Guest Column on Orlando Tragedy - Press and Journal 14 June 2016

Today I have a guest column in the Aberdeen Press and Journal, commenting on the tragic murder of 49 people in and LGBT hate crime at the weekend.  For those of you not in the North and North East, I thought I'd post it below.  It charts the responsibility we all have to see how we can diminish a culture of homophobia in our communities.

"No Excuse for this Murder

I was lying on my sick bed feeling sorry for myself, when one of those awful moments struck – shocking news of a tragedy somewhere else in the world that suddenly puts your own worries into stark perspective.  The TV screen was emblazoned with pictures of Orlando and the normally Sunshine State, but this time with the dark horror of 50 people murdered in a nightclub, in an act of terror.


As the story crept out over the news bulletins, it turns out that this - the largest mass shooting in US history - is also a hate crime, targeting an LGBT nightclub, apparently following the sight of two men in love sharing a kiss.  Young people enjoying life, but shot down in a moment of calculated viciousness; murdered because of whom they love, and for their audacity in being open about it.


I couldn’t help but think how depressing it was that another atrocity should be committed by a person of faith.  What message does this send out to the world about the nature of God?


Here is the really uncomfortable truth.  It is not only lax gun laws that lead to violence.  Bad theology can also play a part – whether it’s Christian, Hindu, Islamic or other beliefs about God that demonise and single people out, because of their difference.  Gay, Straight, Black, White, Foreigner - the list goes on.  Populate your own.


It is too easy only to focus on others - but those of us in Churches also have a particular responsibility to bear in our historic treatment of LGB and T people.  Too frequently the excuses we make for our own discrimination and prejudice, all the while denying our complicity in them, helps feed this culture of homophobia that tragically others take to the extreme – and which results in misery, suffering and violence.


The truth is this: there is no excuse for any of it – especially not in the name of God.

What's Left?

Like many, I have been watching Corbynmania take hold in the UK with some interest and puzzlement.  Part of me is thrilled and part of me nervous.  I wonder where it will all end.  Is this a rebirth of the Left in British Politics, or is it a false dawn?  Is this the  beginning of a movement that can bring a fundamental change in UK society or another starry eyed false dawn?  You decide.  This interview with Corbyn by Owen Jones is certainly worth a watch if you have the time.

One thing is sure, from the grassroots of British society there is a rebellion underway against what radicals call the neo-Liberal consensus.  It first appeared in the rise of Scottish nationalism, which I have always believed drew its real strength not from nationalism, but rather its critique of 'Westminster' and the sense of establishment that Westminster politics seems to reek of.  The rise of UKIP in the May 2015 General Election was more evidence if needed, of a UK wide desire to give Westminster a hard kick.  Anyone who looks different, or sounds different to the usual suspects of establishment politics finds support at the moment.  Correspondingly those who try to bring reform from within are portrayed as weak, not making enough of a difference, and colluding with the corrupt system.  You can see why my own party, the Liberal Democrats, took such a hammering at the General Election after years of picking up the anti-establishment vote.  If you fly with the crows, you get stoned with the crows.

The bare truth for those of us on the centre left is that Corbymania is partly due to our failure to make enough of a change to the socio-economic landscape over the lat ten years.  Despite many things to be proud of both from New Labour and the Lib Dem coalition, inequality has risen, and people's feeling that they are less politically empowered in the face of vested interests and globalisation has risen with it.  Were those of us in the centre left too timid?  Did we buy in to the zeitgeist  too much?  Is the Corbynism a refreshing game changer for politics and the rights and potential of ordinary people, or will the elites and corporations hold onto their grip on power and decision making?  Time will tell.

Faith matters

Today I preached a sermon on what faith means to me, and how I understand it.  It's a question I am often asked, especially by friends (and other folks) who are curious, but slightly bemused.  

For me, faith It is not so much for me about believing in dogma, but rather about trusting in God, as far as I am able to perceive God.  Faith is holding fast to the conviction that God is love, and love will have the last word in life and death.   Faith is much more a verb than a noun - it is about doing, serving, loving, action.  As we reach out and serve our neighbours, I believe we meet God in them and in our relationships; especially as we reach out in compassion to those who need our help.

To some, I know, this may seem like wishful thinking, naivety, or foolishness.  And that's fine by me, others can draw their own conclusion.  But I am convinced that the way of this man Jesus is the truth that brings life to the world.  When I see his way of life, his willingness to die for others - I see God, and retain hope for the world.

The Myth of Scarcity

The myth of scarcity is one of the most common paradigms operating in today's politics.  Never has it been so cruelly exposed than in the events of the last few weeks, when Europe has been reached by thousands of suffering people from Syria, Libya and other troubled parts of the Middle East and North Africa.

This myth, often peddled by politicians on the right, asserts that EU nations cannot cope with the influx of refugees and migrants as we do not have enough resources to go around.  It is a wicked lie.  The truth is we are often unwilling to share, or make the sacrifices that would make room for these fellow human beings in our communities and in our countries.

Recently, I have been preaching on Sundays on Parables of Jesus which contain disturbing thoughts that challenge us about the way we see the world around us and how we ourselves approach life.  One such example is the Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids (Matt 25: 1-13) within which we find tucked away in the detail, this myth of scarcity.  For me, it sits uncomfortably with the tenor of the story itself, which is meant to be about preparing for the feast of the Kingdom.  

I'm pretty sure that Jesus didn't believe the myth of scarcity, and neither should we.  There is more than enough to go round.  The issue is our willingness to redistribute and share.  And lets face it - if faced with this utter human tragedy on our shores we cannot be moved to share with our fellow human beings, then we never will.

If you are interested in the passage and want to listen to the sermon you can find it here: