Saturday, July 31, 2010

'Right to die' battle goes on

Attempts to nibble away at the extent of UK legislation on end-of-life matters are becoming ever more daring and more dangerous.

After attempts to legalise assisted suicide failed and campaigner Debbie Purdy wanted an assurance that her husband would not be prosecuted if he accompanied her to a Swiss suicide clinic, Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer, required to state when prosecutions could be expected, announced prosecution for assisted suicide would be unlikely if it was "wholly motivated by compassion," thus permitting assisted suicide under certain circumstances.

Now the High Court is to be asked for a decision on what should happen where cases of murder are "wholly motivated by compassion."

Tony Nicklinson, a 56-year-old father of two from Chippenham, Wiltshire, has been paralysed for five years following a severe stroke. He is fed through a tube, is able to move only his head and his eyes, and communicates by nodding or blinking at letters on a perspex board.

He says he has no privacy or dignity left, is "fed up" with life and does not wish to continue living. He is said to be physically unable to commit suicide, and if his 54-year-old wife Jan did what was necessary to end his life, she would technically be open to a charge of murder. Murder carries a mandatory life sentence.

Mr Nicklinson, who is supported by the former Voluntary Euthanasia Society, is said to want clarity on how the law of murder applies in cases of genuine "mercy killing" so he can understand the implications for his wife.

His lawyers will argue that the law against murder interferes with his rights to autonomy under the European Convention on Human Rights.

Human rights legislation, originally intended to protect people's right to life, now appears to be being used to support a right to die.

Pro-lifers say weakening the law could leave vulnerable people without adequate legal protection. It could also lead to a belief that the lives of disabled people are of less worth than others.

It will be worth it all

Paul the apostle was a monster before his conversion to Christ, seeing Stephen stoned to death and dragging people off to prison. God changed him. He became a man who loved people and a man people loved.

The last time Paul saw elders from the church at Ephesus, he warned them that teachers of false doctrine would appear in their church (Acts 20:28 - 31). He wrote to Timothy, who was at Ephesus, warning him of false teachers in the church there and encouraging him to preach sound doctrine, resisting "profane and old wives' fables" and "useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds" (1 Tim 1:3 - 7, 18 - 20; 4:6, 7; 6:3 - 5; 2 Tim 2:14 - 18; 3:13, 14; 4:1 - 4).

It seems like the elders at Ephesus did a good job. Years later, when John the apostle had the revelation that became the book of Revelation, Jesus told him to write to the church at Ephesus, letting them know what He had to say about them: "I know your works, your labour, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them to be liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have laboured for my name's sake and have not become weary" (Rev 2:2, 3).

Unfortunately, something else had occurred that needed their attention: "Nevertheless, I have this against you, that you have left your first love" (v4). Yet Jesus gave them a promise: "To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God" (v7).

Maybe a Christian is reading this just now who has battled for years against some particular thing and has won. But something else has cropped up and you feel it is all too much and you feel like packing in. Don't do it. Jesus says "I know your works, your labour, your patience. . . "

Jesus has a promise for you. "To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God." Stay faithful, and one day we will fellowship with the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit, the angels and all the saints in the New Jerusalem, where righteousness rules and there is no sickness, no pain and no sorrow.

Keep on battling on. It will be worth it all.

Monday, July 26, 2010

No wonder parents are horrified

The politically correct children-must-have-more-sex-education-at-all-costs brigade is still going full tilt.

(A report by Ofsted complains that schools are failing to consult parents about the content of lessons, teaching pupils all they need to know about the biology of sex but placing little emphasis on the importance of marriage, failing to discuss the possibility that children can say no to sexual intercourse, and exposing children to materials inappropriate for their age. About time too, you might think.)

Family and Youth Concern reports on the experience of Mrs Lisa Bullivant, a young mother from Lincolnshire. She received a brief letter from her daughter's Church of England primary school saying the children would be having sex education lessons but giving no details of materials to be used. Some of the children had recently turned seven. She assumed the materials would be appropriate for the children's ages.

