Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!!!!!!!!

Well, whatever state of inebriation or rampant shovelling of food down your gobs you might be in, I just wished to say to you all: HAVE A MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A VERY HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!!!


As you’ll notice, the President of America, Barack Obama, who is a close personal friend of mine (hey, he owed me money once) sent me his Christmas greetings, and wanted me to pass them on to you.  What a guy!  He said: ‘Hey fella, how’s tricks mate, just wanted to let you know that me and the missus were thinking about you, and the kids send their love as well, and I’ll get that £20 quid I owe you back as soon as, promise, and don’t drink too much eggnog, and get drunk and vomit all over the cat! Remember last time at the White House?! All my love, Bazza!’ He’s a laugh isn’t he, he knows I hate eggnog (well, have you ever met anyone who likes it?) but he insists on bringing it up every year! Not just a great Pres then?!! My mate!

                                              Merry Chrimbo lad; from me and the missus!!!
Anyway, hope you all have a lovely Chrimbo and a wonderful time!  And, if you can’t be good, be careful!

Monday, 2 December 2013

The Flawed Men of God

I think of three men in the Bible that I can particularly identify with, because although they all did wonderful things through the God that called them and shaped for His purposes, they were all flawed, they were all sinners and they all had to go through a lot of crap in their lives before God straightened them out!  Sounds like my shaky walk with God to be honest.  The inference sometimes in England, even amongst Christians it seems, is that a person must already be good, already be respectable, already be rather gentle and well to do and then you become a Christian to reflect that; in other words you join a nice brigade to confirm how nice you are!  The three men I identify with at this particular time are King David, Saint Paul and Moses, all men of God but in their own ways deeply flawed men. 


Many people in England seem to think that Christianity is a religion for nice people, people who have it all together, the rather respectable sort of person who has no financial worries, has the right social status, is perfect emotionally and spiritually and has no real problems, and so going to church is the ‘icing on the cake’ to a wonderful life, rather like a club for those who have made it.  I suspect this view could be held in America and Australia and other countries where Christianity is, at least nominally anyway, held as the religion or upholds the morals of that society.  At worst in England it’s seen as rather prissy, rather wussy, something that is part of genteel society and if I am honest something seen as a bit Middle or even Upper Middle class and in some cases like the Church of England seems almost to be a part of the establishment.  This is not me being cruel, but just how I see it.  Is the Bible only for the well to do, the great and the good and those who have wealth and privilege and power?  Perhaps if this is what Christianity was meant to be about Jesus would have been born in a palace and not a stable being chased out of Israel by King Herod, the genocidal maniac.  I know that Christians should be gentle and kind and compassionate and concerned with other people, but sometimes if I see wealthy people claiming to be Christians whilst at the same time seeming to find their security in the wealth and high social status and the material prosperity they have and the things it will buy them and the lifestyle they can attain through that wealth, I seem to feel a little confused.  It is as if by claiming Christianity, some people can do what they like and use their Christian status as a kind of ‘get out of jail free’ card.  I understand that this may offend some people but I feel it has to be said because it’s what a lot of Christians say and I believe that the truth about these and many other matters far outweighs the pleasant platitudes that some people speak or hold about Christianity.  Christianity is not a tool of the establishment, or of rich and powerful people, nor is it the religion of the well to do or the Anglo Saxon cultures around the world or particularly European either.  If anyone at all in fact tries to ‘use’ God to rubberstamp their own possibly selfish ambitions or use the respectability of being a Christian or regular churchgoer or even being a reverend or priest to do things that are completely unchristian or be nasty and offensive and as worldly as anyone not particularly a Christian at all, they have misused faith like the Pharisees did.


When the scribes of the Pharisee party saw him eating with sinners and tax collectors, they said to his disciples, 'Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?'  When Jesus heard this he said to them, 'It is not the healthy who need the doctor, but the sick. I came to call not the upright, but sinners.'   (Mark 2:16-17 NJB)

David was a shepherd boy and just a nobody from a humble family, who was told by God that he was marked out for something special, that being that he would be king of Israel.  I expect he thought at first ‘oh yeah, okay, whatever, just let me tend me sheep mate!’ or words to that effect.  But he became a king, and was a man after God’s own heart, after many troubles and being basically a warrior and perhaps was also an outsider within the most famous group of outsiders, the Israelites.  The term Hebrew is I think a term similar to Gypsy today in that David and his kin were outcasts or outsiders or like the Irish travellers, and yet God calls David to lead His people.  Of course David had to become a warlord and a fighter to eventually become a king, and he liked his women too did David, unlike Christian men today of course…?! Then again… anyway, he also had a man more or less bumped off so he could get his hands on the man’s wife.  Not really a nice bloke to be honest, yet God said ‘…"I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart, who will perform my entire will."  (Acts 13:22 NJB)   Hmm, curious.  A murderer, womaniser and man of violence, and yet God’s man!  Not exactly your textbook English vicar from the Home Counties was he??!!

