Friday, December 21, 2012

Poor old Santa

Dear Virginia,

Because you have been such a loyal friend of Christmas, I wanted to write a personal letter to try and explain the sad news I'll be announcing at a press conference tomorrow. Virginia, I'm retiring. I've already deleted my database, put the sleigh up on Craig's List, and changed forever into civilian clothes. Mrs Claus and I have sublet our cottage here to a Russian drilling crew (they insist they own the North Pole anyway) and we've sold the workshops to a Chinese toy manufacturer. For ourselves, we'll be moving to Malta, at least for a while. There are at least some remains of civilization on that island; the health care system is top notch; and the climate may well help my arthritis.

Virginia, I know this may seem like an abrupt and drastic move, but, trust me, I really had no other choice. I'm deeply saddened to think of the heartbreak the cancellation of Christmas will bring to good-hearted supporters like you. Yet I also believe that the true friends of Christmas will sympathize with my plight. I have, of course, been grieved and frustrated over the increasing commercialization of the holiday. That's been going on for decades. But the demands from the children of the last couple of generations have driven me over the edge. Virginia, you and I both can remember when you were thrilled and very grateful to receive a doll, a Laura Ingalls Wilder book and some  candy. Your brother felt the same way that Christmas when I left him a football, some Lincoln Logs and a couple of oranges. But now children are absolutely insatiable.You simply cannot give them enough. And even a magic bag isn't without a bottom.

And then there are the kinds of presents they crave! There's no way I can leave them the horrid things they ask of me. Little girl dolls dressed in sexually suggestive outfits. Grotesque and gory video games. Rap music which glorifies savagery against women. Movies full of blasphemy and brutish violence. There's no way I could give an impressionable child such nasty, noxious things. And as a result, I've lost a big chunk of my market share. Back in the 1950s baby boom, I really had to hustle to keep up with demand. But in recent years, my trip takes a quarter of the time because I have so few children who want the presents I have to give. To keep from laying off the elves, I've kept production high but we have completely run out of storage space. Our overstock of board games, baby dolls, puzzles, fire engines, books - I could go on and on - is crushing us.

But the present  crisis, Virginia, has arisen from still other matters - key among them being a vociferous committee of elves which started with grumbling, then moved on to organised protests, and ended up by forming unions connected, respectively, with the AFL, the SEIU, and the Teamsters. The subsequent demands from union leaders are not only irrational, they are downright immoral. For instance, I refuse to allow, under my name, the manufacture of gifts which I believe to be decadent and culturally destructive. Nor will I provide health coverage plans that would cause me to violate my religious convictions. Virginia, I shudder to think of the hard-working elves who have been loyal to the spirit of Christmas having to sign up for unemployment but the troublemakers have left me no other option. So, alas, I am shutting down Christmas altogether. . .  

I didn't write the above, as you will gather from the American references in it. It was written by an American friend of mine, Denny Hartford. I lifted it from his website. You will enjoy reading the rest of it here.

Christmas may not be the same as it used to be. Although I do think people have a little more openness, a little more friendliness, a little more, if you like, of a spirit of goodwill during a couple of days over the holiday. That we ought to try to preserve.

If Christmas isn't the same as it was, I hope that doesn't prevent me wishing all of you a happy Christmas?

Just a brief postscript: I am minded that the Babe of Bethlehem is the one sure hope this world has. May many come to know the reality of that this Christmastide. 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The curse that threatens all our children

The internet is awash with pornography.

The US citizen is well informed of the extent of internet porn. Charisma News, a leading American Christian magazine, says that

* The internet pornography business makes more money than top companies Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Netflix, eBay, Google and Yahoo combined.

*  About 12 per cent of the world's websites offer pornographic material.

* The average age at which children first see pornographic material is 11. Ninety per cent of those from eight to 16 say they have viewed it online.

*  Twenty-one per cent of Christian girls admitted to sending a naked photograph of themselves to someone else by their mobile phone.

An article in the Christian Post, another US Christian magazine, says - can you believe this? - that according to a survey 50 per cent of Christian men and 20 per cent of Christian women are addicted to pornography.

Trying to find similarly detailed figures regarding the situation in Britain seems more difficult. It is suggested that British teenagers spend an average of 87 hours a year looking at internet pornography, and that four out of five regularly access pornographic material online. A recent report showed that 40 per cent of children under 12 have seen pornographic images online.

