Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Winterbourne View: torture, degradation and the Christian vision of care

This is a guest post by Martin Sewell, Anglican Reader:

This coming Sunday is Disability Sunday. It comes at the end of a week which saw public care and private provision alike shamed on our television screens (BBC Panorama). People with learning disabilities were shown been treated appallingly in a care setting which they were supposed to have enjoyed as a place of restoration love, compassion and acceptance.

To use the modern managerial jargon, there was a ‘failure of delivery and breakdown of supervisory oversight’. But, in truth, it is much worse than this: it is a failure of humanity and a degradation of victim and perpetrator alike. Such degradation does not emerge from nowhere: it has evil cultural roots and we need to confront them if there is to be a transformation in an area where the spotlight of publicity rarely falls.

I am not terribly surprised it has come to this. Our learning-disabled neighbours are the most excluded minority in the community. Across the board they have the poorest job prospects, the worst health outcomes, they are the most socially-isolated and are the easiest targets for those who have vulnerabilities of their own and wish to ostracise or scapegoat.

Not for the learning disabled do we have the glitzy fashion show, the showbiz fundraiser, the coloured wristbands or the celebrity advocates. I have frequently speculated that for all the talk of inclusivity, there are few learning disabled members of the Groucho Club.

For the secular world this may not matter much, save for the fiscal drag on the economy:. ‘out of sight, out of mind’ is a comfortable response toward those who are lucky to have escaped the abortionist’s sluice. Are they not what some of our European Jurists describe as ‘wrongful life’ - a term not too far removed in concept from untermeschen for whom, though God may know them there, no legal protection is afforded.

Yet for the Christian this cannot be: they are our brothers and sisters in Christ. They too are made in God’s image and He delights in them, in their talents and failings alike, just as He does with all of us. Jesus never turned away from anyone because of their disturbance, social status, ill health or discomforting presentation. He used that vulnerability to better demonstrate the way we should all be; rejoicing in our good fortune and using the faith of the suppliant to help all become more of what God would have us all be.

Happily, the tragic story of Winterbourne View is not a complete account of our stewardship in this regard. My own Church has been blessed and immensely enriched by the unlooked-for presence amongst us of members of nearby care homes. These homes have understood their obligations under the Disability and Equality Act 2010, which places on all such institutions the obligation to identify and meet the spiritual needs of those in their care.

In their presence with us, we rejoice in moving closer to becoming the fully ‘inclusive community’ which secularists often proclaim, yet so frequently failure to deliver in our everyday institutions.

Churches are often the sole truly inclusive organisations in any community, and that is not accidental: it is at the heart of the Gospel.

Our involvement is not a one-way street, however. My own visits to see friends in such care invariably leave me refreshed and happier as I spend time in an environment which is caring, homely, personally stimulating and fun. It happens to be run by an atheist, but one who recognises the benefits of the Christian community on their doorstep.

Not every faith community ‘gets it’.

When a resident died, a minister of a nameless denomination declined the invitation to meet with friends of the deceased to plan the funeral on the basis that ‘there’s no point; they’re all non-compos mentis’. He was promptly told that the funeral would take place in a church where the residents were known, loved and respected.

It was a remarkable event: dogma was useless, complexity set aside and few of the mourners were Bible-believing Christians. Yet amidst the gathering of the imperfect of all kinds, there was a tangible sense of a life lived in a community; a life valued, mourned in passing, and instilled with hope for the future.

In a different context, the mother of a severely disabled young man spoke to me once of the hope of her family in seeing her son in the fullness of God’s Kingdom when we shall all be transformed.

If I have a hope for the coming Sunday, it is that more churches might take up the commission of reaching out to this least evangelised part of society. It is an easy way of proclaiming and demonstrating in tangible form our mission to welcome all.

Many Churches will be unsure how they might do this. It may not be a choice: it may come as an unexpected transforming gift, as ours did. We are not on our own in the endeavour, however.

In practical terms, organisations such as Prospect Causeway UK, Through the Roof and Liveability are all full of knowledge, expertise, and encouragement. No prior experience is required or expected. We begin in this ministry from where we are, when the opportunity arises, and the call is received.

Such work radiates beyond the most obvious recipients. Carers are often tired, tied, worried and excluded. They too have been spiritually neglected. They have different but complimentary needs; it is a mission field that was institutionally neglected for too long. It is not only the failures of commerce and governance which are challenged by the Winterbourne View story.

Yet the promise is immense.

The more open and generous our churches, the closer they approximate to the vision of He who taught: “Whatsoever you do for these my little ones, you do for me.” When we hear of good inclusive practice for the rejected we are called to ‘Go and do likewise’.

We found that when we began to listen and were influenced by simple faith and good fellowship, we lost interest in that which divides – the dogmas, the theologies, the traditions – and moved closer to sharing the love of our uncomplicated brothers and sisters in Christ who have brought us the gift of Gospel Grace.


Anonymous John Thomas said...

This is a speldid, inspiring article, and I much applaud the sentiments - what a pity, then, that in the 3rd line from the end you find the old myth repeated: that dogma is just a nasty, divisive thing. Dogma - teaching, Christian teaching in this case, is no more than Truth, Reality, and the truth (God's truth, not any human substitute) really does set people free; nought else will.

1 June 2011 at 15:53  
Blogger Bred in the bone said...

Well done Martin, I go along with John's comment on truth and reality.

We need to get Gods Teeth into Gods Truth, failures of commerce and government indeed, tis hard to prick peoples conscience today.

They have sold their souls to private opinion or false speculation of assumed authority.

1 June 2011 at 16:25  
Anonymous Tb said...

There's never been any abuse in Christian institutions, has there?
But whatever. Perhaps those who are in favor of privatization of healthcare are happy with the inevitable results, eh, Cranmer?

1 June 2011 at 17:19  
Anonymous Martin Sewell said...

Tb You can be in Church and behave like this, but you cannot be "In Christ" and do so, as St Paul would have readily explained for you in greater detail.

This is nothing to do with the public/private debate but a lot to do with the loss of humanity in a culture that has steadily lost the respect for life.

