Friday, 29 January 2016

Political Correctness HAS Gone MAD!!! (Part 2)

I don’t think that turning pointed anger and discrimination against any group is acceptable at all, perhaps because it supposedly goes against the PC ideals I would have thought, and also because most white working class men, and the broad mass of working class people in general, are, and have been historically, the victims of injustice and bear the brunt of economic downturns. In short, two wrongs don’t make a right. Promoting one prejudice as acceptable, under the guise of challenging many others, is also unjust, anti Christian, and actually perniciously is playing economically marginalised groups off against each other and getting them to blame each other, and accept in the end that one group prospers at the expense of another, which whether true or not, is disgusting and unfair and borders on a kind of fascism, rather than left liberalism which many of those who are PC would earnestly claim to be. Any intelligent and honest person can see that PC has taken on a life of its own and is merely giving very vocal groups, and the political establishment, the self righteousness to challenge everyone else’s right to free speech and a difference of opinion and actually to close down any kind of debate. That is anti democracy, anti free speech, anti freedom and dividing people up. Again, the very opposite of what the PC thought police would claim. We all know the reality of it though, I suspect. At least, those of us who think for ourselves.


PC Positives and Negatives

The Positive Aspects of PC:

·         Promotes equality

·         Anti racist, anti homophobic, anti sexist

·         The acceptance that affluent white people are not the only people with needs

·         There are other opinions

·         Many contentious issues should be beyond mainstream politics

·         Left wing politics have as much credibility as right wing politics

·         An acknowledgement that the white male dominant culture has been oppressive.

The Negative Aspects of PC:

·         Doesn’t ever seem to accept that class discrimination against poor white people is also a problem

·         Claims to be liberal and tolerant but has increasingly become fanatical and almost fascistic in nature

·         Has increasingly devolved into ‘rights’ for very small minority groups which though might be acceptable is missing the point

·         Has ended up turning minority groups against each other and the poor white working class and effectively playing them off against each other

·         Is silencing free speech in the very name of tolerance, diversity and acceptance which is a complete contradiction in terms

·         Can be rather white and rather middle class in outlook


The Silencing of Dissent & Debate, the End of Democracy?

One thing that we should all be concerned about is the reality that those espousing a claim to be tolerant liberals are becoming dangerously more and more anti democratic, anti free speech, almost regardless of whatever is said, and there seems to be in the air the feeling that that mob mentality, which it is, is almost waiting for someone at any time, at any place and in any way to say something, even in a slip of the tongue or an off the cuff joke, who is then to be pilloried and tried by a jury of those hungering for a victim in the most unfair and nasty way by a baying mob that sometimes sounds like it wouldn’t be out of place in revolutionary France, or acting like the worst kind of racists and ‘gay bashers’ and ultra right wing and ultra left wing reactionaries. Ironic really. Some of the PC faithful are acting as intolerantly, obviously in speech, as the racists, homophobes and the sexists they claim are utterly intolerant. It can be the classic mob mentality. It is not about equality where I’m standing from, it is merely in some cases all kinds of nasty and unprincipled individuals jumping on a bandwagon to hate, despise, offend and hound off the air or out of jobs anyone who says anything that is deemed unacceptable, and perhaps someone who says something that secretly some of the PC faithful wish they could say but wouldn’t get away with. It is classic censorship of the unfocussed, the unprincipled, the angry and those who want their day in the sun, but in all the wrong ways and mostly for all the wrong reasons. It all started so well, how is it now ending so badly?


Economic Inequality Has Got Worse

What’s probably the most ironic of all, is that in all the cries for equal rights, equality, racial equality, women’s equality and so on, the economic divisions in the UK particularly have widened to levels not seen since the dreadful and desperate economic hardships of the 1930s and as reported perhaps even as bad as it was a about a hundred years ago. The economy seems to work very well for the very richest, fairly well for the affluent middle class, and not very well at all for those at the bottom of the economic pile, be they white, black, Asian, the broad mass of the working class and immigrants. So, for all the talk of equality, and it getting louder and more urgent, there has been a reverse in economic equality, educational opportunities for poorer people, a rise in insecure and low paid employment, austerity imposed on those who can least bear it and it’s now almost impossible for aspiring working class people to pull themselves up and move on. So, is PC just a smokescreen for destroying working class communities, tea and sympathy in effect, but no real concern for anyone or from anyone who could do something about it? I do truly wonder.


