Wednesday, July 31, 2013

There's only one way to free Bradley Manning

From Brother Ivo:

Last Saturday Brother Ivo witnessed a demonstration outside St Martin-in-the-Fields: a collection of single, hand-lettered placards proclaimed FREE BRADLEY MANNING.

Sometimes the message was delivered in anagram form as protesters mixed themselves up chatting to their friends, going for coffee, taking comfort breaks etc.

Then they held an impromptu meeting as whether they should re-assemble next week to re-write the backs of their placards to protest FREE SHAKIL AFRIDI or FREE YOUCEF NARDARKHANI. You will be shocked to learn that Brother Ivo made the last part up - that just isn't going to happen.

Why the protesters thought Bradley Manning might be imprisoned in the National Portrait Gallery is beyond Brother Ivo, but these deep-cover security operatives can be devious coves, so it is probably just as well to think outside the box and get away from Grosvenor Square from time to time.

Master Manning is an unfortunate young twerp seduced by juvenile idealism and the lure of cult celebrity status into betraying his nation's secrets. He handed over data in the form of some 700,000 classified documents to be published indiscriminately and unread by another narcisist, Julian Assange (who probably, by now, wishes he were incarcerated in the National Portrait Gallery).

Both assert that their actions served some greater good, though neither could possibly have read or evaluated that which they cheerfully turned over to friend and foe alike. Who knows what was contained therein?

It could be anything: it could even be something the US mainstream media really doesn't want to be published - like 'Where was Barack Obama and what was he doing for 24 hours whilst his ambassador and his staff were being murdered in Benghazi?'

Surprisingly, the CIA and St John's Gospel are in agreement that 'The truth will set you free', but it is also sensible to recall that sometimes it makes sense for the right hand not to know what the left hand is doing. Just because everything can be known in this digital world, does not mean that it is prudent to bring it about.

This simple fact appears to elude the protesters.

There was once a GCSE history examination paper which asked 'Why did the Allies keep the date and place of the D-Day landings secret?' The answer - 'Because if they did not, the Germans would have been ready to shoot all the soldiers - would have got you a grade C. Maybe the protesters opted out of history as a GCSE subject. Or maybe they did take the exam, but couldn't work it out.

Masters Manning and Assange did not and could not assess either the risks of disclosure or make any informed judgement about who might be harmed by it. They do not have a clue whose security might be compromised by the information they released un-read. It is this perfect disregard for the consequences of their actions that removes such behaviour from the sphere of the moral protest. It is as reckless in its way as loosing off a volley of shots into a school building. Both actions are utterly reckless as to whether others may be killed or injured in consequence.

Unfortunately Saturday's protesters do not understand this. The release of secrets might harm Western interests. That is a sufficient justification in their eyes. We do not see Wikileaks releasing Chinese, Russian or Iranian classified data. Had this been attempted, Mr Assange would doubtless be waving a Geiger-counter over each guinea-pig fricasse as it is delivered to his room.

The strongest suspicion is that within all such demonstrations there is a heavy bias against a theoretical notion of America. We may all smile at Middle-Eastern protests about 'the Great Satan', but many in Europe have a speaking sympathy for the notion even as many would cheerfully take up the offer of a Green Card if one were offered tomorrow.

One suspects that the Islamic fundamentalist and modern PC puritans alike have an innate dislike and distrust of a nation that uniquely places 'the pursuit of happiness' as a living objective in its foundational documents.

Yet, it is nearly always a complex relationship because there is within the demonstrating class a strong dimension which loves the USA - its music, films, technology etc. Although it jarred with anyone with half an education, there was something to be said for the old rendering of the 'enemy' in the iconography of the 60's radicals as 'Amerika'.

With that formulation adopted, it was possible to continue to like psychedelic music, the Civil Rights movement, James Dean, and Jane Fonda, while calling down hatred and intolerance on everything about the leader of the free world of which one did not approve.

'Amerika' was the USA minus the good bits: you could never offend your progressive friends protesting 'Amerika'. Everyone knew it was evil incarnate.

It was rather like racism in the UK in the 1950s where many disliked immigrants in general but personally liked, defended and accepted the individuals with whom they worked or lived in community.

In a country that then criminalised homosexual behaviour, the Royal Family had many gay friends and staff. There really is none so queer as folk.

Jesus (a northerner) never said that - but he probably thought it from time to time.

If our new generation of demonstrators were to adopt this scapegoating of an amorphous 'Amerika' approach - which adds up to little more than 'Down with everything I disapprove of' - Brother Ivo might have offered to put in a shift or two. The problem, as always, is when you get down to specifics.

There seems to be is a widespread distrust of the US security services. Yet plainly the success of their earlier incarnation helped to save European freedom from both Hitler and Stalin. Doubtless there was much double-dealing and violence involved, yet on balance Brother Ivo is old-fashioned enough to be grateful.

Similarly, we all approved (well, most of us) when Bin Laden was tracked down, though we cheerfully betray the man who made it happen. We wanted the London 7/7 bombers and the histories of their Boston and Woolwich counterparts swiftly traced to prevent repetitions.

Yet those responsible for such successes, together with the methods they use to answer our questions so swiftly, are treated as value-less when they are betrayed by the likes of Manning and Assange.

The early Christians attributed Judas' betrayal of Christ as rooted in greed. Today many would probably root the explanation in a desire for some greater good. Judas Manning and Assange all display a degree of that profoundly anti-Christian sin of pride. At least Judas showed a degree of regret rather than contacting a reputation management consultant.

Our demonstrators express their hatred of our security and financial institutions in terms of protesting 'the state', yet, paradoxically, many of them will simultaneously support an expansion of that same state on both sides of the Atlantic.

In Brother Ivo's day, 'anarchists' marching against 'government cuts' would have been the stuff of Citizen Smith comedy.

In US terms, this absurdity takes the firm of supporting Obamacare or the pork-barrelling of failed Green technologies like Solyndra or the Chevrolet Volt motor car. Protesters will howl at bail-outs when bankers misbehave, yet complain if anyone dares to suggest that the autoworkers of Detroit should be denied similar indemnity against the consequences of their own equally irresponsible actions.

Above all, everyone knows that Richard Nixon was evil and had to go when he was implicated in bugging a single room in the Watergate complex. Hillary Clinton started her legal career on the investigation of that crime, yet now it appears the President Obama is collecting data on everyone who uses a telephone or the social media, and moreover his associates appear to have used the Inland Revenue Services to target groups who opposed him.

Libertarians point out that this is malfeasance on a scale of which the hapless Nixon could only have dreamed. Yet somehow there is a simultaneous dislike of such actions coupled with an inability to conceive of holding the executive branch responsible to account. There is scarcely a connection between the policies and the politician. That is where celebrity politics leads.

We are seeing industrial scale abuse of executive power by the poster boy of the young, yet they seem utterly without interest.

In such a context, Free Bradley Manning? Why not? 'What difference does it make?' as someone recently asked with all the cynicism of Pilate washing his hands.

It is all very confusing.

Yet if the young are looking for the healing of a confusing and complicated world they would have done better to have turned around and entered the building where they had gathered for protest. There, they could have learned of the consequences of betrayal, encountered the exercise of true power through humility, the finding of ones real identity in quietness, and seen liberation expressed in the crypt, where the homeless are welcomed and assisted daily with greater personal acceptance than any anonymous government programme.

The Bible, and the actions it inspires, is as unknown to many of those protesters as the content of the Manning data. Perhaps if we all spent more time evaluating the one rather than publishing the other, the world might be the happier place which the protesters so earnestly desire.

It might also comfort, inform and free the unfortunate Bradley Manning as he faces, as we all must, the consequences of our actions.

Brother Ivo is the Patron Saint of lawyers.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Tutu’s hell of a heaven

From Mr Alexander Boot:

Archbishop Tutu is the last of the great theologians, putting St Augustine to shame.

You see, Augustine’s notions of heaven and hell were too complex, too replete with nuances to satisfy the modern mind.

The Archbishop’s interpretation, on the other hand, is as simple as truth itself. As far as he’s concerned, heaven and hell are separated strictly along sexual or, to be more precise, homosexual lines.

Speaking at the launch of the UN’s global campaign to promote ‘gay rights’, the Archbishop said, “I would refuse to go to a homophobic heaven. No, I would say sorry, I mean I would much rather go to the other place.”

The other place is hell, in case you’re interested. Now one wonders how the good prelate visualises a homophobic heaven.

Does the picture he sees in his mind’s eye feature St Peter vetting the sexuality of all entrants at the pearly gate? “Sorry, sir, you can’t come in. Your moustache is too neatly trimmed.”

Conversely, does he think that hell resembles a fancy-dress party at Caligula’s court? If so, it must be a lot of fun – at least in the mature judgment of the Anglican prelate.

How anyone capable of such utter, unmitigated vulgarity could be ordained, never mind elevated to a high clerical rank, is beyond me. But then life is full of surprises.

Such as a supposedly educated man using the word ‘homophobic’ at all. Etymologically the word means fear of homosexuals, which, if it exists at all, can’t be very widespread.

One finds it hard to imagine too many mothers traumatising their naughty boys for life by telling them that, if they misbehave, the Big Bad Homosexual will get them.

