Tuesday, 15 November 2016

In this 'Post-Truth' world, how honest are you?

So 'Post-Truth' has been coined by Oxford Dictionaries, a term that pretty well sums up the world today.

How appropriate. And how very, very sad. 

When politicians, banks, newspaper chiefs, big businesses and even religious leaders can’t be trusted what chance is there for the rest of us? And, in the face of what must surely be the most corrupt, exploitative, money-obsessed period in human history, is honesty still the best policy? Is it actually possible to be 100% above board living in this woefully corrupt system?
On a personal level we all like to think we’re basically honest and truthful – but to what extent? Do we always fill in our tax details accurately, or do we ‘accidentally’ forget to include the occasional cash payment or perk. If we find a purse on the street, do we attempt to return it, or is it a case of ‘finders keepers’?
What often makes it hard to be honest is pressure from others.  One factory worker, for example, became extremely unpopular with his colleagues as, unlike them, he refused to take things easy when the manager wasn’t around.  Believing in the old adage, ‘a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay’,  he was determined to keep his side of the bargain and kept on working despite recriminations from his less industrious peers.
Equally honest was the financial director of a large corporation, a God-fearing man who could spot anomalies on an expense sheet from 50 metres away. So, naturally, after lunching with prospective clients at a star-rated restaurant, he was the obvious person to scrutinise the bill. One sweep of his eagle eye was all it took for him to see the mistake – the omission of a rather pricy bottle of wine which, to the horror of his fellow directors, he was at pains to point out. 
Was he a killjoy? Overly pedantic?  Depends how you view it. Getting away with a free bottle of plonk may be something of a coup for some folk, no matter if the hapless waiter lost his job.  But, would taking advantage of a simple human error have impressed the potential clients? And, let’s face it, what better qualification could there be for anyone in finance than sheer, straight-down-the-line, honest-to-goodness integrity? (Whether we see much of this virtue these days is another matter!)
Let’s look at the other side of the coin. For over a decade, an anaesthetist renowned for his pioneering pain relief fabricated research results which appeared in leading medical publications. But why compromise himself in this way?  According to a former editor of The New England Journal of Medicine, greed is certainly a factor:  “When researchers are beholden to [pharmaceutical] companies for much of their income, there is an incredible tendency to get results that are favourable to the company.”
Meanwhile, students are acquiring extra-curricular practices to ‘big up’ their skills. As highlighted by The New York Times, it seems many students will compromise ethics to achieve ambitions, intending to “follow a strict code of values” afterwards. For example, science students in Germany were discovered bribing their teachers in order to be recognised as Doctors.
Poor role models also play a part. Talking to The New York Times recently one professor states that high school students may be losing their moral compass: “It’s probably better to say that their teachers and mentors and the rest of society never helped them construct and internalize a moral compass in the first place.”
If supposedly respected individuals from government ministers to bishops fail to set a good example, little wonder younger people regard the rules as there to be broken, as demonstrated in a recent study. Out of nearly 30,000 students, 98 per cent believed honesty to be vital in personal relationships. Yet 8 out of 10 students said they’d lied to their parents, while 64 per cent admitted having cheated in an exam.
Be honest
Are you as trustworthy as you think you are? Ask yourself these questions:
·        You find a valuable piece of jewellery left on a washbasin in a public convenience. Would you hand it in at a police station or keep for yourself?
·        The cash machine is paying out more money than requested. Would you return the cash to the bank and report it, or go back for seconds?
·        At work or school, do you help yourself to pens, notepads and other stationery items to use at home, or do you ask permission first?
·        The newsagent gives you too much change. Do you take it back, or congratulate yourself on making a profit?
·        You’re out of work and claiming benefit. Then someone offers you £50 ($100) to paint their living room. Do you declare this to the benefit people, or keep it quiet?
·        Your boss asks you to lie about a product or service. Do you tell the truth and risk losing your job, or do you do as you are told?
·        You need to write an essay for college and time is running out. Do you find a piece online to copy and paste, or do you write the essay yourself even if it isn’t up to usual standard.
       






Sunday, 13 November 2016

Should Christians vote?

During the last UK election, some Church of England clergy got in a lather over comedian Russell Brand’s urgings for young people ‘not to vote’.

Lining up alongside the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bishop of Norwich Graham Jones - who believes Christians ‘have a duty to vote’ - tried to counter the ‘profound effects’ of Russell’s comments. And of course, the church's views were endorsed by many of its followers who obediently formed an orderly queue at their local polling booths. 