The Totalitarianism of ‘The People’

One of the problems that is perhaps less obvious with the whole PC movement, is just exactly what the definition of equality really means. On the surface, the vast majority of people would assume, I assume, that equality means just exactly that, equal rights before the law, equal access to educational opportunities, equal access to jobs, equal treatment in all ways that iron out the differences in a divided society. Because, of course, if there is a push for equal rights and often in such a vociferous and vocal way, we are of course saying that the UK is very far from equality? I would assume so, anyway. Well, that would be the argument for equality, of course. But more sinisterly, the idea of equality has become confused with the idea that we should all be the same in some unexplained way, and that the loudest and most aggressive group will dominate. So, simply put, ‘equality’ begins to become everyone having to think the same thoughts, be the same, accepting the same things, disagreeing with the same things, and where all original thought and particularly independent honest opinion is derided, denounced and clamped down on, obviously if it is seen as Non PC. This is similar in principle to how right wing fascism works and also totalitarianism communism, where a person subsumes their individuality to some notion of a collective political ideal and the individual doesn’t really matter anymore. Such enforced conformity eventually needs an outlet and a target to attack, to strangely enough give vent to peoples anger at having to conform in the first place. It is why we need to replace PC extremism with the democratic right to free speech, so we can criticise and healthily debate with whoever wishes to censor anything which is seen as unacceptable, starting with the increasingly nasty and intolerant and unacceptable notion of PC itself. The biggest irony is the intolerance of tolerance and the fascism of the majority against those who refuse to fit in, or just don’t fit in or have a difference of opinion. Isn’t that what PC was originally challenging in the first place?


The Christian Response

This is far more than an appendage to the whole argument presented here, but I can tell you straightaway that Christianity, and the practise of Christian faith, is really in no way compatible with PC. It may seem to be, with the PC stress on anti racism, anti sexism, anti homophobia and so on, but there are irreconcilable differences. Christianity is a complete lifestyle, where the emphasis is getting yourself right with the divine help of an infinitely wise, all seeing, all knowing and all powerful God. Instead of trying to change the world, we are really transforming ourselves first. PC is really the opposite. It is assuming that by saying continually you are non racist, non sexist, non homophobic and so on, that you then have the right to persecute others who are not demonstrating the same zealousness as yourself. It has now become a persecutors charter, to supposedly challenge the persecution of others! It is then, a muddle of contradictions like most human secular faiths become sooner or later. I may add, that when PC is on its way out, or a massive backlash finally sees it off, the majority of those voraciously clinging to it now and the power it gives them, will be the first to disown it by saying something like “I was never really into it, I stood out from the crowd, whereas all my friends were so PC, and so intolerant!”, but they will know the truth of it.

14 The entire law is summed up in a single command: "Love your neighbor as yourself." 15 If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.  (Galatians 5:14-15 NIV)

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Political Correctness HAS Gone MAD!!! (Part 1)

In many ways, society in Britain in the early 21st century would seem to be a more enlightened one, certainly from the dark days of the 1970s. Those of us who can remember things like the Black and White Minstrel show, rampant sexism, casual homophobia and the casual racism of some comedians like Bernard Manning, and many other accepted intolerances, may well cringe at how unenlightened society was back then. It perhaps wasn’t all that bad, but it certainly wasn’t that good either. It was, as some clever people might say, unreconstructed prejudice, that is, prejudice coming from general ignorance and not so much a vicious maliciousness. Some may disagree, and by the end of the 70s fascism was beginning to rear its ugly head in Britain again, in a more extreme and more vocal and violent way. So, too, did the anti fascists. Most decent people accept that whatever they believe, one of the primary goals of living in a peaceful society, is to live peacefully in that society and to respect other people, and respect their right to live peacefully as you also want to live in peace. All good so far.


