Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Why is mainstream media sinking into sleaze?

       Amazing what passes for news these days. In one popular daily, featured prominently among a host of nude celebrity selfies, a young woman is pictured with her trousers round her thighs as she urinates in the street – apparently caught short by her bladder and an ever-ready smartphone! 

       Elsewhere in the same newspaper, there’s a graphic shot of someone’s earwax - thought to be the biggest ever lump of candle grease ever fished out from a lug-hole. This after weeks of unedifying pus being popped from enormous pimples! 

       Hard to know which ‘story’ has been the most gut-churning. Was it the scandalous tale of a pretty blonde who, having failed to flush away her poo from her new boyfriend’s lavatory bowl, hid the offensive matter in her handbag? (Obviously, the girl was embarrassed, but not so overcome with shame she couldn’t share the experience with millions of readers. She was even willing to pose without a brown paper bag over her head!) 

       Or could it be yet another earth-shattering shot of a Kardashian bottom? The biggest blackhead in the world, perhaps? Or intimate details of a reality star’s underwear? 

       So what’s going on? Why are activities that should only take place in private now being paraded by leading newspapers and magazines? Why are images once confined to top-shelf sleazy rags being devoured with the Kellogg’s at breakfast? 

       It’s not just the nudity or the steamy revelations of (in)famous affairs. It’s the smallness of it I find offensive. It undermines human dignity and lowers our standards. It’s the sniggering kind of smut that passes for humour behind school bike sheds. It’s childish and demeaning to all concerned. 

       So come on dailies - Clean up your act!!

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Why human governments can never succeed

     Forget the Magna Carta. Despite their promises, human governments have failed miserably to deliver. Peace, security, liberty and justice remain as elusive as ever.  
       Where did it all start, this determination by certain individuals to rule over everybody else? And while we're about it, why do we need human governments at all? A case in point, thanks to a too-close-to-call election some years ago, Belgium had no government for several months, yet nobody seemed to notice. (In fact, while the politicians tried to sort things out, the economy actually improved!) 
       Belgium apart, has there ever been a period when humans could live freely, independently, tilling their own patch of paradise and feeding their families with no interference from anyone else? After all, wasn’t that the original plan when Adam was a lad?
       The oldest, most widespread form of human government is monarchy, (the Greek word mon’os meaning ‘alone,’ and ar-khe’ meaning ‘rule’) whereby a single individual is imbued with supreme authority as permanent head of state. If this is absolute, he or she becomes a majority of one whose word is law. As a governmental system, monarchies have been viewed as a unifying force. One eminent teacher of medieval history, John H Mundy, explains,    “Because it transcended particular parties, the institution of monarchy was suited for large areas with diverse and conflicting regional interests.”* In those days, kings invariably conquered such areas by military means – so much so that, as another historian reflects, war was “commonly regarded as the first criterion of successful kingship.”
       This being the case, military genius Alexander the Great was an ideal candidate and the first of the Hellenistic kings to be viewed as a god, setting a precedent for the deification of kings and queens throughout the ages, and such perceived divinity persists to this day in one form or another. Conceited yes - yet, ironically, the very fact so many sovereigns have insisted on being viewed as gods, particularly during the Roman Empire, is a tacit admission that they really don’t have the RIGHT to rule their fellow men and women.
       The world has now seen every conceivable type of government – capitalism, communism, republicanism, democracy, theocracy and straightforward tyranny –none of which has succeeded in providing the peace, security and justice the human family craves. One notable exception was Solomon’s reign, which kept Israel peaceful and prosperous until the king’s latter years when he succumbed to some of the pagan practices of his 1,000 wives!
       Sadly, throughout history, it’s been the strong and the greedy who have commandeered the land; annexing pastures, woods and rivers, and forcing ‘common’ folk, or serfs, to look to man-made governments for their means of life as well as paying taxes for the privilege.
       Will it always be this way? Only time will tell. 
*“The High Middle Ages 1150-1309” by John H Mundy

▫I’m not being sexist here – the words Man and Mankind are inclusive of all humans

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Laws of attraction. Do they exist?

       Just browsing through an online newspaper when this item caught my eye. 
       According to one psychologist, "There are no rules of attraction when it comes to meeting your mate."* 
       Which got me thinking. ARE there any rules when it comes to romance? Oh sure, we may draw up a checklist of our ideal soulmate but love rarely works in such a logical way. As any trained assassin will testify, the best time to strike a target is when they least expect it. So it is with those arbitrary arrows of love.
       Now I’m not talking about that lovely boy or girl next door, you understand – the person with whom you’d share your woes, fears and dreams. Nor am I referring to that remarkably good-looking, incredibly suitable, Mum-friendly match with his/her own car, house and a sense of humour. No. What I’M talking about is far more basic – that unadulterated (and usually mindless) thing called ‘chemistry’.
       How else can we explain why a stunning young woman falls in love with a seedy, unpleasant middle-aged man? What draws a well set up guy with matinee idol looks to a homespun girl with open pores?
       There are countless pundits and relationship experts who’ll offer their theories….many quite plausible and maybe even true. But one explanation which has always impressed me is in the book “Families and How to Survive Them” – a collaboration by comedian John Cleese and family therapist Robin Skynner.**
       I no longer have the book and my memory’s not so hot these days, so apologies if I misinterpret the authors’ findings, but here goes:
       From infancy we learn from our parents and other significant adults which emotions and subsequent behaviours are approved or not. On the positive side, if we’re caught lying or stealing perhaps, our parents’ negative reaction prevents us doing the same thing again. That’s discipline, teaching us the do’s and don’ts of everyday living. Which has to be good thing, right?
       Unfortunately, when emotions are involved, boundaries can get blurred. If, for example, a child cries during a sad film only to be told to ‘stop being a baby’, he or she may keep such future tears in check and the compassion which caused them may, in effect, be put ‘behind a screen.’ If he or she gets angry, even justifiably, and a parent shows disapproval for that anger, it gets put behind the screen. A child who is discouraged from displaying any ‘undesirable’ emotion puts it behind a screen. Likewise, unpleasant experiences of any kind – such as, accidents, bullying, domestic discord, separations – are suppressed and put behind a screen.
       So what does this ‘screen’ have to do with attraction? According to Cleese and Skynner, we each have an emotional sensor which comes into play whenever we meet someone new. Intuitively, we sense if a person has had similar experiences to ours, recognising a potential ‘soulmate’ even before we know them. Because, of course, those emotions are still there, just hidden behind a screen.
       For example: Charles and Penny met as teenagers and it was love at first sight. When Penny went to live with her mother on another continent, the feelings remained. Both Penny and Charles met other (very suitable) people, yet their feelings for each other remained, in fact grew even stronger! Several years later, Penny returned, married her first love and they’re still together 50 years later! Now that’s chemistry!
       What caused such a powerful bond? Although neither knew about it in their early years together, they later found that during infancy both their fathers were absent, serving in the forces. Both Charles and Penny felt resentment when their fathers’ returned, were unable to relate to them and believed the ‘interloper’ disapproved of them. There was also a natural jealousy in having to share their mothers’ attention. Could these emotions, which neither felt able to show, have been the cord which drew them so closely together?
       Maybe. Maybe not. It is just a theory after all. But, if it’s possible to explain love, romance, infatuation, attraction or whatever you want to call it, this fascinating book may well provide the answer! 


Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Should we pray to saints?

Mother Teresa’s canonisation seems as good an opportunity as any to explore ‘sainthood’ – a privilege imbued by the Catholic Church on men and women of outstanding virtue.

According to the Tridentine profession of Faith, these paragons are to be invoked as intercessors with God, and have their relics and images venerated.  

Statue of St Peter, Basilica in Rome
One case in point is the big toe of St Peter’s statue in Rome’s Basilica. Next to the papal ring, it is arguably Christendom’s most ‘kissable’ item, with millions bowing down to press their lips against it as they make their petitions! This toe-curling practice has not only added a shine to Peter’s foot but has doubtless spread many nasty germs to hapless worshipers! Did the real Peter ask to be venerated in this way? No. None of the apostles accepted worship (Acts 14:15), nor did the angels. (Rev 22:8,9) All glory was for God alone. (Matt 4:10)

Statue of St Genesius
Saints proliferate. There’s a saint for every occasion and activity you can think of. One of my favourites used to be St Genesius, patron saint of actors, lawyers, clowns, comedians, converts, dancers, musicians, printers, stenographers and victims of torture! A former thespian, he used the stage in ancient Rome to mock Christianity - until experiencing a sudden conversion mid-performance! I dare say many luvvies (who, with the possible exception of Ricky Gervais, are notoriously superstitious) have ‘invoked’ Genesius’ help before that nerve-racking first night. Victims of torture indeed!

Emperor Constantine
But why do we have saints? The answer lies with the Emperor Constantine, who supposedly converted to Christianity in the 4th century. With previous Roman Emperors having tried and failed to contain this vibrant new religion, Constantine used a subtler approach; he simply fused Jesus’ teachings with Rome’s polluting pagan beliefs and practices.

However, viewing Christ as the only mediator between God and humans (1 Tim 2:5), genuine Christians have never prayed through other intercessors, nor should prayer be addressed to anyone except Almighty God himself. Even Jesus directed his own prayers to the Father and told his followers to do the same, using his name by way of introduction! (Matt 6:9; John 14:6,14) 

Which left Constantine with a dilemma. If Christians worshiped and prayed to only one God - who nobody could see - what would happen to the thousands of pagan gods? Were they to be made redundant? Would silversmiths and image makers lose their livelihoods? Would statues, amulets and icons of these gods be left to languish on the shelf? 

Triune God
The solution was to re-invent Rome’s existing deities and re-market them as Christian ‘Saints’. Foremost to undergo this make-over was Apollo who, with his handsome features, shimmering halo and sun-god attributes, made a very acceptable Christ to unsuspecting converts!  Jesus’ earthly mother Mary replaced the ultimate ‘Mother Goddess’ and ‘Divine Virgin’ (Juno, Minerva and Venus all rolled into one), while a pantheon of lesser deities were given new ‘saintly’ identities. Yet their pagan essence remained intact, serving to divert Christians from true worship. Even the Almighty Himself was downgraded - from the ‘One true God’ to a God-dishonouring Trinity, which had no basis in scripture, corresponding instead with pagan triunes, i.e. three gods in one.

Another unscriptural view is the veneration of saintly relics. The New Catholic Encyclopedia states: “It is thus vain to seek a justification for the cult of relics in the Old Testament; nor is much attention paid to relics in the New Testament. . . . [The Church “father”] Origen seems to have regarded the practice as a pagan sign of respect for a material object.”—(1967), Vol. XII, pp. 234, 235.

Godly abhorrence of relic-worship no doubt lay behind the disappearance of Moses’ body after his death. According to Jude vs 9, Satan obviously planned to exploit the death of this faithful prophet - perhaps by inciting Israelites to venerate his mortal remains. To this day, no one has ever discovered where Moses was buried.

And one of the greatest arguments for NOT venerating saints can be found in Exodus 20:4,5 which states: “You must not make for yourself a carved image or a form like anything that is in the heavens above or on the earth below or in the waters under the earth. You must not bow down to them nor be enticed to serve them.”

This in no way is meant to detract from the good works of Mother Teresa and other well-meaning men and women. But only Jesus, whose death opened up the way to everlasting life for his followers, can mediate for mankind.