working knowledge of the scriptures.

I am not a great fan of Russell T Davies’s Torchwood, which has far too much gratuitous violence and sex for my taste I did, although i did watch ‘Children of Earth’, which was shown over five consecutive days. Ultimately, Captain Jack, played by John Barrowman, sacrifices his own grandson in order to save all  the other children on earth. Where did this motif come from if not from the God and Father who sacrificed His only  Son in order that all might have ‘eternal life’ (John 3:16). Other work of Davies’s is also imbued with religious ideas. In Dr Who, he endows the Tenth Doctor with  godlike propensities.

I’m just starting an Open University course, Advanced Creative Writing, having again put off doing an MA. The MA syllabus, interestingly, includes the first three chapters of the bible and Milton’s Paradise Lost. Biblical motifs do seem to be surfacing, dare I say, from what Jung called the collective unconscious.

I started reading this book before my recent visit to Japan, where I visited Shinjuku, Ginza and other area of Tokyo, which enabled me to get a much better picture of  the novel’s location. The plot is simple: Toru Okada has given up his job to consider what he wants to do in life and goes in search of his missing cat, which is called Noboru Wataya after his brother-in law. This leads him into encounters with eccentric characters in bizarre situations and dissolving realities. During the course of the novel, Okado’s wife, Kumiko, also disappears and his goal becomes getting her back. The cat eventually returns and is re-named ‘Mackerel’ but Noboru Wataya, the man, becomes the focus of the disparate narratives; somehow to blame for his sister going ‘bad’ and the ”defilement’ of other characters. There is also a story told by a Lieutenant Mamiya who who was involved in the wars between Japan and Russia, and China and WWII. Through him the reader is introduced to another ‘evil’ character, ‘Boris the Russia’. He does have another name but that would be giving away something of the story for those who have not read it. What happens is a mixture of surrealism and the occult and there is a fatalism about individual destinies.

The characters have memorable idiosyncrasies: Malta Kano with her red vinyl hat; Creta Carno with her Sixties hair and make-up, the impeccably well dressed Nutmeg and her mute son Cinnamon, who like Toru Okado, does the domestic chores. Nutmeg and Cinnamon are enigmatic but there is a sense in which they appear to be good, helping their clients to overcome the badness in themselves. Murakami is interested in questions about existence and moral philosophy. Okado’s story is linked to that of Lieutenant Mamiya by a well; both characters spend some time down a well. Okado’s well is in the garden of the so-called Hanging House, which is empty because of its history. Another character, seventeen year old May Kasahara lives across the alleyway from the hanging house. She ultimately finds the answer to life’s problems by appreciating small things.

This is my second Murakami novel: the first was ‘Hard-boiled Wonderland and The End of the World’; written as two parallel narratives which eventually meet. I can see the development from wells, passages and labyrinths to the more  science fiction/fantasy world over the later novel.

blog-tag you’re it

Posted: February 6, 2009 in Philosophy, Poetry, Religion, Science

Question 1. Readers who have been hanging with you for a while probably know this, but those of us who are newer don’t…what is your connection with a ‘watermaid’? How did you come to name your site that? ‘

Watermaid’ is one of a sequence of poems in ‘Labyrinths with Path of Thunder’ written by African poet, Christopher Okigbo, who died fighting for Biafra in the Sixties. His poems, only available second-hand, in back copies of Transitions or in the Appendix of Aestheticism & Modernism, contain a mixture of Judeo-Christianity (notably Genesis and Revelation), African religion and African colonial and post-colonial history.

The flower weeps, unbruised,
for him who was silenced
whose advent dumb-bells celebrate
in dim light with wine song:

Messiah will come again
After the argument in heaven
Messiah will come again…

Fingers of penitence
bring to a palm grove
vegetable offering with five
fingers of chalk…

I started my blog soon after I’d been studying Okigbo’s poetry. ‘Watermaid’ made for an alliterative title and I’m drawn to water as well as to poetry. I live a couple of miles from the south coast of England and I also love rivers, lakes and waterfalls.

2. You’re quite the melding pot of science, philosophy and spirituality. Can you tell us a bit about how each of these disciplines makes your life deeper, richer, more meaningful?

I’m really rather boring. Science is simply what I studied at University. My chemistry teacher told my parents that I had ‘an academic nature’. Throughout my life, I have felt the need to study something: chemistry, physics, biology, mathematics, statistics, psychology, philosophy, literature and even ‘how to do’ creative writing. A friend once described me as very ‘cerebral’ (and that was at a time when I was running a group for mums and toddlers!) So I guess that it enriches my life when I’m able to use my brain.

I don’t come from a spiritual or religious family but as a child I chose to go to Sunday school and I went to church until I was sixteen. At that time I started to question some of the ideas I’d grown up with and I also became interested in boys. For a time I was drawn to eastern religions and I have never stopped seeking. On many issues I am an agnostic. I believe that there is a God shaped hole in all (or most of us). This was confirmed only this week by Sir Robert Winston, a biologist, who said that spirituality is genetically programmed. As I’ve said in my post ‘The Mystery of Life’ on Watermaid’s Webblog, I don’t think the findings of science have anything to say about the mystery of life or spirituality. The new science of evodevo will probably be able to predict the future course of evolution but for me that has nothing to do with the God debate. I’m glad I did science because it enables me to understand things I wouldn’t have otherwise been able to understand. I’ve also been able to earn a living as a science and maths teacher.

Philosophy, as well as being useful in enabling me to check for flaws in an argument, is also the place in which to ponder such things as being and existence. When I was studying philosophy, we were told that philosophers divide 50:50 on the existence of God.

3. What is the hardest type of poetry for you to write? Can you explain why?

That’s an easy one. Poetry that is very fanciful. I admire bloggers who have a more powerful imagination than mine. So it’s a failure of imagination on my part. The nearest I can get is to write the sort of poetry that might appeal to children – sort of fairy stories. You haven’t asked me what sort of poetry I find easiest to write but I;m going to tell you anyway – poetry with rhythm and rhyme – because I love mathematics, music and dancing.

4. What is the oddest pair of shoes (or hat or some piece of clothing) you’ve ever owned or worn?

I hate hats. They don’t suit me so I don’t wear them. I suppose the wellies (and I’m not keen on wellies either) that I bought last winter are a bit odd. They are brightly coloured because they are covered with red, yellow and green peppers. I have an eccentric friend who owns two horses, some jersey cows, several dogs and with whom I sometimes walk in the New Forest. She gets people lost and this often entails wading through bogs – hence the need for wellingtons.

5. What are three words/phrases that describe how you live your life?

quirkily – my eldest son said I was ‘quirky’

independent – I actually enjoy living on my own. I was very bad at marriage.

spiritual – I value love, truth and justice. I get very worked up when I think than something is unjust. I have had to answer these questions as honestly as I can. The greatest thing of all is love.

I think I may have cheated on the last question. Thank you Beth for interviewing me.

Please let me know if you wish to do an interview. Here are the instructions: 1. Leave me a comment to this post saying, “Interview me” and give me a way to contact you. Or you can email me at carole14641(at) hotmail (dot) com

2. I will respond by e-mailing you five questions (I get to pick the questions!)

3. You update your blog with the answers to the questions. If you don’t have a blog, I will post your answers on this one in the comments section, or maybe make you into a guest blogger!

4. Please include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.

5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions….and on we go!