Posted by: Jennie Pollock | April 30, 2013

Exciting News

Well, I’ve ben talking about it for a while, but the day is finally (almost) here! This Friday, 3 May 2013, I will be launching my NEW WEBSITE! Whoop!

jpdotcom screenshot

It’s already live at JenniePollock.com, but I’ve got a couple of last minute tweaks before I share it with the world – so shhh, don’t shout about it yet! (But I’d love your help to give it a fabulous launch on Friday, if you feel so inclined)

However, as my faithful followers, I thought I’d let you know about it so you can have a sneak peak before anyone else.

I believe that by the marvels of modern technology, I should be able to transfer your subscriptions over to the new site without any inconvenience to yourselves, and I’ll be trying that later today, but wanted to give you a heads-up first just in case you get any kind of notification and wonder what’s going on.

Thank you so much for sticking with me through these first, tentative years of blogging. I have appreciated your support, encouragement, comments, tweets, likes, shares and more.

All previous posts and comments from this site are already there waiting to be rediscovered, and I’ve also merged in the posts from my other blog, so you may discover new treasures as you look around. Going forward, JenniePollock.com will give you more of the same but it will also act as a ‘shop window’ for me to direct potential clients to for my writing and editing services. If you need anything written, edited, proofread or whatever, do let me know. And if you know of anyone who might be able to benefit, do point them in my direction, or drop me a line on my new email address: jennie[at]jenniepollock[dot]com.

I hope you’ll enjoy the fresh new look.

Thank you again – see you on the other side!

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Posted by: Jennie Pollock | April 27, 2013

A Little Light Kierkegaard

It’s been a while since I’ve shared random quotes on Saturdays, and I think I should try to rectify that, so here’s one I stumbled across yesterday.

The difference between an admirer and a follower still remains, no matter where you are. The admirer never makes any true sacrifices. He always plays it safe. Though in words, phrases, songs, he is inexhaustible about how highly he prizes Christ, he renounces nothing, gives up nothing, will not reconstruct his life, will not be what he admires, and will not let his life express what it is he supposedly admires.

Soren Kierkegaard, Provocations: Spiritual Writings of Kierkegaard

Thanks to David Capener for sharing it. I may well blog about it soon – though really, what more is there to say?

Posted by: Jennie Pollock | April 26, 2013

Doing What’s Right, Right

The following post first appeared on ThinkTheology, and follows on from a couple of other posts there, to which you’ll find links at relevant points.

'Untitled' by db Photography | Demi-Brooke (Creative Commons)

‘Untitled’ by db Photography | Demi-Brooke (Creative Commons)

Early in 2009 Abby Johnson was named Planned Parenthood’s employee of the year for 2008. By September that year she had quit her job and moved to ‘the other side of the fence’ both figuratively and literally.

Planned Parenthood is a US charity providing reproductive health information and resources to women who can’t otherwise afford it. They are also the United States’ biggest provider of abortions.

Abby had joined them as a volunteer while at college in Texas and although she knew they carried out abortions, she believed the recruiter when she said that the goal of Planned Parenthood was actually to make abortion rarer.

Over the next eight years, Abby rose through the ranks at her clinic, eventually becoming its director. Though she and many of her colleagues firmly believed they were doing good in meeting the needs of vulnerable women, and were sincere in their desire to make abortion rarer, Abby was disturbed by the sense the organisation had of being at war with the pro-lifers who stood praying on the other side of the high fence surrounding the clinic. In Unplanned, the book telling her story, Abby writes:

If we are pro-choice, I thought, … why do we feel we need to protect clients from conversations about their choices? … We want them to consider the alternatives and make the choice that’s right for them. Right?

Unplanned gives a fascinating insight into the mind of a Christian who honestly thought that she was helping people by the work she did, and how her eyes were opened to the truth of what she was not just allowing but enabling.

Now a pro-life speaker and activist, Abby makes it clear that it was the approach of the volunteers from the pro-life charity Coalition for Life that created the openness in her heart which eventually allowed God to break through her prejudices and open her eyes to the truth.

When she first started working at the clinic, the protestors at the fence included someone dressed as the Grim Reaper and a lady brandishing a placard showing a gruesome image of an aborted baby. They would shout abuse at the already very emotional women entering the clinic and seemed more determined to judge than to persuade.

