US conservative Christians’ spiritual blindness on guns

7 Nov

Another week, another tragic and unnecessary mass shooting in America…

This time it was the death of some 26 worshippers and the injury of at least 20 others in a church in the small town of Sutherland Springs, Texas that made grim headlines across the world. Many of the dead and injured were young children.

While the tiny First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs grieves the slaughter of the majority of its congregation and tries to come to terms with such unimaginable carnage, it is the reaction of some church people that grieves me.

I imagine that this reaction is also incomprehensible to a great many other people, both in the US and across the world.

The image below shows one series of quotes from Twitter, beginning with the one in the middle, and including my response:

Mollie guns

Typical conservative Christian reaction to mass shootings? I fear so.

Max Boot makes an undeniable point here. Sometimes our thoughts and prayers are not enough. God demands action! Biblical author James certainly thinks so:

“Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” (James 2:15-17)

James is crystal clear: sometimes praying and sending our neighbours positive vibes is not enough – no matter how powerful or sovereign the God to Whom we pray.

God demands that we act to prevent suffering and injustice.

For all of you contextualists out there: Does this apply only to Christian brothers (and sisters) who are lacking clothes and food?

Of course not. James immediately widens the scope by laying down the general principle that faith must be accompanied by actions. This could apply to a whole lot of issues.

Is Max Boot wrong to ridicule prayer and faith? Yes, if he is ridiculing all prayer and all faith. But since he is calling people to action, I’d say he’s right in line with James. Is Max Boot a Christian? For the purposes of this discussion, it doesn’t matter. God often uses people outside of His redeemed community to call His chosen people to truth and obedience. Truth is truth, no matter who speaks it, and even if they are wrong about other issues.

Meanwhile “faith” and “prayer”, if they consist merely of good intentions and no substantial actions, do not please God.

What does Mollie Hemingway bring to the debate? She sums up the attitude of many conservative Christians towards gun control: mass shootings are not an issue of too many weapons being too easily available to too many of the wrong people. Rather, it is simply because there is evil in this world that such atrocities occur, and the only thing to do to combat these terrible slaughters is to pray.

In other words: some people are bad. They can’t be prevented from doing bad things by legislation or any form of action. Only prayer can stop them. Indeed, it is wrong – and not only wrong, but heretical, ungodly and idolatrous – to employ any other form of prevention.

I wonder if James agrees with her. I certainly don’t.

Mollie and others, with all due respect, your argument stinks.

It is naive, handwringingly passive, politically impotent, and theologically illiterate, and here’s why:

We are not called to pray and then do nothing.

We are also not called to pray and then helplessly sympathise with the victims as if their plight was unavoidable, like being struck by lightning or drowned in a flood.

Somebody, somewhere, has to act. Somebody has to be the person who leads the way in restoring wisdom and justice to society in order to prevent these massacres. Somebody – or some group of people – has to employ the principles of taking reasonable steps in the name of harm reduction in order that there will be fewer mass shootings, and fewer casualties as a result of such events, in the future.

Yes, prayer is powerful. But if the answer to our prayers lies in human obedience, and we humans don’t obey, where does that leave our prayers?


Why does this attitude exist? Quite simply:

American conservative Christians – or many of them – idolise guns.

They – particularly the less-educated – have made idols of their guns. Those with more learning idolise the notion that private gun ownership keeps Government from perpetrating injustice against the common folk.

Never mind the fact that millions of abortions take place every year under their noses,  divorce and fatherlessness are rampant, gay marriage was legalised without passing through Congress, and men are now encouraged to use women’s restrooms if they feel somewhat effeminate, leaving women and girls no recourse if they feel intimidated.

Clearly American conservatives are stockpiling their bullets for something really big.

While they idolise the illusion of safety and self-defence that privately-owned firearms bring, very real dangers stalk their schools, their cinemas, their concerts, and now their churches. These dangers are caused by the largely unfettered proliferation of the very weapons to which Americans look to save them.

Politics, wisdom and the law

Besides the fact that the roots of gun culture are deeply enmeshed in the church, where does Hemingway’s line of thought leave politics and the law? I haven’t read much of her writing, but she appears to be a conservative Christian – the type who usually have considerable respect for moral law.

She is not alone, nor am I trying to single her out. Many writers whom I otherwise admire take the same line as her when it comes to gun control. I quote Hemingway only because her tweet was the first relevant one on the topic that popped into my Twitter feed. Numerous influential Christians, whether in pastoral and teaching ministry, prophetic ministry, or the media, agree with this idea that prayer against “evil” is the only key to overcoming mass shootings.

Don’t misunderstand me – I think prayer is hugely important. I believe in praying to remove the scourge of crime and violence from society, and this includes gun crime and gun violence. I pray for God’s kingdom to come so that the hearts of men and women are changed and redeemed from all kinds of evil. I would expect, too, that the prayers of righteous men and women would avail much in this regard.

Nevertheless, I do not see prayer as a means of abdicating our responsibilities in other areas.

Conservative Christians who argue against gun control appear to be blinkered to their own attitudes to legislation. Christian leaders who call for laws to restrict abortion, criminalise drug use and possession, and curb pornography and prostitution – it’s the will of God, doncha’ know? – suddenly become deeply agnostic when it is put to them that legislation might have a role to play in stemming the flow of blood from mass shootings.

This overlooks the clear evidence of the Bible itself. The Old Testament is replete with laws governing every area of life, including crime (“Thou shalt not steal” – Exodus 20:15) and laws requiring people to consider one another’s safety:

“When you build a new house, make a parapet around your roof so that you may not bring the guilt of bloodshed on your house if someone falls from the roof.” (Deuteronomy 22:8)

If a homeowner is required to make it more difficult for someone to suffer a fatal accident by building a fence around his roof, why should he not be required to take the same kind of steps to ensure that people cannot be hurt by his guns – or that the criminally insane cannot buy weapons that are designed to kill a maximum of people in a minimum of time?

Of course, many conservatives also oppose regulation of the building industry as a clog on capitalism and the free market, so maybe they are immune to this line of argument. But I do wonder how they will answer to Jesus on the final day for having put profits – and indeed their guns – above the lives and welfare of people.

The role of legislation

I studied law – including criminal law and criminology – for four years and in two European countries. I didn’t study it very well, but I did learn a few things.

One thing that stands out is the capacity of law to shape culture and to bring effective change to society. Sometimes that change is destructive. Roe v. Wade unleashed the slaughter of millions of unborn children, creating and affirming an abortion culture that was exported all over the world. The boundaries of abortion law are still being pushed back in many countries, even as abortion clinics are being closed in the US.

Sometimes the effect is positive. Drink-driving legislation has made driving under the influence of alcohol taboo in many societies, and has saved countless lives. The same applies to seat-belt legislation – we now see it as normal to wear a seat-belt while driving and this too has prevented a great many deaths and injuries.

Is that a “godly” outcome? Sure sounds like it to me!

For some reason, Christian conservatives do not see this logic as applicable to gun control. Attempting to impose any kind of limit on the availability of assault weapons is “praying to the god of Goverment”.

I have news for Christian conservatives: God is present in good government.

Indeed, God requires it.

