Corbyn: what the careerist politicians don’t get!

“He’s unelectable”; “He’s too left-wing”; “He’s a Trotskyite”; “He didn’t do enough during the EU Referendum”. All the lies, misinformation and base-less nonsense made by people within the Labour party about their leader, a man who had the highest mandate in an election to win the leadership that has been seen for almost half a century. A man who has built up the membership of the Labour Party from near fatally low numbers into a proper “movement”. A man who speaks the language of the people, who uses real people’s issues and questions at PMQ’s and a man who did more mileage during the Referendum campaign than any other politician, including the then Prime Minister. Not to mention the increased majorities and votes for the Labour party in every election since he became leader.

So why do they hate him? Is it because he’s popular with the people, and they are, therefore jealous? Possibly. But more likely it’s because he shows a way forward that is counter to the culture in the Houses of Parliament. He actually works, he actually has convictions, he’s not about trying to make himself visible he’s about trying to make people’s issues and needs visible. He is passionate, honest and truthful. None of these things matter in modern politics where self-preservation and self-interest come first.

But, they say, he was “trounced” my May at PMQ’s! Was he? I watched in sadness, horror and disbelief as the Prime Minister refused to answer one of his questions, but rather mocked and avoided saying anything real or of value. As she mimicked Thatcher, a women who ripped the heart out of working class communities, she showed a complete lack of respect for the needs and the problems of ordinary people. As a Christian is horrified me that all she could do was act like the bully in the play ground rather than show dignity and reality. However, her disdain of Jeremy Corbyn showed one thing: The Tories are scared of him. If they weren’t they’d want him to remain as leader of the opposition, as a weak leader would serve them well. But they want him out because he is a very real threat to them.

So Labour MP’s wake up and smell the coffee! The people actually like your leader, they hate your lack of respect for him and them. They are your people, listen to them because they know Jeremy does! Let’s make for a real politics where issues, convictions and beliefs are what matters. Let’s try to make this country work for the majority not the advantaged few. The Kingdom of God is for everyone, wouldn’t it be great if our Country was too?

Doubt and Certainty – reflections on St Thomas, Brexit and Faith.

“Faith is more about doubt than it is about certainty” (Philip Brent, 3rd July 2003). That is the closest I have ever come to having an original thought, and perhaps the closest I’ve ever been to being profound. However, its true! If everything was certain, if there were no questions, no doubts, then there would be no need to have faith, no need to trust in God.

St Thomas, whose day we celebrate on the 3rd July, is often labelled “doubting Thomas” for his unwillingness to accept Jesus’ Resurrection based on the testimony of his friends. Thomas wanted to be sure, he wanted to see for himself. People see his doubting as a negative, “The others believed so should he!” But actually I see it as a positive. He didn’t have “Blind Faith” he wanted to know for certain, he wanted to test and be sure. I believe that is the right and good thing to do.

Last weeks vote has left me with many doubts and questions. It has made me doubt my place in my own society, in my own Nation. It has made me wonder if I have been so out of touch with the world around me that I have nothing to say, and no place in Britain anymore. The rise in racist incidents since that vote has only left me questioning my Country and its place in the world further. How can the country I love, with its democracy, its love of equality, its generosity of spirit and heart, its positive support of the down trodden and disenfranchised be turned into a Nation of inward-looking, xenophobic racists? I have also doubted my own place in that country and whether I should be serving and trying to speak to such a world. Aren’t I out of touch and irrelevant to such a world?

However, the bile and hatred, from both Remain and Leave voters on Social media has made me stop and think. Someone has to rise above all this, someone has got to speak reason, someone has got to strike a note of calm amidst the storm, especially for the silent majority. Many people I know, many friends in fact, Voted Leave and not one of them is ignorant, not one of them is a Racist. Many of those who voted Remain, like me, have not got involved in name calling, in demanding a recount or a re-vote, we have accepted the democratic decision, and know we are all going to have to work really hard if we are going to salvage a future for our Nation. It has also made me realise that the place of the Priest in the Parish is not to engage in the mud-slinging, but rather to stand strong in the face of the prevailing winds on the world. We are called to be counter to the culture of the day, to challenge the world to return to God, a God of Love, Hope and Faith.

