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.

 

Fossil Free Faith

fossil free faithMy friend and fellow blogger Tanya Jones from the Green party, this week brought to our attention the very serious and undemocratic proposal by the Conservative government to ban public bodies from boycotting unethical trade or investments. They are doing this under the guise of wanting to prevent anti-Semitism.

This is a section from Tanya’s blog from 15th February.

*The policy is to be announced formally during a trip to Israel by the Cabinet Office Minister Matt Hancock this week.  That is, of course, no coincidence.  The thin end of the wedge in justifying this draconian step will be the conflation of opposition to Israeli action in Palestine with anti-Semitism.  The more the government and its allies can repeat and embed that falsehood (vigorously refuted by groups like J-BIG) the more they can make opposition not just ineffective but unacceptable.  And now, with the enormous success of the fossil fuel divestment movement, they have the opportunity of quashing that too, a whole flock of birds with one thumping great stone.

It won’t do.  Set aside, if you like, any particular campaigns that you don’t agree with, or don’t feel strongly about, and take a look at what remains.  Ethical purchasing decisions by individuals and institutions have been powerful engines for social and political change for many years.  The sugar boycott helped to bring about the end of the slave trade, decisions not to invest in South African companies crippled the apartheid regime and the choice of homespun over imported cloth united and inspired Gandhi’s struggle for Indian independence.  All of these, if carried out by public bodies – our representatives – would be criminalised under the Tory ban.” Read the full blog here.

Christians On The Left NI are hosting a panel discussion about Fossil Fuel Divestment on Tuesday 23rd February in Belfast. If the Conservative Government in Westminster succeed with their planed bill, then churches may be criminalised for only wanting to invest in ethical organisations.

Ryvka Barnard from the charity War-On-Want has said “This attack on local democracy is the latest in a sustained assault on our democratic rights and freedoms*

Come alone to above event to discover how we can make a difference with our investments and the use of our buying power.

 

Do you know what your voting for?

In the month of May we will have elections for the devolved parliaments in Wales, Scotland and N Ireland. The political parties within these jurisdictions will be launching their manifestos soon. They do so in an attempt to woo voters into supporting their vision of what the next five years would look like under their management if they were in power.
In Wales and Scotland, all the political parties are carefully regulated. By law they have to declare all of their donations so that the voter can see who their financial backers are. This makes for good, sound and transparent government.
In N Ireland it is different story. Here the political parties in government have legislated that they do not declare where their financial support comes from. There is no way of knowing if a big business is financially supporting a party in office to secure a contract. In Stormont, there are four parties in government (DUP, SF, SDLP, ALLIANCE). As far as I am aware, none of these parties voluntary declare their financial donations. That means we don’t know if businesses are paying into N Ireland  political pockets to secure contracts. I am not saying that they do but we have no way of knowing that they’re not.
The manifesto leaflets of these parties are useless as there is no transparency therefore no grounds for trust. Without this, there are no foundations to build other moral issues upon like abortion or marriage equality.
I don’t intend to advocate for any particular political party though this blog site. My only desire is to highlight the issues that affect us and to how to react to them.
So before you consider where a candidate stands on constitutional issues, marriage equality, abortion laws, health, education, transport and the environment. First ask, who is financing their campaign. If they can’t tell you, cross them out, they are not worthy of your vote.
There are big issues to deal with in N Ireland. Only those who are financially transparent have the moral standing to deal with them.

Keep your nose out of it

I am a registered child minder. Every day I get to meet two of the most valuable people in society, mothers and children. They are the backbones to any community. Children give us the reason to do something, mothers is how the something gets done.
However, women  and children are the most abused, undervalued individuals in the world. When it comes to rights, it would seem that women and children have to try harder to be treated as equals.
What happens though when rights cut  across each other. In N Ireland we are well used to this phenomenon, the right to march v the right to stop provocative marchers, the right to not sell a cake v the right to have a cake sold to you, the right to preach v the right not to be offended. Today we have the discussion, the right to life v the right of choice.
The slogan “trustwomen” is appearing a lot on pro-choice material and on some local party pamphlets. In other words I am being told “keep your nose out of it” abortion has nothing to do with you because you are a man.
So what are we asked to trust women on? That they will be able to make a rational decision at a time of high emotion and stress, really!?
I know that when I have made irrational and bad choices, it was at a time of stress and pressure. I don’t trust myself to do the right thing when I am in vulnerable situations in my life. I depend on others who are not emotionally attached to see the big picture and make the right choices. Why do we think so little of our women to make them choose? How inhumane is that?
Since Roe v Wade, science has discovered that the fetus is not part of the woman, it has it’s own DNA, it’s own emotions, it’s moves totally independent of its mother. So if the pro choice want to be stuck in the past, that’s up to them but I think I will let  modern science speak the truth about the unborn child if you don’t mind.
Last night 58 MLA’s voted for equal rights for women and children. Women in N Ireland are safe in knowing that when they are at their most vulnerable, the law is there to protect them. The unborn children of N Ireland are safe having their first basic human right preserved, the right to life.

