Parable of the Talents

What follows is, by request, a cut down version of a recent sermon of mine based on the version of this parable found in Matthew’s Gospel.

We’ve all, although there is always the possibility that it is only me, been conditioned to accept a particular interpretation of ‘the Parable of the Talents’. We all know what it’s about and we’ve heard sermons on it and even Sunday school lessons.

In retrospect, I realise I’ve always found the usual version of what this parable is taken to mean at the very least uncomfortable, if not suspect and actually wrong. The application of a pretty simple bit of context does change the whole way we view it.

Simplistically put, the usual, bog-standard, traditional interpretation offers a view of the cast of characters something like this – we have:

  • The rich business man who is Jesus or God.
  • The three servants – who are us.
  • The talents – which are our God given abilities

And, so the story goes, we will be judged on the basis of what we do with them. There you go – sermon over.

But, if we apply a bit of context and then look at that cast again a very different picture emerges. Firstly, casting the rich business man as Jesus or God just doesn’t fit. His behaviour is not in keeping with how God has worked in my life and it doesn’t fit with other scripture. For instance –  the parable of the workmen in the vineyard in Matthew 20 where the latecomers are rewarded with the same pay as all the others.

In this parable, this judgemental individual makes loans (not gifts) to his servants according to his assessment of their abilities – then goes away and leaves them to fend for themselves – this doesn’t fit with passages like John 14 where amongst other things Jesus says to his disciples in verse 14 “I shall ask the Father and he will give you another Advocate to be with you forever that Spirit of truth. . .”.

On his return, the master calls his servants to account and promotes the successful ones and punishes the unsuccessful one very severely – everything is taken from him and he is thrown out to “weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth” as the King James Authorised Version helpfully puts it.

Where is grace and forgiveness in this? If this is a picture of God or Jesus then they are behaving like some cosmic Alan Sugar (or worse if you used the transatlantic equivalent of the Apprentice) pronouncing “You’re Fired!” to the failed candidate.

On with a review of the cast. The servants are us – well at least one of them is. We’ll come back to that in a few paragraphs.

The talents – are our God-given gifts. Hmmm . . . only the English speaking nations could possibly assume that a Greek term for a sum of money means a skill or ability just because it sounds like the same word in English. The word ‘Talent’ here means a sum of money, quite a large sum of money, it’s got nothing to do with gifting from God and how we use them. That’s explored elsewhere in the Bible but it is not what this parable is about.

The rich business man loans out money – NOT talent as we have come to mean it. He clearly expects his servants to expand his wealth and on his return he calls them to account and the usual hero is the servant who has made the most money in the master’s absence

Sorry NO – this is NOT what Jesus is saying. The clincher for me here is the adding of a little bit of context – something that the people Jesus told this parable to would have understood straight away but which we would now miss.

Before being further impoverished and thrown out the poorest servant is told that he could at least have invested the money and got interest on it. Any faithful Jewish person would have realised that what the business man has suggested to the servant is that he could and should have engaged in usury. The lending of money on which interest is charged – something expressly forbidden in the Law of Moses. Any amount interest – we tend to think of usury now in terms of the huge interest rates charged by pay day loan shark companies like Wonga.

In Hebrew Law it was forbidden to charge any level of interest on any thing that was lent to a fellow Israelite. This set out in Deuteronomy 23:19 and Leviticus 25:36-37 and Exodus 22:25. The prophet Ezekiel, not one to mince his words, says this in chapter 18:7-8 writing about the upright or righteous person. He says:

“They oppress no-one, keep their promises, never steal, give their own bread to the hungry, give their clothes to the naked. They never charge usury on loans, take no interest, abstain from evil and give honest judgement between man and man.”

On the other hand in verse 13 he goes on to say of the unrighteous person that if “They have lent at usury and taken interest” then they have “Done a detestable thing and will surely be put to death and their blood will be on their own head.”

Alongside the books of the Law and the Prophets the Hebrew people also had the Mishnah (a collection of Rabbis’ teachings interpreting the Law) and this takes it even further – if you take out a loan with interest whether that is money or goods then the person making the loan, the person receiving the loan, any legal witnesses and the scribe who writes down the details are all equally guilty of usury.

