Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Orwellian Legacy of Tony Blair

As Tony Blair prepares to leave office, I find myself reflecting on the legacy left by this remarkable individual. He is remarkable in so far as he has permanently changed the face of British government.
Henry Porter summed it up well in a letter he wrote to Tony Blair on 23rd April 2006, published in The Guardian:

"Successive laws passed by New Labour have pared down our liberty at an astonishing rate. The Right to trial by jury, the right to silence, the right not to be punished until a court has decided that the law has been broken, the right to demonstrate and protest, the presumption of innocense, the right to private communication, the right to travel without surveillance and the details of that journey being retained – all have been curtailed by your legislation. While hearsay has become admissible in court, free speech is being patrolled by officious use of public order laws."

Blair and 'Thought Crimes'

When Tony Blair first came to power, he promised to be tough on crime. Only in retrospect have we come to understand the sinister reality behind these words. Mr. Blair would indeed be tough on crime, but he would do it by eroding thousand year old civil liberties, criminalising a plethora of previously legal activities and altering the very structure of British common law.

Under Mr. Blair, the very idea of Government took a paradigm shift. Categories that at one time would have been unthinkable – such as ‘state-sanctioned morality’, ‘thought crimes’ and ‘politically correct religion’ – have become reality.

Mr. Blair’s eagerness that Government should function as guardian, not simply of law and order, but also of the ideologies of its citizenry, was made patently obvious last year when his New Labour tried to push through legislation as part of the Religious Hatred Bill, which would have made it an offence to criticise different religious truth-claims. (See Archbishop Nichols' article 'Don't Impose Your Morality')

Even without the impetus of such a law, UK police currently operate under ‘guidance’ that defines a ‘hate incident’ so broadly that it can include debating another person about their lifestyle. Although this guidance has no statutory force, and has been called ‘pseudo-law’ by one constitutional lawyer, it can influence the policy of police constabularies provided it does not lead to an actual charge being issued. The effect is that simply to express certain viewpoints is treated as criminal. (See The Christian Institute’s Update Issue 9, Spring 2007, page 4, for a report on a number of instances where this occurred.)

And just so no one could doubt his totalitarian intentions, this year Mr. Blair championed a law forcing religious adoption agencies to either change their theological commitments or shut down.

It was this tendency to police beliefs that Dr. N. T. Wright, the Bishop of Durham, lambasted in an address to the House of Lords on 9 February, 2006. Dr. Wright referred to a new class of crimes which “have to do, not with actions but with ideas and beliefs.” He said:
"People in my diocese have told me that they are now afraid to speak their minds in the pub on some major contemporary issues for fear of being reported, investigated, and perhaps charged. My Lords, I did not think I would see such a thing in this country in my lifetime…. The word for such a state of affairs is ‘tyranny’: sudden moral climate change, enforced by thought police."

OK, before I go any further I must warn you to be careful about associating Tony Blair with George Orwell in public. Last year, Steven Jago, was charged under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act for carrying a placard in Whitehall bearing the following quote by George Orwell: ‘In a time of unviersal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.’ The 36-year old management accountant was also found in possession of several copies of Henry Porter’s article for Vanity Fair titled, ‘Blair’s Big Brother Legacy’, which were quickly confiscated by the police. ‘The implication that I read from this statement at the time was that I was being accused of handing out subversive material,’ said Mr. Jago. Mr. Porter, the London editor of Vanity Fair, wrote to Sir Ian Blair, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, seeking ‘assurance that possession of Vainty Fair within a designated area is not regarded as “politically motivated” and evidence of conscious law-breaking.’

'Liberty...Not Keeping Pace With Change' Says Blair

David Davis, the shadow Home Secretary, remarked: ‘If I had gone on the radio 15 years ago and said that a Labour government would limit your right to trail by jury, would limit – in some cases eradicate – habeas corpus, constrain your right of freedom of speech, they would have locked me up.’

Blair has never tried to conceal his antipathy for civil liberties. In a speech in May 2006, he said that ‘we require a profound rebalancing of the civil liberties debate.’

During a speech at one of the Labour Party conferences, Tony Blair defended the encroaching totalitarianism of his administration by arguing that desperate times call for desperate measures. He said:
I don’t want to live in a police state, or a Big Brother society or put any of our essential freedoms in jeopardy. But because our idea of liberty is not keeping pace with change in reality, those freedoms are in jeopardy.
On this point, at least Tony Blair and his critics agree: our freedoms are in jeopardy. Nor should this come as a surprise given that Mr. Blair’s Government has introduced some 3,000 new offences, including:

  • The Protection From Harassment Act 1997: Worded so vaguely that almost any form of repeated conduct can become a crime. It gives the crown authority to prosecute anyone causing a person ‘alarm or distress’ if this involves ‘conduct on at least two occasions.’ Because such conduct ‘includes speech’, and because it is not necessary to demonstrate that the person causing distress has used abusive or insulting words, merely preaching the gospel could become a criminal offence provided that somebody finds it distressing. The penalty is six months imprisonment or an order preventing the person from repeating the offence on pain of 5 years behind bars. It is now used routinely against peaceful protestors.
  • The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000: Removed the freedom to communicate privately without surveillance. Using this act, Government secretly intercepts and spies on 500,000 pieces of mail every year and email every year.

  • The Terrorism Act 2000: Removed the freedom to protest in certain circumstances, and increased the police’s power to question and harass individuals going about their business. Also removed the freedom of association and the presumption of innocence.

  • Criminal Justice Act 2003: Removed trial by jury in serious fraud cases. Also removed some of the remaining pillars of the Magna Carta, such as the right of silence and the rule of double jeopardy.

  • Courts Act 2003 and Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004: reversing the 400-year old principle that entry into your home could not be forced in civil cases.

  • Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003: makes hearsay and anonymous testimony admissible as evidence.

  • Civil Contingencies Act 2004: Gives Government police state powers. Allows Ministers to make special legislation in a seven-day period, including seizing property without compensation, banning Parliament, conferring jurisdiction on any new court or tribunal, provided the Minster believes there is or might be an ‘emergency.’ Ministers can orally declare the existence or potentiality of an emergency without consulting Parliament.

  • The Serious Organized Crime and Police Act 2005: Although this Act is most known for removing freedom to demonstrate outside Parliament unless first approved by police, it also includes a section on ‘harassment intended to deter lawful activities’. Under this act, it is an offence to cause alarm or distress to ‘two or more persons’ by ‘harassing’ them. ‘Harassment’ is defined as seeking ‘to persuade any person ... to do something that he is not under any obligation to do’. For example, if I try to persuade two or more people to accept Christ then because they are under no legal obligation to do so, I could be taken to court for harassment if the other person finds it distressing. The Act also requires police to take fingerprints and DNA of everyone who is arrested and to keep them on file even if the person is released without charge.

  • Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005: Further eroded the principle of innocent until proven guilty. Allows Home Secretary to issue control orders restricting the liberty of a suspected terrorist – without trial.

  • The ID Card Act 2006: Gave Government permission to set up a giant database, known as the National identity Register, to record the transactions of every British citizen, while allowing scores of government agencies to secretly monitor our lives. Overrules the principle of innocent until proven guilty since it allows the Secretary of State to confiscate someone’s card (thereby withdrawing that person’s ability to function in the state) without due process. (Read more about it HERE).

  • The Childcare Act 2006: Gives officials power to enter your property if they suspect that childcare is taking place without a proper licence.

