I was deliberately leaving this post for a week, post election, to allow for some clarity and time to think. In the course of that time things have changed and not for the better. A week is a long time in politics, and in that week I have come to terms rationally with my own disappointing result. It could have been worse of course but it wasn’t great. I will start there because emails and phone calls I received after showed that voters were more upset by the result than I was. You don’t fight an election to lose although you might fight it to “fly the flag” in a seat where you see little chance of success.

Bearing that in mind, when things go to plan there is always the chance of a political upset. Not so in the recent General Election. A few seats swung by a small margin between the first and second placed political parties last time round. One or two targeted seats were won by huge effort, others were lost despite it. On the wider front, analysis showed both main parties increased their share of the vote dramatically and squeezed third party, smaller parties and independents out –
resulting in hundreds, if not thousands, of lost deposits nationwide.

“Good,” say some (usually left-wing) activists. “They should shut up, or grow up and join one of the main two parties.”

“Good,” say some journalists. “It shows they are irrelevant.”

I say “Bad!” because democracy suffers the more we polarise party politics. There is no room for the Middle Way or for rational discussion. There is only “What can we do to win Murdoch’s readership?”

In Britain we have been brought up to believe consensus politics is bad and certainly coalitions have always been bad for one of the partners but many other countries cope really admirably with their hung parliaments. It filters out extreme policies and wild swings one way and then the other. It better represents democracy.

The trouble is that the system we have and the influence of hard-hitting political journalism on the results is actually polarising our nation at a time when it badly needs to be united. This takes many forms, but the most extreme example for me this time round was the treatment of Tim Farron on television. This man, a decent and honest working class liberal Christian, has effectively now been bullied out of his leadership position simply because he is decent and honest. He did not lie about his Christianity, nor did he allow his Christian beliefs to define him but he was castigated for those beliefs. Those of us within the Liberal Democrats who identify as LGBT or allies had no issue with Tim’s Christianity but the media did.

A defining moment of journalistic nastiness was Andrew Neil’s so-called “interview”. On the proposed referendum on BREXIT terms, Farron was constantly shouted down mid answer and then blamed for running out of time. That way, the party policies were kept under wraps and a whole political party made irrelevant to those who did not know the policies. It is easy to suggest after the event that he might actually have done better to walk out saying “I thought this was an interview, not a speech by you.” It might have got him press coverage for what he wasn’t allowed to say.

I would have been disgusted by Andrew Neil’s arrogant and rude interview technique whichever leader he had turned his venom on. His approach is often boorish and I have to say extremely narcissistic. I am really so sorry that Mr Farron feels he has to leave the political stage because of this bully. I am even more sorry that there will be political activists out there in the main two parties who think it is fair game to be intolerant of religious differences. Now the same blinkered journalists are trying to make out that the election was about BREXIT; it wasn’t, for vast swathes of people it was about social justice and the Labour Party were not the only proponents of that. They just cashed in on a lot of tactical votes.

Finally, I honestly believe it is time for the BBC to move away from pretty graphics, endlessly looping sound bytes and egotistical, bullying presenters and move back towards what the licence fee we all have to pay was intended for – public SERVICE and public INFORMATION. There should be no place for the cult of “The Great I Am” in an organisation that claims to be politically neutral and every place for informed comparison of policy differences. This is happening on the internet through new apps which will, in time, make main stream journalists superfluous unless they grow up and stop showing off. Democracy is not about THEM. It is about the people.

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I identify online as Liberal, Christian and LGBT. I was brought up in a very loving, very traditional military family at a time when the British Empire had been all but dismantled. There were a few anomalies here and there, but for all intents and purposes the Empire was a thing of the past and the vast majority of people thought it was no bad thing. Nevertheless, school assemblies throughout my childhood were still graced by stories of brave missionaries bringing God and good manners to the Heathen, Gladys Aylward being one example. Another, whose name I have sadly forgotten, paddled the African rivers risking being eaten by ferocious cannibals, or catching her death by malaria, to make decent Christians of those wilder colonials under Queen Victoria’s reign.

Today we focus less on these tales of individual bravery and foolhardiness or the folks whose lives were turned upside down; sometimes for the better but always at the expense of their own culture. Instead we focus more on the development of those countries, now independent, who try to make their own way forward in the world without the yoke of European oppression. Nowadays, as episcopal Christians, we may even feel that the yoke has shifted.

