Archive | November, 2018

A Reply to Theresa May’s Brexit Letter

26 Nov

Dear Mrs May,

Thank you for your letter, even though it is just more of your usual flim-flam.

First, your supposedly “good Brexit deal” is in reality just another of your crocks of shit that you are attempting to pass off as a tub of chocolate bonbons.  We can all smell your bullshit no matter how you try to disguise it.

Whatever happened to your mantra, “No deal is better than a bad deal!”?  Did you really think, when the deal you are offering is nothing but a thistledown of ifs and maybes, we would forget?  While Tory voters might have the memory of a goldfish with alzheimers, most of the electorate (and especially Remainers) do not.

Moving on to your “clear mission” from your “first day in the job”, despite what you wrote, it has been obvious that your “mission” has been to remain in power for as long as possible through the uniting of  your petulant and squabbling Conservative Party.  It appears that you are utterly unable to distinguish between the interests of your Party and the interests of the nation. Let me assure you, they are not in the leastway congruent.

You say that you “have not lost sight of duty” and I agree; you have remained devotedly dutiful to those hard Brexiters who fund your Party, those whose newspapers could destroy you overnight, and to the Europhobes in your ranks, upon all of whom you rely to remain in power.

Nothing the Conservatives have done in the last decade has been in “the national interest”, let alone working “for our whole country and all of our people” but a sustained attack, through austerity and deliberate underfunding, on the most vulnerable in our society while enriching the most well off.  Brexit is merely a continuation of that scam, from which you and your husband will benefit while the rest of us lose out in multiple ways.

You say you “will honour the result of the referendum”, as though this is some grand virtue.  You have done everything in your power to ignore the illegality of the Leave campaign; pretended that an advisory vote was legally binding; tried to by-pass the very Parliament that you and Leave so loudly proclaim should be sovereign; all so as to inflict Brexit on the UK, which in terms of voting was anything but united.

You will forgive me, Prime Minister, if I don’t believe one word of your guff about controlling borders, money, laws, agriculture or Fisheries Policy.  Your Party’s track-record contradicts your assertions.

Your record  on immigration control, when you were Home Secretary, belies your empty claims; your Party’s  record on money makes your claims equally specious as “the magic money tree” has only been used to enrich the elites and to bribe a minor political party to support your tottering, minority government after you squandered your majority in a vanity election.  The people sent you a message in 2017, Theresa, we don’t like you or your unplanned, blindfold Brexit.

As for taking back control of our laws, we remember only too well how you tried to by-pass Parliament and have fought (and lost time and again) in the highest courts in the land, but not once condemned the tabloid press’s calling such judges “traitors” and “enemies of the people”.  Even you must admit that such behaviour can only lead to a deep suspicion of your highfalutin pronouncement.

As for fisheries, was it not your Party that voted in 2005 against Alex Salmond’s Fisheries Jurisdiction Bill which was intended to remove  the UK from the Common Fisheries Policy?  Will you not sell out the fishing industry in an eyeblink if it will save your Brexit deal? or even just your premiership?  I believe you would.  After all you are quite happy to sacrifice your 13 Scottish MPs for whom it was a red line.  And, who can trust you or your government on agricultural policy after failing to give the Scottish Farmers the money due to them from the EU?

You claim that “The deal also protects the things we value.”  Really?  Well let me tell you, it does not protect a single thing that I value; not my freedom of movement; not my right of residence; not my European Citizenship; not my my multi-culturalism; not my left-wing, Green politics;  not one part of my identity.  In fact, your Brexit has, far from protecting any remaining sense of “Britishness” I might have had, made me thoroughly ashamed of being British.  The only values I see your party espousing are hypocrisy, mendacity, avarice, xenophobia and wishful thinking, none of which can be accommodated by my Christian faith.

While you may have convinced yourself that you are delivering “a Brexit deal that works for every part of our country [sic] – for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland” etc., every report (including from your own civil service) says otherwise.  There is no deal that will give Scotland as good a deal as it has as in the EU, for which every council area in Scotland and 62% of Scots voted to remain.  I don’t doubt that you got the best deal you could, but it is still the equivalent of your serving your husband a deep-fried frozen burger in lieu of a grilled sirloin steak!

You say, “It is a deal for a brighter future, which enables us to seize the opportunities that lie ahead”.  You may see a herd of unicorns on the horizon, I see just one which has been assembled by a committee and most closely resembles a three legged camel with a horn up its arse.  Even arch-Brexiteer, Jacob Rees-Mogg, has admitted that you and I will be long dead before Britain sees any real benefit from Brexit!

If my certainty that any money saved from leaving the EU will be squandered on vanity projects (like renewing Trident), tax breaks for big business and the wealthiest 1% and subsidising MPs and peers, offends you, remember that the fault lies with you and your government whose track record on the economy, the NHS, child poverty, homelessness and injustice is woefully inadequate (as condemned by the UN) while your enriching the wealthiest at the expense of the most vulnerable is manifest.  An apposite adage, at this point, would seem to be that in Jeremiah 13:23.