The people who heard Jesus speak this parable to would not, indeed could not, have seen the business man as Jesus or God. They would know that the behaviour this man is encouraging his servants to engage in is utterly wrong. It is forbidden – the sort of thing tax collectors and sinners engage in.

So, if this parable doesn’t mean what we’ve often been taught it means – what is it about?

Well, it’s not really about usury either that’s just the example Jesus is using to drive his point home. There are of course plenty of sermons we could get out of examining the Bibles teaching about money.

Let’s reverse things – turn them upside down – it is after all the upside-down Kingdom of God we’re talking about here.

The business man can’t be God because he is expecting his servants to break the Law of Moses. So, the hero can’t be the servant who makes the most money either. The hero in this parable is the one who does nothing with the money except repay it in full.

But he doesn’t ‘do nothing’. He stands up to this man and speaks the truth to him. He confronts him, both by his actions and his words – he says:

“Look I know the sort of person you are and I know I’m just a servant here but you have no right to ask me to act this way. So, even though I am afraid of you I have done what my conscience dictated here is your money back in full.”

And Jesus, who is talking to his disciples, includes the health warning that this sort of action and speaking the truth to power has consequences for the speaker.

The Parable of the Talents is, I would suggest, a parable – perhaps more than ever appropriate for our current times. We are to be the voice of integrity, the powerless voice that speaks up for truth and justice to the most powerful and the quite frankly scary.

We have recently seen the resurgence of neo-nazism. Marchers is the USA carrying swastika flags and making seig heil salutes. Neo-nazi there’s a big misnomer – there’s nothing new about it. We don’t have the Klu Klux Klan here in the UK (I don’t think) but we do have the equally obnoxious National Action organisation – now banned as extremist, the English Defence League and organisations like Britain First who not only call themselves Christian but march carrying crosses.

We should take note that during the rise of the Nazi regime in Germany the church was divided. Some good Christian people initially saw the new regime as beneficial –  others who with hindsite had a more accurate prophetic understanding stood against it. A well-known theologian of the time, one Deitrich Bonhoeffer, was very vocal in his criticism of the Nazi regime. He was arrested, tried without defence, evidence or witnesses and executed in Flossenburg concentration camp.

He said this: “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”

That is the essence of this parable – the need to speak the truth to power and it falls to us who follow Jesus to do this – whatever that looks like, with whatever means are at our disposal.

Home is . . .

Home is a strange idea. I know it’s more than just a place on the map but physical location does have a lot to do with ones understanding of home as a concept. I’ve been on the road travelling back and forth to the Isle of Mull a lot recently and have just finally set the builders loose on the work needed to extend and refurbish our ‘second home’. That expression, ‘second home’ still feels alien and sounds so odd to me. Over the last months there has been the gradual, slightly guilty, dawning of the middle-class realisation that we actually have two houses. According to the local council a house is a second home if it’s not your main address and if you can prove you occupied it for more than twenty-five days in any Council Tax year.

From age ten home was something I got to go back to when I was let out of boarding school. It was definitely geographically located where my parents were and it was a place which was familiar – family like. It was always a huge relief to return to the space of my bedroom where the door could be closed and I could be on my own. For a committed introvert boarding school is probably about the least friendly form of education I can think of – there are only communal spaces – dormitories, classrooms, showers, meals all shared with others all the time. No real concept of or allowance for anybody who might need ‘down time’ to recharge. Home was where I spent the least of my time.

After college, when I married, home became and remains wherever Sue is. Initially in Winchester, then later following her around the UK wherever her ministry took us. You do try to make a Manse feel like your home but you do know underneath it all that it is really tied accommodation and you don’t perhaps invest as much of yourselves in it as you might because you know that home will be somewhere else afterwards.

Where is home now? It could be said to have two geographic locations five hundred plus miles and a boat journey apart. One place feels like home already as it was really a return journey and we were able to put our stamp on it quite quickly. Gradually our island home is also beginning to feel like home – beginning to develop that familiar feel.