The abundance of laws in the Old Testament, as pointed out above, testifies to this. It is expressly stated in the Bible that good law is from God:

“I, wisdom, dwell together with prudence; I possess knowledge and discretion. By me kings reign and rulers make laws that are just.” (Proverbs 8:12,15)

Of course, Christians who oppose any form of gun control might go on to assert that any form of gun control is an example of laws that are not just. But clearly Government is not per se a false god or the exclusive preserve of Satan.

Again, we don’t hear Christians calling for the repeal of other types of legislation so that we might defeat the god of Government and leave the problem of evil to the God of prayer.

We don’t hear Christians calling for alcohol to be available to minors and prayer vigils to be held instead for them to maintain their sobriety.

For that matter, most Christians would argue that it is wrong to put a glass of whisky and an open bottle in front of an alcoholic, because we would not want our weaker brother to be led into temptation.

By the same token, no responsible church leader would leave pornographic magazines lying around on tables at the church youth retreat and simply pray that the young people would not find the naked images enticing.

Prayer doesn’t absolve us of the responsibility to take reasonable steps to protect others from obvious sources of harm.

So why put guns in the hands of a generation which finds mass murder tempting?

And why resist introducing legislation that might have prevented many of our recent shootings?

It is true that many godless people in politics believe that only politics can solve mankind’s problems. It is also true that many godless people believe that having more money can drive away their woes and give them more of a sense of meaning in life.

No Christian argues against having money – we recognise that we need to earn money to provide for our families and pay our way in life. What we are against is the love of money – putting our faith in money to save us.

The same is true of politics. Yes, godless people may be excessively dependent on politics in the same way that many are excessively dependent on wealth. The wise Christian recognises the good in these things without making them the ultimate authority.

The truth is that conservative Christians simply don’t want to give up their guns. It matters not to them how many children die, or how many people are injured, or how many families have to grieve the loss of a child or a parent.

They say it matters – but it doesn’t matter enough to them to make changes that would save lives.

Too many of them – I have had discussions with some – are too in love with their hunting and rifles to contemplate any restriction on any form of firearm. In contrast, I have friends and relatives here in the UK who hunt with rifles and shotguns. All of them think that the situation in the US is insane. I too have been trained in the use of firearms. It is not as if we are all scared of guns here. We simply deplore the death toll in the US and the intransigence displayed by those who oppose quite reasonable forms of gun control.

America’s conservative Christians apparently stockpile guns and ammunition against the day they are confronted with an imaginary foe – a possibly-maybe foe – while ignoring the very real foes rampaging in their midst.

They urge us not to bow to the god of government – while ignoring God-given wisdom about good governance.

They resist enacting desperately-needed legislation as if it were some kind of capitulation, while failing to see that good lawmaking is given to us by God to protect the weak.

They argue that “criminals will always find a way to commit their crimes” and “murderers will always find a means to kill people”, without recognising that the availability of a firearm constitutes a source of temptation, without which many such incidents might never occur.

Could it be that while we wait for God to answer our prayers to put a stop to mass shootings, God is waiting for us to rend our hearts and start changing our attitudes and behaviour?

While Christian gun lovers utter hollow words, the bodies of men, women and children lie bloodied on hallowed ground. And this will continue to be the case, while God’s people fail to act.

The author graduated in Law and French from the University of Bristol, England in 1997, and has also served on the ministry staff of a local church.

Abortion: Playing to the lowest common denominator

24 Jan

So, I got myself involved in a (mercifully brief) late-night “discussion” of abortion with a couple of feminists on Twitter…

Of course, it all turned graphically anatomical in the twinkling of an eye:


But here’s what struck me afterwards:

Abortion plays to the lowest common denominator of relationships between men and women.

I use you for sex; you agree to me using you for sex.

We agree we will not see each other again, or at least not see each other for very long.

I care not that you get pregnant. You don’t care either. Surgery can deal with the consequences.

I’m not likely to volunteer hold your hand before, during, or after the termination procedure. I’ve done what a man does (ejaculate and leave); you do what a woman does (get pregnant; have surgery; cry in private; go on marches for your reproductive rights).

Abortion, so you tell me, is your right as a woman. Great! Because unfettered, consequence- and commitment-free sex is clearly my right as a man.

No, really: I don’t have to paint a nursery, put up shelves, mow the lawn, attend pre-natal classes with you, hold your hand during cramps, rub your back for you, bring you cups of tea, change nappies, get up in the night to provide bottle-feeds, listen to you bang on about womanly things or your expectations of me as husband and (partial?) provider, and much, much more.

I don’t even have to share the remote control or give up my video-game marathons.

I just fuck and go.

And, frankly: fuck your feelings!

Why am I writing like this on what is ostensibly a Christian blog?

I’m sorry if the four-letter language causes any offence. Most of my posts aren’t like this. I’m trying to work towards this point:

There has to be a better way.

What if, instead of using women for sex and then abandoning them to unwanted pregnancies and abortions (and letting them suffer unnecessary emotional trauma), men treated women with reverence?  With love? With an attitude of commitment?

What if women saw the merit in marriage, and actively prepared for it, instead of joining men in the gutter of commitment-free sex (and later wondering where all the good, eligible men are)? (Clue: they married women who saw the merit in settling down earlier in life while you were busy having drunken flings with one-night stands or spending long years in relationships with men who were happy to have sex but weren’t playing for keeps.)*

What if we didn’t kill unborn babies because we created a world (even just our little corner of the world) in which we didn’t need to kill unborn babies?

When we take the love and commitment out of sex, we almost inevitably end up feeling the need to kill the offspring that results from such sex.

Maybe it’s time we admitted that such a lifestyle is not sustainable. The possibility of killing an unborn child ought to be a huge red flag that warns us off uncommitted sex in the first place.

When we talk about “pro-choice”, let’s be sure of what we are choosing, and where that path leads. Is having sex with people who don’t care about you and won’t stand by you really all it’s cracked up to be? Or is it actually a little bit immature and pointless – merely satisfying our urges with no thought of what happens to those who get in the way? Toddlers do that. The rest of us ought to have grown out of it.

You see, in a way I’m “pro-choice” too.

I’m “pro” the choice to treat people as people, not as objects.

I’m “pro” the choice to treat a woman with respect, rather than as a living, breathing extension of pornography, to be picked up and used and dumped at my convenience.

I’m “pro” the choice to take responsibility for the children we conceive – to love them and bring them up well, rather than to cast them aside.

I’m “pro” the choice to do decent, praiseworthy, God-mandated things that are hard, rather than selfish, lust-driven things that are easy.

I’m “pro” the choice to raise the level of the game I play (and to hold out the same example to others), so that I can be proud of how I’ve lived, safe in the knowledge that my testimony will speak for itself, rather than having to defend my actions.

As I’ve discussed in previous posts, a lot of these choices stem from my hopeless clinging to an outdated, bigoted, sexually repressive, anti-women Bronze-Age made-up religion that is completely laughable and worthy only of your contempt, unless of course the truth about it is somewhat more positive and you’ve missed the point while you were busy rallying for something or other.

Whatever your convictions about my convictions, I refuse to reduce relationships to the lowest common denominator of convenience and self-centredness.

