The price of peace

Yesterday I had an interesting debate with a friend about faith and politics. We both agree that church and state should be separate, what has alarmed me though is that some folk seem confused what this actually means.

Thomas Jefferson wrote this in 1802 to Danbury Baptist Association in reference to the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church and State.

In a few words Jefferson demonstrates how though proper democracy, separation of church and State benefits both organisations. The State is protected from having its laws tied into one particular faith. The Church is protected by the freedom to worship in whatever manner it wishes within the common law. I think it is clear what Jefferson thought the roles of the Church and State should be. For both organisations to be as effective, accountable, transparent and open as possible, “a wall of separation” is necessary to insure public confidence in them.

As a Christian, does that mean that I have no place in politics?

It would appear that for some, that is what separation of church and state is. Oh they would allow me to take part in elections, be elected and even govern, as long as I don’t use any Christian teachings to be of influence in legislative matters. In N Ireland this of course has caused a lot of problems. There is an outcry when an elected MLA makes decisions based in part on their Christian beliefs, especially when they use undemocratic parliamentary procedures to make sure they are carried out.

In 1998, 71%  voted for the Belfast agreement. This agreement formed the type of government we have in  the Stormont Parliament. 71% thought that this system of government was better than the bombs and bullets. 71% thought that this system of government would create a better society and equality for all. What this system of government has allowed among some things are, no to marriage equality, no to abortion for fatal abnormality or incest, no to accountability of government, all because of 71% of the electorate.

I believe that Christians should be fully involved in politics and if elected use the political system that they are elected too (passed by 71% the people) and use their Christian teaching if they wish to influence them. This may not go down well with those that don’t like conservative biblical teaching but until there is proper democracy here, maybe that is their price for peace.

 

The little voices inside our heads

This morning one of our kids that we look after in our business was not feeling well, so instead of going to school I sat and watched the film Inside out with her (I know it’s a hard life I live). If you have kids you have probably seen the film, if not, get it out on DVD it is worth watching. It is good entertainment but also has some deep thought-provoking questions as well about who we are.

In the film, the main character is Riley, a happy-go-lucky hockey-loving 11-year-old girl, but her world is turn upside-down when she and her parents move to San Francisco. Riley’s emotions — led by Joy try to guide her through this difficult, life-changing event. However, the stress of moving all the way across the country brings Sadness to the forefront. When Joy and Sadness are inadvertently swept into the far reaches of Riley’s mind, the only emotions left in the headquarters of Riley’s mind are Anger, Fear and Disgust.

We are all emotional to one degree or another, which is no bad thing. It is how we use our emotions to control our actions, reactions and behaviours that is what’s important. Too many of us use our emotions to excuse our bad actions like jealously, envy, fits of anger and things like these. We put it down to our personality, it’s who we are, it can’t be helped, take me as you find me!. There is of course the good actions like love, joy, patience, kindness and things like these that we should all try to aim for. Just like Riley in the film, it is as if there are voices in our heads constantly at battle with other to determine our actions.

What is missing in the film is a conductor who stands between our emotions and the levers on the control board that control our actions.The conductor decides which emotions to give a voice to, which thoughts to entertain, and which reactions are the most beneficial regardless of how loudly our emotions are demanding to take over the controls.*

The Bible teaches that all people have a conductor which is our spirit. Regardless of how weak or how strong the conductor is, he’s still there nevertheless. He may be sleeping at the controls and letting our emotions reign supreme and our thoughts run willy-nilly for good or for evil effect, or he may be running the show, controlling the “little voices inside your head”.*

* Reference from another blog written by Todd Young.

 

A spash of certainty.

Tonight some friends of mine got baptised in our church.  These friends are mature people who want to make declaration about something that has happened to them. In front of a church full of family and friends, they got wet, very wet.

I believe that baptism is for the person themselves to decide if they should do it or not. Baptism in itself will not change a person whether they are a baby or an adult. Baptism will not make you a member of the church or give you brownie points for heaven.

So what is the purpose of baptism?

Baptism is an act of witness, a testimony of a change. When a person puts their faith in Jesus, they recognise that He alone is the only way to God. With no need of a church, a priest, a minister or sacraments for salvation but only the faith of belief. Sacraments, churches, priests or ministers are only useful tools to focus our eyes on salvation not the means of it.

The eight people who got baptised tonight got no better for getting wetter.

 

As white as snow.

snow photoThis morning most people in N Ireland woke up to a layer of snow on the ground. I’m sure the kids were delighted to go outside to sleigh and throw snow balls. However those of an older generation may not see the fun value in snow that children do. It’s funny how something that looks so pure, clean and bright can cause two very different reactions. The child looks at the snow fall with laughter and delight knowing that they are going to have so much fun playing in it. The adult looks at the snow fall with dread and frustration knowing that this makes life more complicated and changes the plans that they had for the day.