An old friend once described our home as being like Rivendell – I can’t think of a bigger compliment. I know it’s too simplistic to say that home is a particular house, or a collection of things, or a web of relationships and neither is it simply ‘where the heart is’. To be honest I’m not even sure what it is. It is all of these things and none of them. Perhaps it’s just where you find belonging. I may not have a clear understanding if what home is but I know it when I feel it.  Home is expressed in those physical, emotional and yes, spiritual spaces the heart has been allowed to shape.

Ramdas says that in the end “We’re all just walking each other home”. I do like the sentiment of this but home is also the way stations for the journey now.

 

I’m clearly somewhere – but where?

It’s been a strange few weeks, I think retirement has finally begun to set in. Just recently journeys, events and meetings have meant revisiting a lot of past history, something I usually manage to keep boxed away quite neatly.

Time spent on the Isle of Mull involved just staring out of what used to be my father’s window at the sea, for hours, not being bored but, fascinated by the ever-changing view. Mind you, having otters, seals and the occasional dolphin messing about in it definitely helps.

Then three trips to London – all around Waterloo. Meeting up with an old friend on the Southbank for coffee after nearly 25 years, feeling slightly nervous about where our paths might have diverged but, hugely relieved to discover that we had travelled congruent ones. Then attending the graduation ceremony for Oasis College students I last taught a year ago. A great day – well done all! But, strange to be there with no funny hat, no responsibility and with no ongoing role. Lastly a meeting in the coffee shop below the college to reminisce about Frontier Youth Trust in the nineties with someone authoring a history.

A therapist once got me to draw out a map of my life so far and pointed out that I drew everything in boxes (and yes, there probably is an entire conference there). It’s true, I do tend to box things off. Finish a job and that’s it – put it away – no need to come back to it – no need to revisit old news.

However, recent circumstances, not least retirement, have to a certain extent forced some retrospection. In unguarded moments like driving the car on long journeys this happened anyway but generally in an unhelpful way similar to the ‘Things’ in Fleur Adcock’s poem.

“It is 5 a.m. All the worse things come stalking in
And stand icily about the bed looking worse and worse and worse.”

Sure I’m feeling my age – of course – delusions of mortality and the uncertainty of the future – all pretty human? I’ve packed some life experience in, not all of it constructive and certainly not enough to think I can rest on my laurels. I won’t be having “I did it my way” played at the funeral.

It’s more a question of direction as in which way am I even facing? What’s important anymore? Do I still want to be a rock god – famous Christian – respected wise adult? Should I seek out opportunities or let them come to me? Where am I in the pattern of Richard Rohr’s “Falling Upwards” or in the journey Henri Nouwen maps out in “Finding my way home”?

I know life is an unpredictable journey and I know I’m somewhere on that journey. I can, admittedly somewhat unwillingly, reflect on where I’ve been but I have no idea of where I’m going or even where I am at the moment. It has recently dawned on me that this sounds dreadfully close to the opening of Thomas Merton’s famous prayer. For someone with my fundamentalist upbringing the absence of certainty about pretty much everything can be hard to handle. To put it in Rohr’s framework the voice from my ‘first half-life’ asks “This not knowing stuff – is this actually OK?”.

“Yeah, probably” the voice from my ‘second half-life’ responds.

What is the half-life of our outrage?

With all the goings on of general elections, Brexit talks and acts of violence it’s been a depressing, and I use the term advisedly, few months. There have been unnecessary, untruthful, but not unexpected personal attacks on Jeremy Corbyn and others. Even the DUP claims they are feeling a lack of ‘respect’ from Conservative back-benchers. There have been manifesto u-turns, later denied, not from any change in values but by attempts at damage limitation driven by political expediency. People have died from violent aggression and what some have suggested is criminal negligence.