Saul was a religious man, a law abiding man, a man who scrupulously kept the law and a man who upheld the law vigorously, and a man of God.  Or so he thought anyway.  He upheld the law so vigorously that he persecuted the early Christians thinking he was doing God’s will.  Effectively, he was killing ‘in the name of God.’  Is that the truest and most obscene definition of taking God’s name in vain, the vilest form of blasphemy?  Isn’t any form of self-righteous behaviour hidden behind a religious front, especially when the person is cynically using their respectability as a religious person to do things they shouldn’t be doing, blasphemous to some degree?  But Saul, when he was Paul, admitted that while he sinned grievously, he was in ignorance.  His excuse was that he thought he was truly in the right by ruthlessly persecuting Christians, but he couldn’t have been more wrong.  There is a lesson for us all there.


Moses thought he was a high born prince of Egypt, but he found out that he was a son of slaves, a low born Israelite.  A man brought up in the family of the pharaoh who was bred for perhaps the very highest office and the most advanced and most powerful and certainly most sophisticated and enduring civilisation of its day, who was actually something he never dreamed of.  Isn’t that a bit like all of us to some degree?  We all get caught up in everyday affairs, personality clashes, little and not so little worries and we become sophisticated and worldly and at the same time world weary, stuck right in the middle of what we think will make us happy and yet at the same time fed up with it all. 

Sheer futility, Qoheleth says. Sheer futility: everything is futile!  What profit can we show for all our toil, toiling under the sun?  (Ecclesiastes 1:2-3 NJB)


Maybe at times we all need a way of escape, and it was of course Moses’ great calling that became the most famous escape of all.  No, I don’t mean Steve McQueen as Hilts on his motorbike, as cool as Steve was in ‘The Great Escape’!  I mean the Israelites out of their 400 years bondage of slavery to Egypt, where they were making bricks for the pyramids of the pharaohs.  Egypt represents the worldly, the material, the wealthy and the comfortable, although Israel are enslaved to create these very things, as often people today become slaves to ambition or to making money or lose themselves to excess or the pursuit of pleasure and sensuality and finding security in their wealth or sophistication or high social status of some kind.  In the end however what they thought might make them free actually makes them slaves.  It’s a modern dilemma we all seem to face.  Moses gave it all up to lead his people to the Promised Land.  He left the land of material wealth and worldly power for something that his people were really all about, spiritual riches in abundance and an intimate relationship with God, being obedient to God rather than their own fractured egos and individual selfishness.  It didn’t quite work out as planned though did it?!  What’s new, hey?!  They got stuck in the wilderness for 40 years, running around in circles, complaining, moaning, grumbling, not being satisfied with the menu on offer, generally being pissed off with old Moses and wondering just where on earth they were going anyway.  If you’ve travelled on British trains you’ll know the feeling well!!!  After escaping the stifling slavery of Egypt, they meandered and traipsed and moved half-heartedly to wherever they were going, like kids with their mum in the supermarket, whining one minute and blaming someone the next.  There’s no pleasing some people is there?!  Moses was another flawed man of God, who did actually murder an Egyptian, yet God makes something of him that no one would have even guessed at. 

The three of them then were deeply flawed men by any standards, definitely by today’s standards and certainly by God’s high standards, yet each played a major role in God’s purposes proving that even deeply flawed people whatever they have done can have a second chance or can do great things for God, if they have faith and call on Him from the heart.  Even flawed people can have a thirst and hunger for God, in fact I sometimes think it is those who are notoriously or chronically flawed who thirst and hunger the most for God and for His righteousness.


A Confession

I was a woman hater, the complete misogynist, and for a long time have had problems with women and an anger and bitterness towards women, the root of bitterness the Bible warns about perhaps.  Whatever the case, I have had a lot of resentment towards women for a long time, and I am beginning to get help with this issue.  My attitudes towards women then have been skewed for a long time because for some reason I just seemed to meet angry, unpleasant, indifferent and even hateful women especially in pubs and nightclubs, but even in colleges and universities too.  I suppose I have just been unlucky but it didn’t help matters and put me off women for a long time.  At the same time though, God has sent me a number of women friends, some Christian and some not, who I have growing friendships with and who are all a regular feature of my life.  Of course, these are all women that I have a fondness and affection for and who in many case I love like sisters.  But, being honest, my anger is as much about the way I was treated than it is about who treated me so badly, or negatively it might be better to say.  When anyone puts themselves on the line and makes themselves vulnerable, risking being rejected, who does in fact not take it completely seriously?  The British pub and especially the nightclub scene is to a certain extent superficial and trying to find love or meaningful  relationships there is probably not the ideal place to look but as British culture can be a very limited culture, where else can single people often find love, and that goes double maybe for Christians?  Being drunk as well or at least half cut is also seeing the situation, and other people, through beer goggles and is often not a good idea either I think.

So we have a dilemma, or rather I have a dilemma which I know millions of people throughout the world have; that of wanting to find genuine romantic love but trying to get over the hurdle of hurt, anger and pain that I feel over my past rejections and failed romances.  A wall builds up that seems insurmountable and perhaps although other people help build it with their cruelty and indifference and even nastiness, we sometimes supply the bricks and help build it with them and then cement it with our own hatred and low self-worth and even by feeding off the negativity.  I have done that before today too for sure. 