1 June 2011 at 17:37  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

"For the secular world this may not matter much, save for the fiscal drag on the economy:. ‘out of sight, out of mind’ is a comfortable response toward those who are lucky to have escaped the abortionist’s sluice."

Ah yes, of course. That's what we think because we're not Christian and therefore less likely to be 'nice' or something. Yet all the while we have self-identifying Christians hanging around in this bit of the blog advocating the 'ethnic cleansing' of nearly 3 million of our fellow citizens from our shores and possible upto 10 million once they get going. Marvellous.

1 June 2011 at 17:49  
Blogger Anoneumouse said...

The BBC has been so full of itself today, but I think the BBC was complicit in torture.

Why did the Panorama guy not intervene on the very first incident, over what period of time did the man from the BBC witness torture without intervening? Is it right to film torture of individuals over time in order to boost your viewing figures.

1 June 2011 at 17:56  
Blogger English Viking said...

People are not our 'brothers and sisters in Christ' by virtue of their abilities, or disabilities, but by their faith alone in Christ.

I know I will be shot down in flames for touching the 'holy cow' of disabled people's rights, but I've said it now.

I know, I know, I'm making it worse, but;

PS The piece is littered with so many sound-bites and such touchy-feely sentiment that I would put good money on the author being either a public-sector employee, 'charidee' worker or just an unemployed do-gooder. Or a professional 'churchman'.

I'll get me coat.

1 June 2011 at 17:57  
Blogger prziloczek said...

5 comments. I'll bet if you blogged on Catholic Predatory Priests you would have had 700.
OK you are right: our church has lots of learning impaired people too.
But let us extend it.
The State talks about the Big Society. Socialists depend on social control of the means of production. But, of course, they do not depend on Christian love of the individual.
Eventually it all ends up in the concentration camps/gulags/prisons/euthanasia/eugenics/abortions and NHS hospitals where the needy are just dumped.
Whyever not?
If you do not accept the Christian message, there really is no motivation to help people who, frankly, are not much use to the Big Society, is there.

1 June 2011 at 17:59  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

prziloczek: "If you do not accept the Christian message, there really is no motivation to help people who, frankly, are not much use to the Big Society, is there."

Pure, delusional bollox.

1 June 2011 at 18:12  
Blogger Bred in the bone said...

DanJ0 said..."Yet all the while we have self-identifying Christians hanging around in this bit of the blog advocating the 'ethnic cleansing"

Love thy neighbour does not mean embrace the muslim next door, it means question what happened to the Christian who used to live there.

The ethnic cleansing has already been done Danjo, with your approval it would seem. Although the Church historically seemed harsh in dealing with the struggle for liberty. It was always their argument the liberals would one day destroy Christianity altogether.

They where correct, you are a Man who abuses freedom of conscience for the wrong ends.

1 June 2011 at 18:55  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

Bred: "The ethnic cleansing has already been done Danjo, with your approval it would seem."

You mean by changing and evolving our nation culture? Indeed. We have votes for women now. We have dismantled a fair chunk of the class system which oppressed people and held them in their place. People of different skin colour are much more widely accepted. Gay people are no longer unjustly criminalised. And so on. It's great. What I don't approve of is the scape-goating whole classes of people with a view to loading them onto cattle trains for shipping East, or whatever the neo-crusader types here want, in order to pander to some sort of halcyon, romanticised, white-back-for-seven-generations view of what Britain ought to be like. The idea disgusts me, truth be told. And hiding behind church institutions and god imagery to propagate that sort of filth will not make it all alright.

1 June 2011 at 19:20  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

@Anoneumouse: you are badly wrong.

The issue is not about the mistreatment of one person, terrible though that mistreatment be. It is about the failure of British society - which is nominally Christian - to live up to the requirement to do justly and love mercy, particularly as regards those who are at the margins of the community.

On that basis, the widespread casual acceptance that people who are learning disabled (and I have seen this at first hand) should be treated worse than animals has to be challenged.

1 June 2011 at 19:31  
Blogger Bred in the bone said...

Danjo, Martins post confronts the culmination of your evolutionary theory.

We need a land where we can live in peace, for it is essential that we keep the peace. Your ideology has disturbed our peace and needs a suitably harsh punishment.

1 June 2011 at 19:41  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

Bred: "Your ideology has disturbed our peace and needs a suitably harsh punishment."

Liberalism? Hardly. So, what will my 'suitably harsh punishment' be as a liberal? Am I to go with them on the cattle trains or something? Come on, let's hear it.

1 June 2011 at 19:47  
Anonymous tb said...

Martin, that all sounds a bit ' no true scotsman' to me.
It has a fair bit to do with the public/private debate. Poorly paid, poorly trained staff. In the name of profit.

1 June 2011 at 19:55  
Blogger Bred in the bone said...

"Come on, let's hear it" says Danjo

It will be the Law!

The True Law freed from your liberal tampering.

The Law, nothing more, nothing less, so stick that in your cattle train.

1 June 2011 at 20:09  
Anonymous martin sewell said...

English Viking. For the record I have been a self employed lawyer for 35 years latterly specialising in Child Protection where I have seen at close hand how badly society treats the learning disabled.

Clearly you set your coat down to cast the first stone - and missed by a mile.

It is sad that you were unable to consider for yourself that learning disability does not, of itself, preclude faith. I have seen several faithful Christians in that situation - and many "intelligent " fools.

I wonder how you might employ your rather harsh theology to assist parents of the still born? The Christ of the Gospels cast his net of mercy exceedingly wide.

Tb Public Care Work is also poorly paid. This is a distraction placed into this debate for your own ancillary purposes.

1 June 2011 at 20:30  
Anonymous tb said...

>This is a distraction placed into this debate for your own ancillary purposes.

If you say so.

Security word: bless

1 June 2011 at 21:16  
Blogger English Viking said...


If you wish to engage in an all out slanging match, you've picked the wrong bloke.

Being a lawyer is not really something to be proud of, all the one's I've met are merely professional (and very adept) liars. Christ didn't appear over impressed, either.

