Monthly Archives: July 2015

Fly-fornication Richardson and his Puritan Friends

puritan

When we were naming our second child we settled on Isla, partly because it sounds nice (eye-la, not iz-la), partly because I have some Celtic roots (the ginger beard is a clue), and partly because my wife promised me a bottle of Islay on each of Isla’s birthdays.* We were not in any way drawn to the meaning, ‘island’, as the reason for choosing the name. And we only subsequently heard that it means ‘devoted to God’ in Spanish (and only then after the pronunciation has been altered).

In contrast, John Bunyan came up with some pretty cracking names heavy-laden with meaning in Pilgrim’s Progress. Among the more ordinary are Christian and Prudence, but we also have Mr Ready-to-Halt, Valiant-for-Truth, and Mr Feeble-Mind.

Apparently, these kinds of names were common in Puritan England at the time John Bunyan was growing up, and reflect the spread of puritanism among the artisan class. John Adair tells us:

A Sussex jury list, for example, includes Be-courteous Cole, Safety-on-High Snat, Search-the-Scriptures Moreton, Increase Weeks, Kill-sin Pemple, Fly-debate Smart, Fly-fornication Richardson, Seek-wisdom Wood, Much-mercy Cryer, Fight-the-good-fight-of-faith White, and The-peace-of-God Knight. Hertfordshire could field Lamentation Candle, Mephibosheth Lamprey and Humiliation Scratcher.

So while we roll our eyes at the current celebrity fashion for outdoing one another with weird baby names, perhaps we ought to revisit and resurrect some of these beauties?

*The name Isla is derived from Islay, the home of some pretty darn good whiskies.

Cowardice, the Hallmark of Our Age

baby

When news broke yesterday that Planned Parenthood have been trafficking in the body parts of babies, many of us assumed that this story would gather traction immediately. Surely this is one of the most important news stories of our age? We are exterminating our children, and then selling their body parts. I know we don’t all agree that they are children at all (though I am confident even the most ardent pro-death campaigner will cry bitter tears after a miscarriage). But I also know that many people — journalists, politicians, and influencers — are passionately pro-life.

And so I have been deeply perplexed and angry by the relative silence on this issue. Why is it that no politician wants to touch this? Why are the major news outlets turning a blind eye? Where are all those liberal campaigners for human rights?

Not so long back, when Dolce and Gabbana stated that they felt that two homosexual parents were not the ideal, the celebrity outrage and boycotts that followed bullied them into a retraction. Oh, what courageous campaigning from Elton & Co! Oh, what self-sacrifice in the name of truth and justice!

While prominent Christian leaders have been fast to pick up on the Planned Parenthood genocidal sociopathic corruptions and condemn them, surely we Christians are not the only ones who think this is heartbreakingly, breathtakingly barbaric?

Why, for example, doesn’t the BBC take an interest? In the past couple of days we’ve enjoyed breaking news stories about gay couples holding hands in Moscow, the appearance of Pluto, and a bunch of other relative non-stories. (I say relative because nothing could be more important than a story that sheds further light on how far we have fallen, how twisted and evil our hearts really are.) But no, we are not the righteous deliverers of justice that our fathers were, who fought for the end to slavery, child labour, fascism, and so much more. We are the generation that campaigns for issues that cost us nothing, whilst turning our eyes away from those issues that really matter. How ironic that the BBC has been running a story about a woman with ‘selective mutism’, a fear of speaking, when they are the corporate embodiment of that fear.

Every time I think of abortion — the brutal, relentless slaughter of the innocents that takes place on altars of the Most Holy Places in our temples to health — I grow increasingly confused as to why this is not an issue for ongoing, rigorous debate and campaign. Perhaps we have all grown tired and despairing of any hope for change. And perhaps we’ve grown a little embarrassed by the religious right and their more aggressive tactics that have slurred the pro-life cause (though strangely enough, we still love Bonhoeffer).

While Dr Nucatola continues her sterile crushing of babies’ bodies (oh so carefully, mind you), my heart cries out for justice. Break the teeth of the wicked, O Lord!

Post Script: Watch A Story of God’s Forgiveness in which Jenny speaks of her experience of God’s grace after an abortion.

Update: The BBC have now posted a news article after the decision from Congress to launch an investigation.

A Note to the Skinflints and the Slackhands

One of the great advantages of being in a church is that you may well know lots of useful people, people who know how to do stuff. I have friends who can write contracts, fix radiators, and mend fences. And since they’re called to love me, they can do it at a discount, right?

In a video course called Biblical Finance, Doug Wilson gets onto the subject of Honest Work and makes a few challenging remarks in his typically humorous way.

Honest work means that you don’t take advantage of other people just because they’re in the family of God. And it’s really amazing how the carnal heart works on this. ‘Oh, our cat’s sick, and this veterinarian goes to our church. Maybe we’ll go to him, and maybe he’ll give us a deal because we go to the same church. Maybe he’ll give us 10% off… Or maybe I can get it for free if I hit him up at the fellowship hour and tell him what’s wrong with my cat.’

Or you find out that somebody’s a doctor at the fellowship hour at church, and you want to show them your rash.

Don’t take advantage of your brothers.

Instead of going to the vet with your sick cat thinking ‘Maybe he’ll take 10% off because I’m a brother’, you need to be thinking, ‘Maybe I should add 10% to whatever he bills me. Maybe I should add 10% because he’s a brother.’

If you’re trying to use the brotherhood of God as a way of getting from people, your thinking is all wrong. Look at every Christian business opportunity… as a way to bless them above and beyond, instead of looking for ways for them to bless you above and beyond.

Now, there is a kind of grace in receiving a gift, including services offered at a reduced rate. So we don’t have to assume that the vet isn’t allowed to offer you a discount, or that the doctor won’t take a sneak peak at that rash and offer a word of advice. But the point is that the onus is on you to honour them, and not vice versa.

In fact, Paul does (sort of) make the same point.

Those who have believing masters must not be disrespectful on the ground that they are brothers; rather they must serve all the better since those who benefit by their good service are believers and beloved. (1 Timothy 6.2)

Here the roles are reversed, but the principle is the same. He’s saying that if you’re employed by a fellow Christian you should work even harder as a service to them simply because they are Christian. But the bigger point, or the underlying principle, is this: don’t take liberties with a brother as though he owes you. Rather, consider how to serve him even better, whether by your generosity or your hard work.

This post originally appeared over at Think Theology.