Posts Tagged ‘England’

Speak up for for the rights of all who are destitute

March 23, 2009

It’s been a busy month so far, but after this week things start winding down for easter. The main project I’ve been working on is this first final chapter of my PhD thesis. I finished the first draft last night, I hope to get it to my supervisor before the end of the week then proceed to start work on the next chapter before Easter if at all possible. On the preaching front it has been my busiest month yet; I have preached every Sunday this month so far. March 1 at Trefor, March 8 at Bangor, March 15 at Llanberis and March 22 (yesterday) at Llangefni.

On the social/political involvement side things are relentless too. Have I mentioned before that I’m the Vice-Chair of the Welsh Language Society? And to add to the pressure Menna, my trusted companion, is the current Chair! At the moment two campaigns are in overdrive, the campaign for equal status and civil rights for Welsh speakers in all sectors of life and the campaign for a new Wales-wide institution to provide Welsh medium eduction in the Higher Education sector.

Menna and Dafydd Iwan, President of Plaid Cymru, at a recent public meeting to discuss the LCO at Caernarfon

Menna and Dafydd Iwan, President of Plaid Cymru, at a recent public meeting to discuss the LCO at Caernarfon

At the moment the Welsh Government in Cardiff are trying to pass an LCO (Legislative Competence Order) which would transfer law making powers in relation to the Welsh Language from Westminster to Cardiff. Since 2006 Wales has had it’s own law making powers of sorts but it still has to get a nod from London in the form of an LCO to do anything! I know, imperialism it still alive and kicking! The Welsh Language Society, along with many other institutions from Wales’s civic society including, interestingly, The Presbyterian Church of Wales, have demanded the LCO transfer “all power” in relation to the Welsh Language to Wales. The moral right to legislate in relation to the Welsh Language should reside with the Welsh people themselves, it’s common sense.

But British unionist MP’s, both from the Labour Party and the Conservative Party, are determined to weaken the LCO in Westminster and return it to Cardiff with limited scope. A weak and toothless LCO would mean that the Welsh Government then couldn’t pass a legislation that would give Welsh speakers equal rights in all spheres of society. It seems that the LCO, at best, will give rope for the Government in Wales to legislate to give Welsh speakers some more rights in relation to the public sector but if Westminster gets it’s way the LCO will not give enough meat for the Government in Wales to legislate so to give Welsh speakers equal rights in the private sector, the sector we live most of our daily lives in!

Anyway, the LCO is going through the consultation process at the moment and the Government in Cardiff and the Select Comity in Westminster are inviting people to bring forward evidence for and against the full transfer of power in relation to the language to Cardiff. Menna gave evidence in Cardiff last week and today she is traveling to London to give evidence to the Select Comity at Westminster this afternoon.

Please pray that the Spirit will lead Menna boldly so she can ‘speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.’ (Proverbs 31:8-9)

I’ll say more about the other issue of Welsh medium education in the HE sector in the next post I think.

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Would the Apostole Paul have used short haul flights?

March 9, 2009

Highland AirwaysI read more of Dewi Arwel Hughes’ Power and Poverty last night. The thrust of what I have read so far is that God has ordained us to cultivate the land and that our laziness and shabby work in doing that cultivating leads to poverty and even death for millions of people elsewhere. Of course, Dewi presents the argument in a fuller and more articulate way. The reason I’m bringing this up now is because today I’m admitting to being part of a big structural carbon sin. I’m traveling down from Bangor to Cardiff and back to a meeting via aeroplane!

Let me first of all explain the economics of it. Compare these:

Train
Cost: £72.10
Out: Depart Bangor: 6.02, Arrive Cardiff: 9.58 
(Journey Time: 3 hours 56 minutes)

Return: Depart Cardiff: 17.20, Arrive Bangor: 21.40, 
(Journey Time: 4 hours 20 minutes)

Air
Cost: £53.90
Out: Depart Valley: 8.55, Arrive Cardiff: 10.00, 
(Journey Time: 1 hour 5 minutes)
Return: Depart Cardiff: 16.15, Arrive Valley: 17.20, 
(Journey Time: 1 hour 5 minutes)

The only catch with the aeroplane is that I have to drive 20 minutes to Valley from Bangor and I’ll have to take a taxi for 20 minutes from Cardiff Airport into the city itself; but three of us are going from Bangor via aeroplane so we’ll share a lift over to the airport and share a taxi the other end. Both services are heavily subsidized by the government but the aeroplane receives the most subsidy. 50% of the service is subsidized as I understand; so for every pound I pay Highland Airways the government give them another.

