Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Upstream Issues

Upstream Issues

I heard someone telling a story recently about how they were working in fish conservation and checking on clean water in rivers and streams in the UK.  Apparently they found an area of a stream where the fish were struggling for oxygen and dying. Workers then take out any dead fish and then it’s apparently possible to push oxygen into the water, often the water agencies do this by, as the Environment Agency says, pouring Hydrogen Peroxide into the water upstream. This releases extra Oxygen into the water. Such action appears to somewhat reduced the potential fish kill.

Of course you can keep doing this sort of thing, but of course what is really happening is that you are dealing with an event like an illness or a tragedy that sometime keeps occurring, you put it right but then later on it appears again.  Often in the case of the fish dying, checking up stream you discover that there is a factory that periodically discharges its waste into the stream and this waste is toxic or depletes the oxygen in the water thus killing the fish.  So it is better to deal with the cause of the upstream issue rather than the results the downstream of fish dying.

It seems to me that this is often the case in our society at large.  We deal with the results and never think about the cause.  Now I know it’s not the whole answer but in this country we constantly hear we are short of houses, when you ask people what is the upstream issue they will tell you it’s immigration; Now I am sure that is true to some extent but is there another factory upstream creating the need?  What I would like to ask, happens when people get divorced? Oh yes there is often the trauma for the couple, definitely for any children involved, but then housing do they still live in the same house or are now two houses needed?

Now I think there are lots of upstream issues in our world that I think we need to look upstream to really help rather than just sticking plaster on the hurt at the point where the upstream issue has impacted.  Let’s think about some of the things we are reacting too.  What about the current government tax receipts shortages, are the upstream factories putting poison into the system?

At the moment we have more children coming into the care system than ever before, 2014 hit the highest need for Foster Carers for children than ever, we are doing our best with help and plasters, but is there an upstream issue we should be looking at?  In 2013 there were 68,110 children in the care system costing the taxpayer £2.5 Billion. The predicted increase in 2014 is said to be around 7%.  Will it go up again in 2015 are we dealing only with symptoms or is someone looking upstream and if so what is the cause?

According to the National Statistic office these figures are continuing to rise:
Number of children looked after at 31st march each year:
  • ·        2010 64,470
  • ·         2011 65,500
  • ·         2012 67,070
  • ·         2013 68,060
  • ·         2014 68,840

So I have picked up on just a couple of areas of our society and I am asking the question – its great and necessary to care, and to deal with symptoms, just like we would care in any situation such as a road accident for example, but it would be better to put things in place to stop the accident happening if we could, surely we should try and examine the upstream issues – don’t you think?

Adrian Hawkes
adrianhawkes.blogspot.com
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Edited by Gena Areola

Another Upstream Issue
The report is yet another example of the way that the practical action of the churches has been combined with a prophetic role in speaking out against structural injustice.  This is the synthesis we should always be looking for – compassion and justice – so that we continue to help people who are drowning in the river, but we also go upstream and find out who is pushing them in.

By John Kurt in Resistance and Renewal speaking about food banks and their need

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Metanarratives

Metanarratives
Many who read this probably do not know what a metanarrative is, that does not matter you will have one.  The word really means ‘the big picture’ but we often use it in terms of a ‘world view’.  “What’s that?” you might ask, well even though we don’t think about it often we all have one. And the thing about ‘world views’ because it’s the way we think, ultimately it will affect the way we live, our actions and all that we seek to do or not as the case might be.

There are lots of world views out there Christianity has its world view, its big picture if you will the start and the end, Communism has a world view, Atheism has a world view, Hinduism has a world view as does Buddhism.

Very often we do not think about our ‘world view’ but we are nevertheless living by them and when a lot of people adopt a particular world view it has an effect on our country, our culture, our laws in fact everything.

There is a great move in the UK and in fact many western countries to push us into a materialistic world view, that world view will ultimately change lots of things if more of us accept that, even subconsciously accept it, even though we may never have sat down and analysed ‘our world view’ even though we have maybe never thought about ‘world views' until you read what I am saying now.
I had a small discussion on TV with Richard Dawkins he got somewhat upset with me when I said that he was a good evangelist for his religion, i.e. Atheism, he of course does not see it as a religion. I do, and certainly that religious view will, in its tail give us a world view, that if we accept will lead us in certain directions.

Another funny thing happened while we were making the particularly slot in the TV programme, I am not sure why that particular part of that discussion arose but Richard said to me “I am more Moral than you are” I of course asked “and how is that so” to which Richard responded “well I don’t pillage or rape and I don’t need a god to stop me doing so, you on the other hand would argue that its God that gives you a moral base and so stops you from doing those things."

