Thursday, September 23, 2010

It's time for parents to wake up

Britain remains at the top of the league table of Western nations when it comes to teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.

The UK Government has spent £280 million on sex education and contraception. The result is dismal failure.

The fact that the Government is still insisting that more sex education and more free contraception are the answer and politicians are still wanting compulsory sex education for children from five years old would be amazing if it were not for the fact that people don't seem to realise what is going on here.

The United Nations organisation UNESCO has prepared international guidelines on education in sexuality which it sees as a "need and entitlement" of all children from the age of five, with an explicit approach which it admits will horrify many politicians, policymakers and parents.

Simon Blake, director of Brook and a member of the Teenage Pregnancy Independent Advisory Group that advises the Government, said "We need a grown-up conversation with young people. We need to make sure they are having sex when they are ready and for the right reasons, are able to enjoy it and take responsibility for it."

Gill Francis, chairperson of the same TPIAG, said "Discussions on sexual pleasure help children realise sex should be enjoyed, allowing them to take responsibility for decisions and recognise issues around coercive sex."

The idea is that if Britain's children were better educated in sexual matters and could be taught to use contraception responsibly then all would be well. It is not true. A report by UNICEF shows widespread use of contraception. Dr Trevor Stammers, an authority on teenage sexuality, says 80 per cent of teenagers who become pregnant are using some form of contraception.

Brenda Almond, professor of social and moral philosophy at Hull University, writes in the Daily Mail: "Traditional moral values have all but evaporated in modern Britain. As a result, there is no ethical basis to any of the advice given to young people about sex. In Britain, sex education is, quite literally, just words.

"Indeed, so powerful is this collapse of a stable moral code in Britain that youth counsellors, campaigners, teachers and ministers are now terrified about making any judgments whatsoever about an individual's behaviour.

"Do whatever you want, with whoever you want, whenever you want, as long as you wear a condom or take the morning-after pill. That is the thrust of most sex education for teenagers in Britain today.

"Indeed, far from promoting restraint or commitment, the entire emphasis of this politically correct system is on the 'sexual rights' of young people. . .

"The only stigma in modern Britain, it seems, is directed at those who warn against infidelity, adultery or parental neglect of children. In this brave new world, personal rights reign supreme."

What can be done to deal with this state of affairs? Certainly in the short term, first responsibility lies with the parents. Many parents are blissfully unaware of what happens or is likely to happen to their children in the name of sex education.

The Family Education Trust emphasises that schools should be encouraged to ensure that parents are fully involved in developing a school's policy, sex education is taught within a clear moral context, the consequences of sexual activity are honestly faced, and the positive benefits of saving sexual intimacy for marriage are clearly presented.

Parents need to find out what's happening to their children in school and out of school and be determined to have a responsible say in it. Bringing up their children is their responsibility - not the responsibility of the state.

Coming home

I was reading a chapter in the Bible and getting nothing from it because half my mind was somewhere else. Then I came to the last verse in the chapter: Ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls (1 Pet 2:25).

That's me all right. When I was a young man I was well astray. Now the thing about a sheep is that if it goes astray it will never find the shepherd. The shepherd has to find it. People talk about finding Christ. Strictly speaking, it isn't true. You don't find Him; He finds you.

I well remember the divinely appointed circumstances that caused me to hear the gospel, possibly for the first time. For several months, I was aware somehow that God was working in my life. I remember one day sitting alone on the top deck of a bus (a young man well away from the Good Shepherd) trying to sing Jesus wants me for a sunbeam. (I only knew the words of the first line.) Can you imagine?

One night a while later I got down on my knees by the side of my bed and gave my life to Christ. I'm so glad that He's organising the details of my life. I'm so glad my sins are forgiven. I'm so glad that I have a home in heaven, that my future is secure.

The same book of the Bible that says He's the Shepherd and Bishop of my soul says When the chief Shepherd shall appear. . . He's the chief Shepherd. He's coming back, and it may be soon. I want to be ready for that day.

When you can say "The Lord is my Shepherd," you can also say "I shall not want." Is your life secure in His hand, or are you still running your own life, making your own decisions, and making a mess of it?

When you decide to hand your life over to Him, you'll find Him waiting. When you've done it, you'll find a wonderful peace. And you'll wonder what took you so long.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Pope, religion and society

Pope Benedict XVI told UK politicians gathered in Westminster Hall that religion needs to have a central place in public life.

Religion was not a problem for legislators to solve, but "a vital contribution to the national conversation."

"I cannot but voice my concern," he said, "at the increasing marginalisation of religion, particularly of Christianity, that is taking place in some quarters, even in nations which place a great emphasis on tolerance.

"There are those who argue - paradoxically with the intention of eliminating discrimination - that Christians in public roles should be required at times to act against their conscience.

"These are worrying signs of a failure to appreciate not only the rights of believers to freedom of conscience and freedom of religion, but also the legitimate role of religion in the public square."

He invited his audience to seek ways of promoting and encouraging dialogue between faith and reason at every level of national life.