Arriva Trains WalesI’m not going to try and defend my flying antics but just look at the difference in journey times before you excommunicate me. I usually take the train, I really do, but this week I’m just too busy and the temptation, considering the convenience and time difference of the plane, was too much to resist.

What is the answer then? Massive investment to the rail infrastructure and rolling stock in Wales. Compare these services:

  • Bangor and Cardiff are separated by 130miles the train journey between both centers takes around 4 hours.
  • Birmingham and London are separated by 100miles and the train journey between both centers takes around 1.5 hours.

If Wales was served with rail infrastructure and rolling stock on par with England the journey between Bangor and Cardiff, in theory, could be cut to only about 2 hours; half of the time it takes now.

The cost of the upgrades to the Welsh lines would be colossal but that is the price society at large, humanity at large even, must pay to cut our CO2 emissions and thus show more respect and care for God’s creation. I might take Dewi’s book with me to read on the plane like some kind of catharsis!

Dear John Benton…

February 5, 2009

This is something I wrote about two years ago and found it on my computer this week. John Benton, Evangelicals Now’s editor, had written a pice claiming that devolution and secularization were almost synonymous. He said that when Britain was great it was a Christian island and he strongly hints that devolution is not a thing a Christian should support. I wrote a letter in reply to his pice but it never got published. So here it is…

Dear Editor,

First of all let me introduce myself. My name is Rhys Llwyd and I’m a Welsh speaking Evangelical Christian from Aberystwyth, West Wales. I graduated from the International Politics Department at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth specialising in theories of nationalism. I’m currently hold the R. Tudur Jones research scholarship at University of Wales, Bangor’s School of Theology researching into the historic connections between Christianity and nationalism in Wales. My conclusions to date confirm which has already been published in Wales on the subject, and differ and contradict totally your view point as expressed in your editorial ‘Break-up of Britain?’ (June 2007). Please allow me to elaborate.

The first issue I must address is not really a theological issue. In your opening remark you used the phrase ‘…the fragmentation of our country’. I bought my copy of ‘Evangelicals Now’ in Wales and I consider that Wales is my country and not the United Kingdom – the UK is merely the sovereign state and a political union. It is not a nation but rather a collection of nations which include, amongst others, England and Wales. With respect, it can show a distinct lack of sensitivity and respect towards ones fellow Christian brothers in Wales, Scotland and Ireland to presume that ‘Britain’ is ‘our’ country. I respect that it may well be the Editor’s ‘country’, therefore a better phrased introduction to your editorial should read ‘…the fragmentation of the sovereign state of the United Kingdom, with includes the nations of England, Wales… etc’ You go on to question the economic arguments of Scottish and Welsh Nationalism. Although my field of study is theology and not economics, I should draw your attention to the fact that Scotland and Wales are both countries rich in natural resources which have had their economic growth stagnated in comparison with other similar sized and resourced independent countries such as Denmark and Norway.

Please allow me now to address the theological and philosophical generalisations of your editorial. I understand that the general thrust of your argument is that Nationalism, as seen in the UK today, is a product of Modernism, even Post-modernism. I agree that some forms of Nationalism, even some Welsh Nationalists, are products of modernist philosophy but you are incorrect in your generalisation. R. Tudur Jones was a Welsh Nationalist and an Evangelical Protestant Christian. He was one of the most important Christian scholars in Wales during the 20th century and is hailed as the giant of Protestantism in Wales during a century that saw Wales, as a whole, turn against its traditional Reformed Protestant theology. R. Tudur Jones held that there are two basic sources of Nationalism, the Hegelian and the Calvinistic. In the former, the nation held a vocation on the world stage. However, there appears to be nothing beyond the nation which can offer a critique of the state. The danger inherent in such nationalism is that it will create an idol of the state, as it did in Nazi Germany, for example. (This is what Schaeffer warned us about, as you correctly noted) For the Calvinist, the state is always subordinate to the sovereignty of God: it can never become an idol and it is continuously subject to critique.

