Saturday, September 29, 2012

But what about rape?

When there is an unwanted pregnancy, I believe abortion is never the best option. I believe there is always a better alternative.

But what, you might ask, if the pregnancy is the result of rape?

A woman who has suffered rape has had a terrible experience and needs all the love and all the care she can get. What she does not need is the additional trauma of having the baby torn from her body. Half the baby is the father's. But the other half is the mother's. Given time, she can grow to love that baby, and that child can become a blessing to society.

Besides, that baby is innocent. The baby did not ask to be conceived in that fashion. So why should an innocent baby have to have its life ended because of the sin of its father?

But you are a bloke, you might say. What do you know?

Every pregnancy involves the action of a man somewhere, and every man was once himself a foetus. Abortion is not just a women's issue. But true, I have not been in that terrible position personally. Perhaps we ought to consider the opinions of people better qualified to speak.

A number of women who had been pregnant as a result of physical assault formed a group which they called the Ad Hoc Committee of Women Pregnant by Sexual Assault. Here is what they have to say:

Many people have strong opinions about abortion is cases of pregnancies resulting from rape or incest. However, the real experiences and needs of women who have actually experienced pregnancies from sexual assault are often ignored, even though our experiences are frequently used to promote abortion on demand. . . 

From the perspective of those of us who have actually been through a pregnancy resulting from rape or incest, people on both sides of the abortion debate, and the media fanning the flames of the controversy, are getting it wrong.

On one side are those who argue that pregnancies resulting from rape and incest occur so rarely that we shouldn't let it impact public policy on abortion. This is hurtful to women who do become pregnant from rape or incest and need support. It can also lead to questioning as to whether a woman or girl is telling the truth about being raped.

On the other side are those who perpetuate the myth that women and girls who become pregnant from sexual assault overwhelmingly want, need and benefit from having abortions. This also hurts women and fans the flames of prejudice toward those who do not want to have an abortion, even leading some to question whether a woman or girl who wishes not to abort has "really" been raped. And it can lead to strong pressure to abort by those who think the woman or girl does not know what is really best for her. . .

Women and girls who become pregnant from rape or incest need real support and resources that meet their needs. In many cases, however, these needs are not met because most people assume that abortion will solve the problem. . . 

From personal experience, many of us discovered that abortion only added to our trauma and created additional obstacles to finding healing. . .

From our perspective the issues and emotions involved are not as straightforward as most people presume. That is why those of us who have actually been in this situation need and deserve to be heard. . . 

Most of the debate surrounding this issue has taken place without input from us or other women like us.

We are especially concerned - and offended - when our circumstances are exploited to promote abortion on demand, especially when there is no platform being offered for us to voice our real needs and concerns. 

Peter Saunders, who quotes the women's remarks above on his blog, also has the details of what claims to be the largest survey ever undertaken of women who became pregnant as a result of sexual assault. It surveyed 192 such women.

Some 29 per cent had abortions, 69 per cent continued with their pregnancy and a small percentage miscarried. In many cases, there was strong pressure or demands to abort, and some, especially teenage girls, were forced to have an abortion.

Many women who had abortions said abortion increased the trauma they were experiencing. Nearly 80 per cent of those who had an abortion said abortion had been the wrong solution.

But here's the most telling statistic:

Of those women who decided to continue with the pregnancy, not one regretted doing so.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The story of Miriam Rosenthal

Miriam Schwarcz was born in 1922 in Komarno, Czechoslovakia, the 13th child of a gentleman farmer. She was spoiled.

As she grew up, she was always asking when she would be married. One day she and her mother met with a Jewish matchmaker. In her collection of photographs, Miriam spotted a handsome young man named Bela Rosenthal. They were married in 1944.

They were together only a short time before Bela was sent to a slave labour camp and Miriam to Auschwitz.

One day in Auschwitz an SS officer told the pregnant women to step forward, as their food rations were being doubled. Miriam, who was four months pregnant, didn't move. "Miriam, what are you doing?" her cousin asked. But Miriam stood where she was.

Two hundred women stepped forward, including some who weren't pregnant. All 200 went to the gas chambers.

Miriam was moved to a satellite camp at Dachau, and wound up in a cellar with six other pregnant women. Miriam was the last of the seven to give birth.

Babies were regarded as useless mouths to feed and were normally murdered at birth. Somehow these survived. American soldiers who liberated the camp wept when they saw the babies in a graveyard of bones.

Miriam returned to Komarno - and found Bela. He too had survived.