It was, said one newspaper, the first time in many a year that religion and its role in modern society had been raised so forcibly in the UK.

Isn't it a pity that someone had to come all the way from Rome in order to say it? It is sincerely to be hoped that politicians will take notice.

On a papal visit in times past, the focus would probably have been the difference between Roman Catholic and Protestant faiths. The focus on this visit seemed to be Christian unity in the face of militant secularism.

Shortly before the Pope's arrival in the UK, the Guardian published a letter signed by 50 people, many of them left wing atheists, protesting at his visit. Some of the people who signed the letter have said some pretty awful things about the Pope.

Atheist Richard Dawkins called him "A leering old villain in a frock. . . whose preaching of scientific falsehood is responsible for the deaths of countless Aids victims in Africa." Vice president of the British Humanist Association Claire Rayner called him "this creature."

Why are atheists so vituperative? I came across a quote by Christian apologist Dinesh D'Sousa that I found interesting.

He says: "One reason I think is that they are God-haters. Atheists often like to portray themselves as 'unbelievers,' but this is not strictly accurate. If they were mere unbelievers they would simply live their lives as if God did not exist.

"I don't believe in unicorns, but then I haven't written any books called The End of Unicorns, Unicorns are not Great, or The Unicorn Delusion.

"Clearly the atheists go beyond disbelief; they are on the warpath against God. And you can hear their bitterness not only in their book titles but also in their mean-spirited invective."

Do you think this might be the reason atheists speak the way they do?

A new day for faith in society?

Conservative Party chairman Baroness Warsi promised this week that religious faith will be restored to the heart of British politics.

She was speaking to Church of England bishops in Oxford.

The previous Labour Government had got things "profoundly wrong" on faith, she said. It had viewed religion as "essentially a rather quaint relic of our pre-industrial history." It had acted as if faith was confined to "oddities, foreigners and minorities."

It was "too suspicious of faith's potential for contributing to society." Behind every faith-based charity, it "sensed the whiff of conversion and exclusivity." Because of these prejudices, it had not created policies to unleash the positive power of faith in society.

The environment had encouraged the "rise of a new kind of intellectual, who dines out on free-flowing media and sustains a vocabulary of secularist intolerance."

Lady Warsi, herself a Muslim, said a Government was needed that understood faith, that was comfortable with faith, and that when necessary was prepared to speak out about issues of faith. Faith groups played a key role in David Cameron's vision of a Big Society, she said, and would have more opportunity to set up schools and carry out public services.

"When you think about it, it's incredible that many people of faith give up their evenings to work as street pastors, making sure that young men are less at risk of knife crime and young women less likely to run into trouble after a night out.

"Under our plans, you will have more power, more responsibility, and more choice over how to get involved in your communities and how to apply your skills.

"I want to tell you that for me you are at the heart of society already and the key to its future, and that this Government will be on your side."

Lady Warsi's view of the previous Government is about right. Thirteen years of Labour rule created a political correctness where Christian faith was acceptable only if it was not mentioned in public.

Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles has also made encouraging noises recently about using faith groups in society. "The days of the state trying to suppress Christianity and other faiths are over," he is reported to have said.

But Prime Minister David Cameron has not shown himself keen to listen to Christian views. He has pursued the homosexual vote with considerable diligence, but seemingly had little concern for the Christian vote. Some have even suggested that his failure to regard Christian mores was the reason for his failing to win an overall majority of seats at the General Election.

If Christians are to be free to be used in society, will there come with that freedom a respect for what they stand for? Or is it only other religions - forgive the thought - that are to be at the heart of British politics?

We shall see.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Not such a good idea

After appeals from General Petraeus, Commander of US forces in Afghanistan, the US President and I don't know who else, Florida pastor Terry Jones announced that his church would not after all burn copies of the Koran, "not now, not ever."

So a crisis passed, for the present time - but not before rioting in Afghanistan and threatening noises from various other Islamist quarters.

In New York, thousands demonstrated both for and against the building of a mosque near the site of the 9/11 terrorist attack at Ground Zero. Allegations of a "media frenzy" about Islam seemed scarcely substantiated - but Americans are certainly more concerned now about the threat from Islam than they were shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks nine years ago.

Most Christians deplored Terry Jones' proposed book burning but stood up for his right to stage such a protest in a free society. Robert Spencer of Jihad Watch wrote that by coming down on Terry Jones rather than pointing out that freedom of expression in a free society involves putting up with things we don't like without responding with violence, Messrs Obama and Petraeus were effectively reinforcing the principle that violent intimidation works.

Burning copies of the Koran, nevertheless, is not such a good idea. We are Christians. We are in a spiritual battle. We have spiritual weapons. (The weapons of our warfare, wrote Paul in 2 Corinthians, are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds.) We should be using spiritual weapons, like prayer, intercession and the preaching of the word.

Burning books is the non-Christians' way of doing things.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Dad, listen to this

People should understand that men and women are different because they are made to fill different roles.