I responded by saying “bully for you, maybe you should watch the news more” my implication being that there is an awful lot of pillage and raping and other nasty things that people do to each other with their own justification. Maybe I should have asked, what is your morality and how does it work.  However just recently I have been able to see some of the argument more clearly from Richard’s perspective.

I don’t know if you ever saw the TV series of Faulty Towers, where Basil’s car breaks down, first Basil shouts at the car and then beats it with a stick because it won’t start Richard Dawkins uses this skit to explain his ‘moral’ position, and show us how we should act if we hold his world view / metanarrative.  Here is what he says:

Let's all stop beating Basil's car

Retribution as a moral principle is incompatible with a scientific view of human behaviour. As scientists, we believe that human brains, though they may not work in the same way as man-made computers, are as surely governed by the laws of physics. When a computer malfunctions, we do not punish it. We track down the problem and fix it, usually by replacing a damaged component, either in hardware or software. 

Basil Fawlty, British television's hotelier from hell created by the immortal John Cleese, was at the end of his tether when his car broke down and wouldn't start. He gave it fair warning, counted to three, gave it one more chance, and then acted. "Right! I warned you. You've had this coming to you!" He got out of the car, seized a tree branch and set about thrashing the car within an inch of its life. Of course we laugh at his irrationality. Instead of beating the car, we would investigate the problem. Is the carburettor flooded? Are the sparking plugs or distributor points damp? Has it simply run out of gas?

Why do we not react in the same way to a defective man: a murderer, say, or a rapist? Why don't we laugh at a judge who punishes a criminal, just as heartily as we laugh at Basil Fawlty? Or at King Xerxes who, in 480 BC, sentenced the rough sea to 300 lashes for wrecking his bridge of ships? Isn't the murderer or the rapist just a machine with a defective component? Or a defective upbringing? Defective education? Defective genes? 

Concepts like blame and responsibility are bandied about freely where human wrongdoers are concerned. When a child robs an old lady, should we blame the child himself or his parents? Or his school? Negligent social workers? In a court of law, feeble-mindedness is an accepted defence, as is insanity. Diminished responsibility is argued by the defence lawyer, who may also try to absolve his client of blame by pointing to his unhappy childhood, abuse by his father, or even unpropitious genes (not, so far as I am aware, unpropitious planetary conjunctions, though it wouldn't surprise me). 

But doesn't a truly scientific, mechanistic view of the nervous system make nonsense of the very idea of responsibility, whether diminished or not? Any crime, however heinous, is in principle to be blamed on antecedent conditions acting through the accused's physiology, heredity and environment. Don't judicial hearings to decide questions of blame or diminished responsibility make as little sense for a faulty man as for a Fawlty car? 

Why is it that we humans find it almost impossible to accept such conclusions? Why do we vent such visceral hatred on child murderers, or on thuggish vandals, when we should simply regard them as faulty units that need fixing or replacing?

Presumably because mental constructs like blame and responsibility, indeed evil and good, are built into our brains by millennia of Darwinian evolution. Assigning blame and responsibility is an aspect of the useful fiction of intentional agents that we construct in our brains as a means of short-cutting a truer analysis of what is going on in the world in which we have to live.

My dangerous idea is that we shall eventually grow out of all this and even learn to laugh at it, just as we laugh at Basil Fawlty when he beats his car. But I fear it is unlikely that I shall ever reach that level of enlightenment.'

So now I see the moral perspective that the atheist would have us come from, that is the world view. No responsibility, no blame, a mechanistic world view no less.

Let’s just fix them or replace them (does that mean we just kill them?)  I do think that ‘following Jesus’ gives us a much more enlightened metanarrative world view.  What do you think?


Adrian Hawkes
Blogspot.com
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Edited Gena Areola

Monday, 17 November 2014

Rochdale

Rochdale

Listening to the news coming out of Rochdale I know, as everyone is saying, that this is not the end of the story. For my readers who follow what is happening in the  British news, or those that don’t watch the news, there has come to light the fact that some 1,000 plus young people have been abused, prostituted and beaten, giving them lifelong problems.  Yet they were under the care of the authorities and had allocated social workers.  Police were also aware, but no one did anything in case political correctness was interrupted or their carers where put in jeopardy.

When I look at the regulations governing social work, fostering and the care of young people in the UK so much of it is good.  Good regulations, good intentions with an emphasis on good practice.  However it’s not so much the regulations that are at fault, rather the culture.  A culture that from many social workers is a culture of, I must protect my back at all costs.  I must make sure if something goes wrong then I don’t get the blame, and if it does go wrong how I can make sure I do not take any responsibility.  I must protect my career and my income my salary my job!