The Church Going Christian

Would Jesus accept homeless people, the lost, the completely hopeless, those with mental health problems, those who are chronically addicted to drink or drugs or caught up in OCD or filled with anger and hatred?  You know, the sort of people we don’t really want to be around or can’t really be bothered with or the people you don’t want sitting next to you on a bus because they might smell or say something weird or just because they may engage us in conversation and we feel embarrassed. 


”For I was hungry and you never gave me food, I was thirsty and you never gave me anything to drink, I was a stranger and you never made me welcome, lacking clothes and you never clothed me, sick and in prison and you never visited me."  Then it will be their turn to ask, "Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty, a stranger or lacking clothes, sick or in prison, and did not come to your help?"   Then he will answer, "In truth I tell you, in so far as you neglected to do this to one of the least of these, you neglected to do it to me."   (Matthew 25:42-45 NJB)

Would many Christians even want some of those people in their churches?  I do wonder sometimes. 

Church is for people who have no friends, right?  It’s usually filled with rather polite old ladies in flowery hats, right?  It’s a place where you have to agree with everyone and there are no characters or individuality, right?  It’s a clique for religious people who think they are better than everyone else, right?  I could keep going on and on here because I have thought, said and believed all of the above and much more about church before today and I think many other people have and do, even some Christians.  I had a fear above all that it would compromise my individuality and hinder my walk with God too!!!  It hasn’t on either count.  So, you probably guess that I am now a church going Christian after 40 years in the wilderness.  Yeah ok, that’s a bit dramatic but in essence there is a lot of truth to it as I didn’t go to church for years and have just got involved with one.  I was more likely to attack the idea of church than actually see it as a force for good and that it is essential for growing in the Christian life, having Christian friends who know where you are coming from, which is important if you don’t come from a Christian family or Christian background of some kind, and in encouraging you in your Christian walk which of course your non-Christian friends just won’t do will they, even if they are good friends.  So, church is finally part of this Christian’s life, and about time too!

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

The Nice Guy

Everyone loves a nice guy right?  All the ladies sit around in coffee bars and pubs and their friends’ home watching some soap and drinking wine saying they’d love to meet a decent man but bemoaning the fact that there are no decent men left anywhere.  But, at the same time, we all know that decent guys always come last don’t they?  They’re the ones who get overlooked, ignored, messed about, side-lined and, generally because they’re too nice perhaps, women feel they can always depend on them to be there but at the same time aren’t taken too seriously at all.  The nice guy always comes back, is always there on time, is always friendly, is always sincere and genuine when he says he likes you and wants to take you out and is nice and dependable…  and boring!  Isn’t that the downside ladies, the nice guy is too nice, always dependable and quite frankly rather boring just because he is such a nice guy?!  That’s the perception I get from women anyway, from reading magazines and looking at websites and just from being around many women in the past in colleges and universities and friends’ houses.  Women like a bad boy, right?!  They love someone exciting, mysterious, perhaps bringing with them a frisson of danger and unpredictability, someone who won’t be told what to do and won’t pander to a woman’s sulks so she can control him or get him to do what she wants and when she wants, a bloke who takes control and takes what he wants and is devil may care even dismissive of the woman he runs around with, and it seems with this type of bloke, women fall hook, line and sinker.

In some ways, I have often been a nice guy, someone who thought the best of everyone and was naïve completely to the ways of the world and the ways of people too.  I was put upon, bullied and pissed about by friends and women I used to meet.  But, I am not going to give you a sob story here because I haven’t always been a nice guy either and have not been a saint either and there are things I have done I regret, although nothing terrible, and there are things I said as well to other people that I deeply regret but can’t really do anything about now.  I think most of us can be nice sometimes and at other times not so nice.  Few are genuine saints anywhere.  And I can also say that at times I could be very cruel and sarcastic and vitriolic towards other people, usually if they riled me or upset me in some way, partially because I got fed up with being hurt and treated badly by people.  I developed a hard shell to protect my vulnerable soft centre and my very easily hurt feelings; I think many people develop this and in some senses think it natural and even acceptable as long as our hardness does not become callousness or an excuse to be cruel or even indifferent to others.  The person bullied should never become a bully, in other words.


It is true that nice people in general get taken for granted, even women, and are seen as an easy touch or someone to poke fun at or just someone to rely on that someone can use and generally not take seriously.  And if we are honest, most of us have treated someone else like this once or twice in our lives and have taken people for granted, and many of us have also been taken for granted by people we knew or know and even by friends in the past and maybe even presently.  For many of us, being mistreated or generally taken for granted for long periods of time can leave us feeling hurt, angry, mistrustful of others and even bitter and resentful towards the people who hurt you and sometimes people in general.  I have felt all these things and more before today and it developed in me a sense that I seemed to meet, not always, people who would hurt me and abuse me or just generally treat me like crap and that I would continue to do so, so I became withdrawn and a bit of a loner.  I suppose I still am a bit of a loner really, to a point.  But like most people I need company and when I was younger and when I was a kid I had lots of friends, some close and some not so close and others just acquaintances that passed into my life briefly and then passed out again just as quickly.  I am not a natural loner I think, just someone who got used to it reluctantly and then accepted it to a degree.  I still have friends but don’t see them that often at this time and I am still single too.  That is frustrating to me somewhat, yet how do people meet people these days to genuinely fall in love with someone?  Go to pubs?  It never seemed to work.  Go to nightclubs?  Well, if you can speak over the absolute din of the music, what can you really say to someone who just wants to dance around their handbag anyway?