Snow divides people’s opinions like the opinions of Jesus divides people.

Christians look at Jesus and see the Lord of Salvation and want to be with Him. Non-believers look at Jesus and see a man who did nice things but not worth going out of your way to follow.

Lets be clear, following Jesus has nothing to do with what church you go to, how many good deeds you do or how much money you give away. All these things are very good in their own right but they don’t make you a Christian. You are not born a Christian or go though any man performed ceremony to become a Christian. You cannot buy your way to become a Christian or hide away from the evil of the world to become a Christian.

So what is it all about then? You have just dismissed religion. Yes I have and good riddance to it. Atheist are mainly right about religion but wrong about Jesus. Jesus said *I am the way, the truth and the light, no man comes unto the Father except though me* (John 14:6).

You cannot change your ways or your destination by yourself, you need an outside power to do that or put it another way, you don’t need a sat-nav if you don’t think you are lost.

You and me are lost in sin and only Jesus can take it away, if we put our trust in Him. This is the promise of Jesus,  *though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool* (Isaiah 1:18).

Don’t be religious be white as snow.

 

 

 

 

Where there’s life there’s hope.

A ten week old human being in the palm of our hands

I have a confession to make. It is sometimes difficult for me to determine, using the scale of politics, what is to the left, centre or right when considering certain issues. When I read about the economy or the environment or healthcare, I get confused and I am one of the interested ones (I have watched the box set of “the west wing” a least four times).

There are some issues that don’t fall into any of the above categorization. These issues in British politics are broadly left to the individual elected members to vote on according to their conscience. The British parties may have an official policy on such issues but allows a free vote to its elected members when it comes to legislate.

One such issue is that of abortion.

N Ireland has a different law concerning abortion from the rest of the UK and for this reason alone some say it needs to change and be brought into line. That argument is a constitutional one and would render the Belfast Agreement, St Andrews Agreement and The Stormont Agreement null and void, if as a principle you expect all legislation in the UK to be the same. I think it is fair to recognise the regional difference that there is to abortion.

Does the N Ireland law on abortion break the European Convention on Human Rights? The attorney general has lodged an appeal to a High Court ruling, that found Northern Ireland’s abortion legislation to be “incompatible” with the human rights law and the Stormont’s justice minister is lodging an appeal to a High Court ruling also. When our top legal experts are divided on the interpretation of human rights, there does not seem to be a clear argument here ether to extend the Abortion Act 1967 to N Ireland.

For me abortion is just wrong.

It is wrong to purposely end the life of a human being, whether it be war, euthanasia, capital punishment, suicide or abortion. No man, woman, child or government has a right to end life.

What is a viable life?

Any life taken from its life support environment, will die at what ever stage it is at, inside or outside the womb. From the first heartbeat, sciences, legislations and faiths acknowledge that a human being has formed with its own DNA, totally different from its mother.

The only exception to all of the above, to ending the life of a human being would be this. If there is a real and present threat to another persons life. This principle could be used to favour a just war position. It could be used to permit self-defence or if the life of a mother is threatened by her unborn child.

Undoubtedly there are mothers who find themselves in very difficult circumstances. We need to provide everything we can to support the life of the mother and child and treat both the same.

Do we end the life of a perfectly formed human being because of sexual violence? Not unless there is an immediate threat to the life of the mother, whether it be mental or physical.

Do we medically end the life of a deformed human being before its natural time to die?  Not unless there is an immediate threat to the life of the mother, whether it be mental or physical.

These are hard, hard, situations for any woman to go though and more money needs to go into support units and parenting education.

All expectant lives are lives of great expectations.

 

 

 

 

“puzzles the will”

Benjamin Franklin give us this famous quote “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes”.

Death is something we all must deal with, the death of friends and family and then our own. It is perhaps one of those subjects that for many is hard to fathom. There is a fear about death, a mystery about it, a uncertainly because no one that you and I know has come back from it.

“Puzzles the will” is from Shakespeare’s play Hamlet. Prince Hamlet contemplates death in his soliloquy that starts with the line “to be or not to be”. The following lines can be found halfway though.

“The undiscovered Country, from whose bourn
No Traveller returns, Puzzles the will”,

Death is the undiscovered Country, whose borders no one has returned from. “Puzzles the will” is the uncertainty whether life is better than death or death better than life.

For Christians, Hamlet’s question of “to be or not to be” should not be an issue. In Christ there is the hope and assurance of  an eternal life of peace and joy after death. I think people think that the Gospel message is about bringing health and wealth to our lives on earth. The blessings of a Christian are of an eternal nature and not just of this world. If any television evangelist tells you that becoming a Christian will make your life here better, it is a lie, switch them off.