Any of your work for 'public' bodies, or charidees? Legal Aid, perhaps? It's all off the taxpayer tit in one form or another, and your PC language and attitude betray you. If you had really been 'self-employed' in the true sense (i.e. zero profit involving public money) you would not deploy such language.

I never said that disability precludes faith, so trying to prove me wrong on that matter (you'll know what a fallacious argument is, what with you being a 'lawyer') won't work. Exodus 4 v 11 is proof enough of God's care for the 'disabled'. Your piece appeared to presume that disabled people are automatically 'our brothers and sisters in Christ', and made no mention of the need of saving grace. Obviously anyone who questions this is in favour of eugenics, according to your logic.

Appealing to an emotive argument (there's that fallacy again) with regard to how I would comfort the family of a still-born is yet more evidence of your holier-than-thou attitude. Obviously, I'm just an uncaring thug who wouldn't give tuppence over their grief, eh?

What really got my goat was the wishy-washy, appallingly trite and PC phraseology; '... a place of restoration love, compassion and acceptance'; 'excluded minority in the community'; 'immensely enriched'; 'refreshed and happier as I spend time in an environment which is caring, homely, personally stimulating and fun'. Ughh. Sorry, I just sicked up a little bit in my mouth, but it's OK now, I've swallowed it.

Another annoying feature of the piece is your apparent belief that the church which you attend is fully sorted on the disabled/intellectually challenged front, both in your quota of such persons and in the corporate response to them, but why is everybody else not as good as us/you?

Strange that you call yourself a 'lawyer', a real Americanism. Are you a Barrister, QC, Solicitor or Notary? Some other minor division perhaps?

BTW I've got a bucketful of experience in dealing with the disabled. Hours and hours traveling to and fro hospitals, sometimes internationally. Waiting to see the surgeon, hoping for good news, dreading bad. The costs, emotional and financial. The sadness of failure, the joy and hope of success. The physio sessions, hope/fear of making the right decisions, etc, etc.

One of my sons is disabled.

1 June 2011 at 21:34  
Anonymous martin sewell said...

I am sorry you are so keen to play the man not the ball.

I am happy for His Grace to give you my email so that we can "have a fight behind the bike sheds after school", if you want to.

I think the argument is bullet form is clear

- The terrible story is symptomatic of a cultural mindset that treats the learning disabled as less than human; it has unpleasant resonances with recent history.
- Let's recap how much of a forgotten minority they are
- We are all made in the image of God
- The promise of Grace is for all
-Churches often are, and ought to be, more inclusive than the secular world which talks an inclusive game without delivering it.
- Churches are improved by it
- The learning disabled are full and contributing members not optional extras.
- Their carers are in need of our love and care.

Far from suggesting my Church has achieved its objectives we are at the start, and I reference those who might help us do better ( Prospects are planning to help us). It all begins with openness and welcome.

I know from experience that many want to engage but are worried how to start and wanted to strike an encouraging tone.

I do not hear you take serious issue with these points - so the anger is disappointing. We all need saving grace; I took it for granted that the people I am concerned for are included in the general proposition. Everyone in a congregation ought to be regarded as our brothers and sisters in Christ. It is harder to be hard hearted if one starts from that premise.

1 June 2011 at 23:12  
Blogger English Viking said...


Good grief, words fail me.

Oh well, I'll give it a go.

I've not disputed some of your points, you just try to imply that I do, to try to paint me some kind of monster.

I'm happy to debate with you on a public forum. Not just this one, any. But behind the scenes? Naah, let's let everybody see what each of us think. Men like darkness more than the light, so being open is always a good thing. I don't want to fight you 'behind the bike-sheds', I want to drag you to the middle of the playground, kicking and squealing, and show the rest of the school your failings.

I'd be grateful if you'd answer my questions.

Have you been milking the taxpayer-subsidised tit? Charidees, in all their shapes and forms? Legal aid? Council contracts?

Those nice people down at Social Services never question the invoice, do they?

What legal qualifications do you hold, that entitle you to call yourself a lawyer?

You need to bear in mind that you have no idea what I do for a living, so you could start to look very silly, very quickly, if you are not scrupulously honest.

Don't be fooled by the savage exterior.

You're not a Universalist, are you?

PS. Pedantic, I know, but hyphens are not bullets. And I am familiar with both the literal and the literary forms.

2 June 2011 at 00:14  
Blogger English Viking said...

PS Christ always thought that the true members of a congregation/church/gathering were 'brothers and sisters'.

He thought that some of those outside belonged to the Devil. And (obviously) He was correct.

Matt 13 vv 24-42.

Christ thought that the field was the 'world', not the 'church'.

2 June 2011 at 00:27  
Blogger English Viking said...


Past your bedtime?

One Horlicks too many?

I know; the early bird catches the Government contract.

2 June 2011 at 00:49  
Anonymous martin sewell said...

I hope His Grace does not regret opening his pulpit when invitees are called to minutely and personally justify themselves.

I have no problem with openness.

I do not apologise that I have sold my skills as a solicitor advocate to the Legal Aid Commission( inter alia) which sets hourly rates, challenges claimed mark-ups for particular expertise/experience. The poorest cannot pay for what is now highly specialised work; the bills are considered by District Judges and the LSC which can and frequently do review and reduce claims. Working in this field, where the State "attack" family life such
Government funding is automatic to all - non- means, non- merits tested. Removing children is as awful as being charged with murder; both trigger State defence if wanted and few can afford an alternative. Firms tender for the right to contract and file audit is routine with every claim. Each phone call, document read etc has to be recorded justified and individually claimed in minute detail.

I did not paint you as a monster. You made the point that one must turn to Christ; I hinted that such theology has difficulties - eg the still born child, but let me just point you to other obvious examples that the doctrine is not as clear as many think.

At infant baptism it is the Godparents who 'turn to Christ" -not the infant
The harrowing of hell doctrine developed to address the problem of those who never had the chance to turn.
Legion was "occupied"; he did not recognise Christ, the demons did - until Jesus' initiative instituted 'regime change"
Saul never got over his unmerited, privileged, receipt of unearned amazing Grace. Do you see my point?

From this I have no problem with leaving questions 'above my pay grade" to Christ who seems to work in a form of exceptionalism on a case by case basis.

PS I am now semi retired

2 June 2011 at 06:45  
Anonymous len said...

This is a truly deplorable situation.
And thanks to Mr Sewell for bringing it to our attention.

Winterbourne view is perhaps, the 'tip of the iceberg' and is a reflection on our Society and the moral value system we currently subscribe to in the wake of the receding Christian one.

Value is now placed on personal wealth,physical appearance and intelligence.The disadvantaged are lacking in these, and become an underclass of citizens.Perceived to be without value.
Darwinism had a lot to do with the myth of the Aryan 'super race' and the 'final solution'and the same poison has filtered through our society in a less radical and more subtle way.
It is a reflection on the attitudes of our society as to how we treat the weak, the helpless ,and the unborn.
Unless we return to Christian value and moral systems this sort of abuse will I believe become more widespread.
The bottom line of Christianity is Love God,love your neighbour as yourself. It is not possible to do one without doing the other!.

2 June 2011 at 07:40  
Anonymous tb said...

Are you talking about the Christian moral system that gave us burnings at the stake, the inquisition, child abuse on a massive scale,etc? Or were you thinking of another one?

2 June 2011 at 08:28  
Anonymous martin sewell said...

TB see above - the difference between being "In Christ" and "in Church".

The Churches indeed have a history of failure, that none of us deny, but the core principles as taught by Jesus and referenced by Len are incompatible with such abuses

2 June 2011 at 08:38  
Anonymous tb said...

Of what use is a church that preaches a moral code it cannot itself stick to?

2 June 2011 at 08:48  
Anonymous martin sewell said...


This is not new ground

William Wilberforce once made the point succinctly.

Who better promotes the public welfare.The hypocrite that points the way to virtue, or the 'honest man" who promotes vice?

Do we sweep away Democracy becasue some M.P.'s abuse their expenses?

We live in a fallen world.

2 June 2011 at 09:40  
Anonymous Paul said...

Mr Sewell,

People with mental disabilities are not "our uncomplicated brothers and sisters".

There is nothing remotely 'uncomplicated' about a person with mental disability. They are not puppets upon which to indulge our notions of piety and grace.

(You conjour an image of gurning faces waving from a 'sunshine coach'.)

This is an appalling and dehumanizing stereotype that fails to grasp reality.

If there was any 'uncomplicated' behaviour to be seen in this program, it was from the 'carers'. Everyday of life, it would appear, they made the uncomplicated decision to persecute human beings, simply because they could.

The culture was one of abuse, and with an Eichmann-like complicity no one was willing to question the prevailing 'system'.This applies to the frontline staff, and to the administration. It is these people who proved themselves 'uncomplicated'. They are uncomplicated in the same way that Eichmann was 'unthinking' and 'banal'.

You are right, we live in fallen world.

But the most vulnerable of our world are no more the 'objects' of grace or simplicity than they should be the objects of abuse.

They are people with specific needs. No more, no less.

As I understand the Gospels (and perhaps I don't!), Jesus was not given to "using vulnerability in order to demonstrate". He simply sought to meet the needs of those who asked.

With respect, Paul

2 June 2011 at 10:35  
Anonymous martin sewell said...

Paul I think you are creating a problem that is not there.

Many people, including the learning disabled have 'simple faith" ie uncomplicated. Often smart folks with complicated theologies miss the heart of the Gospel.That's why the ministry is so rewarding. Only by welcoming, getting to follow an individual's speech and thought patters by spending time together and plain friendship do you reach the conversations where a learning disabled friend quietly asked "Does God know who I am?" Simple, but profound, it was a question many with a higher IQ never consider.

I absolutely agree that people with learning disability are not objects - the mantra of this kind of work is ''nothing about us without us". Offering choices is respectful; failing to give a spiritual opportunity can in itself be judgemental ( like the unspecified Minister I referred to).

Often such folk are denied the opportunity to be heard because others 'disable them" - an idea I was given from a friend who worked with such a lady on the Disability Rights Commission to explain her experiences as a learning disabled person.

We need to differentiate between Mental illness and learning difficulty; they are different and require different skills and responses.

Your analogy with Eichman is exactly right and implicit in what I wrote ( I was recently at Auschwitz and am sensitised to the point in exactly these circumstances. These events can grow from what Pope Benedict has called a "culture of death" - which encompasses consigning some to "less than human status'

Do you now think we are in accord?

2 June 2011 at 11:30  
Anonymous len said...

Tb, you are not talking about MY religion.(08:28)

Read my posts!

2 June 2011 at 11:42  
Blogger English Viking said...


Ahhh, I knew it. Sucking on the tax-payer subsidised tit for decades. Your 'religion' has had to conform to the wants and needs of the PC brigade, for fear of losing your undoubtedly very good living, no doubt.
That is why you spout rot and have such a high-handed attitude.

I'd be grateful if you could supply Biblical reasoning for God-Parents, why you think that their 'turning to Christ', in combination with Christening (not baptising) a child without its consent, knowledge or understanding somehow saves that child.

I'll give you a clue; there isn't any.

2 June 2011 at 12:39  
Anonymous John Thomas said...

Genocide/"liberals" - Most "liberals" are quite happy with the abortion megaholocaust. At least cattle trucks were visible and photographable; "liberals" do it behind closed doors, in sanitised conditions ... but the death-count is much, much higher than any Nazis managed.

2 June 2011 at 12:51  
Anonymous Paul said...

Martin, thank you for the reply.

Accordance and lack of complexity are not things which, for their own sake, I am seeking. Nor are they things which I necessarily esteem in others.

I am happy to live in this chaotic, bickering and creative world. I prefer an 'ecology' of differences to a soundbite of common purpose.

You appear to deify the 'simple'.

When a person (ANY person) asks "does God know who I am?", you cannot possibly know from what motivation or source that question has arisen for them. In this case the very notion of 'profundity' may be entirely yours. It is your projection and you use it to validate your own ideal of simplicity. You have taken from the words, and from the person, what you will.

And again I am reminded that you said Jesus 'used the vulnerable in order to demonstrate.' That is your interpretation, and that, it would appear is your own wont.