When I was younger I was quite a good looking boy (if I say so myself!) but incredibly shy and would blush red if a girl even talked to me; and then when I hit my mid-teens I kind of became the classic ‘ugly duckling’, somehow not quite right and was teased and even bullied and girls paid me little if any attention at all, and even if they did I was too shy to respond anyway.  Then, as happens to many young men and women, I began to notice women noticing me because somehow I fit my face and found a look that suited me.  But the years of getting little interest obviously affected me, as I know it affects many other people who bloom in their early adult years, and so I remained for a long time unsure of myself and lacked confidence in many things.  I suppose this was also because some friends I had made me feel small by belittling me.  However, if I am honest, we all took the piss out of one another as well, so I am not claiming to be some suffering saint here because I wasn’t.  But for all this, I was never someone who was genuinely cruel to others, it was usually people being nasty to me that got me going back at them.  My first friend was cruel about the fact we were poor and didn’t live in a very nice house and even criticised the food we served him after we invited him to dinner!  Yeah, some friends I had hey?!  But this was when I was a little kid so I can’t hold any anger for that or him, just a slight sense of amusement tinged with a touch of bemusement.  But such is life, and I can honestly say that as a kid I had a pretty decent and happy childhood with few real traumas… until I got older.


What I can say dispassionately is that in my pursuit of romance, in finding someone to love and care about and have a relationship with, women could be as mercenary as men in the pursuit of meaningless sexual encounters and one night stands.  Deep down, I knew early on that I wanted a proper relationship whereas friends of mine, not all of them and not all the time either, often wanted no strings attached fun, and sought the type of women that wanted that too.  Eventually, I understood one thing, that I knew then and I know now: that women can be just as big players as men, and not all women are demure and sweet and looking for long term boyfriends, but want casual flings as many men do, although the oft repeated perception is that men are always predatory and women are the innocent victims of men’s lusts and advances.  I think real life, and the men and women thing, is rather slightly more complicated than that, in fact my experience of the pub/nightclub scene, something I don’t participate in any more, is of all kinds of women and men, some nice, some not so nice, and here I am talking specifically about women and in this case some women were very sweet and nice to talk to, others were coquettish and shy, others were angry and hostile even if you just glanced at them!  I learned, as do most men, to leave those angry types alone.  And of course, as with all people everywhere, there are countless variants and admixtures and characteristics of women’s personalities.  I understand that many women have been mistreated by men, and some persuasive men will tell a woman anything at all just to get her into bed, and have no qualms at all about doing so again and again.  These types of men give all nice guys a bad reputation, and then some of those used women become angry and defensive and hostile, and offload that on to any man who approaches them, and so the vicious cycle continues and the Battle of the Sexes notches up more unhappy casualties; I am one of them.  No matter who ‘wins’ in this vicious turf war, men blaming women and women blaming men, no one ever wins and we all just retreat back behind the lines to carry on our hostilities and attacking each other, sure of only one thing: we will remain bitter and lonely, whilst always desiring someone to love.  We are pulled in two directions, and this is not good for anyone’s emotional state or mental health.

I found that on nights out, and even in colleges and places like that, women when approached might not even be hostile or angry, just indifferent and not even interested enough to be disinterested; but, sometimes when you see the same woman weeks later, perhaps in the same pub or place you saw them before, they seem interested or they are looking at you, not angrily but just what might be deemed curious or even interested.  Women especially seem to blow hot and cold, and not to say this is only women, we all do to a certain extent, we might see someone we were not interested in and then suddenly find we are interested in them; this even goes for friends of the opposite sex too, who we can suddenly or bit by bit start to develop feelings for.  But, speaking as a man, I have found that women can be like this a lot, indifferent almost as a default stance, and for many men this can be off-putting and upsetting.  You may say, well you need to develop backbone and be more of a man in this kind of situation and all the rest of it, but men are no different to women in that we don’t want to be hurt and we don’t like to be messed around and nobody but nobody likes to be rejected.


Another core of the dating game and the whole looking for love and romance scene, is the whole issue of rejection.  Even the fear of rejection is so big for many people, for both men and women, that it means we don’t speak to someone and we go home regretting what we could have said but didn’t.  Nobody likes being rejected because it makes everyone feel like a loser and, not to be vulgar, it makes everyone feel shitty and even worthless.  And if you already have issues of rejection or low self-worth or feel unloved for some reason as well, this can be a very painful stumbling block for many of us.  It is the romantic version of the Israelites seeing the Sea of Reeds and seeing no way through.  Rejection is a big problem for me, as I think it is for many people both male and female, and in the past if someone rejected me I often took it to heart and it depressed me, and of course as you go out again to change your luck but only notch up more rejections, it begins a cycle of misery, feelings of worthlessness, a growing anger towards women and the need the week after to go out again, only as you do, week after week, you are feeling more and more dejected and likely to be ignored or rejected anyway simply because you look miserable or angry or disappointed or a mixture of all three.  This can be like an addiction in itself.  I had to quit eventually.  I am in a healthier place emotionally now, but in the first instance I had to suffer these things, these rejections and the emotional pain of feeling and being rejected too.  And as I said, no one but no one likes to be rejected and no one but no one likes to feel rejected, nor may I add does anyone like other people knowing they have been rejected either.  But for the most part, it is something that some of us can internalise to even a very great degree, as I did.  The British way as well, is to drink a lot when we go out, so our emotions are on overdrive and our critical faculties become blurred just like our eyesight!  It’s then that many men make their move, after summoning up Dutch courage, and this is perhaps another problem for men to think about.  Seeking a loving and lasting relationship rarely comes about through people being in an artificial situation whilst being lubricated, especially if you’ve had one over the eight! 