Threat to Common Law

These and many other draconian laws engineered by Tony Blair, has led many of his critics to accuse him of abandoning the ancient pillars of British common law. For example, Labour peer Baroness Kennedy pointed out that
‘The common law is built on moral wisdom, grounded in the experiences of ages, acknowledging that governments can abuse power and when a person is on trial the burden of proof must be on the state and no one’s liberty should be removed without evidence of the highest standard. By removing trial by jury and seeking to detain people on civil ASBO orders as a preemptive strike, by introducing ID cards, the Government is creating new paradigms of state power. Being required to produce your papers to show who you are is a public manifestation of who is in control. What we seem to have forgotten is that the state is there courtesy of us and we are not here courtesy the state.’
It is a curious fact that in all the hype surrounding Blair's departure from office - or rather, his refusal to depart - and all the fuss about his mistakes and accomplishments, little mention is being made in the media of the way he fundamentally altered the face of British society, changed our common law and ripped away our time-honoured liberties.

For British freedom, this may be the start of the end, but for Tony Blair, it is just the beginning. Leaving behind him a bankrupt party, Blair stands to become a multi-millionaire overnight through the sale of his memoirs, lucrative directorships or vast sums available on the US lecture circuit. Oh, and he will also receive £90,000 a year from the taxpayer for life.
Further Resources:

Blair's Big Brother Legacy

Using 18 pieces of legislation, this Government has taken a sledgehammer to our rights

Blair laid bare: the article that may get you arrested

'Simon Carr: If you still think you live in a liberal and democratic society, then please read on'

Tony the Nanny: Tony Blair's shameful record on civil liberties

How we move ever closer to becoming a totalitarian state

The Legacy: Tony Blair, Prime Minister, 1997-2007

Blair's new laws leave us at the mercy of future tyrants

The Limits of liberty: We're all suspects now

Seven new laws for every day of Blair as PM

Britain's Liberties: The Great Debate

Wilson on Homeschool

In an earlier post, I defended the concept of classical Christian education. A question remains whether that kind of education is best achieved in the classroom or at home.

Of course, this is a relative question since it depends so much on one’s circumstances. In England, for example, there are no schools that offer a classical Christian approach to learning. However, in a situation where parents do have a choice, which method is best suited for attaining the educational ideal?

In chapter 24 of Douglas Wilson’s book The Case For Classical Christian Education, Wilson attempts “to defend the Christian classroom as a normal and appropriate way to teach children, one that has been used for millennia by covenant parents and that should not be rejected for modern ideological reasons.” Wilson’s points should be taken seriously by Christian home-educators, because he outlines some of the pitfalls when trying to do classical education in the home.

While acknowledging that “the classroom can (and often should) be rejected for practical reasons,” Wilson argues that this is another thing altogether from rejecting the classroom on ideological grounds. Yet that is the position taken by many Christian homeschoolers, who believe the method of teaching (i.e., doing it at home) is more important than the content of what is being taught.

Wilson is sympathetic with the concerns of many homeschoolers, but outlines some typical problems they can run into.

Some homeschoolers have not allotted a sufficient amount of time for the process of classical education. Despite what many claim, it is not possible to do in two or three hours what it takes people in a classroom eight hours to do. Then, too, the resources of time and energy are sometimes not given to the work. It is not possible to get a classical education ‘to go.’ Parents who do not have prep time can sometimes expect the texts to do all the teaching. But one of the glories of education is the opportunity to hear the truth come out of a human being with blood in the veins and air in the lungs and not just off a printed page.

"Sometimes homeschooled children who have learned to read are turned loose on all the books in the house and the local library. They are fierce readers, and by the time they are fourteen, they have read everything. But the danger is that their education can become little more than reading. When they come to take their SATs, they discover that their verbal scores are stratospheric, and their math scores give the impression that the test was taken by a rock that was having trouble holding the pencil.

"A second problem is familism. Many homeschooling families are quite large. In this setting, sometimes a tight familism takes over, and the families seek to become self-sufficient in all things. As a result they may become detached from the larger community. Pretty soon everything is being done at home – medicine, church, college education, and so on. But we are not called to a hermitage of the family.

"Sometimes practical problems can be created by larger families. The younger children are short-changed in their education because the parents are just plain weary by the time their turn comes, or parents are too busy trying to keep up with the older children. This problem might be called the snapshot phenomenon. The firstborn child often has multitudes of photographs taken of him, but the fifth child might have a hard time figuring out what he looked like when he was a kid. There are homeschooling parents who excelled with their older children, but the younger kids do not receive nearly the same mount of educational attention.

"A different problem can also occur in larger families, particularly when some of the older children are girls. As the family grows, mother needs more and more help, and sometimes the older girls become surrogate mothers. These girls have to forego their studies in order to help with the little ones. This situation can be justified by saying the girls are learning to be domestic, which they are. But they ought not to learn domesticity at the expense of the rest of their education.

"The third problem is related to the sex of the child. Girls who are being homeschooled are growing up in an environment for which they are suited and being prepared. But boys are called by God to go out into the world. A wise father needs to watch his daughters closely if they are enrolled in a school – girls can become detached from their homes in an unfortunate way. But, as I stated in Future Men, a wise father should also watch a homeschooled son. He can become attached to the home in an unfortunate way- one boy among sisters, taught by Mom.

"With all this said, homeschooling can generally work better prior to third grade with one or two kids. In many situations, parents of such children can outperform a good school. But as age and numbers of children increase, the schools do have the advantage of the division of labour and generally can do a better job."

To receive automatic notification every time new material is added to this blog, send a blank email to largerhope @ with “Blog Me” in the subject heading. (Note: for anti-spam purposes, this email address has had spaced inserted before and after the @ sign. The address will only work after deleting these spaces).

Mind Exchange

Bernard Williams' Essay 'The Self & The Future' begins by imagining a straight forward experiment in which two people exchanging bodies. From there Williams then takes his reader through a series of ingenuous steps to show that this is not actually as straight-forward as it seems. By the end of the essay, you don't even know whose who, literally.

If you like philosophical mind-teasers, you can't get any better than this. It took me a while to crack it, and even still I'm not quite sure that my own explanation (which you can read HERE) is adequate.

To receive automatic notification every time new material is added to this blog, send a blank email to largerhope @ with “Blog Me” in the subject heading. (Note: for anti-spam purposes, this email address has had spaced inserted before and after the @ sign. The address will only work after deleting these spaces).

Utilitarianism Makes a Comeback

All schoolchildren should be given ‘happiness lessons’, says Professor Lord Richard Layard, from the London School of Economics.

The Labour peer and director of the LCE’s Wellbeing Programme, said happiness classes should last for an hour and be mandatory up to age 18.

Dr. Layard, who is a social policy adviser to the Government, draws on the philosophy of the 19th century utilitarian Jeremy Bentham, urging that public policy should be an engine to promote public happiness.

The professor, who has undertaken much research to quantify happiness levels in our society, believes that capitalism, globalisation and individualism are responsible for an increase in net unhappiness. To counter this, Lord Layard ‘believes the central purpose of schools should be to teach “the secret of happiness”’, according to a BBC news report. In particular, he urges teachers to begin specialising in the science of ‘emotional intelligence.’

‘How can we expect people to learn to be happy without massive amounts of practise and repetition?’ Layard asks. ‘I believe it can only be done by the schools. Parents of course are crucial. But if we want to change the culture, the main organised institutions we have under social control are the schools.’

The plan is already being tested at the Wellington College. Last autumn the Berkshire boarding school introduced happiness lessons for older pupils, in collaboration with the Well-Being Institute of Cambridge University.


At first glance, Dr. Layard’s, proposals seem harmless enough. After all, who would contest the importance of happiness, on both the individual and social level? Surely the worst that could arise from providing ‘happiness classes’ is that time and resources would be wasted on something that cannot be taught. But it is hard to see anything sinister behind these proposals.

That is exactly what I thought before I began to investigate Dr. Layard’s philosophy.