I cannot believe that Jesus 'used' the vulnerable in any measure.

I fully respect what you are trying to say, but I feel you have said it badly.

Of course their are clever and complex people who miss the heart of The Gospel. Similarly there may be people with learning disabilities who have, nevertheless, formed the most convoluted (and dogmatic) notions of God and faith. Can you know?

We are not the keepers of another persons mind.

You have emphasised only this one nugget: "does God know who I am?"

Everything else is your projection.

"Simple but profound" was your interpretation (your idealisation in fact). You might have asked: 'Good heavens what subtle complexity is this?'

2 June 2011 at 12:52  
Anonymous tb said...

Mr Sewell,
Perhaps it's not new, but what's the answer? Your false dilemma is a tricky one : I don't think I ever met an honest man promoting vice, but I'll let you know if it happens. It's this kind of thing that makes theology so fascinating isn't it?

2 June 2011 at 14:20  
Anonymous tb said...

Oh yes, and as for a fallen world, I think science and history are against you on that one.

2 June 2011 at 14:38  
Anonymous Oswin said...

Anoneumouse : 17:56

It's a difficult one, right enough. As a young photographer, many years ago, I gave-in to the 'intervention' argument for the sake of my own soul.

However, shooting a roll of film is pretty immediate, in comparison to the making of an entire TV programme. The latter heightens your question even moreso.

When does an 'exposé' become an 'entertainment'?

We can only hope that some good will come from it.

2 June 2011 at 15:34  
Anonymous tb said...

Len,yes I am.

Oswin:evidence. The whistleblower was ignored-and given inspections had failed, something like this was the only way.

2 June 2011 at 15:51  
Anonymous len said...

TB, then what religion am I?.

2 June 2011 at 15:57  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

R4's Thought 4 the Day today covered the intervention point surprisingly well for a religious slot.

2 June 2011 at 17:48  
Anonymous martin sewell said...

I am sorry Mr Viking but you make little sense.

Is a soldier " sucking on the taxpayers's tit? He sells his protective skills and so do Child Protection lawyers. Incidentally many of us have worked for parents, children, foster carers grandparent Local Authorities and the NSPCC - we are not one trick ponies, yet you feel competent to pontificate .

Plainly one could paddle through your actual knowledge of these matters without getting one's feet wet.

Legal Aid lawyers protect families from the State so you don't have to, and get little thanks, though if you want to see a volte face in prejudice, you should try representing the middle classes when their children are removed and then we seem to become remarkably well respected.

Legal Aid rates these days are approximately the hourly rate for a plumber. I do not have the time to explain to you that how many skills a Solicitor advocate needs to argue Law with a High Court Judge, Munchausen by proxy Syndrome with a Psychiatrist, Attachment theory with a Psychologist, timing of fractures with a Consultant Radiologist, or trying to explain to a Learning disabled mother why the State is removing her child.

You plainly know nothing of my professional world and remarkably little of Jesus Ministry. Were there not many times when the healing of the sick was used as the occasion to make a deeper point.

Nobody who knows me or my professional life would regard me as the least bit Politically correct. Incidentally my favourite commentators are Ann Coulter, PJ O'Rourke and Mark Stein - does that sound PC to you but hey why let the facts get in the way of your prejudices.

God parents are not Biblical. They are however part of the Church tradition. You may care to reflect that the Church prospered for the first three centuries without a Bible, many Christians got - and still get by with a handful of translated books of the Bible and there are at least four versions of the Bible. The Holy Spirit has a role in all this as well as Biblical text but that may be a discussion for a different occasion.

2 June 2011 at 18:35  
Anonymous Paul said...

Hello again Martin!

"Were there not many times when the healing of the sick was used as the occasion to make a deeper point."

Is that addressed to myself or Mr Viking?!

I apologise if the above appeared accusatory - these comments are an imperfectly brief medium.

My position is not so far from your own, except for this point of 'uncomplicated brothers and sisters'. In the context of this issue I still find that term to be inappropriate.

For instance I think of Buddhism: a religion with a particularly strong emphasis upon simplicity and a lack of dependence upon dogma. Of course I'm thinking of the Zen masters and perhaps too of the Christian 'Holy Fool'. In both cases the mastery of the 'uncomplicated' is something earned only through long and intensive reflection. "We expand before we contract." (is that a cliche?)

I'm still unclear as to who you refer to as uncomplicated. For, once again, when you go on to highlight the 'profound simplicity' expressed from someone with a learning disability I worry about the potential to generalise a picture of their psyche (in religious terms).

We are complex, I think. And I think that we retain the greatest respect for another person's humanity so long as we see them as able to address questions to us - and to make us question ourselves. (You've said this yourself better than I can). But this requires us to appreciate complexity. It implies an extended engagement with particulars, and an increasing degree of individualisation.

Your last para implies, at least to me, an opposing movement ie. towards the generalisation of listening in order to become freed of complication. I believe we should seek out and hold to our complications for dear life! They define us as unique and sentient beings capable of resisting an unthinking culture.

Well, perhaps I'm wrapped in semantics here!! But something jarred with me.

All the very best with your work, Paul

2 June 2011 at 20:03  
Blogger English Viking said...


35 years of draining the State has left you with a vast sense of entitlement. W should all bow down and lick the feet of a man who has so courageously and selflessly defended the weak and poor. We all sleep sounder in our beds knowing the mighty Sewell is on guard. If only we could all follow in your footsteps, but we are not worthy! We are not worthy!

NSPCC! Ding! Another hit. I knew a bit of charidee work would spring up, sooner or later (but you don't like to talk about it, right?)

Comparisons between your 'work' and that of Christ's are crude and faulty, not least because He wasn't charging the State a tidy sum to carry out miracles, nor the people He performed them for, whereas you get paid a wedge to shuffle papers and hone your patronising attitude of superiority. He didn't waffle on about it, either.

The early church circulated the epistles of the NT, and considered them scripture, long before the canonisation of those epistles. They weren't floundering around, without a touchstone. Nor were they reliant on tradition, which can only be correctly judged through the lens of scripture, otherwise we get people perpetuating error through the ages, because 'it's tradition'.

