New Year is as good a time as any to think about new beginnings. As we reflect on the past year and look forward to 2016, whether at an individual, community or government level, many of us would love to start anew again. Renewal is a great idea. And so is re-formation. I would love to see the following in this New Year.
1) A re-formation of the economy – In 2015 the Conservatives were surprisingly re-elected as a majority government because in the face of a divided and weak opposition they were perceived as the party most likely to succeed with the economy. I am not convinced. The national debt is increasing not decreasing (the governments aim is to halt the rate of increase, not reduce the debt at this moment in time). Meanwhile ‘austerity’ means that the relative economic boom is being funded out of private debt, not government bonds. When George Osborne became chancellor, Britons were earning £67 billion more than we were spending. Today we are spending £40 billion more than we are earning. Household debt on average makes up 135% of our personal income and it is expected to rise to over 180% by 2019. Total household debt has now soared to £1.41 Trillion. And that is not evenly distributed. In cash terms the top 10% now own £5.0 trillion of UK total household wealth – this is up from £4.1 trillion two years ago. They have 44.8% of the wealth. The bottom 50% have 8.7% – down almost 1% in the past two years. In our current economic system it is guaranteed that the rich will get richer and the poor will get poorer – to paraphrase Churchill, never has so much been owed by so many to so few. Without a reformation of our economy, the Humpty Dumpty of free market, globalised, corporate capitalism will be heading for another great fall. And all the Queens horses and all the Queens men won’t be able to put it together again.
2) A re-formation of the education system – Scotland’s education system, once the envy of the world, is still in many places good. I pay tribute to the teachers, lecturers, administrators who in general do a great job. But there is no doubt that the system is in decline. A monolithic, one size fits all, state education system is failing. Especially the poor. The rich are able to send their children to private schools, whilst often publicly endorsing a public system that they don’t use.
As a more militant secularism seeks to remove all traces of Christianity from Scotland’s Christian State education system, it is clear that there needs to be a rethink and radical reevaluation of the whole school system in Scotland. I agree entirely with the Catholic church’s Peter Kearney who recently called for a more diverse system and an increase in the number of faith schools. I don’t have a problem with the secularists having an atheistic secular education system for their children. It’s when they insist that being for everyone else’s children as well, that it becomes a problem. Its time for diversity and equality in the education system. Its time for more Christian schools.
3) A re-formation of the family – For a couple of centuries it has been the dream of ‘liberal’ atheists to seek to reshape humanity in their own image – and particularly the family. But they have found this remarkably difficult. However with the development of queer theory, easy divorce, sex without consequences and an increase in materialism, the family is now under attack more than ever. Indeed humanity is under attack. We have moved from sexuality being perceived as ‘fixed’ (God made me this way) to sexuality being seen as fluid. In the past year we have seen a rapid move to the notion that gender is also fluid. We can be whoever we want to be. In a free market society, human autonomy is the absolute on which all other values must be based. The impact of this on Scotland’s families and communities is devastating. Broken families ultimately mean a broken society. Its time for healing for Scotland’s families and children.
4) A re-formation of Islam – One of the most significant differences between Christianity and Islam is that Islam has never had a reformation. Maybe now is the time? There are many serious questions that Muslims need to ask about the nature of their ‘scriptures’, their view of God and most significantly for Western society, their view of the relationship between religion and the state. Islam is a monolithic system that does not clearly differentiate between politics and religion. To those brought up in a Western political tradition where the state and the church are not synonymous, that is a difficult position to understand. But it is why wherever there is a Muslim country you will find that religious (and political) liberties are curtailed. Until Islam reforms so that it permits people to freely change their religion, and those within areas it controls, to freely live different lives, then we will find that the recent tensions and divisions within European society will only be exacerbated.
5) A re- formation of the church – And finally in Scotland we do need another re-formation of the Church. The old has gone – or is going – and its time for the new to come. This is especially true in the Reformed churches, of which the Church of Scotland is by far the largest. The Church of Scotland has been, and in many areas, continues to be a blessing to the people of Scotland, but it is not shipshape enough to cope with the current stormy waters that the Christian church finds itself sailing in. It is an outdated institution, seeking to hold on to an establishment Christendom, by going along with what the current secular establishments want. Although they are doing this in order to stay afloat, the fact is that taking in the world (in terms of its views, values and methods) is only causing the ship to sink faster. Without a thoroughgoing reformation and a return to faith of their forefathers, the Church of Scotland will not survive as a vibrant biblical church.