But, as is the way with human beings and human systems, it never quite works out the way people hope it will. At this time, early 2016, political correctness and the virulent faith in equality, diversity and even multiculturalism are still in full swing, although there are pockets of rebellion and some instances of healthy honesty and truth breaking out here and there. But, by and large, it is still very trendy to very quickly point fingers at anyone who may say anything at all not acceptable to the PC thought police. The one problem is, no one knows exactly what is acceptable or not acceptable anymore. War is Peace, indeed. So, everyone is scared of saying anything at all controversial. Problem is, no one knows what is controversial or not controversial anymore. So no one says anything unless it has been approved. But, approved by whom?


I equate political correctness with movements like Puritanism, where a kind of faith has very strong political overtones, with different strands, different people, different groups and varying degrees of virulence and fanaticism. At worst, I would also equate it with the Spanish Inquisition. Yes, seriously, the 21st century versions of those two politico/religious movements. And although there are many differences, the real point I am making is that political correctness (hereafter abbreviated to PC) is coming from a supposed unassailable position, the same as those two historic movements, and that those who espouse the PC position or claim to be PC are automatically in the right, so no one better contradict them, or argue with them, often on any point, or say anything which they just don’t like. PC tends to have an anti racist, anti sexist and anti homophobic agenda in the main, that people who are not white and women and those who are gay and lesbian should be protected and have their rights enshrined in law. Now, please let’s get one thing clear: the protection for people against racism, sexism and homophobia is a good thing, indeed the protection of everyone’s rights and genuine equality for all, or could I say equal opportunities and equal fair treatment for all, sounds to me a very good thing indeed. But, is this what even the most PC person really wants? Do they actually want equal rights for all, or do they want equal rights for some, or do they actually want special rights for some?


Where does Christianity fit into all this? Well, some might think, and erroneously, that PC is the same as Christianity, in that equality in all things is synonymous with a loving Creator. I do believe that God sees us all as equal before Him, and that unjust political and economic systems based on race discrimination, class discrimination, sex discrimination, religious discrimination, gay discrimination and many other things that divide humans up unfairly, and allow some people to prosper unfairly at the expense of others are abhorrent to God, but that the world is so riven with injustice and deep unfairness, that God, rather than change everything, has to work in and through the chaos and division that most human societies create, and work through the chaotic and disordered lives most people lead, at some time or other, including many Christians! PC has an air of respectability attached to it where people proclaim their non racist, non sexist and anti homophobic ‘credentials’ so to speak (rarely, if ever their hatred of class discrimination, curiously enough) but the reality inside may be something completely different. Anyone can claim anything about themselves after all, but who really knows anyone merely by what they say they are? A PC person proclaims they are perfect and that everyone should submit to them, and then can condemn others who are not going around proclaiming non racist attitudes and so on. Christianity is very different. A true Christian knows that deep down, and without God’s grace and mercy, they are sinful and without true redemption. I cannot be good on my own, no matter how much I tell other people I am good and kind and so on, because I NEED Jesus to forgive me, heal me, purify me from sinful thoughts and negative and even self destructive attitudes of all kinds, which can lead to negative behaviour if not checked, or I just internalise the negativity and beat myself up. PC, then, is like putting the cart before the horse, and without actually looking at yourself first and working on your own faults with the help of a merciful God, you are saying you are already, perhaps egotistically and self righteously, good enough to point fingers at others and condemn them, sometimes and often for very spurious reasons, and ironically enough in a very prejudiced and intolerant manner, the very thing the PC movement claims to be against. In this way, PC and Christianity are in actual fact almost polar opposites in practise. God does not want us to perfect ourselves by condemning others, that is in fact what the Pharisees did and were condemned by Jesus for, because we cannot perfect ourselves without God, and when we try, as some of the PC faithful do, we tend to end up pointing fingers at others in frustration at our own faults, and simply because we are very good at pointing fingers at and judging others but almost pathologically and certainly naturally loathe to examine our own many and myriad faults. That then is the first fault of PC. It is not Christianity and comes nowhere close. It is false respectability, and intolerant of others views, and certainly not Christianity in lived experience.


