A spiritual pilgrimage in the real world: Ken Leech 1939-2015

Ken LeechThe radical priest, theologian and activist, Rev. Ken Leech recently died, aged 76, following a stroke.

Ken founded the youth homeless charity Centrepoint in 1969 and wrote prolifically on the how intimacy with God relates to political action and social justice. I worked for Centrepoint for five years and Ken has been a very significant influence on my work and thinking.

I chose a quote from Ken to use in the ‘About’ section of R&R:

‘Our spiritual pilgrimage is not within an artificial religious world, but within the real world in which coal is mined and lemon meringue pie is made, the world in which companies are taken over and homeless people die in the street, the world in which wars are declared and millions long for peace and for justice.’

Passion and anger

I first came across Ken when I was living on a housing estate in Islington and my friend Corin Pilling lent me some of his books. They were like no Christian books that I had read before – they did not have the theological tidyness I was accustomed to.

Rather they burned with an intense passion and anger about poverty and injustice and the importance of concrete involvement in the struggle against them. It was both disturbing and inspiring.

Personal encouragement

In the coming years, I got to met Ken on a number of occasions as I got involved in the Christian homeless network, UNLEASH. In my mid-twenties, I remember feeling very out of my depth when asked to run a theological seminar on the Bible and homelessness.  Ken was a real encouragement and sent me a load of articles to help me prepare.

He would pop in to see me when I later managed the Centrepoint hostel on Dean Street in Soho which was the site of the original shelter he had established.  In 1999, he spoke at Centrepoint’s 30th birthday, along with the Prime Minister, Tony Blair. Ken’s passionate address wiped the floor with Blair’s safely scripted speech.

When I later moved to the Shaftesbury Society, I took all of our church-based community workers for a tour of Centrepoint’s hostel followed by a seminar on faith and activism with Ken. His clarity that orthodox Christianity must be radical and challenging of the status quo made a deep impression on everyone.

Prophetic challenge

I’ll end with two quotes from Ken, as I think they capture two essential elements of his prophetic challenge – both around the missional, outward role the Church should play but also the inward spiritual challenge for each of us.  As ever, it is the holding together of these elements that lies at the heart of the Christian faith:

‘Hope is a piece of work’

“The Churches in the twenty-first century will be in a crucial position to influence opinion, and to awaken hope. But ‘hope is a piece of work, not a state of mind’. The nurturing of hopeful commitment requires effort, prayer, struggle, and persistence. In their response to poverty and despair, the Churches need to reject the widespread assumption of a general goodwill, the idea that most people – including the government – are on the same side, and that, if only the evidence were presented, all will be well. ‘Faith in the City’ seemed to assume this, and it may therefore be the last document of its kind. I have never believed it, and see it as one of the most fatal naiveties of the liberal tradition…Churches in the next century are likely to become more marginal. They will need to earn the right to be heard by the intrinsic sense of what they say, and by their own integrity and credibility. This could be the salvation of the churches, but we will need to develop new and far stronger forms of solidarity and sustenance.” (The Sky is Red, 1998, p,107)

‘The cultivation of inner stillness’

“One of the most serious dangers confronting those who minister in the inner city is that their lives come to be built on frenzy and compulsive busyness. This usually leads to lack of focus, a tendency to accumulate more and more things, a collapse of reflection, and the cultivation of a personal culture of obligatory tiredness. This personal culture then becomes socially infectious so that one may communicate little to others other than one’s own exhaustion – not a very kind gift to people who may enough problems of their own. The practice of silence and solitude, including the cultivation of inner stillness and inner peace, is a vital component of urban spirituality.” (Through Our Long Exile 2001, p208)

Rev. Kenneth Leech. May he Rest in Peace and Rise in Glory.

Posted in Theology & Church | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Faith without deeds: the dis-integration of student Christianity

Just LoveWhen I started at Hull University in 1991, I joined three societies at the ‘freshers fair’.  Firstly, the Cricket Club, secondly, the Christian Union and thirdly, the Student Community Action organisation, which was called HUSSO.