But these days we can’t be sticklers for etymological precision. After all, we don’t expect the Liberal Democratic party to have much to do with either liberalism or democracy.

In colloquial parlance ‘homophobe’ is used to denote someone who either hates homosexuals or thinks homosexuality is wrong. This ought to put the word beyond bounds for a Christian: using the same word for both is a sure sign of a weak grasp of Christian doctrine.

The same St Augustine, whose notion of heaven Archbishop Tutu has invalidated, wrote, “Cum dilectione hominum et odio vitiorum.” The phrase is usually and somewhat loosely translated as 'hate the sin, love the sinner', and it encapsulates the quintessential Christian attitude to such matters.

To put it in the simple words favoured by Desmond Tutu, homosexuals must be loved because they too are God’s children. At the same time, homosexuality must be hated because it’s a mortal sin. Not being able to differentiate between the two is intellectual vulgarity at its most soaring.

Alas, this is precisely what the Archbishop displays when saying, “I would not worship a God who is homophobic and that is how deeply I feel about this.” One wishes his depth of feeling were matched by some depth of thought.

For God who is love can’t by definition hate sinners – it is to save them that Christ came into the world as an incarnated man. On the other hand, God is unequivocal on defining homosexuality as a mortal sin.

Archbishop Tutu can satisfy himself on that score by glancing at a few scriptural verses, such as Genesis 19:1-11; Leviticus 18:22; Leviticus 20:13; Judges 19:16-24; 1 Kings 14:24; 1 Kings 15:12; 2 Kings 23:7; Romans 1:18-32; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; 1 Timothy 1:8-10; Jude 7.

Clearly, God didn’t regard homosexuality as merely an alternative lifestyle. As a minimum, He taught that homosexuals couldn’t enter the kingdom of heaven. Does this make Him a homophobe in Desmond Tutu’s book?

“I am as passionate about this campaign as I ever was about apartheid,” continued the Archbishop, showing that he’s as weak on secular nuances as he is on theological ones.

As apartheid was a nasty state policy, campaigning against it was perfectly legitimate and commendable. On the other hand ‘homophobia’, however defined, isn’t part of South African law. It goes without saying that attacks on homosexuals, like any other assaults, must be dealt with resolutely and severely – and the country’s criminal code is clear on this.

How then does the Archbishop see the campaign? Telling the police to be quicker in their response to GBH? Asking the courts to pass stiffer sentences on thugs?

Contextually he goes much further than that. Archbishop Tutu clearly disagrees with God’s view of homosexuality as a sin.

God therefore is a homophobe and not someone in whom Archbishop Tutu self-admittedly can believe. The feeling must be mutual: I doubt God believes in Archbishop Tutu either – and He certainly doesn’t countenance politically motivated, intellectually feeble effluvia.

Alexander Boot is a writer on political, cultural and religious themes

Monday, July 29, 2013

Why this is Purgatory, nor am I out of it…

From Rev'd Dr Peter Mullen:

Pope Francis is turning out to be the new Elvis. Hear him on Copacabana beach offering the kids time off purgatory if they will follow him on Twitter. This morning the BBC characteristically sneered at this gesture as 'medieval'. I’m not sure if they meant the doctrine of purgatory as medieval or Twitter. I would gladly spend more time in purgatory if this enabled me to avoid Twitter, Facebook, Ipods, Youpods and portable phones in general.

Of course Anglicans take their traditionally high-minded attitude towards purgatory, reviling it in the XXXIX Articles as 'the Romish doctrine'. Interestingly, John Henry Newman – before he jumped ship – said it wasn’t purgatory itself which the Articles condemned but 'the Romish doctrine of'. But there’s no other doctrine than the Romish one, John. I can see a lot of spiritual sense in the idea of purgatory because I’m a filthy sinner and I don’t fancy going immediately from my customary cesspit into the dazzling presence of God. Purgatory is a variety of sun-glasses. Or think of it as a boot camp. You’ve avoided the straight and narrow all your life and charged happily along the primrose path that leads to the everlasting bonfire. Purgatory is your chance to go straight.

It will be painful. But then some pain is worth it. It’s astonishing, for example, how much trouble people will put themselves to in order to get thin or develop muscles. To detox, botox and all the other toxes obligato. Is it not worth spending a bit of effort on your spiritual condition? That’s the one you’ll have to live with forever. And in the spiritual gymnasium too there’s no gain without pain.

The BBC wanted an expert opinion on this matter so, after consulting the arch-modernist Peter Stanford who’s forever introduced as someone who used to be something on The Tablet – that liberal RC heresy sheet which Malcolm Muggeridge used to call The Pill – they went to the Catholic World Youth Festival in Kent. Where else? They interrupted the kids’ listening to their homogenous modern church musak and jiving with Jesus hymns and asked them what they thought. Well, they thought it a good thing innit.

Incidentally, when the BBC wants to refer to something as particularly nasty, why do they always have recourse to the adjective 'medieval'? The Middle Ages gave us the cathedrals, Thomas Aquinas, Anselm, Dante, Gregorian plainchant, Perotin, Giotto, chivalry, courtly love and a Christian Europe. The wonderfully progressive modern period gave us two world wars, Hitler’s holocaust, Stalin’s slaughter of 20 million, Mao’s killing of 70 million, the hydrogen bomb, abortion as a means of contraception, the destruction of marriage, Tate Modern, Jacques Derrida and the EU.

Purgatory here I come – please.

Rev'd Dr Peter Mullen is an author and former rector of St Michael's, Cornhill in the City of London.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Obama and Ho – a marriage made by Jefferson

From Mr Alexander Boot:

It’s unkind but true to say that President Obama is as long on ideology as he’s short on intellectual rigour, unless it’s of the mortis variety.

Had he been a student in the 1960s he would have been singing, “Ho, ho, ho, Ho Chi Minh, NFL are gonna win!” or else “Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?”

As a big boy in 2013 Barack Hussein has just pronounced that Ho, a mass murderer and a lifelong Soviet agent, was 'inspired by the words of Thomas Jefferson'. Considering Obama’s ideology he probably meant that Ho was a romantic idealist. Murderous international socialists always are, as opposed to murderous national socialists.

Yet delving deeper than Obama’s level, one may agree that all modern revolutions, including the American one, were Enlightenment offshoots. As such they were inspired by a similar animus: hostility to the political manifestations of Christendom.

Mutatis mutandis, Jefferson and Franklin were philosophes in exactly the same sense in which Diderot and Helvétius were. The qualifying clause reflects the temperamental differences between the French and the Anglo-Americans, and also the tactical adjustments they had to make in order to realise their vision. But the vision was the same.

At the positive end the philosophes on either side of the Atlantic set their sights on empowering the common man or, to be exact, the radical intellectual elite acting in his name.

At the negative end their vision was focused on emasculating Christendom and marginalising the faith that had begotten it. (Jefferson’s views on religion were informed by Locke’s Essay on Toleration, preaching equanimity towards all creeds, except Trinitarian Christianity. Jefferson was at best a deist, who detested every Christian dogma and sacrament.)

It was irrelevant whether destruction involved, as a first step, the cull of aristocrats sporting the powdered wigs of French nobility or of soldiers wearing the red coats of British infantry – along, in both instances, with those who sympathised with the hated group.

Americans, taking their cue from Burke, like to portray their revolution as somehow being ‘conservative’, unlike the radical French one. They don’t seem to realise that a ‘conservative revolution’ is an oxymoron.

In fact, the American revolution, the first in Western history to create a purely secular state, overturned the traditional order as radically as any other such event ever did. Presumably to merit emulation by all subsequent revolutionaries, it also laid out the groundwork for criminalising not just deed but also word.

Those expressing the mildest sympathy for British rule, or even merely suspected of harbouring such feelings, were routinely attacked by both the new-fangled law and the extra-judicial mob.

The law hit suspected infidels with confiscation, fines, imprisonment, deportation from any area threatened by a British advance, confinement to internment camps. The mob would torture suspected Tories by tarring and feathering. The infidels would be made to recant and forced, often at gun point, to take an oath of allegiance to the new republic.

Burke was sage on most political matters, specifically when he tore the French Revolution to shreds in his Reflections. But he was sorely misguided when describing the earlier similar event in America as 'a revolution not made but prevented'.

Dr Johnson, who unlike Burke was a Tory and therefore less susceptible to serpentine liberal seduction, begged to differ in his typical epigrammatic fashion: “How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of negroes?”

Commenting on the opposite polarity of Burke’s passionate reaction to the two revolutions, Coleridge insisted that in both cases the great Whig proceeded from the same principles. That may be, but he certainly did not display the same prescience.

While the French revolution proved every bit as hideous as Burke’s prophetic vision of it, the American one was far from being as benign as he believed.

Not only was it as unlawful and radical as the French version, but it caused comparable damage by wreaking destruction on the political dispensation of Christendom. And even the death toll of the two upheavals was similar if we legitimately regard the Civil War as the second act of the American Revolution.

One can argue that the perennial effect of the self-evidently inalienable right to the pursuit of happiness has been as harmful as that of liberté and fraternité, underpinned by egalité. The very term ‘pursuit of happiness’ appropriately comes from Locke who, armed with Hobbesian agnosticism, was the principal prophet of the new order.