I'm glad you can see that God parents make no appearance in the Bible. Now please explain how those God Parents 'turning to Christ' (whatever that means) and christening a child against its will saves the child.

BTW It's funny to see someone like you criticise the middle-classes for their hypocrisy.

2 June 2011 at 20:30  
Anonymous martin sewell said...

Tb - Two short examples of an honest man promoting what was called in the 17th Century "Vice".

David Steele introduced his Abortion Bill out of compassion for the victims of back street Abortions. Few of those who supported him foresaw the Abortion industry or the holocaust of multiple terminations. I think we call this the law of unintended consequences. I do not know your stance on Abortion but you may see how someone like myself might see an honest man creating a bad outcome.

The same problem might arise ( in my view and with experience of drug abusers on their families)were drugs laws to be greatly liberalised.

I hope that is helpful in understanding the point.

2 June 2011 at 23:03  
Anonymous martin sewell said...

Hi Paul, I am in a bit of a bind here. If I speak impersonally of "the learning disabled" someone will accuse me of lumping very individual people together, yet when I try to speak with affection of particular individuals and inter-actions someone else complains of my touchy- feely emotionalism.

Surely the model of Christ was to see the whole person - I think you would say " with their complex basket of needs experiences etc and I could not disagree.

When I talk - perhaps imperfectly - of 'uncomplicated people' I think I am perhaps resisting those who insist that unless you are able to be a 'Bible believing Christian.. who turns to Christ" then you have no chance.

We had Christians before we had a Bible. The Holy Spirit which has shaped Christian life practice and belief ( admittedly a dangerous idea requiring modesty and discernment amongst us all)must also be brought into the equation. As I have raised with Mr Viking, there are aspects of theology such as the Harrowing of Hell which are plainly in the Orthodox tradition, but poorly recorded in the Bible.

I maintain that it is the Holy Spirit that enables us to have moved out of the mores of 1st Century Israel; it liberates us -as Islam is not from 7th Century Arabia.

Those who say the are saved by being 'Bible believing and turning to Christ" come perilously close to asserting their own initiatives towards salvation whereas I would say that the initiative is always from God - thus Saul's un- merited conversion opportunity, Legion being "saved" paradoxically by the demons activity and the Harrowing of Hell where those who never turned to Christ ( because like many others they never had the chance) were reconciled to God by Christ's initiative.

Mr Viking is unhappy with Godparents , but I fail to see how their adoption of responsibility for the Infant is different from - say - intercessory prayer which we routinely offer for believers and unbelievers alike expecting God to hear and act without the beneficiaries active involvement.

Is that complicated enough for you? ;-)

2 June 2011 at 23:21  
Anonymous martin sewell said...

Mr Viking,
You either have a short memory or are being disingenuous.

I did not seek your admiration for my professional experience. It was you who rather irrelevantly speculated upon the background of this piece’s author. I gave you the courtesy of a short reply primarily to show I have relevant experience of how the learning disabled are treated in Society. You called me a professional liar and insulted those who protect the weak before the Courts. If you dislike Law I suggest you try living in a country without it. You sneeringly speculated that I might work in some “minor division” of the law, clearly trusting that if so, you could bully me into submission.

I deprecated your playing the man not the ball, and offered correspondence through private email which you contemptuously declined.

Now having discovered that you had picked a fight on his home turf with one of the most senior Child Care Solicitor’s in the country, and having had had your comprehensive ignorance of the law plainly demonstrated you accuse me of seeking admiration. I only gave you the facts you insisted upon having.

My only involvement with the NSPCC was that when they actively litigated Child Protection they engaged me though their approved advocates list. I currently deprecate that their advertising is slightly misleading in suggesting that they still do this front line work whereas their role now is largely therapeutic. Incidentally I forgot to mention that way back I have also acted for that well known Politically Correct organisation the Catholic Children’s Society, and because I do have an open mind, was on the recommended lawyers list for the Jehovah’s Witnesses when they needed special understanding in adoptions.

I struggle to see where I likened my work to that of Our Saviour but I hope some it is pleasing to Him. I am keen to encourage others to consider this mission field. As I am retiring from practice it is good to use my experience of the learning disabled in a happier context, thus I write with enthusiasm about my current experiences.

I answer your God-parent point via my reply to Paul whose debating style is considerably more productive than some of your more angry and unnecessarily personal interventions.

2 June 2011 at 23:33  
Blogger English Viking said...


Your head is getting bigger by the minute. One of the finest minds of our time, mmm?

Judging by all the different, conflicting religious orders you claim to have defended, you do seem like a typical lawyer. No principle held firmly enough to get in the way of making a few quid, eh?

That you seem to think David Steele an honest man is astonishing.

The reason I object to the idea that a child can be saved by sprinkling it with water and getting two unrelated persons to 'turn to Christ' on his/her behalf is wrong because; a) it is arrant nonsense that salvation can be 'inflicted' on a child and b) it dispenses with the need for personal faith, conviction, repentance and most importantly with the work of Christ on the cross. It is a thoroughly repugnant idea that salvation can be purchased by renting a 'church', bunging the Vicar 200 quid and sprinkling a bit of water around, whilst two people who themselves are more than likely not born-again chant a bit of magic and BOOM!, the child is saved.

If tradition conflicts with the teachings of the Bible, the tradition is wrong. My experience shows that those who prefer tradition over scripture are those who do not like and will not do what scripture teaches, yet wish to continue to delude themselves that they are still on the right path.

The harrowing of Hell is a heresy, too.

There is little point continuing this discussion. You are unlikely to move; I certainly wont.

3 June 2011 at 00:37  
Anonymous Paul said...

Hi Martin,

You say:

"When I talk - perhaps imperfectly - of 'uncomplicated people' I think I am perhaps resisting those who insist that unless you are able to be a 'Bible believing Christian.. who turns to Christ" then you have no chance."

I see this now. And I'm in no position to debate church history, or indeed theology - I would soon be out of my depth!

My divergence from you is perhaps my own inference. You appear to say, to myself at least, that a NON-Bible believer is capable of relating to God in a fresh and specifically 'uncomplicated' way.

