Sunday, 31 March 2013

CHRISTIAN CONSERVATIVES CAN BE PROUD OF THIS COALITION'S RECORD BUT A LOT MORE STILL NEEDS TO BE DONE


by Colin Bloom
The Prime Minister is getting a shellacking from many Christians this weekend. Yesterday the former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey got in early with a few combination shots, and today the Methodists and Baptists decided to mix it up with an ecumenical tag-teaming left foot kicking. Some of the blows were a bit low, but the referees in the broadcast media are seemingly on the side of the Holy minority.

Earlier today I was prompted by a friend to list the Government’s biggest ‘Christian’ achievements. This friend is known to everyone on this site, and he suggested that the increase in faith schools or the .7% of GDP on Overseas Aid as a good start. Pah! There is so much more to list than that.

However, the near universal and visceral rejection of same-sex marriage by the Church has perhaps meant that now anything and everything the Government does, and particularly if it comes from the Prime Minister, is going to be rejected and rubbished without consideration. This would not be fair, and dare I say, it would not be a particularly Christian thing to do either.

The Bible tells us in numerous places to honour and respect and pray for those in Government, for ‘…all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Saviour.’ I would gently remind my Christian brothers and sisters, especially those in the Clergy to spend as much time praying for our politicians (of all parties) and less time attacking them.

So I’ll pick up the challenge our friend has given me; I will list some of the things that I am most proud of as a Christian Conservative, accepting that the critics have probably already made up their minds anyway.

I.               We are unashamed to ‘do God.’ Let’s never forget that the previous administration famously said they ‘didn’t do God’ and this one has said very firmly that they do.
II.              We are even prepared to go further, and say that we are a ‘Christian Country.’ Whether it was Baroness Warsi when she, as British Muslim, told the former Pope that the United Kingdom was a Christian Country, or whether it is the PM in numerous speeches – unlike the previous Government we are clear. This is a Christian Country.
III.            Church run social action projects have been given significant funds via groups like the Church Urban Fund or the Cinnamon Network, so that Christian charities like Foodbank, Christians Against Poverty, Street Pastors and others flourish. The Big Society might not be fashionable on the left, but this Government is putting real resources into it.
IV.           Micro Grants from the DCLG to churches to go and ‘Love their Neighbours’ – did this happen before? No.
V.            Commitment to the Developing World by keeping our promises on Aid and the Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s). Increasing investment to build up both infrastructure and to meet the needs of those in absolute poverty and suffering around the world. Not popular with many, but the right and Christian thing to do.
VI.           Giving powers of competence to Local Authorities so that they can keep on saying prayers before Council Meetings. Thank you Eric Pickles, one in the eye for the aggressive secularists.
VII.         The PM hosting Easter Receptions for Christian Leaders, every year since getting elected in 2010 (not done before).
VIII.        The PM giving Easter Messages and Christmas Messages that are filled with messages about Jesus (not done before).
IX.           The growth in faith schools, and the freedom for churches to start their own schools if they want.
X.             Michael Gove giving every secondary school in the country a copy of the King James Bible on the 400th Anniversary of its publication.
XI.           The brilliant work of the Foreign Secretary William Hague and his Ministerial Team including Alastair Burt on fighting against the persecution of Christians around the world.
XII.          The work being done to create a greener United Kingdom, looking after the planet God has given us.
XIII.        The significant steps that have been taken to end modern day slavery. Some has been done, but there is a great deal more to do.
XIV.       The attempt to set people free from the over-powerful and dead hand of the state. Encouraging people to work (1 Thessalonians 4)!
XV.        Significant work being done in Prisons, where groups like the William Wilberforce Trust (Alpha for Prisons) have been funded to help reduce recidivism and turn prisoners lives around.
XVI.       The appointment of a specific Minister for Faiths (Baroness Warsi) – not been done before.

And there is more…

On top of all of the above, the Conservatives are probably the only one of the main political parties that would protect the Established Church – can you see the Lib Dem’s or Labour doing this?

Everything I have listed above will attract criticism, and I am not pretending that either enough has been done, or that everything that has been done has been done well. I am just trying to bring a bit of balance. Considering the alternatives the record isn’t as bad as most Christian leaders are making out. In summary, a lot of good has been done, there is still a lot more to do.