With the benefit of hindsight, Jefferson’s friend John Adams rued in 1811, “Did not the American Revolution produce the French Revolution? And did not the French Revolution produce all the calamities and desolation of the human race and the whole globe ever since?”

In his letter of reply Jefferson reassured the doubting Thomas that it was perfectly acceptable to spill 'rivers of blood' as long as it was in the cause of advancing whatever it was that the revolutionaries wished to advance.

This sentiment has been shared by quite a few other politicians in history, with Lenin, Hitler, Mao and Ho immediately springing to mind. Unlike Jefferson, however, none of them is regarded as the distillation of political virtue.

Except on those occasions when President Obama pontificates on his fellow socialists of the past.

Alexander Boot is a writer on political, cultural and religious themes.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Exporting gay marriage - the Gospel of St Dave

From Mr Alexander Boot:

Many have risen in anger upon hearing how Dave wishes to improve our trade balance. Rather than exporting manufactured products, he decrees that we must be exporting the same-sex marriage Bill instead.

“Many countries are going to want to copy this,” spoke Dave to a select LGBT group. “I talk about how we’ve got to export more, so I’m going to export the Bill team. I think they can take it around the world.”

At first glance, this method of boosting Britain’s exports looks foolish if not downright mad. Foolish it is, but it is holy foolishness. Likewise it is mad also, but the madness is divine.

For he’s guided in his works by a little-known apocryphal text known to experts as The Gospel of St Dave. By what has to be divine dispensation I found a copy of the Gospel, which I’m happy, nay obliged, to share with you:
“Seeing the multitudes, Dave went up into the Minster which is in the west: and when he was set, his multitudes came upon him: men born as women, women born as men, men who lie with men and women who lie with women.

“And Dave opened his mouth and taught them, saying,

“Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith in the Bill?

“Let the Bill’s light so shine before men that they may see its good works, and glorify Him which is in Downing Street, and his number is ten.

“Think not that I am come to destroy marriage: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.

“For verily I say unto you that marriage is in no wise righteous save for marriage betwixt two men, and two women also.

“If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them shall be praised.

“Blessed are the women who did change their use into that which is against nature no longer.

“Blessed are likewise also the men, leaving the use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is good.

“Blessed are the poor in morals for they shall inherit the Street which is Downing.

“Blessed are the poor in mind for they shall inherit the Minster which is in the west.

“Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst for the pleasures of the flesh as they shall be filled to the brim.

“For thy Bill knoweth what pleasures ye have need of, and what ye have no need of.

“It is good for a man to touch a man, and for a woman to touch a woman also.

“There is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in the Bill.

“Blessed are they which are persecuted for fornication’s sake: for theirs is the kingdom in the Minster which is in the west.

“Ye are the salt of the earth and many other substances also.

“The Bill is the light of the world, and it giveth light unto all that are on earth.

“Rejoice, and be exceedingly glad: for great is thy reward from the Bill.

“It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife shalt be smitten. But I say unto you that whosoever then taketh a man can be my servant.

“Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour. But I say unto you, a man shalt love a man, and a woman a woman also.

“That ye may be the children of thy Bill, for it decideth what is good for you and samewise what is bad.

“Be ye therefore perfect, even as thy Bill is perfect.

“Be not deceived: only fornicators, and adulterers, and effeminate shall inherit the Kingdom of the Bill.

“To do fornication, let every man have his own husband, and let every woman have her own wife.

“Let marriage be held in honour among all, men and men, and women and women also, for the Bill will judge the moral and faithful.

“Go ye therefore and teach all nations, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever the Bill has commanded you.

“And as ye go, preach, saying The kingdom of the Bill is at hand.

“The Bill is the way, the truth, and the life.

“Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Bill which is in you: therefore glorify the Bill in thy body.

“Therefore if any man be in the Bill, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

“Ye cannot serve the Bill and God.

“I am the Bill, thy God.”

Amen to that.
Alexander Boot is a writer on political, cultural and religious themes.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Willy Wonga and the CofE's Investment Factory

From Rev'd Dr Peter Mullen:

First the Archbishop of Canterbury’s systematically-misleading statement: “We’re not trying to legislate Wonga out of business; we’re trying to compete Wonga out of business.” We should be thankful for that we have for Archbishop no Regius Professor of Obfuscation but a man who speaks as we speak in the street. Any reasonable person hearing his plain declaration of intent would conclude that the Church of England is about to compete with the payday loan company Wonga by offering clients lower interest rates on their repayments. Not so. The Church isn’t actually going to lend any money but only to make premises available for the use of credit unions. After the systematically-misleading statement, the scandal: it turns out that the Church itself is an investor in Wonga.

The official investments policies of the Church have always been something of a looking-glass land. For example, gambling is regarded as a social evil and so the Church will not invest funds in it. But individual parishes and other church causes are free to run bingos and raffles and to accept money from the National Lottery fund. The Church’s official explanation runs:
Gambling is a legitimate leisure activity for many people; nevertheless it can be abused, and has huge potential for abuse and unnecessary suffering. The Church distinguishes between the decisions made by individuals or individual churches on one hand who choose to accept monies from lotteries and bingo events, and judgements made by the Church as a whole in avoiding taking income from, or providing capital to, companies wholly or mainly involved in the gambling industry.
And we wonder why casuistry gets such a bad name.

The Church’s investments policy is a combination of bold indicatives and foggy hyperbole. The underlying principle is declared to be 'ethical investment'. So investment in sales of armaments and alcohol are reckoned to be unethical – sort of. So investments in companies deriving their income from arms will not be permitted. However, the small print says that it will be permitted where companies do not derive more than 10% of their turnover from the arms trade. For alcohol investment the figure is 5%.

So what we have here is a clear statement of absolute ethical standards – relatively speaking.

Disallowing arms investment has always seemed odd, for it’s not the guns and bombs which are evil in themselves but the purposes to which they might be put. Is it wrong to invest in our nuclear deterrent even when the evidence overwhelmingly points to the benign results of Trident? Deterrence has worked and millions of lives saved.

Would it have been wrong to invest in Spitfires?

Church of England - the Bank that likes to say Bless

From Brother Ivo:

Brother Ivo takes his name from the Breton saint, St Ivo of Kermartin, who was known by those who knew and loved him as the 'Advocate of the Poor'. What could be a greater expression of Christ's teaching than that? The poor will always be with us, especially once we re-define the term away from the original, absolute, definition towards that of the Marxist/ Politically-Correct version rooted in relativism. Even so, Christ reserved a special place for them in his heart, and warned the rich that their prosperity - or, more accurately, the distractions it can bring - can be an impediment to living life as God intended.

Accordingly, it had has gladdened the heart of Brother Ivo - and doubtless that of the Saint and Christ himself - to hear Archbishop Justin applying his business acumen towards alleviating the plight of the poorer members of society.

The fact that poorer people are indeed still members of society needs to be re-emphasised. In an increasingly individualist society, we can easily look to the interests of ourselves and those we love, to the detriment of our neighbour.

When the rich young man asked, "Who is my neighbour?" he was trying to sort out the extent of his duties in the context of the teaching. Today, whole sections of society not only do not know their immediate domestic neighbours but also know very few people outside of their station in society.

Archbishop Justin is making sure we help our neighbours by informing the UK payday loan company Wonga that, having already established a Credit Union for Anglican clergy and staff, he is ready to develop the initiative to the wider community and offer existing small institutions the opportunity to expand their operations using church buildings. No doubt, having set the ball rolling, our friends in the URC and Roman Catholic churches will also offer their premises to ensure the network reaches all parts of the country. That said, the Established Church's presence in every part of the country makes its involvement especially helpful.

Archbishop Justin's initiative should be welcomed on two levels. Its liberation of the needy from what he rightly describes as usurious rates of interest is important, but there is another equally significant dimension. It could be the start of re-establishing the community/'working class' institutions destroyed in the 1980s.

To reference those times invites the unthinking to respond that it was all Thatcher's fault that communities were overwhelmed with change, and yet the Archbishop's call to social responsibility necessarily indicts many of us with a degree of blame as well.

The carpet-baggers may have conceived their attacks on the building societies and mutual-aid funds established by the thrift and prudence of our Victorian and Edwardian forebears in those pre-welfare-state days, but many of us spread small sums across various institutions in the hope of reaping windfall benefits.

Thus we saw the demise of local building societies, small-payment savings societies - some built from ethical, temperance and, yes, socialistic idealism. As with the utilities, Sid bought his shares and sold them for a quick profit.

None of those of us who did this is in any position to criticise corporate raiders: at least the likes of Bain Capital tends to leave a revitalised economic enterprise behind. All we ended up with from our voluntary destruction or the massive degrading of the mutual sector was a pile of holiday snaps and a mountain of VHS video recorders.

Yet there is room for optimism. People can and do make ethical economic decisions, as the several ethical investment funds demonstrate. Even during the loads-a-money 80's, some of us put our money where our green rhetoric was by creating and supporting the Ecology Building Society. They made loans on properties that made sustainable sense but were ruled out by the sharply-contracting market, which saw previously local discretions removed to ever higher and inflexible levels. It can be hard to challenge when 'computer says no'.