Some may conclude reading this ‘you seem extremely bitter about this, and even bitter about women’ and I am bitter, but at least I am honest, brutally honest and I think we all need to be honest about this subject instead of just hiding behind hearsay and half-truths and stereotypes.  I am at least writing about my personal experiences here.  I believe that until we get honest about this whole dating scene, and the way women and men misunderstand and mistreat each other and basically polarise and blame each other, we will all be walking around blind, refusing to accept home truths until we decide to get real.  This in fact could be said about any such situation like class and racism and inequality and prejudices of all kinds.  A little dose of honest and plain speaking all around may be the fresh air we all need.


Finally, I think the last thing I say will tally with both men and women.  We all go to places like colleges, pubs, coffee bars and places like that and sometimes we see someone all the time that we like and we get the vibe they like us, but somehow etiquette or the situation or something else means we can’t say anything, added to the fear of rejection and the fact that if you are on a course or go to a place regularly for any reason, making a move on someone however politely and nicely you may do it and then getting rebuffed in some way means you will keep bumping into that person again and again; speaking from experience again, this is not a nice thing to go through at all.  And, if suddenly the person who has snubbed you suddenly starts paying attention to you but doesn’t say anything, again you are in a bind; go over and risk making a fool of yourself again, or just ignore them?  Either way, it is painful and nobody really wins.  There’s no happy ending or perfect solution here, because we live in a fallen and hurting world.  I believe our reaction in the end to the complexities, problems and sometimes downright painful realities of dating, romance and meeting someone to love is to be a Christian one.  Nothing more, nothing less.  


Love is always patient and kind; love is never jealous; love is not boastful or conceited, it is never rude and never seeks its own advantage, it does not take offence or store up grievances.  Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but finds its joy in the truth.  It is always ready to make allowances, to trust, to hope and to endure whatever comes.  (1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NJB)


Marriage must be honoured by all, and marriages must be kept undefiled, because the sexually immoral and adulterers will come under God's judgement.  (Hebrews 13:4 NJB)


After all, brothers, you were called to be free; do not use your freedom as an opening for self-indulgence, but be servants to one another in love, since the whole of the Law is summarised in the one commandment: You must love your neighbour as yourself.  (Galatians 5:13-14 NJB)


Some links you might like to look at:

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Charity Begins at Home?

Recently it has come out that a number of well known British charities pay their CEOs 100k salaries and in some cases well over this.  For someone who has given to a number of charities over the years, this has come as a bit of a shock but not that much of a surprise to be honest.  It seems that there is always a way to find high wages for the people at the top and in the middle of most organisations, but the wages at the bottom always seem to be low.  Equally, it seems that many positions in charities are also volunteer ones, so it’s fine for a Working class person to stand around on the street rattling tins in people’s faces and not get paid but somehow if the person is from a more affluent background then high wages must be paid.  I have to say that this kind of thing angers me and upsets me for a number of reasons.  Firstly, I have given to a number of charities many times before today and I do not like the idea that money has gone to pay the often very high salaries of people working in an industry that by its very nature is about redistributing wealth to those in genuine need.  Secondly, my idea of charity is certainly not keeping affluent usually privileged Middle class people in foreign holidays, piano lessons and private tuition for their kids and living in an exclusive suburb with a four wheel drive in the garage.  Thirdly, again charity now seems another business that affords professional people a good living and the rest of us without connections have the ‘privilege’ of volunteering with the vague hope, if that, of getting some form of probably low paid employment at some future date.  Of course this doesn’t seem to happen to those in the middle ranking and high end jobs, where wages seem to be very good.  Fourthly, my worries are like many people who feel that if large chunks of money given openly and freely and out of the generosity of often many ordinary people are going in high wages and expense accounts, just how much is actually going to the people who are supposed to be the actual recipients of it in the first place?  And fifthly and finally, how different then is the ‘business’ of charity compared to banking, law, the media, politics, business and many other institutions that are a part of the economic and social infrastructure of Britain?  I don’t see a great deal of difference in any of them now in that wages are very high at the top and afford an affluent lifestyle to those in the middle, but almost always are low waged at the bottom with the added emphasis now of volunteering being often the first option for getting on the first rung of the ladder.  Who does this benefit?  It benefits the people in the middle and the top at the expense of the people at the bottom.  Does this really surprise anyone, if they are being completely honest?  Even charity then now is just another form of easy money that isn’t always being used for what many generous givers think it is being used for.


