Am I not a man and a brother?

The inscription ‘Am I not a man and a brother?’ became the catchphrase of British and American abolitionists. Medallions were even sent in 1788 to Benjamin Franklin who was then president of the Pennsylvania Abolition Society. The image was widely reproduced on domestic objects like crockery and also became popular on fashion accessories. Source

Let’s foster a better historical, cultural, and sensitive understanding of ‘taking the knee’. Think for yourself, don’t swallow the bigotry and propaganda. We all need to fight a culture war against bigotry and ignorance.

Football (like life) can be cruel!

Football is a microcosm of all human life: the best and the worst, the good and the bad, the ups and the downs, the triumphs and the sorrows, the successes and the failures, the ecstasy and the agony, the beauty and the ugliness. Love it or loathe it, you can’t escape it. You have to deal with it.

What better vehicle is there to teach our children human character, the value of working as a team, and emotional intelligence for their adult lives? And, in the light of the result, I would add the need to demonstrate graciousness in defeat.

This is how truth is twisted…

…by cowards hiding behind anonymous profiles on Twitter:

  1. I express an anti-racist comment.
  2. I’m mocked for expressing this opinion.
  3. I’m told I’m anti-white.
  4. I’m told (in bad English) that I’m the real racist.
  5. I’m categorised as ‘you people’.
  6. Therefore my opinion doesn’t count.
  7. There’s no discussion, even though I’m polite.
  8. I’m sworn at!
  9. I block them!

Alternative ending…

  1. I’m ignored.
  2. I don’t block them.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is the problem!

Only Seeds

A rather late in the day (I nearly didn’t make it) Sunday devotional based on a Lectionary reading for today – Mark 4:26-34 (click to read).

A new shop opened up in the village. A woman went in and found God behind the counter.

‘What are you selling here?’

‘Everything you could possibly wish for.’

‘Oh good. I’ll have happiness, wisdom, love, freedom from fear, and peace, please. Oh, and for everyone.’

‘Sorry, you got it wrong. I’m not selling any fruits. Only seeds.’

Anon.

Charity doesn’t begin at home

Charity doesn’t begin at home, it begins where there’s a need. If we only look after ourselves we lose something of our humanity.

Today (7 June 2021) Britain’s foreign aid budget has been in the news, with a group of rebel MPs seeking to overturn their own government’s cuts to this essential commitment.

We help people because it’s basic to our humanity, it’s always the right thing to do, and providing support for others often benefits the giver. It’s enlightened self-interest, a win-win for everyone. It’s not only the right thing to do, it’s also the Christian thing to do. Cutting aid costs lives, and should be resisted at all costs.

As I posted on Facebook: Don’t cut UK foreign aid. Helping others is the best of Britain. At worst, it’s enlightened self-interest. It’s a no brainer!

We are all hypocrites!

When it comes to pollution and climate change, we’re all hypocrites!

But being a hypocrite doesn’t mean that we can’t make our feelings known, and it doesn’t mean that the message of environmental protesters is invalid.

There’s no inconsistency here, because this is so bound up with our whole way of life. Believing that criticism of those protesting will make the problem go away is futile. Radical change is needed.

As individuals we can only do so much, corporations and governments have to make the changes for the wellbeing of the planet.

While we live in a consumer society, one that is generally uncaring for the environment, we’re all hypocrites when demanding change. Yes, we can make small changes on an individual basis, but the main change has to come from governments and corporations – probably with government incentives etc.

Even Greta Thunberg can’t be completely unhypocritical while the system remains unchanged, but genuine virtue signalling combined with small personal initiatives have their place.

Whataboutery gets us nowhere and can easily become an excuse for inaction.

Remembrance Sunday 2020

Bible Readings: James 3:17-18 & Matthew 5:1-12

We all carry assumptions that influence how we think about every aspect of life and person we encounter. Unfortunately, some of them are likely to be wrong or unfair. Yet, I imagine life would be impossible if we didn’t make some basic assumptions to help us navigate our daily lives.

Something that’s very central to my Christian faith is how Jesus teaches us to question our assumptions, encouraging us to glimpse the world through the very eyes of God. Jesus’ teaching remains challenging because it calls into question many of our everyday assumptions, often turning our understanding on its head.

On Remembrance Sunday it’s easy to assume that Jesus and his followers represent a cosy religious inoffensiveness filled with sweetness and light, sentimental love and peace, whilst those involved with the military are people of violence who espouse hate and glory in violence.

Of course, we admire the dedication, professionalism and bravery of the men and women of our armed forces, but we can’t help thinking that their very existence is a consequence of human failure.

In an ideal world, we wouldn’t need armed forces, but the reality is we do, and there are times when when we realise that the the veneer of civilisation is very thin.

I feel uncomfortable with the amount spent on weapons, and the time and effort used to devise ‘better’ ways to kill and maim, especially through nuclear weapons. Surely our only possible reaction is that of sorrow and penitence.

Love isn’t simply being loveable and nice. Christian love, expressed most fully in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, is a determined commitment, the opposite of indifference rather than the opposite of hate. Also, we often see it in the most unlikely of places, again challenging our assumptions.

The old hymn Gentle Jesus, meek and mild is misleading I feel. Yes, he’s attractive and captivating, but I’m not sure about some of the other traditional pictures we might have about Jesus. He was brave and committed.

The Christian Gospel isn’t about liking people or being liked by them, it’s a total commitment that’s divine love in all its fullness.

We recognise true selfless, loving commitment when we see it. We long for that wisdom from above which, in the words of James, is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits. Love, which even in our fallen world, we sometimes glimpse in the most unlikely of places.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

On Remembrance Sunday, I want to remember and honour individual and personal examples of brave commitment and sacrifice in the lives of those tragically given or permanently changed by war, whilst also remembering the supreme love of God shown in Jesus. See also here.

They shall grow not old,
as we that are left grow old;
age shall not weary them,
nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun
and in the morning,
we will remember them
.

Only love (Ian McEwan)

Only love and then oblivion. Love was all they had to set against their murderers. Ian McEwan.

Tuesday 11 September 2001 (or 9/11 as it has become known) is a day permanently etched into all of our memories, and much has been written about the terrorist attacks on that day.

I’m not going to attempt to add my thoughts on this anniversary, but simply to point you to one of the best pieces written about it then or since.

This article by Ian McEwan was published in The Guardian on Saturday 15 September 2001.