Community action

HUSSO (Hull University Social Services Organisation) was, and remains, an incredible organisation.  Back in those days, it organised over 800 students each week in 35 different projects which served the local community. These included visiting isolated older people, helping children to read in local primary schools, taking blind people to the pub and running activities for disabled children.  Also each term, large events were organised such as tea dances and outings for older people as well as a 6 week summer play-scheme for at risk children.

The project I got involved in was volunteering each week at a drop in centre and night shelter called the Hull Homeless and Rootless Project.

HUSSO was brilliant to be involved in.  As it has done for generations of students in Hull, it gave me experiences which had a big impact on my life and it took me into a very different world from what I was used to.  I was studying social work but HUSSO helped me understand poverty in a far more real way than I ever would in lectures and seminars within the bubble of a university campus.

In in my final year I was elected as HUSSO’s Chair, which was a full-time, paid position. I did this for a year after graduating and it was one of the best experiences of my life.

A personal gospel

In contrast, I struggled to feel similarly passionate about the Christian Union (CU). One of the key issues was that there was very little emphasis on the issues I was concerned about. Issues of social justice and poverty did not really feature at all in what was discussed and their relevance to the Christian faith was controversial.  The priorities were providing a supportive community to Christians and personal evangelism.

In my first year, the CU used to sing worship songs on the steps of the Student Union and there were few things I found more cringey than hearing ‘Shine Jesus Shine’ sung out across campus. I remember an initiative called ‘blue hair evangelism’ where members of the CU had their hair sprayed blue and went and sat in the Union bar, waiting for someone to ask them ‘Why is your hair blue?’ This, the theory went, provided a great opportunity to share the message of the gospel.

I continually grappled with the tensions this created for me. I felt guilty for not being more involved in the CU but I never felt comfortable within it’s sub-culture.

Historical origins

When I was elected to run HUSSO full-time, I did some research on its history.  I discovered that it had actually been started at a meeting of the Christian Union in the early 1960s.

I wrote a brief history of the organisation and referenced these origins – and I remember people being surprised, and slightly uncomfortable, with this link because they did not see the contemporary connection.  When I went back a few years later, I saw that the history was still being used but it had been edited – and the reference to the CU had been removed.


This is just one example of the dis-integration that so frequently occurs between faith and action, between churches and the social organisations they found.  I would later work for Centrepoint, one of many homeless organisations started by Christians, but which rapidly grew away from an active connection with the church.  There are countless others examples.

And it is not just an organisational issue. One consequence for me personally was that my faith withered – it dis-integrated itself from the action I was committed to.  I left university with a degree in social work and a CV full of experience but my Christian faith had dried up. It was no one’s fault but my own – but a key factor was the lack of integration between faith and action.  It was only to be later on in my journey when I was able to bridge this gap.


So, for all these reasons, it is really encouraging to see positive developments in student Christian circles since. Sure, there are still the hard-line conservatives their maintain the heresy that Christian faith has nothing to do with social justice and addressing poverty – but much has changed in the last 20 years.  Speak have been doing brilliant work for many years and more recently I have been in contact with a newer group called Just Love.

Last week, I led a seminar on homelessness at one of their training events. I met a great bunch of students, deeply committed to helping homeless people and talking seriously about how they could best make a difference. They were passionate – both about justice and Jesus – and they embodied an integration I never found when I was a student.

What groups like Just Love and Speak show is that faith and social justice belong together. It is important, because whether on campus or in communities, there is no bigger priority than for Christians to show the connection between what we believe and how we put it into action.

Posted in Social action | 12 Comments

Faith Full Service? Integrating Christian faith alongside high quality social care, 4th November, central London

Eventbrite banner_v2

  • Date:   Wednesday 4th November 2015, 9.30am – 4.00pm
  • Venue: Hinde Street Methodist Church, London, W1U 2QJ
  • Cost:    £15.00, including lunch
  • For more details and to book a place please go to Eventbrite

In an increasingly secular environment, tensions frequently emerge between a Christian ethos and the delivery of professional social care. This has led some organisations to overtly jettison their faith ethos; others have allowed it to fade more quietly into history. For many organisations this is an area of their work hallmarked by anxiety and a lack of theological and practical confidence.