So before the usual suspects put their left boot in again, perhaps they might want to reflect on how the country was brought to its financial and moral knees, and give a bit more credit to a Government that it trying to get us on our own feet again.

(This article was published on ConservativeHome today)

UNBALANCED COVERAGE OF WELFARE REFORM

by Colin Bloom

The polls are all suggesting that the Iain Duncan-Smith's welfare reforms are not only extremely popular with the British people, but that the British public would like the Coalition to go further in reducing the size of welfare spending.

These are popular measures with the vast majority of the public, but to the broadcast media you might be forgiven in thinking that everyone was against them.

This weekend neither Sky News, nor the BBC have given balanced coverage of this debate. They have given far too much airtime to people against the cuts and not enough to, if the polls are to be believed, the majority view which is these measures are sadly necessary.

Do the BBC and others have such low regard for Her Majesty's Opposition that they feel they have to do their job for them?

Earlier today the Conservative Party Chairman Grant Shapps upbraided a BBC reporter who kept using the term 'Bedroom Tax' for swallowing the language of the left and doing the Labour Party's job for them. I hope this more dynamic, robust approach continues when challenging journalists who are at best lazy or at worse politically biased.

The magic money tree doesn't exist, we need to reduce the size of Government spending and these are facts that the broadcast media have ignored this weekend.

EASTER PART II. FOR PETE'S SAKE

by Colin Bloom

For crying out loud, was the first part of the Easter trilogy I started yesterday. For Pete's sake, today I want to discuss Saint Peter.

Peter is one of the biblical characters that I find it very easy to identify with. A ready, fire, aim kind of guy. He wasn't the type to hesitate; he usually got his defence in early. If he was a football player, he would have been like Arsenal's greatest central defender Tony Adams, who famously said "you can get past me, or the ball can get past me, but both of you ain't doing it." Peter had a low centre of gravity, and was to use a modern idiom, a man's man.

So it is ironic that of all the "I'll follow you to the death, Jesus" disciples it was to Peter that Jesus said, "I tell you, this very night you will deny knowing me three times before the rooster crows."

This tragic betrayal came true, and Peter's denial left him fleeing his questioners distraught, weeping bitterly.

Peter was the Disciple that Jesus the Church would be built; and yet it was Peter, the tough guy, who ran away when questioned about his faith. Peter had just seen his best friend go through an unjust trial and was about to see him whipped, humiliated and nailed to death on a cross.

His whole world was falling apart, and the man he had given the past three years of his life to was going to die. Peter probably hadn't slept, he was exhausted, emotionally broken and confused. With this in our minds, it is perhaps easier to understand why Peter the Rock became Peter the Denier.

This episode reminds me that notwithstanding my failings, weaknesses and sin; there is always hope, always forgiveness and always a fresh start. The Church should be the representation of Christ on earth, the Church is a safe place, a sanctuary of God's love. A place where anyone and everyone should feel welcome, and encouraged to have a relationship with Jesus just like Peter did.


So for Pete's sake, what are you waiting for?

Saturday, 30 March 2013

THE PRIME MINISTER'S EASTER MESSAGE 2013



The Prime Minister David Cameron has sent his best wishes to Christians in the UK and around the world celebrating Easter.

The Prime Minister said:

“I send my best wishes to all those in the United Kingdom and around the world celebrating Easter this year in what is an incredibly exciting time for the Christian faith worldwide.

“This year’s Holy Week and Easter celebrations follow an extraordinary few days for Christians; not only with the enthronement of Justin Welby as our new Archbishop of Canterbury, but also with the election of Pope Francis in Rome.

“In the Bible, Saint Peter reminds us of the hope that comes from new birth through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. As Christians, it also reminds us of Jesus’s legacy of generosity, tolerance, mercy, and forgiveness.

“That legacy lives on in so many Christian charities and churches both at home and abroad. Whether they are meeting the needs of the poor, helping people in trouble, or providing spiritual guidance and support to those in need, faith institutions perform an incredible role to the benefit of our society. As long as I am Prime Minister, they will have the support of this Government.