Dr. Layard’s system begins with a premise that Christians will be able to agree to, namely that there is a ‘moral vacuum’ in our society. Because of this, he suggests, ‘We need to go down the route of giving values to people.’[i] The professor points out that we cannot achieve this without an ‘overarching theory which would help us resolve our moral dilemmas.’ That is where Layard steps in with the answer:

"I want to suggest that the right concept is the old Enlightenment one of the greatest happiness. The good society is the one where people are happiest. And the right action is the one which produces the greatest happiness."[ii]

This approach to ethics is known as utilitarianism and owes its popularity to philosophers such as Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) and John Stuart Mill (1806-1873). In Bentham’s book Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation, he argued that in order for an action to be right it must first conform to the principle of utility. An action conforms to the principle of utility if and only if its performance will be more productive of pleasure or happiness, or more preventive of pain or unhappiness, than any alternative.

Bentham believed that all ethics could be reduced to this simple yardstick. Any decision that conforms to the principle of utility is right while all actions that do not conform to it are wrong.[iii]

Utilitarianism was very much a product of Enlightenment Modernism. According to Modernism, there was such a thing as objective truth, and man could discover it using his reason.

In the 20th century, however, there was a shift to what has come to be called Postmodernism. In contrast to Modernism, Postmodernism says: ‘You cannot find objective values through utilitarianism, Christianity or any other route. The best each person can do is create his or her own personal truth. What is true to you may not be true to me.’ Postmodernism has thus created a moral vacuum, where there are no clear signposts that tell us what we should or should not do.

Although Postmodernism has done a thorough demolition job debunking the absurdities of Modernism, there are some contemporary thinkers who still work within a Modernist mindset. For example, Richard Layard and Richard Dawkins both believe universal values exist and are discoverable through man’s unaided reason. Both men believe ethical values exist and can be inferred on the basis of some form of utilitarianism.[iv]

In encouraging in a return to utilitarianism, Professor Layard is aware what he is up against, yet believes it is necessary because of the moral vacuum of our postmodern age.

"This [utilitarianism] is not a currently fashionable view among philosophers. But they do not offer any alternative overarching theory which would help us to resolve our moral dilemmas. Instead they support various separate values: promise-keeping, kindness, truthfulness, fairness and so on. But what do we do when they conflict? What should I do if I have promised to go to my daughter’s play and my father is taken to hospital – keep my promise or be kind to my father? I see no way in which conflicts between principles could be resolved without reference to some overarching principle…. If the critics offered a convincing alternative ideology for public and private morality, we could argue about which was better. But, since none is offered, we have the choice between a society with no comprehensive philosophy or one that embraces utilitarianism."[v]


Lord Layard takes pains to point out that within his formulation of utilitarianism the goal is both the collective happiness of mankind as well as the happiness of every single individual.[vi] The problem is what happens when these two goals conflict, as they inevitably will? For example, what if hurting a hundred people would make me happy? Why would that be wrong? Suppose we say it is wrong because the happiness of the majority is what really counts. In that case, what do we do when the existence of certain people or groups is draining the happiness of the whole? Hitler believed he was justified in exterminating handicapped people since they were, quite truthfully, a drain on the economic system. What if killing one innocent person would make a hundred people happy? Anticipating this problem, Lord Layard writes:

"A horrible action – imprisoning an innocent in order to save lives, say – would require extraordinarily good and certain outcomes to justify it. The direct effects of an action should be considered when weighing up its morality, just as the results of it are."[vii]

In this revealing quotation, Lord Layard acknowledges that, in theory at least, a horrible action may be justified as the means to a desirable end. The proviso that we have to weigh things up very carefully before proceeding is less than reassuring when we consider that this was exactly the philosophy that lead to the gas chambers of Auchwich. Hitler believed the world would eventually be happier in the long term if he could steer the course of evolution by eliminating the weak. And it must be admitted that within a Darwinian framework there was a certain ruthless logic to Hitler’s view. (See my article 'Darwinism Encourages Racism, Eugenics and Fascism') After all, if the weak will be eliminated anyway through natural selection over many generations, leading to ongoing pain, wouldn't it be more efficient to get it all over and done with at once so that only one generation experiences pain? No doubt Layard would not agree with Hitler's policies, yet on the basis of his own utilitarianism, he could only say that Hitler was mistaken in his means, not in his ends. Hitler just hadn’t weighed things up properly.[viii]


Dr. Layard suggests that we are morally obliged to ‘accept the utilitarian objective’ because ‘It is in our nature to want to be happy’ and because we have an innate sense of wanting other people to be happy just as we have ‘an inbuilt sense of fairness.’ He points out that human beings get on better when they work together, and we are not as happy when selfish. However, because ‘natural sociability is not universal’ it is also important to ‘watch our back.’

It is hard to see how this appeal to nature can be taken seriously. Since Lord Layard acknowledges that both sociability and unsociability are common traits, on what grounds can he arbitrarily decide that the former and not the latter is natural, and therefore virtuous? Apart from this, there does not seem to be any logical connection between a thing being natural and a thing being virtuous. In a Darwinian universe, it is natural for the strong to oppress the weak, but that would not automatically make such behaviour right.[ix]


Lord Layard’s utilitarianism, in offering a purely secular framework for morals, ends up creating more problems than it solves. We have seen that it offers no standard for adjudicating between the happiness of the individual and the happiness of the many. More worryingly, Lord Layard’s philosophy provides a theoretical base for justifying evil in order to produce a greater good. We also considered the fallacious and problematic attempt to ground a theory of ethics in what comes naturally. If space permitted, we might also have pursued the political dangers inherent in Layard’s view that government is an engine for administering pleasure.

The root of all such problems is the attempt to ground ethics in something as changeable and fickle as ourselves. What we require is a transcendent standard external to us. Christianity teaches that there is such a standard. God has given us the Bible so that we can know the difference between right and wrong and act on that knowledge. We are not left on our own to engage in fruitless philosophical speculations as to what is right and wrong, because God has already revealed it to us.

While the Bible shows that happiness is a blessing, the Lord also warns us that any good thing can become corrupted when pursued apart from God. Happiness was never meant to be an end in itself but, rather, the natural outcome of seeking God’s glory in all that we are and do. If happiness is pursued in any other context, it becomes an idol, as the philosophy of Lord Layard so clearly demonstrates.

[i] From the BBC article ‘Pupils “need happiness lessons”

[ii] Richard Layard, lecture ‘What Would Make a Happier Society?’, 5 March 2003.

[iii] “Utilitarians” writes Gene Edward Veith, “decided moral issues, not by appealing to transcendent absolutes, but by studying the effect of an action upon the system. Stealing is wrong, not because the Ten Commandments say so, but because stealing interferes with the economic functioning of society. Something is good if it makes the system run more smoothly. Something is evil if it interferes with the cogs of the vast machine. Practicality becomes the sole moral criterion. If it works, it must be good.” Postmodern Times: A Christian Guide to Contemporary Thought & Culture (Crossway Books, 1994), pp. 33-34.

[iv] Richard Dawkins’ utilitarianism is more complex. See my comments on The God Delusion.

[v] Richard Layard, lecture ‘What Would Make a Happier Society?’, ibid.

[vi] ‘And following the utilitarianism of Jeremy Bentham, I want a society in which people are as happy as possible and in which each person’s happiness counts equally. That should be the philosophy for our age, the guide for public policy and for individual action.’ Article ‘Happiness is Back’ for Prospect, March 2005.

