The Writer Is….

…Neither saint nor Tzadik nor prophet standing at the gate; he’s just another sinner who has somewhat sharper awareness and uses slightly more precise language to describe inconceivable reality of our world. He doesn’t invent a single feeling or thought – all of them existed long before him… He’s here, at our side, buried up to his neck in mud and filth.

The Seven Good Years: A Memoir, Etgar Keret

 

Reflecting on the Scottish Referendum: A Call to Social Justice

A few months ago, people across the length and breadth of the nation of Scotland went to the polls to answer the question, “Should Scotland be an independent country?” At stake was the very future of the United Kingdom, and Scotland’s place in it. On one hand, the governing Scottish National Party staked its reputation on a ‘Yes’ vote, alongside the Scottish Greens and the Scottish Socialists under the aegis of Yes Scotland, whilst Scottish Labour, the Scottish Conservative Party, and the Scottish Liberal  Democrats took a pro-Union Stance under the Better Together banner.

As the vote count came to an end on the morning of September 19th in victory for the Better Together campaign, what became clear was that the keenly contested campaign had revealed deep fissures in the very fabric of the Nation. The romance of nationalism and the historical antecedents notwithstanding (Scotland as a distinct entity has existed in some shape or form since about 840 AD and 2014 was the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn which saw the English army defeated by the forces of King of Scots Robert the Bruce), economic considerations, fair and equitable distribution of wealth and protecting access to the NHS in the face of the (real or imagined) threat of its privatisation featured strongly as a subject of contention.

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The HAVES vs HAVE NOTS narrative seemed supported by analysis of the voting patterns which showed strong correlations between greater unemployment and support for independence, and age above retirement with support for staying with the Union (perhaps due to concerns over pensions).

The immediate aftermath involved clashes between Unionists and independence supporters. As recently as October, a pro – independence rally in Glasgow still managed to attract over 6,000 people, perhaps indicative that even the passage of time has done little to soothe the sense of grievance a significant proportion of the nation still feels.

The challenge going forward therefore is one of reconciliation; recreating a sense of togetherness and genuine belief in all and sundry that the nation belongs equally to everyone – rich, poor, old, young and old alike. That sense can only be fostered by delivering on the sound bites trundled out by both sides of the campaign, mainly a fairer, more productive, empowered Scotland.

There is an economic argument for a fairer, more egalitarian Scotland. Equal opportunities and lower unemployment will deliver greater productivity, and enable more people contribute to the state in the form of taxes, rather than constitute a drain the system.

There will also be benefits, purely from the perspective of enlightened self-interest. It stands to reason that crime, social delinquency and violence are likely to drop as more people are gainfully employed. Those who are not, if they have access to the opportunities to improve and are catered for the interim will also see less of an incentive to crime.

The arguments for social justice go beyond secular and economic ones; there is also a biblical imperative. Passages like Deuteronomy 15:11 –  For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land’, being a case in point.

Time and time again, the call to ‘do good and seek justice (Isaiah 1:17), not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor (Zech 7:9,10), defend the rights of the poor and needy (Prov 31:8,9), to do justice and love kindness (Micah 6:8) and protect the resident alien, the fatherless and the widow (Jeremiah 22:3) are repeated throughout the Old Testament. When Israel failed to heed this call, they were punished severely by God (Amos 5:11-15, Ezekiel 16:49,50).

Elsewhere a social justice component is explicitly commanded as part of true and acceptable worship – knowing the rights of the poor (Proverbs 29:7), letting the oppressed go free, sharing bread with the hungry and homeless (Isaiah 58:12) as well as visiting the orphan and the widow (James 1:27).

Jesus himself, after being tempted and returning to Galilee in the power of the Holy Spirit chose to reveal himself in the Synagogue in his home town of Nazareth by reading from the passage in Isaiah which spoke of his mission to proclaim the good news and set at liberty those who were oppressed (Luke 4; 18, 19). Beyond that, he also highlighted acts of kindness as one of the things we will be judged by at his return (Matthew 25:31-46). The Apostles also weighed in in their writings – John enjoined us to love not in word but in deed (1 John 3:17,18), Paul in distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality (Romans 12:13) and James to treat all without partiality (James 2:1-4)

The danger of all this is to end up flying the flag of social justice, for its own sake alone, as an end in itself or as an opportunity to ship sounds bites, hog the limelight and portray ourselves as good citizens. However as Christians, everything we do on earth occurs within a context – that of being Jesus’ hands and feet on earth, utilising the resources, skills and time that he has given us to further His kingdom. In these days in which the popular narrative is one of the death of the church and its increasing irrelevance, being champions of social change, in our communities – our next door mission fields – may well be one way that the tide can be turned, providing a door of opportunity to ‘do all for the Glory of God’.

***

Originally written for my Church Newsletter, reproduced here for archival purposes. 

White paper….