West London Mission, through its work with homeless and marginalized people, has a long history of grappling with this tension. WLM, part of the Methodist Church, currently employs over 70 people and operates an annual budget of over £2.4 million. As well as charitable donations, it receives statutory funding from the Ministry of Justice and many local authorities. Amidst this professional work, a key priority in recent years has been to re-affirm and strengthen our Christian ethos and give it a more tangible focus.

Run in partnership with Theos, Faith Full Service? will be an engaging and interactive training day focused on how to integrate the Christian faith alongside high quality social care.  Facilitated by WLM’s Executive Director, Jon Kuhrt and Social Work Chaplain Rev’d Ruth Bottoms, it will be based around practical models, resources and experiences which can be used in your context.  Paul Bickley of Theos will also give input regarding their research on proselytism.

Faith Full Service? is for anyone involved in faith-based organisations, as well as church leaders and chaplains. It will also be helpful for commissioners within local and national government or those in other funding or regulatory bodies.

To book a place please go to Eventbrite

Posted in Social action | Tagged , | Leave a comment

The boy on the beach: when the political becomes personal 

napalm1972, a Vietnamese girl, Kim Phúc, burnt by napalm, flees naked and crying from her bombed village.

1989, a solitary pro-democracy protester resolutely stands in front of a line of tanks in Tiannamen Square and blocks their path.

tiannaman squareBoth were just ordinary people out of thousands caught up in the turmoil and crisis of war and political violence.

But both were captured on camera and became two of the most famous images in modern times.

Tipping point

And over the past week we have seen the incredible impact an image can have as the gut wrenching photos of Aylan Kurdi’s body washed ashore on a Turkish beach were published.

In this age of social media and instant sharing, has there ever been an image which has changed opinions and perceptions so rapidly? It has been a undoubted tipping point in the global perspective on the refugee crisis that has been unfolding.

Aylan was just one life lost amongst countless others. But his death has triggered change on many levels: both in the way the media are reporting the story but also in the practical response it has generated.  The photo has triggered thousands of offers of accommodation sent to Citizen’s UK and a massive surge in interest in adopting refugee children to Home for Good.

Personal response

We struggle to be moved by statements, statistics or political crises. There were many books, articles and analysis around both the Vietnam War or the pro-democracy movement in China but nothing brought the situation home to people like these images did. And its the same with the current refugee crisis.

These images have power because they have awoken us to the human cost of this crisis. It has distilled a large and complex down to something real and graspable. Political complexity is transformed into personal tragedy.

And deep calls to deep. Personal suffering moves us to a personal response. We know it has to be more than just our facebook updates that need to be affected by this crisis. As so many are asking, how can we make a difference to help those affected?

The political has become personal.

Resources and hope

One of the most compelling aspects of the Christian faith is that ultimate truth is not embodied in a theory or formula or even in a book, but in a person.

And its a person who, like Aylan, was a refugee fleeing an oppressive regime.  A person, like Aylan, who was homeless and died an unjust death.  A person, like Aylan, whose short life has had a global impact.

In Jesus, God took on all the suffering of our broken world. In Him, the creator of all things stepped into a world of pain and vulnerability.  And in Him we can be inspired by hope and find the deepest resources to enable us to respond personally to the terrible problems of our world.

Posted in Politics | Tagged | 7 Comments

Refugee Crisis: a call to action

Please watch this video by made by Krish Kandiah of Home for Good:

Prayer Vigil – this Tuesday 8th September at 7pm, central London

prayer vigilDetails and links from for the call to action outlined in the video:

1. Pray – 24/7 has launched a special week of prayer – find out more here.

2. Foster – many children and young people are coming to the UK as refugees without their parents. Lets be ready to welcome them into loving homes through Home for Good. Sign up here to be added to a national database.

3. Welcome – with the government’s promise to receive thousands more refugees, Our churches need to be ready to welcome them into our communities and help them to integrate. If you have property available to rent please get in touch with Citizens UK.

