Friday, June 30, 2017

Churchill


We went to see this the other Saturday. In my last film review I noted that when we go to the cinema most of the other movie-goers tend to be getting on a bit. Possibly due to our film choices  these days. Well, for this one it was my good wife, me, another (older) couple, and that was it. Like a private screening. Don't know what the other random couple thought they were doing, gatecrashing our exclusive viewing. Cheek of it. 

Churchill, the filmHistorically speaking almost a case of 'never in the field of cinema have so many facts been sacrificed for so little dramatic effect'. The central conceit was that our eponymous hero was dead against D-Day, haunted as he was by the epic failure of the Gallipoli campaign during WWI. Admittedly, it had been a while since I read Churchill by Roy Jenkins, but as the film unfolded, that didn't seem quite right. It wasn't. Churchill may have had some reservations concerning Operation Overlord, but to depict him calling upon the heavens to thwart the allied landings was pushing it a bit. A lot.

Some have called the film a 'hatchet job', but that's not quite fair. Churchill comes good in the end and delivers his rousing D-Day speech to the nation. Just like the ones he used to give during the Blitz. And they thought he was past it. 

Brian Cox gives a towering performance as the war leader. In turns melancholy, meddlesome, ill-tempered and yet ever the Great Man. Miranda Richardson is almost as imperious as his Clemmie. Verdict: a triumph of acting over plot, but still worth a look. At least you'll have plenty of elbow room in the cinema. 

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

London Seminary 40th Anniversary Thanksgiving Service


On Saturday we attended the London Seminary's 40th Anniversary Thanksgiving Service. I attended the seminary from 1988-1990. Former principal Philip Eveson chaired the meeting and gave a potted history of the college. It was encouraging to hear that around 400 men have been trained for the pastoral-preaching ministry at the seminary. Its reach has extended to five continents. The ethos of London Seminary can be summed up in the words of Paul in 2 Corinthians 6:7, "by the word of truth, by the power of God". The college was founded in 1977 by Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. He wanted the seminary to help equip men to proclaim the word of God in the power of the Holy Spirit. It has remained faithful to that vision. 

Leaving students spoke of how the seminary had helped prepare them for ministry and shared concerning the work to which the Lord was calling them. Outgoing Principal Robert Strivens gave a report on the work of the seminary in the current academic year. Incoming Principal Bill James read the Scriptures and prayed. 

Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr, President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky preached the word. His message was based on John 15:18-25. Jesus told his disciples that they would encounter hatred from the world as they heralded the gospel. Not exactly an encouraging thought for budding pastors and preachers. But a healthy dose of realism is needed for those setting out to minister God's word in an increasingly hostile secular world. To withstand this opposition, Mohler reminded us to abide in Christ (John 15:1-8), to expect the help of the Holy Spirit (John 15:26-27) and that Jesus had prayed that we will be kept from the evil one (John 17:14-19). The preacher commended the work of the seminary, which is on a much smaller scale than the one he leads, commenting that faithfulness is measured not in numbers, but density. This particularly dense alumni is certainly grateful for that. 

An excellent buffet tea was served after the meeting. It was good to catch up with some old friends connected with the seminary. Hard to think that it's almost 30 years since I began my studies there. I was in my early 20s - around the same age then as my son is now. Spooky. 

If you are interested in training for the pastoral-preaching ministry that is biblical, theological, practical, contemporary and affordable, why not consider the London Seminary?

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Democracy, the worst form of Government

 
For years to come pundits and political historians will discuss why the predicted Conservative landslide failed to materialise. Was it the unpopular Tory manifesto? The Brexit factor? The youth vote? Who knows? One thing’s for sure, you can never be sure what the Great British Electorate is going to decide. Not these days anyway. Now we have a weakened government that faces the huge challenge of negotiating our exit from the EU on the best possible terms.

Democracy, eh? Winston Churchill once rather gloomily mused, “Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.…”

Benign dictatorships usually end up malignant, corrupt and oppressive. The same goes for rule by a small group that cannot be held to account by the people they govern. Tony Benn suggested that five questions should be but to those in power: 1. What power have you got? 2. Where did you get it from? 3. In whose interests do you exercise it? 4. To whom are you accountable? 5. How can we get rid of you? Every system of government needs checks and balances to stop rulers abusing their powers. That is why in our system the government is held to account by parliament and is subject to the rule of law.