I won’t do it before marriage, and I won’t do it during marriage either, so help me God.

So how about we bring the love back? How about making this a better world?


(EDIT) Since writing this post I’ve discovered a couple of articles that I thought were quite telling:

– Stella Morabito at The Federalist concurs: Why Pro-Abortion Men are Anti-Woman.
… and you know that hook-up culture has really taken hold when Vanity Fair examines it objectively: Tinder and the Dawn of the Dating Apocalypse.



I have nothing but sympathy for women (and men) who have been involved in abortions. Most feel at least some level of guilt; many have bitter regrets. When the Bible talks about repentance from sin and says that we can be forgiven, it applies to this sin as much as to any other. The death of Jesus Christ on the Cross is the proof that God forgives repentant people of all sin, including sexual sin and the killing of the unborn child.

God loves you. God forgives you. Receive His forgiveness and sin no more.

We also need God’s help to love each other and to live a better way.

Why not make that your choice today?

*link is monetised

Should Christians stay out of politics?

23 Jul

Keith Giles over at “subversive1” has written this article entitled Why Christians Shouldn’t Vote.

Keith is a man who gives a lot of thought and prayer to his work, and who clearly wants to see the Kingdom of God built. Most of what he writes is challenging, it’s usually well put, and he’s the kind of man who’s worth reading even if you don’t agree with what he says.

I don’t often agree with Keith, but reading his articles helps keep me on my toes, and it’s always a good exercise in seeing the other person’s point of view (even if it sometimes takes me a while!).

I hope Keith won’t take it personally that I’ve written this article in response. He has identified some 17 reasons why Christians shouldn’t vote, and most of them extend to why we shouldn’t be involved in politics either.

My father was a local councillor in the area in which I grew up here in the south of England, and we are friends with Christian council members and other people who are involved in local politics and civic life. I’ve seen firsthand the good that Christians can do in local public life, and how Christians can play their part in the political arena. One of the current councillors became a Christian through knowing my Dad and being involved with issues in which the local church also took a key role. Dad has been well-known for his fair approach, and has also been invited to open civic functions with prayer – a clear witness and an opportunity to invite God to be part of civic proceedings.

Keith doesn’t support Christians being in politics. I do.

I’ve taken his article, which is a list of bullet points, and have added my own comments. See what you think I hope there’s plenty to learn from both sides of the argument.

I’ve put my own comments in italics. I’ve written my bits in British English; Keith’s American spellings I have left. The first short paragraph below in bold is Keith’s.

For most Christians the idea of not voting sounds sacrilegious. But following Jesus means turning away from the “patterns of this world” in favor of a better way – the Kingdom of God.

To me, not voting just sounds more like an abdication of responsibility. You have a chance to participate in the future or your country, but you don’t take it. Is the “subversive” way the better way? We’ll see.

Keith says:

Here are some reasons why you shouldn’t vote if you follow Christ:

1. Because in over 6,000 years of human history, politics hasn’t solved any of our basic problems.

– Which basic problems has it not solved? Politics does in fact provide us with education, better (and in some cases free) healthcare, safer roads, safer aeroplanes, standards in the products we consume and our business dealings, and criminal laws that prevent many of us from robbing, raping and killing each other, and provide for the punishment of those who break those laws. All of these are the fruit of laws, which are voted on by politicians.

And how do we think (for example) slavery was overturned, if not by the actions of Christian politicians?

For sure, politics is not perfect, and there are many problems still to be solved. But to throw out the process by which many changes have been made for the better, and to ban Christians from taking part – whilst not having a fully-formed and effective replacement solution in place – does not improve matters. Rather, it would create a vacuum into which all kinds of malign influences would rush.
I suspect that Keith would remind me that the gospel is a perfect solution. But unless hundreds of millions of people are acknowledging Jesus and living for him fully, we still need a means of governing people while the gospel is taking effect. I wonder if there is an element of “over-realised” eschatology in “subversive’s” gambit: wanting the “not-yet” of the Kingdom of God to be fully realised now, even where it is not promised for this age.

2. Because politics divides the Body of Christ and creates false “us vs. them” mentality.

– Only if you’re not very mature. And the same could be said of sports or anything else in which one expresses a preference or takes sides (including this blog post!). The mature Christian way is to disagree without being disagreeable; to take a side of an argument without denigrating the person or people on the other side. That’s Love Your Neighbour 101.

3. Because we will one day give an account to God for how we spent our time/money and investing in such an ineffective system is unjustified.

– True as to the first part, and possibly in the second as well, but will we not also be called to give an account to God for how we treat the opportunities He gives us? We may not have much control over the size of the Presidential hopeful’s tour bus or the outcome of House votes, but we do have the opportunity to have some kind of say in how things are run.

4. Because politics is about writing, passing and enforcing laws. Even God’s law wasn’t capable of creating the change we need. Why do we think we can do better?

– The Bible never speaks against laws, and (unlike the “subversive” writer) it consistently upholds law – and law-abiding – as good, except in cases in which the law itself is manifestly ungodly or unjust.

“ Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” (Romans 13:1)

Good laws are a good thing. I’m a law graduate, and can see the influence of the Bible in many of the laws that are common in Western democracies, from laws of contracts to health and safety at work through to negligence, criminal law and manslaughter. All of these things were mandated by God, in many cases expressly, and are based on concern for human wellbeing.

If we remove godly people (and the Bible) from our lawmaking process, what we are left with is laws that serve the interests of the elites and whichever lobby groups are most persuasive, with consequent suffering for those who have no political clout. Given that “subversive” is all about the justice, I’m surprised that there is so much argument for Christians to abdicate from an area in which they are so urgently needed.

5. Because when you have the power to change every human heart from within and make people brand new inside you don’t waste time on politics.

– So why not just run around zapping people and making them brand new? If indeed you have the power to change hearts as a Christian, why waste time as a nurse, or a doctor, or a teacher, or even as a parent? This is an issue of calling. God calls some people to live as full-time evangelists, preachers, etc.[1] But He also uses people to build the Kingdom where they are. If you’re flipping burgers at McDonald’s, witness there! If you’re a student in college, disciple your fellow students! And if you’re a Christian in politics, lead some of those corrupt politicians to repentance!

Rather than viewing what God gives other people as “wasting time”, perhaps we need to get our hearts right and then enter into some of these areas in the power of God in order to bring the light there.

6. Because we realize that to have a Christian nation you need to start with a nation of Christians. By making disciples we’re collaborating with Jesus to remake the world from within.

– There are two false assumptions here. One is that a “Christian nation” is the goal. Maybe the starting point – or realistic goal, given what the Bible says about the nations in the End Times – is to have a nation that is more Christian (or more reflective of God’s desires) than it would be if left entirely to non-Christians to run. Secondly, you don’t need everyone to be a Christian in order to make a difference. Furthermore, if you get all of the Christians out of politics, that is hardly a step forward. And again, who better to make disciples in the political arena than Christians in politics?