What about other churches? I don’t have time to comment on them all, and it is probably not my place to do so, but suffice it to say that there are some signs of green shoots and new alliances being formed. Some Gospel churches of whatever denomination are beginning to grasp the importance of not competing but instead, working together for the renewal of the Church in Scotland.
In my own denomination it has been a joy to get a little taste of that (though we still have a long way to go. In this past year I have seen new Free churches started in Edinburgh, Stirling and Montrose and we have welcomed congregations from Newmilns, Leith, Inverness, Kirkmuirhill, Kilmalcolm and Lewis and Harris. New churches, new ministers and most importantly of all, new Christians – as the Good news is proclaimed and people respond, like thirsty people being given the purest water. And ultimately that is what Scotland needs more than ever. In a land where there has been a famine of hearing the Word of the Lord, we need more faithful preachers, more gospel churches and more reborn Christians, of whatever denomination. May the Lord grant reformation, renewal and revival in this coming year. I wish you all a happy, blessed and prosperous New Year.
Its good to see that already at least two newspapers have picked up on this The Herald has a column on the education part and The Courier a full page). 2015 has been an encouraging year for getting the Christian perspective into secular media, and its nice to end the year as it began!
Here are the reports in The Herald and the Courier
Free Kirk moderator calls for more faith schools
The Herald31 Dec 2015
SCOTLAND desperately needs more Christian schools, the Moderator of the Free Kirk has said in his New Year message.
Reverend David Robertson argued that while the nation’s education system “is still in many places good”, it was in decline and the “one-size-fitsall” approach is failing.
Instead the church leader believes the country needs a more diverse set-up which would especially benefit the poorest. He said he agreed “entirely” with the Catholic Church’s official spokesman Peter Kearney who has called for a more diverse system and an increase in the number of faith schools.
He also supported Mr Kearney’s call for schools with an atheist ideology to be set up if demand exists.
The Free Kirk Moderator said: “I pay tribute to the teachers, lecturers, administrators who in general do a great job.
“But there is no doubt that the system is in decline.
“A monolithic, one-size-fitsall, state education system is failing, especially the poor.
“Therichareabletosend their children to private schools, while often publicly endorsing a public system that they don’t use.”
Writing in The Herald earlier this week, Mr Kearney said “secular humanist” schools may be needed to satisfy society’s desire to cater for all beliefs.
He also called for an expansion of faith-based schools, claiming there was a “scream for conformity” within Scottish education.
In his own message, Mr Robertson added: “It is time for diversity and equality in the education system.”
Atheist schools put forward by minister
Education: Free Kirk moderator believes greater diversity in range of schools is needed
The Courier & Advertiser (Dundee Edition)31 Dec 2015
A Dundee minister has backed calls for atheist schools to be established in Scotland.
In his New Year message the Rev David Robertson, moderator of the Free Kirk, said Scotland’s education system “is still in many places good” but its “one size fits all” approach to teaching is failing.
He called for a greater number of faith schools and the creation of atheist schools for parents who do not want their children educated in a religious school.
Mr Robertson said he believes greater diversity in the range of schools available would improve standards and benefit pupils from the most disadvantaged backgrounds.
The Free Kirk moderator said: “Scotland’s education system, once the envy of the world, is still in many places good.
“I pay tribute to the teachers, lecturers, administrators who in general do a great job. But there is no doubt that the system is in decline.
“A monolithic, one size fits all, state education system is failing, especially the poor.
“The rich are able to send their children to private schools, whilst often publicly endorsing a public system that they don’t use.”
Mr Robertson’s solution is a greater provision of faith schools:
He said “As a more militant secularism seeks to remove all traces of Christianity from Scotland’s Christian State education system, it is clear that there needs to be a rethink and radical re-evaluation of the whole school system in Scotland.
“I agree entirely with the Roman Catholic Church’s Peter Kearney, who recently called for a more diverse system and an increase in the number of faith schools.
“I don’t have a problem with the secularists having an atheistic secular education system for their children.
“It’s when they insist that being for everyone else’s children as well, that it becomes a problem.
“It’s time for diversity and equality in the education system. It’s time for more Christian schools.”
Mr Kearney, the Catholic Church’s official spokesman, said earlier this week that tax-paying parents should be able to choose to educate children in accordance with their beliefs, whether religious or not.
The Scottish Secular Society was asked to comment but had not done so by the time of going to press.
Elsewhere in his New Year message, the Free Kirk moderator said that the “humpty dumpty” UK economy needed to be radically transformed before it “has another great fall” with Mr Robertson expressing his displeasure at the Tories’ failure to tackle the national debt at Westminster.