Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Happy New Year

I never used to observe New Year. While others were getting ready to celebrate, I went to bed. I didn't see the point. New Year's Day was just the same as the day before; the only thing that had changed was the date on the calendar.

Then I discovered, to my surprise, that although I didn't observe New Year, God did. I went to a church where they had the habit of holding a watchnight service on New Year's Eve. I found that God spoke to us during the service by leading us to Bible promises to direct us and encourage us in the year ahead.

New Year is a good time for looking back at what you did and what you didn't do. It's a good time for looking forward at what you're hoping to do and what you're hoping not to do. It's a good time for looking backward, looking forward and looking up.

May each one of you have a blessed and a prosperous New Year.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The best gift of all

Lee Strobel is a well known American Christian writer. More than 30 years ago he was an atheist, working at that time as a reporter on the Chicago Tribune.

During his time there he wrote a series of articles about Chicago's neediest people. For one of them, he visited a 60-year-old grandmother named Perfecta Delgado, living in a tiny two-room flat with her granddaughters Lydia and Jenny, aged 11 and 13.

Their previous home had been gutted by fire. Here they had no carpet, no furniture except a small kitchen table, and just a handful of rice to eat. The girls had only one short-sleeved dress each and a thin sweater between them. When they walked in the bitter cold to school, one would wear the sweater half-way there, then hand it to her sister to wear the rest of the way.

Perfecta had arthritis and was unable to work. She did, however, have a faith in Jesus and spoke about Him often. She said she was convinced that He had not abandoned them. Though there wasn't much in the flat by way of material goods, there was, somehow, a gentle feeling of hope and peace.

Strobel talked with them, got the material for his article, and went his way.

On Christmas Eve he was on duty in the Tribune newsroom. It was a poor news day; nothing was happening. On a whim, he decided to go back to Perfecta's flat and see how they were doing.

One of the girls opened the door. He could scarcely believe his eyes. Inside the flat there were rugs, roomfuls of furniture, a Christmas tree, presents, piles of warm winter clothes and boxes and boxes of food, all of it sent by people who had read his newspaper article.

What surprised him even more was that Perfecta and the girls were preparing to give much of it away. Why, he wanted to know. "Our neighbours are still in need," said Perfecta. "We can't have plenty while they have nothing. This is what Jesus would want us to do."

Strobel asked her how she felt about the generosity of the people who had sent all the goods.

"This is wonderful," she said. "This is very good. We did nothing to deserve this. This is a gift from God.

"But it's not His greatest gift. We celebrate that tomorrow. That's Jesus."

Happy Christmas!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Legalised euthanasia 'a mistake'

While we are on the subject of euthanasia, Els Borst, who was Dutch Health Minister when the Netherlands became the first country in the world to legalise euthanasia in the early Noughties, has now said that legalising euthanasia was a mistake, and they should first have focussed on palliative care.

Care for the terminally ill had declined, she said, since euthanasia became legal, and more should have been done to give legal protection to those who wanted a natural death.

In 2008, Dutch doctors reported 2,331 cases of euthanasia, 400 cases of assisted suicide and 550 deaths without request. There is, of course, no record of the cases that weren't reported.

Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Dutch Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, said that even today effective palliative care was not in place in the Netherlands.

The country's politicians had denied there had been a "slippery slope." But how could you say that, he said, when euthanasia was originally only for the terminally ill and was now for the mentally ill and newborn babies?

Saturday, December 12, 2009

A new turn in assisted dying battle

An unusual situation has occurred in the UK. For years, proponents of euthanasia have fought to have euthanasia made legal. For years, Parliament has refused to oblige.

Some few years ago, the euthanasia lobby changed tactic. It decided to press for assisted suicide to be made legal as a first step. Several bills were brought forward, but again Parliament declined to change the law.

Brits who wanted help to die travelled to an assisted suicide facility in Switzerland. Technically, relatives who accompanied them left themselves open to a charge of assisting a suicide. Police investigated the circumstances on their return, but none of the relatives were prosecuted.

Then a multiple sclerosis sufferer named Debbie Purdy, backed by the organisation that used to be known as the Voluntary Euthanasia Society but changed its name to Dignity in Dying, went to the High Court requesting an assurance that her husband would not be prosecuted if he accompanied her on such a journey. Unsurprisingly, the High Court declined to give her such an assurance, and the Appeal Court agreed with that decision.

She appealed to the House of Lords. Lord Phillips, the senior law lord, announcing the Lords' decision, said the law was unclear and the Director of Public Prosecutions must state in what circumstances he would and would not prosecute. The DPP, Keir Starmer, did so, thus effectively allowing assisted suicide in some circumstances without a change in the law by Parliament.

Lord Phillips said in an interview with the Daily Telegraph: "I have enormous sympathy with anyone who finds themselves facing a quite hideous termination of their life as a result of one of these horrible diseases, in deciding they would prefer to end their life more swiftly and avoid that death as well as avoiding the pain and distress that might cause their relatives."