[vii] Ibid

[viii] Lord Layard tries to get round this problem by stipulating that it is not a problem. He writes that “the Benthamite rule provides an increasingly practical yardstick for public policy and for private ethics. I would modify it in one way only – ‘to give extra weight to improving the happiness of those who are least happy, thus ruling out the oppression of minorities. (This also deals with the superficial objection to utilitarianism that it would vindicate the brutal abuse of a small minority if such abuse made the majority happier.)’” Ibid. The ease with which Lord Layard sidesteps this ‘superficial objection’ by simply stipulating that the philosophy must be appropriately modified is not reassuring. Consider that it might be just as easy for a more consistent utilitarian to come along and stipulate that less weight should be given to those who are least happy, or even that they should be killed so as not to drain the net happiness of those who can more easily be made to experience pleasure? On the basis of utilitarian philosophy, who is to say which approach is preferable?

[ix] Mark Linville has pointed out that unless we have a concept of design, ‘it is difficult to see how the term “normal” can retain its normative connotations. All that is left is the statistical-average sense of the word, which is merely a measure of the prevalence of a behavior by its occurrence in some percentage of the population. But the statistical-average sense of “normal” is, by itself, hardly sufficient for censuring certain desires or behaviors.’ (Salvo issue 2, spring 2007, ‘Animal Urges’, p. 68-69)
To receive automatic notification every time new material is added to this blog, send a blank email to largerhope @ with “Blog Me” in the subject heading. (Note: for anti-spam purposes, this email address has had spaced inserted before and after the @ sign. The address will only work after deleting these spaces).

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Review of How To Label A Goat

"It is conceivable that we are going more and more to keep our hands off things: not to drive horses; not to pick flowers. We may eventually be bound not to disturb a man’s mind even by argument; not to disturb the sleep of birds even by coughing. The ultimate apotheosis would appear to be that of a man sitting quite still, nor daring to stir for fear of disturbing a fly, nor to eat for fear of incommoding a microbe."

-- G.K. Chesterton

The priest at a catholic church in Beccles, Suffolk, used to change his lightbulbs by sending one man up a ladder. All went well until the EU Working at Heights Directive banned the activity. To comply with the new directive, the priest was told he must hire scaffolding. To change a couple of lightbulbs now took the priest two days and cost £1,300.

That is just one of many infuriating stories Ross Clark tells in his book How to Label a Goat: The silly rules and regulations that are strangling Britain. Clark explores the effect over legislation has on every aspect of our lives, from health and safety to all the bizarre rules governing diversity.

In addition to being a very readable and hilariously funny book, the publication is also particularly timely. As Tony Blair prepares to leave office, many are reflecting on the ‘legacy’ left by this remarkable individual. If Ross Clark is to be believed, however, Blair's most significant legacy will be the red tape and petty bureaucracy that now engulfs everyone from the milkman to the deep sea diver.

While there is nothing new in the observation that Labour is addicted to over-regulation, it may come as a surprise to learn just how colossal the legislative load has been. When researching for his book, Clark reviewed the laws passed during one 12 month period. He found that ‘In the 12 months to 31 May 2006 the Government passed 3,621 separate pieces of legislation. Yes, that is more than 100 new sets of rules and regulations for each day of the year. To give an idea of the sheer weight of these regulations I sampled 10 per cent of the Government’s regulatory output for the 12 months to 31 May 2006, counted the pages and then factored them up. It came to a shocking figure: 72,400 pages of legislation and 26,200 pages of explanatory notes – a total of 98,600 pages of official bum…. If the pages were laid out end to end they would stretch for 18 miles.’

And that’s just one 12 month period.

Even more worrying is the fact that most of these laws do not actually pass through Parliament but come in the form of mysterious ‘statutory instruments’ – edicts issued directly one of Government’s many agencies, effectively bypassing normal democratic process. Among the 3,621 pieces of legislation in the 12 months to 31 May 2006, there were only 29 acts of Parliament but 3,592 statutory instruments. This means that the majority of laws passed in Britain today are never voted on. Indeed, most MPs do not even know that they exist. After all, what MP wants to wade through nearly 100,000 pages of regulations for a year’s bedtime reading?

Usually the first time we learn about a new law is when an unsuspecting person has the misfortune to fall foul of it. Such was the case with Andy Tierney of Hinckley, Leicestershire. Leaving his home one morning to walk to work, Andy bumped into the postman, who handed him two items of junk mail. Continuing on his way, Andy put the unwanted items in a litter bin down the street. He thought nothing more of it until he received a £50 fine from his local council. His crime? Depositing domestic refuse in street litter bins which, it turns out, is prohibited by section 87 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

Clark convincingly shows that regulation has become an industry in itself - a ‘parasite breeding upon those parts of the economy which are productive.’ It is not uncommon for small business to pay more to conform to regulations than they actually make in annual profits. Such was the case with a Blackpool hotel owner who operated a small cocktail bar, through which she sold £90 worth of canned beer a year. All went well until the Labour passed its Licensing Act. Before the Act, she had to apply for a £30 licence every 4 years. After the Act she had to fill in 4 forms (one of them 21 pages long) and pay £190 a year for a premises licence and £37 every ten years for a personal licence. Further, the law also forced her to draw up a plan of her bar and provide a solicitor-authenticated photograph of herself – all to be able to continue to sell £90 worth of beer a year.

It isn’t just business that suffer under the burden of bizarre and crippling regulations. Clark points out that ‘The Army now faces having to order its troops to have a rest midway through a tank offensive because they have exceeded the number of hours which they are allowed to spend in a vibration environment.’

The one thing that can be said for the excessive output of red tape is that it has created more jobs – in fact, bureaucracy is now the fastest growing industry in Britain. Thus, Gordon Brown has a point every time he tells us that employment has never been higher. What he doesn’t tell us is that 650,000 of the new jobs created over the past decade have been in areas of the public sector concerned with regulation (regulation that creates burdens which force industry and small businesses to shed traditional jobs). This also explains why the problem of bureaucracy is self-perpetuating: when an increasing number of citizens are employed in public sector services, no one wants to vote for a Government that promises to downsize. In effect, Big Government only survives through purchasing votes.

The ministers of New Labour are not the only ones responsible for this spider’s web of legislation. Clark devotes a chapter to the stream of laws that pour out of Brussels. In the first 40 years of the EU’s existence, between 1957 and 1997, there were 10,000 regulations. In the seven years thereafter there were 12,000. The cost of obeying some of these regulations has cost Britain billions, such as the Vehicle Excise Duty (Reduced Pollution) (Amendment) Regulations, which has had a cumulative cost of £5.513 billion, or the Data Protection Act, which cost us £5.347 billion. What is perhaps more astonishing is that ‘According to the British Chambers of Commerce a mere 1 in 200 EU regulations are actually subjected to an impact assessment before they are introduced. And even then the EU might as well not have bothered: the EU’s impact-assessment criteria has not found a single EU regulation to have a negative impact.’

While these facts are enough to depress the most sanguine among us, How To Label a Goat turns the whole system into a big joke. Written with wit and a good sense of tongue in cheek, Clark is able to show just how ridiculously bizarre our laws have become. But be forewarned: this is not a book to read unless you are prepared to learn some of the ways you routinely break the law without realising it. Indeed, I discovered at least 3 laws I routinely break. Thankfully, no one has thought of legislating against breathing yet. Perhaps that will be next on the statute books when Brown takes over.

Click HERE to buy a copy of How to Label a Goat.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Temptations for Politically Conscious Christians

Like many people, I used to believe that the transition from Old Testament to New Testament corresponded with a move from religion being a physical, political reality to being a private and invisible reality. For about three years now I have been critical of that view for I have come to realise that Christ's Lordship applies to every area of public and private life. As Carl F. H. Henry put it, "If while evangelizing we abandon the socio-political realm to its own devices, we shall fortify the misimpression that the public order falls wholly outside the command and will of God, that Christianity deals with private concerns only; and we shall conceal the fact that government exists by God's will as His servant for the sake of justice and order."