Says Mrs B: "How wrong I was. My daughter came home and tearfully informed me that she had learned about sex and that it had frightened and upset her. . . The effects of what our children had been taught became alarmingly apparent. Children were found simulating sex on top of other children and some children were telling much younger children what they had learned, much to the horror of their parents. Still others were openly stating to their parents that they now wanted to have sex.

"Some children, including my daughter, became very upset and worried about the whole matter. She was not emotionally or mentally able to cope with this information. She would often burst into tears if she started to think about it and I had to spend a lot of time comforting her and talking to her, trying to repair the damage that this DVD had caused to her innocent young mind."

The DVD was Channel 4's Living and Growing.

"I managed to find out what DVD the school had used and I and other parents watched it on the internet in horror. It was so graphic and the narrative was appalling. It promoted sex as a wonderful feeling and exciting - no wonder some of the children now wanted to try it.

"A number of parents made formal complaints in writing to the governing body and the local authority. . . We were fobbed off at every point. Our request for a meeting with the school's complaints committee was not even acknowledged and a final letter I received was inconsistent and full of false claims. The local authority backed these claims and said they were satisfied that the school had acted properly."

Morally deformed individuals in positions of authority are messing up the lives of innocent children, which makes me very angry. And very sad.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Saved by moving his eyes

Richard Rudd, a 43-year-old coach driver from Kidderminster, having heard that a friend had become a paraplegic after an accident, once told his family that he wouldn't want to be kept alive if that ever happened to him.

Nine months ago he was riding his motor bike when he was in an accident with a car. He was thrown 20 feet, suffered severe spinal injuries and later developed a blood infection and a bout of pneumonia. He lay in hospital unable to move.

His family, convinced there was no way he would want to live with his injuries, agreed that his life support should be switched off.

Then Professor David Menon, of the neuro critical care unit at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge, noticed that Richard - the father of two teenage girls - could move his eyes. It became clear that he was aware of what was happening and that he could answer questions by moving his eyes to the right or the left.

Asked several times if he wanted to continue to be treated, he clearly indicated that he did.

Although he is not expected to recover completely, he can already move his head a little, smile and make facial expressions.

What a person says when he is fit and well and how he feels when he is in a life threatening situation are two very different things.

Richard's father put it well. "We all sit round and talk in the pub or at work and say 'If this happened to me, turn the machine off.' It's all hypothetical and you don't know until it happens to yourself.

"But now Richard's in the situation where that's actually happened. It's real life - it's not pretend. He is in that situation.

"Making a living will could be detrimental to your own health. Imagine if you changed your mind and you couldn't communicate it.

"If that person can't decide for themselves, sometimes you feel you can decide for them. You probably have no right to do that.

"For my part, I'm glad he's alive."

Richard's moving story, Between Life and Death, filmed by the BBC, can be seen on YouTube. You can watch it by clicking here.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Killing babies a 'lesser evil'?

An article about abortion in the Times has caused something of a storm.

Antonia Senior, who wrote it, was once out-and-out for abortion rights. A woman's body, her choice, end of story.

While pro-lifers, she says, insisted that a baby is a life, with rights, from the moment of conception, people in the pro-choice camp, like her, insisted that an embryo is not a person: we were talking only about a potential life, with no rights.

Then something happened to Antonia: a baby came along. And her moral certainty about abortion began to waver. Her absolutist position came under siege. "Having a baby," she says, "paints the world an entirely different hue. Black and white no longer quite cut it.

"What seems increasingly clear to me is that, in the absence of an objective definition, a foetus is a life by any subjective measure. My daughter was formed at conception, and all the barely understood alchemy that turned the happy accident of that particular sperm meeting that particular egg into my darling, personality-packed toddler took place at that moment. She is so unmistakably herself, her own person - forged in my womb, not by my mothering.