4. Connect – Can you use your connections to help make properties available to those seeking asylum?

5. Give – Open Doors has launched a special appeal to help those facing persecution in Syria. £35.50 can provide an emergency food parcel to feed a family of five for two weeks. Tearfund also have an emergency appeal here.

The Guardian have also published a list of actions which include giving, volunteering and protesting that can be taken in response to the crisis.

Article by Giles Fraser: Christian politicians won’t say it but the Bible is clear: let the refugees in, every last one

Posted in Poverty | Tagged | 3 Comments

The church that gives away assault rifles to whoever brings along the most new people

First Pentecostal Church, Aberdeen, MississippiWhen I speak with Muslim friends in the UK, they will often express horror and disbelief at the terrible atrocities they see being done in the name of their faith by extreme Islamists.

Sometimes, I have a similar experience as a Christian too…

Yesterday a friend of mine, Mark Perrott, who now lives in the US, visited the First Pentecostal Church in Aberdeen, Mississippi. He had gone along as a visitor for the first time.

‘Killing machine’

Early on in the service, with children of all ages present, the Assistant Pastor got up to announce a competition for the church members.  They would be awarding a AR 15 rifle as a prize to whoever manages to invite the most new people to their church this month.

The Pastor happily described the AR15 as a “killing machine” and added that the prize winner would also get 100 rounds of ammunition thrown in too.

Apparently it was not the first time the church had run this kind of competition: the Pastor referred to the fact that there were people now part if the church who had come because of a previous similar promotion.  Well, if it works…

Recruiting tool

As Mark wrote to me:

“Whatever people’s views of gun ownership for hunting, self defense or protection against government, I cannot believe that such weapons being used as a recruiting tool to grow the church.  I am at a loss…”

I realise that the ‘right to bear arms’ is a huge political issue and gun ownership is deeply embedded in US culture. Barack Obama recently said his failure to successfully bring in tighter gun control was the biggest regret of his time in office.  It is a situation that is completely different to the UK.

It reminded me of Michael Moore’s film Bowling for Columbine about gun violence in the US, where the opening scene takes place in a Bank which is offering a rifle to anyone who opens a new account. As Moore points out, a bank giving away firearms is incongruous enough. But what are we to make of a church which gives away semi-automatic rifles?

Love and compassion?

Along with my friend Mark, I am at a complete loss to understand the thinking which sees no problem in giving vicious weapons as prizes for bringing people to church. After all, it was only a couple of months ago that a gunman killed nine people in a Bible study in Charleston, South Carolina. And just last week, there was the horrific shootings in Virginia of a reporter and camera man live on air.

Did not these recent events cause the leaders of First Pentecostal Church to reconsider its prize? Did it not strike anyone at this church as inappropriate?


It’s ironic this is a Church (as you can see above) which features a dove, the Christian symbol of peace, in its logo.  On its website, it states:

We are endeavoring to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with love, mercy and compassion (Luke 24:47)

But how does an AR15 rifle represent love, mercy and compassion? How is this consistent with Jesus’ teaching that ‘blessed are the Peacemakers’?

Many people like me simply cannot understand the perspective that refuses to see the connection between such widespread gun ownership and such high rates of gun violence.   We are even more baffled when the Church promotes and celebrates gun culture.

If you have 3 minutes, watch this powerful video about a group of activists who opened a gun shop in New York to challenge the idea that owing a gun made you safer:


There has been a positive development in this story because yesterday (Monday 31st August), Mark was in contact with the Pastor of the church, the Rev Ricky Bowen. He told Mark that the church has decided to withdraw the rifle as a prize and wrote:

‘My heart is hurting as I really did not think the promotion all the way through. Your post opened my eyes with an alarming, resounding jolt. I trust you will not judge us by a bad choice of gifting. We really did not even think of it in a negative way until now. I know that must sound foreign to you, however we have had weapons since we were children. That is the way all of us were raised. Thank you for your post. I love the service of Christ. It is my breath, life and hope. The weapon is no longer part of a promotion. May God richly bless you and your business. Your servant in Christ. Ricky Bowen’

In response, Mark (who runs a furniture business) offered to give the church a hand-made coffee table that they could give as an alternative gift.  He said he was inspired by the verse in Isaiah 2 which says:

They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.