The volunteers from the Coalition for Life were different. They seemed genuinely to care for everyone entering the clinic – including the staff. Though they too called through the fence, their words were gentle ones of love and hope. Most of the time they simply prayed. And prayed and prayed and prayed. Usually quietly, occasionally on their knees sobbing and pleading before the Lord.

Over time these volunteers managed to convince the placard-waver and the Grim Reaper that their tactics were counter-productive and they left.

Where threats, harsh words and condemnation had fostered only fear, anger and division, the love, gentleness and kindness offered by the volunteers who remained would occasionally win them the attention of clinic clients, and eventually won Abby’s heart.

I’m sure that both groups of protestors were motivated by a sense of righteous anger at the practice of killing pre-born babies, but the tactic of one was almost guaranteed not to win even a single mind, let alone the entire battle. We’ve talked on this blog before about the importance of disagreeing agreeably, and Andrew recently summarised an excellent example of two people doing just that. Anger and condemnation don’t change hearts and minds; love and compassion do. If we are to have any hope of shifting the pivot that Matt wrote about last week, this is a lesson we have to learn.

The task looks huge, and despite the well-documented example he gave of the abolition of the slave trade, it can be hard to imagine where to begin.

A couple of weeks ago, Phil Moore likened abortion to the Holocaust, and for some of us, it may be that God calls us to resist abortion the way Corrie ten Boom and her family resisted Nazism – one baby at a time. This might be through training as a counsellor at a crisis pregnancy centre, by standing quietly and respectfully outside an abortion clinic and praying, or even by becoming adoptive parents.

For others of us, as for a couple of individuals in Abby Johnson’s story, it might be by changing the mind of one key abortion provider at a time.

In private correspondence about this article, Matt shared an example of people he knows who work with young men – who of course are at least 50% responsible for the pregnancies in the first place. For some of us this may be the role God gives us – working to prevent unwanted pregnancies even occurring.

For others it may be influencing (or becoming!) the influencers and policy-makers, while for still others it might be bringing about a far broader shift in the cultural attitude – raising awareness of the issue and painting a new picture in the public eye.

The holocaust was able to happen because a nation believed the lies about the value of human life and the criteria required for personhood. Abortion is allowed to continue for the same reasons – Western culture has been deceived about what constitutes a person and what kinds of humans are worthy of life.

We’ve got to win our culture over to a godly understanding of the value of life, to make abortion not just illegal but unthinkable.

But it must all be done with as much love and compassion for the perpetrators as we have for their unborn children. Angry and abusive words and actions won’t shift the lever, they’ll shatter it and undo all the good work that went before.

Let’s not get so anxious to do the right thing that we forget to do it the right way.

Posted by: Jennie Pollock | April 23, 2013

The Joy of Books

Just a few of my books.

Just a few of my books.

Tonight is World Book Night, the night of the year when half a million books are given away for free on the streets of the UK, and more in the USA and Ireland (OK, not exactly global yet, but they’ll get there!).

I will be out giving copies of The Eyre Affair – a very funny novel about literature in an alternate version of 1985 – to unsuspecting passers by in my part of town.

I was a book-giver-outerer (my term, not theirs) last year, too. It was great fun to be able to give the gift of literature and put a smile in someone’s life.

And this year it also gives me the excuse to wax lyrical about the joy of real books over the clinical convenience of the eReader. Bonus.

I love real books. I’m a Luddite about technology at the best of times anyway, but it seems to me that to present a great work of literature as a bunch of pixels of light on a screen is to rob it of at least two of its component parts.

Firstly, there is the physicality of a book. Reading is at least as much about the process of browsing a shelf, selecting an appealing-looking tome, weighing it in the hand, feeling its cover, smelling its scent, thumbing through the pages and finally progressing from one cover down through the stack of pages to the middle, then up the crest of the hill to the end. The satisfaction of turning the last page and closing the cover of a really good book can surely not be matched by making one more click and finding the book gone, snatched into the past without a trace.

On an eReader every book looks and feels the same. There is no artistry, no choices of cover design (matte, gloss or silk? Smooth or embossed? Photo or drawn artwork?), none of the clues that we instinctively take in that hint at what’s in store. It’s like a gift that the giver couldn’t be bothered to wrap or, worse, that they shoved in a supermarket carrier bag with half a dozen other things you already owned.