"Any other conclusion is a convenient lie that we on the pro-choice side of the debate tell ourselves to make ourselves feel better about the action of taking a life. That little seahorse shape floating in a willing womb is a growing miracle of life."

So far, so good. But then comes the shocking bit.

Antonia came to consider if there was any cause she was prepared to die for. She decided there was one: a woman's right to be educated, to have a life beyond the home and to be allowed by law and custom to order her own life as she chooses - and that included control over her own fertility.

"The answer lies in choosing the lesser evil. The nearly 200,000 aborted babies in the UK each year are the lesser evil, no matter how you define life, or death, for that matter. If you are willing to die for a cause, you must be prepared to kill for it too."*

In other words, even if you believe the baby within you is a living human being, you ought to be prepared to kill it if convenience demands.

The article caused a stir because people are asking if this signals a change in the abortion debate. Are people who are in favour of abortion going to admit freely that the baby is a human person but that the woman has a perfect right to kill it anyway?

If this is the case, what, then, will be response of the pro-life community?

*There are in fact more than 200,000 abortions in the UK each year. The figure of nearly 200,000 is for England and Wales only.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

It stands to reason. Doesn't it?

I wrote here about Jack Kinsella's suggestion that if you are in conversation with an atheist, he is likely to challenge you to prove that God exists, lest he is asked to prove that God doesn't exist (because he can't).

Jack Kinsella is at it again. Seeking to disprove atheists' arguments, that is. One of the most formidable obstacles atheism must contend with, he says, is the existence of its principal tool - the ability to reason.

Knowledge is attained by reasoned thought and by reasoned thought, the atheist has concluded that he
knows there is no God. . .

What is the evolutionist's explanation for the ability to reason? They argue it is the result of chemical reactions in the brain. But chemicals react - they don't think, or reason, or plan.

It is a bedrock principle of science that an effect cannot be greater than its cause. A chemical reaction cannot generate morality, immorality, reason or rationality.

reaction is the result of an action. Reason, on the other hand, is the analysis of that action. . .

The ability to reason can only come from one of two sources. It was either the product of intelligent design or it was the result of mindless chance.

Since the mindless cannot create the mind, there is only one reasonable explanation - that the mind was created by intelligent design and implanted with a divine moral code.

Just as a chemical reaction cannot explain reason, reason cannot explain a moral code. . .

If a deer population in a particular area grows too dense, conservationists will hold a 'deer cull' - a special hunting season on deer to reduce the population and ensure the survival of the species.

The morality of taking a deer's life is not at issue when the alternative is the needless suffering, starvation or death of the whole population.
Why is it immoral to do the same with human beings?. . .

Even if a chemical reaction could explain
how we know right from wrong, it doesn't explain why culling deer is right and culling humans is wrong.

What is the objective standard? Upon what basis do we form such profound judgments?. . .

If they are nothing more than the mindless product of random chance chemical reactions in the brain, how
can we KNOW anything?

We can't. The effect cannot be greater than the cause. Knowledge is greater than random chemical reaction.

You can't be an atheist without having faith in your own reason and judgment, but the basis for your faith cannot be explained apart from the Creator God that you are sure (based on your God-given ability to reason) does not exist.

Of course, recognizing intelligent design is not the same thing as recognizing a loving God Who sent His only begotten Son to atone for the sins of mankind at the Cross.

But it's a start.

Sounds reasonable to me.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Legalisation by stealth?

Recent news has not been good news for those people who want to see euthanasia and assisted suicide legalised in the UK.

Cases of euthanasia in the Netherlands have increased by 13 per cent in the past year, prompting the health ministry there to open an inquiry. In Belgium, where euthanasia is also legal, provided it is carried out by a doctor and with the patient's consent, 120 nurses admitted to researchers that they had taken part in euthanasia where patients had not asked for their lives to be ended.