The self-destructive, sheer incompetence of putting the ‘dementia tax’ in a manifesto which would adversely impact your core vote is difficult to credit. Who the hell thought that was a good promotional strategy? Not turning out for a national debate and not being able to address public concerns without nervous laughter and the endless repetition of stock phrases didn’t play particularly well either. Don’t even get me started on the cabinet reshuffle – Gove again – only this time the poisoned chalice is Environment – as Caroline Lucas suggested, a man not overly qualified for the post. Time for a new Amazon best seller, ‘Everything I know about the Environment’ to follow up on ‘Everything I know about Education’.

OK, there has been a significant rise in the number of young adults voting – hooray! There has been some kindness and hope around as well as much venting of outraged opinion, at least in our house if nowhere else. There seems currently to be some impetus to adjust some of the inbuilt injustice in our society. Trickle down economics never worked and cutting police, education and healthcare budgets is so patently short-sighted that it’s very hard to believe that there is anything other than cynical exploitation of the poorest in society behind such actions. After all you wouldn’t want a poor person running the economy as POTUS would say.

“The distance between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’, known in the Europe of the early nineteenth century, is coming back with vengeance.” (Zygmund Bauman in Collateral Damage, 2011)

What is the half-life of our outrage? What is the hope of those in authority over us –that if things can hang on long enough the anger will dissipate? The raised voices will become hoarse and fall quiet? The marchers will grow tired and the banners will be put down? With any luck the whole business will blow over like a ‘twitter storm’ and then the masses will have been allowed their whinge and it can be back to business as usual.

“Let the masses remain inert, unthinking; do not disturb them, do not arouse them; do not get them moving, for if you do you are an agitator, a trouble maker, . . .  you are a radical!” (Saul Alinsky in Reveille for Radicals, 1969

My own faith has as its main figurehead a religious, radicalised individual who took a home-made whip to those he felt where exploiting the poor. He overturned their trading stalls and no doubt caused a few people to complain. Did it have any lasting effect? I’m thinking that next day the same traders were back in business either dismissing it as a one-off action by someone who clearly needed help or perhaps muttering about who was to blame for such radicalisation and even perhaps how illegal it should be to confront the lawful authorities like that. Problem solved he was tried and executed within the week.

Our current government, led by Theresa May at the time of writing (next week who knows), has promised reviews and action to put a stop to the radicalisation of individuals. Really, you can legislate radicalisation out of existence? I’m part of the Christian faith – for God’s sake look at history. Christianity wouldn’t exist if you could legislate radical beliefs out of existence – the Roman’s tried some fairly drastic measures – it didn’t work.

“Compromise is as impossible between the church of Christ and the idolatry of wealth, which is the practical religion of capitalist societies, as it was between the church and the state idolatry of the Roman Empire.” (Cedric Mayson in the R H Tawney lecture entitled “Liberation and the wineskin business”, 1986.)

What scares me most is not acts of terror by individuals, fundamentalists or governments. These are a matter of record throughout history, present suffering and future inevitability. What does scare me is where the lines are drawn. Where does legitimate protest become terrorism – making a whip, turning over tables, interfering with lawful trade? When does sharing strong feelings about the manifest incompetence and injustice of government led policy become radicalisation of others?

Back at the beginning of the Blair years Bob Holman set out three key objectives for the sort of relational society he believed God wanted: “First, the relief of poverty. Second, the promotion of greater social and material equality. Third, the raising up of the powerless and the casting down of the powerful.” (Bob Holman in ‘A Voice from the Estate’ in Joined up Writing, March 1999). The first of these, I suspect few would object to in principle until it hits the wallet. The second – ah, a bit more tricky this one. There is, we are told, “No magic money tree” – so that means taking money from the rich and redistributing it to the poor – never been a popular policy with the rich. The third – yes raising people up – ‘uplift’ as they refer to it over the pond, but hang on this ‘casting down’ that’s a little bit radical.

So, when will the thought police come knocking? After all I’ve ‘preached’ enough ‘lefty’ stuff at long-suffering students over the last few years. I believe it was my job to do so.

2017 – Stupid is as . . .