On a purely practical note, too, when trying to remember something I’ve read to share the thought with others, I can often remember roughly where on the page it was, which side it was on, and even a vague sense of whether it was near the front, middle or back of the book. With electronic text, that just isn’t possible – and I understand that flicking backwards and forwards through the pages isn’t easy on the current models anyway. Another serious disadvantage.

Secondly, though, and perhaps more significantly, real books are community objects in a way that books in an eReader can’t be.

When you buy a book new, even if you order it online, you have some basic interaction with the person who sells it to you, the cover then tells you the author’s name and the publisher’s name, and the first few pages list the names of others whose collaboration has made this object possible.

And what if, as I prefer to do when I can, you buy a book second hand or borrow it from a friend? Then you start to interact with those who have owned it before you – you can read their margin notes, see which bits they loved enough to highlight, or hated enough to exclaim over. You can mark their progress by the telltale creases of folded down corners, and tell whether they read it while smoking a pipe, soaking in the bath or eating chocolate (or possibly all three!).

Helene Hanff, author of 84 Charing Cross Road – my absolute all time, hands down favourite book, which I read every year and of which I buy every secondhand copy I see so I always have one to give away – agrees. In a letter to the bookshop from which she orders all her books, she says:

I do love secondhand books that open to the page some previous owner read oftenest. The day [Selected Writings by William] Hazlitt came he opened to ‘I hate to read new books,’ and I hollered ‘Comrade!’ to whoever owned it before me.

And later,

I love inscriptions on flyleaves and notes in margins, I like the comradely sense of turning pages someone else has turned, and reading passages some one long gone has called my attention to.

On top of which, it’s so much fun to go to someone’s house and browse their bookshelves – seeing all their books in a sweep gives you so many clues as to who they are, and so many potential triggers for conversation, that simply won’t be available once books have become extinct.

On World Book Night I shall be giving out real books, not links to download some text onto yet another screen. I shall place a physical object, inscribed with my name, into the hands of a stranger. They will read it or reject it, pass it on or abandon it, dogear the corners, doodle in the margins, or wedge its pages in a sash window to stop the rattle (yes, I saw that done in a house recently!). Whatever they do with it, the book will in some way touch their life. I hope they’ll love it and will share it with someone else and so the cycle will go on. And maybe one day, browsing in a bookshop, I shall find a copy, buy it, pass it on, and start the cycle again.

Books are physical and they are communal, in a way that their electronic counterparts can never be, and for these and possibly many more reasons, they bring a joy that their electronic counterparts can never bring. Don’t you agree? 😉

Posted by: Jennie Pollock | April 16, 2013

The Mass Murderer You’ve Never Heard Of

'Newborn in hospital' by World Bank Photo Collection (Creative Commons)

‘Newborn in hospital’ by World Bank Photo Collection (Creative Commons)

Just before I closed down my computer last night, my twitter feed started telling me of the explosions in Boston. The news programmes gave their full attention to the situation a couple of hours later, and by this morning it was still the lead story, with three people confirmed dead and more than 100 injured.

Type ‘Boston’ into your preferred search engine and you’ll have your pick of coverage from all the world’s major news outlets.

Type in ‘Gosnell’ and it’s a very different picture – at least it was 24 hours ago.

Dr Kermit Gosnell is on trial in Philadelphia accused of killing a woman and seven children. The court has heard evidence that these eight people are by no means all the doctor’s victims; in the thirteen years since his clinic’s last inspection, hundreds of healthy newborn babies have been killed by having their spinal cords cut with scissors – “literally a beheading” as one worker at the clinic put it.

Unlike the Boston bombings, however, there has been an almost total lack of media coverage of the horrific revelations from this clinic, which had somehow not been given even the most cursory of inspections for 16 years.

The Grand Jury report makes shocking, stomach-churning reading: Gosnell’s clinic was found to be dirty, staffed by untrained assistants and in violation of just about every hygiene and public health regulation going. Body parts of babies were found stored in jam jars, plastic jugs and even paper bags.

Instruments were not properly sterilized. Disposable medical supplies were not disposed of; they were reused, over and over again. Medical equipment – such as the defibrillator, the EKG, the pulse oximeter, the blood pressure cuff – was generally broken; even when it worked, it wasn’t used. The emergency exit was padlocked shut.

Patients attending the clinic would regularly come away having contracted venereal diseases from the dirty instruments with which they had been treated. Several had to go to hospital to be treated for complications arising from their ‘care’.

I could go on and on.