Does this sound like I am bitter and envious and angry?  Well you’re right, I am all of the above and many more and I feel that many more people are too, for many reasons but mainly because somehow affluent people always seem to remain affluent even in institutions that are supposed to be about redistributing wealth from the haves and wealthy, to the have-nots and poor.  It is not even the fact that there are people who will get more than someone else perhaps because they have more responsibility and do a job that requires more skill or education, it is that there are many skilled Working class people with good educations and degrees now and often we don’t get a look in, it is always someone from an already affluent background going on to get a good job whilst the rest of us have to make do with what’s left over. 

I have said this before as well, but I have noticed that many equal rights organisations purporting to fight for fairness and justice are almost always top heavy with privileged Middle class people as well, who seem to always be speaking on behalf of the rest of us not so lucky and privileged but we are deemed not good enough to speak for ourselves and consequently from what I have seen of many such organisations there is nary a Working class person or any kind of person who has endured real poverty or struggle amongst them.  Henceforth, the people who get the good jobs in these organisations are usually Middle class and don’t really know anything about poverty or real struggle.  It also means that it becomes a business, a profession, and far less about actually trying to change things.  I feel that such organisations tacitly and very carefully keep Working class people and poor people out of them because such a person would see much of what passes for those organisations as a sham and just another Middle class talking shop and not much more.  I did actually write to a number of equal rights organisations a while back asking among other things why they curiously enough never mentioned class as an issue when all other prejudices were mentioned.  Only one actually wrote back to me, and when I replied they never bothered after that.  I thought that considering they were organisations purporting to be fighting for equal rights they didn’t really respect my rights at all.  To be honest, I expected them not to get back to me.  I feel that class is one of the major issues in Britain and yet it is both subtly downplayed and constantly ignored by the affluent Middle classes so they can use it to their advantage in the same way they pretend to be interested in Black rights and minority rights and because the Middle class, as we all know, benefit from the unfairness inherent in the system.

My conclusion then is that privileged and affluent people, although some are concerned about poverty and try to make a difference, most do not and even those who claim to do so actually don’t which makes them look dishonest and disingenuous, especially if someone is saying one thing but doing something else.  I would even say this kind of this is prevalent to a degree in organised religion where people get a good position because they are educated and whether they are genuinely Christians or not seems to be less important.  It then becomes like a business, where the actual message is not important but where the only thing that matters is just keeping the organisation going.  Is it any wonder that many of us feel disillusioned with so many things?

As Christians, we know that the world although on the surface appears fair and just and that good people act for the betterment of us all, that the reality is that the world is at best unjust, unfair, riven with all kinds of divisions and every kind of unfairness and that sometimes bad, uncaring and unscrupulous people rise and decent people with morals and consideration and compassion for others get sidelined, marginalised and even ignored.  I don’t say everyone who prospers is bad however, that would be unfair and untrue, nor do I claim that everyone who is poor or struggling financially or in some other way is automatically a suffering saint either, because that would equally be naïve and untrue as well.  But that at times the world is much more likely to be an unjust place than a just one.  Your uprightness is too great, Yahweh, for me to dispute with you. But I should like to discuss some points of justice with you: Why is it that the way of the wicked prospers? Why do all treacherous people thrive?  (Jeremiah 12:1 NJB)

Sunday, 28 July 2013

In From the Storm

It sometimes seems as if all of my life I have been running from something, but if you asked me what exactly, I really couldn’t tell you.  At many times I have felt troubled, disappointed, let down by so many people and constantly experiencing inevitably depressing things.  I mean that I have been so used to failing at things that it has become almost part of my character sadly.  There have been things in my past that have affected me, perhaps more than I realise, and yet I had a pretty happy and peaceful childhood for the most part. 


Alongside all of this, I have a calling on my life from God and at times I have heeded that call and at many other times I just haven’t, it is as simple as that.  I have never lived as a regular Christian because I was not churched and nor do I come from a Christian background or community and have never been to a church as a part of a believing group so it has just been me and God.

Sometimes, and at the moment, it seems I have been on the end of emotional distress that isn’t helped by other negative things in my life.  I pray, and it feels like I am not heard.  So I sulk at God, and won’t talk to Him because He seems not to answer me.  Then I feel abandoned, storm tossed, and thoroughly miserable.  Not a great place to be, to be honest.

Compared to some people, I haven’t had a terrible life, and perhaps compared to others I have suffered badly at times.  There are issues in my life that need dealing with, anger issues, issues of low self-worth and issues from the past that keep coming up to haunt me.  I said things to people that I now bitterly regret and did things, few of real evil intent, that I now regret also.  However, there are no human beings out there who I harmed in any real way, no one who would bear me ill will for anything I have done, just want to make that clear.  It’s mostly an accumulation of things from the past that trouble me.


"In From The Storm" (by Jimi Hendrix)

Well i, I just came back today...
I just came back from the storm.
I said: "i just came back, baby...
I just came back from the storm.
Yeah, from the storm.
Well, I didn't know it then,
But I was sufferin', sufferin'
For my love to keep me warm.
It was so cold and lonely, yeah.
The wind 'n' cryin' blue rain
Were tearing me up.
It was so cold and lonely.
The crying blue rain was tearing me up.
Oh, tearing me up.
I wanna thank you my sweet darling
For digging in the mud and picking me up.
Thank you so much!