I have hopes for this year but, to be honest not much in the way of overall hope. I’ve never really been an optimistic soul, on balance I prefer to be pleasantly surprised rather than suddenly disappointed. Generally, my hopes are the small stuff of human kind almost exactly like last year’s resolutions with the dates changed. Learn to play the guitar better, take more and better photographs, have more sex, lose more weight, be less paranoid – that sort of thing.

My overall hope level is mired, stuck at well above wellie top level in the slurry left behind from earlier years. I retain a deep mistrust of major political figures – inevitably Donald is high on my list – God save us. Next, Boris, our Foreign Secretary for goodness sake, an astute political operator in the domestic sphere but I don’t think the bumbling public school buffoon act works internationally. Coming up on the rails is Theresa with ‘Brexit is Brexit’ – it doesn’t really matter how much conviction you say it with it’s still as meaningless as a cosmetics ad script. Farage and his fascist ilk I’m truly hoping to discount and God forbid Gove rears his ugly head again – he effectively killed UK youth work in the space of a few months undoing forty plus years’ commitment to the well-being of young people.

Last year I despaired of Labour’s ability to get its act together and lead a coherent opposition – it still can’t. I joined the Greens and I’m going to stick with it. We don’t really have a realistic chance at holding the balance of power but I can at least appreciate the approach to party leadership and headline policies. Yes, there are still the occasional truly annoying hippies hanging about the fringes but even they have more integrity and purpose and act more truthfully than ‘post-truth’ establishment figures.

To maintain the whinge for a while – what happened to the word liar? Did we really have to find a substitute for it – is it perhaps less risky in terms of libel to suggest that an individual is adopting a post-truth stance rather than just lying through their teeth?

Fact-checking social media was always necessary action, one of my previous students was busily denying unsubstantiated rumours of her engagement on Facebook this morning. My problem is that some of the fact-checked stuff is still impossible to believe. We are watching the rise of stupid, not that it ever really went away, we’ve always had the Daily Mail, and for liberal lefties like myself it served a purpose allowing us to laugh at the stupidity of others and the more ridiculous side of ourselves. But, when stupid becomes the new truth where the hell do we go from here?

Truth has always been a somewhat elusive and magical beast. As Pilate wryly observed ‘What is truth?’. My truth is not necessarily your truth, what I believe to be causal factors may be unsubstantiated nonsense to you – e.g. global warming. OK, I get that, but really, believing a promise on the side of a bus that £350 million was going to go on a weekly basis to the NHS was just stupid. I keep hearing the sales pitch of ‘getting our country back’ or just as bad if not worse making it ‘great again’. Whichever way you cut this sort of rhetoric it’s stupid twaddle of the first order. Life never works backwards, not even with a well-equipped DeLorean.

We only get the chance to move forward and whilst I’m sanguine about future possibilities there are some truths worth fighting for. A gay Christian American friend recently Facebooked a Muslim quoting a Jewish holocaust survivor from a Guardian interview, inclusive and international! Speaking about the experience of being rubbished by Trump, Khizr Khan quotes Elie Wiesel:

“We must always take sides, neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere.”

God give me the will, energy and opportunity to interfere this year.

Holding Hands

Perhaps it is the way of relationships that they often end in the same way they began. I’ve been processing life for the last few weeks since I sat and held hands with my father as he died. In the meantime, the planet has whirled insanely on without my full attention.

Some of my earliest memories are of my father’s hands, holding on to him as I toddled down the road, being lifted off the small saddle on his bicycle cross bar, helping him prepare food for his aviary of birds, watching him paint and seeing his pottery animal sculptures crafted, painted and glazed.

His hands were kind and gentle, an expression of his person, strong, skilful, warm and trustworthy. Towards the end he was almost totally deaf and incredibly stubborn, the latter a good trait if you are determined to live on your own on a Scottish island. He was housebound towards the end and we were in the middle of sorting out wheelchair ramps and the like when he had what proved to be his final stroke.