This is a good outcome. It is uplifting that Pastor Bowen and his church decided to take such swift action and act in such a gracious way. Perhaps, this episode is an opportunity for the US Church to reflect further on what it can do about gun culture.

This whole story may just be about one weapon amid countless others, but perhaps it can give us hope that change is possible…

Posted in Ethics & Christian living | 14 Comments

We are the problem: Western militarism created this ‘refugee crisis’ – by Alan Storkey

MigrationHome is where the heart is for most of the world’s population. People do not readily leave home, family, jobs, friends and their familiar life to tramp across borders and take their lives in hock in perilous crossings.

Our public reflection on this issue is so shallow.  We freeze on refugees drowning in hundreds or dying huddled in lorries, or bewail more immigrants coming to the UK, but do not ask why this great exodus has happened.

When we do ask, the answer has to be: This is our work through pursuing a policy of the international promotion and sale of arms, further militarising the areas which have now become ungovernable and riven with strife and danger. Most of these refugees are travelling with guns and bombs behind them.

Equipping terrorists

Let us consider some of the Western background contribution to this process in the Middle East.

First, from 1979 onwards the United States through the CIA spent several billion dollars training and equipping terrorists in Afghanistan to fight the USSR. Groups, including Al Qaida, learned terrorism and carried on practising it.

Second, the United States armed first the Shah of Iran, and then through the Iran-Contra deal Reagan provided more weapons to the Ayatollah. Then Reagan and Rumsfeld backed Saddam against Iraq in the Iraq-Iran War and the West plied Saddam with arms for oil money. When, surprisingly, Saddam used his arms and invaded Kuwait (partly to pay for French weapons) the whole region was subjected to a major war, and Iraq faced disruption, sanctions and famine.

Following 9/11

Then, following 9/11, Afghanistan was subjected to another military attack spreading further chaos in that country, further pushing the Islamic opposition into professional terrorism. Further, in 2003, when there were no weapons of mass destruction, and under pressure from the military-industrial complex in the United States, the Second Iraq War pushed the nation into breakdown. Militias looting western supplied arms caches then became another wave of terrorists involved in Shia-Sunni conflicts in Iraq.

Then finally massive supplies of arms to the Iraq Army from the United States were taken by ISIS and became the basis of their marauding expansion through Iraq and Syria. Russia also contributed by supplying Syria with the weapons, which allowed the Syrian Government to victimize its own people. Thus the chaos in the Middle East has been primed at all stages with mainly western arms.

Arming dictatorships

The same pattern was evident in North Africa. The arming of the Egyptian military dictatorship has come from the West. Indeed, Cameron was in Egypt selling arms when the Arab Spring broke out. Even worse, Tony Blair, together with Berlusconi, set up a deal with Gaddafi, for the supply of conventional weapons to Libya, arming him with the kit he used against his own people. These arms were later looted, together with arms supplied to the rebels during the uprising, and the result again was Islamic terrorists marauding through North Africa and across the Sahara.

UK’s mean response

SyriaNow we face refugees fleeing from the destruction and fear caused by weapon-touting terrorists. The refugees from Syria alone total over four million mainly going to Iraq, Lebanon, Turkey and Palestine.

Those coming to Europe as asylum seekers are a minority of these and the focus of the present tragedy. Unlike the generous German response, the UK one is mean, tightening the conditions on obvious asylum seekers from Eritrea and elsewhere, closing our eyes to the tragedy millions face in having to leave their homes.

We are the problem

But even more we stay callous and impervious to the way in which our Western arms sales have militarised the Middle East and the Mediterranean, gradually creating terrorism, war and destruction. We are the problem, and yet the Cameron arms sales team carries on selling the means of suffering and death. Unless we stop, it will return to us. As Jesus (more or less) said, “Those who make the sword will die by the sword.”

Alan Storkey’s new book War or Peace? The Long Failure of Western Arms (£10) is just out.

Posted in Politics | Tagged | 8 Comments

Illegal, but moral? Were the Impact Team right to hack Ashley Madison?


