Is it the job of the BBC to propagate religion in the 21st Century?

What is the BBC doing about religion?

They have announced a review, not only of religious broadcasting, but also of the way they portray religion in drama and other programmes. I hope this includes soaps and documentaries. They say they have noticed that society has changed and they need to reflect this aspect of it too. At last!

Does this mean ‘propagating’ religion?

Some people object that it is not the job of the BBC to propagate religion. That would be a fair complaint, if the BBC was always uncritical in its treatment of the subject, but I think it tends to give a negative impression of Christianity in particular. I will come to that later. But first things first.

 

A preacher preaching. Propagating religion?
A preacher preaching. Propagating religion?
What should be the role of the BBC regarding religion?

There are several things the BBC should be doing, none of which constitutes propagating. It has a duty to inform, educate and entertain. Therefore:

  • The BBC should report on religious matters in news, current affairs and documentaries, just as it reports on other aspects of society, from business to the environment.
  • The Corporation should not confine its interest to any one religion or denomination. It needs to convey the breadth of beliefs and practices that exist, even within the Church of England.
  • It should try to understand people, institutions and ideas it reports on.
  • They should beware of stereotyping any group, whether clergy, businessmen, farmers or teenagers.
  • Religious programmes should not concentrate on doctrine. What actually goes on in a mosque or synagogue? In other Christian denominations? How does religion affect people’s daily lives?
Faith and Doubt. Real Christians understand both, unlike the stereotypes.
Faith and Doubt. Real Christians understand both, unlike the stereotypes.

I wrote about the reality many people find in being a Christian in the 21st century in my book How to Cope with the Church.

What complaints do I have about the way religion is treated at present?

I am especially unhappy about the portrayal of Christians in dramas. They are almost always shown as either judgmental hypocrites or nice but naive. I expect both kinds exist, just as most stereotypes can be found in real life, but the vast majority of Christians I have known have been sincere, human, fallible and generally reasonably intelligent and sensible. Most of the missionaries I have known have really cared about the people they went to serve, and have been at great pains to avoid cultural imperialism.

What would I like to see? Positive, but rare, examples I have seen on TV in the last year or so are Rev and the curate in Call The Midwife. Forgive me if I have missed any.

 

Why do some Christians lack joy at the time of our greatest celebration: Christmas?

Is it Good News of a great joy that will come to all people, as the angel said?

I hope you had a joyous Christmas. It should be the season of joy for Christians of all people. I have written about reasons to celebrate this season, whatever your religion or lack of one. I have also written about happiness and why Christians should be happier than anyone, at least most of the time. So why do some Christians find Christmas difficult?

Six things that can take away your joy.
  1. You can get too busy and feel so much pressure like anyone else, but for Christians it’s worse because we’ve got to fit all that church activity in on top of family, work, parties and all the rest of it.
  2. You can feel guilty when you are challenged by seasonal appeals from charities. You want to help them all but you can’t.
  3. You are aware of many people who find this a difficult time, because of family tensions, money problems, sad memories. Can you avoid being insensitive, without becoming to be gloomy?
  4. You feel frustrated at the secularisation and commercialisation of Christmas.   Was there once a time when it wasn’t like this? You don’t know how to relate to people for whom this is the time to spend lots, eat lots and get drunk often.
  5. You feel guilty for joining in too much with the above and being too much like everyone else.
  6. Even in church, you’ve heard all the readings and carols so often it’s hard  to feel the excitement you think you should.
A preacher, preaching - do sermons result in joy for you?
A preacher, preaching – do sermons result in joy for you?
What can you do to get some joy?

If any or all of these apply to you, remember:

  • You are human. He knows our frame. He knows we are but dust. (Psalm 103 v 14). Remember that other people are human too.
  • It’s OK to fit in sometimes. Rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn.
  • The birth of Jesus is such a great event that no celebration of it can be wrong or too much, even the secular elements.
  • If it seemed stale, pray for just some small part of it, a line from a carol, a bit of a sermon, a verse from the Bible  to come alive for you. Then hold onto it.
What joy have I found this Christmas, so far?

Like a lot of people, I have found the dark, dull, damp days depressing. Things got a bit on top of me a week or two ago. Then I read the Christmas story in the version of the Bible we use for Open the Book. Something I have written about previously. It’s the Lion Storyteller Bible. The Christmas story is told in a “Good News – Bad News” format. I noticed that the angels always gave good news, but the bad news came from people. I saw how easy it is to see things from one perspective. I prayed for God to show me his perspective on a few things. Even though I haven’t yet got tidy answers, I feel joyful. I know there IS another way of looking at things.