"I could see him coming, running from afar, and I shouted 'Bela, Bela.' I wasn't sure it was him," says Miriam. "He was running and calling my name. I can't describe that feeling when he saw our baby, when he saw Leslie for the first time. We cried and cried and cried."

In 1947, the three moved to Canada. Bela became a rabbi. He died aged 97.

Miriam still has Leslie, her "miracle baby." He's 67 now. He visits his mother every day. He knows something of what his mother auffered.

Miriam has just celebrated her 90th birthday.

Monday, September 24, 2012

The way to abundant life

The Bible clearly teaches that God is a Trinity. In other words, there is only one God, but that one God is in three persons: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. One God in three persons; three persons in one God.

Perhaps the most convincing reason for this is that God is love. The Bible doesn't say just that God loves, or that God commends love, but that God is love. Love has to have an object. God could not have existed alone. So before creation began, there were the three persons of the Godhead, loving each other.

As you go through the Bible, it's interesting to notice the ministry, if that's the right word, of each one.

All three were involved in creation. God the Father spoke the word. The second verse in the Bible says the Holy Spirit was there, hovering over the face of the waters. Of the Son of God, the Scripture says that all things in heaven and earth were created by Him; all things were created through Him and for Him (Col 1:16).

All three were involved in the crucifixion, for Heb 9:14 says that Christ through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God.

And all three were involved in the resurrection. In John 2:19 - 21 Jesus said if they destroyed His body, He would raise it up in three days. Gal 1:1 says God the Father raised Jesus from the dead. And in some translations 1 Pet 3:18 gives us the idea that the Holy Spirit had a part too.

Now here's something amazing. If you are a committed Christian, did you know that it took all three persons of the Godhead to bring you to faith? It was the Holy Spirit who convicted you of sin, for John 16:8 says it is His ministry to convict the world of sin, of righteousness and of judgment. It was God the Father who drew you to Christ, for Jesus said no man comes to Him except the Father draws him (John 6:44). And it was the Son of God who took you in and gave you eternal life.

If you're not yet a committed Christian, Jesus said "I am the door" (John 10:9). He's the way to God. Life without Him is empty. Life with him is abundant. Life with Him is what we were created for.  If you want the answer to your problems, come to Christ.

He's waiting.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

'Bigots,' 'lunatics' and homosexual marriage

Despite a petition with more than half-a-million signatures protesting at moves to legalise same-sex marriage, Prime Minister David Cameron says he is "absolutely determined" to go ahead with legalising it.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg reportedly thinks people who do not agree with homosexual marriage are bigots. (The word was included in a draft of a speech Nick Clegg was to give which was issued to the media and later withdrawn.)

Veteran broadcaster Roger Bolton said that in the modern culture of broadcasting, anyone who opposed homosexual marriage was treated as a lunatic if it was because of his or her religious beliefs.

The petition I mentioned in the first paragraph was organised by Coalition for Marriage - who incidentally are organising a sell-out rally with Ann Widdecombe and Lord Carey as speakers at Birmingham City Hall on the day of the Chancellor's speech at the Conservative Party conference. The same Coalition for Marriage commissioned a legal opinion on the implications of homosexual marriage and liberty of conscience from Aidan O'Neill QC, a leading human rights lawyer.

He said that if same-sex marriage were legalised

* A hospital, armed forces or university chaplain who preached that marriage was only for one man and one woman could be disciplined by his employer, even if he were preaching in his own church in his own time.

* A school would be within its legal rights to sack a primary school teacher who refused to use a recommended storybook about homosexual marriage because it was against her religious beliefs.

* Parents would not have the right to insist for deeply-held religious reasons that their child be withdrawn from school lessons on the history of homosexual marriage.

* A church which would conduct only opposite-sex marriages could be stopped from hiring council-owned property.

* A ban by churches on homosexual weddings in church could be overturned under European human rights laws. Churches, in general, would be better protected from hostile litigation if they stopped holding weddings altogether.

* Because the Church of England is the established state church, the UK Government could be in breach of human rights laws if it allowed the Church of England to refuse homosexual weddings. The church would be in a safer position if it were disestablished.

* If homosexual marriage became law then it would have to be taught as part of sex education.

Legalising same-sex marriage would not be the end. Judging by what has happened elsewhere, legalising same-sex marriage would be followed by further demands, like allowing three or more people to marry each other and decriminalising incest.

Is it time, do you think, for 'bigots' and 'lunatics' to take a firm stand?

Monday, September 17, 2012

Caring - or killing?

Arguments about the Liverpool Care Pathway continue.