7. Because the Gospel is not spread through political actions or laws.

– Maybe not, but this is about the kind of society we wish to live in. However, some aspects of politics do affect people’s willingness to believe in God. Children who grow up without a father are more likely to believe that there is no God; children who grow up abused are more likely to believe that if there is a God then he is cruel and uncaring. Laws that promote family life can therefore help people to see God through familial stability that leads to effective examples of love. The same goes for justice. Nobody is suggesting that you can legislate people into Christian faith, but at the same time it would be right to found a country on laws that recognise the importance of Christian faith and principle. We must also ask ourselves: what would be the alternatives, and would they be workable?

8. Because we admit that seeking political solutions to mankind’s problems is the same as giving up on the power of the Gospel to change people from within.

– That’s a bit dramatic. Nobody is suggesting that, say, having good laws that uphold the family is going to save people from their sins, or that better laws are going to immediately solve world hunger, or that making it illegal to beat your wife is going to turn every man into a model husband.

Nevertheless, laws are effective in reducing evil behaviour. And “subversive’s” assertion is also a bit like saying that getting a hose to put out a fire in your back yard is the same as giving up on God’s power and sovereignty to send rain to extinguish the flames if it is His will.

I would agree, however, that we need to stop looking to politicians to sort everything out. There are some changes in the nation that only repentance and turning to God can achieve. But many of the changes that would flow from such a seismic shift would still have to be effected through political process, which would mean that one would still need to have people in politics who were sympathetic to those changes.

And what if we are in fact given responsibility so that we can choose to govern effectively in all matters? It would seem that this is the Bible’s call:

“I, wisdom, dwell together with prudence; I possess knowledge and discretion.
To fear the LORD is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech.
Counsel and sound judgment are mine; I have understanding and power.
By me kings reign and rulers make laws that are just…” (Proverbs 8:12 -15)

9. Because passing laws that force people to act Christian isn’t the same as making people like Christ.

– True, but no sensible Christian is arguing for compulsory church attendance enforced by a religious police. I sense that some of this is about not wanting Christians to offend the LGBTQ community by promoting laws that uphold the family rather than legalising same-sex marriage, transgender bathroom rights and so on. But even those laws would not be forcing people to “act Christian” – they would simply be a fruit of biblical guidance which happens to be what God has conceived as good for society.

[EDIT] Keith has since been kind enough to correct me on this issue. Nonetheless, the climate in, say, the emerging/emergent church is one in which there is a deep-seated suspicion of categoric statements of right and wrong, and unease about being seen to tell people what to do. Neither of these are good for lawmaking if they take root and flourish in a culture.

10. Because our core problems, as a human race, are spiritual in nature. That means the only solution is spiritual.

– It is true that our core problems are spiritual in nature, but sometimes God’s answers to those problems are natural ones.

“Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?” (James 2:15,16)

To suggest that all of the solutions are spiritual is to mischaracterise the issues. We need to ask not “What is spiritual?”, but what a godly person should be doing in any situation. If poor black kids are suffering in a particular city because they grown up not learning to read and write properly, we need politicians who will pay attention to those issues and provide books and teachers rather than putting their hands in the pork barrel. Yes, churches and charities can do great things in such areas too. But we’re talking about reforming the system. By all means back this with ardent, effective, soul-rending prayer so that it is done by God’s Spirit as well as through practical means, and the whole project will be even more fruitful.

11. Because politics is ultimately about compromise, power and corruption and no follower of Jesus needs to get entangled in those things.

– Politics does involve compromises, but that is what happens in a democracy. It does not mean that all compromise is bad, or that because some compromises have to be made then the whole of politics is a waste of time. Christians in politics can do a huge amount of good, particularly if backed by a praying church and led by God’s guiding Holy Spirit. There may be the occasional scandal or setback, but such mishaps don’t have to be the defining mode.

And yes, there is a lot of power politics and corruption. However, I think God is calling his people to stand up to those things in whatever way they find available. Christians are called to be a light in the darkness, not to hide.

12. Because human governments are essentially focused on gaining power and national wealth through violence and war.

– So let’s refocus them. Christians butting out of the political arena only leaves the field free for the corrupt ones to pursue their goals.

13. Because politics is part of the world system we are called out of and saved from. It is one of the entanglements the scriptures call us to avoid.

– Which Scriptures? Jesus saved us from sin. We don’t get perfection until we’re in Heaven. We still have to go to work, go to school, pay taxes, etc, and are thus in some measure involved with the world’s system. Or do we want to pay taxes but have no say over how those taxes are spent, or send our kids to school but have no say in what is taught to them?

While it is true that the Bible says, “No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs — he wants to please his commanding officer” (2 Tim 2:4), is there no way to please God by serving Him in politics? Surely this Scripture is addressing the state of one’s heart, since the temptations of the world can easily befall anybody who works for a living, and not just those in the political arena.

14. Because the currency of politics are fame, money, power, manipulation and lies.

– All the more reason why men and women of truth, who have a servant-hearted attitude to leadership, can shine.

“… he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.” (2 Peter 1:3-7)

15. Because politics involves raising and spending billions of dollars which could better be used to build the Kingdom, feed the poor, care for the sick and comfort the outcast.

– True, but so do a lot of things. I suspect that God is firstly interested in how we control the money over which he has directly given us charge. Most Christians are paying into that corrupt system by buying things they can’t afford on finance. Moreover, this is actually an argument for Christians to be involved in politics, since they could be bringing integrity and godly wisdom to bear so as to ensure that money is spent wisely and that the needy are taken care of. These decisions still need to be made. It’s more difficult for Christlike decisions to be made if there are no Christians there to make them.

16. Because the NT portrays the enemies of Jesus as “the nations” and “the Kings of the earth”, we must stand with Jesus and work to advance His Kingdom, not promote earthly governments or leaders.

– The enemies of Jesus are only those who have set themselves against Him. And I don’t see how squandering opportunities to put godly governments in place (at whatever level) is going to advance the Kingdom.

17. Because choosing between the lesser of two evils is still a choice for evil.

– This conflates wisdom (making the right choice) with ideals (having the world as you would like it to be). If you are faced with a difficult choice, you naturally choose the outcome that produces fewer negative consequences. Not choosing at all is neither empowering nor sustainable.

If this refers to the current political climate – i.e. Hillary Clinton vs. Donald Trump in the battle for the White House – it is understandable that some people might not want to choose either. But could such an unpalatable choice actually be the fruit of Christians failing to engage with politics – and failing to pray for the nation – for many decades previously? Nevertheless, even in such difficult times, it is still good for Christians to be a light in dark places. And if there is any way to choose between Clinton and Trump, one should find it, and choose.

KEITH: One of the most dangerous entanglements faced by Christians is in politics. Why? Simply because those who become entangled in politics do so out of a sincere desire to make a positive difference in the world. But rather than employ the methods that Jesus gave to us, they are attempting to change the world using the world’s systems.

– Again, this insists on Christians in politics being as bad as the world. Maybe some are. But the Bible teaches:

“If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 4:11)

That sounds pretty transforming to me.

KEITH: Jesus did not come to give us more of the same, but with a cross on top. No, He came to show us a new and different way than anything we had ever even imagined before. This is why He started His Sermon on the Mount by urging all of us to “think differently” about everything. He had different ideas like overcoming evil with good, loving our enemies, and laying down our lives for one another.