Large numbers of urns containing human ashes were found dumped in a lake near the Swiss suicide facility Dignitas, where British people have gone for assisted suicide. A former employee said for Dignitas to dump human ashes there was common practice. Dignitas is under investigation for allegedly ignoring the mental condition of a patient - a paranoid schizophrenic - in helping him to die.

And an investigation by a Swiss publication has suggested that the assisted suicide business has made Dignitas' founder, Ludwig Minelli, a millionaire. He apparently claimed to have no taxable personal fortune in 1998, when Dignitas began, but was worth more than £1 million by 2007. Mr Minelli denied any wrongdoing.

In the UK, euthanasia and assisted suicide remain illegal, though it looks like prosecutions are increasingly less likely.

Michael Irwin, a former chairman of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society and a former GP, is said to have helped at least eight people to die. He was struck off the medical register by the General Medical Council in 2005. He wrote to the Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer, admitting he had travelled to the Dignitas clinic with cancer patient Raymond Cutkelvin and paid £1,500 towards the cost of Mr Cutkelvin's death, and inviting the DPP to prosecute. He is not, however, to stand trial.

Despite the fact that there is sufficient evidence for a case, Mr Starmer says it would not be in the public interest to prosecute, evidently because the case does not fulfil enough of the criteria he has published under which cases will be brought.

Dr Peter Saunders, of Care Not Killing, writes on his blog: "This sort of 'legal sanction' is exactly what first happened in the Netherlands and led to an eventual change in the law in that country - legalisation by stealth."

The danger in the UK at this time, it seems, is not that the law will be changed, but that the law will be ignored.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

How times change!

John Wesley was the founder of Methodism; he and his brother Charles were the spiritual fathers of the Methodist movement. Both shared God's love for the Jewish people and believed the many Bible promises that the Jews would be restored to their promised land (including the area known today as the West Bank and East Jerusalem).

They instructed the Methodists that they must speak tenderly to the Jewish people. The softest and gentlest prayers from Christians are the key, they said, for God to bring life from the dead to Israel, and through them to the church and the whole world.

Charles Wesley, who had an almost incredible gift for writing hymns, some of which, like "And can it be that I should gain," "Hark the herald angels sing" and "O for a thousand tongues to sing" are still in use today, wrote hymns about God's heart for the Jewish people and about those Bible promises.

One says, in part:

Of all the ancient race
Not one be left behind,
But each, impelled by secret grace,
His way to Canaan find.

We know it must be done,
For God hath spoke the word:
All Israel shall the Saviour own,
To their first state restored;
Rebuilt by his command,
Jerusalem shall rise;
Her temple on Moriah stand
Again, and touch the skies.

Send then thy servants forth,
To call the Hebrews home;
From East, and West, and South, and North,
Let all the wanderers come;
Where'er in lands unknown
The fugitives remain,
Bid every creature help them on,
The holy mount to gain.

On June 30 this year the UK Methodist Conference discussed Israel. It was asked to approve the Kairos Palestinian document, written by Palestinian Christians,
which says that the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land is a sin against God and humanity.

It says "fundamentalist Bible interpretation" supports unjust political options with regard to the Palestinian people, is used to deprive Palestinians of their rights in their own land, and brings death and destruction. It calls for liberation of Palestinian territories from Israeli occupation, which, it says, severely restricts religious liberty, disregards international law and violates human rights.

It claims that there would be no Palestinian resistance if there were no occupation, and that if Israel ends the occupation, there will be security, justice and peace. The Israeli occupation, it says, is an evil which must be resisted. Resistance in the face of the Israeli occupation is a right and duty for the Christian.

The conference decided to boycott all goods and services produced in Judea and Samaria (what today's media call the West Bank and East Jerusalem and the conference calls "illegal Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories") and to encourage Methodists across Britain to do the same.

The Methodist Conference has never previously issued a boycott against a country. It is not now issuing a boycott against any other country. Just Israel.

The conference also called for a full arms embargo on both sides in the conflict. The secretary of the World Council of Churches, Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, wrote to congratulate the Methodists on their decision.

If the Wesley brothers came back to the Methodist Conference, they wouldn't recognise it.

I am grateful to Avner Boskey, a theologian and director of Final Frontier Ministries, for pointing out Charles Wesley's hymns about Israel's restoration. In an attempt to draw a comparison between the revival spirit which accompanied Methodism's beginning and the state of the Methodist church today, he says:

Who will intercede with the God of Jacob so that "Ichabod" will not be written over the archways and entranceways of the churches of the United Kingdom?

Who will get up on the wall and pray that vintage evangelical fire, courage and commitment to biblical truth will again fall in power upon the pulpits and conference podiums of England?

Who will again raise up a Wesleyan standard of burning love, tender intercession, courageous vision and meaningful practice towards the Jewish people and their regathered state?

All right, who?

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Turning pains into pearls

Christians make mistakes. They are misunderstood. They are persecuted because of what they stand for. Apart from the usual problems and difficulties of life, it seems they have trials and testings all of their own.

The good news is that God can use them all. "We know," says Paul, "that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose" (Rom 8:28). For the Christian, God will bring good out of the worst situation.

Besides, the difficult things we go through equip us to empathise, to draw alongside, to help others going through the same sort of situation.

Selwyn Hughes describes it beautifully:

Christians are to follow in the steps of Jesus and turn their sufferings to good account. The way in which this is to be done is beautifully illustrated by the experience of the oyster, into whose shell there comes one day a grain of sand. This tiny piece of quartz lies there imposing pain and stress - so what shall the oyster do?

There are several courses open. The oyster could, as so many men and women have done in times of adversity, openly rebel against God. The oyster, metaphorically speaking, could shake a fist in God's face and say, 'Why should this happen to me?' Or it could say, 'It can't be true; this is not happening to me. I must not permit myself to believe it.' It could say also, 'There is no such thing as pain. It is an error of the mind. I must think positive thoughts.' But the oyster does none of these things.

What, then, does it do? Slowly and patiently, and with infinite care, the oyster builds upon the grain of sand layer upon layer of a white milky substance that covers every sharp corner and coats every cutting edge. And gradually. . . slowly. . . by and by, a pearl is made. The oyster has learned - by the will of God - to turn grains of sand into pearls. And that is the lesson we must learn along this pilgrim way. Surely it is something more than a simile when the Bible says that the entrance into the New Jerusalem is through a gate made of pearl. It is pointing out that the way into the city of God is through a wound that has been healed. Let God help you turn your pains into pearls, so that others can walk through them into joy and encouragement.

[1] Selwyn Hughes. Every Day with Jesus, March/ April, 2010. Farnham, Surrey: CWR, 2009. Used by permission of CWR.

Just for fun (3)

Did you read about the man who tried to train his budgerigar to eat through a straw?

It didn't succeed.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Making God smile

Will you permit me to record another love story that will warm the cockles of your heart?

Vernon McAlister and Sue, who was to be his wife, met while both were working on Vernon's father's farm in South Carolina. They married when he was 20 and she was 15.

The years passed by. When he was 92 and she was 87, Vernon fell and broke his hip. Doctors at the hospice where he was taken said he would not live long.

Then Vernon had a dream. In the dream, his wife Sue was in a room decorated with lace. She stood near a window, bathed in sunlight, dressed in a lace gown and veil, waiting for him to marry her again.

He asked the nurses to help him stay alive a few more days, so he could celebrate his 72nd wedding anniversary with his wife.

The day after his anniversary, said, they had a second wedding ceremony. Vernon lay in bed dressed in a smart shirt and tie. His wife stood by the bed in a pink gown and white veil, carrying a bouquet of roses. With their five children looking on, they renewed their wedding vows.

