Tree of Life Blog

Engaging Culture with the wisdom and power of Christ!

The BBC pays what?!

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This week the pay of many BBC presenters has made its way into the public domain for the first time. In a time of austerity, in a time in which the nation is still running a deficit, at a time where nurses and teachers at the top of their pay scales cannot get more than a 1% pay rise, this information about how much certain celebrities are paid has been contentious to say the least.

The red herring here is sadly what most people have jumped on: the seeming disparity between male and female salaries. That is what Facebook chatter, and many of the newspapers have run with as the main story.

The real story is bigger than this: should we have publicly funded television at all? Should someone who only watches Doctor Who really be expected to fund all of the network? Should TV be funded by government?

It was assumed in the early days of TV that it was important for the government to get involved in broadcasting due to the technological costs. Now, in our over 500 channel days with internet and so on, this argument is over.

What concerns me with most modern arguments for public funded TV is that they are staggeringly paternalistic: we are providing the people with the TV they need. No, the government does not get to decide what we need. The social elite should not be creating a false supply, but rather demand and supply should go together as per a free market.

The problem of state provided TV is it can, divorced from the economics of supply and demand, easily become a political mouthpiece, a place of propoganda. I won’t discuss this on this blog, but a few minutes on Google should easily convince you of outrageous and harmful bias at the BBC.

The background of this argument, that advertising funded TV would be reeuced to cheap reality TV and soap operas all day long had viability to it until subscriber funded TV such as Netflix and Amazon started producing high-quality niche TV that was cheaply available. To me, the artival of subscriber TV should be the natural end of the BBC as state-provided TV.

There are so many funding options now, different kinds of subscribers, TV on demand, and more TV than ever before that state TV is unnecessary and irrelevant.

But like I said it goes deeper than irrelveant, real questions must be asked about whether state funded TV can ever be fair, balanced, reflecting both sides of an argument. The BBC is partly funded by the EU – can they be fair about coverage of Brexit? Experience would suggest not.

Now in a free market, it does not matter if a channel is biased. Other channels will have alternate biases and you can choose which you pay for! While in the UK we can stull make these choices, we are still forced to pay for the BBC and its news service, and being free from advertising does give the BBC a strong advantage over its competition.

The BBCs top watched programmes are things like Call the Midwife, Eastenders and Bake Off.  These are not things that other networks cannot duplicate. In fact, the BBC is hardly innovative – News24 was a response to Sky doing it first, and ITV came up with the idea of reality TV with viewers voting.

In the Bible, Paul tells us that the purpose of government is to keep its people safe and to ensure we have a quiet life (1 Tim. 2.1-2). It is the purpose of government to have an army, a healthy police service, but not a TV station. It is not the purpose of government to provide for our needs.

The truth is that the UK will continue to have great TV no matter what happens, but it is wrong that we are being taxed for something that is a service.  So what would happen to the BBC? Well, there are two simple options, or a third option that is an amalgam of the other two. Firstly, the BBC contacts advertisers and raises money that way. It already has great infrastructure and so on, and then would be forced to compete competitively in the market with ITV and other channels.  Or the BBC can develop a subscriber model as per Netflix or Amazon. Or a combination of both.  If the general  public generally value what the BBC provides, they would continue to pay for its services – then the BBC would be forced to make value, and be subject to the market forces. Then any celebrity or manager funded by the BBC would be funded by the subscribers to the service, not by the general public. Our tax burden would be relieved.  Then the celebrities would not sound hollow when they say “I could go elsewhere and get more”, we would believe them and believe they were worth what they were paid.

Generally, the public supports and values the BBC, however in the last survey I have been able to read (2004, ICM), we find only 31% of people think the licence fee is still a good idea, and 77% people who think the BBC should be paid for with either adverts or through some sort of subscriber system. At the moment, the licence fee is taken at gunpoint, and that is not healthy for any nation.

Change is important here, and needs to be effected quickly. Our society will be freer because of it, and that is never a bad thing. It may be that some celebrities get paid more if that happens, certainly none of the BBC stars named in this report get paid as much as Ant and Dec for instance! And that is an issue for another day as it shows how out of touch with life our values are as a nation, but at least it would be money earned in the free market, given freely by free people who want to listen and watch. It wouldn’t be a regressive tax imposed on us, to then use TV to lecture us and patronize us.

Eat The Frog

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#motivationmonday

Mark Twain famously said “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.”

