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November 


Correspondence on the US election


Re: Dealing with post election anger
I can understand that Andy Fitchet is disappointed that we voted to leave the EU and that the USA elected Donald Trump. We all have hopes and aspirations, and when things don’t turn out the way we’d hoped, then disappointment is understandable. But anger?
Andy paints a picture of a God who is either powerless or unwilling to fight to fight hate and lies. He says that “Jesus is in charge, absolutely”, but believes that hate is winning. That’s not a picture of God and his work that I recognise.
God is, and always has been, sovereign. Romans 13 is unambiguous: there is no authority except that which God has established. He establishes both “good” people and “bad” people in office in order to do his will and accomplish his plans. High office doesn’t necessarily mean God’s approval: Nebuchadnezzar was God’s “servant” one moment (Jeremiah 43:10) and “the oppressor” the next (Isaiah 14:4). Even as he was appointed, his downfall was set in stone (Jeremiah 27:6,7). Rulers and their methods and philosophies are there for a season only, as determined by God.
So how should we feel about momentous political appointments? Disappointed, troubled, yes. But angry? Angry at who? Angry at the sovereign God who caused it to happen? That’s dangerous territory. Angry at the people who voted the “wrong” way, who didn’t have your insight and understanding, or your concern for God’s pure purposes, but nevertheless managed to achieve God’s plans?
The key, surely, is to work with God in whatever circumstance he puts you in. Andy is right to point out that we’re not in Paradise yet, and to ask what do we do now? The exiles in Babylon, shocked by the upheaval they’d witnessed in Nebuchadnezzar’s destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, asked “How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land?” (Psalm 137:4)
We too are in a foreign land, not of our choosing. We need to sing the Lord’s songs where we are, to make sense of our changed situation through the lens of the unchanging word of God. We need to sing songs that will bring hope and proclaim justice. In practical ways, of course. Singing is just a metaphor.
American coins and banknotes carry the motto “In God we trust”; perhaps, given some of the choices they make, this was a prophetic word. But it should be true for all Christians: we do what we can in any given situation, and trust God to sort things out. Like the Babylonian exile, it may take 70 years; just don’t assume that when you wake up tomorrow and Donald Trump is still President-elect and Brexit is still happening, God is somehow losing.
Neil Moore-Smith

Andy,
Will you and all the others stop moaning about the referendum result for goodness sake.
I keep hearing this nonsense about "more people didn't vote than voted to leave", yet about 72% of the electorate voted, which is a clear majority of the electorate, and only 28% failed to vote. Your complaint therefore is clearly bogus, elementary maths confirms that - and I don't like being lied to either!
Accept the result, there are real problems in the world.
You mention Syria and Iraq - and this country under a former PM, bears a large responsibility there. We can only pray for all the problems and suffering in the world, but moaning about the result of democratically held elections in free countries is a waste of time.
Michael Ludlam


It is good that we seek to understand those that we disagree with, to listen to those that think (and vote) differently to ourselves. Better to consider than to condemn. Two exit-poll findings from the recent USA election are a challenging start:
Firstly, that 53% of white women voted for Trump against the 43% who voted for Clinton. A Guardian analysis found that: "white women who supported him said Clinton’s political record and her failings were much more troubling that anything Trump had done."
Secondly, that "58.5 percent of Hispanic voters favored President-Elect Donald Trump’s immigration policies, compared to 32.9 percent for failed Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton." Interestingly, this strong Hispanic bias in favour of Trump's immigration policies is marginally HIGHER than amongst the electorate overall.
Keith Jowett

