Ed Balls Day is a bit of fun, the stuff of nonsense, and this year (2021) is the 10th anniversary celebration. Basically, on 28 April 2011, Ed Balls (then a British politician) tweeted his name thinking he was entering it into a search box.
Since then […] every year Twitter rejoices in the madness of the internet gaffe and marks Ed Balls Day.Source
A simple mistake has made him the Patron Saint of Simple Mistakes. To his credit, he hasn’t deleted the tweet, it remains on Twitter in all its pomp and glory, although at the time he didn’t know it was possible to delete them.
It’s a day to look forward to, it’s a day to enjoy with family and friends, it’s a day to share with others. It’s a day that unites everyone. Whatever your race, colour, or creed, everyone can enjoy Ed Balls Day.
Some bemoan the fact that’s it’s become too commercialised these days, having lost its true meaning. So, however you celebrate, make sure it’s significant.
Yes, it’s a bit of fun, but at its heart is the positive affirmation of simple mistakes and a willingness to own them.
International Women’s Day is a global day for celebrating the achievements of women and raising awareness about women’s equality. It’s an annual event held on 8 March, It marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity. You can find out more by clicking here.
A challenged world is an alert world and from challenge comes change. So let’s all choose to challenge. How will you help forge a gender equal world? Celebrate women’s achievement. Raise awareness against bias. Take action for equality.Source
On this day (7 March) in 1826, fifteen-year-old Ellen Turner climbed into a carriage at her school gates thinking she was being picked up to see her mother who’d been taken ill.
Instead, she was being abducted to be forced into marriage to Edward Gibbon Wakefield, who was twice her age. Through this marriage he hoped to gain a large marriage settlement and inherit her family fortune. It wasn’t the first time he’d done something like this.
The case eventually came to trial, and Wakefield was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment in Newgate Prison and the marriage was annulled by Parliament.
I share this story on the eve of International Women’s Day 2021 (8 March) because this case was at the centre of public debate at the time, highlighting the lack of rights for women and girls in a deeply patriarchal society. That was then, but in 2021 there’s still work to be done to secure women’s rights and equality.
The Letter of Paul to the Philippians in the Bible is characterised by joy, it contains the word (in its various forms) some 16 times within its four chapters. I’m featuring it in my Sunday devotionals through January 2021. You can read my introduction here with other links.
Chapter 2 contains one of the most profound passages in the New Testament (which may be an early Christian hymn). Paul’s purpose is to call the church to unity on the basis of the humility and servanthood of Jesus, and teach theology along the way. Take a few moments to read it through thoughtfully and prayerfully, maybe twice or more.
Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
This passage is central to Christian belief and practice. To be ‘united with Christ’ goes to the very heart of salvation and what it means to be a Christian. It’s a relationship with Christ as Saviour and Lord, one which places on us the joy of following and the responsibility of living like Jesus. Loving God and loving others in Jesus’ name, with no discrimination or favouritism.
We should be like-minded with Christ, and like-minded with each other. We will (of course) have our differing likes and views, but because we are ‘united with Christ’ there is an expectation that we will respect each other and seek to serve the common good.
Is there a relationship you need to mend? Is there a bridge you need to build towards others in your community? How can you reach out to groups you might consider ‘different’ from you in some way?
Heavenly Father, help us to live our lives with humble hearts, reaching out to our neighbours in love, and ready to serve suffering humanity. Amen.
The judging panel said: “KIWANUKA by Michael Kiwanuka is the well deserved winner of the Hyundai Mercury Prize 2020 for Album of the Year. Classic yet contemporary, drawing on the history of music while remaining an intensely personal work of self-expression, this is an album that will stand the test of time. Songs such as ‘Hero’ and ‘You Ain’t The Problem’ deal with hot button topics like race and identity, but in a reflective way that draws the listener in. From its narrative flow to the interludes, from Civil Rights speeches to its panoramic mix of everything from psychedelic rock to piano jazz, KIWANUKA is not only a complete work, but also one that is borne of the courage of its creator to build his own world and invite us in. Warm, rich, hugely accomplished and belonging to no one genre but its own, KIWANUKA is a masterpiece.” (Source)
During today’s ongoing worldwide anti-racist demonstrations, a statue of slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol was toppled and unceremoniously dumped in the harbour. You can see the BBC News report of the demonstrations here.
For now though, let’s park our thoughts about the rights and wrongs of tearing down a statue, and simply seek to empathise with how black people would have felt walking past Edward Colston every day. In this highly-charged atmosphere, with the added tensions of coronavirus, we need to keep our focus on the deep issues of racism and white privilege. Let’s discuss these issues respectfully and communicate with grace.
Knowing the history of Bristol, I personally feel that the statue should have been taken down officially and (possibly) placed in a museum long ago. Such an official act could have acknowledged the hurt of the past and brought people together. It could have been a profound moment of repentance, redemption, reconciliation and renewal. Sadly, that moment has been lost.
In these difficult and challenging times we need visionary leaders in all countries and at all levels, unfortunately they currently they seem to be few and far between.