I want to cover you
With words. Ink dots
Jumbled together
Until they blur
Into a scrawl, confused
Like the light
From a thousand scattered beads

I want to hide myself
Within the haze
Of my re-memory –
To somehow, between life
And the afterglow
From my tired brain,
Re-create the time and space
That reality stole.

But your blank, pure
Whiteness mocks me,
I find the things
I want to say don’t come

Between you and I –
And the pregnant silence
Of fitful contemplation
Is a wall
Of all the things
I may never,
Ever say.

The Story Behind The Song: I Could Sing of Your Love Forever – Delirious?

Back in ’94 when Delirious was still the house band for The Cutting Edge, a local youth event run by the Arun Community Church in Littlehampton, doing music full time didn’t look feasible, nor was the possibility of multiple Dove Awards and a Grammy nomination. In fact between leading worship at the cutting edge events and keeping up with a hectic schedule of gigs across the UK, the group that would become arguably the UK’s greatest Christian contemporary music exports had to hold down day jobs to keep things ticking.

Song writer Martin Smith recalls being inspired by the seaside of Devon during a family holiday:

We were on holiday as a family. We were in Devon, staying in an old farmhouse. It overlooked the sea and the hills and the mountains. It really was, sit on the edge of a hill, pre-kids, being able to dream a bit more, I grabbed an acoustic guitar. That song just wrote itself in about five minutes.

Almost twenty years since then (seventeen since it made the cut on 1997’s Cutting Edge), it is a song that has consistently ranked amongst the most influential, and widely sung, praise and worship songs, been covered multiple times by artistes as diverse as Mercy Me, Sonic Flood and Hillsong United. Smith, now a solo artist since the disbandment of the band in 2009 still continues to be surprised by how much a simple song, cobbled together in five minutes continues to bless lives around the world. That is perhaps one of the more compelling themes of the Gospel, God’s Providence and Sovereignty in choosing to use things which are not the greatest or brightest and which do not have the greatest back stories to great effect.

Links: 07 Oct 2011

  1. Nigeria turns 51, bloggers go on the charm offensive with 419 reasons to love the country. My moan from 2009 still stands regardless.
  2. The 216th Mersey side derby is ‘ruined by the referee’. The inevitable comments about ‘foreigners’ follow.
  3. More from The Good Men Project – traditional gender roles
  4. Amanda Knox walks free – justice or a travesty?
  5. For better, for worse, until two years doth us part?
  6. In her b(rea)st interest? The $1m dollar insured boobs
  7. Shell complicit in military excesses in the Niger Delta?
  8. What’s in a number? Nothing, says the Good men Project.
  9. How the discipline of blogging is a stepping stone to become a good writer.
  10. Giving women the visibility they deserve?
  11. Steve Jobs passes – TIME’s official obituary.

A Dream Deferred…

Out of the blue, Lorraine  Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun came to mind this morning. I did a bit of googling and managed to find the full text of the Langston Hughes poem that inspired the title: A Dream Deferred.

What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore–
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?

Random musings…

So John Terry lost the England football captaincy – strange to me considering the quite public exploits of Sven Goran Ericksson and Mark Pallios back in the day; the recent activities of Avram Grant and the fact that none of the names being touted as Terry replacements have covered themselves in glory in the past.  He should simply have listened to the Vera show – and stayed off the friend’s ex… The bloke in the pod next to mine at work says footballers count money in millions of pounds and sense in pence.. Haterade maybe.. But this list of top ten gaffes makes an intriguing read..

Sat behind two naija blokes on the bus to work on Friday… Couldn’t help over hearing them talk about their women issues..Mine defo pale in significance… One ‘imported’ a wife from home and three months in, all she wants to do is hit the pubs every evening…..Surely,  this is only one side of the story?

Gladwell says there’s a 10,000 hour rule – a minimum amount of time irrespective of innate ability – required to gain mastery of something. He points to the examples of the Beattles, Bill Gates, Bill Joy and the like…. I wonder if there is an equvalent rule in forgetting someone.. .. to erase their memory from your mind…..Maybe a 90 day rule?

I’m officially retiring my BB.. Kid sister wants it… and I think I’m sooo over it… They have to be the most overated devices.. next to the iPhone. 🙂

I stumbled on my old ZoeGirl collection whilst mindlessly trawling my mp3 collection..(the band broke up 😦 ) They used to be my favourite Christian girl band back in the day.. alongside Point of Grace…It felt great to hear Dismissed again…. brought back memories….and lots of head bobbing.. in lieu of dancing…

I think serious work – which is great cos it pays the bills –  is stifling my pretend writing.. I’ve been stuck on four lines of a poem for the past month… The last thing I wrote seriously was in October.. #notgood! I shall write.. whether the Devil Mama Charlie likes it or not…

Feeling lonely? There’s two solutions available – a fembot (which will set you back a few thousand quid) or a boyfriend pillow (which is considerably cheaper). There’s loads of benefits – no smelly socks, no long hours watching football, no PMSing, — u get my drift…..

Oh.. and 30’s the new cool… whatever we might say to the contrary when we are more sober….