It is ironic that having persisited in pursuing a course of national self-harm, that you now ask the public to back you “for the good of our United Kingdom.”  A Kingdom you and your factious Party,  through the internecine struggles for dominance, have riven asunder, fracturing what was left of the Union.  You write, “It must mark the point when we put aside the labels of ‘Leave’ and ‘Remain’ for good and we come together again as one people” – the UK has never been “one people”, not even in its imperial heydey, Ireland and Scotland always being more European and less isolationist than England and Wales. Indeed, your disorganised and chaotic Brexit has driven many of the folk who voted NO in 2014 to want a second independence referendum in which they can vote YES.

Exiting the EU on March 29th, therefore, has less than a snowball’s chance in hell of being “a moment of renewal and reconciliation for our whole country”, so, forgive me if I am unwilling to hitch my EU star onto your wagon of reconciliation just because you mouth a few meaningless platitudes in the hope of bailing you out of the mess which is of your own making.  I am as likely to get behind Brexit as you are to fully, and sincerely, get behind Scottish Independence; until then I will give your Brexit deal exactly the same support your Party’s europhobe MPs gave membership of the EU over the last 45 years.

I particularly enjoyed reading your promise, “I will be campaigning with my heart and soul to win that vote and to deliver this Brexit deal, for the good of our United Kingdom and all of our people.”  Will that be with the same enthusiasm and passion with which you campaigned to Remain in the EU or for the 2017 General Election?  If so, the likelihood of getting your deal, which is almost universally deplored, through the Commons next month is as slim as a hairsbreadth, surely making your whole letter academic.

It is said that you plan to tour the UK to sell your deal to us, but yet again I doubt that is true in the case of Scotland.  I suspect you will follow your playbook by flitting in and out in a matter of hours to address, in some “secret” location, a select audience of Party faithful, Tory aparatchiks and perhaps a Tory businessman’s bored,  “press-ganged” workforce, and only take questions from “friendly” journalists such as those from the BBC or The Scotsman.  While you may believe this is selling the deal to the Scottish people, the majority of Scots will merely laugh at your self-delusion, as contrary to your opinion, we don’t all button up the back!

I understand this reply is pointless as a) you will never see it; and b) because it is impossible to change a mind like yours (similar to concrete: all mixed up and permanently set); so, hell mend ye, Mrs May!

With profound reproach

W R B Cunninghame Graham of Gartmore

Jonestown Revisited

18 Nov

Some of you will, no doubt, remember with horror the shocking event which occurred 40 years ago today. On 18th November, 1978, over 900 people, a third of them minors (including babies), died in what has come to be known as the Jonestown massacre.  But how could a progressive church famed for its humanitarian work and led by a widely respected pastor, who had dined with the First Lady (Rosalyn Carter) and flown with the Vice-President (Walter Mondale) in his private jet[1], come to such a tragic end?   For readers of 2 Peter 2, the writing had always been on the wall.

James (Jim) Warren Jones was born in the town of Lynn (Indiana) on 13th May, 1931, and preached his first sermon to a group of children when he was just 12 years old.[2]  He married Marceline Baldwin, a local nurse, when he was 18, and they remained together until their deaths in 1978.  He dropped out of Indiana University after just one year so as to concentrate on preaching, but obtained a degree in secondary education through studying at night school.

Despite not having any theological training, Jim Jones became a pastor in a Methodist Church, but left following a dispute over doctrine (v 15).  He then founded his own Church, which was racially integrated (long before such a thing was acceptable), and emphasised “practical Christianity” in the form of a soup kitchen and two nursing homes.  Furthermore, he and his wife (both white) adopted a Korean orphan and two black children.  He legitimated his ministry by affiliating his Church, by now known as the People’s Temple, with the Disciples of Christ, which “allowed him to say that he was an officially ordained member of a 1.4-million-member denomination[3].

However, things started to go badly wrong after he attended a spiritualist meeting and began to believe in reincarnation. He also began to outline supposed errors and contradictions in the Bible, which would not deceive a mature Christian but which could easily disturb those new to the faith, and used them to denounce the Bible as an “idol” (v 1).

Jones, who insisted that his followers call him “Dad” (contrary to the teaching of Jesus – Matthew 23:9), eventually came to believe that he was God’s “heir on earth” (v3).  “Central to Jones’s appeal were his displays of mind reading and faith healing[4] – all of which were fake (v 18) – which he used to attract new members and larger donations.  At the time of his death, Jones was estimated to be worth 26 million dollars, most of which was in overseas bank accounts (1 Timothy 6:10).

In 1964, Jones prophesied that there would be a nuclear war on 15th July, 1967 and “Many gave up everything to follow him from Indiana to Northern California where he assured them that they would be safe”.[5]  In 1970, he opened a new Temple in San Francisco and another “Temple” in Los Angeles two years later.  In 1974, his first failed prophecy having been forgotten, Jones prophesied that a great persecution was about to begin.  A couple years later, many fled with him to land in the Amazon jungle, which the movement had purchased for $1 million, to escape the impending persecution.