The facts are truly shocking, yet they have almost entirely failed to hit the news at all. I only know about the case because I have a mild addiction to twitter and at the end of last week I started seeing people asking why #Gosnell wasn’t getting more (ie any) news coverage.

Eventually I found an article which told me the story. If your stomach hasn’t been sickened enough by the above, read the Grand Jury report or this article from Conor Friedersdorf in The Atlantic. It’s pretty distressing stuff.

So why hasn’t it hit the news?

Because this wasn’t just any clinic, it was an abortion clinic which specialised in late-term abortions. The Grand Jury heard evidence that in the three decades of the clinic’s operation, Gosnell and his staff carried out hundreds of late-term abortions – often exceeding the 24-week legal limit (the Grand Jury report estimates that he carried out at least 4 or 5 illegal abortions per week), and killing babies at “30-plus-weeks” of gestation.

Now, I know it is controversial to describe abortion as ‘killing babies’, but the way Gosnell operated, there is no other possible term for it – he would induce labour, putting the women through the ‘normal’ birth procedure and then, if what came out showed signs of life, he would snip its spinal cord with a pair of scissors.

Whatever you call it while in the womb, once a viable bundle of tissue with human DNA enters the world, it stops being a foetus by anybody’s standards and is recognised as a baby. Had Gosnell routinely gone into the maternity ward or premature baby unit at his local hospital cutting babies’ spinal cords, he would have been arrested years ago and vilified as an evil lunatic. The world would know his name and shudder at its mention.

If the health and legal authorities had turned a blind eye, there would have been outcry, with officials from the highest ranks being prosecuted for criminal negligence.

So why the silence on this case?

To be honest, I don’t fully understand.

Abortion, while an emotive and divisive issue in the UK, is an absolutely polarising one in the US, particularly in the media.

Over here journalists seem perfectly capable of supporting ‘a woman’s right to choose’ while at the same time highlighting illegal and unhygienic practices due to failures of regulation. And while I am strongly and committedly pro-life I can see that there is no logical inconsistency in believing that abortion is morally permissible but still wanting it to be carried out in safe, hygienic conditions. In fact, many people who are pro-choice hold that stance due to a conviction that desperate women will seek abortions whether they are legal or not, so legalising and regulating them is a way of ensuring they are treated safely, by proper registered doctors.

In the US, though, it seems journalists are unable to disentangle themselves from the position they hold to report a case which is horrific and newsworthy by anyone’s standards. Perhaps this is a reflection of their honesty – they know that reporting a case of ‘choice gone bad’ will inevitably open up the discussion of what Gosnell’s crime actually was.

It is hard to see why killing a human at 24 weeks of gestation is a perfectly acceptable medical procedure when it takes place inside the womb, but a heinous murder when it takes place a few inches away out in the wide world.

It’s hard to see why killing a loved and wanted infant in a premature baby ward would be sickening, but killing an unwanted one in a clinic is fine – or even why killing an unwanted baby in a clinic is fine, but killing it in a dirty clinic with unsterilized instruments is despicable.

In fact, I don’t think it’s just hard, I think it’s impossible.

Perhaps journalists have realised that, and are – or were – keeping quiet in order to protect their stance. By ignoring this case they can sustain the rhetoric that abortion is nothing more than the disposal of a bunch of inconvenient cells. The briefest glance at the facts – and some of the heart-breaking photos – would tell them differently.

As I hinted at the beginning, however, things are changing. A massive twitter and blogging campaign seems finally to have provoked a response from America’s major news outlets. As the New York Times put it:

…after an online furor that the case was being ignored by the national news media because of troubling accounts of late-term abortions, reporters from major newspapers and television networks descended Monday on the Court of Common Pleas.

I was particularly interested in this article by Sarah Kliff in the Washington Post, as I had seen a story from Mollie Hemingway the day before mentioning Sarah and her claim that she hadn’t written about the story because it was a ‘local crime’ issue, not one that had any bearing on policy which was her true remit. Particular kudos goes to Kliff for not only admitting she was wrong, but also including a link to the relevant twitter conversation in which some of the scathing responses from other tweeters can be seen below the original exchange.

This post has got very long, so let me just close with this: We often feel powerless to make a difference in the world. The problems are too great, the walls too high and too thick for teeny tiny us to hack away at them and make any kind of difference, but the issue of the media coverage in this case shows us differently. As Margaret Mead once said (and President Bartlet quoted!):

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.