– Why is this incompatible with politics? A Christian politician who is not there for money or fame is a man or woman who can stand on principle, free from accusation. Thinking differently is good, but we are not called to be different for difference’s sake.

KEITH: Of course, every Christian hopes to make an impact on the world. But Jesus has the very best possible plan for changing the world from the inside out – without bloodshed or oppression or violence.

– Right. So do Christians go into politics with the desire for bloodshed, oppression, or violence? Maybe some who claim to love Jesus do glorify war or weapons. But I think there are many others who would just love to live the example of Jesus in that field, and who need the support of the church to do so.

KEITH: No, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to make the world a better place. The problem is in seeking to do so without Jesus. Or, worse, to mix Christianity with Politics.

– So which Christians in politics (other than shallow, immature or fake ones) are going to try to make the world a better place without Jesus? Only by insisting that politics is un-Christlike can the author make his argument. And who says it is mixing Christianity with politics? What about bringing Christianity *into* politics?

KEITH: You know what you get when you mix religion and politics? You get politics.

– So don’t mix it. Make your politics subject to your godliness.

KEITH: Jesus shows us a better way.

– Indeed He does.

KEITH: Let’s follow Him.

– I pray we do.

Conclusion: Today’s politics are murky and confusing, as much here in the UK (voting to leave the European Union; new Prime Minister and cabinet members; severe challenges facing the nation) as in the US. But does any of this mean that Christians should withdraw from politics or public life?

There is a lot of argument for not being involved in politics which may appear biblical and true at first blush, but are they the whole story? Could this be simply another version of “Don’t Touch!” Christianity, which used to manifest in forbidding believers from dancing, wearing short skirts or going to the cinema? That spirit hasn’t gone away now that many more Christians consider themselves free to do those things; it just attaches itself to new issues – in this case, politics.

Moreover, there are issues of personal feelings or tastes, and one’s own sense of adequacy, at play. A Christian who sees no merit in heavy metal music sees no point in Christians playing in Christian heavy metal bands, and the heavy metal guy doesn’t see much merit in choral evensong, and so on.

Some Christians are called to some activities or fields of work, and some to others. While we’re talking about inclusive church, recognising, and indeed prizing, each other’s callings, and seeing others’ ability to produce godly fruit in a field for which we ourselves have no aptitude or affinity, may be a good place to start.

I contend that we should be involved, and that in so doing, we should bring a godly anointing into politics at all levels. Even – or perhaps especially – in such a dog-eat-dog arena, we can witness for Christ through our love, our gentleness, our wisdom, and our firm stand on what is true and right. May we pray for our Christian politicians, for their integrity, wisdom and continued passion, as well as praying for our nation, and for the hearts of many to be turned to the Lord.


[1] I know, we’re all called to serve God full-time, and we’re all in ministry. But for those who believe that words still mean something (without necessarily robbing other concepts of meaning), I’m talking about people who don’t do any other job.

Where is the heart among pro-gunners?

23 Jun

You can tell a lot about people by how they treat those who disagree with them.

And gun control is one of those subjects that seems to bring out the worst in some people far more than it brings out the best in others.

This lovely meme is circulating in response to the sit-in protest staged in the lower house of the US Congress yesterday by Democrats calling for gun control legislation in the wake of the shootings two weeks ago at Orlando gay bar, Pulse.

gun control politicians with dummies

Apparently men and women who call for an end to rampant irresponsible gun rights are babies (as well as hypocrites for being guarded, albeit with considerable justification, by men who have been trained to use weapons safely and who do not take those weapons home with them or treat them as status symbols).

All of which begs the question: where is the heart among pro-gunners? 

People are being killed while gun nuts mock – in homes, in schools, in cinemas, on streets, and most recently in gay bars. And it is not only politicians who are targeted for abuse: even shooting victims and bereaved family members who campaign for gun control – particularly women – can expect to be on the receiving end of threats of all kinds, including spitting, attacks through social media, sexual harassment and physical violence.

This sits oddly with the image gun lovers have of themselves as heroes, protectors of the good, defenders of Freedom, etc. Shouldn’t protecting people include treating people with dignity, even if they don’t share your views, or at least, y’know, not threatening to rape them or not issuing “subtle” death threats by posting intimidating videos of your carryin’ chums shooting at targets that clearly stand in for the people you don’t like?

Shouldn’t protecting people include attempting to empathise with those who have lost loved ones, rather than dismissing them as whiners?

Spiritually, too, there is a sinister aspect to all of this – all the more so given that many who jump on the bandwagon of social-media mocking are professing Christians. Hard-heartedness of the kind that makes light of people’s attempts to save lives from needless slaughter is a spiritual problem; turning a blind eye to death and destruction and laughing at those who try to stop the killings indicates spiritual bondage, or at the very least a serious lack of empathy.* If you have trouble swallowing that, ask yourself if such behaviour is loving or peaceable.

Indeed, is it in line with any part of the fruit of the Holy Spirit?

If the deaths of innocent children, the terror felt by those present when a shooting takes place, and/or the sight of survivors who will never walk again don’t cause you to feel some empathy – don’t cause you to question whether there may be something wrong with the pursuit of Ever More Weapons – there is something badly amiss.

It’s time we started to care about one another. And maybe we could begin by not mocking those who care enough to stand up and do something. And those who show they care by sitting in.

*Lack of empathy is a symptom of psychopathy – not that I’m trying to connect those two dots at this point.

See also: My disclaimer – Everything America Needs to Know About Gun Control.

Tempora mutantur?

3 Apr

People keep telling me we have to reappraise our understanding of the Bible because society’s attitudes have changed with the times.

What if God wrote what He wrote in the Bible because He didn’t want society’s attitudes to certain things to change?



The New Social System: Keeping Parents Out

18 Mar

Not content with dismantling the NHS and drastically reducing benefits for the disabled in this week’s budget, the British Government this week unveiled plans to scrap the requirement for parents to sit on school boards of governors. As the Christian Institute also reports, parents would still have the opportunity to sit on school boards, but it would no longer be mandatory in the case of academy schools (which could soon mean all schools).

This ought to come as disturbing news to anybody who doesn’t view education as merely a convenient form of free childcare. Parents should have a voice in the running of their children’s schools; removing the requirement for parents to sit on school boards will inevitably lead to a weakening of the role of parents, and could see many schools – sorry, academies – phasing out the involvement of parent-governors altogether.

After all, what incentive is there for corporate education providers to involve parents if they can promote people who will deliver value for shareholders instead? How might one place limits on ideologically motivated educators if the board of governors does not represent a diversity of viewpoints?

The news is all the more disturbing as it marks another step in the land-grab by Government for access to children in the British Isles. Scotland’s controversial Named Person scheme faces strong opposition, yet continues to be pushed by those who want to see the state become both monitor and arbiter of how children should be raised. It is clear that some in Scotland think that they know better than parents.

Meanwhile, “education” on sex and transgender issues is being pushed on younger and younger children, in spite of the scientific evidence that this is unnecessary and even harmful. Parents’ concerns are routinely brushed aside as schools make decisions that run counter to common sense in order to privilege a minority, with the result that, for example, boys who claim to be transgender may demand to be allowed to use girls’ toilets and changing facilities, regardless of the effect on the girls who have a right to privacy and respect as well.