A man may be a wonderful father, but he's unlikely ever to become a wonderful mother. A woman may be a wonderful mother, but she's never going to be a wonderful father.

A child needs both a father and a mother. A child needs security. After that, a child needs love, discipline and teaching. A child needs to learn obedience and respect for authority.

That's the parents' responsibility. And first and foremost the father's. "Fathers," says Eph 6:4 (not "mothers"), "do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord." Training includes discipline. Admonition means to call attention to, to warn, to caution, to reprove gently where necessary.

A father, moreover, must teach by example.

This week I saw details of some Swiss research that I found interesting. It showed that where both father and mother attend church regularly, 33 per cent of their children will end up regular churchgoers.

If the mother attends church regularly but the father only irregularly, only three per cent of the children will become regular churchgoers, and if the mother is a regular churchgoer but the father non-practising, then only two per cent.

But if the father attends church regularly and the mother attends only occasionally, 38 per cent of the children will become regular attenders, and if the father attends regularly and the mother not at all, then the number goes up to 44 per cent.

The spiritual welfare of the children is the responsibility not of the mother, but of the father.

Fathers, are you listening?

Thursday, September 09, 2010

There could be a price to pay

Well, here's the latest. If you want a child but you are a bit busy at work, reports BioEdge, you can send a human embryo to India, where it will be implanted in a surrogate mother of your choice. Then you pop along later to collect the baby.

Some 350 Indian clinics offer surrogacy services at a quarter of the cost in some other places. "We receive a growing number of embryos shipped from around the globe," says Dr Naina Patel, from Anand's Akanksha Infertility Clinic.

In Britain, there are long waiting lists for donated eggs and sperm. British women may not sell their eggs, but are allowed to claim expenses only. That may change. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority is considering allowing women to be paid thousands of pounds for donated eggs.

Young women wanting to sell their eggs for cash to help them through university would do well to consider what American bioethicist Wesley J. Smith has to say:

Egg donation is often pitched by buyers without warnings about the potential risks. These can include infection, disability, infertility, cancer, even death. . . No studies have been conducted about the long term impact on women from donating their eggs. . .

Given the speed in which the fertility and biotechnology industries are advancing, protecting women here and abroad from "eggsploitation" has become a matter of urgent concern. Medical studies are needed to identify donors and examine the breadth and scope of long-term risk from egg extraction. Hearings need to be held to begin the important job of placing rigorous regulations. . . International protocols need to be negotiated to protect poor women from being biologically colonized. . .

The stakes in human health and societal welfare are just too high to permit
laissez faire gamete procurement.

Monday, September 06, 2010

What it takes for a miracle

In a new book, Professor Stephen Hawking says that modern physics leaves no room for a Creator and that science can explain the origins of the universe.

"Because there is a law of gravity," he says, "the universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist."

And who, might I ask, put gravity there?

While we are about it, who made man's mind, his personality, his ability to understand right and wrong, his ability to love others? Did gravity create those too?

Until his retirement, Stephen Hawking was Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge, a post previously held by Sir Isaac Newton, who believed the universe must have been created by God because it could not have emerged out of chaos.

Stephen Hawking is a man with a brilliant mind. He is also wrong.

In the beginning, God made the heavens and the earth. He created man in His own image. Man disobeyed God, and sin came on all men. God so loved the world that He sent His Son to die to bear the punishment for man's sin. When a man receives Christ, a miracle occurs, and he comes into a personal relationship with God.

I have discovered that knowing God doesn't depend on an intelligent mind. An intelligent man can miss it. And a little child can have it. All it needs is a sincere heart and the grace to believe.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Peace - but not yet

With Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas in face-to-face meetings in Washington, some people are wondering what hopes there are now of peace in the Middle East.

I fear chances are so slim they are almost non-existent. For years, US presidents have been trying to broker a Middle East peace. President Obama, who is talking of a substantive peace agreement within a year, is due to be as disappointed as his predecessors, for a variety of reasons.

Invited to the meetings were Prime Minister Netanyahu, President Abbas, King Abdullah of Jordan, President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair. Israel's most dangerous enemies, Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas, are not represented. Some of them are sworn to Israel's destruction.

There has been a lot of talk of two states living in peace side by side within secure borders, but the Palestinians will never be satisfied until they achieve their aim of seeing the Jewish state dismantled and the Palestinians possessing all of the land of Israel.

In a bid to derail the talks, Hamas gunmen shot four Israeli citizens dead at point blank range near Hebron on Tuesday night.

On Wednesday two Israeli citizens were seriously injured in a similar shooting near Ramallah. Their lives were saved only by their fleeing from their vehicle. reported yesterday that Syria and Hezbollah have set up a joint military command for sinking Israeli warships, and Hamas have brought all 13 Palestinian rejectionist organisations under one roof for a sustained bid to intensify terror operations against Israel.

There will be peace in Israel one day - when Messiah returns. According to the Bible, He will destroy His enemies, the curse will be taken from the earth, He will rule with a rod of iron and there will be wars no more.

That will be a day to look forward to.