Re: The Dawning of a Dark Age    
Trump is easy to criticise (as, indeed, is Clinton). But we should avoid moral grandstanding. And as Christian commentators, we should surely be especially careful to ensure that any critique is factually evidence based. Too much of the commentary and criticism we read today is simply the re-telling of other (often like-minded) people's accusations as though it was factual evidence.
Two cases in point in this piece.
The author avers there is 'racism'. Why? Because, he says, "several commentators have described the result as a whitewash, a backlash to the eight years of having a black president." Well, excuse me, but that's NOT evidence of racism. It's evidence of people making negative assumptions and accusations about the unexpressed opinions and attitudes of others. If anything, it is the ACCUSERS (NOT the accused) who are expressing a racially biased mind-set.
The author also avers there is 'sexism'. Why? Because, he claims, "Many Americans couldn’t vote for a woman president, not just because it was Hillary Clinton, but because of her gender." Really? That's a piece of research I certainly haven't seen. The actua l facts, however, indicate a very different story. Post-polling data reveals that significantly more white women actually voted for Trump than voted for Clinton (53% against 43%). A Guardian analysis found that: "white women who supported him said Clinton’s political record and her failings were much more troubling that anything Trump had done." In other words, people were voting on policy and character (despite gaping flaws in both candidates), rather than on gender.
The Clinton campaign, on the other hand, was deeply committed to a sexist agenda. Again and again 'the sisterhood' were told that they would be unforgivable traitors to their gender if they failed to vote for Clinton. “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other”, they were told by Madeleine Albright. She was wildly cheered. Day after day after day this message was repeated. And yet it is the Trump voters who are accused of sexism!
Let me be clear - I think that BOTH candidates were/are deeply flawed. And we must trust God for the ultimate outcome. But, in the meanwhile, it behoves all Christ-followers to be especially careful to ensure that our public comments are evidence-based.
Keith Jowett

Funny how people on the left are always seen as benign, 'good' people while people on the right are usually demonised. I am no fan of Trump but any research into Clinton's policies shows that she has just as many unbiblical/sinful policies as him. Yet for some reason she was seen as the great saviour of the USA.
Ricayboy

Re: Build a wall, he said. So they did...
I kind of like the anti-wall building thing but it seems quite naïve. Mike Pence is very different to Trump and is someone for Claire to celebrate. A Republican administration is likely to appoint Supreme Court judges who are much more sympathetic to historic Christian values and this may, just possibly, restrain the tide of anti-Christian secularism in the wider Western world. And you only have to look at the ineffectiveness of the once messianic Obama (note the fall in the African-American vote for the Democrats) to realise that the US Presidential Election race and the actual presidency are not at all the same thing. Claire, as a minister, ought to be wise enough to look beyond the headlines.
Deb Fisher

OK, can I ask you now to make a good biblical case for supporting Clinton?
Ricayboy

It seems that the US election has sparked a response as common seen in bereavement. What is particularly noticeable from so many contributors is that they expected quite a different result. This may indeed demonstrate their political leaning along with what is the minority view in the United States. The simple fact that the Democratic Party could not persuade voters to their point on view, would either indicate that their message was suspect, or more likely that they failed to connect with the majority of the citizens of the United States.
Many of those who voted for Trump would probably associate the insults that your contributors apply to Trump would also be applied to them reinforcing the overall message that the church is out of touch and has nothing relevant to say to them. As with Brexit, over time, everyone will come to terms with it and find that God is bigger than their own egos whatever side of the political fence that they come from.
In conclusion we shall all remember the words from the letter of James, Chapter 1 v 19, "My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry."
Simon Dawson

 

Oher matters


Re: Baptist Union Council: October 2016 
The BU Council's reflections on Same Sex Marriage at their October meeting do nothing to resolve the fundamental problem which can arise from the application of the Declaration of Principle.
In this case, to say that the Holy Spirit 'guides' some churches to reject whilst he 'guides' others to accept gay marriage presents an immediate dilemma. Other than to say that God, the Holy Spirit, has become confused or schizophrenic, the only rational response is to conclude that in one case the 'guiding spirit' is a false one. Paul, Peter and John each warned strongly against this possibility in their letters to the early churches.
Bible-believing Christians will continue to reject gay marriage as contrary to the clear teaching of God's inerrant word. To be invited to have 'mutual respect' for or to be 'walking together' with those who promote false teaching or to speak of 'living with unity and diversity' when this means tolerating error does no favours to the cause of Christ in the 20th century. The prophet Amos asked 'Can two walk together unless they be agreed?' and Paul enquired 'What fellowship has light with  darkness?.
True unity is impossible without harmony. True harmony is impossible in the presence of but one discordant note.
Roy Gibbons


