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End of Term Report – Some Reflections for Summer

I am writing this on the plane home from Southampton – after a hectic but good weekend speaking at the Solent Gospel Partnership/FIEC conference near Portsmouth.  Its not just been a hectic weekend, but a very intense few months.  So I am enormously thankful that my Kirk Session have granted me a mini-sabbatical for the month of July, which begins this evening when I get home (this will be followed by two weeks holiday).   I will be taking a sabbatical from St Peters, Solas, speaking engagements, media work, podcasts, social media and blogging – there are some who doubt that I will have the ability/self-discipline to do that!    As this will be my final blog for at least six weeks I thought I would offer some reflections on the end of this term.
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Friday was a quite emotional day – the last of our last child’s days in school.  We attended Emma Jane’s prize giving at Morgan Academy and it gave me some ideas for reflecting on what has been going on in our society. Here are a few random thoughts to sign off with.
How shall we sing the Lords song in a strange land? – We sang the 23rd Psalm.  Or at least the school choir, the platform party and myself and Annabel did – it seems as though most of the parents did not know it, or were just not used to singing in public.  What was even more interesting was that they missed out the verse ‘yea, though I walk through deaths dark vale’….obviously the subject of death was something that was too uncomfortable and insensitive for some!  I think both that and the lack of a common religious Christian  awareness is indicative of where we are in our society.
The End of Womens Sport? I was a little amused that in our PC society the platform party was overwhelmingly white middle aged males with the only non-white face being a pupil.  I wonder in this quota ridden society how long it will be before we have to deal with this issue?  And what was the sexism that meant the women got flowers and the men got drink!  I also thought it was a bit old fashioned that we had male and female prizes in sport.  In this transgender, non gender specific world should we have this gender specific prizes. My mind also wandered to wondering about the Womens world cup (which for me is like watching paint dry – but the good old BBC is doing her best to tell us that it is just as good, exciting and important as the mens) and Wimbledon.  If men and women have to be paid exactly the same prize money why have separate mens and womens tournaments at all?  And the thought also struck me – if Andy Murray begins to realise in a couple of years that he is not going to win any more mens tournaments, why can’t he just do a Bruce, say he feels like a woman, call himself Andrina and enter the women’s Wimbledon and get the prize money that way?  If we can’t have gender specific toilets why should we have gender specific sports tournaments.  Thats the madness of the modern world.
Do we live in Disneyland? Everything was overwhelmingly positive.  There was nothing bad happened.  Everyone was wonderful.  Morgan Academy is paradise on earth.   All the right buzz words were frequently used…positive, generous, enthusiastic, superb etc.  Don’t get me wrong – there was much that was positive, wonderful etc and I am very thankful for the school – but it seems to me that the lack of realism is also indicative of our culture. And no-one really believes it.
A Positive Destination?  The school report was itself full of the kind of jargon so beloved by bureaucrats and civil servants.   Everything is about ‘targets’  The ‘critical comparator shows that over 80% of our pupils enter a positive destination’?!  Seriously?!
Overwhelmed by positivity?  And then there was the usual ‘inspirational’ pep talk from the visiting speaker – a lawyer who had been a pupil many years ago.  “Don’t be scared to take action and do things.  Respect all your fellow human beings.  Have confidence in your own judgement.  Be your own man/woman”.  I found all this more than a little banal, and to be honest hypocritical.  The last thing our monolithic education system is doing is encouraging people to go against the flow, or think for themselves.  Schools are as much about instilling ‘societies’ values as they are about education.  Anyone who dares to question or go against the flow will find themselves quickly put in their place.
The Green shoots of the Gospel break through – There were however glimpses of flowers breaking through the cracks of sophorific post-modernist conformist boredom!   The choir were excellent and a young pupil, Rachael sang a wonderful version of Latvia Ch’io Pianga by Handel.  Other pieces of music were well played and sung – including Capercaillies ‘Callum’s Road’.     One of the pupils had done a great job fundraising for Nepal.   Another. Marcelli,  spoke very well about Mary Slessor the missionary from Dundee – even telling us that ’she taught people about God’ (ironically something that Morgan Academy would consider a sin if they did it!).
Prepared for the Future? We were also movingly reminded of the real world when a minutes silence for the victims of Tunisia was impeccably observed.  The headboy and head girl (surely these are anachronistic anti-egalitarian gender specific titles which clearly  are on ‘the wrong side of history’) gave lovely speeches about how Morgan had prepared them for the world out there.  I’m not sure.  I think there is a certain amount of unrealistic wishful thinking there.  The whole service was long so I had my Kindle with me and in the more boring bits I read some of Mangalwadis Truth and Transformation – one phrase struck me as particularly apposite “Having rejected God and his revelation, educational institutions have become incapable of teaching goodness, beauty, and truth.”
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A wonderful daughter!
I was so proud of Emma Jane – she has done really well at school.  She got several awards including the Dux for history and the one for religious and moral education. It was lovely to see her name up beside her sisters on the school board for history. I am incredibly blessed in my family and the way that the Lord has protected and prospered each one.
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Partners in the Gospel – After the prize giving we had a lovely lunch with friends and then I headed to Portsmouth to take part in a weekend organised by the FIEC churches and the Solent Gospel Partnership.  I found it to be an immensely encouraging weekend – it seems as though what we are trying to do through Solas and the message we have, is being more and more appreciated by many Christians throughout the UK.   In my view it is desperately needed.  There is not only a widespread and increasing antipathy towards Christianity within society, but there is more and more confusion within the Church.  I read the following article from my fellow Christian Today columnist, Martin Saunders, today –  What depressed me about the article is that there is so much that is right with it – and yet its overall message is in my view harmful and confusing.  I don’t have time to write a full review or rebuttal but consider this one point – apparently its a bad reason to oppose SSM because ‘the bible says so’. Either Mark doesn’t believe that the bible says anything against SSM, or he thinks its a bad idea for us to use the bible if it does.  I cannot describe how much that depressed me.
The Solas Magazine – It was great to see the magazine being so well received in England.   Have you subscribed yet?  It would be nice to return in six weeks time with hundreds more subscribers!
A Greek Tragedy – Speaking of depression, the Greek vote and economic mess is so depressing.  My sympathies I have to say are with the Greek people.  It seems to me that the Greek government may be somewhat barmy (or genius) but the attitude of the EU technocrats is even worse.   I will probably be accused of not understanding – but that is because I don’t.  I don’t understand how we can bail out the banks who got themselves and us into an enormous mess and it costs the taxpayer hundreds of billions to do so, but we can’t bail out the Greeks who need ‘only’ 370 billion. It seems to me that our democracy is in great danger on both sides of the Atlantic from the twin dangers of unelected ‘Supreme Courts’ who make up laws, rather than just apply them, and equally unelected banks who are apparently ‘too big to fail’, whilst countries and peoples don’t apparently fall into that category.
Letter to a Post-Christian Nation – What am I going to do with my sabbatical?  I’m off to finish the trilogy of my responses to the New Fundamentalist Atheists.  Firstly there was The Dawkins Letters, then Magnificent Obsession (answering Christopher Hitchins) and the final one is what I will be working on – an answer to Sam Harris entitled Letter to a Post-Christian Nation.   I would of course value prayer for that.
So you won’t hear anything from me about Andy Murrays second Wimbledon win, or Australia’s Ashes victory!  But I hope you enjoy them and have a great summer.  Normal service will, God willing, resume on August the 17th….
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PS.  If you want to see my latest article in the Scotsman – you can read it here – feel free to pass it on as well…