Now, people of all religions (and none) have done the same in the US, with Evangelicals, Catholics and Protestants of every hue jostling to put their unholy crosses against their Chosen One - Clinton or Trump. We all know the result. Yet, the question is NOT why so many professed Christians helped Trump to triumph, but whether they should be voting AT ALL? Is getting involved with worldly politics consistent with Christ's teachings? 

If you really want the answer, check out Jesus’ own words at John 17:14, 16 and John 18:36, in which he makes it clear that nether he nor his followers were to be any part of the world. Indeed, Jesus had already showed his own determination to resist political involvement of any kind, refusing to become an earthly king as the crowds demanded  – John 6:15. And he identified the REAL ruler of this world in John 14:30.  (See also 1 John 5:19).

According to The History of the Christian Religion and Church, During the Three First Centuries – Augustus Neander (translated by H J Rose) “The Christians stood aloof and distinct from the state, as a priestly and spiritual race, and Christianity seemed able to influence civil life only in that manner which, it must be confessed, is the purest, by practically endeavouring to instil more and more of holy feeling into the citizens of the state.”

It was, in fact, their steadfast refusal to take part in military service or national politics which caused early Christians so much persecution from the State. In fact, many of Jesus' followers preferred to die in the Roman arena, facing lions or being burnt at the stake, than to lend their support to the government of the day. It was not until the 4th century, when pagan Rome assimilated Christian teachings, that faith in God's heavenly government - for which Jesus taught his followers to pray - became obscured and many forgot where their true loyalty should lie. (Matthew 6:10)


Friday, 11 November 2016

Do you believe in Santa Claus?

       Believe it or not, there are millions of people who don’t. Yet one 6-year old at our local primary school was almost lynched recently after telling his classmates there was no such person.  
       In the interests of inclusivity, the same school once tried to rename the seasonal celebrations as ‘Winterval’ only to meet with howls of disapproval from its nominally Christian parents. Despite their own pew-eschewing ways, they proved surprisingly touchy about this issue.
       So what is Christmas and why do people feel obliged to re-mortgage their homes to celebrate it? Why do harassed Mums (sorry, but it’s usually Mums) spend hours preparing food that doesn’t get eaten and buying gifts that nobody wants?
       Some people (surprisingly not as many as you might think) point to the birth of Jesus - surely the world’s longest surviving infant, confined as he is to a cradle year after year. There’s just one small problem with that; Jesus wasn’t born on the 25th December, not by a long chalk. Bible scholars have been unable to find the date of his birth in any of the gospels; however, as Jesus was 33½ years old when he died, he must have been born around October/November, which makes sense, considering the shepherds were still living outdoors at the time.

Why December 25th?

       According to The Encyclopedia Americana, this date may have been chosen “to correspond to pagan festivals that took place around the time of the winter solstice, when the days began to lengthen, to celebrate the ‘rebirth of the sun’.” This also corresponds with the Roman Saturnalia (a festival to Saturn, the god of agriculture, and to the renewed power of the sun) and “some Christmas customs are thought to be rooted in this ancient pagan celebration.”
       The New Catholic Encyclopedia gives further information on the December solstice when, “as the sun began to return to northern skies, the pagan devotees of Mithra celebrated the dies natalis Solis Invicti (birthday of the invincible sun).”

Three Kings or Magi

       The exact number of these visitors from the east is not known. What is known, however, is that they were astrologers and the ‘star’ didn’t lead them to Jesus as is often supposed, but to King Herod, alerting him to the Messiah’s birth with devastating consequences. Herod immediately ordered the deaths of all males born in Bethlehem during the previous 2 years.

Santa Claus
       
Santa has several alter egos. St Nicholas, Father Christmas, Knecht Ruprecht, the Magi, Jultomten (or Julenissen) the elf, and even a witch called La Befana have all been credited with bringing gifts to children. As none of these stories are true, does presenting them as such help children develop an appreciation for truth in later life?
       Christmas trees, mistletoe, Yule logs, puddings and other seasonal accessories all have roots in pagan practices – either to protect against evil spirits or to encourage fertility, growth and general good fortune for the coming year.  Whether you embrace them or dispense with them is, of course, a matter of personal choice.

        But next time that annoying child at school insists there’s no such thing as Santa Claus, please don’t be too hard on him.