Fear Is The Key – A Cunning Plan

In 1961 Alastair Maclean wrote his novel ‘Fear is the Key’ set in the Caribbean. It was a great read, like all Maclean’s early works. I was an avid reader of his stories. He had been an English teacher in the school across the road from our house. I felt he was someone worth listening to.

His message has been listened to again, after all these years, and by David Cameron of all people. Fear has become the key strategy of the Tories in this election and it could well be a winner. Like all the best strategies it is both simple and cunning. Churchill once said of the secret services that truth must be guarded by a bodyguard of lies. Strangely enough the lies must be protected by a bodyguard of truth. Confused? That’s the whole idea!

The polls show that Labour and Tories are neck and neck. That’s remarkable considering the damage that Osbourne’s policies have done to the UK economy. Neither party has the promise of an outright victory. How can the government survive? A good general knows how to use the forces he has to concentrate fire on the enemy’s weakest point. He knows that if he can force his enemy to split his forces then he will win.

The Tories have chosen a diversion plan. Cameron talks of the danger posed by the SNP. They pose the greatest threat since the abdication, apparently. Even John Major has been rolled out and dusted down to proclaim the message. But what threat do the SNP pose to the Tories? The SNP are only contesting seats in Scotland and the Tories only have one to lose in Scotland; why the panic?

Panic is what it is about. Convincing the Scottish electorate that he is afraid of the SNP might drive many Scottish voters to turn to the Nats to hit the Tories hard. This can only hit Labour seats and reduce the Labour strength in the UK Parliament.

The same message plays differently in England. By highlighting the possibility of the SNP forcing a Labour government to go way left of their current position and forcing Scottish claims ahead of the needs of English voters he hopes to gain seats in England at the expense of Labour (the SNP don’t have any seats in England).

He hopes to force Labour to attack the SNP position to defend their seats in Scotland, drawing fire away from Tory policies. The question is, will it work? There seems to be evidence that voters are turning from Labour to the SNP. If they manage to take a large number of seats from Labour then the Tories will surely end up as the largest party. What happens then? As we saw last time, a minority Tory party was able to cobble together a coalition which enabled them to take power and wreck the economy. The poorest have suffered most while the richest few seem to have doubled their wealth.

Could this happen again? I think so. When we have an undecided result then all bets are off. Those who say they will not support the Tories can claim that it is in the interests of the country that we have a government that can have a majority in the house. The Tories will be back and in the words of Adolph Hitler when asked to come out of hiding in Argentina to take over Germany in the seventies, “This time there will be no more Mister Nice Guy!”

The Morning After

After the resurrection we would expect everything was fine. The disciples would be on track to convert the world.

Well it didn’t turn out that way. Things seemed pretty bleak for Christians. Does this sound familliar? How does today’s world reflect the events of the early church. See my column in the Scottish Catholic Observer this weekend.

Don’tworry if you miss it. The full text will appear here next week.

My Lovely Brother RIP

Jim on his graduation day

Jim on his graduation day

Yesterday the sun shone, it was Easter Saturday and I played with my twin grandsons in my daughter’s garden. All was well with the world. When night fell the telephone rang and I heard the news that my brother Jim had been found dead at home.

It’s raining today the randrops are running down the window like the tears I cannot shed for my lovely brother. he was a handsome, clever, straight (some might say blunt) person who always told it as it was. He could be hard to reach, his defence mechanism.

A proud father, hard worker and great brother. We all loved him and can’t begin to know how we will miss him.

Rest in peace now Jim.

My Column – The Resurrection – full text

My final column in the series was published last Frifay in the Scottish Catholic Observer. If you missed it the full text is here.

This is the end of the story of the way of the cross. It is not on the traditional service in most churches but is increasingly recognised. We miss the essential message of the Way if we skip the Resurrection.

Just what happened on that first Easter Sunday? I decided to read again the gospel accounts. They are not all the same. Matthew tells us of Mary Magdalene and other women going to the tomb to complete the preparation of the body. He tells us of an earthquake as the stone is rolled away by an angel. The angel sat on the stone. The guards were so frightened they were like dead men.
The angel tells the women that Jesus has risen from the dead and has gone. Mark, Luke and John tell us the stone had already been rolled away when the women arrived and the number of angels varies between one and two. Should these differences cause us to doubt the story? Modern experience of witness testimony of crimes and road accidents shows that accounts can vary when something dramatic happens. If the story was being invented the accounts would surely be identical. I think we see four different memories of what happened on that day; Jesus rose from the dead.