Posted by: Jennie Pollock | April 12, 2013

Help! The Building’s on Fire

'Building on Fire' by Bjorn J (Creative Commons)

‘Building on Fire’ by Bjorn J (Creative Commons)

My life has been touched by two suicides in the last fortnight. Only distantly touched, it’s true, but touched nonetheless. The first, who I knew slightly, was a friend of a friend; the second, of whose existence I was unaware until the tragic news hit my twitter feed, was the son of one of America’s best-known pastors.

Both suffered from mental illness – one from depression, the other from bipolar disorder. Both had loving, supportive families and friends who were in their lives talking, encouraging, supporting and praying for them. Yet both went home one night and took their own lives.

My heart breaks.

It breaks for the families who have not only to bear the grief of losing a child, but who must find every waking moment flooded with fruitless ‘if onlys’.

And it breaks for these two young men who had everything, but had it ripped away by a malicious, ravening disease.

There are those who will think that these suicides denote the giving up of a fight; that these young men surrendered to the forces ranged against them; even that they chose death over battle, over life. There are those who will say they made an irrational decision. But from the little I understand mental illness, I don’t think this is an accurate understanding of the situation.

After the second man’s death, someone posted a link on twitter to this quotation from David Foster Wallace, who himself went on to take his own life:

The so-called ‘psychotically depressed’ person who tries to kill herself doesn’t do so out of quote ‘hopelessness’ or any abstract conviction that life’s assets and debits do not square. And surely not because death seems suddenly appealing. The person in whom Its invisible agony reaches a certain unendurable level will kill herself the same way a trapped person will eventually jump from the window of a burning high-rise. Make no mistake about people who leap from burning windows. Their terror of falling from a great height is still just as great as it would be for you or me standing speculatively at the same window just checking out the view; i.e. the fear of falling remains a constant. The variable here is the other terror, the fire’s flames: when the flames get close enough, falling to death becomes the slightly less terrible of two terrors. It’s not desiring the fall; it’s terror of the flames. And yet nobody down on the sidewalk, looking up and yelling ‘Don’t!’ and ‘Hang on!’, can understand the jump. Not really. You’d have to have personally been trapped and felt flames to really understand a terror way beyond falling.

What a powerful image, and a very helpful way of understanding the issue. And how utterly terrifying.

It terrifies me because my brother and my cousin both suffer from depression. They’re both seeing therapists, taking medication and talking with family, friends and strangers. I’m incredibly proud of them for their honesty, their vulnerability and their courage. Together, we’re all doing all we can to fight the fire. Yet it still rages, and I’m terrified that one day, despite all our best efforts, the flames will well up and consume them.

For really, it’s the flames that kill, not the jump; it’s the disease, not the gun or the pills. And I’m helpless before it.

My cousin tells me that talking is important, so let’s keep talking about it – the stigma around mental health is still huge, and we need to change that so people are no more ashamed of having depression than they are of having chicken pox – or perhaps malaria would be a better analogy, since it doesn’t go away, but lurks beneath the surface ready to pounce when all seems well. Either way, doctors can only help with the symptoms if they know there’s a problem.

Probably more money needs to be put into research, as the medication only seems to help to a certain extent. And if you know of charities working to help those struggling with depression, bipolar disorder or other suicidal thoughts, why not give a donation once in a while? The Samaritans helpline in the UK provide a lifeline when it seems there’s no-one else to turn to, and The Maytree Centre were an enormous help to my cousin. She is now raising money to help them help others in crisis, and I know she’d be thrilled if you gave to that.

If you’re the praying type, keep praying for those you know of, and those you don’t, who struggle with this, and for their families and friends as they love, support and encourage day after day and hour after hour.

I feel helpless, and I don’t like that feeling, but I’m going to keep doing all I can to fight the fire. Will you join me?

Posted by: Jennie Pollock | April 2, 2013

No April Fool

'jack 06.27.09' by timlewisnm (Creative Commons)

‘jack 06.27.09’ by timlewisnm (Creative Commons)

I am not a fan of April Fools’ jokes. In fact, stronger than that – I despise the style of ‘humour’ which goes to great lengths to convince people of an unlikely fact solely so the ‘joker’ can then ridicule his or her victims for their gullibility. Putting people into situations where the only possible outcome is that they look and feel stupid does not strike me as the kind of love we are supposed to have for one another.