I have some sympathy with the approach, not a lot but some. I know that Social workers are often criticised for doing and criticised for not doing.  It’s a no win situation. But there is a huge cost to that culture, and who pays the cost of that, well as we can see in Rochdale it is of course vulnerable young people and children, the very people that the social workers and the system is there to look after and protect.

I wonder if it’s the training that puts this culture into the system.  Or is it Mrs Thatcher’s fault with her ‘look after number one’ that was promoted in the 80’s, or is it that we fail to think in terms of good and bad.  Even the word evil has become politically incorrect.  Often I will say to people when in those difficult situations ‘we need to ask what is right’ not what protects me or defends me, or my interests.  It can be that I lose out by doing what is right, it’s still wrong not to do it.

I’m also sympathetic to the ‘whistle blowers’ don’t tell me that they will be fine, legislation assures them that they will be protected, it’s too ‘under the carpet’ for that, I  still think they need to blow the whistle, even if being right puts them in the wrong place.  I do know what this means, we had a case whereby I encouraged a young person to take a particular authority to court for the wrongs being done to them, the authority used our service, I did think, they won’t use us after this, (I.E. encouraging the young person to take them to court) the young person won the case, rightly so, the local authority did not use our service again, can I prove that it was because of this case, of course not, it’s just one of those things.  Would I do it again, unfortunately yes, I say unfortunately because the moral imperative is more important than the consequences that I might suffer.

What do we need to do going forward, well maybe we should make sure that would be social workers foster for a year before being approved to start with, but what is really needed is a change of culture, that is not easy, usually it means a change of heart and many people don’t think that is possible, and certainly don’t know how it can be achieved.


Adrian Hawkes
Edited by Gena Areola
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Monday, 6 October 2014

Words

Words
I like words, actually trying to speak French gives me great frustrations as I know my vocabulary is incredibly small, which it is not in English.  I remember telling a story to a young lady in French, and at the end I said do you understand me, “yes” she replied, and then I asked “then why are you laughing?”  She replied, “Because it’s like listening to a five year old!”

I used to think that words where just how you expressed things, and so got irritated by those in the equality lobby who wanted to change expressions like chairman to chair person or manhole to person-hole.  It seemed to me to be picky and stupid.  I no longer think that way. I recognise that our words come from our thinking and actually re-enforces our actions.  So if we are sexist, using sexist expressions just enhances our bias.

For those of us who are followers of Jesus language is such an important element, words are important.  The great thing is that John, in his book in the New Testament part of the Bible, in the very the first verse says a very interesting thing about words; he says ‘The Word, became Flesh, and dwelt amongst us’.  He is of course talking about Jesus, and powerfully presenting the fact that God puts his words into action, in flesh and bones, so that we can really understand what is being said by a physical being in a historical setting in our time/ space/ world.

So then we as followers of this Word go on using words wrongly, and though we profess to say we think/believe something we, usually because it’s easier, use words that say the opposite.  Let me give you some examples.  We say we believe in the Priesthood of all believers but then refer to clergy and laity, which sort of in action tell you the opposite to what we have said we believe.  We say where you go to church, implying that church is a place or building, yet we profess to believe that we as people are the body of Christ, i.e. church.  I know it easy shorthand, but it is actually in action saying something opposite to what we say we believe.  People get irritated with me when they ask where do you go to church, and I reply, “You can do that?”  Puzzled look, what do you mean?  Well you can’t go to church you can only BE church – sure lots of the church can gather together, but you cannot go somewhere when you are it.

A friend used to ask me with a smile when I used to ask what time is the Service, do you mean for the car or do you need a service station. What do we think ‘divine service is anyway’ I guess if it is as scripture would have it ‘present your body a living sacrifice’ then I can understand?

Of course we use words in language to cover up the seemingly unacceptable don’t we so ‘Collateral damage’ ‘Friendly fire’ what we are really talking about is dead people, people who have been killed, but that sounds a bit harsh doesn't it.

Words are important, let’s try and say what we mean and mean what we say.


Adrian Hawkes
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Edited By Gena Areola.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

The Good Samaritan

The Good Samaritan

Some time ago, before the tribal troubles in Kenya I was speaking at a conference.  I was using for my talk the story of the Good Samaritan.  Knowing a little about the tensions of the area I used as my illustration one of the tribes, who in the area where I was, was not very popular to say the least. I chose this least popular tribe and used the tribal name instead of a Samaritan.

