Government dismantles nanny state

I'm impressed to see an announcement that the government is going to allow teachers to comfort pupils. By abandoning “no touch” rules introduced some years ago this will also allow appropriate restraint of pupils and shows the government are making a start on dismantling parts of the “nanny state.”

Rest from Terror

A while ago I picked up the book Terror-rest by Ed Morris. I finally got round to reading it, and it's worth it. He wrote it in the aftermath of the Lockerbie plane crash, 9/11, and 7/7 terror attacks to seek to defuse some of the fear following on from these events. How can people find safety in a world where they fear violence?

The book draws on Psalm 91 in the Bible, seeing its words as an invitation not just to people who would normally read the book, but to all those who would draw protection from God. The book is full of real life examples of people who have found an antidote to fear or violence, including some from the Armed Forces. (Psalm 91 is sometimes described as the Soldier's Psalm.) He looks in depth at each verse of the poem, so technically this is a commentary on Psalm 91 and a very readable one, and he encourages his readers to travel with him through the short book in small bites over a month. He's also set up a web site for comments from readers and more background at

I haven't finished reading the book yet, so I may add to this article. However I'm already impressed by a sense of God's care and presence, and experiencing greater calm!

More details. Buy from Amazon UK.

When the Spirit…?

It seemed too hot today to be inside Lacock Church. I remember nostalgically a very outdoor church building that I enjoyed in Thailand some years ago, where birds flying in and out were very much part of the congregation. Perhaps that is good symbolism for today, when many churches (including Lacock) celebrate Pentecost – the coming of God's spirit.

We listened to a reading from the Acts of the Apostles, where Peter quotes the prophet Joel: In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people.

I found myself noticing the word all, and that the text does not say all Jews or all Christians, just all people. I'm sure the early Church was right to get excited at this kind of dramatic preview that took place in Jerusalem, and to gradually recognise the significance of it for their lives and ministry. I remember sharing that excitement in the early days of my own Christian faith particularly; however today I find myself hoping for the fulfilment of Joel's prophecy. What will it look like?! How will it feel?!

It seems to me the church teaching has sometimes been quite possessive of what happened at that event in Jerusalem around two thousand years ago. Today on this hot day the church just seemed too small an enclosure, separating us from the glory outside even as we remembered Jesus' presence with us, and the refreshing breeze was mainly (but not entirely) outdoors.

Losing sight of our interconnectedness

Flicking again through the pages of the April edition of Christian Politics which arrived in my mail, I notice some interesting pieces on communtiy in an article by Lord David Alton.

He speaks firstly of how 'Nelson Mandela promotes the old African belief in Ubuntu: “a person is a person because of other people.” Mandela says: “Ubuntu does not mean that people should not enrich themselves. The question therefore is: 'Are you going to do so in order to enable the community around you to improve?' ” Archbishop Desmond Tutu explained Ubuntu by saying: “Ubuntu is the essence of being human. Ubuntu speaks particularly about the fact that you can't exist as a human being in isolation. It speaks about our interconnectedness. You can't be human all by yourself, and when you have this quality – Ubuntu – you are known for your generosity.” ' Perhaps to include European references also, Lord Alton later quotes Jonn Donne: “No man is an island entire of itself.”

This challenges excessively individualistic or self-centred ideologies of personal development, but makes me wonder whether it means that a hermit or a lone survivor of a disaster ceases to be human!

His other fascinating quote is from (American Indian) Chief Seattle, which says some interesting things about both community and environment. Surely he is right to say that to harm the earth is to “heap contempt on its creator.”

“This we know; the earth does not belong to man; man belongs to the earth. This we know. All things are connected like the blood which unites one family. All things are connected. Even the white man, whose God walks and talks with him as friend to friend, cannot be exempt from the common destiny. We may be brothers after all. We shall see. One thing we know which the white man may one day discover: our God is the same God. You may think now that you own Him as you wish to own our land; but you cannot. He is the God of man, and His compassion is equal for the red man and the white. The earth is precious to Him, and to harm the earth is to heap contempt on its creator. The whites too shall pass; perhaps sooner than all other tribes. Contaminate your bed and you will one night suffocate in your own waste.”

(The Chief Seattle quote comes from Lord Alton's book What Kind of Country. It is a fragment of a speech, probably delivered in 1854 in the context of the sale or surrender of their land. I notice from the internet that there is some controversy over what the Chief actually said, and which translations are best. Various translations seem to locate the words above in quite different places in the speech!)