I was dismayed at the Church of England’s decision not to go ahead with “gay marriage” because I see it symptomatic of something more sinister – a drift to the “right”. Over my lifetime I have seen more and more good people turned off Christianity because of the cognitive dissonance generated by a loving and gentle Jesus Christ who is willing to love everyone equally and a church bent on enforcing rules that come through to us from the Old Testament via St Paul. The drift of individual spiritual fulfilment away from organised churches into Paganism, Buddhism, Humanism, Hinduism and even Atheism has caused the Church I grew up in to clutch at the receding straws of a wider communion. To allow gay marriage would be to lose the affiliation of Christians in countries that maintain penalties of torture, imprisonment and death for those guilty of “the sin of Sodom.” I think this is far to high a price to pay for church unity. The Church of England had a chance to stand up for modern liberal values and bring its LGBT flock home like a good shepherd; instead it threw them to the wolves.

For many “Chapter and Verse Christians”, the chapter and verses they adhere to most vociferously are not the words of Jesus himself but usually those passages from the Old Testament and Acts that reinforce hatred and division. It is my feeling that very often the verses quoted condemn the “wickedness” of others and exhort them to change or be flung into the fire. I think we should be concerned not with the wickedness of others but with our own core faith and compassion. It may surprise some of my friends to know I do often read the Bible at night. In that time, I confess, I often find some comfort in reading the Gospels and revisiting stories of Jesus that were so familiar to me as a child. It resonates with me that Jesus emphasized faith and love; that he mixed with working people and forgave sinners; that he valued the widow’s two brass coins above all the pomp and show of the wealthy; that he valued the innocence of children above the esteemed religious leaders; that he healed the sick and raised the dead on the Sabbath when it was forbidden and risked life and freedom to do so. Jesus was a rebel, a liberal, a man who loved humanity and felt his own humanity deeply. He was one who knew the Law but was more interested in interpreting his Father’s will than observing traditions laid down by the Scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees. He could quote Chapter and Verse when he had to but gave free rein to his own words when he preached the Good News.

Now on the other hand, I wrestle with St Paul and find him contradictory and obsessed. It may be that I will go to Hell for it, but I really do believe that he was mentally ill. Time after time, he rambles incoherently about whether or not women should wear hats or men should be circumcized. He berates people for following the Law and berates them for NOT following the Law. To me, he reminds me of an ex-smoker having to deal with a room full of smokers lighting up. He is verbose and he has lost none of his zeal for condemnation on the road to Damascus – and yet in Paul we find some of the most quotable and common sense quotes in Christianity. It is this dichotomy I believe that has led Catholics to burn Protestants, Protestants to burn Witches, the inquisition to torture heretics, the faithful to murder and persecute both Jews and Muslims. Is this what Jesus really wanted? For us to condemn others, excuse ourselves and act like tyrants using the Bible as an excuse for the basest human behaviour?

It is for this reason that I personally cannot bring myself to quote chapter and verse; I find it to be a red flag that urges me to be cautious of those who do.

There is a dubious mindset that winning is all, to the victor come all the spoils, that it doesn’t matter how you win so long as you do and all the world loves a winner. That way lies madness. A certain billionaire has just found to his cost that while money can buy prestige and position and incitement to hatred can win votes it can only bring a Pyrrhic victory. One billionaire is much the same as another in my book and you can’t force people to love and respect you in this life but I have to confess to feeling just a little bit sorry for this one. I’m sure it wasn’t what he was promised by his backers nor did he expect such a huge reaction against his victory. Here is a man who wants to be adored by millions and yet the streets are empty for his biggest ever moment and full of pussy power demonstrators the day after.

I am also saddened by the way some people I thought I knew have embraced a philosophy of hating those who disagree. Of course those people are not presently marching in protest. I don’t know if they would be marching had the outcome been different and I don’t think they will ever understand why millions are. To call everyone who disagrees with his method of winning or with the madness of hatred a “loser” or a “dangerous leftist” and maintain that you despise “leftists” loses sight of the fact that many of these people are not adherents of the left wing at all. They may be disillusioned conservatives, some are even Republicans; they may be Democrats who feel that what amounts to an act of treason robbed their own candidate of victory; finally, they might even be centrists appalled by unholy alliances of religion and politics on both sides.