What does this mean for us as we seek motivation on this Monday morning?

It means that most likely there is something on your to-do list that you just do not want to do. It is the thing you are most likely to leave to tomorrow. It’s the thing you are going to leave forever and never get done, but it has to be done.

In other words, look at your to-do list for today, for the week, and find the thing you don’t want to do but have to do, and just do it right now.  Once you have done it, your week can only get easier and you will have a better mindset than you had before doing it.

You know what the frog is – you know what you want done in your to-do list but you don’t want to do. If you wait until the end of the day or the end of the week to do it, it is staring at you all day and sucking your motivation, building pressure, playing on your mind and causing you unhappiness.

So many people start their day doing what they want to do, and don’t even need to do. To be a success today, do that thing you need to do, even if you don’t want to.  Grow up, and eat that frog!

Abortion – A Very Current Issue

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A 26 week old unborn baby. 14 inches from head to toe, able to hear and distinguish voices

Right now in the UK, the BMA (the British Medical Association) has just voted to allow abortions after the current 24 week limit, and change the limit to 28 weeks. This means that they will now be lobbying parliament to change the law.  The BMA represent well over half of doctors in the United Kingdom.

Up until now in the United Kingdom, since 1967, abortion has been legal in the United Kingdom but only up until 24 weeks into the pregnancy.

Technically in the United Kingdom, abortion is not allowed on demand, but in practise it does not take much for the doctor’s to decide that your mental health might be affected if the baby is born.

Now up until now, the general direction of the debate was to reduce this limit.  In 2008, there was a debate in parliament to reduce the limit to 20 weeks, but this was eventually rejected. The reason why the general direction is to reduce the time is because advances in medical technology mean that babies are being born in the 22nd and 23rd week and surviving, therefore people are realizing that babies that age are viable, and even now babies are actually surviving abortions.  Dr Martin Platt, who is one of the neonatologists at the Royal Victory Infirmary in Newcastle, is on record saying that the survival rate for babies born in the 23rd week is 60% in his hospital.

Currently there are on average just over 500 abortions being performed every single day in the NHS in the United Kingdom.  The SPUC point out on their website that this is the same as wiping out 2 typical primary schools (www.spuc.org.uk/abortion)

However, right now the BMA have decided to start pressing the government to allow abortions up until 28 weeks.  This is obviously a huge increase even on the 24 weeks currently allowed, and will allow women to have abortions will into their third trimester. The reason the BMA opened up this discussion is because the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) were part of a campaign led by a pressure-group called BPAS – which is the country’s largest abortion provider, and their goal is that abortion should be decriminalised all the way up to birth.

Now not all doctors are happy with this debate – over 1200 doctors and medical students signed an open letter saying this decision is both extreme and unprofessional, and out of line of the views of the women in the United Kingdom. A poll in this country showed last year that only 1% of women wanted this increase, and 70% of women want the abortion time limit reduced to under 20 weeks. In fact, many doctors are very concerned that the reputation of the BMA in the UK will be damaged by this decision, some vowing to leave the BMA.

As a Christian, I believe that life begins at conception. There are several instances where a child in the womb recognizes another child, or is happy, or is clearly shown to be alive. God told Jeremiah that He knew him when he was inside his mother’s womb. An unborn child is not a blob of cells, but a human being. It is a scientific fact that when the sperm has fertilised the egg, a new human with a totally complete human DNA has been formed.  That is a human being, not a cluster of cells. It is, without interruption, going to grow to be a fully grown adult, capable of dreaming, and loving, and walking, and talking, and having children of its own one day!

The way that children develop in the womb is one of the single most wondrous things to behold, both on a scientific and religious level. It is the closest thing to a miracle in the natural world. This marvel is ignored outright by those who are pro-choice and certainly by those who are voting for abortions up until 28 weeks. 

I believe that the church has a moral obligation to oppose abortion as it is the killing of an innocent human in the very place where they should be most safe.  It is the taking of life of a human being, and it cuts across the idea that all life is sacred. Abortion is also a total failure to acknowledge the sacred bond between mother and child: the pregnant mother needs support and love and care, not an abortion.

A secondary concern is the effect of the abortion on the mother. Obviously, the effect of abortion on the baby is death, and that is the key issue here; but, the fact is there are many short-term and long-term risks with abortion, and many women feel guilt, anger and great emotion pain post-abortion. Our culture emphasises the right to choose of the pregnant woman, and that is the normal justification of abortion, but what happens is many women actually feel they have no choice except abortion because we are not promoting child-bearing and rearing as a positive solution to an unwanted pregnancy.