So stop beating yourself up. God loves you!

Are you in the mood for the Christmas (“festive”) season?

Are you in a jolly mood?

In a miserable mood? Does the news depress you? Is the weather getting you down? Does this lift your mood:

Deck the halls with boughs of holly, fa la la la, la la la la la

Oh, so you’ve not got a hall and you’ve seen the price of holly.

‘Tis the season to be jolly, fa la la la etc

You’ve nothing to be jolly about? Really? Be ready for jollity to descend on you, like it or not. Like this:

Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way,

You can’t stand the mindless jingles they play in supermarkets, precincts and lots of other places. Try a church. Some of them play decent music and it’s usually got meaningful words.

Oh what fun it is o ride on a one-horse open sleigh!

No. I’ve no idea what it’s like to ride in a one-horse open sleigh and I certainly can’t say I’d find it FUN. Find something you’d prefer, like watching old movies or reading Sunday supplements. Whatever.

Are you in a generous mood?

Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat

Not keen on goose? Prefer turkey? Well, Christmas is coming anyway. You can’t say nobody’s warned you. It’s been coming since before Guy Fawkes Day, according to the shops. Get ready.

Please put a penny in the poor man’s hat?

I know! You’re fed up with charity appeals and if you put a penny in every poor man’s hat you came across, you’d end up broke and joining them. Be fair. You’re not as badly off as a lot of people. Spare something to give to someone or some charity. You must agree with some good causes, surely?

Are you in a thoughtful mood?
Doubt and faith are related, whatever your religion or lack of
Doubt and faith are related, whatever your religion or lack of

Are you in the mood for a proper Christmas carol?

While shepherds watched their flocks by night, all seated on the ground, the Angel of the Lord came down and glory shone around,

You don’t buy into all this angels, glory, wise men, virgins and all that? Not too keen on shepherds anyway? Can’t even give it the benefit of the doubt? Have you tried looking beyond the imagery at the real story?

Glad tidings of great joy I bring to you and all mankind.

Nothing to bring you joy in the angel’s message? Does the birth of Jesus not give you cause to rejoice? The carol, and the Bible, says “all mankind” – this great joy is not just for Christians.

How about these reasons to get into the right mood:
  • For a Christian…enough said already.
  • For a Jew: Jesus was Jewish and lived in Israel. He is the most famous and popular Jew ever. Whatever has been done in his name, he loved his fellow-countrymen.
  • For a Moslem: Jesus/Iesu is a person revered in Islam. “The Spirit of God”. Is his birth not a cause for celebration, even if you don’t accept him as more than that?
  • For a Hindu: is not Jesus one of the religious figures you worship? Is his birth not cause for celebration, even if you can’t accept his uniqueness?
  • For a humanist: are Jesus’ teachings not important? Are they not the basis for a lot of good deeds? Can you not celebrate his birth as that of an important historical figure, even if you deny his divinity?
  • For anyone who doesn’t give a **** about any of that: well, OK – it’s as good an excuse for a party as any other. Make the most of it!

Whatever your mood, remember: Christmas IS coming. Enjoy it. Get into the mood!

Here’s my Christmas gift to you – Accounting for Murder, Double Entry

How do you get this gift?

As I said in my last blog, my gift is my detective novel, Accounting for Murder, Double Entry. It is available free on Kindle this week, from Monday 18th to Friday 22nd December. Read it over Christmas and be ready for the sequel, Accounting for Murder, Old Money, coming soon. Buy both as a gift for someone for Easter? Go to the link below on Monday.

Do you want a free detective story at Christmas?

Is the real story, why I have not published the sequel yet?

My second detective story, Accounting for Murder, Book II, Old Money, will not be published before Christmas. There have been various delays and now I am re-rewriting it. They say anyone can write a book (!) but the skill is in rewriting, to get rid of all the faults. I am also working on another non-fiction book, about Risk Management. My second detective mystery will probably be out early in the New Year.  I hope you will find the wait worthwhile.

What books are you getting for Christmas?

If you have not yet read Accounting for Murder, Book I, Double Entry, now could be a good time, so you’ll be ready for the sequel. Anyway, you want a new detective story to read during the Christmas holidays, don’t you?

I am giving you an extra Christmas present this year. For a few days before Christmas, you will be able to get Accounting for Murder, Book I, Double Entry free on Kindle. Watch for details of the dates.

My first detective story, Accounting for Murder, Book I, Double Entry, will be free for a few days coming soon.
My first detective story, Accounting for Murder, Book I, Double Entry, will be free for a few days coming soon.

