The Pope speaks out…

Pope Benedict XVISo Pope Ratzinger speaks out against the proposed equality laws in the United Kingdom, and in the same day i return to blogging. A coincidence, move of God, we may never know…

However, it does give me a subject for this blog post, namely the popes comments about the freedom of religion in the United Kingdom. If you want to look what all the fuss is about look here.

Well well well, in my opinion these incidents are only going to become far more common.

Why is that? If you are a secularist or a humanist, religion is pushed to the private sphere of life and becomes inconsequential. That shift, means that a value judgement is made about religious belief, ie. it becomes something that really isn’t publicly very important at all.

That is why the following quote makes sense to those who are not religious

Jonathan Finney, from gay rights group Stonewall, told BBC Radio 5 live: “People should not be denied access to services and employment purely because they are gay.

The fact of the matter, is that it very much depends how you are looking at this. If a religious organisation doesn’t think homosexuality is correct moral behaviour, are they not entitled to believe it? Does this debate not impinge on their rights and equality for them.

Again, secular society would say no, but that can only be correct if the opinion of secular society weighs more heavily than that of a religious institution. Unfortunately in the UK at the moment, that seems to be the case.

The argument is logically and practically, nonsense. That will not stop the pope from being battered for this though and this subject will come up again and again.

Religion is not purely a private matter. I lead a charity, Dignity that makes it a public matter, by helping those who know God to practically transform situations around them in rural Africa. In the UK, the leading provider of youth services is the church. Those who think Christian Faith is inconsequential should maybe start paying for the services and sacrifice that society receives. Then we would see just how on the margins the church truly is.

True Equality in society means dialogue and understanding, not wittling things down to the lowest common denominator. It means that foes can come together, those who disagree can live together in harmony. It may surprise people to hear that not everyone in the church agrees on many things, but we live, love God and work together anyway. Maybe just maybe that’s a much better model for our society.

By the way, I think those who are homosexual are always welcome in the Church…… so if you think I’m having a bash, grow up and read my post again.

Good on the pope for having the guts to speak out.



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The Death of Us

6 am Saturday Morning and we were off. A common misconception is that Africa is always hot, well it certainly wasn’t that morning. A mild layer of frost clothed the grass in the early dawn light. A bracing start to the day. The temperature is something to do with the river position and hilly nature of the area we are living – a temperature inversion. I’m sure the geographers reading this will explain all…

Africa is lots of early starts and this was no exception. A 500 mile journey north to the very north of Zambia and the sprawling village town of Nchelenge. It’s a little remote. Let’s put it this way, Nchelenge is not well known, many of the farmers in this area responded, “Where?” when told of our destination. It is not a path well travelled at all. Fuel can be scarce, so it must be carried. The route takes you past Kasanka National Park, the Kabanga Marshes and the Luapula Bridge. Then it’s past Lake Bangweulu. Then finally after a great distance by the shores of Lake Mweru and the Congo border is Nchelenge. At one point the road was perfectly straight for 50km, that’s 30 miles without even a hint of a bend in the road.

So why did we go this far? The answer is that God is doing something in the hearts of some villagers and we felt we could not ignore it. Mission is less of a well laid plan, rather a riding of a wave, God’s wave. It certainly doesn’t always happen in the same place that’s for sure. A friend Cornelius has got together with a few others and has begun something. Over 3 days we met many people from many villages who at some place in their being have a heart to try something different. They don’t want their communities to be divided anymore, they want to see the power of God move. Strangely enough, we are the outside influence to help that to happen.

Whether in an Anglican Church, a sun drenched and baking hot rural Catholic Church or a local school the story was the same. Rather than sell a vision of what could happen, we thought we would demonstrate it. We gathered different people, christian and non – christian and them come together. Even some Jehovah’s Witnesses came along. THe learnt together, prayed together and saw that they too had a contribution to make, perhaps the most important contribution, to give themselves to God’s work.

What do we live for? What legacy do we want to leave behind? What will you be known for? Cornelius and myself challenged these villagers with those very questions. Sometimes I feel saddened meeting those who have nothing. They are beautiful people for the most part, hard working but held down by a belief that they cannot do anything themselves. They actually have so much that we do not, and yet, they see nothing of it at all. I really do believe that the Devil’s work in poverty is to blind people to their own treasure. And yet, when they begin to see it, the results are beautiful. It helps me to overcome the cynicism and lack of faith that can grip your soul in this work. They can leave a legacy that lasts, a legacy built by God in people.

Our initiative is working, slower that I expected but it is working. It’s slower because it’s working at the people’s pace. Stories are beginning to emerge, people are changing. Just last week, 2 villagers came from Chingola to help those in Mkushi. Next week a villager from Mkushi is going to Chingola to help with bee keeping. They are beginning to be missionaries to their own people. It will take a while to emerge, but the fire is smoldering, beginning to burn.

The thing that bothers me slightly it that I can see where this is going. I can see that this is going to grow. The Lord is opening doors for us and the cost will not simply be an early start and a 500 mile drive. For myself, it will cost a lot more, for my family too. It’s not just me though, there are people the Lord has placed in many places and it will cost them too. It will cost a great deal, but then there was no battle in history that didn’t cost to fight. Make no mistake about it, what we are trying to do is raise an army of the poor and the downtrodden who will lead the poor and the downtrodden. There can be no other way. We’ve got to fight against the selfishness, sin and apathy that typify this continent and kill it. It’s a war, but a war of love and of good conscience.

For me, maybe it’ll be the death of me, but that’s precisely the way God wants it. The hardest discipline in the Christian Life is to die to yourself. Yet, this is the very characteristic we want to pray and act towards making happen in the rural villages of Zambia. So we’re looking for the move that God is doing, at the moment we’re in Chingola, Mkushi and Nchelenge, and the fire is beginning to burn.

I thought the other day about the CS Lewis and the phrase in his books that, “Aslan is on the move”. The great lion king in the stories moving to a great victory. In this continent, a place ravaged by sin, selfishness, poverty, dependency and everything bad, the great king Jesus is on the move and I intend to follow him.

Myself and I pray hundreds of villagers will join, as He is on the move.

In a good way, I pray that it will be the death of us.

PS. For those who have been pestering Sarah about my biopsy, it was great! All Clear!