In the meantime, at very considerable expense, the position of highest court in the land was transferred from the House of Lords to the new Supreme Court, which has Lord Phillips as its president.

Entering into the story at this point is a remarkable lady named Alison Davis. She was born with severe spina bifida. She also suffers from hydrocephalus, emphysema, osteoporosis and arthritis. She is confined to a wheelchair, is doubly incontinent and sometimes has intractable pain. For 10 years she wanted to die and several times attempted suicide until friends persuaded her that her life was worth living.

She went to India to visit seriously disabled children and became "mother" to 130 of them. She established a charity to support them and learned Telugu so she could write to them in their own language. She is a committed pro-lifer and heads an organisation called No Less Human, which stands up for the rights of the disabled.

Ms Davis, backed by the Christian Legal Centre, is seeking to challenge the law lords' decision in the Purdy case in the Supreme Court. She said the DPP's guidelines not only are "unfair, unjust and fatally discriminatory against suffering people, who deserve the same presumption in favour of life as any able-bodied person would automatically receive," but have no place in a civilised society.

Her legal challenge says the "expression of the private 'political' view of Lord Phillips in the Daily Telegraph raises a question of apparent bias" and his personal sympathy invalidated the House of Lords decision. (A House of Lords judgment in a previous case regarding immunity of prosecution of Chile's General Pinochet was set aside because Lord Hoffman, one of the law lords, had links to Amnesty International.)

It further claims that "the decision of the former House of Lords is 'unconstitutional' and usurps the power of Parliament," and calls for the full Supreme Court to reconsider the Purdy case.

It will be interesting to see how the Supreme Court responds.

Monday, December 07, 2009

The problems with global warming (3)

I have said that I do not believe in man-made global warming. I appear to be in good company. There are many who claim that there is no hard evidence for global warming, and even if there were, for the fact that man is responsible.

Melanie Phillips, for instance, points to the 700-plus international scientists who are critical of global warming theory. They have variously said that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is telling lies about the relationship between climate change and hurricanes, that its ice-core research is wrong, and that its statements are "all a fiction" and "the biggest scientific scam ever," with "no evidence to prove that current climate variations are not a natural cycle."

A couple of weeks ago hackers obtained around 1,000 e-mails sent to or received by Professor Phil Jones, director of the climate research unit at the University of East Anglia, and published them on the internet. The unit's work has been crucial in building the case for global warming.

The e-mails appeared to show that climate figures had been manipulated. What appeared to have happened was that scientists, rather than base their findings on the figures, had manipulated the figures to agree with what they thought was the case.

I am not an expert on climate. I want to make that quite clear. But there is one thing I do know.

Many years ago, after a worldwide flood, God said "While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and winter and summer, and day and night shall not cease" (Gen 8:22).

That's God's promise.

The trouble is there are a lot of people who think they know better than God does, and even more people who are ready to believe them.

The problems with global warming (2)

Some 15,000 delegates, 45,000 green activists and 5,000 journalists will be in Copenhagen for the UN's climate change conference over the next 11 days.

It is estimated that the Climate Change Act, passed in the UK a year ago, will already cost Britain £18 billion, or £720 for every household in the country, every year between now and 2050. But that, it seems, is not enough.

A few weeks ago British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said negotiators had until the Copenhagen conference to save the world from global warming. The alternative to united action was a catastrophe of floods, droughts and killer heatwaves. The cost of failing to address global warming, he said, would be greater than the impact of two world wars and the Great Depression.

You might have thought the purpose of the conference was simply to consider whatever was responsible. Not so. A treaty had been prepared for signing at the conference, we are told, which would create a new global organisation with power, under the guise of saving the planet, to transfer money from one nation to another, and to enforce the conditions of the treaty.

The goal of the environmental movement, we are told, was to use climate change to bring the nations under the umbrella of an organisation with global governance.

Lord Monckton, a former adviser to Margaret Thatcher, has argued that global warming hysteria was being advanced by the political left to impose global taxes on the United States in pursuit of international control of the US economy under a one-world government to be administered by the UN.

He told the Americans: "I read that treaty and what it says is that a world government is going to be created. The word 'government' actually appears as the first of three purposes of the new entity.

"The second purpose is the transfer of wealth from the countries of the West to Third World countries, in satisfaction of what is called, coyly, 'climate debt' because we have been burning CO2 and they haven't. And the third purpose of this new entity, this government, is enforcement. . .

"Unless you stop it, your president will sign your freedom, your democracy and your humanity away forever."

It was reported that President Obama was "leaning toward not going" to the Copenhagen conference. Then that he would be there for the first days, but not at the end. Last week it was said he would not be there at the beginning, but at the end, when the decisions would be made.

So what will be decided at the Copenhagen conference? We shall soon know.