Part of Impact Team’s message to Ashley Madison

The hacking of the Ashley Madison infidelity website by the Impact Team continues to be a major global news story.

Today it was announced that Noel Biderman, the CEO and founder of the website has stepped down from his role.

Business analysts are saying that is hard to see how the company will survive. The company face multiple law suits relating to the loss of the information. Furthermore, analysis on the leaked data has exposed the vast numbers of fake female profiles the company produced to entice men to join.

A statement from the parent company, Avid Life Media, said:

“We are actively adjusting to the attack on our business and members’ privacy by criminals…We are actively co-operating with international law enforcement in an effort to bring those responsible for the theft of proprietary member and business information to justice.”

Criminals or heroes?

But are the Impact Team criminals or heroic activists?

On the one hand, they have successfully attacked a website which on many levels was morally bankrupt.  Ashley Madison blatantly encouraged people to be unfaithful to their partners and promoting a warped philosophy that infidelity was somehow good for marriage. But it did even do this honestly.  As the evidence now shows, they created thousands of fake female profiles to lure men into parting with their cash.  The whole site was a big con.

But on the other hand, the Impact Team’s actions will have already caused prompted untold heartache and pain in thousands of people’s homes as people realise their partners used the site. People have split up, weddings have been cancelled and there have been reports of two suicides linked to the disclosures.

Illegal, but moral?

What the Impact Team did was certainly illegal – but was it morally right?

There are plenty of examples of civil disobedience which was ‘illegal’ but which we now celebrate as morally heroic. Robin Hood, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela all ‘broke the law’ but for reasons we now see as righteous causes.

And the Bible itself is full of those who disobey the ‘powers that be’ in serving a higher cause.  Think of the Hebrew midwives who disobeyed Pharaoh, Daniel refusing to obey Persian law, and Peter and Paul being regularly thrown in prison. And let’s not forget Jesus was executed as an enemy of the state.

Right or wrong?

Some peoplebelieve that what the Impact Team did was right – because they only exposed reality and unmasked corruption.  And if people had signed up for such a website then its better that their partners know.

But others will think the cost is too high – that the pain caused by exposing the foolishness of millions of men and a small number of women is not worth it.  Especially as it is a cost which will be primarily borne by families and especially children caught up in the crossfire.

What do you think? Cast your vote and if you have time, leave a comment as to why.

Posted in Faithfulness Matters | Tagged , , , | 7 Comments

How should we view the victims of the Ashley Madison hacking?

Noel Biderman in an Ashley Madison advert

Noel Biderman in an Ashley Madison advert

Ashley Madison is the world’s largest website dedicated to facilitate people to be unfaithful to their partners. Their strap-line sums it up: Life is Short. Have an Affair.  But over the last few weeks the hacking of their database by a group called the Impact Team has been front page news.   The group threatened to release all the information into the public realm unless the website closed down its operation.

Noel Biderman, the CEO and founder of Ashley Madison refused to do this, so the Impact Team carried out their threat and have published the massive files on the web. According to reports, as well as containing names, emails and bank details of millions of subscribers they also contain details on their sexual preferences and explicit photos.

‘A tsunami of unhappiness’

A number of people have contacted me since this story broke, including the BBC, because of a campaign I started a few years ago against a similar UK-based website and especially the adverts which appeared on billboards.  It is clear that some media outlets were looking for people who would give them a judgemental ‘reaping what you sow’ type of message.

But I don’t think we should be judgemental towards those affected. Rather, I think we should just be deeply sad about the situation that is being unveiled.  As one commentator put it recently, this information will ‘unleash a tsunami of unhappiness’ across thousands of households as the behaviour of spouses and partners is disclosed.  Trust will be irreparably broken and many people will be damaged.


Websites like Ashley Madison are toxic: they lure naïve customers in by selling a false world of beautiful people enjoying carefree, commitment-free sex and then going home to their families with no harm done.

But the reality is far more ugly.  Unfaithfulness destroys families and ruins lives. It creates poverty and mental health problems. It deeply scars the children affected. And more often than not the whole premise of websites like this are deceitful:  so many men waste hundreds of pounds, being strung along by a huge number of fake female profiles which are designed to keep them parting with their cash.