I can also pick fault with the way PC has also deteriorated and how in effect, rather than in the theory of the PC faithful being believers of equality, it merely promotes prejudice against the white working  class, as if this is in some way a payback for the depredations and injustices of Western imperialism, the British and Spanish empires and many others, and the continuing economic domination of the world by America, Britain and Western Europe. My biggest problem with that approach is ultimately saying that the same actions, though largely on a social scale, towards another group is an acceptable substitute for the economic poverty of black people, working class women, poor Asian Muslims and immigrants who have come here for various reasons. White working class prejudices and negative behaviours are discussed in minute detail and often with a fine tooth comb whereas the prejudices of the Middle class and the affluent are virtually completely ignored or sidelined and prejudices and misconceptions against the white working class have become acceptable, whereas racism is regularly castigated. So, one small minded prejudice takes the place of another. Why can’t all prejudices be equally challenged? And why isn’t the real issue, the economic divisions, being discussed? Too close to uncomfortable reality? I do wonder. Far safer to further victimise those already victims of the system, it seems.

For me, I have to be honest in this situation, and I don’t point my fingers at affluent people or middle class people in return, my point here is that PC and its whole credo, whoever proclaims it, and there are working class groups and middle class groups who are PC in nature and I have experienced both typically middle class and working class people who were virulently PC and found I didn’t like them very much, has deteriorated into the worst kind of intellectual fascism, whoever espouses it and wherever it comes from, whether from working class people or middle class people, white or black or other, left or right politics, and it closes any form of real debate, free speech and so an essential part of what a democracy is. Also, is it just me, or has anyone noticed that some PC pronouncements are getting more and more absurd, and divorced more and more from any common sense or reality? Or that those claiming to be tolerant liberals can sometimes be the most intolerant and illiberal if anyone disagrees with them in any way?

Friday, 15 January 2016

The Price of Freedom: Je Suis Charlie Hebdo?

It is the anniversary of the ‘Charlie Hebdo’ attacks this month, and I was having a little think about what it means. It centred on the idea of freedom, and that even if doing something or saying something, or criticising something publically, or expressing something that may cause other people to get angry, or in the case of the Charlie Hebdo cartoon, drawings of the prophet Mohammad, which I haven’t seen nor particularly have any desire to see, to kill other people violently and indiscriminately because of a cartoon, even if it provokes such sentiments and actions, the right to draw that cartoon, basically the right to offend others overrides any sense of responsibility of whatever happens afterwards.

Down with the British!

After the American War of Independence, when those pesky Yanks gave us domineering Brits the ‘order of the boot’, someone expressed the sentiment that ‘the price of freedom is eternal vigilance’. It sounds really good, and I come closer to thinking it truer than I did at one time. My view before was always that if you had to be eternally vigilant, constantly watching, then somehow that ‘bee in your bonnet’ so to speak would actually rob of you peace, or at least some of it. Does that make sense to you? My idea of peace was, for a long time, to have nothing to worry me, no problems, to be able to sit down and feel at one with God, people and the world in general. To have no worries, basically. Now, in some senses, that is peace. But, it’s not the complete picture. There is a kind of peace that could separate you from everything, even reality itself, and it could separate you from people as well. You could eventually see everything and anything, and anyone, who came along as disturbing your equilibrium, but ultimately that would not be real peace, and that equilibrium would be very fragile indeed.


Jesus didn’t come down into an English garden fete, or a quaint and affluent New England folksy small town, where everyone was rather nice and affable and friendly, He came right down in the middle of life in all its rawness, ugliness, pain, suffering, but also amongst the great mass of ordinary people with their joys, laughter, family problems and possibly dreams of a better life or a life where they could feed their families and be content. The Middle East now is hardly a place of peace, and back then it was no different. Yet Jesus is born slap bang in the middle of troubles, was a refugee, a fleeing immigrant, was escaping a violent death, and born to people who in worldly terms at least were of little consequence and low born, and He was born in a stable! And you think you’ve got troubles?!! He was conceived, born in the middle of, and lived right amongst trouble, and was troubled right at the end of His short life...yet, He is called the Prince of Peace!!!

Ask, and it shall be given...

Peace is not the absence of troubles, although there is no reason why we cannot ask God to help us and to get rid of anything troubling us, peace is, I believe, holistic and covers many things, but God’s peace is a peace that the world cannot give. It’s as simple, and as difficult, as that. If we pray for God’s peace, it is something He will give us. Usually not straightaway, but as a process. Also, and I speak from direct experience, when God starts to bring peace into your life, an inner peace that enables you to sit and enjoy that peace, and a peace that enables you to get on with your life, job, family, friends, leisure, pleasure and necessities, He also starts to heal physical and health problems, emotional problems, past hurts and resentments, and many other things too, if you ask Him. In this way, peace is an inner spiritual reality that will affect how you behave and see things around you, but it is also God resolving all kinds of issues too, that may take some time, but He will bring peace in all its forms... if you ask Him.