I'm sure this may be so. But my point would still be that the person themself may not be uncomplicated at all. They are, more than likely, the same 'basket' of conflicts and neuroses as all of us!)

It's always worth asking "who are you?" I think this applies to the learning disabled, as it does to us all.

I'm trying desperately hard not to say 'for example....'

So I'll leave it there!

3 June 2011 at 07:38  
Anonymous martin sewell said...

Hi Paul,
This is an imperfect medium for such a subtle debate.

Does it help if I say that Christianity is not so much founded on a set of rules, or a basket of theories, a speculation or a text.

You may believe or not believe ( Free Will and all that) - but everything turns on "revelation" and our response to it ( or not). As much of God as can shoehorn himself into this fragile frame of human form did so and showed himself as the Christ. "If you have seen me you have seen the father.."

The controversial Bishop of Durham once offered a short creed for those who have trouble with over complicated theology.

"God is, He is as He is in Jesus Christ - so there is hope".

That is profoundly simple ( I'd say pared down to the absolute essence of the faith) I cannot think any Christian could disagree - though it's when they try and say more that the fights tend to break out!

I have come to believe that God’e principal modus operandi today is to send people and just as Christ was " seen in the breaking of the bread" on the road to Emaeus, so God’s faithful people going about God’s work of outreaching to the sick marginalised and rejected can somehow reflect the spark of Christ's ever presence in the world, and this helps lead the non-believer to explore the curiosity s/he feels. Of course we Christians also read the Bible, sometimes struggle, but keep in focus the compassionate Christ of the Gospel as the guiding light. Tradition tells us how other wiser and more faithful people handled the story in their equally complicated lives and times.

Jesus taught obliquely in stories. "It is like...etc". Is that not a tad Zen? I am no expert. Anyway, that is how I think the faith grows- "caught not taught" is a good expression.

Wittgenstein used the analogy of the duck/rabbit drawing which you can either “read” both ways or not

Nobody can explain it to you. You look wait and then you see. Starting to look is a response even though you may not yet know what to. Tricky but worth the effort.

That is what we can do for non believers. We show what Christ leads us to do/believe. We know we fail and are imperfect but Christ promised always to forgive the penitent so we have confidence to reach beyond our ability and fail and try again. Hopefully the example leads outsiders to say, “what is this about?” and that question quietly opens the way. The potential within the “image” becomes realised and you see it was there all along.

I said all that without banging the table once so I am obviously not a “real” believer in some people’s eyes!

3 June 2011 at 10:13  
Anonymous martin sewell said...

Mr Viking,

Shhhh! I'm counting my money having got tired of shooting fish in a bucket.

3 June 2011 at 10:25  
Anonymous Paul said...

Hi Martin,

'caught not taught' is a lovely phrase. Indeed, what you describe is very much my experience. (I would say that I prefer the word 'experience' to belief.)

However I would still like to make a firm distinction between the 'simplicity' of a religious experience, and the complexity of the person. We must never lose sight of the person - that, as you say, would only contribute to a culture of death.

I had a dear friend who described her faith to me in very similar terms to your own. She was a professional, intelligent woman who knew faith in the most unambiguous, uncomplicated way imaginable to me.

Such was her faith.

But her 'person', was, tragically, very different. She suffered from an acute bipolar condition and was, in short, the most complex person I have known.

And so this distinction is important to me: an uncomplicated expression/experience of faith does not imply an "uncomplicated person". That would be the generalisation (in fact the stereotype) that so offended me earlier!

There were work colleagues of my friend who knew nothing about her condition. She was outwardly bright and uncomplicated; and we (all) lost the 'person'.

There goes my 'for example..'!!

3 June 2011 at 10:58  
Anonymous martin sewell said...

I follow your point, and your story explains the point best of all. You are not wrong, we all come to express our perspectives through the stories we tell. Which is why I prefer that medium rather than statements of dogma. If that was good enough for Jesus....

You learn more about my wife if I tell you a story we share than if I give you just her physical description

3 June 2011 at 12:32  
Blogger English Viking said...


Your Missus needs a medal as big as dustbin lid for putting up with you for what must see like an eternity.

One day is like a thousand years with you.

PS Don't forget that Corporate Entertainment is tax deductible.

3 June 2011 at 13:03  
Anonymous martin sewell said...

Mr Viking

Wrong again - Corporate Entertainment is only allowable for export industries.. is there no start to your legal knowledge?

Anyway back to the money counting , Four pounds thirty four pence, four pound thirty five.... hey has anyone seen my Oxfam jeans

3 June 2011 at 13:21  
Blogger English Viking said...


You're wrong there, but then again, money just piles in so easily there's probably no need to try to save, just stick a couple more zeroes on the Legal Aid bill and Bob's your uncle and Fanny's your aunt.

Hey it's 2:00 PM on a Friday. Time to shut up shop, eh? (But the clock won't stop ticking until 5:00 PM though).

3 June 2011 at 14:08  
Anonymous tb said...

Mr Sewell, I'd rather you didn't patronise me, if it's all the same to you. I understand your point well enough: I just don't think I agree with it.

I do however seem to recall something called the prohibition: was that a case of the hypocrite who points the way to vice or something? Nothing is ever as simple as a nice handy soundbite, is it?

3 June 2011 at 15:06  
Blogger English Viking said...


He can't help it. He is not BEING patronising. He IS patronising.

Because he's superior to the little people (and the disabled, whom he likes pat on the head, the cheeky little scamps).

3 June 2011 at 15:54  
Anonymous martin sewell said...

Tb. First I offer you an unreserved apology if you felt I was being patronising which I certainly did not intend.

You ask a perfectly straight and fair question and I offered two examples of Abortion and Drugs where, there is plainly a difference of view but where someone from a Christian viewpoint may recognise that whereas they have one moral judgement, others honestly
( though we say mistakenly) take a different view. I think this is akin to the law of unintended consequences and if I am right about that, I think it illustrates the point that it is a good person pointing the way to a bad outcome.

Are you saying the structure of my logic model does not work, or that you can see it works but that you just don't happen to agree with the data in my example?