 

A big thankyou to those who voted for the St Paul’s Church grant bid or gave money

What grant?

Remember my post asking for votes and/or money to help finish this project? Aviva give grants to community projects based on the number of votes made on their website. The project is to build a new church and centre in and for the community in Penketh, Warrington.  We didn’t get quite enough votes to win the grant from Aviva we were after. But thanks for trying anyway.

It isn’t only about the grant

Thanks also if you are one of the people who gave money. Of course, we are still trying to raise the (nearly) 100,000 pounds we need. You can give on the donations website. 

A lot of work had been done by volunteers and by contractors since I last wrote, but there’s plenty to do before we can use the building.

A view of the part of the interior that will be the main worship and 'big meeting' area. that the grant would have enabled us to finish.
A view of the part of the interior that will be the main worship and ‘big meeting’ area that the grant would have enabled us to finish.
The outside of the building, facing away from the road. The exterior landscaping works will hopefully be done by volunteers
The outside of the building, facing away from the road. The exterior landscaping works will hopefully be done by volunteers

Does owning a dog make you healthy as well as happy?

Do you want a dog? Would it do you good?

Most people who own a dog believe their pets make them happy and also help keep them healthy. Is there any scientific evidence for that opinion? Is it just wishful thinking? Can anyone be dogmatic?

Some recent research in Sweden seems to show that dog-owners do live on average longer than the rest of the population.

How could a dog improve your health?

Although science has not yet established the reason for this, many people have suggested that there are two benefits to dog-ownership.

  1. Firstly, it gives you a strong incentive to take regular exercise, whatever (almost) the weather. Exercise is known to be an important factor in reducing weight and fat. It also helps tone up at least some of your muscles.
  2. Secondly, people say that the relationship with your dog helps you mentally. Stress and depression are major mental problems these days. They contribute to a lot of physical illnesses too.
Are these statistics conclusive, or is it a case of the tail wagging the dog?

On the other hand, the Swedish scientists do point out that the link between owning a dog and being healthy might work in the opposite direction too. A healthy person is more likely to be able to look after an animal than a sick person. Another example of the need to treat all statistics with care, as I have written in one of my books.

Do I advise you to buy a dog?

I would not want anyone to take on the responsibility of owning any pet if he or she was not capable of looking after it. That could be due to their health problems or their mental state. It would not be fair to the animal. I would also not advise anyone to acquire a pet if they did not really want to. Again, it would be unfair to the animal to bring it into a home where it was unwelcome. There are too many cases of cruelty and neglect already.

However, I do suggest that you think about keeping a dog as one way to improve your health. Only as long as it is a sensible option for you. I believe it has done me good. I have lost weight and a couple of inches at the waist, in the couple of years that I have had my border collie

A border collie waiting to be taken for a walk
A border collie waiting to be taken for a walk

 

How you can help with building a church in & for the community

Why am I supporting a building project?

I know the church is more than a building, but try running almost any sort of business or charity without one. This is a particularly good project. It aims to benefit as many people as possible and to respond to the needs of the 21st Century.

St Paul’s Penketh, Warrington, need about #100,000 to complete a million-pound project. The details are in the item below from the Warrington Guardian.

What if you don’t go to church?

Never mind. The new building will benefit the whole community, providing facilities not available elsewhere.

What if you don’t live in Penketh?

Neither do I, but it’ll benefit people from a wide area.

Please give generously if you can. If you can’t give generously, just give! Here.

What if you’ve no money?

You can help even if you can’t afford to give. Yes you can! Vote for it on the Aviva website – they are inviting the public to choose which projects they are going to support with their charitable giving. What a great idea!

Building Project needs 100,000 POUNDS to open its doors

People in Penketh have been wondering what’s going on in the new building on the site of St Paul’s Church on Warrington Road, Penketh, that was demolished two years ago. The new building will be the St Paul’s Community Church Base. Nothing seems to have been happening since the completion of the work some months ago. Churchwarden, Margaret Bennett explains, “The main building work was completed in June, but there have been items that needed putting right before we could accept the handover and there is still a lot to be done inside.”

Church member, Kieran Layfield, who has been coordinating the project, gave the details. “We still need to put in heating, toilets and other fixtures. We also want to install modern audio-visual equipment to make it suitable for the 21st Century. Some things will be done by our own members, others by contractors.”

The main interior part of the building looks very empty
The main interior part of the building looks very empty
A CHURCH WITHOUT A BUILDING?