“With that in mind, I am particularly proud to lead a Government that has kept its promise to invest 0.7 per cent of our gross national income on helping the world’s poorest, and I am grateful that we have been able to partner with both Christian and non-Christian charities to relieve suffering overseas.

“I hope you have a very happy Easter.”

David Cameron

MORE THAN 2500 IN TWO WEEKS


In less than two weeks - this blog has just had its 2,500th visitation. Not sure how that compares with other two week old blogs, but I'm enjoying it whilst it lasts.

Over the next few weeks, I will be introducing some guest writers, which is going to be great. I might also play around with the way the site looks.

In the meantime, please keep the comments coming in, and I will try and keep up the pace...

Happy Easter by the way.

EASTER PART I. FOR CRYING OUT LOUD

by Colin Bloom

The Cross is the centre-point of all history. This year is 2013, 2013 years after what? When King Tutankhamun died in 1323 BC, it was 1323 years before what?

The Cross, is centre point of history because it represents the end of God's old covenant with the world and the beginning of the new. If like me you believe in the Christian faith and you accept the story of Jesus, then you have to agree that His death and resurrection is the most important thing that as ever happened in the history of the universe. More personally, the realisation of the Cross, Jesus's willingness to die and be raised again for me and you, is by far the most important thing that ever happened in our lives. The Cross is not just the most important point in history, it is also the most personal one.

The phrase 'for crying out loud' is often used as an exclamation of frustration. I don't know if the etymology of this phrase goes back to Jesus on the Cross, but the Bible tells us in the Gospel of Matthew 27:46 that Jesus cried out loud, "my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

It was this substitutionary sacrifice; Jesus taking the punishment for others that is central to the Cross. The Cross is Jesus's gift of himself to us, it is a gift of Grace that just keeps on giving. Nothing in all history is strong enough to defeat the power of the Cross.

So if you aren't sure about any of this but want to know more, go to Church, read a bible or if you want to know more straight away I can do no better than to point you to the Alpha Course or to Christianity Explored

For crying out loud, it's Easter - you should find out more, and if you already know, who have you told?


CHILLI EASTER EGG - JUST A PALATE CLEANSER

by Colin Bloom

According to the BBC website, an Indian restaurant in Surrey has created a "not for bunnies" Easter egg using three of the hottest varieties of chilli pepper.

Using a ghost chilli, a scotch bonnet and a habanera in the egg, it is said to be up to 10 times hotter than a vindaloo or equal to 400 bottles of Tabasco sauce. It is so hot that diners must wear protective gloves before touching it.

Regular readers will know about the Curry Union, an adventure into creating relationships with some of societies most marginal people via the medium of spicy food.

Some of our guests are street drinkers and rough sleepers, and knowing them as I do, this chilli Easter Egg would be treated as a palate cleanser! If anyone would like to buy one of these eggs and donate it to the Curry Union, let me know!

Friday, 29 March 2013

GOOD FRIDAY – THE ONE NATION PARTY AGREEMENT


For many subjects the maxim ‘those that know know, those that don’t know, don’t matter’ is usually true. Regarding John Major’s efforts during the 1990’s to bring peace and normalisation to the people of Northern Ireland it seems that not enough people appreciate the facts.
The Good Friday Agreement has been described by some asTony Blair’s Good Friday Agreement’, and of course he deserves recognition for his efforts; but it wasn’t just his. This article does not deny that the heavy hand of history was on his shoulders, even if it wasn’t a day for sound bites; but we Conservative’s need to be a little sharper elbowed before the revisionist historians start to diminish the impact that we have made.
Today is the 15th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, and it is self evident that peace in Northern Ireland has come a very long way, a lot has been done, but there is still more to do. It remains a process akin to the Christian understanding of sanctification. It is a process of becoming; it is a state of perpetual improvement.
One of the key aims of the Good Friday Agreement was ‘normalisation’ which according to the letter of the agreement,was to reduce the number of military installations there. The spirit of the agreement to ‘normalise’ goes so much further, it surely also means ‘normal’ politics, the same as the rest of the United Kingdom and an end to the dominance of political parties with historical links to the ‘troubles’.
So here is a challenge to the Conservative Party; why don’t wemake sure we field a Conservative Candidate in each of the eighteen Parliamentary Constituencies of Northern Ireland? Let’s not stop there; we should field candidates in every constituency, except the Speaker’s.
No more deals with other Unionist Parties, no winks, no nods, let us confidently declare to the people of Northern Ireland that we, the oldest and most successful political party in the world, respect them enough to at least give them the chance to vote for us. In some we might lose our deposits, but in others we might just find a significant proportion of the public supporting us because they want what we want, normal politics.
We shouldn’t stop there. We should be encouraging the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats to do the same. From North Antrim to Belfast West, let’s give every elector in Northern Ireland the chance to vote for one of the big three. Let’s even extend the challenge to UKIP, see if they really are fully UK.
Let the message go out to those that know and those that don’t know, that the Conservative Party is here for everyone, all matter and we’ll give everyone in the UK the opportunity to vote for usOn Good Friday, is there a better time to bury the sin of the past and begin again with new life?
Remember the Conservatives are the One Nation Party, or are we?
(This article was published on ConservativeHome this morning)