There is an ever-increasing push to keep parents out of their children’s upbringing, and to insert the involvement of the state in their place. This will fall particularly hard on Christian parents who quite rightly want to participate actively in the life and direction of their children’s schools. Some secular, liberal parents may be more at ease with what children are being taught about sex, abortion, homosexuality and transgender issues, while others may not feel as passionately and hence are less likely to seek election to school boards.

I cannot pretend to know whether the British Government knows what it is doing in these matters, or whether it is simply following blindly the logic of the marketplace and/or kowtowing to its wealthy donors who have vested interests.

What is sure is that marginalising parents from school boards is another step towards increasing state control in family life and the development of our young people, and this will have consequences for freedom of thought and religion.

Can We Have our Civilisation Back? Reflections on what the ‘inclusive’ SNP conference of 2016 Teaches Us

15 Mar

Where is the new rationality on LGBT values taking us? (Reblogged from The Wee Flea)

Can we have our civilisation back

Imagine the scene. You are a delegate at a packed SNP conference – with thousands of others. On a high because the SNP is still riding high in the polls and on target to become the Scottish government again.   The SNP youth come forward with a motion that the SNP should support the Time for Inclusive Education (TIE). One delegate, teenager Gaela Hanlon declares

“I have seen first hand 13 year olds who have been bullied to the point where they hate themselves so much they want to kill themselves. It happens all the time. How long will we turn a blind eye to this? How many kids have to die?”

She receives a standing ovation. But you feel a little unease amidst all the euphoria.
Given that TIE wants to prevent such bullying, and the motion states that the purpose is to “Promote a safe, equal and accepting environment for…

View original post 2,122 more words

Me every day on the internet

11 Mar
Things I repeatedly find myself saying on the internet and social media:
– That’s not true.
– That missing person was found weeks ago.
– That person was never missing in the first place.
– That’s a very old hoax.
– That hoax is older than your Mom.
– That’s a new hoax.
– Just kidding – it’s even older than the first one.
– And your Mom.
– No, Jesus didn’t say that.
– And Christians don’t believe that.
– Or do that.
– Or that.
– Not if they are serious about following Jesus, anyway.
– Which is what actual Christianity is, y’know, about.
– Yes, we do have evidence.
– Again, that thing you reposted on Facebook is a hoax – check Snopes.
– And Wikipedia.
– And any reputable news source.
– And real life.
– The effect of that change in social mores has not been nearly so beneficial as you claim, on any number of metrics that are commonly accepted as indicators of health, security and wellbeing.
– I know it’s only “one study”. It’s not the only one, and I’m telling you to keep an open mind.
– You’ll get the “lots of studies” when I find time to write a book about it. Otherwise, the research is out there. Has it occurred to you that maybe the real science doesn’t sell newspapers?
– Or that politicians don’t care about it?
– Yes, man did land on the Moon.
– No, we have not collaborated with aliens to build a secret base there.
– The second shadow comes from sunlight reflected by Earth, not studio lighting.
– No, not everything you read on Snopes is true.
– Because not everybody on Snopes understands what they are talking about.
– Or that opinion is not the same as logic, analysis or an impartial and thorough review of actual evidence.
– Nibiru? No.
– Because we would have seen it in all kinds of ways.
– But not on your mobile phone.
– Nor as a second sun mysteriously caught on a TV camera in one broadcast but also mysteriously invisible to billions of other people, millions of other cameras and the whole scientific community.
– Could you take my word on this one? Or make a common-sense assessment?
– Please?
– Nor Planet X.
– Nor chemtrails.
– Guns. Kill. People.
– Yes, there is a Planet 9.
– But it doesn’t do the things you say Planet X does.
– Which would make it not actually proof of your crackpot theory.
– Well, the person who first published the Nibiru theory claimed to have been spoken to by aliens.
– But who am I to judge?
– No, Hitler and the Nazis weren’t Christians.
– Pretty sure, actually.
– And they didn’t get caught up in a secret plot to perpetuate the Third Reich through the 1960s space race.
– The proposed changes in the legislation are not nearly so benign and neutral as this pressure group makes out.
– It’s not homophobic to point that out.
– Or transphobic.
– Or bigoted.
– It’s called freedom of speech.
– And thought.
– Yes, if it has a penis and testicles that produce sperm, it’s probably still a man.
– It’s not homophobic to point that out.
– Or transphobic.
– Or bigoted.
– It’s called scientific fact.
– And thought.
– Which was what we believed in before we decided feelings were the ultimate arbitrator of reality.
– And after we did away with God.
– Look, just let me know when Caitlyn Jenner starts menstruating.
– Could you please actually read the Bible?
– And try to understand that a New Testament can repeal sections of an Old Testament?
– Or ask a Christian what they believe?
– And how they come to that belief?
– And how they live it out in practice?
– Rather than telling them they believe and do what Richard Dawkins told you they believe and do?
– Or that lobby group.
– Or the National Secularist Foundation of Societies for Freedom From Religion And Anything That Questions Our Unquestioning Self-Regard.
– *yawn*
– Yes, I do eat prawns.
– But not oysters.
– You may have misunderstood the purpose of that commandment in the Old Testament.
– And imposed a 21st-century, post-modern view of justice and democracy upon it.
– Because an unmarried woman who had been raped couldn’t just go and claim social security in 1500 BC Sinai, that’s why.
– Ditto that commandment.
– And that commandment.
– Seriously? Yes, that commandment too.
– It’s not just an unfeeling clump of cells.
– Three words: Abortion to term.
– Liberal Christians don’t want to believe the Bible any more than you do. The clue’s in the name.
– I know Rob Bell said it.
– But Jesus didn’t.
– If Jesus didn’t talk about that thing, maybe it was because it was already commonly understood in that era from 1,500 years of Jewish history and law.
– Have you seen oysters? Seriously, no, thank you!
– No, it’s not a Delusion.
– And the translators do know what they are doing.
– And the real history of the Crusades is not like that.
– The evidence is there – you just have to investigate it honestly.
– For yourself.
– Because if Richard Dawkins is as blinkered, unresearched and biased as you are,* then it’s the blind leading the blind.
– Well, there’s a chance that if you investigate these things for yourself you will achieve that thing that you’re always insisting I should do.
– “What’s that?”
– Learn something that will open your eyes.   :o)
– No, Jesus won’t turn you away for believing in Nibiru.
– Salvation comes by faith in a God who has revealed Himself in numerous ways.
– Not by passing a science test.
Thank you for reading.
*There is plenty of evidence that this is so.

Alice’s Baby (Part 2) – a law graduate comments

23 Feb

Welcome to Part 2 of “Alice’s Baby” – my look at the implications of abortion for the law, and the implications of the law for abortion and society. In Part One I outlined the hypothetical case of a woman killing her prematurely-born child just hours before he would have been aborted, had an accident not intervened.

I’ll get to the discussion questions in a moment, but first I’d like to frame the discussion by explaining what this is about and why I’m writing this pair of posts. I’ve been hoping to write this article for a while as I think there is some important light that the law, and legal philosophy, can shed on abortion, particularly in light of the fact that premature babies born before the legal abortion limit are now surviving in considerable numbers, and also following on from revelations about partial-birth abortions, as practised in the Kermit Gosnell abortion clinic case.

