Saturday, July 23, 2016


I have a confession to make.

The integrity of this blog has been seriously compromised.

I've always been proud of the fact that I have no party allegiance (apart, clearly and sensibly, from being strongly anti-Ukip) and have critiqued anyone and everyone from Jeremy Corbyn to Donald Trump. Even before politics got silly, Gordon Brown and George W Bush both received the tough side of my love.

And now I fear I have to declare an interest. The days of guaranteed impartiality on these pages may be nearing their end.

To be fair, anyone who has any knowledge of my voting record knows that it is remarkably colourblind. I've been privileged to be able to vote for friends in most of the places where I have lived. That means I have put policy and party and wider matters aside when I have stepped into the voting booth and voted largely for the person.

But now a man who used to be my next door neighbour, a man I first met as he cut out the roots of a tree in his garden next to my kitchen, a man who has cooked for me and poured me more glasses of wine than either of us could count, a man who has helped me in my darker hours and celebrated with me in all kinds of joy, a man who has walked with my dogs and whose kids have learned to play on my piano - in other words, a man I trust completely: a friend - this man is on the ballot for leader of the Labour Party.

So I am compromised. I have no impartiality. I am not qualified to speak to his politics, but about his character I will say:
Owen Smith is a good man, with a good heart, a heart and voice that says now for all to hear what I have heard in his home and mine for years.
I am a friend, and therefore biased, and my bias is based on this:
God has blessed me with many gifts, but the richest of them are my friends. I love Owen and Liz dearly, and am blessed indeed to have such friends as these.

So my blog may well be compromised.
But bring it on!

PS - if you don't yet know Owen well, perhaps this might help...

Friday, July 08, 2016

we rise again trying

There's been so much news recently that people have even been buying newspapers. Though as the news has been changing every hour, they've been more for a historical record than for keeping up to date.

The sliver lining, for now, is that That Man Farage seems to have gone. But as one can never believe anything he says, who knows whether he will stay away. Hopefully someone will make him illegal. There's one piece of censorship we can all agree on.

Except we can't.

An unelected bigot with a megaphone spooked the Prime Minister and forced us out of the European Union. Hopefully TMF will soon be confined to the pages that wrap chips, but his poison remains with us a while yet. We have work to do to get it out of our system.

The Tories are electing a woman leader and Prime Minister. If they have any sense they will follow this with a quick General Election; Gordon Brown learned what happens to Prime Ministers who don't ask the people to condone a political coronation. And the Labour Party is in such disarray that no-one has a clue what would happen if an election happened.

The Lib-Dems might gain seats.

The truth of the Referendum is that families can't speak without pain. Half of us are now "bad losers"; the other half of us are "ignorant racists" who had no idea what they were voting for. And I have no idea if those who are spoken of as taking over the two main parties have any kind of vision of unity for the country; some of their words I read demonstrate very party-based thinking, and in a world where we are already stuck in the trench-mud of polarisation and hatred, I'm kind of praying for more than this.

I'm getting the opportunity to practice the principles I'm praying about too.

In the Shire, we have some projects going on in the various churches, and one or two strong voices are speaking against them. I regularly talk about how it's fine to disagree - openly, kindly, with grace - so I can't complain when folk take me up on this and voice their differences. And indeed, I welcome it. A good project needs a lot of discussion happening, so difficult questions help. Though there are days...

And I have to be Rector for everyone. For those who think the projects are the best thing since sliced bread (wisely), and for those who can't understand why everyone isn't still cutting their own bread. With an axe...

Ronald Reagan said: The person who agrees with you 80% of the time is a friend and an ally - not a 20% traitor. I'm not a Ronald Reagan fan, but I do like common sense, and this certainly qualifies as that. It certainly passes as essential wisdom in days when everyone rushes to pick sides and then shouts abuse at the other with a megaphone, or fails to speak at all.

In the Shire, what unites us is everything. What divides us is pifflingly small.

In the nation we need leaders who grasp that sense and walk us down that road. I don't really care what colour they wear on their political badges (I never have done).

And in the Church of England's General Synod, this is the weekend when those gathered will take time to talk and listen and think and pray about human sexuality again.

The book, Journeys in Grace and Truth, to which I contributed a chapter, has gained quite a lot of coverage around this. One conservative commentator, Ian Paul, does not like it (do read his review for yourself). I should count myself lucky; he calls my chapter "fascinating, moving and...highly engaging" - before picking holes. A lot of the time I feel he just doesn't quite get what the book is doing - and this makes me pause. For I realise that in these church discussions I am sure there are times when those who disagree with me stare at me like I'm stupid whilst thinking, "he just doesn't get it, does he?"


Friends and allies.

We need a vision for unity and leaders who can communicate this vision compellingly so that we are raised up from the polarising sickness of these days, the stinking trenches of our minds that mirror the warfare of a century ago and risk destroying millions more lives. It is not enough to be right. Those who come after us will have no idea what we thought was right or why. They will judge us by the way we divided the world friend from friend, family from family, son from mother, father from daughter, and they will have no comprehension how or for what tiny-minded reason we did it.

Unless, of course, we don't.

So I am pledging to love those folk who disagree with me in the Shire. To listen again to those who didn't like my chapter and see them as people with beating hearts and not mere producers of words on screens. For we do not end hatred with hatred but we overcome oppression with love.

And if it doesn't work, well, we rise again trying.