Thursday, 28 March 2013

FOX ON CHICKEN ROUTINE



Earlier this week I heard somebody describe the contrasting interviewing techniques of Radio 4's Eddie Mair and Newsnight's Jeremy Paxman. They described the softly spoken Mair as like a quiet assassin whose preferred method of dispatch was a stiletto knife, whereas Paxman was like a fox on a chicken.

The imagery of a stiletto knife is a good one. Discreet, slender, perhaps benign, it is not an energetic slashing hacking implement. The stiletto knife is designed to smoothly stab, to go in deep and to be extracted with as little friction as possible. Oh yes, that's Eddy Mair; he's a deadly smiling avuncular assassin.

Jeremy Paxman, BBC2 Newsnight's heavyweight has made his name by savaging his guest. Paxman's style of journalism is often like a pub fight, pint glasses and bar stools being smashed into the hapless victim, leaving the interviewee looking like a Friday night in Croydon.

Jeremy Paxman is still an incredible journalist and presenter, and I don't wish him an early retirement, we still need him and his kind propping up the fourth estate and news media.

With Mair, the victim leaves the interview looking the same as they did when they left make up; but somehow knowing something isn't quite right. Their discomfort horribly confirmed when  they look down to see the puncture wound leaving  a larger and larger crimson patch just between ribs four and five.

There is a sense that there is an important shift going on in British political journalism. The Paxman playbook is well rehearsed, the lines to take are practised and role played to the point that the snap, crackle and pop has mostly gone from Newsnight. The tipping point has passed, and their falling ratings [I'm told] back my argument up.

If I am right and this shift is taking place, I for one would welcome it. I certainly won't miss the vulpine savagery and nightly chicken shredding, it's not edifying or informative, it's just bloodsport. It's turned the important job of politics and good governance into entertainment. We still need journalists who can ask penetrating questions that will keep our politicians on the edge, but more stiletto knife and less fox on chicken.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

THE POLITICAL MESSAGE OF EASTER - BY GARY STREETER VIA EPA


My good friends at Endeavour Public Affairs have just published an Easter Message from the brilliant Gary Streeter MP, Chairman of Christians in Parliament. 

You can read it here.

SOME BLOGS I FOLLOW PART TWO

by Colin Bloom

Last week I linked to some blogs that I follow.

Today I am happy to mention three more:

The first is Danny Webster's adventure into faith and failure - 'broken cameras and gustav klimt'. Danny is an excellent writer, and has lovely view on things.

The second has multiple authors, some known to me - Platform10 it is a liberal conservative blog. I don't always agree with it but the articles are thought provoking.

Finally the third leg of this trilogy is - Cigar Aficionado - it's a Cigarillo compared to the magazine which is the full Double Corona - but an interesting read. Consider it GQ without the pouting supermodels.

ANTIDISESTABLISHMENTARIANISM

by Colin Bloom

Is antidisestablishmentarianism the longest word in the English language? Even if it isn't I doubt I will ever write an article with a one word title this long again.

For the record, I am not an Anglican but I love the Church of England. I've never been an Anglican but I will fight to keep it as our Nation's 'established' church. I am happy to be described as an antidisestablishmentarianist, it should be on my business card.