The Liverpool Care Pathway - the LCP for short - was developed in the 1990s following collaboration between the Royal Liverpool Hospital and the Marie Curie hospice. It is intended to unite the fields of physical treatment, psychological support, spiritual care and support for carers, bringing hospice-style care to patients in hospital in the last days or hours of life, "once it is known that they are dying."

It aims to allow the patient to have a peaceful death by avoiding unnecessary and burdensome medical intervention at the last. It permits the removal of medication, hydration and nutrition and allows the patient to be sedated until death takes place.

No problem, say doctors, when the LCP is used in appropriate circumstances combined with high standards of care. But there are complaints that continuous deep sedation may be being used, even quite widely, as unofficial euthanasia.

One survey of records found that in 23 per cent of deaths of people put on the LCP in one city there had been no definite diagnosis at any stage.

The NHS says discussions should always be held with relatives before the patient is placed on the LCP, and the condition of the patient should be reviewed every four hours.

A review of palliative care in hospitals found that in one hospital trust, fewer than half of relatives were told that patients had been placed on the LCP. In a quarter of trusts, one in three families were not told.

One doctor said that medical ethics varied in different parts of the country. Patients should be treated with common sense and sensitivity, but these were being replaced, she complained, by slavishly following protocols - what she called "tickboxitus."

One doctor said: "The diagnosis of being 'within the last hours or days of life,' which is necessary for a person to be put on the LCP, has no scientific basis. This diagnosis is, in fact, a prediction and as such is likely to be in serious error about 50 per cent of the time.

"Although it is possible to discontinue the LCP if the patient improves, it becomes more difficult to detect changes in underlying illness as a patient becomes more drowsy on the LCP."

A second wrote: "If all doctors were trained in the care of the elderly and had all the time in the world to discuss end-of-life care with patients and relatives there would be less cause for anxiety about the LCP. But given the current pressure on hospital beds and the number of frail, elderly people needing attention, there is a very real danger that some who appear to be dying but have a treatable disorder will be put on the LCP with fatal results. . .

"Patients are in danger. . . The NHS is fast becoming a death service rather than a health service for the elderly. . . People can no longer be sure that the elderly will be treated well."

A third doctor added: "The question has never been whether the LCP offers a 'peaceful' death. . . The issue has always been whether patients are dying prematurely by being put on the LCP. While the LCP claims it is for those in the 'last few hours or days of life,' it is essential to realise that there is no accurate way of determining this, so that for most patients it is at best a guess with large margins of error. This is particularly true for the two thirds of patients who do not die of cancer. Such patients might well have had weeks or even many months more of life had they been properly supported rather than put on the LCP."

ALERT, the anti-euthanasia organisation, is producing cards that people can carry saying they do not wish to be placed on the Liverpool Care Pathway.

Some hospital patients are being treated by conscientious staff as carefully and as well as busy hospital conditions allow. Others are not.

You would be surprised how many cases have been brought to my attention of old people who have gone into hospital with relatively minor ailments and within a few days have been dying.

If you have a relative in hospital, ensure that he or she is being hydrated, and fed if appropriate. You would think it would be unnecessary to do that in this enlightened age, wouldn't you? It is not.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Middle East: tensions mount

A pre-emptive strike by Israel on nuclear facilities in Iran in October appears increasingly likely.

Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said again that the primary foreign policy goal of his government is to see Israel wiped off the map of the Middle East. "A new Middle East will definitely be formed."

A new report by the International Atomic Energy Agency says that Iran has two new groups of centrifuges installed at its fortified underground facility at Fordow, signalling a doubling of the site's capacity, despite diplomacy and sanctions, since May. DEBKAfile says that by the end of September or early October Iran will have enough 20 per cent-enriched uranium for its first nuclear bomb.

Israel's Security Cabinet had a 10-hour meeting last week to discuss the threat from Iran. Israeli citizens, who have been standing in queues for gas masks for their families, are increasingly fearful that war will soon be upon them.

Ehud Yaari, a respected Israeli analyst, said American officials see an Israeli strike on Iran before US presidential elections in November as almost a foregone conclusion, and are concentrating on their response to the outcome.

The Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot said the US has informed Iran through intermediaries that the US will not back an Israeli strike against Iran's nuclear facilities as long as Iran refrains from attacking American interests in the Persian Gulf.

US President Obama would like Israel to believe that the US is serious about military action "when the need arises" - but when the need arises is the crux of the dispute between Israel and the US. "Sparks and lightning " were reported to have been flying at a meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Ambassador Dan Shapiro. Prime Minister Netanyahu made it clear that the Israeli Government does not trust the Obama administration to stop Iran's nuclear programme in time.