I can see there are two ways you could take issue and was inviting to you to clarify which you consider to be wrong. That - I hope - is a respectful invitation to test my explanation. If ( William Wilberforce's) model is wrongI will change my mind but if the example is a poor one then I can simply try and find a better example.

I hesittate lest I again accidentally patronise ;-) but given the convolutions that are easier to express face to face than from a keyboard, have I made any sense?

3 June 2011 at 16:26  
Anonymous tb said...

Martin- don't worry about it.

The main problem I see with Wilberforce's formulation and your particular examples (over and above any question about David Steele's assumed honesty!) is that the law of unintended consequences doesn't only work one way. That's what prompted me to mention the prohibition. Here is an example of something that grew out of the Christian temperance movement, with good intentions, but which led to an explosion of organised crime and gangsterism - and of course, didn't stop people drinking either.

I therefore suspect that this line of argument ends in a no-score draw.

3 June 2011 at 18:33  
Blogger English Viking said...


You seem keen on the law of unintended consequences.

Look no further than your hero, that dreadful man, Wilberforce.

But I suppose you do not live in the world which you (and your sort) have created?

3 June 2011 at 21:02  
Anonymous martin sewell said...

Tb ,Thanks

You make the point that well meaning Christians also fall short when implementing good intentions and that is un-contestable. Your Prohibition example is spot on to make your point but not quite on target for where I was going.

What I was rather picking up on is that when we do fail we are often accused of being hypocrites .. and we are sometimes/often.

I introduced the Wilberforce because I sometimes think that hypocrisy has become an overvalued idea - thus my agreement with Wilberforce that even a hypocrite can be right as to direction of travel even if not achieving the virtue s/he advises.

The other way of looking at it is that the only way to be free of what has become regarded as the primary secular sin is to attempt no standards at all! If you are utterly immoral you are likely to be left alone by the tabloid press because " at least s/he is not a hypocrite." That is not healthy for Society whether your standards are religiously or secularly based.

In this line of thinking the Prohibitionist may have been misguided as we agree, but they were not being hypocrites in their failure ( though doubtless some were.

I 've tried to condense the argument so take the sense and I hope you can see where I was going.

3 June 2011 at 22:42  
Anonymous tb said...

Yes, your point is well made, I think we can half agree.

4 June 2011 at 16:46  
Blogger comments said...

While I read all this, I cannot help but wonder, just what this country is really heading for.

Firstly as regards the law, I have seen enough of the so called law applied in life to know that often it is no more than twisted words, a veritable diatribe of meaningless drivel and has been responsible for many an injustices.
Particularly in the so called family courts.

In these courts, professionals are the "god, but are often filled with antagonism, vitriol,Narcissism and deceit and can and do at will whatever they want. Whether it be to alter evidence, corrupt the course of justice and lie indiscriminately and they do this With the full backing of the judges.

Contempt of court, oh please don't make me laugh, tell that to Fran Lyon, Sally Clark, Linda Mac- and the many others who have suffered dreadful injustice at the hands of these these self righteous, deluded narcissists.

Sadly yes, the law is necessary but as far as my belief lies, man is cursed on this earth and sadly there will be no peace not here anyway. So we will have to put up with the malevolent greed that is now associated with the law and all its paraphernalia for the duration of our lives.


12 June 2011 at 15:13  
Blogger comments said...

For myself I have fought the "gods" of this world and its Demons, (I use those words descriptively because I know how some would interpret them), and won! But at a price.

But the law now is often nothing more than a complicated diatribe of meaningless drivel. Martin Luther King once wrote where there injustice there is no justice and the courts today, particularly the family courts, they are rife with perjury, deceit, fraud, corruption and injustice. As indeed most of our Politicians are.

As for the care home in Bristol, it has been reported that this was known about more than 3 months ago. But doesn't that just go to show, as we peasants know all too well, that the system either ignores as sees fit, or simply just covers up for itself.

One last thing, before I end this, I did not ask to be born here, to this country and I sure as Hell do not like living here any more. I will leave when I can, as Britain has become nothing more than a Hell Hole; a haven for liars, cheats, thieves, deceivers and money grabbers. There is no respect left and both the Law, the Courts and Parliament itself, are nothing more than some shambolic representation a fallacy, a fraud and a convenient passage for those who would fill their pockets at either the taxpayers expense or at the expense of the individual.

As for the politicians, well the words for them are simply unprintable. Yet they could bring so much more.

Instead Parliament is nothing more than a den of the iniquitous, thieves, liars and propagandists who care for nothing more than for their own personal gain rather than what they were elected for, the needs of our country.

So in light of the above, will anything change as a result of this abuse in this care home, will it Hell, oh a few learned words and some timely repertoire from those purportedly elected and that is all that will happen. cont

Then probably at some point in time a law will be brought out to prevent the disclosures of such events that happened there.

That is how our system works, it is pure poison and looks after itself at every turn and this event is probably just the tip of the iceberg. cont:-

12 June 2011 at 15:16  
Blogger comments said...

Indeed it is not whistle blowers we need in this country, what is needed is for people to blow a flaming great trumpet. We need to simplify the law,make it less expensive and available to anyone who needs it and then; and then make it understandable, instead of the fastidious blathering of incomprehensible English which it has become today.

So my learned Gentlemen is it time to get off your backsides and start doing things for this country and its people, because pretty soon there is not going to be anything left remaining of any decency or respectability whatsoever and that will happen if things remain as they are!

Many of our streets are already lost and out of control, our young are running wild and please don't just lay it at the door of the parents, our schools have as much to blame. It is so easy to discriminate and target individuals, I have all ready seen this Hell as my own children went through it, both in the Middle and High School, to know how the system loves to twist and distort the truth.

In the meantime, welcome to the New Britain and welcome to Hell. Where Drugs, abortion (babies born in toilets), under age sex and abuse of the elderly, the infirm and those with learning diffculties are common place, we dont need to fear Demons any more for we have become them!

Still this is Britain isn't it, so maybe we should all just relax, pontificate, make excuses and then turn our heads away from what lies just beneath the surface. A much easier way for all concerned surely?

Sliepnir2006 Youtube
~A peasant~

12 June 2011 at 15:21  

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