These checks and balances are necessary because as has been said, ‘Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely’. We might wonder why that is the case. Churchill gives us a clue in the words quoted earlier. We live in a ‘world of sin and woe’. Human beings have a destructive tendency to mess things up spectacularly. We daren’t give too much power to any individual because we are all sinners. That’s why ‘democracy is the worst form of government apart from all those other forms’.

Democracy can’t solve the problem of sin, it can merely help stop it getting out of hand. But of one it is written, ‘You shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins’. 

* For White Horse News, News & Views & Holy Trinity Parish Magazine 

Thursday, June 08, 2017

Voted

Given a choice between the unelectable and the uninspiring the latter got my vote. Not so much 'things can only get better' as, 'could be worse'. Much worse. 'Red Tory' has it. 

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

A choice between the unelectable and the uninspiring

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I don't know. In my political convictions I'm stuck somewhere between Red Tory and Blue Labour. Progressive when it comes to the state using its powers to help people from disadvantaged backgrounds to get on in life. But a social conservative when it comes to traditional marriage and the family, the importance of work, the need for society for have strong moral values, and so on. Big on the importance of free speech. Robust discussion of political, moral and religious matters are a Good Thing. I have little patience with factional identity politics. 

Not convinced at all by Corbyn's leftist tax & spend programme. Soft on defense. Cosying up to the IRA, Hamas, etc. Diane Abbot [get well soon]. Lib Dems need to suck up Brexit and move on. Leave we must. Remainers (like me) are just going to have to hope that we get the best possible deal on exiting the EU. Tim Farron has had a disastrous campaign. Ukip? Nope. 

But the Tories. What an uninspiring lot. 'Strong and stable' became 'weak and wobbly' when manifesto commitments subjected to scrutiny. The dementia tax debacle. There's a good argument to be made in favour of the policy. It's an improvement on the current situation where people have to sell their homes when still alive to fund their care, with only £23k protected. You could even say that it's progressive to get people with valuable properties to fund at least some of their own care costs. We brought nothing into this world and we can carry nothing out. Leaving 100k for middle class, middle aged kids to inherit isn't so bad. Personally, I'd prefer some kind of social insurance against care costs to spread the burden, but there we are. Pressure was applied and the PM buckled.

Security should have been May's strong point, having been Home Secretary for so long. She sounded impressive in the wake of the Manchester Arena and London Bridge attacks. But it's no good saying 'enough is enough' when you have been in personal charge of the nation's security. Especially as it seems clear that the terrorists involved in both atrocities were known to the authorities, but left at large to kill and maim at will. What's been going on under Theresa May's watch? Would we be any safer under Corbyn & co? Diane Abbot as Home Sec. Please.

On education, what we need is fairer funding for all schools that keeps pace with increasing pupil numbers. No additional Grammars. Under the Tories the education system is a messy hybrid. We have a mixture of LA die hards, Orphan Annie stand-alone academies [it's a hard knock life for them] and MATs in which schools are deprived of their autonomy while crazy money is awarded to CEOs. A mess.

I could moan on some more, but that'll do.

This election presents us with a choice between the unelectable and the uninspiring. 

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Voting Intentions

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No, I'm not going to try and suggest who you should vote for on 8 June. 'That's a relief' you might respond, 'I wouldn't have taken any notice anyway.'  Fair enough. It isn't really the job of church leaders to meddle in party politics.

Elections, eh? Some people cast their votes tribally because theirs has always been a Tory/Labour/Lib Dem family. Couldn't think of voting any other way. Others take a more considered approach. They read the manifestos, watch the TV coverage and consider what the newspaper columnists have to say before making up their minds on who they would like to see running the country. Then there's the, 'don't vote, it only encourages them' brigade. Personally I just can't be bothered with that kind of apathy. 

After all, governments have the power to make a  difference in a whole range of areas that impact on our everyday lives. Defense and security, law and order, the economy, education, health, etc. And through the ballot box we the people get to have a say on who wields that power. 

That said, we shouldn't pin all our hopes for a better world on politicians. They are only human after all. Their grand plans and promises are often  overtaken by unforeseen events. Plans may need to be adjusted and sincerely made promises may prove impossible to keep. The Bible wisely warns us, “Do not put your trust in princes” (Psalm 146:3).

Only God is worthy of our total trust. He was willing to send his own Son, Jesus to die on the cross and be raised from the dead that we might be forgiven and enjoy new life. We can be sure that God’s plans will never fail and his promises will always hold good. “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord... to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11). That gets my vote. 

* For June's Holy Trinity and News & Views  parish mags.