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Speaking Truth to Power

This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series Speaking Truth to Power

I haven’t posted much recently, and this is because – as my regular readers will know – I ‘do what I see my Father doing’. And just lately He hasn’t been ‘doing’ me posting on my blog.

Lately, I have become more and more concerned about the way in which Christianity has been twisted by a combination of political and religious powers, to the point where many Christians no longer feel comfortable identifying as ‘Christian’ because of the harshness and nastiness that that ‘label’ now – quite rightly – brings to mind in the thoughts of someone not associated with the Faith. People are not wanting to be called Christians any more because of the bad behaviour of right-wing Evangelical nasties. But, personally, I won’t let the pirates and interlopers steal my own birthright: the right to carry the Name of the One Who loves me. Come what may, and even given all the negative connotations that the name carries, it’s still my birthright. Tarnished and sullied by the unclean it may be, but it still means the world to me[1]. It was mine to begin with, before the bad guys stole it and made it unclean to be seen wearing.

I’ve also decided that, at my age[2], it’s my turn to gripe and moan about the ills of society, bureaucracy, officialdom and the lack of any kind of sense of humour in many people. I’ve lived long enough to have seen the unchanging nature of human civilization, its pettiness, its frustrations, its curse of repeating history and not learning past lessons[3] to have hoped from childhood that things must surely get better; they can’t persist in those methods for long, surely? Only to find out that indeed they don’t get better, and they do persist[4].

This isn’t from a point of view of hopelessness. This is from a point of view of someone who is an upbeat, happy and positive person who nevertheless wants to point out the things wrong with society, so that even if nothing ever changes, at least others can see that they are not alone in their frustrations. I have a firm belief in God and in His plans for bringing ordinary people into the blessings of His presence. Maybe that will gradually help to change society in the process; who knows. But this is not the sort of thing you will read about or hear about in the news, because modern news only concentrates a) on the bad news, and b) on the things that politicians are saying – which usually comes under category (a) in its own right 😉 God seems to work more in the quiet, small unassuming things of life, like someone holding open a door for the person following them, or letting a hassled young mum, with an armful of tired toddlers, go first in the queue. The little things of life.

Some of this stuff may appear political. I don’t get involved in party politics; while I do exercise my hard-won right to vote and thereby participate in democracy – which “…is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time…”[5], I don’t openly profess allegiance to any political party. The idea of this series is to address and call out official bullshit no matter its source. I also won’t be addressing every issue on the table; just the ones I feel called to address. My silence on an issue does not indicate any opinion on it in any way.

And I am not necessarily going to propose any solutions, except maybe occasionally to show that there is a better way, and that better way usually involves something that looks like treating others fairly and treating them well. That said, there are a lot of nasty people out there and I’m afraid I do believe that anything bad that happens to those people is simply them getting their own just desserts. I’m not into treating bad people all nicey-nicey. This does not clash with my beliefs on Grace: the undeserved and unearned favour of God Who loves all people. No, this is simply people getting their just desserts so that, hopefully, they can learn from their mistakes and become better people for it.

I’m not claiming to be any better than anyone else. And even if I am, it isn’t anyone else’s place to judge me for that or for anything else. I’m not forcing anyone to read my drivel, but if you find it helpful – which I sincerely hope you will – then that’s great. But, being a Yorkshireman, I like to say it how it is and, if that means I lose others’ favour along the way, then so be it. I’m not in this game to please others anyway 🙂

So, I’ll get on and write some pieces for the series now. I hope you will find them helpful! 😀

 


Header picture is a beautiful shot of the buildings housing the seat of British Government: the Houses of Parliament, and I use it here to symbolise ‘power’. While much of the current hijacking of Christianity is taking place in the United States, there is also a slow and insidious infiltration of the same types of problems into British Christianity. So, while I am a UK citizen, I could equally have placed a picture of the US Capitol Building as my header picture, and it would have meant the same thing.

Footnotes

Footnotes
1 This is an almost verbatim, direct quote from where I have written this before, in this article
2 I’m 62 at the time of writing
3 I have heard it said that the only lesson we learn from history is that no-one ever learns the lessons of history
4 It is worth me emphasising at this point that this is not meant to be a doomsday kind of statement, nor is it any claim that ‘things were better back in the day’ because, despite what the naysayers might try to tell you, the average standard of living worldwide is now far better than it has ever been before.
5 Winston Churchill, quoting an ‘unsourced aphorism’ – someone else invented the phrase, but Churchill quoted it without naming the source – which he likely didn’t know anyway). My source for this information is here

No Fear in Love

This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series Speaking Truth to Power