So whilst I have doubted my place in the world, and the place of the Church in the world too, my doubting has made me see that place more clearly. It has helped me understand that speaking out, in order to draw people closer to the Kingdom of God, is my role. I do have a voice, and I shall use it. Its how we use our voices that counts. There must be a rejection of prejudice, of bile, of hatred. There must be reason and a will to work together for the good of all. Through questioning my faith has become stronger, as it did for Thomas, as it will for you!

Faith, Hope and Love – why I am voting “Remain”.

Much of the campaigns for the referendum have left a nasty taste in the mouth. Both sides of the debate have majored on negativity and fear in their arguments. This has led to a sense of despair about the future of our country and its relationships with the wider world. The Kingdom of God, the Kingdom that  Jesus urges his followers to bring in, is based on Faith, Hope and Love. The “Leave” campaign has built much of its arguments on despair fear and hate, and whilst that may only stem from the extreme right part of that campaign, there is no doubt that they are not builders but destroyers, not just of nation but of humanity. I want to put forwards something far more positive, far more hopefully and, I believe full of Jesus’ love.

Since its early formation the EU has maintained and strengthened the peace in Western Europe and beyond. It is the fact that nations have been brought together, have communicated and have strived to work through difficulties that has been the back-bone of that peace. Whilst some would say that NATO has more of a part to play in this, they must remember that France, whilst always active in the EU has drifted in and our of NATO regularly. NATO does not have the same political basis and all round approach to things that the EU has. Peace can be fragile, we need to maintain the Peace that is God’s will for the world.

I am passionate about working people being supported, cared for and treated fairly. People sometimes forget to realise that until the late 90’s holiday pay was not compulsory, it came in as a result of EU legislation, loosing that right would be detrimental to the health and well-being of our workforce and nation as a whole. The EU has also increased Maternity Leave and pay and introduced Paternity Leave and pay. It is currently striving to eradicate zero-hours contracts so that everyone can receive a fair wage. Looking after the people who work is fundamental to making sure that we can grow as a Nation, a world, it also makes for happier people and a better society too.

I am eternally grateful for the freedom of movement in the EU and the fact that it has allowed many hard-working people from around the EU to save some of our major industries and services from failing. Without foreign workers in the NHS and already creaking service sector would have failed, and we need a strong NHS. My father has worked all his life in the Pig Industry, without foreign workers that industry would have failed as would much of the Agricultural industry in this country. The support and hard work of many from around the EU has kept our economy going in recent years. Whilst some would say “yes, but the are paid wages we can’t afford to live on and so are forcing us from work” I would point to the prices in the Supermarkets, if you want cheap prices, then how can our farmers afford to bring that food to our tables. It’s not the EU that is wrong here, it’s the monetary system we use.

I am voting remain because I believe in Faith, Hope and Love. I am voting remain because, although the EU is flawed, it is our best means of maintaining peace, of helping our workers get the support and help they deserve and need. I am voting Remain because I will not give in to Hatred, to Fear and Despair. I love my neighbours and I welcome them wherever they have come from, because we are all God’s children, all equal in his sight and all deserving of equal love.

Myth Busting about the Church of England part 1!

Most people know that the Church of England is the established Church in this country. They know it, therefore, has a major part to play in the life of the nation from Coronations to Civic Celebrations, through praying for the nation in times of war and peace to taking an active role in Parliament (Bishops sit in the House of Lords). If there is something that involves the Nation as a whole, whether in celebration (like the Queen’s 90th Birthday) or in mourning (like the Death of Princess Diana) we, the Church of England, are involved. We do the same thinks, on a lesser scale in every Parish community.

Perhaps because we are so involved in the life of the Nation many people think that our role as the established Church is funded by the state. There is the widely held belief that all our Church buildings, many of which are old and need much work to keep them going, along with the Stipends (salaries if you like) of the clergy are all paid for by the state. This idea is probably not helped by the fact that in Germany there is such a thing as a Church Tax which you have to pay if you want to have a baptism, wedding or funeral service in a church. However, none of this is the case with the Church of England. Clergy pay, the maintenance of Church buildings and the training and support we get to run and guide our churches is all paid for from the generosity of those who give to the Church. A Church like St Guthlac’s Market Deeping costs nearly £90K to run each year, and that rises as costs increase. Without the generosity of those who attend, without the support of generous visitors we’d be in a right mess.