We all seem to hate the banks that needed our taxes to bail them out because they were too big to fail. Archbishop Justin may be leading us towards a better alternative. If we can re-create the institutions made for and by the ordinary decent members of society, and offer fair and secure lending and borrowing practices whilst paying and treating staff decently, what's not to like?

Brother Ivo warmly welcomes the strategy under-pinning this initiative. It is more imaginative and participatory than calling on government or adding to the legislative programme.

If we really don't like the financial institutions we have, or their practices, we can build new ones more to our liking. That is what the Victorians did and also what the Greens did in a small way. And let us not forget the micro-finance models that bring hope and transformation in the Third World. There is every reason to see this as a viable and popular alternative savings vehicle for the many as banks begin seeking new ways to increase their revenue streams.

Plainly the big institutions will continue, but the vision to restore genuine choice and competition is a refreshing innovation, or rather a re-invention.

There is a further implication. Len McCluskey is falling out with the Labour Party and may be withdrawing significant funds from their present investment in spads, think-tanks, pollsters, spin doctors and all the other hangers-on of modern politics.

Imagine if UNITE and other unions turned away from trying to capture big government and instead channelled funds into a renewal of the old Labour movement with its mutual funds clubs and co-operative shops with dividend distribution and delivery using modern technology and logistics. How might that regenerate the towns and communities that are struggling today?

Building a community-based alternative to a disfavoured sector is not only good in itself, but also offers a challenge to thinking beyond the present narrow modes of political ideology. Is smaller-scale, independent, competitive, ethical finance a development of the political paradigm of the left or the right?

Who knows? Who cares?

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Vicarious stars in our firmament

From Mr Alexander Boot:

We don’t just need to like, respect and appreciate. We also need to worship.

The traditional object of worship, the Holy Trinity, is now seen as a bit infra dig for our masses yearning to be free. That is, free of traditional faith, commitments, customs, loyalties.

One could describe this quest for liberation as anomie, but let’s not argue about terms. Suffice it to say that abandoning the divine object of worship didn’t get rid of the innate craving to worship something. A vacuum was created, which nature abhors and people try to fill.

Hence our cult of celebrities. In the past, fame was derivative from achievement – the greater and more substantial the latter, the brighter and more durable the former.

Then gradually the link between fame and achievement grew weaker until it snapped. The most trivial of attainments or increasingly none (say, winning the lottery or appearing on a reality TV show) could now provide a springboard to stardom.

In due course, people forget what it was that sprinkled stardust on an otherwise unremarkable person. He, or more often she, will remain famous simply for being famous.

For example, anyone who has opened a newspaper recently knows that Paris Hilton and the Kardashian sisters are bona fide celebrities. Who are they and what are they celebrated for? I don’t have a clue. By today’s definition, a celebrity is someone I’ve never heard of.

This is all par for the course, as it’s laid down nowadays. But a new phenomenon is in full swing, and it’s even more baffling. People become celebrities simply because they know celebrities, carnally or otherwise.

Such is for example Nancy del’Olio who once cohabited with an unsuccessful manager of the England football team. Upon being dumped by Mr Eriksson, Nancy declared she no longer needed him: “I can be a celebrity in my own right.”

And she was as good as her word – even those who can’t tell a holding midfielder from a hole in the ground accept Nancy’s fame as her due. In the same vein, Coleen Rooney has been able to parlay her marriage to one of Eriksson’s flops into a multi-million income of her own.

By contrast, Rosa Monckton, aka Mrs Dominic Lawson, is an accomplished woman. Yet her achievements fall short of earning her the celebrity status which is these days a sine qua non of success.

Hence Mrs Lawson’s real claim to fame comes from her friendship with Diana, the Princess of Wales, who was herself a celebrity by association only. That makes Mrs Lawson a star at two removes, but hey, who’s counting?

To keep the flame of celebrity at least flickering, if no longer burning bright, Mrs Lawson has delivered herself of yet another lengthy panegyric to Diana in The Mail, this one timed to the birth of the royal baby.

Diana, according to Mrs Lawson, was exceptionally good with children because 'her wicked sense of fun was infectious'. The naysayers among us would agree that Diana’s sense of fun was indeed wicked. It’s largely because of it that she did serious damage not only to the royal family but indeed to the monarchy itself.

“She proved communication is not just about the spoken word,” continues Mrs Lawson, “a look and a caress can be more eloquent than words.” I’m sure Captain Hewitt, Will Carling and many other friends of Diana would vouch for this.

But to keep the vicarious celebrity going, Diana has to morph into ‘Diana and I’ and then eventually into ‘I and Diana’. That’s how the game is played.

Thus, "I had met Diana only the month before I conceived through our mutual friend, the then Brazilian ambassador’s wife, Lucia Flecha de Lima.” Conceiving through a woman sounds like a tall order, but then we know that a celebrity doesn’t need to be good with words. ‘A look and a caress’ can work just as well.

Diana, insists Mrs Lawson, 'would have been the most magnificent grandmother and it makes me ineffably sad she will not be a part of the royal baby’s life'.

Well, call me an unfeeling cynic but, sorry as I am that Diana had to die so early, I’m just as ‘ineffably’ glad that the royal baby will be spared the lessons his grandmother could have taught him.

Petty egoism, ignorance of anything that matters (including the meaning of monarchy), putting a ‘wicked sense of fun’ before duty, insistence on being ‘me’ no matter how puny the ‘me’ is, the conniving ability to manipulate others for personal ends – all these saturate the ambient air anyway.

Our future king will be much better off growing up without being in daily contact with all those fine qualities exhibited by a past master of them.

No doubt Mrs Lawson has warm personal recollections of her friend. She should keep them just that, personal – even at the risk of losing her vicarious stardom.

The rest of us should rejoice at the birth of the royal baby, hoping he’ll benefit from more benign influences as he grows up.

Alexander Boot is a writer on political, cultural and religious themes.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Prince George of Cambridge: is a Jew destined to ascend the Throne?

While the media obsess about the duration of Kate’s labour pains, her breast-feeding plans, her post-baby weight loss regime and the order of the bath/shower at Bucklebury, there is something about His Royal Highness The Prince George of Cambridge which merits rather more attention than all this tedious tabloid trivia.

There was some intriguing correspondence last month in The Times (15 June 2013) concerning the family tree of Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge. Former BBC court correspondent Michael Cole suggested that her genealogy evidences a very significant strand of DNA which places this new third-in-line to the British Throne in direct succession not only to William the Conqueror, but also to the Throne of Israel and the Sceptre of Judah.

It was a strange letter for The Times to print, but the reasoning went thus:

Catherine’s mother is Carol Middleton (née Goldsmith), who is the daughter of Ronald Goldsmith and Dorothy Harrison. According to Mr Cole, both of these were Jews. The parents of Dorothy Harrison were Thomas Harrison and Elizabeth Temple, both of whom were also, according to Mr Cole, Jews.

Elizabeth Temple was the daughter of Thomas Temple and Elizabeth Myers, who was the daughter of Joseph Myers, who was the son of another Joseph Myers. This was apparently a well-known 19th-century name in English Jewry meaning ‘son of Mayer’. In fact it is a patronymic surname of Jewish Ashkenazic origin, derived from the Hebrew ‘Meyer’, which is etymologically linked to ‘Meir’ (as in Golda).

All of this means that Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, is a Jew on her matriarchal side. Ergo, Prince George of Cambridge is a Jew according to Jewish religious custom and law.

Contra this is the expert opinion of Doreen Berger, the chairwoman of the Jewish Genealogy Society, who is ‘100 per cent sure’ that Catherine is not kosher; that these generations of Goldsmiths and Myers were not Jews at all. Not only are these surnames shared by Jew and Gentiles alike, but, according to Ms Berger, the Goldsmiths and Myers were ‘not from Jewish areas’. The Jewish Chronicle authoritatively informs us: ‘Ms Berger said her research was definitive but she acknowledged that it would not prevent people clinging to the idea that Prince William had married an authentically Jewish princess.’

It is odd that Ms Berger suddenly inflates Michael Cole’s claim of Semitic blood lineage to the spurious appropriation of a royal title: ‘Jewish princess’ appears to have come out of nowhere. That aside, Ms Berger’s 100-per-cent certainty is undoubtedly bolstered by the undeniable fact that Ronald Goldsmith and Dorothy Harrison were married in 1953 at Holy Trinity Church in Southall; and that Thomas Harrison and Elizabeth Temple were married in 1934 at Ludhoe Parish Church in Co Durham; and that Thomas Temple and Elizabeth Myers were married in 1894 at Tudhoe Parish Church in Co Durham; and that Joseph Myers and his father the other Joseph Myers seem to be farm labourers from Tudhoe in Co Durham, who were probably also married in their local parish churches, but His Grace really can’t be bothered to find out.

Of course, like many of that era, the family might have converted to the Church of England for social reasons. Yet such pressures were usually restricted to the middle and upper classes: Joseph Myers was a farm labourer, and they tended to accept their God-given lot and weren’t overly concerned with climbing the social ladder. Of course, they may never have been religiously-observant Jews at all.

On the face of it, the weight of evidence inclines toward Ms Berger, who is, as we know, ‘100 per cent sure’ about her 'definitive' research. And what on earth does a former BBC court correspondent know about genealogy anyway?

So what possessed the Editor of The Times to print such unadulterated tosh?

