Government know they are “powerless” to stop school teachers getting sacked if they refuse to endorse same-sex marriage

The Daily Telegraph carries a front-page report today saying that the Government is “powerless” to stop primary school teachers getting sacked if they refuse to endorse same-sex marriage. It quotes a senior source at the Department for Education admitting that the UK is not “in control” and that European judges have the final say. This could bring hospital chaplains other officials into danger of sacking too.

Many have been saying that teachers were under threat but the Government kept denying it. Yesterday I heard Maria Miller on the radio talking this down.

Now we know the Government too realises the dangers to school teachers, though the are playing it down. I think it is underhand and sneaky that they have not been more upfront about this.

This unpopular and divisive policy which will have a widespread impact.

What I want to know is whether they have other intended consequences in mind that they are keeping secret. There are some cultures that would like polygamy to be legalised in Britain, along with “temporary marriage”. Is this part of the reason the Government are pushing this through?

I particularly find the “temporary marriage” distasteful as it seems to be to be a way to exploit women. It legalises sexual activity within that culture until the man decides to move on. The woman, being no longer a virgin, then has poor prospects within that culture of entering into a proper marriage, being a life-long union with mutual love and respect.

See my previous post on this: Looks like the UK Government is cooking the books over their gay marriage ‘consultation’

Less is more. But is it? And if so how to live it?

The assertion that ‘less is more’ is not new. Many will have discovered that contentment with little appears to bring a quality of life that the accumulation of stuff seems to mar. The challenge, I find, is how to conquer the instinct to acquire more.

Jesus warned about the danger of trusting in stuff when he declared the conflict between loving God or mammon.

Yes, but how to do it?!

As a child our family always seemed to be counting the pennies. It was years later that I discovered it was the spending habits of my father that caused this lifestyle. Perhaps that is one reason I was careful with money from childhood, with my pocket money, and as an adult with my earnings. Is this why I have to be careful about ‘bargains’?

I have a tendency to see something I know I will need at some time, and because it is at a bargain price now, feel that now is the best time to get it. I think someone who was more confident about their prosperity would be less likely to feel the need to seize what seems to be a bargain. I wonder if they can more easily see the shop or supplier as their store cupboard. I tend tend to think my home needs to be the store cupboard filled with the stuff I think I may need but had to get when I saw it because it was a bargain.

I read the following quote from Less is More, Spirituality for Busy Lives by Brain Draper (which I recommend).

Good advice! Courageous!

Draper also quotes from Fiona Reynolds, the director-general of the National Trust in the UK. In her foreword to a book called Simple Pleasures she says,

“It is one of the great delusions of our age that we can only find great delusions of our age that we can only find pleasure in ultra-sophisticated, expensive or pleasure in ultra-sophisticated, expensive or complex situations… It is so often found in little, usually unremarked things and the cherished places in our lives that evoke comfort, joy and memories…”

I created something today – a memory. My 13 month grandson is staying. He wore his new wellies as he and I walked through the snow in our garden to where our hens live. He carried a small bucket in his hand. We opened the hatch and loaded his bucket with the three eggs we found there, then walked back the three metres or so through the snow to the house.

I found pleasure in our little journey and he found a memory that will last a life-time. Perhaps that realisation from our small adventure will help me loosen my grip on stuff.

“I think the [charity] Commission are committed to the suppression of religion”

So said Peter bone MP introducing his ten minute rule bill on the Charities Act yesterday.

Results of The National Church And Social Action Survey 2012 have just been released and is relevant to this as it gives us a great picture of what is happening through churches in the UK currently.

  • Hours spent by volunteers in UK Churches on local social action initiatives have increased by 36% in two years to 98M hours.
  • In spite of the current economic problems, funds given by UK Church members that were spent on social action initiatives have increased by 19% in two years to £342M.
  • There has been a rapid diversification of social actions by churches – the average number of social action initiatives undertaken by a Church has risen from 5.7 to 8.2.
  • Please note these figures only cover Church initiatives. It does not include voluntary work by Christians in the community that is not initiated by a Church e.g. work by local charities.
  • Staff hours are calculated as 55M hours in support of social action initiatives. This is equivalent to roughly 1 hour of staff time to 2 hours of volunteer effort.
  • Total financial contribution to social initiatives is probably above £2.5bn per annum when costed.

See Jubilee Plus for more info.

Looks like the UK Government is cooking the books over their gay marriage ‘consultation’

The Government is in growing trouble over its plans to redefine marriage.

Today their sham consultation process has been exposed by MPs and the media for everyone to see. The Government claimed this was the ‘biggest listening exercise’ ever carried out – but ignored many objections including the 500,000 signatories of the C4M national petition!

The House of Commons has heard that the Government plans to push on with its highly controversial plans, relying on a claimed slight majority of consultation responses (by excluding objections, such as the C4M petition).

The Government’s online consultation response form, upon which their ‘consultation’ depended, was wide open to abuse. It was anonymous and could be completed by anyone in the world, as many times as they liked! Do the Government think people will be fooled by this?

And it is not only about this issue that they have been revealed to be shabby. If they can cook the books on this ‘consultation’ they will find it difficult to resist the temptation do it again over other issues. This is a serious eroding of democracy.

Maria Miller

Mrs Miller, the Equalities Minister, addressed the Commons at lunchtime today. She repeatedly promised a ‘quadruple lock’ to protect churches and other religious premises. But this ignores the millions of people whose civil liberties at work will be under threat if marriage is redefined as most people realise that in time the European Court of Human Rights will back gay marriage, whatever Government Ministers may say today.