We need to give women objective information about the child in their womb, including their humanity. We live in a nation where there is no legal obligation for abortion counsellors to tell the woman about other options than abortion, and sadly many woman are not given the opportunity to actually make an informed choice.  Yes, I believe woman have rights over their own bodies, but those rights must end the moment another human is alive inside their bodies.

This is not a side issue, it is the biggest human rights struggle of your generation. There are many worthy causes, I am not sure any of them are as significant as the killing in the womb of over 500 innocent children a day.

Today, we need to pray that the law-makers in the United Kingdom realize what the BMA are asking for is utterly opposed by the majority of people in this country, and that it is unscientific, and unhelpful. Pray that this nation awakens to the sanctity of life, and that our leaders start to realize how precious every human is from the moment of conception. We need Christians to educate, to inform, to lobby parliament and to help speak the truth in love to those people who need help in the moment of an unwanted or unexpected pregnancy.

 

 

 

On Protests, Riots and the Future of London

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Last night, very near where I grew up, near where I live there was a clash between protesters and the police.  Bins were torched, police were injured and there was a lot of shouting and a lot of noise.

The underlying issue of this protest is a young man who tragically has died shortly after being stopped by the police in Beckton. The protesters are concerned that the police beat him and injured him so severely that these injuries directly led to his death.

Now, I don’t know if that is true or not. And nor do you. 

I have not had good experiences with the police in my life, and that includes a five hour interview where the police lied to me on several occasions to pressure me into confessing to a crime I did not commit. But despite that my basic view is that most police are doing the best job they know how to do with the resources they have. I believe the inquest will bring out the key facts and in this political climate justice will be done.

I also have read in many of the papers that this young man’s family did not want people to do anything other than peacefully protest. I think that is what matters the most right now. They need our prayers and love and grace, more than anyone else in this situation. They have lost their son forever, an unimaginable pain. We should all pray for them to know the comfort of God that passes all understanding.

I believe many of those in this protest, those assaulting the police, those committing arson did not know the deceased or did not know him well. It seems to me that many young people in this nation are simply looking for a chance to rebel and to defy authority. The root of that goes back to their home life. If parents do not teach their children a respect for authority (I’m not talking about a blind unwavering submission to the state, I am well aware the state can be wrong – I’m talking about the deliberate destruction of council property and the assault of officers of the state), then people will not have  appropriate respect for authority. Some people are just looking for a chance to rebel. 

Rebellion is one of the works of the flesh that Paul tells us about, and contrasts with the fruit of the Spirit which is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, meekness and self-control. If we are Christians we must not allow the flesh to lead us, but the fruit of the Spirit. And in case you think that doing this makes us doormats, Paul tells us against the fruit of the Spirit there is no law. Or in other words nothing can stand against the fruit of the Spirit. When you operate like this, no bins get burned, no police get assaulted but lives are changed, and society is changed. The wrath of man cannot work the purposes of God! But the fruit of the Spirit can. 

Those of us who want a more equal society, a more godly, a more glorious society, wrapping up and hiding your face and torching a bin or two is not the way forward. Walking in love and gentleness, with the true strength of godly character… That will change the world because you are sowing a different kind of seed.

Now, let’s weigh in on a big part of this issue, and that is that the young man who sadly died was black, and the protesters last night were black. You might ask me how as a white man I can weigh on this, you might tell me that as I’ve never grown up as black, and I cannot speak into this. 

I would say I cannot avoid speaking into this. I am the pastor of one of the most genuinely multi-ethnic and multi-cultural churches in London. Join us on a Sunday morning and I guarantee the people around you will all be from different backgrounds and cultures.

I am also keenly aware that Jesus says one of the markers of end times is that nation will war against nation. The Greek word for nation is ethnos which is where we get our English word ethnic and ethnicity. Jesus Christ himself said that at the end of time there would be a huge amount of racism leading to fighting, and I believe him. This doesn’t make me defeated or fatalistic, rather it inspires me to continue to build a house of prayer for many ethnicities in the heart of east London, and raise up leaders of every nationality. I am building a church that I want to be heaven on earth, and I read that in heaven every tribe and tongue worship together.