This is a great piece by the superb writer Chris Kratzer, who I consider speaks truth to power. He’s not afraid to call out hypocrisy, judgmentalism and unfairness, especially in Christian circles. In this piece, Chris lays out the conflicting ideas fed to him as a youngster, and as a young Christian, and shows why these ideas are incompatible with the idea of their being ‘No fear in Love’ (1Jn4:18)[1]

Footnotes

Footnotes
1 Chris’s words in this posting have been set up as a series of screenshots from his original post on Facebook. This is because Chris has recently had one of his posts pirated by some Christian thugs, who edited it so that it said the exact opposite from what he wanted it to say, then republished it while still claiming his authorship. My posting his work as a series of screenshots makes it much harder for vandals to do this; rather than simply copying and pasting text which can be modified, they’d have to do a whole lot more work on it – something such people are usually too lazy to do. This is also why he puts in that request at the end that any reposts be unchanged.

A Parable: The Saving of Mr. Pintle

This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series Speaking Truth to Power

Here’s a parable/short story I wrote a good few years ago now. Like all good parables, it has layers of meaning and lots to give in terms of wisdom.

Enjoy!

The Saving of Mr. Pintle

If Mr. Horace Pintle could be said to love anything, it was his job. Having been promoted to Enforcement Management Officer, Dog Fouling, a couple of months ago, he’d gone to work with a vengeance, and now his town was a much better place for it. Granted, he’d had to work hard and had had some very unpleasant arguments with many awkward and powerful people, but he was confident that his job was being done properly, as it ought to. Besides, he loved the aura of power that he felt when he won his ‘discussions’ with people whom he was sure thought they were better than he was. Dog Fouling Enforcement was a most important job, and since the new ‘Council Initiatives to Combat Dog Fouling’, he knew that he had the full force of the Law behind him. Oh, he was a powerful man indeed, more powerful even than the man he had come to see today and in whose office he now sat, sipping an excellent coffee from a proper coffee cup, not those cheap plasticky ones he was forced to use from the coffee machine at the Council offices. The little things like this – he liked to think of them as ‘perks’ – were something he enjoyed immensely.

“Dr. Adams, the law is quite clear on the matter. Under Subsection 5.8.8.2 of the ‘Pavements, Fouling of by Dogs Order, 2008’, the dog must be destroyed if the owners fail to comply with the instructions of the relevant authority. That authority is of course myself, and these people were obstructive and rude when I confronted them with their offence. And since you are the dog’s veterinary surgeon, you are the most suitable candidate for the task. Clearly, it is in the dog’s best interests.”

Dr. Dave Adams steepled his long, sensitive fingers and looked at the little man at the other side of his desk. His clear grey eyes took in Mr. Pintle’s little moustache, his pince-nez spectacles and his thinning hair, carefully combed across his balding head. In another age, Dr. Adams thought, he’d have also been wearing a bowler hat and a pinstripe suit; such was the type of person he had in his office at that moment.

“Mr. Pintle, it is a completely disproportionate response to destroy a dog, simply because its owners failed to pick up completely the last vestige of faeces from the pavement. Did the Martins not explain to you that their dog had a tummy upset that day, and that although they used four separate bags and did their very best, that they simply could not collect all of the mess because it was simply impossible?”

“That is none of my concern”, said Mr. Pintle. “In any case, it is simply out of my hands. The law is very clear on the issue: these people are clearly not fit to own a dog if they cannot be bothered to clear up after it. It is a simple matter of cruelty, Dr. Adams. The dog is obviously not happy with people like these who cannot be bothered to obey the law. It is simply more than my job is worth to allow this situation to continue.”

Dr. Adams thought of Jeffrey and Martha Martin, the couple sitting anxiously in the waiting-room outside his office with their ten-year-old daughter Lucie. Only six months previously, Dave Adams had put to sleep their precious ten-year-old dog, Saladin, whose arthritis was so bad that he simply couldn’t get up any more. Mr. and Mrs. Martin had paid for only the best veterinary treatment in order to do their best for the animal, but to no avail, because the arthritis had been so far advanced by the time it was detected. Lucie had of course been particularly devastated when the dog had died; she’d grown up with him there all her life. Their new dog, Lollipop, was a shaggy brown mongrel who absolutely doted on Lucie and would certainly lay down his life for her, and who was now lying forlornly in a cage at the other side of Dr. Adams’s office, observing them both through soft, intelligent eyes. These people, Dr. Adams thought, were born to be dog owners. He felt he’d grown close to them on a professional level, while treating Saladin, to know that fact quite clearly.