If a Jew were to inherit the Throne of the United Kingdom, a son or daughter of Abraham would once again rest upon the Coronation Stone – also known as the Stone of Scone, the Stone of Destiny or Stone of Jacob.

There are a number of mythical beliefs and cultural legends surrounding this block of sandstone: some believe it to be the very one mentioned in Genesis (28:10-22), upon which Jacob rested his weary head and received a vision from God that his descendants would inherit the land around him, and that through them all nations of the earth would be blessed. He used it as a pillow (it is also known as Jacob’s Pillow), and then established it as a monument at Bet-El (the ‘House of God’: it is also rather confusingly known as Jacob’s Pillar).

The stone was situated in the Coronation Chair in Westminster Abbey from 1308 until John Major gifted it back to Scotland in 1996 as a sop to the Nationalists. It was certainly used for the coronations of Scottish kings throughout the Middle Ages, and by the kings of Ireland before that.

Without knowing the personal religious beliefs of the Letters Editor at The Times, it is difficult to know why he considered Mr Cole's letter worth printing. But there are certainly some Christian groups who believe not only that Prince George of Cambridge is Jewish, but that the entire Royal Family is descended from ancient Israelites, and that the British Throne is the de facto throne of King David.

British Israelism (or Anglo-Israelism) is predicated on the belief that the indigenous people of Western Europe are direct descendants of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel, who were ‘cleansed’ from their land in 721BC (don’t knock it: even the BBC reports Israeli immigration in these terms).

They moved through Assyria and Parthia, and in the early centuries AD settled in what is now Western Europe. The Ten Tribes British-Israel theory used to be a foundational doctrine of Herbert W Armstrong’s Worldwide Church of God, and it remains the belief of its offshoots the Philadelphia Church of God, the United Church of God, and the Living Church of God. The theological and historical reasoning may be read HERE.

That articles says: ‘The central tenets of British Israelism have been refuted by evidence from modern genetic, linguistic, archaeological and philological research.’

As with Ms Berger, Wikipedia sounds ‘100 per cent sure’ and 'definitive' (adducing no footnotes of authoritative refutation at all) that the Royal Family is not descended from the line of King David.

And yet..

Professor Stephen Oppenhiemer in the Department of Anthropology at Oxford University wrote a book in 2006 entitled The Origins of the British, in which he argued that neither Anglo-Saxons nor Celts had much impact on the genetics of the inhabitants of the British Isles, and that British ancestry mainly traces back to the Palaeolithic Iberian people, now represented best by Basques. Professor Oppenheimer knows a thing or two about genetic, anthropological, linguistic and archaeological research.

He repudiates the accounts of Gildas (6th century AD) and Bede (7th century) that tell of Saxons and Angles invading over the 5th and 6th centuries: ‘Gildas, in particular, sprinkles his tale with “rivers of blood” descriptions of Saxon massacres. And then there is the well-documented history of Anglian and Saxon kingdoms covering England for 500 years before the Norman invasion.’ For Oppenheimer, there is no truth in the myth that the English are almost all descended from 5th-century invaders, the Angles, Saxons and Jutes, from the Danish peninsula, who wiped out the indigenous Celtic population of England.

He is of the view that the English derive most of their current gene pool from the same early Basque source as the Irish, Welsh and Scots: ‘There were many later invasions, as well as less violent immigrations, and each left a genetic signal, but no individual event contributed much more than 5 per cent to our modern genetic mix.’ He writes:
Many archaeologists still hold this view of a grand iron-age Celtic culture in the centre of the continent, which shrank to a western rump after Roman times. It is also the basis of a strong sense of ethnic identity that millions of members of the so-called Celtic diaspora hold. But there is absolutely no evidence, linguistic, archaeological or genetic, that identifies the Hallstatt or La Tène regions or cultures as Celtic homelands. The notion derives from a mistake made by the historian Herodotus 2,500 years ago when, in a passing remark about the “Keltoi,” he placed them at the source of the Danube, which he thought was near the Pyrenees. Everything else about his description located the Keltoi in the region of Iberia.
The Professor’s genetic analysis links maternally-transmitted mitochondrial DNA found in Italy, France, Spain with that found in Cornwall, Wales, Ireland and the English south coast:
Further evidence for the Mediterranean origins of Celtic invaders is preserved in medieval Gaelic literature. According to the orthodox academic view of “iron-age Celtic invasions” from central Europe, Celtic cultural history should start in the British Isles no earlier than 300 BC. Yet Irish legend tells us that all six of the cycles of invasion came from the Mediterranean via Spain, during the late Neolithic to bronze age, and were completed 3,700 years ago.
He finds greater genetic similarities between the southern English and Belgians than the Anglo-Saxon homelands at the base of the Danish peninsula: ‘The most likely reason for the genetic similarities between these neighbouring countries and England is that they all had similar prehistoric settlement histories.’
When I examined dates of intrusive male gene lines to look for those coming in from northwest Europe during the past 3,000 years, there was a similarly low rate of immigration, by far the majority arriving in the Neolithic period. The English maternal genetic record (mtDNA) is consistent with this and contradicts the Anglo-Saxon wipeout story. English females almost completely lack the characteristic Saxon mtDNA marker type still found in the homeland of the Angles and Saxons. The conclusion is that there was an Anglo-Saxon invasion, but of a minority elite type, with no evidence of subsequent “sexual apartheid.”
So, based on the overall genetic perspective of the British, it seems that Celts, Belgians, Angles, Jutes, Saxons, Vikings and Normans were all immigrant minorities compared with the Basque pioneers, who first ventured into the empty, chilly lands so recently vacated by the great ice sheets.

How does that correspond with historical analysis of the migration of Lost Tribes of Israel?

Of course it is not possible to be certain or sure: these are largely matters of faith or conjecture upon which His Grace is entirely agnostic. But it does seem rather maladroit of the genealogical expert Ms Berger to assert rather feverishly that she is ‘100 per cent sure’ of her 'definitive' research that the Duchess of Cambridge is not of Jewish descent, when we all may be.

'We All Pay Your Benefits' must become a permanent TV fixture

From Brother Ivo:

The BBC documentary We All Pay Your Benefits has been an interesting and revealing exploration of attitudes between those drawing state benefits and those of similar status who go out to work, some for less net income than the claimants.

The twitter storm #WeAllPayYourBenefits that accompanied the broadcasting was also worth following, partly because it demonstrated outrage at some of the injustices of the anomalies revealed but also as a warning about how spiteful people can become when addressing issues of this kind. People may be making poor decisions; they maybe directed towards them by poor policy formulation; but a community which seeks to bring people into the fullness of civic participation, not least economically, needs to retain a degree of respect.

Not all the abuse was directed at claimants: Iain Duncan Smith, who has devoted more time to this issue than most of his detractors, was described as a 'self-righteous arrogant pig' by one twitter respondent. Whatever the merits of his policies, he has devoted some years to the problem of how to balance compassion for the needy with incentivising and stimulating those who have settled for a sedentary lifestyle rather than developing their God-given talents. He has, moreover, visited and engaged the people of the most deprived areas in direct dialogue to understand the issue better. The number of people who have that direct experience is smaller than those passing judgement.

The programme had good low-key presenters who took what they heard seriously and were plainly interested to understand rather than drive any predetermined agenda. Their contributions were not, however, the most telling.

The heroes and heroines of the programme for Brother Ivo were the ordinary working people who went to see the lives of their fellows in modest circumstances, and shared their knowledge, experiences, advice and encouragement. This is far more interesting and instructive than the tribal banter of the chattering classes. With some 75 per cent of all MPs qualifying as millionaires (and worryingly many not entering politics as such), we are going to learn far more of the needs, challenges, merits and faults of those estranged from work in the dialogue with those who share similar lives. Such folk can offer empathy where a problem is genuine, but they can also spot a bluff at a hundred yards.

If the welfare debate is to be intelligently advanced, we probably need this programme to become a permanent feature on television. A second season that included those within our ethnic communities, suitably paired with working folk from their own culture, would greatly add to our knowledge and perhaps dispel prejudices as we get to know the strangers in our midst better. It would help to know about those who have not learned English.

One of the aspects which the programme revealed was how long and hard some people have to work for a low take-home pay. This is a challenge for liberal and conservative alike.

Those on the Left turn to one of two policies: either the state must pay a supplementing benefit (or more often a confusing blend of benefits with differing rules, allowances and disqualifications which even the bureaucrats and experts cannot always reliably and predictably identify); or they propose a politically and arbitrararily selected minimum/'living' wage. The former carries the problems of the cost of bureaucratic infrastructure, arbitrary cut-off, fraud, and the 'poverty trap', whereby claimants are disincentivised from taking different or additional work through either consequent loss or unacceptable complexity. In sectors where international wages may compete, the latter carries the risk of pricing oneself out of a job.

On the Right, the free market does not always make for happy outcomes.

When a working population grows faster than either the economy or the housing supply there is a downward pressure on wages. 'A labourer is worthy of his hire', the Bible teaches us, implying a duty of care and concern for the welfare of those toiling long and hard to make ends meet.