(EDIT These posts seem all the more timely, given that the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) has this same week called for the legalisation of abortions up to term, for any reason, and claimed that the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) supports this. Members  of the RCM claim that they were not consulted and have denounced the move. END EDIT)

I’m also going to anticipate some questions and objections that people might bring up.

i.) Isn’t this case study all a bit silly and arbitrary?

No. Laws exist for a reason. Good law protects people from all kinds of negative conduct and consequences. Bad law does the opposite. Law students – and indeed lawmakers – study legal problem questions such as this one in order to understand how the law works and how it might affect the people it governs.

University students all over the world get their law degrees in part by studying questions like this one.

ii.) Isn’t this case study loaded in favour of your (i.e. my) Christian pro-life outdated religious bigoted views?

No. The case study is an invitation to discuss a set of hypothetical facts which are plausible and adequate for the purposes of examining the implications of particular judgments that we might make about those facts. These facts do not in themselves presuppose any particular judgment. That this study might lead some people to agree or disagree with a particular stance on pro-life versus pro-abortion does not mean that the case study itself is rigged.

iii.) Does this case study bear any relation to real life?

Yes. The issue we are trying to decide is not only whether a woman should be convicted in the rare event that she would do what Alice has done, but to shed light on the issues surrounding abortion and the value of human life in general. These issues affect us whether we want them to or not.

iv.) Is this case study intellectually tenable?

Yes. Law is very much a science, and forms the bedrock of every society. Whether we agree or disagree with certain laws, the law in itself is an intellectually demanding field of study with complex foundations and principles that have developed considerably over time.

Law operates entirely independently from the laws of nature as observed by science, although science can inform the law and vice versa.

v.) Are you going to get to the discussions soon?

Okay.  :o)

I will both explore the questions in brief and give my own answers as well as trying to examine other possible views.

1.) Has Alice committed murder or infanticide? Has she taken a human life?

The Crown Prosecution Service (the body responsible for the prosecution of serious crime in England and Wales) defines murder thus:

Subject to three exceptions the crime of murder is committed, where a person:

  • of sound mind and discretion (i.e. sane);
  • unlawfully kills (i.e. not self-defence or other justified killing);
  • any reasonable creature (human being);
  • in being (born alive and breathing through its own lungs – Rance v Mid-Downs Health Authority (1991) 1 All ER 801 and AG Ref No 3 of 1994 (1997) 3 All ER 936;
  • with intent to kill or cause grievous bodily harm (GBH).

Under this law (which I guess to be broadly similar in most other jurisdictions), Alice could only exonerated from murder if found not to be sane. It does not matter that her child has been born prematurely and could have been aborted – at the time of its death, the child was “in being”, capable of independent life by its own strength.

The alternative offence exists of infanticide, whereby a mother who deliberately killed her new born child while the balance of her mind was disturbed as a result of giving birth receives a lesser sentence than she would for murder.

The burden then lies with the prosecution to prove that the balance of the mother’s mind was affected such that she killed her child when she would otherwise not have done so. If Alice can reasonably be said to be rationally in charge of her own decision-making, the offence is murder; otherwise it is infanticide.

In all cases, however, it is clear that the child, while legally capable of being aborted whilst still in the womb, is a human being in its own right once born. Alice has unlawfully taken the life of a human being, not merely fulfilled the intent of aborting her pregnancy.

In short, Alice is guilty of killing her child. This has, or should have, implications for our understanding of the value of that child, whether born or unborn, and thus should have implications for abortion too.

2.) If Alice has committed murder (or infanticide), what implications does this have for abortion?

This is where abortion most obviously becomes problematic. Children are surviving increasingly premature births at increasing rates, thanks to the development of neonatal medicine and technology. Abortion is legal in the UK up to 24 weeks’ gestation.[1] Premature babies can survive from as young as 22 weeks’ gestation, with the survival rate for babies born at 23 weeks ranging from 15 to 40%. [2]

The implications are clearly serious: if a premature child has a viable (albeit fragile) life and reasonable (if low) prospects of living, by what mechanism are we able to claim that the unborn child is not a life while the born child is?

What about child destruction?

The doctrine of “life in being” is helpful in distinguishing murder from the crime of child destruction, i.e. the unlawful killing of a child in utero. Child destruction too is a serious offence, punishable by imprisonment for life. The fact that a child has not yet been born does not mean that it is not subject to the protection afforded by the law – indeed the law extends protection of life beyond life “in being” (actual persons) to life still in the womb.[3] While the law against child destruction does not of itself criminalise abortion, the distinction between life in being and the life of the unborn child, and its implications for Alice’s case, are not at all helpful to the case in favour of abortion.

It is worth pointing out that the offence of child destruction, rather than murder, applies if the killing is so proximate to the birth as to constitute an inseparable act. Alice’s case, however, involves a noticeable delay between the child’s birth and its death (and the case study was deliberately designed that way so as to create clarity), so the offences of murder or infanticide apply.

What does abortion law cover?

English law permits the termination of a pregnancy on the grounds of grave risk to the physical health, mental health or life of the mother, and similar. [4] Clearly this is routinely being ignored since abortion is essentially available on demand.

What does the offence of infanticide imply for abortion?

If Alice can be said to have committed the offence of infanticide rather than murder – a reasonable conclusion if the balance of her mind was upset by her accident and the birth of her child – the infant is still that: an infant. While abortion may be acceptable, and indeed desirable to many in society, it is this point about life and the viability or life, and the morality (or otherwise) of taking that life that is at issue here.

Does abortion take a life? And if a baby born prematurely can be the victim of infanticide (or murder, if a third party such as an “Angel of Death” nurse, or a friend acting on Alice’s behalf, were to kill the child), what moral distinction separates that baby’s life from the life of an unborn child which is aborted?

Should we continue to support abortion so broadly in the face of clear evidence that it kills viable babies?

Besides this, to what extent is viability a forceful argument in law? It is commonly claimed that abortion is justifiable because the foetus is entirely dependent upon its mother and is not a separate life. As we have already seen, this argument carries no weight as a defence to the crime of child destruction. And one might add that in addition to all foetuses, all 18-month olds are arguably fully dependent upon Mother and largely incapable of independent survival. Are they too candidates for termination?

3.) If Alice has not committed murder, or we would like to say that she has not, what implications does this have for the value of human life?

Is it reasonable for abortion’s supporters to claim that a child that has somehow escaped abortion should still be capable of being put to death legally? This is not idle kite-flying. There are some who argue that parents should have the right to have a newborn child put to death, since ending their lives is no different to abortion.