As a conservative (note little 'c') as well as a Conservative, it is in my instinct to want to keep what is good about our nation. Little 'c' conservatives live by the maxim, don't fix what ain't broke, and there is no argument that has yet persuaded me that our ancient heritage of having an Established church does us any harm. On the contrary, I would argue it is something to be rather proud of, and something that makes us stronger and more settled.

One of the benefits of an Established church of England is that we have Bishops sitting in the House of Lords; called the 'Lords Spiritual' they are made up of the five great 'sees' Canterbury, York, Durham, London and Winchester, followed by the next twenty-one most senior Bishops from across the Country. Whilst it is extremely rare for all twenty-six Bishops to be in the House of Lords at the same time, they are an highly influential and important bloc in the upper house.

The secularists hate the idea of a Lords Spiritual. They froth and foam at the thought that these unelected prelates, that follow some imaginary deity, have privileges that their enlightened ranks don't enjoy. They don't just want an end to the Established church, they also want an end to prayers before Council Meetings, faith schools, prison chaplains and Easter marches of Witness. The secularism agenda is clear, they want disestablishment; they probably wouldn't mind getting rid of the monarchy too. Let's face it, most are anarchists or marxists or both.

Yesterday a veteran of Parliament and I were chatting about this very subject and we concluded that should disestablishment ever get to a vote in the House of Commons, the majority of the Labour Party would probably vote in favour of it, perhaps all but one Liberal Democrat would vote in favour of it and maybe only fifty of the three hundred Conservatives would vote to break the Church and State relationship. It was, we imagined, quite an irony that if such a vote were to take place, the fate of the Bishops in the 'other place' would be precariously balanced in the hands of Conservatives MP's, a group who recently have not been best pleased with the 'tone' from the Lords Spiritual.

As I said at the beginning, I love it the way it is, and I want our Bishops to be free to speak their mind and be free to vote as their conscience leads them, their strength is their independence. Long may they enjoy the freedom to speak their minds as God leads them in the Upper House.

However, and it is a very hesitant and gentle however, the Bishops might want to work a little harder at keeping their friends and making new ones in the House of Commons and with the general populous. With great fear and trepidation I would venture that they might want to reflect on articles like this in the Daily Mail regarding Iain Duncan Smith's welfare reforms (extremely popular with the voters we hear). 

It's my hope that in four hundred years time the UK will still have a Lords Spiritual, an Established church and free thinking, independent, God fearing bench* of Bishops. I just hope we don't have to vote on it soon.

*the collective noun for Bishops really is 'bench'.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

WASHING & DRESSING

by Colin Bloom

This morning the BBC are reporting that the NHS are going to insist that newly qualified Nurses will have to first practice as Health Care Assistants (HCAs). Here is the quote:

Nurses will have to spend time as healthcare assistants doing basic tasks such as washing and dressing before completing their degree training, ministers are proposing.

WASHING & DRESSING!

Language is so important, how we use language is usually a good indicator of our feelings toward our subject. Let me put it like this, would you rather have someone feed you, or would you rather be assisted in eating a meal? If you are an older person with poor mobility, would you rather be helped to get changed or do you want someone dressing you? It might have the same outcome, but the attitude is totally different.

It is about dignity, respect and personal assistance. Mechanical terms like 'feeding' 'dressing' 'cleaning' conjure such distant, dis-empowering images. We need a renaissance of caring for, not doing for.

At the Curry Union we enjoy meals with street drinkers, rough sleepers, rent boys, prostitutes and crack addicts; people on the outer fringes of our community  We don't 'feed' 'them' like animals at a zoo; we enjoy a meal with our guests. The language we use is important because it humanises the person we are with, it doesn't break them down to a task.

So, I fully support Jeremy Hunt's plans, they will be good for the NHS. However, I'd like to see the BBC and others choose their words more carefully.

IF YOU WANT TO GO FAST GO ALONE, IF YOU WANT TO GO FAR, GO TOGETHER

by Colin Bloom

After watching Sebastian Vettel's terrible, selfish behaviour at this weekend's Malaysian Formula One GP I was reminded of the old African proverb that goes something like, 'if you want to go fast go alone, if you want to go far, go together.