Often the better off are the beneficiaries, as they can hire child care, workers, domestic staff etc without a pressure for higher wages, particularly when they support the free movement of labour. It is not xenophobic or racist to state that when immigration is liberalised in a context of welfare benefit availability, rents rise, wage pressure is downwards, and demands on healthcare, schools and other public services are felt most keenly by those who perhaps especially deserve our concern but often do not receive it.

In fairness to Archbishop John Sentamu (whom Brother Ivo has recently criticised) he has indicated an especial concern towards these folk individually. 

Economist Frances Cairncross recently described immigration as 'a sign of economic success', and at one level it is: the country has created jobs - but the majority have been taken by newcomers. This does not help the low-paid, and neither does it impact positively upon those amongst the 'underclass' who do not seek to work. It is easy to be either lazy or dispirited as a result of lengthy economic inactivity. This programme demonstrated that well.

There was an interesting response to the programe from The Guardian. Lucy Mangan plainly resents the unusual arrival on the nation's television screens of ordinary workers looking into the lives of the economically inactive and offering comment.

One can imagine Ms Mangan urgently telephoning Owen Jones about these ordinary folk and protesting the outrage: "They come on the telly, taking our jobs...!" Because that is the problem with the chattering classes. Whether of the Right or Left, they are not only remote and frequently poorly informed about the lives of those they discuss; they tend to use their relative economic advantage to buy off their consciences.

They might be able to afford an extra penny on the income tax pound, but the mother getting up at 6.00am to get her children off to school before spending the day sensitively delivering intimate care to the elderly and disabled cannot, and her indictment was all the more powerful of the young man who had been unemployed for nine years because would not take a job 'beneath' the 2:1 Media Studies degree of which he was inordinately proud, even though it had left him quite unsuited for gainful employment. He had internalised the 'entitlement' narrative all too prevalent among the client class of the Left and those who apologise for him.

If we are to have a national debate on these issues, the voices who will bring the greatest insights, the most telling observations, the most relevant experiences and the clearest challenges may well be those we see rarely on our screens. We need to hear from those who work just above the benefit line but are in sight of both their own insecurity and the abuses they can see within the communities in which they also live.

Brother Ivo knows that the likes of Ms Mangan may not like this. No doubt the commissioning editors of our broadcasters will privately express fear that such folk will prove inarticulate. Brother Ivo suspects that the real fear of the chattering classes is that they will not.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A Prince of Cambridge

Congratulations to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on the birth of their first child - a son; a prince of Cambridge; a future king.

The Queen must feel a great sense of great joy and fulfilment in witnessing the next three generations of the House of Windsor - the first monarch to do so since Queen Victoria. They are inculcated with a sense of duty and an understanding of consistency. We now have four supreme governors of the Church of England lined up very nicely, to be the guardians of the Church’s authoritative formularies, its polity and its confessional identity of affirmation and restraint. They provide ecclesial continuity, theological identity and doctrinal stability..

It is odd to think of Diana, Princess of Wales, becoming a grandmother: she feels somehow frozen in a time of elegance and perpetual youth. But her spirit lives on in this new life.

His Grace will write further when the name of this future king is known. In the meantime, here is the Church of England's Prayer for the Royal Baby:
God our Creator,
who knows each of us by name
and loves us from all eternity:
we give you thanks for new life and human love.
Bless William and Catherine
as they welcome their son into the world.
Give them patience and wisdom
to cherish and love him as he grows.
Surround the family with the light of hope and the warmth of your love today and always; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Black George Zimmermans, white Trayvon Martins and the Civil Rights hypocrites

From Brother Ivo:

As protesters took to the streets of America in their millions thousands hundreds to protest the 'racism' of the legal process that enables an unarmed youth to be shot by an adult claiming self defence, please permit Brother Ivo to introduce you to Roderick Scott.

At his trial in New York, Mr Scott admitted that he shot Christopher Cervini aged 17 last April when he challenged the young man and two friends whom he suspected of breaking into cars. Mr Scott says that young Cervini ran towards him shouting threats, so he drew his pistol and fatally shot the would-be assailant - twice.

Unlike George Zimmerman, who sustained head injury at the hands of Trayvon Martin, Mr Scott received no injury.

This too is a tragedy,

The Cervini family is understandably deeply shocked and defensive of young Christopher's memory.

"How can this happen to a beautiful, sweet child like that?” asked Cervini’s aunt Carol Cervini. “All he wanted to do was go home. And then for them to say, he was saying, 'Please don't kill me. I'm just a kid', and he just kept on shooting him."

The jury heard the evidence: they spent 19 hours deliberating before acquitting Mr Scott of murder because the evidence did not meet the required standard of proof 'beyond reasonable doubt'.

So far, the Rev'ds Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton have failed to call for protests against this jury verdict, and the BBC Radio 4 Sunday programme will no doubt avoid offering this as a counter-balancing story to the way they uncritically spun for the 'racist America' team in its last edition. Nor will they suggest that Mr Scott was obliged to sustain injury, also known as an 'ass whoop' within Trayvon Martin's youth culture.

Roderick Scott did not turn and run when Christopher Cervini ran towards him uttering threats: he stood his ground before discharging not one but two shots. Unlike Florida, New York does not have a 'Stand your ground' law, but in any event it was as irrelevant in New York as it was in Florida. Either the two men, Zimmerman and Scott, were in fear of their lives and entitled to discharge their lawfully-carried weapons in self defence, or they were guilty of murder.

In both cases, the jury heard the evidence and applied the law.

Brother Ivo hopes this case receives the publicity it deserves on both sides of the Atlantic.

If these two stories are read one after the other, one cannot fail to be struck by their similarity.

They yielded similar results, which is what one should expect of an impartial system of justice; the embodiment of which is a statue of a young women holding scales and blindfolded to ensure impartiality.

As those with a vested interest in inter-race tension and their media sympathisers home in on the one case while ignoring the other, Brother Ivo's mind goes back to the most famous speech of Dr Martin Luther King when he set the benchmark for race-blind institutions. He looked forward to a time when a man would not be judged by the colour of his skin but by the content of his character.

Sadly many of his so-called followers choose to forget this. They should be a ashamed of themselves.

Sunday, July 21, 2013


From the Rev'd Dr Peter Mullen:

It gets harder for an Englishman to find a parish church where he can worship according to traditional usage. My needs are plain and few. I don’t require 'quires and places where they sing', and I can manage very cheerfully without an organ display. So this morning I entered a glorious country church, full of high hopes, sunlight and flowers.

It didn’t begin well. The priest faced the congregation across the altar for what was clearly going to be the cafeteria service. He was the thespian type, insisting on putting meaning into the words and usually the wrong ones: no OF or UNTO went unstressed and yet he contrived a wonderful jollity with BEWAIL. He had a macabre, echo-chamber voice, as if he were trying to frighten the children with a ghost story. Like tropical fruit gone bad.

The church declared that the rite would be from Your Grace’s Book of Common Prayer and indeed so it turned out, only with much ornament and a superfluity of intercession which sounded like the itinerary of a world tour. Your Grace’s prayer for the church militant is a masterpiece of inclusiveness while yet avoiding the scandal of particularity. But this was not regarded as sufficient to the task and so it was prefixed by extempore prayers for various exotic locations, apparently chosen at random. For instance, we supplicated on behalf of Pennsylvania whose citizens, I believe, are not presently discomfited; but we did not pray for New Zealand where they most definitely are by the dysteleological surd of an earthquake registering 6.9 on the Richter scale.

At least in the 'sermon', the preacher hesitated to find serious fault with the words of the Son of God and confined himself to the mild rebuke: “While not wishing to detract from Our Lord’s words in the Gospel…”

Why can’t they leave well alone? Why this obsessive tinkering with what is already, Your Grace, well-nigh perfect? I came away with those words from Your Grace’s book throbbing in my ears: 'Such men as are given to change, and have always discovered a greater regard to their own private fancies and interests, than to that duty they owe to the public.'

It is hard to kick against these pricks.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Midland mosque-bombing met with Government indifference

Apparently, the Wolverhampton Central Mosque was bombed on 28th June.

The police have only just noticed.

In fact, three Midland mosques have been bombed over the past month - in Wolverhampton, Walsall and Tipton - in a targeted campaign to kill or maim Muslims at prayer. Here's a helpful graphic (h/t the Mail):

Military bomb disposal teams have been mobilised and counter-terrorism officers are operating throughout the area.

The thing is, there's been no denunciation of this by the Prime Minister.

COBRA has not been convened, as it was immediately after the appalling murder of Drummer Lee Rigby.

Is the bombing of mosques not classified as terrorism?

Or is it only terrorism when Muslims do the attacking?

Friday, July 19, 2013

EU trade guidelines against Israeli settlements are no good for anyone, let alone the EU

From Mr Nick Gray:

News has been breaking this week of an apparently draconian new set of EU trade guidelines* that would force Israel to declare the whole of the West Bank and East Jerusalem outside of the State of Israel in any future agreements, funding arrangements or award schemes with the EU. While the extent of the teeth in this new move is vague at the moment, the Israeli government is certainly showing serious concern over it. The country's deputy Foreign Minister, Ze'ev Elkin, told the Jerusalem Post:
"This is an over-eager bureaucratic process that can have far-reaching ramifications that Israel cannot agree to and which are liable to significantly hurt Israeli-EU cooperation in Research and Development, education, culture and scientific exchanges... it badly hurts the diplomatic process and Kerry's efforts."
That the EU would continue to tighten the screws on Israel's activities beyond the green line is no surprise to anyone. What is new this time is that the EU is trying to force Israel's government into accepting a historical armistice line with no political meaning as the country's international border. The new guidelines crystalise a number of previous quiet and mutually-accepted decisions into a single and more publicly blatant document.