So I believe I have a Biblical and God-given mandate to speak about this. And what I have to say may shock some, but please listen, think and consider.  And know this, I love all people and my heart is for you no matter your background.

This is how I see it today… Across London, the UK and also in the USA, the whole Black Lives Matter movement has become racist, it is judging people by the colour of their skin. It wants black lives to matter, but doesn’t seem to do anything to help black people, just rant and riot. In fact at the last riots a few years back, many black-owned businesses suffered.

I believe in equality. I believe in civil rights for all. I would like to think if I was a pastor in America in the 50s and 60s I would be leading the way in ending segregation, which is a terrible thing, no matter the cost to me and to my reputation and ministry. I’d like to believe I would have been that brave. I hate segregation, and I still hate the segregation on Sunday mornings across my city. Martin Luther King is one of my heroes. 

Now one of the things Martin Luther King said is that his dream was that his sons would be judged “by the content of their character, not by the colour of their skin”. In other words, you can judge them, but not because they are black or white, but judge them as people, as individuals on the way they behave.

Sadly, people have forgotten about Martin Luther King. They have forgotten his Christian ideals of peaceful, non-violent protest, and they have forgotten his desire for all people to be judged on the content of their character. 

Some people now want a free pass in life because of the colour of their skin. There are universities where black students are now demanding spaces free from white students so they feel safe. That is racism. That is judging people by the colour of their skin. That is failing to judge people by the content of their character.

Of course black lives matter. Of course all lives matter. But the truth is, and I am telling you the truth because it is the truth that brings freedom, that you cannot control all black people, you cannot control all people. But the good news is that people cannot control you.

Listen to me. I want to change the way you think. I don’t know who is reading this, I don’t know your background, your religion, your ethnicity. But whoever you are, let me tell you something: your life matters.

Your life matters.

Stop, read that again. Then re-read it again. Your life matters. And that you can do something about. You can exercise self-control, you can walk in faith and love and kindness. You can be decent to the people around you. You can better yourself today, don’t rage against the system, but look in the mirror and tell yourself: I am a champion, my life matters. It matters so much I don’t need to torch a bin, or assault the police. I can walk in love, I can choose a higher path. I can build relationships with people different to me. I can walk in my dreams.

Nothing is holding you back.

Let’s pray for everyone involved in what went on last night, especially for this man’s family. But let’s in the in the midst of our surroundings let’s walk by faith, in love, let’s build a house of prayer for all ethnicities. Let’s judge ourselves by the content of our character and if something is lacking, let’s hit it head on and develop good, godly character.

If Jesus told the truth, race relations in big cities are going to get worse. Let’s be part of the solution, not the problem. Let’s love one another. Let’s help Martin Luther King’s dream come true today. Your life matters, so go out there and make it matter.

Tree of Life Blog – Dream Team Coming Soon!

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Dear Blog reader,

Last night I had a really powerful time of prayer, and out of the blue, the Lord started speaking to me about my two blogs – treeoflifeblog.com and benjaminconway.net.  Up until now, treeoflifeblog.com was general teaching about church life and church ministry, and benjaminconway.net was about leadership training.  And there are many of you that are reading these blogs, and I generally update once a week, on a Tuesday, travel schedule permitting.

Well, benjaminconway.net will at the moment stay the same, but we are going to change treeoflifeblog.com so it is updated daily, starting this Monday.  The purpose of the blog will be to create a dream team – it will inspire you to dream, and challenge you to live the dream.

We are going to create a dream academy, that if you check in every day, you will find the keys you need to walk in your dreams.

Every Monday will be Motivation Monday, and I will give you some inspirational and motivating to help you take on the world.  Tuesday will be teaching Tuesday and be very similar to what was happening before.  Wednesday will be Wisdom Wednesday, a pithy and practical piece of life advice that you can put into practice and see results immediately.  On Future Thursday we will be sharing our personal devotional life and what God is saying to us about the future, specifically our futures.  On Feel Good Friday we will give you some good news that will get you ready for the weekend and for church, then on Selfie Saturday we will post some selfies of what we are doing for the day.

Finally on Support Sunday we will support you with what you are going through.  We want this blog to become more interactive and more a place you can come and find the resources you need to dream big and walk in those dreams.

Reasons to Pray in Tongues 02: Edification

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When you pray in tongues, you edify yourself.  In other words, you build yourself up.

Reasons to Pray in Tongues 01: The Battery

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When I pray in tongues I charge myself up, like a battery is charged up.

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