The other major misunderstanding is that people don’t realise that we are a Charity. The Church of England as a whole is a Charity as are each and every individual parish too. Like any other charity we rely on the good will of those who attend to pay our bills and cover our costs. As a charity people can, therefore, “gift aid” any donation, all regular giving and any generous benefaction they give to the Church. If every tax payer who gives to the church did this then we would get an extra 20p in every £1 given to our Church. I am sure we all reconsider our giving to other charities perhaps its time to do so to our local Church of England Church too.

The worst myth about the Church is that it is one of the richest organizations in the Country. However, the Churches wealth is asset rich but cash poor. All our buildings are worth a lot of money but we cannot sell them off, we need them to maintain our presence within our communities and for the worship and life of those communities too. The Church has very little expendable cash, it remains reliant upon us, the generous givers, to keep running. I am about to reconsider what I give to my favourite Charity – St Guthlac’s Church, Market Deeping, please will you reconsider what you give to your local Church too?

John Lydon – mischevious elf or Prophet of Doom? A review of PiL’s concert at the Engine Shed Lincoln.

Much has been said about John Lydon (aka Jonnie Rotten) over the past 4 decades, much of which he would describe as “b******s” or worse. His band Public Image Ltd (PiL) have returned in the past decade with some wonderfully powerful and effective albums and have certainly got their Mojo working. Their latest album “What the world needs now…” is a fine blend of thumping rhythms, righteous anger and crude humour. Lydon himself saying that one thing that they have re-engaged with recently is humour, they are able to have a laugh at themselves and the world.

This humour was evident in the set from the gig last night the opening number being “Double trouble” which open s with the lines “what are you f*****g nagging again about what? What? What? The toilets f*****g broken again…” all delivered with that impish grin what Lydon is so famous for. Yes, many of you will find that offensive and actually its supposed to make you laugh, its ridiculous and yet echoes many a domestic situation. The song also includes one of my favourite lines in recent years “Domestos is…domestic bliss”, why because it is so banal and yet funny for all that.

Lydon’s presence throughout the gig is memorizing, now at the end of his 50’s he isn’t as mobile as he once was but every hand gesture, every arm movement is made to count. Despite the thumping rhythms throughout and the dervish-like playing of Lu Edmonds it is impossible to take your eyes of Lydon, a true frontman who holds the audience in the palm of his hand. He doesn’t say much between songs but what he does say is full of humour and cheeky chastising of the crowd.

But beyond all this, especially the humour, there is something more serious going down. As the band thunder through songs old and new (including a wonderful electrified and fuzzed up Bazouki led “This is not a love song”) there is something of a call to arms, or anger at least. Lydon barking and accusing as he wonders when we are going to take our country back from those who tell us what to do without caring for any of us. During a wonderful “Warrior” he urges everyone to denounce the powers that be and rants about being not allowed to smoke or drink or… Then there is the 15 minute bone rattling attack on organised religion where he proclaims that the only evil are priests and religious leaders. This isn’t a man who is anti-God but anti those who use God for their own gain. The band then end the set with a wonderful version of “Rise” with the whole audience bellowing its chant “anger is an energy”, a call to arms that we should all rise against prejudice and not lie down and take what we are being dealt.

The evening is not yet over 2 encores – “Burn, Babylon, Burn” and then “Shoom” a song full of expletives  proclaiming modern life is all “b******s” and its chorus of “What the world need now is another f*** off”. All seemingly impish humour but actually reminding us that when punk burst on the scene its purpose was to enable a disenfranchised youth to stick two fingers up to the prevailing winds of society. It seems Lydon and PiL wish us to regain that desire, to stand up, to use “anger as an energy” and to say “F*** off” to politicians and those who oppress. So, yes he has that impish, elvish mischievous edge but he is also trying to be a prophet for our times, calling us all to have a voice. There is one issue though, has his day come and gone, can he really rally us? Looking at the crowd, a mixture of aging punks, middle-aged and, mainly, middle-classed folk perhaps not. However, my son wasn’t the only teenager present, youth and anger was still present, so who knows. I’d like to think this prophet of the late 20th Century still has enough about him to help us all Rise and have a voice. The gig energised me – catch them whilst you can!