As we at ThinkTheology have been looking at the calendar and noting the coincidence of April Fool’s Day with Easter Monday, however, I suggested that perhaps St Stuffed Shirt would like to comment on what could be seen as the biggest April Fool’s joke in history. Displaying uncharacteristic sensitivity, however, he politely declined – and he was right.

Yes, the Easter story tells us of a time when the whole world, having been led to believe one set of ‘facts’, suddenly found that the truth was nothing like what they had thought. Yes, it was a time when Satan, crowing in his victory, discovered that in fact he had just suffered the ultimate defeat. Yes, Jesus’ appearance to his friends, disciples and followers after his death was a surprise (to say the least!). But no, describing it as a joke won’t do at all.

Jesus’ purpose was not to deceive in order to make us – or even Satan – look foolish when He did the big reveal. He didn’t go through all that pain, sorrow, humiliation and rejection in order to have a good laugh at the look on Mary’s face the next day, and he won’t find it the least bit funny when the truth is revealed to all those angry atheists on Judgment Day.

In fact, Jesus didn’t do anything to try to create or retain an element of surprise. Centuries before his birth he had been speaking through the prophets of the suffering he would have to undergo. He had even told his disciples in plain, unambiguous language what was to happen to him:

The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.

Satan was the one who had been working for millennia to convince the world of an untruth. He was the one waiting for the moment when he could leap out, laughing with glee, and reveal his deception.

Was it a surprise to him when Jesus rose from the dead? It shouldn’t have been – he of all beings knew who Jesus was and what he was capable of, but perhaps the great deceiver had deceived even himself.

By Easter Monday, all the powers of heaven and all the powers of darkness knew that Satan had been the one left looking a fool. But none of them thought it was a joke.

——-

This article first appeared on ThinkTheology.

Posted by: Jennie Pollock | March 30, 2013

Seven Ways to Change the World

Sharing the good ideas

Sharing the good ideas

Maundy Thursday commemorates the day of Jesus’ Last Supper with his disciples before one of them betrayed him to the authorities. During the course of this meal, Jesus – the great leader, the man his disciples hoped would overthrow the government and establish his own kingdom, preferably by force – knelt at the feet of these rough, uneducated men and washed their grubby, calloused, smelly feet (read about it here).

British Monarchs used to do this, apparently. As a sign of their identification with Christ, they would wash the feet of the poor in Westminster Abbey. Food and clothing were also given to the poor. Today the tradition continues in symbolic form, with the Queen giving ‘Maundy Money’ to pensioners on that day.

It was a pleasing coincidence, then, that on Maundy Thursday this year I found myself in a room full of people who were actively giving up the wealth and privilege they had been given for the sake of helping some of the poorest in our society.

It was ChristChurch London’s second ‘Good Ideas Pitch Night‘ – described as ‘Dragon’s Den with friendly dragons’ these evenings give entrepreneurs an opportunity to ‘pitch’ their start-up business to a roomful of people who may be able to offer the expertise they need to take their idea to the next level.

The only rule is that the ideas have to be ‘good’ – they have to be about serving society.

The seven groups pitching last Thursday were: an organisation called ‘Street Doctors’ which trains young people to give life-saving First Aid to victims of stabbings or shootings; a group teaching music to talented young people who otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity or encouragement to develop their skills; a group dedicated to training teachers in Uganda; a young Dutch man who wants to improve screening for dyslexia in schools in order to substantially increase the rate of early intervention; two different groups working to help rehabilitate ex-offenders; and a ‘comfort food cafe’ called Nana which gives retirees an opportunity to get out of the house for something more worthwhile than bingo and to share their wisdom and expertise with their local community.

Several of these passionate people told how they had given up their jobs in order to dedicate themselves to meeting the need they had identified – quite a feat when you still have to pay your rent and your start-up isn’t yet able to give you a salary!

After all seven groups had made their 5-minute pitches, the audience followed them to tables where they could discuss their favourite idea more deeply, offer suggestions and, if appropriate, offer their expertise or contacts to help take the start-ups to the next level.

I joined Nana’s table, and loved hearing its 20-something creator talk passionately about how sad it is that our culture doesn’t respect the elderly (by which she means people over 65!!) and how we’re in danger of losing the wisdom and experience they have gained over so many years.

I’m useless at estimating numbers of people in a room, but there must have been around 100 people gathered, on a night when many had already left London for the long weekend, and there was a great buzz in the room with connections being made and ideas being shared, encouraged and developed.