When I contacted people in Britain whose ministry is to pornography addicts, all they seemed able to say was that they wouldn't be surprised if the figures here were similar to those in the United States.

UK charities have been pleading for action for long enough. They favour automatic anti-pornography filters used by internet service providers. Internet service providers generally have resisted, no doubt because of the amount of money to be made.

Earlier this year Prime Minister David Cameron instructed Government officials to look into the possibility of such filters being used by internet service providers, which would mean that adults wanting to see pornography would have to "opt in" with their provider for the service.

Last Friday the Government announced rather quietly that proposals for such a block on pornography had been rejected. The Government's excuses: first, parents would then assume that the internet was safe for their children; second, an automatic block might also prevent children having access to "helpful information on sexual health or sexual identity." Instead, the Government had decided, parents should use internet filters if their children were using computers at home.

Countless thousands, if not millions, of children are having their lives ruined.

Will someone please stand up and sort out this situation?

Friday, December 14, 2012

Feeding the spiritually hungry

An American news agency reports that two 14-year-olds and a 13-year-old tried to cadge a cigarette from a young man. The young man's 22-year-old girlfriend told them to get a job. So the teens shot her. She died in hospital two hours later.

What a world we live in.

But some people are looking for something better.

Mission Network News reports that Barry Werner, from an organisation called Bibles for China, recently went to China to distribute 30,000 Bibles in rural areas.

You would think that would satisfy the need, the report says, but in China 35,000 people are converted to Christ each day. A believer in China getting his or her first Bible will often read it from cover to cover in six weeks. On average, five other people will read that Bible in its first year. Of those five, three will commit their lives to Christ.

There's hunger for you.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Christians down, Muslims up

In the 2001 Census, 71.7% of people in England and Wales called themselves Christians. By 2011, according  to newly published figures from the 2011 Census, the figure was down by 13 per cent to 59.3% (a total of 33.2 million). There may be a drop in the number of people who were not practising Christians but identified themselves as Christians for traditional reasons.

Islam, with 2.7 million adherents, was up from three per cent to 4.8%.

Seven per cent of people did not answer the question on religion. Some 14 million ticked the box which said "no religion," double the figure in 2001.

The number of people who identified themselves as Jedi Knights had dropped by more than 50 per cent, but they still ranked as the seventh most popular faith. Among the "other faiths" were 1,893 adherents of Satanism, 1,276 of witchcraft, 541 of animism, 184 Thelemites and 124 Confucianists.

The Church of England said the death of Christian England had been greatly exaggerated. Some 253 Anglican churches had closed over the past decade, while 1,000 new congregations had been started.

"Doubtless campaigning atheist organisations will attempt to minimise the significance of the majority figures for faith and Christianity. In fact, these figures draw attention to the free ride that has been given to these bodies whose total membership would barely fill half of Old Trafford. For instance there are an estimated 28,000 members of British Humanist Association - the same membership as Union of Catholic Mothers, whilst the National Secular Society has an estimated 5,000 - the same as the British Sausage Appreciation Society."

Monday, December 10, 2012

The dangers of legalised killing

Euthanasia became legal in Belgium in 2002. A report on the first 10 years of euthanasia in Belgium by the European Institute of Bioethics makes disturbing reading.

According to the report, nearly half of the 16 members of the commission set up to ensure that the law was kept were found to be members or associates of the Association for the Right to Die in Dignity, which campaigns for euthanasia and the widening of legal conditions;

in dealing with more than 5,000 cases, the commission never felt the need to report a single case to the Crown Prosecution Service;

although a written declaration from the patient was required before euthanasia, the commission accepted the situation when none was provided;

the commission allowed euthanasia in cases where diseases were not life-threatening;

the commission decided that a coma, loss of independence or progressive dementia were sufficient to qualify as unbearable and unrelievable psychological suffering;

the commission decided not to verify the unbearable and unrelievable nature of the suffering because consideration should be given to the fact that a patient could refuse pain treatment and the unbearable nature of the pain depended on the patient's own ideas and values; and

although the law specified that the lethal substances had to be handed to the doctor in person by a registered pharmacist and left-over quantities returned, lethal substances were handed out to families or by chemists' assistants and no check was made on the return of surplus amounts.

BioEdge says in the Netherlands a regional euthanasia review committees' annual report for 2011 shows that the committees in several cases seriously exceeded the statutory deadline for issuing their findings, which was both "undesirable" and "unlawful."

Although there are expected to be further attempts to legalise euthanasia or doctor-assisted suicide in both England and Scotland before long, it is unlikely that either euthanasia or assisted suicide will be legalised soon. It is hoped, however, that these reports will serve as a serious warning about what can happen when the legal gates are opened.

Friday, December 07, 2012

A question or two for Sir Paul Nurse

New free schools found to be teaching creationism as fact could lose their Government funding, according to a report on BBC News online.

A new rule says that from 2013, all free schools in England must teach evolution as "a comprehensive and coherent scientific theory."

The new rule will apply to Grindon Hall Christian school in Sunderland and two other schools due to open next year, after concerns about the teaching of creationism.

Sir Paul Nurse, president of the Royal Society, said he was "delighted." He said previous rules on free schools and the teaching of evolution versus creationism had been "not tight enough."

Although the previous rules had confined creationism to religious education lessons, "the Royal Society identified a potential issue that schools could have avoided teaching evolution by natural selection in science lessons or dealt with it in such a perfunctory way that the main experience for students was the creationist myth."

"The creationist myth," Sir Paul?

I want to tell you that evolution by natural selection is a theory that has never been proved and is being brought into question by more and more scientists.

The first verse in the Bible says "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." If you don't believe the first verse, what price the rest of the Bible? 2 Tim 3:16, according to the Authorised Version, says "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness." If creationism isn't true, that verse is a lie.

I am reminded of the young man who discovered by reading the New Testament that Jesus believed the book of Genesis. The young man said "My high school science teacher once told me that much of Genesis is false. But since my high school science teacher did not prove he was God by rising from the dead, I'm going to believe Jesus instead."

And rules on the teaching of evolution versus creationism "not tight enough," Sir Paul?

Every child should be taught what the Bible says about creation. But he or she shouldn't be forced to believe it. And every child should be taught about what people choose to believe about evolution. But he or she shouldn't be forced to believe that. That's what education is about: giving young people the (unbiased) information they need to teach them to think for themselves.

One last question. Schools that teach creationism as fact are likely to lose their funding.

Will schools that teach evolution as fact be likely to lose their funding?

I thought not.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

What are we doing to our children?

UNICEF has ranked Britain bottom out of 21 developed countries for child welfare and third from bottom for educational standards. Other reports have labelled British children the "unhappiest in the world."

*  Forty-eight per cent of children born today will experience the breakdown of their parents' relationship.

*  Twenty-four per cent of children live with only one parent. Nine out of 10 of those children are in households headed by lone mothers.

*  A boy of 12 who raped a nine-year-old girl told police he wanted to feel grown-up. He had had unrestricted access to hardcore online pornography. Children as young as six are surfing the internet without parental supervision. Fourteen per cent of children between six and 10 have encountered adult material on the internet.

*  Some 31 per cent of sexual crimes in England and Wales in 2009 - 2010 were against children under 16. More than a third of all rapes were against children.

*  Up to 40 per cent of children have been involved in "sexting" (creating, sharing and forwarding sexually suggestive nude or nearly nude images by mobile phone or internet).

*  Despite billions of pounds spent on sex education, teen pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases are increasing. One in 10 young people catch a second sexually transmitted disease within a year of a first diagnosis.

*  Binge drinking has become habitual for many young people in Britain. A 14-year-old girl diagnosed with liver disease after drinking 16 bottles of wine, cider and spirits in three days was told by doctors if she drinks again she will die. Alcohol contributes to the death of five per cent of young people.

*  Almost a quarter of children from 11 to 15 in the UK have tried drugs.

*  An estimated 100,000 children in the UK run away from home each year.

*  In the UK there are an estimated 5,000 child prostitutes.

What on earth are we doing to our children?

That question is also the title of a book, published by the Manchester-based Maranatha Community, being promoted at a meeting in the Houses of Parliament today. (You can see details of the book at

What can be done about the situation? The book suggests three things.

First, listen to what children are saying. We need to face facts about what's happening to children.

Second, repent for what we have done and what we have failed to do.

Third, commit ourselves to action. Become more involved in work for children. Assist organisations working for the good of children and young people.

The book quotes Edmund Burke: "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."

Which infers that if we do nothing, we bear responsibility too.