Humans, and especially men, will always be willing to pay money to chase sexual gratification. And whole industries, whether on the streets or on-line, will always emerge to profit from these tendencies.

Ripped off

It reminds me of when I used to be a manager of an emergency shelter for young homeless people in Soho, central London. A number of the female residents were involved in selling sex – but most also were adept in the equally dangerous practice of ‘clipping’. This is where you make a deal with a potential customer but use some form of distraction to run off with their cash without giving any services in return.

Often they would run back to the shelter and frequently our night staff would have to deal with extremely angry men who chased after them demanding their money back.  In response to their protests, our staff would suggest that the men could always phone the police to report a crime. Funnily enough, this advice was never appreciated.

The brokenness of our world

The Ashley Madison debacle is compelling example of the radical brokenness of our world. It shows how corporate greed capitalises on personal weakness and compounds wrong-doing.

In his brilliant book Unapologetic, Francis Spufford writes about this brokenness. He argues that it is impossible to use the word ‘sin’ anymore because it is so indelibly linked to an archaic judgementalism.

The replacement term he suggests is ‘The Human Propensity to F*** things Upor the HPtFtU as he helpfully abbreviates it:

‘What we’re talking about here is not just our tendency to lurch and stumble and screw up by accident, our passive role as agents of entropy. It’s our active inclination to break stuff, ‘stuff’ here including moods, promises, relationships we care about, and our own well-being and other people’s’. 

Reconciliation and forgiveness

This is exactly what we are seeing unveiled in the Ashley Madison situation.  There must be so many people who feel they have screwed up, feel angry, embarrassed and deeply ashamed and wish like anything that they could turn back the clock and not have got involved. There is little better examples of the HPtFtU in action.

It is this tendency within humanity which creates the source from which all injustice, selfishness and suffering in our world flows. Whilst we should not look down on others, we need to be honest about this reality. This is our human condition.

But this is not the end of story, the final word.  For there is another, more powerful source from which forgiveness, reconciliation and healing love flows.   The best thing we can do is point to God’s grace and help those who are broken find it for themselves.

Posted in Faithfulness Matters | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Help needed: I am a Labour member and I haven’t a clue who to vote for as leader

LabourLeadersI have been a member of the Labour party since 1994 when I was in the final year of my Social Work degree. I almost joined when John Smith was leader but it was Tony Blair’s ascent to the top job which inspired me to take the step.  For the first time I felt genuine resonance with a political leader’s vision and thinking.  His famous comment, now easily dismissed as a mere sound-bite, that a Labour government would be ‘tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime’ captured my attention and made sense. It was a succinct synthesis of much of the discussions around personal and social responsibility which lay at the heart of my course.

Mainly due to Iraq and his own personal wealth, Blair is now one of the most despised political figures.  Similarly to the Conservative Party following Margaret Thatcher, who also won three elections in a row, Labour has experienced an extended hangover from Blair’s spell as leader. Gordon Brown played the John Major role, struggling painfully through an economic crisis. And, as history now shows,  Ed Miliband’s tenure as leader was just as painful was William Hague’s had been of the Tories after Major in the late 1990s.

At a loss

And when it comes to the election for the new Labour leader, I am at a complete loss about who to vote for.

I can see why some people are getting excited about Jeremy Corbyn because he stands so clearly for something different and distinctive. And I can see that he could do well for Labour in Scotland – but all I can see happening is that Labour become less electable than ever.  Labour may end up being purer in its principles but simply be reduced to a party of protest.

But the problem is that none of the other candidates are impressing me. They may be decent and solid but at the moment, I just can’t see them having what it takes to lead the party.

An R&R poll

I have to confess, that I voted for Ed Miliband at the last leadership election back in 2010. It was a decision that I came to regret very soon after making it when I realised I could not hear him speak without wincing at how poorly he communicated.

So I thought I would ask R&R readers to help me out. It won’t dictate how I vote but I am interested in your opinion. Please vote in the poll and if you have time leave a comment about who you rate and why.  Who would be the best leader of the Labour Party?

Posted in Politics | 30 Comments