Said Vernon: "My father told me she would make a good wife. I couldn't have imagined how right he was. She is just purely wonderful. She is a jewel."

Said Sue of her husband: "He has taken care of me my whole life. He has loved me and respected me and cherished me the way he said he would when I was just a young girl and he was just a young man.

"We have not always had an easy life. But if you put God first, you can endure and your marriage can endure."

Retired pastor Bill French, a friend of the family who conducted the ceremony, said they were an example to the world. "When you took those vows all those years ago, no one could have known how long that walk together would be. You have fulfilled your promise, and God is smiling."

A few days later Vernon McAlister died, his wife at his bedside.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

The sex education war

Sex education is an ideological battlefield on which a war is being waged for the hearts and minds of children. Behind the innocuous-sounding words used by the sex education lobby, there is a definite agenda at work to undermine the role of parents and to tear down traditional moral standards. The need for parents to be alert and vigilant has never been greater.

Who says so? The Family Education Trust (otherwise known as Family and Youth Concern), whose aims are to uphold marriage and traditional family life and promote young people's welfare.

And with good reason. NICE, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, which advises on medicines and health issues - its chief role is to ration NHS drugs - has issued draft guidance on sex education suggesting that all children should be taught about sex and relationships starting at five and continuing into early adulthood.

The Labour Government legislated to make sex education part of the schools' national curriculum for the first time for pupils from the age of five upwards, but because of opposition Schools Secretary Ed Balls scrapped the sex education provisions in order to get the remainder of the Children, Schools and Families Bill into law in the limited time available before the General Election. Members of the sex education lobby were said to be furious, and attempts to reintroduce such provisions were expected.

The NICE draft guidance contains positive points, which might cause some people to be confused. But it also says

Research evidence does not support use of an approach to sex and relationships education that only teaches abstinence. Evidence shows that this does not help prevent the initiation of sex, or reduce the frequency of intercourse or reduce the number of partners a young person may have. Rather, such an approach may increase early sexual activity and its consequent risks.

(There is ample evidence that abstinence education is effective.)

It says school
governors, teachers, nurses and community groups should

Reassure parents that sex and relationships education does not promote early sex, increase rates of sexual activity or increase the likelihood of sexual experimentation. Rather, it helps children and young people to resist pressure to get involved in activities that might damage their health. It also gives them the skills and confidence to delay sex until they are ready to enjoy a responsible and mutually loving relationship.

(Until they are ready?)

All involved in education should

Promote awareness of and sensitivity to diverse faith and cultural beliefs, and encourage understanding of different beliefs and practices, for example, in relation to alcohol use, sexual orientation and abortion. Discrimination and prejudices should be discussed and challenged.

(Prejudices against homosexual relationships and against abortion?)

It says that

A planned programme of sex and relationships education (SRE) that includes information and opportunities for discussion about sexual health, sexually transmitted infections, methods of contraception, pregnancy and abortion can help children and young people to delay sexual activity until they are ready. It does not cause them to have sex at an earlier age, or to have more sex, or sex with more partners, nor does it increase the number of unwanted or teenage conceptions and abortions.

(There is no explanation of why the more sex education there is, the more unwanted pregnancies and the more abortions increase.)


An overemphasis on concerns about the potential negative consequences of sex for young people, including teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, has sometimes led to an unbalanced approach to SRE that ignores the importance of consent and mutually rewarding sexual relationships for individual wellbeing.

(No mention, you will notice, of the context of sex within marriage.)

Norman Wells, of Family and Youth Concern, said "The team that drafted the guidance included lobby groups with an agenda to break down moral standards and redefine the family. Organisations with a commitment to marriage and traditional family values were not represented."

The draft guidance (you can read it in full here) is open for comment via the NICE website until July 15. Submissions will then be considered, and final guidance is expected in January.

Christian Concern for Our Nation is appealing for parents, teachers and school representatives to respond to the consultation.

Will you write and express your concerns? You should use the form here.