Jones, who was by now becoming drug dependent and increasingly paranoid (v 19), offered his followers freedom from non-existent threats while keeping his followers oppressed.  “While the Peoples Temple was active in humanitarian causes in its communities, Jones’s treatment of his followers was often less than humane.”[6]

Jones maintained control through family separation, interrogation sessions, regular humiliation, ritualistic beatings of children and blackmail.  “Many were coerced or brainwashed into signing over their possessions—including their homes—to the church.”[7]  Not surprisingly, members feared Jones, who sought to keep them in sexual bondage by breaking-up partnerships and not only encouraging, but expecting, “sexual preference for himself from both men and women”.[8]

False prophets like Jones despise authority (v 10) while demanding obedience even to death from their followers.  Jones devised a ritual, which he called “White Night”, in which he would “order his followers to drink an unknown liquid and syringe some into their children’s mouths, telling them that death would follow in 45 minutes.[9]  When the 45 minutes had elapsed, Jones would tell them that it was to test their loyalty to the cause.

Members, who were encouraged to inform on one another, were kept in a state of exhaustion, psychological isolation and poverty, which made defection difficult enough in the USA but nigh impossible in the Guyanese jungle[10], where the camp was patrolled by an armed security team.

The few who did manage to leave told of their experiences and claimed they had been threatened with reprisals; some were reported to have “died mysteriously” [11] soon after their escape. Though there were a few stories in the press, nobody took the rumours very seriously, except for one politician, Democrat Congressman Leo Ryan, who decided to investigate them himself and was given an invitation to visit Jonestown.

Ryan, accompanied by journalists, lawyers and relatives of members of the cult, flew to Georgetown (the capitol of Guyana) on 14th November and visited Jonestown on the 17th, where they were fêted by smiling and dancing cult members,[12] though tapes later recovered showed that Jones had carefully rehearsed the whole display.  All seemed to be going well until Ryan and his entourage came to leave the next morning, when a grandmother “begged Ryan to get her out[13] and 20 others made a similar plea.  They all left on Ryan’s truck, despite one of Jones’s aides trying to stab Ryan, and headed for the airfield, where they were caught by some of the Temple’s security team who shot and killed Ryan, 3 journalists and 3 defectors and wounded 11 others.[14]

Jones then gathered his followers around him and told them that Ryan’s plane was going to be shot down and that “they” (which his followers would have understood to mean the CIA or mercenaries) would parachute in seeking revenge.[15]  As in previous “White Night” ceremonies, a vat of fruit drink was brought in, but this time it was laced with cyanide and barbiturates.  Parents dutifully syringed the liquid into the mouths of their babies and children before drinking it themselves. Death occurred within 5 minutes.  Jones died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.  “Fewer than 100 of the Temple members in Guyana survived the massacre; the majority of survivors either had defected that day or were in Georgetown.”[16]

Behind Jones’ chair was a sign that said: “Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it.[17] But how can we avoid repeating such a tragedy?

For the wider church, it highlights the importance of oversight of pastors, both within the church and independently from without, which would have identified that the church was becoming a dangerous cult.

It also points to the necessity of pastors having sufficient theological training, the lack of which allowed Jones to interpret the Bible to suit his own purposes and ambitions, before ditching it entirely.

Furthermore, churches (mainly within the charismatic and evangelical traditons), in which respect for the pastor (a right and fitting thing which should be met with humility) becomes twisted into an authoritarian demand for blind obedience, are at greater risk of being led astray.

As individuals, the only way to avoid falling victim to such false prophets is to humbly ground ourselves in the Word of God through daily reading and study (2 Timothy 3:16-17), testing every spirit (1 John 4:1) and “fixing our eyes on Jesus” (Hebrews 12:2), who alone is “the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6).


Footnotes:

[1] Butterworth, John (1981), The People’s Temple, “Cults and New Faiths”, Tring, Herts: Lion Publishing, p37

[2] Ibid. p36

[3] Ibid. p36

[4] The Jonestown Massacre, Encyclopaedia Britannica, https://www.britannica.com/event/Jonestown-massacre#  accessed 28/10/2018

[5] Butterworth, John (1981), p36

[6] The Jonestown Massacre, Encyclopaedia Britannica

[7] Ibid.

[8] Butterworth, John (1981), p37

[9] Ibid. p36

[10] Ibid. p37

[11] Ibid. p37

[12] Ibid. p37

[13] Ibid. p37

[14] The Jonestown Massacre, Encyclopaedia Britannica

[15] Butterworth, John (1981), p37

[16] The Jonestown Massacre, Encyclopaedia Britannica

[17] Butterworth, John (1981), p37

 

Additional Sources:

Wikipedia, Jonestown https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jonestown  and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Jones both accessed 28/10/2018

Bible Gateway: New Revised Standard Version (Anglicised) https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2+Peter+2&version=NRSVA  accessed 28/10/2018