This shift in understanding has led me to write a number of articles trying to articulate the basis for a truly Biblical political theology (for example, see my article HERE on political Christianity in the early church). My job as a researcher for Christian Voice also reflects a strong political emphasis. However, recently I have come to be aware of some significant dangers to which politically conscious Christians seem prone.

Politically active Christians have the tendency to adopt the secular mindset which says that the world's problems can be fixed through politics. You know the mentality: just elect enough Christians, just pass enough Christian laws, etc., and then the problems of society will rectified. This really is a dangerous heresy since all totalitarian movements are also based on the idea of salvation through the state. The first principle of Christian political activism should be to attack this idea of the state, yet so many Christians collude to it.

The Biblical paradigm recognises that the church, not the ungodly political structures, is God's answer to the world (see my Bible Overview where I argue for this point). This is also the position of the reconstructionist movement (see this compilation of quotations), however they have been caricatured. Popular right-wing political activism, on the other hand, works on a different paradigm, with disastrous results. Because they see the state as God's instrument for transforming society, Christians who could be focusing their attention on building strong families and strong communities, with the consequence of building strong churches, neglect all this to campaign for watered-down legislation and compromised conservatism.

"The entire medieval and Protestant tradition," writes Doug Jones in Angels in the Architecture, "is anti-Statist, and that includes, as Augustine taught us, the view that the State is the least important institution among Church, State, and Family. Yet, the great irony of the Christian Right is that though their families are often messes and their churches splintering, they think they have the wisdom to wield the sword. In search of 'real change,' they charge out to conquer the institution that is most impotent in actually bringing it about. We haven't changed much from our ancient Israelite brothers. We want a king or a sword just like everybody else. We don't understand how God has structured the world, how real change occurs.... Why should we want to wield any political party club or rule any council at this stage of life? The State is a superficial, testy institution that is merely a shifting symptom of deeper realities. And so a reformation of the State should be like healing a sore throat. Nurture the rest of the body with good things first, and the throat will follow along in time."

Later on in the same book, Doug Wilson writes, "The rWestoration of the nations is not, in any important sense, a political process. Rather, the process is one of baptism and catechism. The means given for the conversion of the heathen were the waters of baptism and the words of instruction. When the lessons have been learned, there will of course be some political consequences. But they will be minimal for the simple reason that the state itself, in a nation that has come to repentance, will also be minimal....Our problems are spiritual, and the solutions are the Word and sacraments. The charge was not 'go ye, and elect right-of-center congresspersons.' Now certainly the gospel has an effect on all of culture, as it should. But results are not causes; apples are not roots." (Also listen to Doug Wilson's talk 'Cultural Change & Worship')

Sadly, most Christian campaigners have not read Angels in the Architecture, and hence they continue to mistake the result for the cause in the way described by the two Dougs. A practical result of this is that the gospel is compromised. Consider how so many Christian activists are content to simply have a place at the table, on a par with any other lobbyist for any other organization or special interest group. This is a functional denial of the fact that Jesus claims total authority over the whole system. Our goal should not be to have a place at the table but to have the whole system down on its knees before Jesus.

Equally worrying is the fact that Christian activists begin using the world's methods, such as 'louder is better.' Organizing protests that are larger than their opponents becomes more important than constructing rational and coherent arguments. More energy is devoted to huge letter writing campaigns than engaging in thoughtful public debates. We seek to amplify our message with quantity rather than quality because we notice that is how the homosexual and Muslim lobby get their voices heard. The corollary to this is that the world begins to perceive us as just another pressure group, unable to listen or engage thoughtfully with any other position.

The answer to these problems is not to react and say that Christians shouldn't be involved in politics at all. That would only perpetuate the Gnostic concept that religion is a personal and private affair, detached from the public world ("Jesus is the Lord of my heart but the devil is Lord of the world", etc). On the contrary, we must seek to evangelize politics just as we must seek to evangelize music, poetry, philosophy, economics, technology, sociology, sports, and so on. The key question is how? It is time we realized that, as Christians, we are involved in politics every time we gather to worship; we are involved in politics every time we read to our children; we are involved in politics every time we produce artifacts that reflect the standards of goodness, truth and beauty; we are involved in politics every time we put into practice what it means to live in the kingdom of God. The reason these things are political is because it will be through all these pedestrian Kingdom-of-God-acts that the world (and therefore politics) will eventually be transformed. Let's not put the horse before the cart.

To join my mailing list send a blank email to phillips7440 (at sign) with “Blog Me” in the subject heading. You will then be notified every time new material is added to this blog.

Comments on Other Blogs

Doug Wilson did an interesting succession of posts on The God Delusion, going into a lot more detail than my review. On one of these articles I posted a questions, trying to get a discussion going on a rather technical point of epistemology that has confused me about the presuppositional approach (I think William Craig made a similar point in responding to Frame in Four Views on Apologetics). But no one took of the thread, as you will see if you scroll down to my comment.

I've also posted a comment on my brother's blog interacting with the idea that the gospel is not a political enterprise. More on that subject in a minute...

To receive automatic notification every time new material is added to this blog, send a blank email to largerhope @ with “Blog Me” in the subject heading. (Note: for anti-spam purposes, this email address has had spaced inserted before and after the @ sign. The address will only work after deleting these spaces).

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Family Picture

To view a larger version of this picture, just click on the image.

To receive automatic notification every time new material is added to this blog, send a blank email to largerhope @ with “Blog Me” in the subject heading. (Note: for anti-spam purposes, this email address has had spaced inserted before and after the @ sign. The address will only work after deleting these spaces).

Recovering From the Enlightenment

In March I posted an article suggesting that the Enlightenment had left men and women desexualised, as the fruit of its sexual revolution ironically produced the opposite of its intended result. In this article I want to explore this theme further, drawing together the threads of some of my earlier articles on this subject.

Modesty and Love

In the article I posted in February, we saw that Rousseau argued that the attraction between the sexes, the happiness of marriage, and by extension the smooth running of society, hinged on men and women being different. (How Rousseau applied this in practice is more problematic, and we might want to join Wollstonecraft in disputing some of his arbitrary definitions of feminine qualities.) However, it is instructive to note that, for all her feminism, Mary Wollstonecraft could not help but agree that the happiness of marriage is an implication of the gender polarity she was so anxious to homogenize. For example, she concedes that her educational agenda - and no doubt the androgynous impetus behind it - will lead to unhappy marriages.

It would be tempting to try to show that Wollstonecraft’s admirable agenda for female education might be easily retained within a framework that still preserved the gender polarization, but that would be to miss the point. In Wollstonecraft’s mind, at least, the two points were inseparable: her educational program was bound up with an ideology of androgyny. The fact that she recognizes these pursuits to be antithetic to the happiness of marriage is very revealing, in that it shows she was not unaware of the implications of the unisex trend. However, this did not worry Wollstonecraft since

"an unhappy marriage is often very advantageous to a family, and that the neglected wife is, in general, the best mother. And this would almost always be the consequence if the female mind being more enlarged...[i]

Later, when discussing the need to restrain the common appetite of passion, Wollstonecraft noted that

"Nature, in these respects, may safely be left to herself; let women acquire knowledge and humanity, and love will teach them modesty."[ii]

We are hard pressed to understand what Wollstonecraft means by modesty here apart from the kind of sexual/gender related modesty she so painstakingly avoided earlier (see my earlier article). It should come as no surprise that, in the context of love at least, Wollstonecraft could not help but lapse into a gender-specific kind of modesty. This is because love is the ultimate argument against androgyny and sexual reductionism. This will be made clearer in the following section.