He died peacefully in his sleep, without the need for long term residential care or painful illness – for which I am, I suspect somewhat selfishly, grateful. I am by turns overwhelmed and under-impressed with myself and my reactions. I loved him dearly and admired him enormously but I lived over 500 miles and a boat journey away and meaningful communication was often difficult. He hated most modern technology and would have nothing to do with computers, email and the internet. After my brother and mother’s deaths and with increasing age his foci narrowed and his range of conversational topics became limited

Successfully growing up should mean being unlike your parents and I am unlike my father in interests, understanding, career and theology and pretty much everything else as well. None the less I miss his presence enormously it’s as if a restraining influence has been removed from my life. As a child he was the pointer for my developing moral compass and his approval remained an important touchstone of many of my life choices.

His were the first hands to touch me as he helped me into this world – the midwife came late. On that last morning, he squeezed my hand, smiled and pushed it away in a final gesture of farewell. I guess that means I’m supposed to be an independent adult now.

 

Have you seen the pavements?

“Have you seen the state of the pavements? They’re all out of shape.”

The question was a not completely inappropriate opening conversational remark. Walking into the city centre the pavements are indeed a bit uneven. It was the follow on that took me a little by surprise, “That’s religion that’s done that.”. Then slightly more assertively, “Are you religious?”.

Honestly, I try to avoid being tagged as religious, but that’s really me playing internalised semantic games as to most casual observers I do fit the general usage of the label. Tony Campolo wrote, this September, that he no longer wanted to be called an ‘Evangelical’ – fair enough, since he recently revised his original stance on LGBTQ issues his decision will probably be a relief for the Evangelical right in the USA who can now safely dismiss him as ‘sifted out’.

Hi, Tony, welcome to the club. I was informed that I had been ‘sifted out’ myself some forty years ago and have diligently tried to avoid being labelled as an evangelical for some time now. I’ve also been denounced as a heretic – no really – and I’m particularly grateful for this now when the likes of Jerry Falwell are endorsing Trump’s presidential candidacy.

Tony Campolo’s article in Christian Today opens with the comment that “Every once in a while unfair judgements are made”. Blaming any religion for the angle of paving slabs could be a little misjudged but by and large religion’s problems are not the unfair judgements but the demonstrably reasonable ones. I write as a Christian and as a religion we have been judged, at the very least, to be gay hating, inward looking, judgemental, vicious, abuse concealing and irrelevant. Worse that that all of these accusations can be substantiated.

I’ve got a lot of time for both the previous and current Archbishop of Canterbury and the current Pope. I like the tone of some of the things they have said. Perhaps it’s just after so long I’m pleasantly surprised to hear something sensible being touted by institutional religion. And this is the crux of my problem I don’t think the institution of church has anything much of a connection with my faith. Structurally it’s unchanged since God knows when, the 1600s at the least. Still mostly men in strange clothes, in strange ceremonies, with strange words, engaged in esoteric argument incomprehensible to many and comparable to angels and pinheads. The Christian religion and the institutions which control it have cooperated in both propping up and benefitting from the power structures, business and government, of the day. Marx was right “The first pre-requisite for the happiness of the people is the abolition of religion.”

The Christian religion, that should be an oxymoron. The terms simply don’t fit and when they are forced to cohabit the results are all the things we have rightly been accused of. I want a new name. Christian was originally what others called us anyway I think I prefer the old name for ourselves ‘followers of the Way’.

We are, some writers tell us, in a post-Christendom era. Good, that gives a chance for a real paradigm shift. A faith not a religion. Relationship based not institutional. Free not State. Full of grace, not dis-graceful. Not grabbing power over but sharing power with. Not judgemental and exclusive but open heart and handed. There are small signs amongst the tired structures, small voices with big hearts. There is a Way but it is not for the religious.

Searching for Church – Sunday’s lesson

thenwhy    from Asbo Jesus blog – Jon Birch

Sunday morning was a salutary reminder of two things. Firstly, how grateful I should be for the company of former employers and fellow employees of Frontier Youth Trust and Oasis College of Higher Education. Working alongside them I have been encouraged, allowed and even required to think, some would say “outside the box” although I tend to prefer Tom Peter’s view “Box? What box? I don’t see no box. Screw the box.”. As should be the case with all good study my chief learning outcomes have been to realise how little I know and how much there is to read about everything.