That’s right, many of them are centrists like me; conservatives with a little “c”, liberals with a small “l”. In my country the word liberal is not yet an insult although I will happily wear the insult “Libtard” as a badge of honour because it means I reject the politics of hatred and division. We have a fine liberal tradition in Britain dating back centuries and we are justifiably proud of it. We are also proud that we have stood up to hatred and racism in the past – as the underdogs and on our own for several years I might add – and we don’t want to see the sacrifices of our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents forgotten. Many of them suffered or even died to maintain Europe’s freedom from a Third Reich that thrived on hatred. We honour them for it. That does not make us “leftists” or “losers”.

I think there are so many emotionally charged issues that any incumbent lawmaker needs to address and for any one political party to lay claim to personal moral viewpoints is simply WRONG. It doesn’t happen here. Maybe it would if we were a nation of proselytising evangelicals, but we are not. We respect freedom; we do not take arms up against people whose morals we might find lacking or whose religion is different from ours. We do not take away choice from desperate women – whatever our personal views – because we know the alternative to choice is something far worse for society; criminal behaviour, neglect, death and people in abject poverty. There are a lot of things wrong in this world, but they will not be changed by screaming abuse or sanctioning violence and exclusion of whole groups of people different from ourselves in some way.

I could go on and on but I won’t because it saddens me too much to see people sinking to such depths of anger. All I ask is that we just pause for a minute and think about the refugee crisis and terrorism. Where does the money come from for terrorists? Where do the arms come from that they buy with this money? Who suffers most in any war? Who profits most from war and division? Why are there so many refugees? Why are civilians consistently being bombed? Who stirred up a hornet’s nest by declaring a war on terrorism in the first place? What is that one word that is at the root of the West’s obsession with the Middle East? Can we actually do without it? If not, why not?

I want to finish by directing you to an article written April 29th 2013 by Janice Harper Ph.D. in Psychology Today:

The Fertility and Futility of Hatred – When hatred fills our hearts, it grows, but to what end?

Please read it, whichever side of the divide you stand on. It might persuade you to drop that hot stone before it burns your hand badly…

Yesterday’s post raised a few red flags, I know, because I used a Gary Glitter song to illustrate the primal effect of repetitive chants and as an example of entitlement leading to abuse. There were some more serious but less emotive points that I wanted to make too and I felt they would be better in a second post.

I have always been concerned about the bigger issues when it comes to politics. When the environment comes up I am likely to be angry about fracking or anything that is destructive to the planet. I am less angry about “eyesores” in posh areas or dog poop on pavements. These are the little things we can probably live with. As someone who was brought up as a Christian (High Church Anglican in fact) I consider we are stewards of the Earth and, in the manner of Saint Francis, that all its inhabitants are our brothers and sisters. As the dominant species it is up to us to act responsibly as protectors of other animals and not behave like mindless bacteria intent on eating up every resource and pushing Nature out of existence. Those are things that I believe very strongly and they lie behind my personal stance on alternative energy, on population growth and on sustainable farming and industry. We have to make careful, moral decisions on matters that affect not only future generations but the entire ecosystem because the World has no choice. We do.

Anything that falls short of this has to be contested. However conscientious you may be when it comes to singing hymns or paying your tithes it all matters little if you subscribe to unnecessary and polluting energy sources for financial gain. It is possible to heat our homes and power our businesses with the natural energy of wind, water and sunshine. It is possible to develop synthetic fuels to keep our aircraft flying without causing damage. Even more to the point, it is possible to take polluting petrol and diesel engines off the road and use electric and clean burn fuels. I would go as far as to say it is our Christian DUTY to protect our planet for all its inhabitants. Believe you me, any high-tech interplanetary rescue mission in the future will not be for working people like you and I. We are collateral damage in a game played by the rich and powerful as are all living breathing organisms on land or in the sea.

When I was active in politics we were often asked our views on contentious issues, pro-life being a big one at many meetings. Personally I would never have had an abortion unless I would die without one, although these days to be honest it is not an issue for me. However I believe these issues are personal and in Britain ideas on abortion, animal rights and Israel are just not party political. This has helped us avoid the mess the USA is currently in where a group of right wing, climate sceptical, patriarchal rich men want to dictate to ordinary folks. They have latched onto abortion as a way to get the orthodox Christian vote and proceed with the most offensively Un-Christian programmes imaginable.