Dave Adams spread his hands placatingly. “Mr. Pintle, I have taken a professional oath to not do any harm. I cannot simply put a dog to sleep because you demand it; there has to be a proper medical reason. And you must consider the family. The little girl dotes on the dog. Her life would not be the same without him. I’m appealing to your humanity, your sense of decency. Surely you’re a good man, with feelings too? This is tearing them apart!”

Horace Pintle felt the delicious flare in his chest that he usually experienced when people put on what he called their ‘be nice to Horace’ veneer. People had to be nice to him, or at least show him some respect. Even if it was only on the surface, they had to do this in the hope that he would decide to be nice to them; in case he felt like being lenient – to perhaps not come down as hard on them as he could. This was another aspect of the power that he loved. People knew that unless they at least maintained a façade of being civil with him, they had no chance of any leniency whatever; if they were rude to him then, well, they’d get no favours from him. Oh, no. They knew it, and he knew that they knew. He’d learned it during his time as a traffic enforcement officer. People had often been obsequious and wheedling, trying to avoid a simple parking ticket, that they could easily afford with their flash cars, families and nice coats. Posh old ladies who’d overstayed their car park tickets by ‘it’s only ten minutes, love’. One young mother in particular he remembered – obviously with a rich husband, of course – struggling with an expensive buggy packed with screaming kids and laden with heavy shopping bags; almost in tears as she’d pleaded with him while he gleefully pinned their fixed-penalty notices under her windscreen wiper the regulation eight minutes after her ticket had expired. Oh, yes, he knew what power was, and he enjoyed it to the full. He hated children and families, young families especially, with their dogs and buggies, nappies and shopping bags. They offended his sense of the order of the universe, the rightness of everything that was properly ordered and set out nice and neat and in accordance with the regulations. Dog mess on the pavement was an affront to him, not because it could infect young children with some unpronounceable disease or other, but because it just was plain wrong. Everyone in the world knew that.

“You remember our advertising campaign, Dr. Adams. We have received text messages from bystanders reporting this family committing this offence; we have surveillance cameras which corroborate their stories. I have made this my personal crusade – to eradicate dog waste from the streets. I have taken personal charge of this case and I intend to pursue it to completion. You realise that I can have your licence to practice revoked, Dr. Adams. I’m sure we both want to avoid any unpleasantness. Naturally, all your professional fees will be paid by the Martin family. It’s in everyone’s best interests, and from what I hear of your professionalism, it won’t feel a thing”. He smiled at Dr. Adams with his mouth only, not his eyes, of course. That would be too unprofessional on his part.

Dave Adams lowered his eyes and looked at his desktop, as if surrendering the point and the interview. Pondering for only a few seconds, he appeared to come to a decision. “Very well, Mr. Pintle. I had hoped it would not come to this; that perhaps we could come to some agreement; some sort of reprieve. I can see now that unfortunately you leave me no choice. No doubt you would like to observe and see that your wishes are carried out. Would you like some more coffee while I make the necessary arrangements?” With that, he stood up slowly, almost tiredly, from his chair, and went across to the place on his workbench that held the coffee-pot, near his dispensary cabinet. While the coffee was brewing, Dr. Adams opened the cabinet and began to make up the required drugs. Bringing across Horace’s fresh coffee, he placed it on the desk in front of Horace and then turned back to the cabinet to continue his work. Glancing down for a moment at Lollipop in his cage, Dave, always the compassionate vet, he tried to give him a wan smile of encouragement.

Savouring for a moment in his mind the recent application he’d put in to become an auditor of large professional companies, Horace Pintle re-stirred the hot coffee in his cup – it had to be properly mixed; anything else just was not proper – and took a good long swallow. Hmm. It was definitely a good brew, smoky, dark and delicious. Hopefully his career record would be immeasurably enhanced by this successful campaign, and give him a good chance to impose his own kind of order into yet more people’s lives. For the moment, though, he was feeling particularly tired. These arguments, or ‘discussions’ as he preferred to think of them, he always found tiring, but the inevitable victory at the end was always sweeter for that. In fact, this one had made him particularly drowsy, and, despite the good strong coffee, he was having difficulty keeping his eyes open. Ah, it looked as if Dr. Adams had finished his preparations and was ready to administer the injection. The vet turned slowly, heavily, from his dispensary towards the dog, and the syringe filled with blue liquid and fitted with a long, sharp needle came into view…..

Outside, in the waiting room, the tension reached its peak as Dave quietly opened his door and came out to confront the Martin family. Lucie was red-eyed with weeping, as were her parents, and the three of them had formed a close, family huddle in their moment of need. Dave closed the frosted-glass door of his office behind him and leaned tiredly against the frame. “That’s something I hope I never have to do again. But it was peaceful in the end; he didn’t feel a thing.” He turned, reopened his office door, and clicked his tongue. Lollipop trotted gamely out to meet his beloved family, and Dave, glancing back over his shoulder, said, “Don’t worry, it’s all been sorted out”, as he went back into his office where Mr. Horace Pintle had finally been put out of his misery.