Now, I’ve possibly wondered off a little here, but peace and freedom often seem synonymous, but in actual fact the word freedom, like peace, is often either misunderstood or misused, and sometimes both. What is freedom? Well, it seems that in a world where most people tend to be selfish, even naturally and without malice, freedom can mean different things to different people. Sometimes radically different things. Freedom without boundaries can actually be the biggest prison of all, particularly when those boundaries are moral ones. Look at the state of the world now, and all the evil, injustice, unfairness, growing economic divisions, religious intolerance from all sides, political mismanagement, hunger, poverty, wars, sexual perversion, hypocrisy, double standards and so many other things that human beings with no consideration for others do to each other. We are all a part of that until we accept that this is the way the world is, and most of the humans in it, who put themselves first and not the true will of God. And, just what is the will of God, anyway?


So, we return back to Charlie Hebdo. Now, on one side we have the French magazine and obviously the cartoonists and staff who decide that it is a good idea to mock Mohammad the major prophet of the Islamic faith, and on the other we have people acting in the name of Islam, presumably Muslims, who decide to violently murder those responsible with machine guns, and a number of other innocent people who happened to get caught up in it, too. The situation boils down to a number of salient points. One is the freedom to say and do exactly what you want, whether that offends or not, also perhaps the idea that if it riles people, well, tough.  That notion of ‘freedom’ overrides common sense and is really about ego, and not a great deal more. Another is the idea that if you are offended to the extreme, by something which is ultimately truly harmless, you have the right to violently attack and even kill those people, thinking that you are perfectly right, and from a religion that is continually proclaimed to be a religion of peace. But that is another story, for another time. I will add here that I have Muslim friends who are not religious nutbars, and that most Muslims in the UK are law abiding and want to get on, find work and raise their families, like most everyone else. Anyway, freedom to do what each side wanted to do, on both sides, without consideration for others, resulted in the violent murder of 17 people. So, in the end, are we saying that freedom to do what you want overrides those people’s deaths? Are we also saying that the response, which was horrifyingly violent, murderous and destructive, is acceptable if freedom simply comes down to people doing what they want because they want to do it? Well, is it?


There is no true freedom without law, and there is no real freedom until we ask God to help us keep those laws, whilst regarding others as important to God as we are and living our day to day lives, in all its chaos, complications, struggles, joy and sometime pain. Ultimately, for a Christian, and I can’t and won’t speak for any other faith because I don’t really know, it is being completely obedient to Jesus whatever the world at large does or doesn’t do, and whatever passing secular moral trends and secular faiths like political correctness come and eventually go, as they all do. It is really what you build your life on that is most important.


24"Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.” (Matthew 8:24-25 NIV)


The ‘Rock’ is Jesus, of course. Without a solid rock to cling to, we might all be washed away when the storms come. I believe that it is vitally important to build your life, in the long term, short term and right now, on something that is true and that helps you overcome all the negative in life and find joy in the positive and the many blessings of God, and accepting whatever comes. Only Jesus has ever done that for me.

 Freedom in Jesus is not to subsume our personality, intrinsically the very essence of who we are uniquely, to the crowd and whatever they do or don’t believe, it is to hold fast to what we know is truth in Him, in authoritative biblical scripture and teachings, and standing for something that is true and real, rather than falling for anything that comes along, as things do in the world out there. That freedom in Him also means we can be ourselves, have a sense of humour, a point of view, a sense of who we are without recourse to other people, but also to regard other people with the same respect you hope for yourself. Freedom in Jesus is not egotistical and self indulgent or just an excuse to do whatever you want and use your ‘faith’, as it is, as a ‘get out of jail’ card, our freedom is to live beyond our sinful natures, to ask God into every area of our lives and be transformed from being selfish and self centred, to learning to be selfless, in the best sense of the word, and God centred. That is true freedom.