Yesterday, following some tweets in support of John Pavlovitz, I was unfollowed by a fellow author who is a Christian. I can only guess why and perhaps I am wrong in my assumption, but I would like to ask him and others like him the following questions:

How Christian is it to persecute strangers (immigrants) when the Bible says we should care for them?

How Christian is it to refuse healthcare and assistance to the poorest and most vulnerable in society?

How Christian is it to tell a young girl who has been raped that she can’t have an abortion and then refuse to help her bring up the child because of her “immoral behaviour”?

How Christian is it to tell a woman carrying a dead baby inside her that she must risk death just to carry it to full-term and then have a “natural birth” of a rotten corpse risking further life threatening infection?

How Christian is it to deny climate change in order to make money from oil, or to sell arms to oil producing countries that routinely finance terror or kill civilians?

How Christian is it to risk the Earth for personal gain by denying that humanity has so far played a major part in raping God’s Creation?

I will leave it as that. I don’t want to be part of any foolish gang that wishes to gamble with the world’s future for the sake of greed and says “Just pray, everything will be OK.” I think more is expected of us, don’t you?

Donald Trump’s call to ban Muslims has been viewed by many as an insane proposition. By some it will be seen as an answer. As I write this post in the run up to Christmas I need to express an opinion that we no longer live in such a simplistic world – if we ever did. To me, it seems that we use religion as a reason to beat people up, verbally, even if not physically.

I come from a culture in Britain that has grown more and more inclusive over my lifetime and yet I am not sure if it has ever become more tolerant. We are fast become polarized over many issues and many of these are about “belonging”. We “belong” to an ethnic group, a gender, a set of sexual preferences, a religion, a sports club, a group of music fans and many more. These groups have the potential to support and lift each other, even to greatness, but they also have the ability to exclude others, to be judgemental about them and to compete for attention, territory or material wealth against different groups.

I was brought up as a Christian and my own personal struggle to maintain that faith against the intolerance of others is something I don’t want to deal with here today; however I coped with intolerance on a personal level and I retained my own belief. What my struggle is actually about is those people who use “belonging” as an excuse to do evil. This might, for example, be an attack on others, using them as political pawns, and this is not the sole prerogative of terrorists, is it? Now, be honest…

As I sit here I am aware of a constant stream of intolerance of non-believers towards believers. Those rants might be banter in the pub, 140 dismissive characters on Twitter, or even furious condemnation of one politician or another in homes across every country in the world. Atheists will be mocking all those who believe in God, different religious groups will be calling other believers apostates and enemies, reactionaries will be cheering arson against mosques, temples, synagogues, churches; wherever difference is found you will find conflict.

There is ONE group to which we all belong, though sadly not many adhere to it. That group is humanity and beyond that we all belong to an even larger group of terrestrial organisms. The one undoubted fact is that every human being on this planet is ruled by hormones including testosterone – yes, even girls have testosterone – and testosterone not being put to sensible use is, in my humble opinion, the main reason that shit happens. It is the hormone responsible for dominance, anger, sexual potency, aggression and energy and it is this hormone raging uncontrolled that causes basic territorial aggression; not God, not people of different colour, race, religion, gender or sexual orientation, not even different types of “belonging”.

So this Christmas, Hannukah, Diwali, Yule, Kwanzaa, Samhain, Winterval – whatever you wish to call it – why not put your testosterone to better use boys and girls? Why not do something energetic; play sport rather than watch it, shop for an elderly neighbour, take the dog for a long walk, run along a beach out of season, make passionate love to your partner, fix up the house, build a garden shed or a cat tower, become an outreach worker for the homeless, go out singing Christmas carols and collect for charity… Do something energetic and constructive rather than pontificate about something “other” that you personally disagree with. Do something that benefits the community. Accept that your neighbour is Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Atheist, Pagan, Agnostic, Hindu, Buddhist – whatever – and smile at him.

Lend a hand to those around you and stop carping about God and religion. We are all human in humanity’s rich diversity. That is both our supreme strength and our cardinal weakness. Accepting responsibility for our own actions instead of trying to shift the blame on to other social or religious groups is the only way forward. God is not to blame, religion is not to blame, humanity is to blame and humankind needs to grow up, face up and shape up if we are all to survive and be happy.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year – and may your God go with you.