The first thing that strikes me is the account is the angels. We don’t talk much about angels nowadays. They are unfashionable. We are a bit embarrassed at any mention of angels. Yet, here, at the crucial event of Christianity, the angel is the major player. I must confess that angels have not played much of a role in my adult life. That was true until one day in Nigeria when I was being driven to a small school by a local priest. He drove on the right as is the law in Nigeria, unless he felt that the left hand side was a better surface. In fact he just moved from side to side for no apparent reason. As you can imagine we had a few rear misses. That was when I rediscovered my Guardian Angel. His work was cut out that day but I survived.

Angels are a manifestation of Divine intervention in normal life. This intervention is difficult to accept for those of us who have a scientific outlook; specifically an ill-informed scientific outlook. Quantum physics would have us believe that things can exist in two places at once. Science tells us to look beyond what we can see. Real scientists recognise the limits of our understanding. I suppose if we can believe in quarks we can believe in angels.

Our Christian belief is founded on the Resurrection. It is the proof of the supernatural aspect of our existence. We can believe that our earthly life is only a tiny part of our true being. We are destined to have an eternal existence. My understanding of what Heaven is like is unclear and can only be described as sketchy. At the end of a hard week I can collapse into a chair and wonder how long I can keep this up? How would I manage to keep going for eternity? It’s a scary thought.

Of course the heavenly existence we are promised will be very different from our limited life on earth. We will hopefully he resurrected without our imperfections. I wonder how I would be recognised without my imperfections. There might not be much left if they are all removed. The nature of the afterlife has been of interest to mankind even before the time of Christ. Ancient Egyptians built enormous pyramids to house dead pharaohs and other important people. The Romans believed that emperors would become gods after they died.

Archaeologists have explored the burial places of ancient people to find, not only bones but food for the journey, money, hunting dogs and weapons. Some expected to arrive in the afterlife with all the trappings of their earthly status. They reckoned without Howard Carter and his ilk. Their graves have been opened and their riches removed. In fact the archaeologists found that most of the graves had been robbed long ago.

Of course we are more sophisticated than that. We have learned from the archaeological work that you can’t take it with you when you go. Well, perhaps not. Recent reports show that about one percent of the people hold about half of the world’s wealth and their share is growing. What can they possibly do with all that money? They spend it of course! London is apparently one of the places that the super-rich like to spend their money. They buy millionaire residences with underground swimming pools, cinemas, lavish apartments and helicopter landing pads. They have luxury yachts in the Mediterranean and fancy homes all over the world.

The strange thing is that many of these things lie unused. London has more than its share of empty mansions, their value increasing day by day and nobody enjoying them. It would appear that not only can you not take it with you when you go, you can’t even enjoy it all while you are here. Death must be a terrible prospect for the super-rich. They will have to leave all their money behind.

So what message does the resurrection have for us? There is the promise that one day we will leave this very limited existence behind and join God in a new, unimaginable life. That’s a pretty wonderful promise. Nothing we can have here can compare with what is to come. There is more. If this is not our final home then we can ignore the lure of power and riches. We have one life here. How can we use that time best? How can we best make use of the resources we find around us?

Entry into heaven will not be automatic. You can’t buy your way in with gold and silver and you can’t get in on your own. You can only enjoy heaven as part of the mystical body of Christ. We can all be part of the body and that makes all of us one person. To get into heaven we need to start behaving like that now in our life on earth. It’s how we behave towards our fellow man that will determine what kind of afterlife we will have.

As real Christians we need to show an example to the world. We need to be Christ like in everything we do in great things and small things. We are living in a world where innocent, ordinary people are being killed and enslaved from the Black Sea through the Middle East and Africa. They are not distant strangers. They are part of the same body as us. They are part of us and we must recognise this.

The poor and underprivileged here are suffering in an economic situation where others are getting richer. Can we afford to just shrug our shoulders and say that there’s nothing we can do about that? I don’t think that’s the Christian way. It’s not the way of the resurrection; it’s not the way of the cross. If we are to be resurrected and attain heaven then we will do it together. When Jesus was dying on the cross it was the good thief who was promised resurrection. He was a confessed thief but he spoke out for the innocent Christ. Who will we speak out for?

Watch out for what’s to come next month.