The Church is there for you – are you there for the Church?

In recent years voluntary organizations have more and more expectations thrust upon them as the Governments austerity regime means that there is less and less money available from central government to support those in need. The voluntary and charitable sector has been asked to do more and more on smaller and smaller budgets. This has seen some wonderful efforts on behalf of some organizations and groups to achieve wonderful results. The flip side is that there is a fatigue setting in, because so many feel they ought to do something for the “greater good” they are using more of their own spare time to do so. This leaves them with less capacity and will to do things that they used to do, or to be involved in more.

One area that seems to be massively effected by this is the Church. For whilst here in Market Deeping attendance is at worst steady and more likely increasing, actual involvement in the life and the work of the Church is not. There are still the hard-working loyal few who do most of the work,get involved in activiesand financially support the Church.

I believe that there are more reasons for this than just fatigue and capacity. I think that people are often unaware that the Church is self-financing, that it is the giving of congregations that supports the life and work of the Church. There is the myth out there that the Church of England is funded by the state, which just isn’t true. I also think that people forget that the Church is a charity and that to run it needs support and people to do so. There is also the tendency to believe that the Church is a service provider and that we just go to Church to receive not to give.

We are also a victim of our own success – because we exist, because we survive and deliver, because we can offer things people want they thing it just happens and will continue to happen.

The Church is here to be amongst the community, it is here to help those in need to provide Education, learning and a safe environment for communities and people. It is there to help people know the love of God and to strive to share that love to everyone in every community. It is there to enable the faithful to worship their God and to energize them for the work of bringing in God’s Kingdom. But it can only do that if everyone plays their part, if everyone works together. If we want the Church to be there for us we need to be there for the Church and to commit to working for the Church. We all need to engage.

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The Cult of image -don’t get sucked in!

Many people in this country are dismayed that Donald Trump, a man who has used hatred, thinly veiled sexism and racism in his campaign for the Republican Presidential Nomination, could very possibly end up being President of the USA. How can this possibly happen? By having the right image (despite that dodgy toupee and tan) and by pushing the right buttons with those who feel disaffected by the political landscape in that Country. However there is something much closer to home that we need to worry about.

Imagine a month from now we have an unelected Prime Minister who, freed from membership of the EU starts a 4 year campaign of destruction of the rights of ordinary working people. First paternity leave will go, then maternity leave will be slashed to a bare minimum. Next there will be the end of paid holidays, of free healthcare, of the majority of benefits to the disabled and weak. This will all happen as the Trade Unions will be more  isolated and possibly even outlawed. The education system, ravished as it is now, will be obliterated into a tiered system where the poor and weak will be ignored whilst the rich and strong will be championed. Fantasy?

The truth is the press love Boris Johnson, they play to his mock baffoonery, they ignore his racist asides or claim them as bumblings of a charming man. On Monday when the Prime Minister gave a statesman like speach concerning the security and peace benefits of the EU the BBC questioning of him afterwards was agressive and hostile. When the same reporter later questioned “lovely” Boris she was sweetness and light. The cameras then pan down to his beaten up brogues as if to say “poor man can’t even afford new shoes”.The image is all with Boris, and yet it is all a lie, he is one of the Richest, educated and calculating men in politics. Everything is put in place so that we are fooled into loving him. But don’t be fooled, the picture I have painted above is the Britain he wants with him in charge. He sees an opportunity to get rid of Cameron without the ballot paper.

Remember this is a man who led a University Campaign as a Student to claim Nelson Mandela as a terrorist who should therefore be hung. This is the man who described Liverpudlians as “work-shy” and “scroungers”. This is also the man whose attack a=on Barak Obama ended with him spitting out that he was a “Kenyan” in a derogatory way, similtanoiusly insulting the President of the USA with thinly veiled racism and the Kenyan nation too.

Don’t be like the people of Israel who shouted for Barabas to be realesed instead of Jesus, because his image worked better. Barabas certainly could lead a revolt, but he was also a murderer and not the man they thought he was. Don’t be fooled by the image!