Finally I wish to address the issue of ‘fragmentation’ of the UK. A better word to use would be ‘plurality’ which, from my interpretation of New Testament Scripture is not un-Biblical. Plurality, or unity in diversity, is one of the big themes of the new covenant. One must remember that Jesus was a member of the Jewish nation and race by virtue of his birth and upbringing, and was immersed in Jewish culture. Never did Jesus renounce his nationality. According to his own admission, Jesus came to the nation of Israel first, comparing the people of Israel to children and the Gentiles to dogs (Matthew 15:24-28). Jesus recognised distinct national boundaries between the people of Israel and all other peoples, who were classified together as non-Jews or Gentiles, and whereas his mission was to all the peoples of the earth, he was very clear that his first concern was for his own people, the Jews. So in Jesus we see a vindication of the existence of nations as separate entities. He himself was very much a citizen of his own nation, and was loyal to his people.

The outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 2) and the accompanying miracle of “speaking in other tongues” could be seen as God finally undoing the “curse of Babel”. However, Professor R.M. Jones (another Welsh Evangelical scholar) has a different perspective in his paper ‘Language in God’s Economy: A Welsh and International Perspective’ (1994): “The linguistic crux at Pentecost is that diversity, in the world of the Spirit, is not reversed. It is indeed, in its own way, repeated. What is reversed is mutual incomprehension. Language therefore remains quite happily a factor in the variety of peoples.” The occurrence at Pentecost did not cause all people to speak the same language, which is what the undoing of the confusion of tongues at Babel would have entailed.

Like Jesus, the apostle Paul never renounced his nationality. In fact, he boasted of it (Romans 9:3-5, 11:1). If Paul took such pride in his nationality, how can we reconcile this with Colossians 3:11 and Galatians 3:28, where he writes: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus”? This verse has been used by many to argue that the distinction between Jew and Gentile has been removed and that now both are the same, thereby denying the importance of the nation as a separate entity. However, this verse also refers to male and female, slave and free. Though these are equal in the sense that neither has priority in God’s sight, the physical differences still remain. Men and women are not the same, though they have equal priority in the Kingdom of God. In the same way, Jews and Gentiles are not the same. The national differences remain. Therefore this verse should not be used to argue against the validity of separate nations.

The book of Revelation hints that the grouping of humanity into separate nations is not confined to the present order, but will continue for eternity. Revelation 21:24, 26 says of the New Jerusalem: “The nations shall walk by its light… The glory and honour of the nations will be brought into it.” The various nations and cultures which make up the rich diversity of humanity will have a place in God’s kingdom. It seems, then, that both the Old and New Testaments justify the existence of nations as a God-ordained part of human existence.

In my view everyone, subconsciously, is a nationalist. Your nation is like your toes – everyone has toes but you don’t give them a second thought until someone steps on them. When someone treads on your toes you don’t think of anything else! Needless to say that is what we have seen in Wales and Scotland recently and ironically I hear a whisper of ‘don’t tread on my toes’ in your editorial. Welsh nationalism is deep rooted in Wales’ Calvinistic heritage – although secularised in practice today its adherents’ principles are still Christian based and not modernist or post-modernist.

I hope this letter will present you with a new perspective of nationalism and show you that ‘our country’ will mean different things to different Christians living within the nations of the British Isles. May I suggest that you read R. Tudur Jones’s ‘The Desire of Nations’ (Christopher Davies, 1974) and Dewi Arwel Hughes’s ‘Castrating Culture’ (Paternoster, 2002) both give an Evangelical account of Welsh Christian Nationalism from ‘those who were there’ as it were. Another interesting piece on the subject of plurality and nationalism is ‘Uniformity: The Curse of Modern Life’ by Abraham Kuyper (English translation published in James D. Bratt: ‘Abraham Kuyper – A Centennial Reader’, Paternoster, 199

Your Englishness and Britishness and my Welshness should not undermine our unity in Christ. As the scripture tells us, ‘There is neither Jew nor Greek… for you are all one in Christ Jesus.’ Your claim that we as Welsh people are seeking that which you as English people already have is a result of unbelief and secularisation: such statement is based on prejudice and not based on Scripture. I hope you will reconsider your stance towards the plurality of the nations of this island.

Yours in Christ,

Rhys Llwyd