Thursday, 27 March 2014

Just so sad

I expect you have heard of World Vision [In my original post the link given for World Vision was to the UK branch, as I assumed the UK and US branches would be the same.  Apparently not.  I learned from Lynda P in the comments following this post that the two branches have different policies, and there is no gender orientation discrimination in the UK staffing policy.  My apologies for misleading any earlier readers – the link should now be to World Vision USA]the child sponsorship organization.  They help the village/community and family of each child sponsored, working to create infrastructures offering clean water, employment opportunities and education, etc.  They also intervene to save sponsored chidden from harmful traditional practices; for example when the parents of an 11-year-old sponsored girl was about to be given in marriage to a man in his 40s, she was frightened and planned to run away, but World Vision heard about it and got it stopped.

Recently World Vision announced that they are happy to include among their employees people who are in a same-sex marriage.  This caused a furore in the evangelical Christian world.  The Assemblies of God considered withdrawing their support and relocating it to other evangelical charities which tend to be less experienced and less effective than World Vision but might refuse employment to Christians in same-sex marriages.  3 million Assemblies of God members support World Vision.  In effect, the evangelical Christian world said to World Vision: "Discriminate against homosexual people and shut them out, or we will bring you down".

World Vision is part of the World Evangelical Alliance, so this decision of theirs would have had the effect of pushing forward change in attitudes towards homosexuality within the evangelical Christian world.

But, I guess the executive at World Vision must have had an emergency meeting and decided their primary responsibility was to the world’s children rather than to fighting for more generalized social justice.

So they reversed their decision.  The bullies won.

This breaks my heart.

Makes no difference what a person thinks about gay marriage: coercion and bullying are not what Jesus had in mind for his church, and nor is withdrawing support from an organisation helping the world's poorest children, in order to drive through an ideological agenda that has no bearing on that work.

If anyone, anywhere, is crowing over this as a victory, they need to start over with reading the Gospel, because this misses the point of Christian faith by a hundred million miles.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014


My father made a gramophone, when I was about six years old.  I remember the excitement of him constructing it.  A turntable on the top, the mysterious workings inside, all fitted into a re-purposed bathroom stool, the holes cut for the speakers fitted with fabric cut from his old dark blue polo shirt.

I loved it.

I used to spend hours dancing and singing along to our records.  We had a few LPs (LPs = long-playing records – all vinyl discs then), namely Beethoven’s 6th, Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, and two slightly smaller discs of Tchaikovsky ballet valses.  Later, I was given a Songs from Mary Poppins LP (the first film I ever saw - my sister took me) and one of Burl Ives singing various folk songs.

But we also had an interesting collection of singles – were they called EPs (extended plays)?  My father travelled all over the world, and would always bring home gift for us.  He often brought my mother a record.  So we had Nina and Frederick, Harry Belafonte, Ritchie Valens, The Platters, Françoise Hardy, a Greek record I loved but couldn’t pronounce, the Tijuana Brass playing The Lonely Bull and The Spanish Flea, Mary O’Hara, The Clancy Brothers, The Peppermint Twist (Joey Dee and the Starliters) – and a few others.

Meanwhile, up in Yorkshire, my Auntie Jessie lived with my Grandma because Grandma was blind and Auntie Jessie had nervous breakdowns so they made the prefect household looking after each other.  They had a TV in a large walnut cabinet on which we watched Jack Warner in Dixon of Dock Green  and  Violet Carsons in Coronation Street And of course, Watch With Mother.  My favourites were     Rag, Tag and Bobtail but I liked  The Woodentops  too.  And Bill and Ben. And Andy Pandy.  We didn't have telly at home. Anyway, "There we must leave them, playing in the warm sunshine . . ."

Auntie Jessie had a collection of records that I loved.  An LP of Scottish dance music, the songs from Sound of Music, and a raft of romantic ballads.  Her favourites were Frank Sinatra and Englebert Humperdinck but I think she had Jim Reeves as well.  Ooh, and Val Doonican singing daft Irish songs.

Until I reached the age of about twelve, when I started borrowing records from friends with kind older brothers who could afford to buy their own, the above listed musical diet formed my tastes, along with the short extracts of classical music played every morning as our school assembled for prayers.

These songs still come back to me – I can remember most of them word for word (apart from the Greek one, for which I can remember only my own made-up verbal approximations).  This morning, one of the songs we had on record, Julie Andrews singing Tom Pillibi (the flip side had Lazy Afternoon) came floating into my mind, and I sang it while I washed up the breakfast things.

And my mind stuck on that line, “He has a very good technique,” intrigued.  Because I remember now – that’s what we all used to say!  Boys and girls dating – “his technique”.  How weird!  The idea of someone having a “technique”, a strategy for snaring a girlfriend!  And it would be discussed – “What’s his technique?”

This was the end of the 1960s, early 70s, the time when factories and mass-production were getting into their stride, when the mechanistic thinking of the Enlightenment and modernism had entirely engulfed our approach to nature and the body, and social evolution had assimilated the thinking of the Industrial Revolution absolutely.  Communism and Capitalism, equally dehumanising, between them divided up the world: everyone else was a savage.  The hippies, trying to find a way back to something natural and free, even called themselves “freaks”.  Jesus Freaks”, we were: I had a badge that said so.

Tom Pillibi captured the flavor of the time, when even something as delicate and relational as the flowering of love was to be governed by and incorporated into “technique”.  High Schools were “Grammar Schools” and “Technical Colleges”.  It was the time the whole Western world fell in love with systems.  The runaway train was gathering speed.