"The world tells Israel, 'Wait, there's still time,'" the Israeli PM said on Tuesday. "And I say 'Wait for what? Wait until when?' Those in the international community who refuse to put red lines before Iran don't have a moral right to place a red light before Israel.

"Now if Iran knows that there is no red line, if Iran knows that there is no deadline, what will it do? Exactly what it's doing. It's continuing, without any interference, towards obtaining nuclear weapons capability and from there, nuclear bombs."

President Obama was proposing to meet Prime Minister Netanyahu on September 27, presumably to ask Israel to hold off, while Israel would ask for backing in dealing with Iran. Now President Obama has refused to meet him. 

Tensions over Iran are said to have caused the most severe rift in US - Israel relations for decades.

Israel is aware of Hezbollah with its thousands of rockets in Lebanon, Hamas with its thousands of rockets in Gaza, and the possibility of attack from Syria - all of them influenced by Iran. Israel does not want to start a war. But neither will Israel sit and wait indefinitely to be bombed into oblivion.

"Pray for the peace of Jerusalem" (Psa 122:6).

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The case of Rimsha Masih

Charges of desecrating the Koran or blaspheming the prophet Mohammed can be a matter of life or death in Pakistan for those accused.

It is not uncommon for charges of blasphemy to be used against the poorest minorities - no blasphemy charges have been filed, for instance, against Zoroastrians, the most educated and well-off minority community in Pakistan - in order to settle personal scores or as an exercise in religious prejudice.

Rimsha Masih is a mentally handicapped girl, said to be 14 - some claim she is only 11 - from a Christian family. Her parents are said to be street sweepers. Some reports say Rimsha is unable to read.

Three weeks ago a Muslim shopkeeper alleged to have a score to settle with Rimsha's sister went into a mosque with a plastic bag containing burnt paper Rimsha had been collecting which had come from a book which included Koranic texts.

A Muslim mob entered the mainly Christian area where Rimsha lived calling for the death of unbelievers. Some 50 families fled the neighbourhood. Rimsha and her sister were severely beaten.

Rimsha was imprisoned, charged with desecrating the Koran, and was said to be deeply traumatised by her ordeal. Her parents are in hiding. There was sympathy for the girl because of her age and mental disability.

Then came an unusual development.

Witnesses claimed an imam at the mosque had mixed torn pages from the Koran with the burnt pages in Rimsha's bag to strengthen the case against her and help rid the area of Christians.

In an unprecedented move, the country's leading body of Muslim clerics, the All Pakistan Ulema Council, then spoke out in favour of Rimsha. The imam has been arrested and is expected himself to face charges under blasphemy laws.

On Friday, Rimsha was granted bail and taken to a safe house. She will still have to face the charges. Even if acquitted, she will not be able to return home. Guilty or not, people accused of blasphemy have met with death at the hands of Muslim vigilantes.

The case has become something of an international cause celebre, and may lead to some review of blasphemy laws in Pakistan.

Even so, it is not easy to speak out against the laws. Two senior politicians in Pakistan have been assassinated for doing precisely that.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Freedom for Yousef Nadarkhani

Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani, who was sentenced to death in Iran in 2010 for apostasy from Islam and who refused to renounce his Christian faith despite facing the death penalty, has been released.

He is 34 years old. He was charged in 2009 with having left the Muslim faith and converted to Christianity. He had never been a practising Muslim, but his parents were Muslims, which the court said was sufficient. He was sentenced to death in 2010.

When his case appeared before the Supreme Court in 2011, he was told he could be released if he renounced his Christian faith. Each time he was asked, he refused to do so.

It was announced he would be brought back to court this month to face further charges. At his appearance on Saturday, the apostasy charge was dropped, and he was sentenced to three years' imprisonment for evangelising Muslims. As he had already served three years, he was released and reunited with his wife and two young children.

Said Christian Solidarity Worldwide, one of the organisations who campaigned for his release: "While we rejoice at this wonderful news, we do not forget hundreds of others who are harassed or unjustly detained on account of their faith. CSW is committed to continue campaigning until all of Iran's religious minorities are able to enjoy religious freedom as guaranteed under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is party."

The death penalty was not carried out doubtless because of the weight of international prayer and protest. Thank you to all who took part.

* CSW pointed out that whilst Pastor Nadarkhani was released, others in Iran are still suffering.

Pastor Behnam Irani, serving a five-year sentence for allegedly undertaking missionary work, is reported to have suffered torture and beatings, to have been found several times unconscious in his cell, and to have been denied medical treatment.

Pastor Farshid Fathi is serving a six-year sentence in Teheran's notorious Evin prison.

Friday, September 07, 2012

Well, prayer does change things

Whoever said that prayer changes things said a great deal in very small space.