Lord, make me an instrument of peace:
Bless all women who daily strive to bring peace to their communities, their homes and their hearts. Give them strength to continue to turn swords into ploughshares.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love:
We pray for all women who face prejudice, inequality and gender disparities. Help us see and to face the discrimination against women in all the many forms it may take.
Where there is injury, pardon:
Comfort all women who suffer from the pain of war, violence, and abuse. Help them to become instruments of their own reconciliation and peace.
Where there is division, unity:
Forgive all women and men who let differences breed hate and discrimination. Let your example of valuing all of creation help us to see that we are equal partners in the stewardship of your world.
Where there is darkness, light; where there is untruth, truth:
Comfort all women who struggle in the darkness of abuse, poverty, and loneliness. May we stand with them in light to acknowledge their suffering and strive to remove the burdens of shame or embarrassment.
Where there is doubt, true faith:
We pray for all women who live in fear of their husbands, fathers, and forces that control their lives. Help them to be empowered to be their true selves through your everlasting love and faith.
Where there is despair, hope:
We pray for all women who live in the despair of poverty, violence, trafficking, slavery, and abuse. May the light of your love bring them hope.
Where there is sadness, new joy:
Help us to see the strength and goodness in all women and men. Transform our hearts to celebrate the love and grace of all people. And may we be blessed with the courage to follow our own path of love for you and all sisters and brothers. Amen
Note: I came across this here. I modified it slightly (as above) and used it in worship on Sunday 8 March 2020 at Wallsend Salvation Army.
I write as a straight man, even though someone once found my website using the phrase ‘is john ager gay’, but also as someone who seeks to empathise and understand those who struggle with their sexuality and societal attitudes.
Much has already been spoken and written about this, and I can’t possibly (nor do I intend to) cover all the issues raised by this announcement. However, I would like to raise questions of why it’s so difficult for people to come out, and why can’t people be allowed to be who they are in the first place?
I found a number of well-articulated comments on Twitter helpful in this important discussion and I leave them with you:
Owen Jones: It’s up to all LGBTQ people how or when or whether they come out. But when someone with a public platform comes out, it helps people who are struggling with their sexuality. Love and support to [Phillip Scofield]
Patrick Strudwick: Next year will be 30 yrs since I came out. (14, at my comprehensive school, it stopped me killing myself). To STILL see people trapped in the closet for decades before having desperate, highly-charged comings out reveals how little things have changed. We have so much more to do.
Sam Wise: [Phillip Schofield] grew up in a time when gay people didn’t have any rights and nobody can blame him for feeling he could not come out. Still today homophobia is alive in our society and people in the public eye feel they can’t be who they are…the fact that [he] has only felt able [to] come out now says more about our society than it does him. He’s made a courageous step today and the fact his wife and kids are right behind him with love and support is excellent.
Coming to terms with and being your authentic self is never easy, especially in the public eye. Phillip and his family deserve our love and support.
Sadly, hatred of ‘others’ is very often in the open these days, with much more just under the thin veneer of civilized society. It’s not enough to simply ‘never forget’ the events of the Holocaust, all forms of discrimination and hatred must be actively resisted. The Holocaust happened (and can happen again) when good people turn a blind eye to everyday hatred.
First they came for the Communists, And I did not speak out Because I was not a Communist. Then they came for the Socialists, And I did not speak out Because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, And I did not speak out Because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, And I did not speak out Because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me, And there was no one left To speak out for me. Martin Niemöller
The Holocaust didn’t begin in the gas chambers, it began with words of hate, because words matter. So, as we pause and remember, we need to reflect on how easy it is to dehumanise people and exclude them because they are different from us; maybe because of their colour or culture, their faith or politics, their gender or sexual orientation etc.
As well as remembering the evils of the past, we should commit to affirming all people, valuing everyone as part of the rich tapestry of humankind, and loving them as they are and for who they are.
I guess we all have an understanding of racism, namely the belief that one’s own race is superior to others. A document (recently published by The Salvation Army) says: Racism can be subtle and embedded, even though people avoid using direct racist terminology. Racism can also be overt, systematic and cruel, as epitomised by the slave trade, the Holocaust, apartheid, the caste system and the treatment of indigenous people. It also puts us all on our guard by saying: Racial prejudice is present in us all to some degree and must be rigorously countered.
Occasionally, you hear white people say they haven’t experienced racism, but that’s a little like saying hunger doesn’t exist because you had a large breakfast this morning.
This brings us neatly to the concept of white privilege, something that’s less well understood. It’s been defined as follows: White privilege (or white skin privilege) is the societal privilege that benefits people whom society identifies as white in some countries, beyond what is commonly experienced by non-white people under the same social, political, or economic circumstances.
White privilege does NOT mean you’re racist.
White privilege does NOT mean your life has been easy.
White privilege does NOT mean you don’t face struggles too.
White privilege simply means your life isn’t made harder by your skin colour.
It’s as simple as that. Every one of us has a responsibility to empathise with everyone we come into contact, and with different groups within society, to learn to live in other people’s shoes on the journey of life.
Note: As a white person, who obviously hasn’t experienced this type of discrimination, I hope my thoughts are helpful. I offer them in humility, and with a willingness to learn.