Feminism and Marriage

According to Biblical teaching, the ultimate expression of love is when lovers give all of themselves to each other, as expressed in lifelong commitment and total physical donation. On the other hand, those who have tried to escape the significance of the gender polarity have less of themselves to offer since they are struggling to be less than the man or woman God originally designed them to be. Thus, there is a logical consistency at work in those feminists who are arguing that romantic love, like gender distinctions, is one of the remnants of an unenlightened society. As Amy Erickson puts it, “romantic ideals were simply a means of maintaining male dominance at a time when overt demands of submission were no longer acceptable.[iii] To this must be added the famous maxim that marriage is little more than ‘legalised rape.’

In 1934, Naomi Mitchison complained that the feminist movement was creating a generation of women so fostered on a defiant idea of equality that the mere sensation of the male embrace roused an undercurrent of resentment. Commenting on Mitchison’s words, C. S. Lewis observed that “at some level consent to inequality, nay, delight in inequality, is an erotic necessity.”[iv] He then speaks of the tragic-comedy of the modern woman who is “taught by Freud to consider the act of love the most important thing in life, and then inhibited by feminism from that internal surrender which alone can make it a complete emotional success.”[v] It is ironic that feminism has produced unfulfilled and unhappy women when feminism’s primary objective was the opposite.

At the end of the day, gender egalitarianism turns out to be a cheat.

Sex: A Big Deal?

But it takes more than merely a rejection of androgyny to enable one to truly enjoy sexual intimacy. One needs to return to the Biblical codes of morality overthrown by the Enlightenment. It may seem strange to suggest that the way to truly enjoy a thing is to restrict it, even though our world furnishes numerous examples of this principle. Yet it should not really be surprising that those who are so sexually active that they give no second thought to a one-night-stand, and are consequently treating sex like it is no big deal (often being actively encouraged to do so[vi]), should find the activity less pleasurable than those so-called ‘prudes’ for whom sex is still a Very Big Deal. And according to the Bible, sex should be a Big Deal, and not merely because this makes the experience more fulfilling, though of course it does.[vii]

This is the legacy that the Enlightenment has left us. Because materialism denied that a transcendent God had revealed himself to His creation, it placed man as the sole arbitrator of morality. The result was that man turned sex into a god. It is a Biblical principle that whenever a thing is worshiped idolatrously, the original thing is destroyed. In removing the restrictions of sexuality and denying the design God created, the sexual revolution ended up de-valuing the very thing it sought to elevate. It was observed in The Times that advertisers are finding that sex just does not sell products like it once did. The reason, as Cristina Odone reported, is that the advertisers have made sex so banal it doesn’t entice us any longer. It has been like taking a picture in colour and turning it into black and white. No wonder young people are now reported as making comments like, “I’m so used to it, it makes me sick.”[viii] Nor should we be surprised that in Denmark, where pornography is unrestricted, people are often quoted as saying that sex is boring.

This shows one more reason why the Biblical teaching on morality and modesty is so crucial. Central to the very delight of sexual union is the pleasure of being admitted into a place that is not open to anyone else. Sexual intimacy is a gift from God set apart only for those who have entered the covenant of marriage. What it is set apart from is the ordinary and the commonplace (hence the importance of modesty and chivalry to protect the value of sexuality); what it is set apart for is the covenant of marriage (hence the importance of chastity). Havelock Ellis, though not someone whose writings I would want to be associated with, nevertheless stumbled upon the truth when he wrote:

"Without modesty we could not have, nor rightly value at its true worth, that bold and pure candour which is at once the final revelation of love and the seal of its sincerity."[ix]

Seen in this way, modesty (not only of dress but of manners, speech and conduct) need not be indicative of an under-sexed temperament, as is often thought; rather, it is an acknowledgement and preservation of one’s sexuality as a gift from God. Modesty and chastity are not matters of negation, but of affirmation: affirming the sacredness and beauty of sexuality and committing to preserve the sense in which it is set apart and cherished.[x] This perspective challenges both promiscuity and prudery, as Shalit has pointed:

"Whether she decides to have scores of men or none, promiscuous and prudish women in some sense embrace the same flippant world-view, which one might call the nothing-fazes-me worldview. As types, they represent two sides of the same unerotic coin, which flips over arrogantly and announces to the world when it lands: “Ha!- I cannot be moved.” Modesty is prudery's true opposite, because it admits that one can be moved and issues a specific invitation for one man to try. Promiscuity and prudery are both a kind of antagonistic indifference, a running away from the meaning of one place in the world, whereas modesty is fundamentally about knowing, protecting that knowledge, and directing it to something higher, beyond just two. Something more than just man and wife."[xi]

We can begin to see how ironic it is that those who pursue modesty are often said to be the ones “uncomfortable with their bodies” or “ashamed of their sexuality.” That is comparable to saying that I am uncomfortable with my expensive silver kitchenware because I refuse to use it on a picnic. Just as my valuable silver is too precious to put to common use, so the treasure of our body should be too valuable to use in any but the appropriate context.

C. S. Lewis observed that “when a thing is enclosed, the mind does not willingly regard it as common.”[xii] Thanks to the Enlightenment, sexuality has come to be common. No wonder we no longer see the need for it to be enclosed.

Thank You Enlightenment

For hundreds, even thousands, of years, there has been a collective instinct in Western society which told us that sexuality should have boundaries around it. Even when people failed to live by these standards, there was a shared sense that this was a deviation from what was morally normative. That is why sexual impropriety generally used to be clocked about with hypocrisy. Since hypocrisy is ‘the tribute that vice plays to virtue’ (Matthew Arnold), the loss of hypocrisy is usually corollary to the loss of moral consciousness. In our own era, because there is nothing to be ashamed about there is nothing to be hypocritical about.

The only reason that our Western culture ever had these shared assumptions was because our civilization had been built on the foundation of the Christian worldview. The Christian roots of our society have been part of the very air people breathed, whether they were believers or unbelievers.

All this began to change at the time of the Enlightenment. Although the worldview of materialism robbed our sexuality from having any objective or transcendent meaning, the effects of this were not fully felt until our own time, as we have seen. When a civilization moves from one worldview to another, it often takes hundreds of years for the old worldview to wear off, even in the thinking and practice of those who explicitly reject it. So the materialists of the Enlightenment really had the best of both worlds: they could advocate materialism with the corollary that God was no longer an inconvenient obstacle, while still working on the borrowed capital of thousands of years of Christian tradition.

That state of affairs continued for a long time. Even when Darwinism charged the materialistic worldview with an enormous boost in the 19th century, the borrowed capital of the Christian worldview still continued to function in many areas, not least where gender and sexual morality were concerned. Yet gradually the borrowed capital has been running out. For our society this is bad news, but Christians can find something to be glad about. Since it is no longer possible to unthinkingly follow a general Christian consensus, Christians have been forced to go back to the foundations of their faith and examine afresh the implications of their worldview.

For many years the church was living on the borrowed capital of the Christian worldview just as much as the world was, without properly working things through from the first principles of their faith. Now that this borrowed capital has run out, Christians seem to be waking up, returning to their foundations and strugling to articulate a genuinely Biblical philosophy of life. Not only is that a good thing, it is something we can thank the Enlightenment for.Psalm 11:3 asks, “If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” The answer is, of course, that the righteous can rebuild the foundations. Everything good that the Enlightenment destroyed must be rebuilt. But more than that, it must be rebuilt a hundred times as strong. That is something that is already happening now. It is a project that each one of us can be part of as we articulate and apply the Christian worldview to every area of our lives.