At the end of my talk, and the meeting over I was taken on one side and told how dangerous it was to speak thus. Much better to tell the story with the Samaritan as the good neighbour, as I did not understand the culture of tribal enmity, and by putting one of the ‘despised’ tribes in place of the Samaritan I was living dangerously, and people would not like it.

I wondered how we might tell the story today, maybe in the streets of London or New York perhaps, and some poor Christian guy has been mugged and beaten and is lying in the gutter.

Along comes a good Charismatic Pastor, who knowing that he has to preach to his good congregation hurries by on the other side of the Road, must protect himself to deliver the sermon.

Then along comes a worship leader par excellence, boxed instruments over the shoulder, ready to lead the people in Praise and Worship, very necessary that he was on time to tune the sound and check “1,2, 1,2, 1,2”, shame for the man in the gutter but there are people to lead, to stand, to raise holy hands; Very important that he was early to get it all ready.

Finally, a young Muslim guy saw the man from his nice new car, he stopped and lifted the mugged young Christian and put him, dirt and all, on the back seat of his new car and drove very quickly to the nearest hospital, phoning the police on his mobile.  He then visited the poor guy every day he remained in hospital until he was well again.  Which one I wonder was the man’s neighbour?
                .....................................................................

You can read the original story in Luke 10:25-37 I have put some of it here for you from the New International Version (NIV)


Jesus answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind ‘and, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ 28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbour?”
30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he travelled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

Adrian Hawkes
For adrianhawkes.blogspot.com
Edited by Gena Areola
w. 666


Sunday, 3 August 2014

Progressive Humans

Progressive Humans

A few of my friends have commented on this subject of late, which has set me thinking.  Every so often we have this flash of how progressive we are today, how clever we have become and how sorry we feel for those older or past that did not have our knowledge and so progress, and oh how civilised we have become.
I think that was the sort of zeitgeist around 1913 particularly in Europe and then of course came World War One 1914 - 1918 with all the civilised countries of Europe and then the world trying their best to annihilate each other.
Then of course the talk was that this was the war to end all wars, we would then become civilised. The progress of the humans could continue, we know so much better than those throughout history our forefathers and the like.  The dream was of course shattered by World War 2 1939 to 1945 with its mayhem and destruction and inhumanity to mankind by very ‘civilised progressive humans’.
It doesn’t take long for things to settle down, and I would guess that there was positivity in the 50s and certainly, there was ‘peace and love man’ in the 60’s and we are back were we started, the accident of the universe allows us to get better and better, we after all know so much more than those who went before.  Yes we have access to information at the touch of a button, we can get it on the internet, not that we always remember what we learnt or even had the wisdom to use what we know, but surely we are getting so much better, so much more civilised?  Perhaps we should not mention the Stalin regime, or Pol Pot or maybe Iraq, Syria, Rwanda, Kosovo, Bosnia Herzegovinian, do I need to say more?
As I think about the propensity to think that we are so much cleverer, wiser, knowledgeable than those who have gone before us, they didn’t know much did they, very superstitious, often using God to explain those things that they did not understand, at least that is what some would have us think. I am reminded, as I think about this ‘clever us now’, of an argument or was it a discussion between C. S Lewis that he relates in one of his essays.  The question is put that how silly it would be to imagine that if there is a God he would be interested in this tiny place Earth, of course the argument goes, in history they looked up and saw the sky and they did not know how large it was therefore it could seem that the Earth was the centre of the universe, now of course we know better.  I imagine Lewis pulling a book off the shelf and reading as follows, and perhaps saying “is this the sort of thing you mean?” and reading from the book he has pulled “in relation to the distance of the fixed stars Earth must be treated as a mathematical point without magnitude” “is that what you mean?”  I am sure the protagonist would reply “yes, that’s just what I meant, that’s what we now know”. Then Lewis checking, as if he needed to, saying “Oh this is from Almagest, Book one Chapter five and it was written by Ptolemy 2,000 years ago, so they obviously knew that then!”
I can hear the protagonist saying, “Well what about the nonsense of the virgin birth then? We certainly know how children are produced, and maybe Joseph didn’t understand”.  “That would be strange,” Lewis may have replied, “for then I wonder why if Joseph did not know the normal course of pregnancy he would record that on discovering his wife’s condition he was ‘minded to put her away’  Mathew chapter 1 verse 19.

 We really must stop thinking that those ancient people did not have knowledge were stupidly ignorant of normal processes of life and therefore were duped by what the Bible would list as miracles.
So are we really progressive humans, infinitely more knowledgeable, wiser and definatly more civilised?