The obvious observation to make here is that this is the thin end of the wedge. What holds us back from broadening the scope of legislation that permits postnatal killing once it gains a foothold and becomes accepted? Moral philosopher (I cannot bring myself to use the word “ethicist”) Peter Singer has stated that no child should be considered a human life until it is 30 days old, and that some disabled children should be put to death without delay. Because they are not self-aware, he argues, “…they are not persons”; therefore, “the life of a newborn is of less value than the life of a pig, a dog, or a chimpanzee.” [5]

Richard Dawkins, for many the chief spokesperson for popular atheism, has said via Twitter that it would be immoral not to abort a foetus that was seen to have Down’s Syndrome. He has since apologised for the outrage this caused, but still he seems to be committed to the idea that aborting Down’s syndrome babies is a legitimate course of action and, as Singer’s words prove, he is not the only one who thinks this way. This argument for eugenics is clearly an acceptable view in at least significant parts of the academic establishment, and the fact that so many are articulating it proves that it is no flash in the Twitter pan.

Where does this shocking logic end? It is an argument based on a subjective view of quality of life, rather than the objective and simple (but not simplistic) view that all life has equal, supreme value, and that quality of life is very much a secondary concern – a notion not conferred on us by evolutionary science, but drawn from the idea that all human beings are valuable because we are created in the image of God. While some might laugh at the idea of God having anything to say about our worth, this has been the basis of our laws in the West for almost two millennia

It is worth noting that most secularists and political and religious liberals normally consider it to be a sign of our increasingly civilised and morally irreproachable values that we have done away with the death penalties and cruel and unusual punishments that featured in earlier times. Of course this is put down to the triumph of science and reason, but with our leading “reasoners” calling for babies to be put to death, can we be so sure that it is secularism and science that have given us our most cherished values, or does God provide us with transcending moral imperatives that do not shift with the whims of society and the opportunities afforded by technology?

Are we in danger of taking away those historical killings with one hand, only to bring them back in a different guise with the other? [6]

Furthermore, Singer’s is an argument that is capable of shifting quickly to encompass all kinds of persons whom we might find it more convenient to consider “non-persons”. What is to stop us (or our representatives in Government) from deciding that along with severely disabled babies, healthy babies can also be put to death if there are grounds for the parents to wish they taken up the offer of an abortion when they had the chance? Arguments for abortion up to full term are being made by some who see no reason to limit abortion to 24 weeks; why not allow that to spill over into killing babies after birth, since the difference between born and not-born is only as thin as the skin of the womb?

And why stop there? If babies (disabled or otherwise) are non-persons, or persons not worthy of the same consideration as the rest of us, why not euthanise severely disabled people of all ages, and with them the old, the mentally infirm, the simple, people with Down’s syndrome, people with incurable diseases, people who refuse to work for a living, or anybody else whom the political class considers beyond the pale?

If we cannot value the lives of unborn babies consistently and without partiality, is there any substantial hope that we will be able to value the rest of us?

Conclusion: Is this a realistic assessment?

Is this simplistic alarmism? Or are these things knocking at our door? Ideologies that valued some people-groups and severely denigrated others knocked on the door in many European countries in the 1930s and were welcomed in, resulting in body counts in the millions that we still condemn today. These ideologies included eugenics and discrimination against the disabled and infirm. Is there any reason – in a Europe or an America once again beset by ethnic conflicts, political challenges, and financial difficulties – why such measures might not be taken again?

It is common for liberals to argue that such things couldn’t happen here, or again. We know better now, supposedly. But is that true? The current times, with the National Health Service being broken up in spite of the concerns of a nation, and rights and benefits for the disabled being undermined, with disastrous consequences for many, prove that much decisionmaking is beyond the control of the ballot box. Politics is too complex – and courageous voices too few – for all evil to be restrained. The current combination of financial crises and increasing demands on public services make it all but inevitable that there will be increasing calls to wipe out of existence first individuals, and then some whole class of humans who we feel are a burden to society.

We haven’t arrived at such dark days yet. But we are getting there. Can anybody honestly say that the foundations are not being laid? Surely a society in which there is hope for all life to be valued looks different from what we are building at present. The trend would run in the opposite direction, and our prominent ethicists would call for us to protect the life of the child, disabled or otherwise, for in so doing we would be protecting the lives of us all.

In a society in which many of us arguably consider abortion to be routine, desirable and a human right, what is to stop us from hardening our hearts against lives in being?

Law protects life

To begin where we started, law protects life. While it may be argued that the law encodes principles that most of us already hold in our hearts, it nevertheless carries a force that shapes both the views and practices of individuals and the destiny of whole societies. Bad law can be identified by its propensity to lead to bad consequences. Law that blurs the definition of the value of life and renders other lives susceptible to being deemed not worthy of living by a process of logical extension is self-evidently bad law.

The problem with the current law on abortion is perhaps not that it is flawed so much as that it is being flouted. In other words, it is clear, but it is being ignored. It defines abortion as a crime expect in very specific circumstances, but it is not being enforced as such. Poorly-enforced law is as bad for society as poorly-drafted or poorly-conceived law. And poorly-enforced law in turn may lead to more extreme laws being written that grow out of behaviours formerly considered extreme which society has come to accept as normal.

Let us hope that those days don’t come, or else future Alices may be responsible for the killing of more than premature children.

The author holds a bachelor’s degree (LLB) in law and French from the University of Bristol.


[1] Abortion Act 1967


[3] Infant Life (Preservation) Act 1929, section 1(1)

[4] Abortion Act 1967, section 1 (1)

[5] Peter Singer, Practical Ethics, 1st ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979), 122–23, quoted at

[6] It is also worth pointing out that, while considered barbaric by many today, capital punishment and amputations in history generally took place in the course of execution of sentence by the courts. Today’s call for putting human beings to death is not on the basis of guilt for crimes committed, but on the basis of a subjective view of their worth, and even the inconvenience posed by their existence. Which is more barbaric?

Alice’s Baby (Part 1) – a law graduate examines abortion

23 Feb

Where does abortion lead us morally and legally? I’m a law graduate, so by nature I like to examine the legal aspect of trends in society. I’ll save all the explanations for the follow-up article, in which I attempt to answer the questions posed by this post, but for now, here’s a legal problem of the kind you’ll find in degree-level tutorials at university law schools across the world, particularly on courses such as Medicine, Law and Ethics.

Introducing Alice: A Theoretical Case Study

Alice is a woman who has become pregnant and has subsequently decided to terminate the pregnancy. Her abortion is booked for Wednesday, the last day on which it is legally permissible for her to have the termination procedure. On the Monday morning directly preceding her abortion date, Alice is involved in a car accident and is rushed to hospital with life-threatening injuries.

The doctors are able to save Alice’s life. To achieve this, they have to remove her baby from the womb by means of an emergency Caesarean section.

On Tuesday, Alice wakes from her coma to be told that her baby has been placed in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and is doing as well as any premature baby, with very good prospects for a healthy future.

That night, Alice decides that she still does not want to be a mother and, in spite of her pain and the risk to her health, is able to leave her bed and slip into the unit where her baby is in an incubator.

She kills her child by means of smothering and then goes back to bed. On Wednesday morning, a nurse comes to tell her that her child has died in the night.

Questions for discussion

1.) Has Alice committed murder or infanticide? Has she taken a human life?

2.) If Alice has committed murder or infanticide, what implications does this have for abortion?

3.) If Alice has not committed murder, or we would like to say that she has not, what implications does this have for the value of human life?

I hope that’s all pretty clear and straightforward. I’ll see you on the other side in Alice’s Baby, Part 2.

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