[i] Texts II, p. 246.
[ii] Ibid, p. 266.
[iii] A. L Erickson, Women and Property in Early Modern England (London, 1993), p. 7.
[iv] C. S. Lewis, ‘Equality’ in Present Concerns: Ethical Essays (London, Fount Paperbacks, 1986), p. 19.
[v] Ibid.
[vi] Nearly all the sex education curriculum today is specifically aimed at convincing children that sex is not-a-very-big-deal. Consider, as a paradigm case, a booklet published in England by a government funded sex education group. The booklet, titled Good Grope Guide, instructs children of 14 and younger on how to have sex, saying that sex can happen “at friends’, watching videos on Saturday morning, or while taking a walk in the park.” The tables have turned to the point that those who are not particularly interested in having Saturday-morning-sex are the ones considered to have a problem, to be not-quite-nice (“Nice girls feel sexy and nice girls make love. That’s a fact of life.” Good Grope Guide.) See 'Controversial sex book launched' on BBC news, Friday, 4 August, at
[vii] The anecdotal evidence bears this out. Many, many studies have shown, not merely that married women are generally more sexually fulfilled than sexually active single women, but the most strongly religious women are also the most sexually responsive. Interestingly, “Stendhal…asks himself why the most sensitive women – let us call them the ‘high responders’ – are always the ones who end up being the most sexually reticent. Stendhal concludes that it’s such a shame the high responders are drawn to modesty, because these are the women who are the most fun to have sex with – the very ones who are, in effect, ‘made for love.’ …his quarrel with female modesty, as a man, seems to be: it’s not fair that the high responders should be the modest ones, because then the sensualists are hoarding their sensuality…. What seems to have escaped him is that it is no accident the sensualists end up hiding behind modesty, because it is modesty which protects their sensuality – for the right man that is. If the sensualists tried to overcome their natural modesty and to become more promiscuous, as Stendhal suggests, then their experiences would have less meaning for them, much of what excites them would be diminished, one man would serve more or less as well as any other – in other words, they would no longer be sensualists.” Wendy Shalit, op. cit., pp. 186-87.
[viii] The words of a 16-year old boy, cited in ‘Text and emails spell the death of dating’, The Week, 19th June, 2004, p. 15.
[ix] Havelock Ellis, "The Evolution of Modesty,'' Studies in the Psychology of Sex, Volume 1, 3rd edition. (Philadelphia: F.A. Davis), 1899.
[x] See Kathleen van Schaijik, ‘A Different Perspective on the Modesty Question’, The University Concourse, Vol. IV Issue 5, March 11, 1999, at,5,3-11-1999/vanSchaijik.htm
[xi] Shalit, op. cit., pp. 182-183
[xii] C. S. Lewis, That Hideous Strength (first published by John Love, 1945).

To receive automatic notification every time new material is added to this blog, send a blank email to largerhope @ with “Blog Me” in the subject heading. (Note: for anti-spam purposes, this email address has had spaced inserted before and after the @ sign. The address will only work after deleting these spaces).

Open Up, It's the State!

Once upon a time an Englishman's home was his castle. Not any more. Government has now given itself the power to enter your premises on just about any pretext (well, 266 pretexts to be presice). For some alarming reading, see THIS and THIS and THIS and THIS.

To receive automatic notification every time new material is added to this blog, send a blank email to largerhope @ with “Blog Me” in the subject heading. (Note: for anti-spam purposes, this email address has had spaced inserted before and after the @ sign. The address will only work after deleting these spaces).

Monday, May 14, 2007

Help Find Missing Madeleine

Like so many people throughout the world, Esther and I have been agonising over the plight of Madeleine and her family. If any of my readers haven’t heard, Madeleine is a 4-year old British girl who was kidnapped on 3rd May while her family was on holiday in Portugal. A helpful summary of the relevant facts can be read HERE. Also have a look at the Bring Madeleine Home website.
Normally when we read about tragic events in the news, we have to detach ourselves, knowing that, as helpless spectators, we cannot make it our problem. But this is different: each one of us has the opportunity to help in the search for Madeleine. Here’s what you can do:
Print pictures of Madeleine off the internet and post them at any international airport you may be visiting. Or if you know someone travelling to an airport, give them pictures to put up. If you live in Europe, are visiting Europe or know anyone in Europe (particularly Eastern Europe), get as many copies of THIS poster distributed as possible (also see pictures HERE which can be printed). She has a distinguishing feature in her right eye which could assist with identification.
Help to keep the media profile high. This is crucial if the search is to maintain its momentum. So write to newspapers and internet news services asking them to keep covering the story. Go on google news and sky news and other internet news services so their statistics show that many people are clicking on these stories daily.
Above all pray. The McCann family are fellow Christians who are pleading to the Lord for the safe return of their daughter. As Christians, when one part of the body suffers, the whole body suffers. Therefore, each of us ought to be baring this burden with the McCann family and constantly appealing to the Lord to: (A) engineer a safe return of Madeleine to her parents; (B) to be with Madeleine in whatever circumstances she is currently suffering under; (C) to sustain Mr. And Mrs. McCann during this unbelievably traumatic time. See the end of this article for a suggested prayer.
In the next few days there will be a facility for members of the public to donate into a fund, where the money will be used in the search. Keep an eye on the Bring Madeleine Home website for information about that and consider giving whatever you can to the cause.
The thing to remember is that Madeleine could have been any one of our children. If Madeleine is not found, none of our children will be safe because the abductors, paedophiles and child traffickers throughout the world will think they can get away with this sort of thing.
The impression I’m getting is that this doesn’t fit the profile of a straight forward child-molester or individual paedophile, but is probably the result of the organised child-trafficking industry. If this is correct, then Madeleine is probably still alive, but it also means that finding her is more complicated than just a missing person’s search. If this suggestion is correct, then presumably the search would need to centre on penetrating the whole infrastructure of the child-trafficking industry.
Last year when I researched Europe’s child-trafficking problem for Christian Voice, I was struck by how little media profile the problem receives even though child-trafficking and slavery is a huge problem within the UK itself (a whole division of our police force is specifically trained to identify and free these child slaves). However, the papers do occasionally have stories about it (for example, see HERE and HERE and HERE and HERE and HERE and HERE and HERE).
The thing that keeps striking me is that the kidnappers were prepared to go through lot of trouble and risk to kidnap someone of Madeleine’s profile. Consider that there is some evidence that they might have been taking photographs of other blond girls prior to Madeleine’s disappearance, almost as if someone behind the scenes was being picky and wanted to settle on the right one before proceeding. And then, they must have known that kidnapping a British girl on holiday would just be inviting international trouble. But they had all their moves planned. As is noted HERE, evidence suggests that the McCanns' evening routine was being observed and her abduction planned in advance. The kidnapper knew which door the parents were watching and how to enter and exist without being seen. This all suggests something deliberate, well-planned and probably with a degree of financial underpinning. This brings us back to my suggestion that it is child-trafficking, but the particular kind of child-trafficking that has a specific rich client behind the scenes with an order that has to be matched. To me, that suggests that illegal adoption is a strong option.

Whatever actually happened, the Lord knows, and we must pray that he imparts wisdom to the detectives and all the people that are working on this case. Regardless of whether this is a case of organised child-trafficking/slavery, it has brought the issue back to the public's attention, and it is important that the general issue of trafficking remains high profile even after Madeleine is found. To learn more about illegal child-trafficking, click HERE.

Above all, please consider getting involved yourself in some of the ways I suggested above.
O Lord, our Heavenly Father, Almighty and everlasting God, defend Madeleine with thy mighty power. O holy Jesus, Who for our sakes didst become a little child and didst show Thy love for children by taking them into Thine arms and blessing them: we ask thee to bless Madeleine. Thy love toward her is greater than ours can ever be; therefore, O Lord, we trust her to Thy care and keeping. We commend to Thy Fatherly goodness Madeleine and her parents and family. Comfort and relieve them out of their afflictions and distress. Give them patience and endurance in their sufferings and a happy issue out of all their afflictions.
This we beg, for Jesus Christ's sake.