We're already at the seventh of September, so time to mention that on September 29 tens of thousands of Christians from all over these islands will travel to Wembley Stadium for the National Day of Prayer and Worship.

It is likely to be the biggest mobilisation of Christians for prayer in the UK for a generation, and one of the biggest gatherings of Christians in the UK for a century. Organisers hope 70,000 will attend.

An orchestra, a choir and a list of well-known Christian musicians will lead worship. Leaders of Christian organisations will lead prayers for key issues affecting Britain.

Details and tickets from

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Love never fails?

American preacher Dr Michael Brown heard there was going to be a homosexual protest a week last Sunday outside the local church where he worships.

The leader of the protest wrote on Facebook: "We will meet just before the service begins, and protest as they gather, we will have a silent protest as service is going and let them have it as they leave for the day. Remember we will be peaceful and respectful, something they don't understand. We are going to STAND TOGETHER AS A COMMUNITY to show that our love is stronger then their hate."

In reponse, Brown wrote on his blog: "On behalf of FIRE Church, I want to extend to you the warmest welcome and let you know that we are thrilled that you are here with us on Sunday. We have been praying for you for a long time!

"As always, you will only meet with love, kindness, and respect from the FIRE leadership and congregants, and we proclaim to you once again the amazing grace of God. Jesus died to save us from our sins, heterosexual and homosexual alike, and only in Him can we find forgiveness, redemption, and transformation. Jesus alone is the Healer, Savior, Deliverer, and Transformer."

On his radio show, he encouraged them to come in good numbers so they could greet them.

Scott Volk, one of the church leaders, posted a note on the local homosexual website: "As the pastor of FIRE Church, I just want you to know that you'll be greeted with the same love and compassion as we always endeavor to show anyone. . .You make mention of the 'hate' that we show. Yet, in all our years here we've only desired to reach out with love to everyone in the local community here. . . Hopefully you'll see that love demonstrated on Sunday as you protest."

His note provoked some hostile responses, including one which said: "You can fool yourself, Mr Volk. You can fool your parishioners. But you can't fool God. He knows what's in your heart, and it isn't love. It's hate."

Volk responded by explaining the love of Jesus and inviting them to his home for dinner with him and his family. He explained that "to call someone hateful without ever meeting them, seeing them or hearing them speak, is an indication of a heart that needs love. I make myself available."

One replied: "I want to hear more about this Jesus," and another: "Even I would be welcome there? It would be an honor to meet Scott Volk and Dr Brown. I'm beginning to see light as very attractive."

On Sunday morning about 10 protesters showed up. Some of the church leaders met them, offered them water and snacks, shared God's love and truth with them and invited them to the service. After a few minutes they left, saying the church people were too nice and loving to deserve a protest.

The following day the leader of the protest telephoned Dr Brown's radio programme to apologise publicly for the protest, explaining that their anger was "aimed [in] the wrong direction." Then he said: "Once we got there Sunday morning we were greeted with absolutely perfect love. I mean, it was fantastic."

After the broadcast, Brown and the protest leader shared contact details, and are looking forward to sharing a meal together - and sharing their hearts.

Dr Brown suggests that the church leaders have not compromised their beliefs. The protesters, he said, have heard his radio broadcasts and read his writings, and recognise how strongly they differ on many issues.

Can it be that love is always the answer?

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Broken promises

The apostle Paul said that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons (1 Tim 4:1);

that in the last days men will be lovers of pleasure more then lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power (2 Tim 3:1, 4, 5);

and that there will be a time when men will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, will heap up for themselves teachers, turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables (2 Tim 4:3, 4).

One of the signs of an approaching apostasy, some believe, is the rising promotion of homosexuality within the church.

Dr Gene Robinson, the American bishop who caused so much trouble in the Anglican communion by leaving his wife and living openly in a homosexual relationship, was asked recently why he should be taken seriously as an advocate for his position when he had broken the vow he took with his former wife.

He said he takes marriage "unbelievably seriously." When it became clear, he said, that his marriage was unnatural for him and he and his wife divorced, he and his wife went directly to their church, read apologies and gave back the symbols of their vows, the rings they had exchanged at their wedding 17 years earlier, in order to honour those same vows.

When a man and a woman appear before God and make marriage vows, God makes them one flesh. Poor Bishop Robinson's problem there is that there is no mechanism to reverse the process.

Some homosexuals are more belligerent. It is a shame when something is promoted in the nominal Christian church of which God so clearly disapproves.

But there does need to be love in the church too - as I shall demonstrate in the next post on this blog.