Besides being an insult to Israel's rights as a sovereign state, the guidelines interfere with every agreement signed between Israel and the Palestinian leaders by presuming on an issue that can only be decided between the two negotiating parties (who haven't actually negotiated anything for several years). Prime Minister Netanyahu clearly takes the document seriously, having called an emergency cabinet meeting and issued a strong condemnation, in which he points out that execution of the guildelines will 'make it more difficult to bring the Palestinians back to the negotiating table, because they will ask why negotiate when the Europeans are giving them what they want.'.

The dust is still swirling in the air over this issue; even as to whether the offending document is a firm directive to all member states or a set of guidelines. But if it is as severe as is being reported, I predict several possible outcomes, none of them good for Europe or Britain.

1. British trade with Israel has never been stronger and is growing all the time. Co-operation between British companies and Israeli start-ups through our Tel Aviv embassy's technology hub is yielding tangible benefits for both countries. Furthermore, Britain is now Israel's fourth largest export receiver. If the EU enforces the directive, which comes into force today, it could have a catastrophic effect on the fruitful economic ties Britain has with Israel.

2. The EU as a whole will suffer if Israel does as she should and refuses to co-operate with the terms of the guidelines. European countries benefit from many Israeli medical and technological advances and future co-operation in these areas would grind to a halt to the detriment of us all. If Prime Minister Netanyahu wants to poke the EU in the eye, all he has to do is move small parts of his country's drone production into the West Bank and let Brussels chew on a halt to her purchase of Israeli drone technology.

3. While Israel exports millions of dollars of goods and food to European nations, the EU is not Israel's only trading partner. Even some Arab Gulf states have begun developing quiet links with their traditional enemy. Further, east Israel is building stronger trade links with India and China, two of the world's biggest economies. And, of course, Israel still has the USA, totally unaffected by silly decisions made by an unelected bureaucracy across the sea. No doubt Israel's detractors and boycott-wishers will crow and celebrate this European condemnation of Israel's so-called 'occupation' of Judea and Samaria. Let's be clear about this, though: if the EU enforces this latest anti-Israel directive, it will do nothing for peace; it will do nothing for the economies of any European nation and will only bring to an end the benefits we all have from Israel's technology and medical and agricultural advances.

4. Closer to home and just as damaging for Israel is the certainty that the Palestinian Authority (PA) will make as much mileage out of this as it can. What incentive does Mr Abbas have to stop laying down pre-conditions for talks with Israel if the EU is setting borders and defining his future state's territory for him? Israel should ban all EU projects in Area C of the West Bank until the guidelines are changed. This would prevent the EU giving further aid to the PA to develop the Israeli-controlled part of the disputed territories. Mr Netanyahu is unlikely to go as far as applying full Israeli sovereignty over that part of the West bank, as demanded by some settler groups, but he can put pressure on the EU and the Palestinians by refusing to allow further EU funded projects there.

Sorry EU Commission, but methinks you've shot yourself in the foot this time!

*The actual document describes itself as 'Guidelines', but the EU Commission commits itself to 'implement these guidelines in their entirety', giving them more force than just advice to member states. As mentioned above, the strength of the 'teeth' of this document will become apparent as it is applied.

Nick Gray is Director of Christian Middle East Watch

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Requiem for the National Health Church

From the Rev'd Dr Peter Mullen:

The NHS is the new national church. Worshippers are very devout but, just as members of the old national church the Cof E were wont to argue the toss in Synod or squabble over whether to have a fortune-teller at the garden fete, so worshippers in the new national church exchanged insults this week in the House of Commons. Don’t worry, there will be no major schism in this new church, for its members are fiercely united in their faith. Unfortunately, this means that there will never be any serious attempt to remedy the many faults and failures of the NHS. Religious commitment to it runs so deep that any suggestion it might be drastically reformed amounts to blasphemy.

As I said, this is unfortunate. For in 43 years of priestly hospital visiting I have noticed a falling off in standards. Going back a little earlier than that to recollections of my hospitalisation as a boy, I recall the hospitals as icons of orderliness, efficiency, cleanliness and run hierarchically with military precision. Every morning at 8.00 there was a most evocative sight: the day nurses would begin their shift by gathering around the ward sister’s desk for prayers. Christian prayers. Our progressive adherence to the New and Great Commandment 'Diversity' would never permit such an atrocity.

During the last 15 years, I visited most of the London hospitals. Some were clean and very well run. Others were unspeakably dirty, with evidence of carelessness and neglect of patients all around. But, despite the horror stories and devotees’ squabbles in the House this week, it doesn’t matter how many unnecessary or premature deaths occur; it doesn’t matter how appalling the A&E services become; or that the new definition of a GP is your local doctor with whom you can never arrange an appointment; or that 'care homes' have become places that are not homes and where no one cares - the NHS will continue and there will be no Judgement Day.

It doesn’t matter how many extra £billions are spent or by what scale of geometric progression the army of NHS bureaucrats increases, the institution will creak on until its final and inevitable collapse which will amount to a national trauma. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Nothing will be done to remedy the inefficiency and abuses, because the NHS has the same status in Britain as that of a cow among Hindu devotees. In the old national church you might have hoped to find love here and there. In the new secular, materialistic national church you will find only sentimentality. For example, those who minister in it must never be criticised. A stranger has to learn the ritual etiquette by which employees of the NHS must always be described as 'angels…wonderful…caring…tireless…salt of the earth'. But if the salt hath lost its savour?

There is one defining cause of the decay of the NHS: the colossal increases in its funding and the barely imaginable multiplication of its senior managers and employees have created an institution which no longer exists for the health of the people it was set up to serve, but for the benefit of the hordes of highly-unionised staff who operate it. This was always predictable and indeed, more than 30 years ago, it was actually predicted by Dr Max Gammon in what has come to be known as Gammon’s Law:
“In any bureaucratic system… increase in expenditure will be matched by fall in production… Such systems, and particularly the NHS will act rather like black holes in the economic universe, simultaneously sucking in resources, and shrinking in terms of emitted production.”
It only remains for the new national church to compose a Requiem ritual for its own unavoidable demise.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

By what authority does Caesar impose moral relativism upon the Church?

From the Rev'd Julian Mann:

The recent exchange between Labour MP Ben Bradshaw and the Second Church Estates Commissioner Sir Tony Baldry in the House of Commons has huge potential implications for local parish churches in the Church of England and their ability to shape their communities according to the revealed truth of God.

Thinking Anglicans has helpfully set out the exchange from Hansard on July 4th. It merits very careful reading by anybody concerned about the Christian integrity of parish churches serving local communities around the country:
Ben Bradshaw (Exeter, Labour) What guidance the Church of England plans to issue to parishes and Church schools on pastoral care for same sex couples and their children?

Tony Baldry (Second Church Estates Commissioner; Banbury, Conservative) The House of Bishops issued a pastoral statement before the Civil Partnership Act 2004 came into force in 2005. I expect that the House of Bishops will want to issue a further statement before the legislation on same-sex marriage comes into force. The House of Bishops is due to consider this December a report on sexuality, chaired by former permanent secretary Sir Joseph Pilling. The work of that group will assist the House of Bishops in its deliberations.

Ben Bradshaw (Exeter, Labour) I am grateful for that reply, because I recently came across a case of a Christian couple in a same-sex relationship and with children in the local Church primary school to whom it was made clear by the local conservative evangelical church that they would not be welcome to worship in it. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that such intolerance and bigotry have no place whatever in the Church of England? When the Church issues guidance, it is very important that that is made quite clear to both parishes and Church schools.

Tony Baldry (Second Church Estates Commissioner; Banbury, Conservative) Of course I agree with the right hon. Gentleman about that. If he would like to give me the details of that case, I will most certainly take it up with the diocesan education officer. Children in Church schools come from a wide variety of family backgrounds, and teachers offer the same compassion and care for all. Each child is valued as a child of God and deserving of the very best that schools can offer. I would not expect any Church school to discriminate against any child, whatever their personal or family circumstances. If any right hon. or hon. Member comes across any instance where he feels that a Church school is in any way falling short of the standards that this House would expect, I hope they will get in touch with me."
Note Mr Bradshaw claimed the same-sex couple in Exeter were debarred by the conservative evangelical church from 'worship'. That claim raises significant issues. Was the couple banned from attending the church? That, in practice, is almost inconceivable in any local Anglican parish church holding a public service of corporate worship. It would only happen in the case of a major breach of the peace.

But it is conceivable that the minister, with the support of his churchwardens, told the couple that Holy Communion was not appropriate for them. Clearly, the claim that the couple were debarred from worship sounds much more sensational and enhances their victim status. But there urgently needs to be clarification in this case as to what precisely the couple were debarred from.