  1. It may be superficial, but I saw this tweet today which gave an interesting perspective on “men’s” v. “women’s” sport…

    Enjoy your break!

  2. Enjoy your break. If only so you can gain the energy to let my comments through moderation. Your end of term report on this issue would definitely show “needs improvement”. Sometime I wonder if the comments actually serve a purpose for you and you should turn them off.

    23rd Psalm – if this is a marker for you then I think society has been somewhere where you dont want it to be for some time. I left school over 20 years ago and the Psalms where never sung at my school. Mind you, I do remember a lot of Onward Christian Solider at primary school. If a school is not a Christian school, why should anyone know the Psalms?

    Womens Sport – Oh good grief. Just stop it now. You are becoming the intolerant and hateful uncle no-one wants at family events. I have tried to tell you that you are better than this but you are always determined to prove me wrong. Also you need to look up Renne Richards as your tennis example happened almost 40 years ago. And you also believe that people transition for such negative reasons – to win things?

    Disneyland – a reasonable point. Of course, we differ on some of what kids should also be taught in schools.

    Positive Destination – its what the parents want isnt it?

    Overwhelmed by positivity – Try thinking about how the pupils would hear that though. At a moment where they are leaving the structures and confines of their school and will be suffering self doubt about who they are and what they will be doing next, someone (a former peer if you will) who gives a positive message is a good thing.

    Green shoots – whatever keeps you happy.

    Prepared for the Future – We still have genders you know. There are people who will continue to identify themselves using the biblically approved gender titles of male and female. There are those who would switch from one to another and I get that you dont like that idea. There are those who would prefer something inbetween and I can see how that will totally freak you out. Although probably not as much as Thomas Beatie does. There are feminists who would totally agree with you and demand to have woman only meetings that exclude male to female trans people. Male and female will be around for some considerable time yet. I have started re-reading the Culture novels by I M Banks and can’t help laugh and think of you when characters change gender, give birth and then change back. All in a society where social norms control crimes and religious belief is all but gone. And it rude to read your kindle. Would you accept that on a Sunday in your church?

    Partners in the Gospel – read the link and agreed with a lot of it. And it was by Martin Saunders, not Mark Woods. I was struck by this line “The reality is that the Bible describes – although doesn’t necessarily condone – a ‘world’ outside into which we’re to go and be salt and light. It doesn’t tell us to go and conquer it by force; to turn it into a theocracy.” I often feel that you would really prefer a theocracy. You never seem to understand that your beliefs have a finite influence on others and that people are free to live in a way that you deem unbiblical. You should not have the power to deny people equality.

    A Greek Tragedy – agree on the Greece thing. Not on the Supreme Courts (I don’t feel the need to include the quotation mark to indicate so disapproval of aforementioned body). Legislatures cannot legislate for every scenario. We need a judicial system to interpret laws and intents of legislation.

    Letter to a Post-Christian Nation – I like your responses. I have read them. Disagree but that wont be surprising I suppose.

    Have fun.

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