It was a terrible rain that was burning my eyes.
It was you my love who brought me in.
I love you so much,
I'll never stray from you again.

I just came back baby.
I just came back to get my baby on her way.
Yeah, yeah.

On your own day of ordeal God will remember you: like frost in sunshine, your sins will melt away.  (Ecclesiasticus / Sirach 3:15 NJB)

Saturday, 20 July 2013

The Whole System is Inherently Unjust

It’s obvious that ordinary people all over the world are now saying that the extreme system of capitalism we live under is not working for the many but actually the few.  I’m not being provocative here nor trying to stir up trouble or attack individuals either, just being honest and nothing more.  It is as if we are entering a new age, a Neo-Feudalism where a relative few own and control everything and everyone else has to put up and shut up; and it is not working and will cause problems now and in the near future and in the future to come. 


Let’s look at the problems of overt capitalism without any concern for other people and without some form of social justice or even just some common sense.  Firstly, it is solely about profit, large profit, and nothing else really matters other than that.  Secondly, it is often harshly exploitative of everyone involved, except a few at the top and a slightly bigger minority in the middle.  Thirdly, it encourages through the profit motive the practise of paying low wages at the bottom and trying to get as much for products as possible.  Fourthly, often the very wealthiest people and the global corporations, the one who could afford to pay the most, are actually paying the least in tax.  That alone should be enough for people to think about.  This is just on a simple human greed level.

We then come to the moral issue, the one that often seems to be ignored or brushed under the carpet.  When people are utterly selfish and completely obsessed by greed and being wealthy at all and any cost, it often almost always impacts on everyone else, in some way or other.  People see that justice and compassion, consideration and fairplay are for losers and nice people, and that being aggressive, selfish, arrogant, ruthlessly ambitious, cavalier about other people and overly greedy benefits a person far more in the end.  Being greedy means that wealth is concentrated more and more in fewer and fewer hands and gives less and less people a chance to benefit from that wealth.  It also creates more and more people who think that the only way to get on is to be as ruthless as those who are rich, so creating more inequity and more reasons to exploit other people.  We brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it; but as long as we have food and clothing, we shall be content with that.  People who long to be rich are a prey to trial; they get trapped into all sorts of foolish and harmful ambitions which plunge people into ruin and destruction.  The love of money is the root of all evils' and there are some who, pursuing it, have wandered away from the faith and so given their souls any number of fatal wounds.  (1 Timothy 6:7-10 NJB)

Some people have abandoned any moral or decent behaviour, even Christians who put greed and selfish ruthless ambition, lose sight of anything that is real and get caught up in what is worldly and also get caught up in competition with other people to have the most money, the biggest business, the biggest and most expensive house, the most expensive car, the holiday home, all the most expensive things and the trappings that comes with having lots of money.  Then what?  Once you have millions, once money becomes in a sense immaterial, where do you go then, what do you do and what can actually add anything to your life when you have everything you want?  Then it just becomes a monopoly game where a person just has and wants more and more for no good reason, and all the double standards and unfairness meted out to poor people that there is no money for fair wages, no money in some wealthy countries for even basic health care, no decent chances for promotion and constant attempts to belittle anyone who in any way who tries to make things better for poorer people at the bottom, with words like ‘Communist’ or ‘Socialist’ or ‘not realistic’ or anything else which simply closes the debate and continues to justify greed and injustice in the very economic system that underpins the West and now most of the world.  Let’s all stop hiding behind political ideology, let’s stop using religion to justify somehow selfishness or the Prosperity Gospel or anything which is supposed to be about love for other people and twisting it into a false gospel that has no real value when examined and is lacking in any truth.


I know that anyone who reads this who is poor and struggling, or who is finding it hard to get a reasonable paying job or paying their mortgage or just finding that bills and the cost of living seem to keep rising whilst wages and any kind of income seems to get less and less will probably agree with all I’ve said, whereas those who are rich, especially those who make their money not to help other people or even partially for some altruistic reason, but merely to be as rich as can be regardless of how they get it, will probably dismiss all I’ve said.  However, if God has a calling on your life, or you have any ounce of conscience, especially the former, injustice has a way of coming back on you one way or the other.  And abandoning God for greed may have very serious, if unforeseen, consequences.

What is the answer?  For all of us to stop being greedy!  To stop buying into the culture that constantly bombards us with the newest phone, or the newest TV, or the newest trainers (sneakers) or the newest home entertainment system and so on.  To stop living on credit and beyond our means.  To accept that as you and I have a right to be ambitious for better lives, that also everybody else does too and so we should not endeavour to walk over other people or dismiss their rights to a better life while we get ours.  For people to pay their taxes like good citizens.  For Christians and good people everywhere to learn to be content with what they have and stop worrying about what they haven’t got, if basic needs are met.  I do not say this because I have lacked anything; I have learnt to manage with whatever I have.  I know how to live modestly, and I know how to live luxuriously too: in every way now I have mastered the secret of all conditions: full stomach and empty stomach, plenty and poverty.  (Philippians 4:11-12 NJB)

Sunday, 7 July 2013

What’s It All About?

For the last few years I have struggled against so many things, and usually nothing I do has turned out right.  I try to do something, and somehow I always fall flat on my face.  Whatever it is I want to do, find time to write my books, work on my dissertation, find a church, be a more pro-active Christian, find someone to fall in love with, with the exception of giving up drinking alcohol, has failed disastrously.  It has on many occasions left me feeling down and even depressed, even though within myself I am generally an optimistic sort of bloke.  That seems like a contradiction I know, and it is strange to have two sides to my character but I think many people are the same as well.  We cannot wallow in misery, it doesn’t do any real good but sometimes we have to accept that life doesn’t always go to plan, or in my case it rarely if ever goes to plan.

So, what’s it all about?  It all must amount to something, right, or what’s the point of anything if nothing means anything after all?  It’s all just pissing against the wind, and no matter what we do good or bad has any real meaning anyway.  We are told in the Bible that God wants us to have peace, joy, happiness, contentment and abundant living among many other good things, and yet life, all life is suffering, all life is pain and all life is sadness, or seems to be at times.  We are born innocent and free into the world, and somehow we are stained from the world and all its evil and vices, all its temptations and complications, by all its contradictions and angriness.  When all the stories we are told as kids are about being kind and respectful, being considerate and caring, and that when we are, nice things will happen to us, we grow up and realise it was a load of crap quite frankly.  We see plainly in the world that greed, selfishness, corruption and a lack of morals and compassion takes a person far further than a nice person with all these qualities, and that nice people get walked over and are often side-lined and ignored.  And of course when we are sometimes angry, confused and even not happy from time to time, we have to pretend otherwise don’t we, I know I do all the time.  Someone asks ‘how are you’ even just in politeness, and we repeat almost by default ‘oh fine’ even when we might be anything but.  But who wants to put their condition or suffering on someone else, or get someone offering well-meaning but often trite and unhelpful advice.  And we don’t to upset even our families or close friends do we, no matter what hell or suffering we might be going through?

What’s the answer, if there is any that is?  Wisely I have applied myself to investigation and exploration of everything that happens under heaven. What a wearisome task God has given humanity to keep us busy!  I have seen everything that is done under the sun: how futile it all is, mere chasing after the wind!  (Ecclesiastes 1:13-14 NJB)  Even the writer here, whoever he (or she) was, seems to be fed up with everything, fed up with anything and if not in outright despair is just questioning everything and dismissing all human activity as somehow pointless.  Obviously, whoever wrote this was feeling down or extremely cynical at the same, but it has to be said that it is at least radically honest, which is refreshing when so many people, even many Christians, seem to think that the Bible is filled with folk tales and well-meaning platitudes of all kinds.  Hasn’t everyone felt like this at some point?  I seem to feel like it about ten times a day, but there you go.


This society that teaches us through various means to be ambitious, individualistic, achieving and always striving may in fact be the very reason why so many of us, often in the midst of plenty, are unhappy or deeply frustrated in some way.  Are these desires, these ambitions, things we really want, or are they brainwashed into us, to make us slaves to power, wealth, social status, having the ‘best’ of everything or at least slaves to the attainment of these things?  And because we are slaves, or can be, to these and many other things, we can be controlled, manipulated, told that if we work hard or plan or scheme we too can join the beautiful people and live in a mansion with a swimming pool and the expensive car in the drive and the millions in the bank; if only we accept hardship and struggle and low wages for the time being.  It’s all a trap, an illusion, and although I am not saying that we shouldn’t better ourselves and be ambitious for better lives, we should really think about what we do want rather than buying into something simply because it’s expected of us or just because someone else has got what we think we should want or have.  It is a big mistake to covet what other people have, simply because we don’t know how they got their wealth and success and also because just because someone is wealthy and successful and has all the trappings of a materially successful life, it is no guarantee at all of being happy.  Of course they could be happy as well!  Don’t people like that piss you off?!

Solomon had everything in terms of worldly wealth, or it’s reputed that he did anyway, and when asked by God what he wanted, he asked for wisdom, quite wisely, and God made him the wisest man on earth and blessed him with power and vast riches too.  He also had seven hundred wives and three hundred mistresses as well, so if he staggered home from the pub and was feeling, shall we say, frisky, there was always someone he could turn to for some fun!  But, some men might say that one wife is enough and I am certain that many women would say the same too.  I mean having one wife nagging at you would be enough for most people, but having seven hundred on your case complaining you hadn’t washed the dishes again when you’d promised to, or to not go down the pub with your mates and come home singing again and pee on the front door, or because you hadn’t put the cat out before going to bed; sheesh, any benefits of having one thousand women would soon disappear then wouldn’t they?!  And as for what program to watch on the TV?!  Well, I certainly think that old Solomon must have had a shed near his palace where he could get away from them all and just get some peace.

When we are going through severe emotional distress, we should ask God into the situation and spend some time looking at scripture and spend some time asking God in prayer for help.  That’s all I can do at the moment anyway.