31To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." (John 8:31-32 NIV)

Friday, 8 January 2016

The Hendrix Fan Who Found God

I have had a pretty unusual walk with God. Not I would say in any way normal. As in, come from a Christian family, go to church as a kid, get saved, develop a deeper faith as I got older and get more involved in the church, and so on. I’m sure that I am not the only one whose Christian walk and Christian faith has been completely out of left field. It’s probably why my Christian life has been up, down and nonexistent for many years. As I said in another blog post, I only started to be a regular churchgoer when I was 46 years old, although I have been a Christian of sorts since about 13, when quite literally I started praying to God because I was troubled quite badly for a particular reason, and God made His presence known to me. It was as simple as that, but at the same time, not knowing really what was expected of me, I didn’t give my life to Jesus, I just sort of walked with God and had no desire or real inkling to go to church or really be around other Christians. Most people I tell this to seem to be either mildly curious or confused, or they seem almost shocked. But it is the way it happened. I now realise, when I hear other people’s encounters with God and how He came into their lives, I see similar things. I am reminded of the way God came to Israel in antiquity. How could they have really known who He was when He started originally to make His presence known to them, as individuals like Abraham, Moses, David, Paul and many others, and as the nation of people in general? How could anyone? How could I have known in my ignorance of scripture, church life and the general Judaeo-Christian heritage Britain and the West in general has? I didn’t, quite simply, but God still chose to walk with me even though He knew I wouldn’t start to really engage with Him many years after I knew He existed. You see, for me, if He hadn’t called me, if He hadn’t made Himself known to me irrefutably and plainly, I now would not be a Christian, much less a churchgoer. I’m not even religious, and I don’t have a great deal of time for traditional organised Christianity nor the hierarchy and paraphernalia of much that passes for all that stuff. God could not have picked a less religious person than me, yet He picked me all the same. Over the years, I have given a lot of thought to my particular calling and the way I was called and how my Christian life, for a number of years, panned out. I’m a pragmatic, and in many ways, plain and direct speaking person from Northern England. Generally, up here we are not known for beating around the bush, or putting on airs and graces, and this either means we are respected for being honest, even if not always correct(!), or we are disliked for being too brash and honest. Well, there’s no pleasing some people. But, anyway, the point I am making, to cut a long story mercifully short, well not too short, is that God picks the strangest people and keeps the strangest company. I’m the Hendrix fan who found God. Or, did He find me? I mean God, by the way.


One of the things I have believed, probably ever since I really began reflecting on things, is a need for honesty rather than nice well meaning, but ultimately meaningless platitudes. Long before I was a Christian. I have always been outspoken, always been opinionated and probably always been rebellious to some degree. And here’s an old chestnut as well; I have always felt different, right from an early age, often used to see things differently from other people. But, the strange thing is, this didn’t manifest itself in some sort of aloof personality or anything like that, because when I was a kid I was a bit of a tearaway, liked running with a gang of kids and being a bit cheeky. The other side of me was someone who liked to read voraciously about any number of topics. But, I don’t think I had any great insights nor ever felt I would rule the world or anything like that. But, in some way, from an early age, I have felt different from other people. I’m not sure how to explain it any better than that. I don’t write this to sound cool, or to make myself feel different or anything like that, it is just the truth. Yet, in many senses I was just another kid running around the neighbourhood like many other kids in similar neighbourhoods all over the world. I often reflect on my humble origins, and where I am now. It’s almost as if I am in a different world. Life back then was so simple, there were few worries, no fear about getting on or improving my lot or any of that, just a simple and carefree life. The cheeky and carefree kid grew up into a sombre and thoughtful man, one who on the outside looks professional, and as if he is going places, but on the inside...?