If it was Holy Communion, then the issue here is not primarily that of practising homosexuality. Many of us in the Church of England and more of us in the wider Anglican Communion believe that such practice is contrary to Holy Scripture and therefore disobedient to God. But practising homosexuality is very far from the only sin forbidden by the Word of God. In some cultures - for example The Honduras - being an unrepentant drug dealer might be considered compatible with professing Christian faith. A local church that refused Holy Communion to such a person would certainly be doing the right thing and risking life and limb by so doing.

The issue here is the authority of the Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church of the Lord Jesus Christ to exercise due biblical discipline over its members and rightly and duly to administer His Sacraments. The Church of England's own rules, its Canons, with which Sir Tony is no doubt familiar, are very far from advocating a free-for-all at Holy Communion. Canon B16 - Of notorious offenders not to be admitted to Holy Communion - clearly states that worshippers guilty of 'grave and open sin without repentance' should, after due process, be debarred by the local minister from the Lord's Supper.

By what right does Caesar impose moral relativism on the precious Body of Christ meeting locally?

Julian Mann is vicar of the Parish Church of the Ascension, Oughtibridge, South Yorkshire.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

George Zimmerman and the BBC's black-and-white blindness

From Brother Ivo:

The BBC is at it again with its coverage of the George Zimmerman acquittal in the United States.

Using a description of Mr Zimmerman only previously employed by the New York Times, the Radio 4 Today programme described the Obama-voting registered Democrat as a 'white man of Hispanic origin'. This may come as a surprise to the Zimmerman family (above) which looks to Brother Ivo to be a textbook example of President Obama's rainbow multicultural society, but hey, why spoil a story of US racial prejudice by confusing the British public with the facts?

The issues of the Trayvon Martin shooting are pretty commonplace as self-defence cases go.

The 17-year-old had grown somewhat since the universally-employed photograph of him being used by the media was taken. As someone observed, he appeared to have been the only 17-year-old in the western hemisphere not to have had his photograph taken since he was 13.

The video of him buying sweets in a store indicated a figure who could reasonably be regarded in the dark as a more threatening presence than the young Trayvon we see in the standard iconography. That may not be entirely coincidental.

The BBC summarised the issue as concerning a young, unarmed, black youngster shot by a 'white' Neighbourhood Watch volunteer. That was it.

Brother Ivo had thought that the last two elections had demonstrated that if the USA had not yet quite seen the end of old suspicions, the massive win for America’s first black President might have been the beginning of the end. But it seems that if the concept of the passe blanc had been banished from polite society, it still may be revived by those heavily invested in keeping the old enmities alive.

In such cases, context is everything. Whatever the context, the loss of a young life is tragic, and even if Trayvon had been up to no good (which is very far from established) that would not, of itself, have justified the sad outcome. By his dress and/or manner, he attracted the suspicion of George Zimmerman, who was a Neighbourhood Watch volunteer in the mixed-race, gated community in which he lived and in which Trayvon was staying temporarily.

That suspicion was not wholly without foundation. He did not recognise the newcomer as a resident; the community had been beset by much crime, including one shooting; and Zimmerman had previously reported similar suspicious persons to the police, one of whom had been successfully apprehended with the loot from a recent burglary.

His previous reports had been recorded: in none of them had he referenced the race of the suspicious person until specifically requested to do so, as was the case on that particular night. This is important in terms of judging his preconceptions. The Neighbourhood Watch had been established because all residents of whatever racial origin were heartily sick of being targeted for crime, and the police had had only limited success in stopping it, and that was with the generous assistance of folk like George Zimmerman.

Florida is a 'conceal carry' state. George was lawfully armed but had not gone out 'patrolling' that night. His spotting of Trayvon Martin was a chance event.

Martin became suspicious of Zimmerman while he was on the phone to a friend: he described Zimmerman as a 'creepy-ass cracker', a term with racist overtones harking back to the 'cracker' culture of the American South when the poor from that culture often worked as overseers on slave plantations.

In his fascinating book Black Rednecks and White Liberals, the black educationalist and commentator Thomas Sowell writes extensively about the irony that much that is wrong with black youth culture can be traced back to the emulation of the white, slave-abusing, cracker culture: the disdain for tidy dress, little time for education, the use of patois, disrespect for women of all races, a low flashpoint for violence and a fierce sense of personal honour which triggers early recourse to revenge. These were the less endearing aspects of cracker culture, yet, ironically, according to Sowell, its values live on principally amongst many black youngsters who think it a rebellion against former oppressors.

Trayvon Martin wrongly identified George Zimmerman's racial culture, but that need not have mattered in the dark as they lost each other.

Zimmerman had been advised not to engage the supposed intruder to the gated community. The advice was probably for his own safety. He ignored that advice. Had all turned out well and had Trayvon Martin been a malefactor, Zimmerman would no doubt have been regarded as a have-a-go hero. There is no reason to think he was thinking directly in such terms as he sought to find the suspicious stranger in order to direct the police when they arrived. He had already phoned the police, though the BBC account omitted that important fact. This was not go-it-alone vigilantism.

If the mutual fear and suspicion had been at a lower level, the next few minutes would have had a different outcome. The two men encountered each other. Martin was younger and taller; Zimmerman older and heavier. We only have Zimmerman's account of what happened next, though some eye witnesses saw parts of the final dispute.

Zimmerman says he was set upon; Martin cannot tell us. But we do know that not only did Zimmerman give an immediate account to the police before seeing a lawyer, but that none of the forensic evidence contradicted that account. The consistency may well have been important and significantly persuasive. Trayvon Martin ended up on top; Zimmerman's clothing was damp and grass stained in the back. Martin had minor abrasions to his knuckles on one hand; Zimmerman sustained injury to the back of his head consistent with his account of having his head banged on the concrete. At this point, he drew his pistol and fired one shot at point blank range killing Trayvon Martin. The deceased's clothing was hanging away from his body when the gun was fired, suggesting that he was on top as had been claimed. He was not shot from a distance or while running away.

If one excludes prior deliberate intent (..and who invites the police to a planned execution?) everything turned upon the last few seconds of the struggle.

If George Zimmerman reasonably considered his life to be in danger, howsoever they got to that point, he was entitled to fire his gun. Many may not appreciate that if both feared for their lives, both could have pleaded self defence.

Some, such as Fox News commentator Bob Beckel, argue that Zimmerman should not have used his gun as he was 'only' having his head banged on a kerbstone. Beckel significantly underestimates how many people die in fights from head injuries - often from a single punch or kick.

To such folk, Brother Ivo asks a single question: "How much head injury would you be prepared to sustain before concluding that your life may be in danger?" You have three seconds to answer.

These were the issues considered by the jury that acquitted George Zimmerman of murder. Unlike most commentators, they heard all the evidence and submissions on law; they unanimously pronounced that the legal standard of proof beyond reasonable doubt was not met.

For the BBC to report this story as if George Zimmerman were 'hideously white' and had stalked an unarmed boy to murder him is outrageous, but not terribly surprising. As a culturally liberal institution, they are, in this context, being institutionally racist.

They want this story to be about the white man's oppression of black youth, even though there was not a white man in the story or that the bias in the court was, if anything, inclined toward that of a very liberal female judge. The jurors, incidentally, were all female, and most were mothers who were more more than capable of understanding and, indeed, more like to empathise with Trayvon's mother and family in their loss and grief.

Where the BBC further displays disgraceful editorial judgement is in its lack of curiosity of how the prosecution got this far and how the media reported it.

The story was ignited by the intervention of the 'Reverend' Al Sharpton, one of America's principal benefactors of racial division. He and others appear to regret the passing of the good old days of noble struggle against, inter alia, court decisions based upon prejudice and whipped-up emotion rather than upon the forensic dissection of the facts. If you want to understand how much he needed 'a win' in the race-baiting wars, do have a look at the Tawana Brawley story, in which he played a despicable role.

Jesse Jackson has also emerged as part of an attempted self-rehabilitation following his Clintonesque trouser malfunction. Yet even he does have some understanding of how an unknown black youngster dressed in a hoodie might attract suspicion in a community such as Jackson himself observed when he said: "There is nothing more painful to me at this stage in my life than to walk down the street and hear footsteps and start thinking about robbery. Then look around and see somebody white and feel relieved."

The US media has similarly made the story into one of racial injustice. Published pictures of George Zimmerman lightened his skin tone; NBS ran a tape of Zimmerman's call for help in which he appeared to identify Trayvon Martin as black, but the operator's preceding routine question as to the race of the suspicious person was editorially removed by the broadcaster, leaving the plainest impression that this was an important part of Zimmerman’s preoccupation. The still from the store video of what Trayvon Martin actually looked like on that night was disseminated much later than the younger image (which still adorns the posters of those protesting the verdict) had been established in the public mind.

This is where the interesting story lies. Why is there such a desire to believe that a tragic but not terribly uncommon death is somehow symptomatic of deep-seated racial division in US society? Why do those who foment this view attract such disproportionate interest?

Finally, in the days between George Zimmerman's arrest and acquittal, some 11,006 black youngsters have been murdered by other black youngsters. These have attracted significantly less interest from Sharpton, Jackson, and the BBC. Those youngsters are obviously not worth bothering about; they have no news value.

If I were a black mother living in the USA, I would not be losing too much sleep over the George Zimmermans of this world. I would leave that to the purveyors of racial politics. After all, they have a living to earn.

They are the professionals.
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