In all areas of faith and life being able to talk, discuss, debate, disagree and occasionally think aloud the unthinkable has been a huge privilege I have simply come to take for granted. Being part of these authentic communities of practice, being able to negotiate my identity within them and experience the grace and generosity of spirit they try to model has been formative for me. Yes, of course I could come up with a list where over the years there were ‘bad’ situations where we could have handled things better, where we could have been more gracious, more generous. Even so, overall, I’m truly grateful for the chance to be part of a “Christian community . . . where we keep the flame of hope alive among us and take it seriously so that it can grow” (Henri Nouwen).

Which brings me to the more ranting bit of this post and here I’ll leave out names and locations. As I have recently moved house I am trying to find a faith-based “community of practice”, a.k.a. a church, to be part of in a new location. The second salutary lesson of Sunday came in the form of the sermon which was the most ill-informed, untheological effort I have heard for decades. The visiting speaker, spoke well and wore a rather sharp suit. He managed to take part of the ‘Sermon on the Mount’ and miss the point so completely that it had no savour and shed no light.

He claimed Biblical authority at every turn as unrelated Bible texts were juxtaposed to suit his agenda is a quite breath-taking misuse of scripture. History was reinterpreted for us in a resolutely childish manner – no, I take that back as it represents an insult to children everywhere. It wasn’t childish it was ‘1066 and All That’ but without any sense of irony. The state of the British Empire and commitment to Christian faith in the United Kingdom are according to the Bible (allegedly, Jeremiah) inextricably linked and thus we don’t have an empire anymore because we have sold out our status as a Christian nation, I seem to remember Darwin got the blame for this. As to the interpretation regarding the current State of Israel – I can’t even begin to unpack the anti-semetic garbage that underpinned it. I live in hope the speaker hadn’t actually thought the logical conclusion of this bit through.

I think it was intended to be a ‘challenging word’, it was, the biggest challenge was sticking it out to the end to see if got any better. It didn’t. He concluded by stressing to us that he there was statistical proof that what people wanted was sound biblical teaching – they didn’t get it.

“That”, as Forrest would say “is all I have to say about that.” Well, no, that isn’t true. . . but I’ve reached the end of trying to be civil.

Changing lights – Red to Green

I was rejected and in despair. The Labour Party’s leadership election had left me cold. The bulk of MPs backing Owen Smith, or perhaps it was hatred of the other candidate, just didn’t seem to correlate with the level of support for Jeremy Corbyn amongst the local Constituency Labour Parties.

At first I thought the £25 fee wildly undemocratic and all the High Court/Court of Appeal juggling beyond embarrassing. It did cross my mind that this was a fundraising scam to increase party funds. That would have been manipulative and sneaky but at least it would mean that this wasn’t the PLP acting in a mean-minded way to exclude poor people from engaging in the democratic process.

Then, the rejection email arrived, no explanation, despite registering on 20th July, I “do not currently hold any status with the Labour Party”. I briefly hoped this marked a return to good socialist principles on the relevance of social status. But no, apparently not, it actually meant I was ‘persona non grata’ in the leadership election process.

So, there I was attempting to support a party which, except for the last election, I had voted for since the early eighties. A party whose existing Westminster elite, although unelectable as a government themselves, seem to believe that policy rooted in social democratic values is unelectable. In September last year Paul Krugman observed, in the New York Times, that The Corbyn upset isn’t about a sudden left turn on the part of Labour supporters. It’s mainly about the strange, sad moral and intellectual collapse of Labour moderates”

Sorry Labour I did try, really I did but I’m going with the Greens. They believe in shared leadership something you clearly don’t. Peter Tatchell recently tweeted that the Greens are “a democratic, united, radical, visionary party”. Labour, that was supposed to be your job. Of course, the true reason for my shift from Red to Green is really incredibly shallow – any party which can put a Blues Drummer of the Year nominee into a leadership position gets my vote.