Letting go

It's good to read this morning Nick' Clegg's announcement that the new UK government see that the previous government introduced too much legislation. They are going to go through the statute book to see what can be repealed, and ask the public for suggestions.  He says, “We don't, unlike Labour, believe that change in our society must be forced from the centre.. we're not insecure about relinquishing control.” The previous government did introduce some good changes, however I agree with this entirely.

The government “big picture” has to be about increasing personal responsiblity, and so I hope that “letting go” at the centre, and a recognition that government is not synonymous with legislation, will bring about a greater calm in individual citizens' lives too.

Emotion at the gym

My regular evening visit to the gym is often a moving experience, but that is usually to do with the treadmill and not my emotions. It's a challenge working out and watching the television at the same time. Maybe I lost a few extra calories that way.

The hour that I chose to exercise contained the resignation of Gordon Brown, followed by the appointment by the Queen of David Cameron as Prime Minister and his arrival at 10 Downing Street. I found it surprisingly emotional to watch Gordon Brown give his resignation speech. I was impressed by his magnanimity and statesmanship. Maybe MPs of all parties are respectful colleagues when they are not fighting to win an election. He has had a tough job to do over the last few years, and some hindsight will be needed to see what help the policies of these thirteen years of Labour Government, and Gordon's actions in particular, have given.

So I hope and pray for success for the new coalition between the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties, and like to hear David Cameron's determination that this is to be value-based and about politicians being servants not masters.

Beautiful blossom!

One of the highlights of this Spring is the great quantities of colourful blossom on the trees, especially the pink blossom on the cherry trees, and in our British hedgerows. Isn't it beatiful? I'm told that this abundance is caused by the exceptionally cold winter we experienced. In our garden I'm enjoying the flowering of bulbs that we planted at the end of last year, and a new Magnolia Stellata. (Life's not just about politics.)

Erotic Capital – or is that intelligence?

I'm used to writing about emotional and spiritual intelligence, but do those who want to succeed in business and politics also need erotic intelligence now?

Browsing the newspapers in a café on Wednesday, my attention was captured by an article in the Daily Telegraph about the research of Catherine Hakim, writing originally in the European Sociological Review.  Is this just about looking good? Read all about it.

Rediscovering humility in politics?

If humility is a virtue, then how much can you “blow your own trumpet?” This is a relevant question for those who seek run or advertise a business, as I do.

So an article in last week's Church Times interested me. It proposed that one of Margaret Thatcher's achievements a Prime Minister – through both describing herself as a Christian and advocating entrepreneurship – was to delete humility from the common understanding of what it means to be a Christian.

Rolling the clock forward from the “Iron Lady” to the present General Election battle, I have been waiting for some humility from Gordon Brown (present Prime Minister and, significantly, former Chancellor). It seems to me that humility requires that when things go wrong we spend a little time looking for what we might have done better, rather than trying to give the impression that we are infallible and just blaming others, and then to share this reflection with other people involved – which often takes the form or an apology.

So I'm pleased that this week Mr Brown has chosen to admit at least one mistake: that he should have imposed more regulation on the banks. This may or may not be a complete confession. I don't mind; at least it is an important step in the right direction. Along with his statement that he is willing to learn from his mistakes, this shows some emotional and spiritual intelligence. On the whole he seems to believe that he and his government have been doing the right things and that the electorate need to continue to let them do the right things. This seemed to me to be his main message when I listenend to the first debate between the leaders of the three main parties on television onThursday night.

On the other hand, the present govenment does seem to want to solve rather a lot of problems with legislation (is that all that MP's are there for?), regulation, and “rights.” It seems to me that as they head down this road they may solve a few problems but the growing culture of control and checking reduces individual responsibility, reduces trust, and encourages citizens to behave like recalcitrant children, which will create more problems for the government to “solve.” People flourish when they are encouraged to develop and see a vision of what they can become, rather than being only told what they cannot do. Several of the political parties are talking about encouraging more local community action. I'm intrigued as to how they will attempt to do that withot resorting to central control.

Returning to the banks as a specific example, this would mean that we need a renewed understanding of the role of banks as supporters of the creation of wealth, and not just to tell them not to do.

Would we be better off with a penitent government that has learned from its mistakes, or a fresh government? This is an interesting question, but not the only important one. I also wonder why it is that, as well as such apologies, promises to do things that have somehow not been attended to during the previous thirteen years are suddenly made just as an election approaches!

Related articles from this blog here and here and here.

After “credit crunch” there has