Could this be a very different kind of general election? Has the ground shifted in British politics? I really don’t know. But as we embark on yet another election campaign, I long to see a different agenda take hold in British politics. Here are seven things I would love to see in this election:
1. A new debate about human rights. So much of the agenda of the past twenty years has been about human rights, tied to the equality agenda, which is really a political correctness conformist agenda. The Human Rights Act 1998 has enshrined the European Convention of Human Rights in UK law, but whether this has ever done anything to extend the concept of human rights is debatable. Many of the rights stated have existed in English law for hundreds of years. The Human Rights Act has done a lot for prisoners’ rights, and has made the job of the prison service much worse, even though we were not a brutal prison regime pre-1998. Also, foreign nationals so often don’t get deported at the end of their sentence because they have a right to a family life and their new girlfriend and baby conveniently lives in Britain. The Human Rights Acts has certainly advanced the LGBT community’s rights, because the focus has been on the more fashionable, politically correct rights of self-expression and identity, while it has failed to guard the most basic right of all, the right to life. In fact, the right to life is being steadily eroded. An unborn child can be destroyed simply because it has Downs Syndrome, and that can happen right up to birth. We would not do that to someone disabled at some point in their life, so why would we do that to someone who has a genetic abnormality that does not prevent them from enjoying a full, educated and integrated life in the community. Please can we have a debate in this election on the human right to life. If we did, it would be a massive change to the political agenda, but it is the most precious right of all.
Continue reading “Seven things I’d love to see in this election”
Africa has a middle class. This is a surprise to many people in the West, but in a country such as Kenya the middle class is growing rapidly. They pay their taxes, drive their cars and live in decent housing, often doing white collar jobs and generating income for the wider economy. This is very obvious in Nairobi, but it is also true in Western Kenya. In Kisumu, Kenya’s third city, life is much quieter than the throng of Nairobi, but there are a few opulent hotels, a large new high-rise University building, and suburbs where the middle class and ex-pats live in walled compounds shaded by trees, protected with heavy security. During my visit there this February, we drove home with some curiosity one day to find men digging a trench down the street to install fibre optic cables. Even in Bondo, the home town of Presidential candidate Raila Odinga to the West of Kisumu with its ‘frontier town’ atmosphere, the town now plays host to a small university. Development is changing rural Kenya, and yet life still remains in so many ways the same.
Rural Kenyan life is still organised around the land, and it is farmed in small ‘shambas’, where each family lives and eats what their land produces. Whereas British farms are organised in units of hundreds of acres, each Kenyan farms about an acre of land or less, which means that homes are spread out fairly evenly across the countryside, rather than gathered into village clusters. Most farmers grow maize and millet, along with cassava and green vegetables, and keep a few cattle and goats, with some stray chickens. Their plot may be fenced in with bushes and sticks, and pieces of board or corrugated iron fill the gaps and make for ramshackle boundaries. If this seems untidy to those who are used to large British farms with fences and thick hedgerows, as an allotment holder I felt rather at home! I chatted to several of the local pastors about what they grew on their plot, and how they made a living. Of course, everything still depends on the rain, and they rejoiced that it had rained for the first time the night I had arrived (not cause and effect, I assure you!). However, as I had come to visit a village church gathering that Saturday, half of those who would have come to the meeting were busy turning their soil as the first rains had softened it, something I could fully understand.
In the West we are told that everything in Africa is a disaster. Continue reading “Real life in rural Kenya”
This Easter, the world is in chaos. A new cold war has frozen relations between Washington and Moscow. President Trump is putting his military hardware to use across the world, and in the most enduring military standoff ever, tensions could hardly be higher along the DMZ in Korea. So many new beginnings have held such promise – the ‘New World Order’ of 1989, the ‘Arab Spring of 2011 – but in each case the promised new era of peace is swiftly ruined by hatred and violence. So why should the first Easter Day be any different? Because it is the fulcrum of history, and the victory established that day is still working itself out as history rolls on. How does Easter affect the nations of the world?
Christians are passionate about the nations of the world. We believe this is God’s world, and that he holds the nations in the palm of his hand. Our concern is to see people from all nations turning to Christ and being reconciled to God. So our hearts are troubled when nations are divided, and it seems like the world is breaking into pieces. How can we make sense of it? The answer is to turn to Scripture and to look at the world as God sees it. One obvious place to turn to for wisdom is Psalm 2. It takes us from a world in uproar to the throne room of heaven, to see God’s plan for the nations. Psalm 2 presents to us God’s King and shows us how he will rule the nations. It is a short psalm in four paragraphs, and with each paragraph the scene changes. If Psalm 2 was a film, the camera angles would keep changing, and the voices would keep changing. It is a powerful drama wrapped up in 12 short verses. Continue reading “God’s risen King and the nations”