The strange speech of the re-elected President Obama

Strange because it is unusual to hear a man, any sort of man, publicly saying that he loves his wife.

I got the full text of his speech from The Guardian website and there they were, those words that startled me this morning as I got ready for work.

And I wouldn’t be the man I am today without the woman who agreed to marry me 20 years ago. (Cheers, applause.) Let me say this publicly. Michelle, I have never loved you more. (Cheers, applause.) I have never been prouder to watch the rest of America fall in love with you too as our nation’s first lady. (Cheers, applause.)

Sasha and Malia – (cheers, applause) – before our very eyes, you’re growing up to become two strong, smart, beautiful young women, just like your mom. (Cheers, applause.) And I am so proud of you guys. But I will say that, for now, one dog’s probably enough. (Laughter.)

I have long thought that the inability of many men to publicly say that they love their wives is a sign, not of manliness, but of weakness and embarrassment. Soppy? No!

I remember one man who could never bring himself to say it in private, let along in public. I remember him jokingly say that his wife knew he loved her, yet never said it. While chuckling about it, he failed to notice the expression of sadness and longing on the face of his wife.

Men, think of what it will have done to Obama’s wife and daughters to hear his words, and in that context!

One duty of a husband, who is a follower of Jesus, is to seek to release his wife into the fulfilment and development she is capable of as she herself follows Jesus, that is what Ephesians 5 is all about. Obama’s words will have gone a long way to contribute to that.

Thanks to The Guardian UK for the photos.

So can a woman be a son without having to get a sex change?

Talk about gender issues in many churches and you’d think you were volunteering to be burned at the stake.

As an aside though, isn’t it better now that differences between Christians are dealt with without the need to kill each other?

Anyway, about gender issues, I am very uncomfortable with much that is said and debated about the role of women in the church. I have listened to, and read, the arguments but I find many of them unconvincing. It seems to me that a key text in the ancient documents that is often overlooked, is a portion of the letter written by Paul to the believers in Galatia (in what we now know as central Turkey).

The portion I am referring to is in Galatians, beginning in verse 26 of chapter 3 and continuing to verse 8 of chapter 4.

3:26 For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God through faith.
27 For all of you who were baptised into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.
28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female – for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.
29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to the promise.
4:1 Now I mean that the heir, as long as he is a minor, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything.
2 But he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father.
3 So also we, when we were minors, were enslaved under the basic forces of the world.
4 But when the appropriate time had come, God sent out his Son, born of a woman, born under the law,
5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we may be adopted as sons with full rights.
6 And because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, who calls “Abba! Father!”
7 So you are no longer a slave but a son, and if you are a son, then you are also an heir through God.
[NET Bible].

Before we ask ourselves questions about this, and draw conclusions, it is worth noting the context. Paul was writing to a group of people that were being pressed by Jewish believers who had taken the step to follow Jesus but still believed that the rituals of the Jewish law were mandatory, including the rite of circumcision. Paul goes into some technical argument about the old covenant law being fulfilled in Christ and followers of Jesus now being justified in God’s sight by faith in Jesus rather than by works.

Paul then makes the point that connecting to Jesus is through faith (“…so that the promise could be given – because of the faithfulness of Jesus Christ – to those who believe.” 3:22b) and alters the status of every believer.

Verses 3:26 and following is explaining that the new status of believers is that they are sons of God. Paul then makes some effort to mention who is included in this designation as sons of God. We see that it includes “all” that have clothed themselves in Christ (verse 27) and it excludes nobody, whether Jew, Greek, slave, free, male or female. Paul then goes on to argue that all those listed are sons, including women.

Paul is not being gender blind but is saying that a female believer has all the inheritance rights of a son and is no second-rate, or other designated, believer. Women too find themselves reading verses 6 and 7 of chapter 4 and seeing themselves there as sons.

Perhaps a variety of feminist may object to being called a son if they prefer a gender neutral term such as child. But that would be to weaken the force of Paul’s argument. Paul in not claiming that God is male, but that God had chosen to reveal himself in a male orientated society and one which would understand inheritance rights of the male heir. To say a female believer is a son is, to me, a dignifying statement that defies attempts to suppress.

Two zebras discussing women's roles in the church

Thanks to Fiona Raffell for her photo of the zebras.

Poor BBC commentator embarrased by Usain Bolt’s praying.

I imagined the commentator thinking in panic, “Don’t mention the prayer!” It reminded me of Basil Fawlty’s “Don’t mention the war!”

A group of us gathered to watch Bolt’s race on Thursday. The lead up to it was great and his showman antics before the race were such fun as he posed and as he chatted to the girl behind the start line.

Comments were made about his every action – his every action but his praying. Is there some policy that it should not be mentioned? The fact that that was the one topic that appeared to be taboo was what I particularly noticed.

But after the race, when he had won his victory, was when I laughed out loud. Bolt got on his knees and prayed while all the cameras surrounded him. The BBC commentator limply said he was “having a moment to himself”.

I am laughing chuckling again as I write this. What a bonkers thing to say. He wasn’t having a moment to himself, he was praying, he was having a moment with his God.

I expect many people of faith and those of no faith will have notice that gaff. Go here for a fuller comment from another blogger entitled, Why does the BBC ignore Usain Bolt’s God?