Recently, after talking to a good Christian mate of mine, I decided to give away all my Hendrix stuff. Everything, which was CDs, bought videos, books about him, guitar tablature books which are song books and loads of free stuff I’d downloaded from YouTube. I got rid of it all, and all I have now is one film about him which was from the TV which I don’t know what to do with. I did this on the spur of the moment, but also after giving it some thought over a few weeks. You see, I’d made an idol out of him, plain and simple. Rather than pray to my Maker when I was feeling out of sorts, I’d rather put on a Hendrix song or some of his blues or just stick a video or CD on. Sounds silly? Sounds, sort of, bizarre or mediaeval even? Well, no. Idolatry isn’t just sticking a little wooden or clay or stone god in the side of the wall and praying to it or making offerings to it for some favour or to placate its vengeance or whatever, it is putting anything, or anyone, before the Lord God. Money can be an idol, or a belief in capitalism or communism, or your talents, or selfish ambition, or a politician or televangelist, or anything or anyone which has no power to save you. Curiously, I didn’t feel better or worse for getting rid of it all, but I know I did the right thing. There will be people reading this who will agree with me, and there will be people who might chance upon this blogpost and think this is a bit strange. Seen from the natural it is. Seen from the spiritual, it isn’t. Nor am I equating listening to rock music or any secular music as somehow wrong, because the vast majority of music is secular, and indeed the vast majority of things in the world are secular, or at least are not particularly Christian in intent or design. No, I am merely saying that for me, it had become a problem and was blocking healing and a more intimate relationship with the Lord. After all, Christianity is relationship, not religion. I may add, that for about five years, the Lord has put it on me to abstain from alcohol for about 2/3s of every year, and at the moment when I do drink it is very moderately. Also, I have been fasting partially in the week for about 4 months as I write because I have been praying for healing from depression and physical illness and to know God’s will for my life and to ask Him some serious questions about the ambitions I have, too. These type of things have to be taken extremely seriously, and so I am fasting partially for it. Best to pray before you undertake a fast. For some it may be a complete fast lasting a few days, for others it may be a longer but partial fast. The other bonus is, is that I have lost over a stone in weight! (That’s over 14 pounds) Because I am obeying God, healing is coming both physically and mentally. It’s been said before that Christianity and Christian living goes beyond being ‘good’, being ‘moral’, trying to be a holy Joe, or holy Joanna for that matter, being some sort of judgemental person or becoming like a Christian stereotype of some kind. On the contrary, through the growing friendship I have with Jesus, He allows me to be me, not fit someone else’s idea of who I should be, or how I should talk, or even what I should do in and for the church. There is true freedom in Jesus, and it means that though I am a Christian and part of a Christian fellowship in a very good church filled with very decent Christians, God has a specific plan for my life and sees me as what I am, a one off and completely unique. Like everyone else! But, although Jesus wants us all to have His attributes of mercy, compassion, forgiveness, long suffering, emotional balance and to be moderate in our behaviour and many other genuinely good and wholesome things, in other ways He does not want us to be like each other or clones of each other, looking, talking, acting and dressing the same. Christians come in all shapes, sizes, looks, skin colours and social backgrounds, and rather than lose our identity in God, we actually find our identity in Him. This truth might dawn quicker on some, and more slowly on others, the glorious truth that God loves each Christian as much as any other and loves us for who we are, never loving our sin, but loving the completely unique creation we each in fact are. The world may praise the great and the good, the famous, rich, powerful and influential and so on, but do you know what(?), God upholds all of us who put our faith in Him, all over the world, regardless of how obscure we are and how little real influence we might have, and most Christians have little real influence in the world, and most of us are in the broadest sense just ordinary people. God brings meaning into my ordinariness and my ordinary life, shows me the extraordinary in my ordinary life, the ordinary in the most extraordinary scripture and beliefs we begin to believe and understand on a deeper level as mere truth, and that in my life and humble walk with God, He brings the extraordinary and ordinary together in ways marvellous and divine. We live in the ordinary, but we seek the divine. When I look off into a beautiful sunset over mountains and hills in North Wales somewhere, and am someplace silent and removed from the hustle and bustle in a town below, I am taken to something like the divine but below ordinary life goes on, in the pubs and chippies and restaurants and streets below. In the same way we see far off to the divine and eternal but we are amidst or never far from the ordinary, the humdrum and the commonplace. Jesus did not despise the ordinary, the humdrum and the commonplace, and He picked ordinary fishermen, and not the professionally religious, as His disciples. He turned His back on the religious elites and religious authorities and powerful people of His day, to walk with the ordinary, the lost, the shunned, the marginalised and those who had a genuine thirst and hunger for something new, something real and something lasting, something that would bring great hope and transformation in a world inevitably depressing, deeply unfair and divided in so many ways. He came to reconcile all to Him, and to each other. If He can walk with a onetime Hendrix fan, who grew up almost on the margins of society, He can walk with anyone.