Re: Sam Sharpe lecture
What does it mean to see the image of God in each other?
I have just listened to the excellent lecture on racism by the Revd Bev Thomas after reading about it in the BU e-mail. I agreed with all that she said but found it impossible to listen to her words without a sense of irony as I related all she said to how we Baptists are treating those who are attracted to others of the same sex. I suspect in generations to come there will be similar lectures given by respected theologians and teachers about how the church has treated people who are gay and we will look back with discomfort at the statements made by the BU.

People who identify as homosexual do not choose to be attracted to others of the same sex, hence we, as a denomination, are asking a whole sector of our society to choose between being active and equal members of our church and having the support of an intimate and nurturing relationship that those of us of heterosexual orientation have the privilege of taking for granted. To quote Bev Thomas ‘Privilege is when you think something is not a problem because it’s not a problem to you personally’. We think it is not a problem to ask gay people not to express their sexuality because the rest of us are free to show affection to our spouses and talk with pride about our families. Privilege is when you think something is not a problem because it’s not a problem to you personally.

Churches are threatening to leave the BU because other churches in the BU are considering allowing their buildings to be used for same sex marriage. Again to quote Bev Thomas ‘When you are used to privilege, equality feels like oppression. But its not, you are just feeling the discomfort of losing a little of your privilege’. Why are some people threatened by the suggestion that others ‘not like them’ should enjoy some of the privileges they take for granted.

Another quote from the lecture ‘Who we see in the kingdom of God affects the way we build the kingdom of God’. There is no wonder our churches are largely empty of people who identify as gay. We don’t see them as in the kingdom of God and so we are building the kingdom of God in a way that excludes them. Shame on us. ‘Oh but everyone is welcome’ I can hear you say. But if our churches do not allow anyone who is in or would like to be in a same sex relationship to be a full and active member then we are effectively excluding them, this is institutional discrimination.  

Bev Thomas also said ‘The essence of racism is prejudice coupled with power. It is rooted in the fallacy that one group of people are superior to another’. For racism read discrimination and we can see that the power in the BU lies largely with those who identify as heterosexual. I don’t see any evidence that we are giving a voice to those who identify as gay or any evidence that we might consider we have something to learn from them. I see a lot of evidence that those who identify as heterosexual see themselves as superior in the arena of biblical and theological interpretation compared to those who identify as gay.

My final quote from the lecture ‘Therein lies your challenge. You have to unlearn a whole narrative that you learned about people like me before you should even consider teaching’. Therein lies our challenge. We have to unlearn a whole narrative that we have learned about people who are gay before we continue to teach others.

I believe future generations will judge the church of our times on how we treated our gay brothers and sisters. And I believe we are currently excluding from our church family not only those who identify as gay but their families and friends, as well as alienating a generation of young people who find our approach unacceptable.

I would urge those of you with privilege and power within the Baptist movement, which prides itself on standing with the oppressed, to listen to Bev Thomas’s lecture and apply her principles beyond racism to other forms of prejudice and discrimination.
Dr Sharon Peters


Re: A home for every child who needs one
It is quite right that every child should have a loving home and parents and adoptive parents can often replace the natural ones when they are not available.
However, there is a problem for Christian adoptive Parents. If they say they will bring up a child in accordance with Christian principles, and in particular, that they do not agree with homosexual activity as it is condemned in the Bible, they are likely to be refused. 
This has just happened to a Christian coiple in England as reported in a number of newspapers very recently.
Richard Camp

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