Another question is what have churchgoers been doing since the old church was knocked down. Team Vicar, Sarah Peppiatt, answers, “We have been meeting in the Oaks Centre, in Stocks Lane, but we are looking forward to getting the new building. It will be more flexible, with larger and smaller rooms, and better acoustics and other facilities. We hope people will come to a lot of the events we’ll put on, but we will also make rooms available for groups to use for their own activities.”

The Oaks Centre Manager, Karen Howard, agreed, adding, “We have managed to keep most of our usual activities going for the last couple of years as well as holding church services. When the new building is open we’ll be able to do more at the Oaks and the facilities at the new building will be more suitable for some community activities. It’ll be a win-win all round.”

The outside of the building is complete but the ground around it needs some work
The outside of the building is complete but the ground around it needs some work

The church treasurer, Denis Bamber, summed up the financial position. “This project will cost nearly a million pounds. We have raised over eight hundred thousand already, nearly all from our own members, but we still need over a hundred thousand pounds to finish it properly. Anyone with any money should contact me on 01925 725099 or go to our website www.give.net/stpaulspenketh.” Kieran Layfield added, “If every person in Penketh gave just ten pounds, it would be ‘mission accomplished: job done’ in no time.”

Churchwarden Margaret Bennett completes a routine inspection.
Churchwarden Margaret Bennett completes a routine inspection.

For more information, go to https://www.achurchnearyou.com/penketh-st-paul/

 

 

Are you looking forward to Halloween?

A lot of Christians are not too keen on Halloween.

Why not have fun at Halloween, or any other time? Are we Christians just being killjoys? Or overreacting to something harmless? At this time of year we need an excuse to party, surely. For some, dressing up is part of the fun. Do we just need to lighten up? Oh, no! Forget that. It’s a celebration of darkness, really.

How dark is Halloween?

The origins of Halloween lie in pre-Christian religions and therefore it is a remnant of Paganism. Do you want to invoke the old gods or any supernatural forces? For some that is to take it all far too seriously. For them, it is just dressing up and having fun. Do we have to be so serious about everything? It’s like saying everyone who eats an Easter egg is pledging himself or herself to Christ.

The answer is that God will not impose himself on anyone who does not want him. You have to make a positive decision. The Devil is not so fastidious. Give him an inch and he’ll take a mile.

Pic3
At Halloween, the Red Dragon, now a symbol of Wales, was once a symbol of spiritual power – but whose?
Is Halloween part of the Occult?

I have written about the Occult previously and will not repeat it all here. I will however warn you. Are you one of the many people who think Halloween is a good time to experiment with ouija boards? Or other ways of contacting the dead? (Or whatever they might contact). I have known people whose lives have been badly damaged as a result of finding the supernatural a lot more real than they ever imagined. They don’t all admit it. It’s a bit like experimenting with drugs. You might think you are in control, until you find that you are not. 

Don’t be intolerant at Halloween.

If Christians can overreact to Halloween, they are not the only ones. Some people get very hostile towards anyone who won’t join in. “Trick or treat” ceases to be fun when it turns into a protection racket. I have known people suffer damage and intimidation because they would not give anything. People who behave intolerantly are taking a step towards evil, whether the Devil exists or not. I have heard of people dressed as clowns deliberately frightening people, especially children. If that’s their idea of Halloween, or of fun, they can keep it.

Whichever side you are on, don’t spoil the fun but don’t score an own goal!

As my next book will contain an element of the supernatural, you may like to read my thoughts on the supernatural in crime fiction in my last blog.

 

 

 

How much happiness can money buy?

I have written several articles about happiness, looking at various factors that can make you happy. Or happier. Or less miserable. What about the thing everyone wants, that we all hope will make us happy: money?

Pic4

You might expect me to take the view of many Christians, among others, that money cannot buy happiness. Did not Jesus say, ‘money is the root of all evil’ and all that? Well, no! He said,’The love of money is the root of all evil’ which is about our attitudes not our wealth.

The scientific research on this subject is interesting. It shows that poverty reduces happiness. A lot. There is some disagreement as to whether this should mean absolute or relative poverty. I think that at the extreme it is absolute. In other words, being cold, hungry and afraid will make you unhappy even if you are a bit better off than your neighbours. However, being adequately fed, clothed and housed may not be enough if you are being constantly reminded of the lifestyles of the very rich. The media and social media have a lot to answer for. So does the advertising industry.

pic1

Another thing the research has shown is that as wealth increases beyond a certain point, happiness does not. Your second million does not make you twice as happy as the first. People keep on chasing money out of a desire to succeed rather than because they actually want to buy more things.

What I am saying is that money is not everything. But it is something.