Adrian Hawkes
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Edited By: Gena Areola

Friday, 11 July 2014

Culture - Challenge - Change - Conform

Culture – challenge – change - conform
One of the things that I ask audiences who say that they are Christians is, if you are one have you changed and what methodology do you think, you or God uses to change you.
I get lots of answers usually things like:
  • ·         The Bible
  • ·         Prayer
  • ·         The Holy Spirit
  • ·         Meeting with other Christians
  • ·         Love
  • ·         And others sometime a bit more obscure


Of course all of those things have a bearing on change, if change is necessary, however that is not actually how we change. In fact the funny thing is that the Bible does tell us what the method of change is, and more than that it tells us how to maintain and continue with the relevant and vital changes that are needed to become a new kind of person. The Book of Romans starts us off...12:2  Don't be conformed to this world (allow the world to squeeze you into its mould), but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what is the good, well-pleasing, and perfect will of God.

Thinking is what changes us, what we think.  So often we don’t, think that is.  When I was a teenager I used to hang out in what was euphemistically called coffee bars, the place where young people could legitimately go. You went there before you went out, and came back there after you had been out, if you see what I mean.  It was the place you met your date before you went on the date… Bit more like a house front room with frothy coffee and the very required juke box.

One of the things I noticed is, and that hasn't changed much in 50 years is that the music had to be very, very loud. In fact so loud that you couldn't think, I asked a few of my friends back then why they like the music so loud? Most of them answered the same, well they said “It saves me from having to think”!
The trouble is there are many times that we think we are thinking but we are not; rather I would say we are conforming.  We conform to our culture our peers, those we feel we need to impress, be the same as, want them to like us, feel part of the crowd, and be accepted.  All of those things going on inside of us but often without much thought.

I have been to a lot of parties of late, most of which I have to say not my age group, but even when occasionally it was my age group I note the attempt to conform to the group is very strong.  Our cultures, that we don’t think about puts us into a box where we act, do, be, just like everyone else but without much thinking.

Let’s be honest it’s hard to change culture, not that we shouldn't try particularly when culture has it wrong, which often it has.  When you change your thinking you can change your behavior, but changing others thinking is not that easy, even if your thinking is right and their’s is wrong.  Think about Ignaz Semmelweiss, don’t know him, well in 1847 he discovered that if doctors washed their hands before attending women in childbirth it dramatically reduced deaths from puerperal fever.  His views were ridiculed and eventually drove him insane – not that he was wrong but it took some 15 years for Pasteur and Lister to develop their germ theory of disease which explained why Semmelweiss was right.

Going back to those parties, why is it that we have to have so much Alcohol, so much ‘same’ music, so much ‘same dress style’ so much conformity.  Are we thinking or just culturally conforming, and if we are just peer pressure conforming, are we right to do so? Are we that different to my coffee bar era, ‘well it saves me from having to think?’

To quote Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett in ‘The Spirit level’ they said, It is a remarkable paradox that, at the pinnacle of human material and technical achievement, we find ourselves anxiety-ridden, prone to depression, worried about how others  see us, unsure of our friendships, driven to consume and with little or no community life.  Lacking the relaxed social contact and emotional satisfaction we all need we seek comfort in over-eating, obsessive shopping and spending, or becoming prey to excessive alcohol, psychoactive medicines and illegal drugs.
So why am I going on.  Well because I want to provoke you to THINK!  Think what about?
Well:
  • ·         Why are you here in this world?
  • ·         What is it that needs changing?
  • ·         What is it that you could do to effect change?
  • ·         Why are you just being one of the crowd?
  • ·         Where are you going anyway?
  • ·         When are you going to do something constructive?


Sometime the problem starts by what you think about yourself, again to quote the Bible it says in Proverbs 23:7 Paraphrasing “as you think in your heart so you are”  So what do you think about you, are you insecure, unsure, do you think of yourself as not so good.  Well to start with that would need to change if you are to tackle the thinking above.  And of course it can and should change.

 What should you be doing?  Shouldn't you be the person to change things, by first of all changing your own thinking?  Why be a ‘samee’ why not be a change agent? You could be a world changer, but first you probably have to change, personally I do that by firstly becoming a follower of Jesus, then trying hard to ‘not conform’ and putting on the mind of Christ, thinking about good things rather than bad, in fact seeking to renew my mind.  Not got there yet, but trying and on the way.

How about you, wouldn't you rather be here to change things rather than just be one of the crowd?  Think about it!  There’s a challenge!
Adrian’s Blog
Edited by Technicolour Text
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