To receive automatic notification every time new material is added to this blog, send a blank email to largerhope @ with “Blog Me” in the subject heading. (Note: for anti-spam purposes, this email address has had spaced inserted before and after the @ sign. The address will only work after deleting these spaces).

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Books I've Been Reading

Many apologies that this blog has been rather static of late. Between getting chickenpox, flying to America for a job interview, and then all my children getting chickenpox, I haven’t had much time to write. But I have tried to keep up with my reading. Here are some of the books I've been reading.

Nancy Wilson’s Our Mother Tongue: A Guide to English Grammar. I’ve been working my way through this for nearly the last two years. Being a professional writer but never having had any formal training in grammar, I thought it was time I brushed up on some of the basics. This is the perfect book for doing that. Nancy starts off at the very beginning with the 8 parts of speech, before moving onto sentences and more complex aspects of grammar. This is a textbook, designed to be used in schools, so it has exercises, review lessons, examples and all that good stuff.

One of the great things about this book is that it is well organised and the lessons build on each other systematically. If you have forgotten about something you know right where to go to review, which I have found particularly useful.

I am reading a book by Nancy’s husband, Doug Wilson, called Reforming Marriage. Having been helped so much by Wilson’s parenting book Standing on the Promises, I thought I would give this book on marriage a try.

I would highly recommend that every married person read Reforming Marriage. We have already given away about half a dozen copies and have run out of all our spares. The book is particularly challenging to husbands, since Wilson shows convincingly from scripture that the man is ultimately responsible for the smooth-running of the marriage. The Lord has given Doug a particular ability at being able to show what Biblical principles mean in every day life. Every page has advice that I could spend a lifetime working to put into practice.

I seem to be stuck on books published by Canon Press at the moment, because I am also working my way through Keith Mathison’s book The Shape of Sola Scriptura. This was one of the books on my ever growing ‘books to read list’ that I would probably never have got round to reading were it not for the fact that Esther read it and then encouraged me to read it because it was so good. I found she was right because the book is absolutely fascinating. Maybe I'm just lazy, but I enjoy reading books by scholars who have already done all the hard ground work, so I can benefit from their labours without having to share in their sweat. Mathison has obviously spent years in research, availing himself of a large corpus of primary and secondary literature.

When I mentioned to a Catholic friend that I was reading a book on the doctrine of sola scriptura, his initial comment was, ‘Oh, that 16th century innovation.’ Well actually, the strength of Mathison’s book is in showing that the doctrine of sola scriptura goes right back to the early church fathers, though of course the doctrine wasn’t called that until the reformation. Contrary to Roman Catholic historiography, where scripture and tradition are believed to have occupied co-equal status right from the onset of the apostolic age, Mathison shows that a key feature of the Apostolic fathers is the doctrine that everything needs to be tested by scripture, which is itself the final yardstick for knowing truth. Here are some examples of what the church fathers said about scripture:

But those who are ready to toil in the most excellent pursuits, will not desist from the search after truth, till they get the demonstration from the Scriptures themselves.”

- Clement of Alexandria (AD 150-215)

Scripture has absolute authority; whatever it teaches is necessarily true, and woe betide [‘befall’] him who accepts doctrines not discoverable in it.”

- Tertullian (AD 155-220)

For concerning the divine and holy mysteries of the Faith, not even a casual statement must be delivered without the Holy Scriptures; nor must we be drawn aside my mere plausibility and artifices of speech. Even to me, who tell thee these things, give not absolute credence, unless thou receive the proof of the things which I announce from the Divine Scriptures.”

- Cyril of Jerusalem (Approx. AD 315-384

…we make the Holy Scriptures the rule and the measure of every tenet; we necessarily fix our eyes upon that, and approve that alone which may be made to harmonize with the intention of those writings.”

- Gregory of Nyssa (Approx. 335-394)

Mathison traces how gradually a two-tier view of authority sprang up in the Roman Catholic church, and some of the political reasons for that. He also explores the rise of the papacy. What is interesting was that all the things that we normally associate with the Roman Catholic church, in particularly, the role of the pope and the magisterium, were innovations in the late middle ages and were not introduced without being strongly contested by Roman Catholics themselves. He shows that the reformation was truly a reformation and not a revolution, returning to doctrines that were systematically worked out and advocated in the primitive church.

Another benefit of the book is undermining certain false Protestant formulations of sola scriptura, where tradition is sidestepped completely for a just-me-and-the-Bible kind of individualism.

I’ve been dipping in and out of Chesterton’s Orthodoxy recently. I find I need a good dose of Chesterton every once in a while just to keep myself sane. Here are some of my favourite quotes from chapter 7:

“…mere resignation has neither the gigantic levity of pleasure nor the superb intolerance of pain. There is a vital objection to the advice merely to grin and bear it. The objection is that if you merely bear it, you do not grin.”

Had [Nietzsche] faced his thought without metaphors, he would have seen that it was nonsense.”

Managed I in a modern style the emancipation of the slave’s mind is the best way of preventing the emancipation of the slave.”

Unfortunately, if you regard Nature as a mother, you discover that she is a step-mother.”

It is conceivable that we are going more and more to keep our hands off things: not to drive horses; not to pick flowers. We may eventually be bound not to disturb a man’s mind even by argument; not to disturb the sleep of birds even by coughing.”

It is the custom in passing romance and journalism to talk of men suffering under old tyrannies. But, as a fact, men have almost always suffered under new tyrannies; under tyrannies that had been public liberties hardly twenty years before.”

It will not be necessary for any one to fight again against the proposal of a censorship of the press. We do not need a censorship of the press. We have a censorship by the press.”

Angels can fly because they can take themselves lightly.”

Pride is the downward drag of all things into an easy solemnity. One ‘settles down’ into a sort of selfish seriousness; but one has to rise to a gay self-forgetfulness…. Seriousness is not a virtue…. It is really a natural trend or lapse into taking one’s self gravely, because it is the easiest thing to do…. It is easy to be heavy: hard to be light. Satan fell by the force of gravity.

As a family we’re reading Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott. It makes a good follow-on from our last book, Men of Iron by Howard Pyle. Both books are very good for helping children learn the virtues of courage, chivalry, manhood and womanhood.

While we're on the subject of the Medieval period, I have nearly finished Doug Jones and Doug Wilson's book Angels in the Architecture. Wow! What a glorious vision they present, which is in fact the Biblical vision which has been lost by the flattening-out process of Modernity. In an attempt to recover a medieval vision for the church, the essays touch on everything from aesthetics to sex, from food to a theology of celebration, and everything else in between: husbandry, government, ecclesiology, creedal affirmation, technology, poetic knowledge - all through the same rich and colourful lens. Definitely a book that C.S. Lewis would have approved of.

Speaking of Lewis, I recently finished re-reading his The Great Divorce. Lewis’s keen insight into human nature shines amazingly in this book, as he describes a bus journey from hell to heaven. As solid people from heaven are sent to greet the ghosts arriving from hell, we see all the reasons people give for preferring hell to heaven. Last month I went to America to discuss this book to a class of 12th graders. I found that the text is a perfect springboard into all the main developments of Western thought: Gnosticism, Postmodernism, Relativism, Empiricism, Romanticism, etc.

To receive automatic notification every time new material is added to this blog, send a blank email to largerhope @ with “Blog Me” in the subject heading. (Note: for anti-spam purposes, this email address has had spaced inserted before and after the @ sign. The address will only work after deleting these spaces).

Buy Essential Oils at Discounted Prices!