The Judgmental

This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series Speaking Truth to Power

 

Above is yet another excellent post by Chris Kratzer. He has a real talent for seeing through the smokescreens and calling out religious judgmentalism where he sees it. And before anyone accuses him of judging others, which he shouldn’t be doing, then remember the words of Jesus saying not to judge others because if you do then you’ll get the same back in spades (Mt 7:1-5)

Well, I’ve said this before, but sadly, and indeed damagingly for most of humanity, it seems that the sole purpose that some people exist is purely to judge others. That’s it. Nothing else. Not to eat, sleep and reproduce. Not to do works of good service. Nothing, except to judge others.

It makes me wonder if their lives are so tiny, so dull, so samey, so boring, so grey, that this is the only thing that keeps their tiny, empty minds occupied. Just to judge others.

If so, I pity them.

And it’s also likely the reason that the main things that they attack are the joyful things: people having a drink, people loving others, people enjoying themselves, people being happy. They are so deprived of the basic joys in life – probably because of religious prohibitions and hang-ups – that they hate to see others having fun.

And therefore they label it as ‘sin’. If you are happy, then you must be ‘sinning’. Or, to put it another way, the only way you can be happy is to ‘sin’. And because you’re not allowed to do that, then you are not allowed to be happy. So the only thing that remains in life is to project that on to others as well, by judging them and expecting them to follow the judgmentals’ miserable mould. Because you’re not allowed to enjoy anything else.

Oh, I should maybe mention that for a spiritual person (however you decide to define that), you can judge all things, but you yourself are not subject to merely human judgments. And yes that is in their Rulebook, at 1 Corinthians 2:15.

So, a far as I am concerned, the judgmental can all go and take a hike[1]. And when they get there, they can keep right on going.

Footnotes

Footnotes
1 I was going to use a more colourful phrase, but some people might be distracted by it

Deconstruction and Dogma

This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series Speaking Truth to Power

This is an older piece by Jeff Turner, from eight years ago but which is nevertheless still just as relevant today as it ever was.

More nowadays than ever before, ‘deconstruction’ has become a well-known term in Christian circles, and is of course a polarising term because it has been pirated, twisted and misinterpreted so much as to be meaningless[1]. For me, deconstruction means the stripping away of superfluous beliefs, attitudes and/or practices, which may or may not return the deconstructing person to a place of simpler faith or indeed no faith at all. It’s a product of the honest criticism of one’s tenets of faith which, if those tenets were man-made or man-inflicted, are actually better to be rid of despite the cost in terms of the faith life. The faith life will regrow, and it will most likely not look anything like the old life in a similar way to how a butterfly does not look like a caterpillar[2].

Anyway, over to Jeff:


If you ever manage to construct a faith that is not deconstructable, firstly, you’ve not actually constructed anything, as anything constructed must, by necessity, be deconstructable. But if you do manage to piece something together that is so immovable and rigid that it, well, can’t be moved, you’ve eliminated the possibility of future reform and are essentially claiming to have arrived.

Systems like this are not reformable, since they’ve been constructed in a shoddy, house of cards-like manner, and will crumble as a whole in the presence of even the smallest of questions or when faced with even gentle dissent. I think that’s one reason why so many people lose faith altogether once they begin a process of deconstruction, as modern, Western approaches to Christianity are founded on dogmatic claims to certainty, which, by their very nature are non-deconstructable. They are, in fact, *only* destructible. They’re incapable of changing or being reformed, and can only be destroyed or violently reinforced when challenged.

What we are seeing today is the toppling of a system that was built on a dangerously dogmatic foundation.

In the future, whatever Christianity comes to look like, we must construct something that is inherently deconstructable, or when future reforms come, and come they will, we will only once more experience destruction.

Build a life of faith that is pliable, supple and open to change! Live a life that is founded on the premise of “I could be wrong,” because if you do not, you aren’t actually constructing anything. You are creating an illusory world that is destined for destruction.

But then again, I could be wrong.

Footnotes

Footnotes
1 I used to think that this pirating and twisting phenomenon was the preserve only of religious people. But I have since realised that, actually, people from all walks of life do it, in religious and non-religious groups, taking others’ terminology and adopting/usurping it for their own use.
2 See my series, ‘The Stages of Spiritual Growth’  for an in-depth treatment of the idea of ‘deconstruction’ and how it works; also this post about deconstruction from another perspective.