Although it was run by a group of friends from ChristChurch, it was wonderful to see that about 70% of the attendees were not from the church (and I don’t know whether any of the pitchers were – I didn’t recognise any of them, but we’re getting big enough now that it’s hard to know everyone).

How great to enter the Easter weekend seeing so many people being willing to humble themselves, give up their ‘rights’, and serve others. I’m sure Jesus would have approved.

Posted by: Jennie Pollock | March 25, 2013

As Long as it’s Black – A correction

'London Bus Stop' by Doug88888 (Creative Commons)

‘London Bus Stop’ by Doug88888 (Creative Commons)

On Saturday I posted about the High Court ruling in the ‘Ex-gay bus adverts’ case.

My dad pointed out that I had misrepresented some of the facts. I apologise. Apparently the judge did consider both adverts to be offensive and mentioned as much. Naturally, she could only rule on the case that was brought, though.

I can’t improve on how Dad said it, so here it is:

Mrs Justice Lang said that the bus adverts from the British Humanist Association and Stonewall were ‘highly offensive’ and ruled that they breached Transport for London’s advertising policy. She also ruled that the advert placed by the Core Issues Trust, fell foul of the policy too and for that reason was legitimately barred by Transport for London.

So the ruling was that both adverts should have been banned. However, as I understand it, the action taken by Core Issues Trust was not about the rights or wrongs of the advert but whether there had been ‘an interference with the right to freedom of expression by a public body’ i.e. Transport for London. This is where the matter gets really convoluted. TfL has a policy. The ads. have not been shown to break any laws but they have breached the policy of the provider of the space where they were posted. TfL therefore were bound by their own rules to ban both ads. Failing to ban the first one did not give them the right to ignore their policy for the second one.

Mrs Justice Lang considered that the complaint against TfL was of such fundamental importance that she has given leave for Core Issues Trust to appeal.

The question that must now be considered is whether a public body has the right to implement policies that infringe on the rights of others. It seems to me that if the appeal goes against TfL it will mean that the provider of advertising space will be unable to regulate what is displayed, so that something that is clearly offensive (but not necessarily illegal) would have to be permitted until a complaint is made to, and upheld by, the Courts.

Watch this space!

Posted by: Jennie Pollock | March 23, 2013

Any Colour as long as it’s Black

Henry Ford famously said of his ‘Model T’ car: “Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black”.

A century later the British courts seem to be following his lead by supporting freedom of speech, just so long as you’re saying the things the culture finds acceptable.

Yesterday, the High Court ruled that Transport for London bosses “were right to ban a Christian group’s bus advert suggesting gay people could be helped to change their sexuality.”

The advert in question read “Not Gay! Ex-Gay, Post-Gay and Proud. Get over it!” and was posted on London buses in response to an advert by the gay rights group Stonewall saying “Some people are gay. Get over it!”

So we have to ‘get over’ our prejudices but they don’t have to get over theirs? So it’s OK to be proud of being gay but not of being heterosexual? Or as a friend put it on Facebook “it’s okay to come out, but not to go ‘in’ again.”

I agree that we shouldn’t say offensive things to or about others, but the advert was very carefully worded in order to follow the same form as its Stonewall counterpart – so how could one “’cause grave offence’ to those who were gay” while the other doesn’t (apparently) cause grave offence to those who are not gay?

If someone goes around saying ‘I used to be blonde but now I’m brunette, and I’m proud of my new hair colour’, it would take a particular kind of paranoia for a blonde to feel that that was offensive to blondes and could exacerbate the prejudices already common against blondes.

Or what about all those adverts where people say they used to be fat but are now thin, or they used to use one kind of shampoo, but now use another, or they used to have sensitive teeth but now they don’t? Why aren’t those ads banned?

They’re not banned because we believe that thin is better than fat, that clean, glossy hair is better than dull, greasy hair, and pain-free mouths are better than painful ones.

It is hard, then, to avoid the conclusion that society considers homosexual relationships to be better than heterosexual ones, or at least to be worthy of greater support and encouragement than heterosexual ones.

We’d never see an advert promoting obesity, because some choices are not as healthy or laudable as others. It seems that the law of the land has deemed which choice of sexuality is the healthier or more laudable choice, and even to suggest that an alternative is available is “offensive” and “homophobic”.

Any person may make any lifestyle choice he (or she) likes, so long as it’s Stonewall’s.

Hmmm.

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