For the tiny minority of readers who don't watch 200mph advertising hoardings go round and round and round in circles allow me to quickly explain what happened. In only the second race of a nineteen race season, the three time World Champion and Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel defied his team orders by overtaking his team mate Mark Webber who was then in first place. It was an outstanding, audacious and quite spectacular piece of wheel to wheel racing, and against anyone but his team mate, would have got all the headlines for the right reasons.

The problem for Vettel is that now in the eyes of most F1 fans, and certainly his team and probably every other driver, he is seen as a self centred, ill disciplined, get-ahead-at-all-costs maverick. Team orders are there because team owners know that even in the fastest sport on the planet, it's more than just how quickly you can go, it's about how far you can go quickly. This weekend has damaged Vettel and Red Bull; his behaviour has spoiled an otherwise great team result and left the Champion's boss on the horns of a raging red bull dilemma.

The shenanigans of what happened in Malaysia made me think about some LibLabCon Parliamentarians from the circa 2010 intake into both Houses. Boy are they in a hurry; in their indecent haste to make a name for themselves or to climb onto the Government payroll or Shadow equivalent, they seem to be forgetting themselves and those around them. They seem to have disregarded their team mates and the team orders, and their get-ahead-at-all-costs maverick behaviour just creates bitterness and enemies. These arrivistes have all the appearance of going fast; but they also look like they are going alone, given the tough trade that is politics, I fear they'll be ill equipped to maintain life at its current pace.

So whether it's in the fast moving world of motor-sport, or the more important work of being a Parliamentarian, remember that if you want to go fast go alone, if you want to go far, go together.

Monday, 25 March 2013

CHURCH FOR PEOPLE THAT DONT DO CHURCH

by Colin Bloom

Last week some friends and I set about delivering many thousands of postcards to the homes in our town, inviting people to a special church service called 'Church for people that don't do Church'. This one-off event happened yesterday at 3pm, and it was the first time we have ever done anything like it.

Yesterday was Palm Sunday, the start of Easter week; the most important week for followers of Jesus (or Christians as we like to be called).


What do I mean by Church for people that don't do Church? As I've written before, I think despite its failings, the Church is still God's best invention and everyone should be welcome. Whether you are rich or poor, black or white, gay or straight, male or female, young or old, you should be welcome in Church because that is the place where you are most likely to meet with and have a relationship with Jesus.

Hang on - scrub that. There is a group that don't need welcoming to Church.

Perfect people are not allowed; people who have never done anything wrong don't need to be found in church. For everyone else, I'll see you on Sunday...

WHAT DOESN'T KILL BORIS MAKES HIM STRONGER

by Colin Bloom

On the eve of a BBC documentary about Boris's 'Irresistible Rise', the Andrew Marr show's quiet but deadly Eddie Mair tries to eviscerate Boris Johnson, London's brilliant Conservative Mayor. Click here and scroll in about twenty five minutes. 

After asking the Mayor numerous embarrassing questions about things that had happened in his past, Boris tousles his hair and squirms, but like a skilled swordsman he manages to effortlessly parry the embarrassments away. Eddie Mair is no Russell Harty - listeners to BBC Radio 4's PM Programme will know that he's a tough journalist. But then Boris knows that too.

For the past week the documentary about Boris has been trailed by the BBC with snippets here and morsels there. It seems that whenever Boris is mentioned it is always linked to whether he has ambitions to succeed David Cameron as Conservative Party Leader; on this the man himself remains deliciously ambiguous.

Boris knows that there is no vacancy, and a vacancy soon is so infinitesimally unlikely that you might wonder what is going on. Look, the duel is never going to be a head to head against David Cameron, Boris is too smart for that.

Boris knows that in politics what doesn't kill you usually makes you stronger. If you don't believe me, consider how our siblings in the USA select their Presidential candidates, through their brutal Primary system. Frankly, whether it is Barack Obama vs Hilary Clinton, or Mitt Romney v Rick Santorum v Newt Gingrich v Ron Paul, there is nothing about any of these candidates' past that isn't squelched through and amplified to inflict terminal damage. What doesn't kill them, just makes them stronger.

If there are things in Boris's past that might hurt him in the future, the logic follows that it's in his interests to get them out of the way now. By the time he has finished squirming and parrying, he'll be  hoping that he is the strongest candidate from who is left.