The real question is matter of trust, do I trust man or God? Trust comes from evidence. Two people look at the earth, one marvels at the process of evolution, the other of creation, yet the evidence they see before them remains the same with two different conclusions. What has made the difference? Faith and the grace of God.

God gives the answer to the problem of death, Hamlet cannot.

The political Will is not a puzzled Will.

 

Cogito, ergo, sum.

There is a people group in Namibia called the Himba tribe. They have an interesting approach to birthdays, they don’t celebrate the day you were born but when you were first thought of in the mother’s mind. When a woman in this tribe wants to have a child, she will go to a quiet place and find the song of the child to come. This song will accompany the baby though every stage of its life, though adolescence, marriage, triumphs and disasters until death as it’s song is sung to them by the tribe.

The bible tells us that before we are born God thought of us (Psalm 139). As God has no beginning, so the thought of us has no beginning. If you take the theme of the Himba Tribe, we have no beginning if we exist as long someone (God) has thought of us.

To day our visiting pastor is Trevor Watson, he is a good friend of mine from childhood. In fact his family roots are from Sixmilecross. During his message today he took out a length of rope of about 10 meters. One end of it was taped off, about 6 inches long. He used it to illustrate the length of our time on earth compared to our time in eternity. The short 6 inches (or time on earth) looks very little compare to rest of the 10 meters (eternity) of rope.

The question then must be, what is the purpose of our existence? The early church fathers answered the question like this.

Q. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

To find joy on earth is to find eternal peace with God.

Cogito, ergo sum is a Latin philosophical proposition, meaning “I think, therefore I am”   The reality is, Deus est , ergo sum, meaning “God is, therefore I am”

 

 

 

 

COTL

Christians On The Left.

This is the only political organization that I am a paid up member of.

In Britain it is affiliated to the labour party. In N Ireland it has no affiliations.

However the national director of COTL is Andy Flannagan who hails from Portadown. I have known Andy for the past 20 years. Andy was a doctor before becoming director of COTL, he is also a singer/songwriter of contemporary worship songs and regularly leads worship at Christian conference.

I got the chance to meet up with Andy again a few months ago at a “Christians in politics” weekend titled “Show up”.

Christians in politics is jointly lead by Directors Gareth Wallace (Conservative Christian Fellowship). Claire Mathys (Liberal Democrat Christian Forum), Andy Flannagan (COTL) and Mark Scott Events & Communications Manager.

I got involved with COTL in N Ireland over a year ago. They have had a few public meeting in Belfast, highlighting issues like, food banks, the environment and corporation tax. My good friend Tanya Jones was a panellist at the last meeting about the harmful effect that lowering the corporation tax would have on N Ireland.

Am I a lefty? I honestly don’t know.

What I  do know about my politics are these.

I believe in society before consumerism.

I believe in sustainability before capitalism.

I believe in dialogue before war.

I believe in compassion before judgement.

I believe in you.

COTL seems to fit.

 

 

What’s in a name

I am pleased with the title of my blog page. I have been able to combine my name with the sentiment of what I wish to do and that is to make a difference.

I am guilty of being proud of my given names, William Joseph. I am named after the first recorded Anderson’s of my family line.

William Anderson was a burger in the city of Perth, Scotland. In 1543 along with five others, William was martyred for his new-found faith. As I have recently discovered, William was a fairly wealthy man in the city and had the chance to leave (as others did) to avoid being put to death. But he stayed and stood for what he believed in, what ever the consequences. William along with his friends made a difference, for not long after John Knox preached from the pulpit in Perth and ushered in the Scottish Reformation.

William’s son Joseph, was a merchant man. He travelled to and forth between Scotland and continental Europe, bringing materials from one land to another. We know He also met with the Protestant reformers in Europe and helped to spread the new reformed faith in his native Scotland. Joseph is buried in Paisley Abbey, as a person of some high status because he made a difference.

If I can make a difference though the use of these blogs in Peoples lives. To have the boldness of William and the sustainability of Joseph, it will be worth the effort and maybe one day, compare notes with my forefathers when we meet.

 

A new beginning

I have decided to start a blog.

About what? you may ask.

About my thoughts about faith and politics, I say.

Ah no, not another “holy Joe” out to save the world, you sigh.

Well! you are right and wrong in that. My middle name is Joseph but I am far from being holy, nor am I able to make myself holy. I say.

OK, you may say, but why start a blog? why should we take time to read it? what do you think you know that you think we don’t know? Are you some sort of expert on life all of a sudden?

I am no expert! I say defencelessly, I don’t think I know everything and there is absolutely no reason that I can give you why you should waste your time on my blogs, but here’s the thing!

John Donne wrote these words many years ago,

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.

Whither we like it or not, we are all interconnected, all belong to each other, all need each other, all responsible for each other and all respond to each other.

My blogs will be about me needing you more than you needing me.