When politics doesn’t matter

Let me introduce you to my friend Andrew Pratt. I met Andy last year at the Christians in Politics weekend held in Sunningdale. On the Saturday morning of the weekend we were put into small groups according to where we were from, Andy is from Lancaster and I am from N Ireland. We got to know other as we discussed topics that were put before us by the conference leaders. We later met up at the dinner table and during coffee breaks. In our group we each one introduced ourselves starting on my left, which meant I would be last. Most of the group was made up of young people studying politics at university. Andy was sitting a few seats to my right and introduced himself as working as an Inter-Faith Advisor for the Diocese of Blackburn, he later disclosed that he was a retired police Superintendent. When it came my turn to introduce myself, the only thing I could offer by way of political expertise, was an in-depth knowledge of the TV political series The West Wing. Oh by the way, there was a university lecturer of politics and faith in the group as well, I was way in over my head!

In my conversations with Andy and the others, it never occurred to me to ask what political party or group they each belonged to. The focus of our chats was how can we make life better for those living around us, not which political party or group had the best policies to solve the problems. It wasn’t until I got home and exchanged emails with Andy that I found out that he is a Conservative and I don’t know if Andy knew that I am a member of Christians On The Left.

The most important aspect that we knew about each other was that we are Christians who want to engage in politics to help those around us. We each prayed that though our work within the communities that we live in, we are able to bring peoples together to a place of understanding and respect for each other.

Andy is standing as the Conservative candidate for Police and Crime Commissioner in Lancashire in the May 2016 elections. I Wish him all the best and hope that he is elected.

If you are reading this blog and live in Lancashire, in May give your vote to Andrew Pratt, he is one of the good guys.

This is a link to Andy’s website Welcome to my website God bless you Andy.

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.

 

 

 

 

Beauty and the beast

The other night my eldest daughter Hannah was home from University in Belfast. With her studies and a part-time job she does not get home as often as she (or I) would like. She spent the night with her little sister watching the Disney film Beauty and the beast.

The main theme of the film is that appearances are not always what they seem. First impressions play a big role in our daily lives and often determine how we treat individuals from the first point of contact. The change of circumstances for the prince who was cursed to be a beast, also changed his character to be angry and secluded. But then along comes Belle and after a while she starts to see though the beastly appearance and attitude of the prince. When the beast gets the sympathy and care from Belle, there is a change that happens for both of them, from the first impressions of disgust and fear to that of kindness and safety.

Over the past year we have been watching the horrendous situation of refugees fleeing the war-torn counties of Syria and Iraq. These people through no fault of their own, find themselves having to leave their homes and communities to find safety in another land. The response from us has been a mixed reaction of kindness or fear.

I am glad that this country is bringing in refugees from the camps outside Syria but is it enough? Should we not be giving up more of ourselves to help those that are in need? We need to be giving aid and finance to countries like Italy and Greece who are bearing the brunt of the crisis. We need to be pressing our MPs and government to do more in the name of humanity and compassion.

These fellow human beings can add so much to our cultures, our communities, our lives and our work places, if we only look past their appearances and our fears.

 

 

 

 

Highwaymen, they haven’t gone away you know

bernish glen

The above photo is of Bernish glen, outside Sixmilecross.  It is named after the notorious highway man Shane Bernagh Donnelly. He used these hills to launch daring raids on carriages travelling between Dublin and Derry during the 17th century. He was adored by the poor as he would generally only steal from the rich and often give to the needy, our very own Robin Hood. He was eventually captured by the English red coats and executed.

This week In Stormont a budget was brought before the assembly, supported only by the DUP/SF alliance. Within it is the allocation of £229 million earmarked for the A5WTC. I will not go into details what the advantages and disadvantages of this project are here but here are some questions I think we should be asking the Executive.

1.Where does this money come from and is the maintenance budget of existing roads affected?

2. What is the current and projected volume of traffic for the A5 compared to other schemes in the UK that have been given a dual carriageway upgrade?

3. What is the accident rate on this road compared to others in N Ireland?

4. What is the predicted time saved on travel that this money will gives us?

5. What are the environmental costs?

6. Have any other types of upgrades been considered for the A5.

My fear is that the A5WTC is more to do with politics than what is needed.

It seems that four centuries later the tables have turned. The establishment of DUP/SF, just like the red coats were, have become the highway men but not in a Robin Hood way.

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.