Praise and protest: Reflections on how the Balfour centenary was marked

I’ve never reblogged anyone else’s post ever before. As a Christian it is disturbing to see so many ‘celebrate’ the Balfour Declaration rather than ‘commiserate’ it, then recognise and address the ongoing suffering that both the government and evangelical church avoids or even denies. This particularly acute when so many fellow Christians have suffered and still do.

Following a year of build-up, the Balfour Declaration centenary has now come and gone. After the campaigns, events, articles and protests, I want to take a moment to make a few observations about how the centenary was marked.

To my mind, there were two main aspects to the anniversary’s significance.

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The Radicalising of Evangelical Christians

What about the radicalising of Muslims? Hold on a minute! What about the radicalising of Christians? In times of religious extremism, you can’t be naïve!

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith. 1 Peter 5:8

Last Monday, at 2.00am, Mike Huckabee joined 4000 extreme right-wing settlers who deny Christ and the gospel with heavily armed units in an excursion into Nablus in The West Bank. In an area where the local folk are Christian, Muslim and Samaritan, any other pastor would catch the bus during the day. Instead, he was prepared to see many killed, even Christians! This was clearly extremist behaviour. A real evangelical preacher who had 4000 Christ deniers standing in front of him would preach the gospel!

Just as Catholic Ecclesiology was used in the Dark Ages to radicalise, so Evangelical Eschatology is used to radicalise today. In the hands of extremists, normally harmless subjects like ecclesiology and eschatology are deadly.

Evangelicals believe in the bible, so to radicalise them extremists latch onto ‘a truth’ or ‘a view.’ At bible college students debate and discuss various eschatological views. This causes them to respect the fact none of these views are iron clad. Extremists seeking to radicalise don’t, they insist their one eschatological view is The Truth. All other holders of other views are considered heretics, ridiculed, written off and even punished! No one expects the Spanish Inquisition, yet here it is again.

Evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed… All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction. 2 Timothy 3

To radicalise evangelicals the old fashioned ‘compare scripture with scripture’ goes out the door! Faced with an eschatological group, pastors must ask, “is this a healthy single issue focus, or an emphasis at the expense of another truth?” Or, indeed, the expense of another Christian! Any eschatological view that contradicts scriptures on justice, stealing property and caring for our brethren is not truth.

You will be handed over to the councils and beaten in the synagogues. On My account, you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them. And the gospel must first be proclaimed to all the nations. Mark 13:9-10

When Christians were beaten in the synagogue Jesus didn’t say to the victims, “too bad, it’s all part of God’s end time plan.” Neither did he say to the perpetrators, “you can do whatever you want, because you are the apple of God’s eye.” What he did do was tell the believers to preach the gospel.

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8

 

 

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Preach the Gospel in times of Religious Extremism?

Last week a terrorist suicide bombing in Manchester killed twenty-two young people and physically injured 119. Who can count how many were left traumatised? Soon afterwards, ten masked gunmen opened fire on a bus full of Coptic Christians in Egypt. Twenty-nine killed and twenty-four wounded. This, on top of the twin bombings the Egyptian Christians suffered on Palm Sunday killed forty-six Christians.

In times of religious extremism, should the gospel still be preached? Isn’t that insensitive? The answer is in no way a shade of grey. In times of Religious Extremism, the Gospel still needs to be preached! Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Mark 16:15. Go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Matthew 18:19. This still applies to times such as these. Certainly, you should be sensitive in how you preach the gospel, I don’t recommend crocodile leather shoes, a reflective suit and dazzling lights, but that’s different from stopping completely!

In times of Religious Extremism, the perception builds that all extremists are religious extremists, but this is far from the truth. Ideology, religion, race, science and philosophy have all been used by extremists. Political ideology mixed with atheism was used to kill millions in the last century. The Khmer Rouge (Communist Party of Kampuchea) alone killed 1.7 million people and that had nothing to do with religion, that was anti-religion. Theories of Evolution and scientific biology were used by the Nazis to kill millions. Colour was and still is used by white and black supremacists to justify their extremism and nationalism is commonly used by extremists across the world.

Religious extremism, of course, is the current form of extremism. In the West and Middle East Islam is used by ISIS and Boko Haran, elsewhere Buddhism is used by extremists. Although it never makes our press, Buddhist and Hindu based violence is also on the increase. Judaism has been hijacked by Zionist extremists and many British soldiers and policemen, as well as masses of Christians and Muslims have been murdered by them. In short, religious extremism is real and deadly, but far from the cause of all violent extremism, ultimately it is violent extremists that are the cause of violent extremism! Agree or disagree with the route cause, but don’t get focused on that, get focused on the gospel! In times of Religious extremism, you don’t stop preaching the gospel, you preach it with conviction.

Beware! Posting anti-Muslim, anti-Atheist or anti-Jewish rhetoric to tackle extremism is not preaching the gospel. Equally, posting pro-Muslim pro-Atheist or pro-Jewish rhetoric isn’t either. Anything that clarifies the situation, from any source, is helpful. I posted a brilliant explanation from comedian Guz Khan, ‘cos he’s a Muslim init. However, helpful and funny as he was, I mustn’t lose sight of preaching the gospel altogether.

In times of religious extremism, should the gospel still be preached? Yes!

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Urban Legends about Palestinian Christians

Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body. Hebrews 13:3

If you have a heart for the Palestinian Christians who are suffering under military occupation you will be lambasted with words like anti-semitic, terrorist, muslim extremist and replacement theology. Before you can breath a response you will be told if you say anything negative about Israel you’ll be cursed. If this is true the major prophets, minor prophets, apostles and Jesus are all cursed!

Anti-Semitic

The first attack anyone who cares about Palestinians face is that they are Anti-Semitic, even though hundreds of thousands of Jewish people also care! Are they Anti-Semitic? Huge rallies have been held where Jewish people openly protest against the atrocities of military occupation and destruction of hard working people’s homes.

The Palestinian Christians, far from hating the Jews, take great pride in telling visitors about their Samaritan community and do clarify a difference between Zionist and Jew. I was there two weeks and in that time I never once heard a disparaging remark about Jewish people from Christians or Muslims, their beef is with the Zionists and military occupation force, not the Jews.

Is it Anti-Semitic to preach the Gospel to Jewish people? The bible commands the gospel be preached first to the Jew, then the Gentile, yet when a Palestinian Christian does this he is called Anti-Semitic! The irony is that evangelicals who refuse to preach the gospel to Jews are the ones being anti-semitic. Why withhold good news?

Palestinian Terrorists

The man who married me to my wife met The Lord while an inmate in a Northern Ireland H-Block. He was imprisoned while an active member of the UVF. After he became a Christian the only act of terrorism he ever committed was to marry me to my wife! Yes, there really were a small number of people labeled as terrorists in Northern Ireland, but it was not honest to say all Christians and Atheists in Ireland were terrorists, just as accusing all Palestinians of being terrorists today is dishonest. There are terrorists in France, but not all French are terrorists! This maligning is unfair and unhelpful.

You sit and speak against your brother; you slander your own mother’s son.
Psalm 50:20

Muslim Extremists

The West Bank’s Christian presence is unavoidable. There are many Christian shops and churches. On British television they play the Muslim call to prayer in coverage while in real life you hear church bells as well. It is no wonder so few Palestinians drink, this is not the place to be with a hangover! At the Christmas parade many muslims in the crowd wish the Christians a Merry Christmas. Even Muslim owned cafes have Christmas trees. Hardly Extremist. There are extremists in France, England and elsewhere so there will doubtless be some lurking in Palestine too, but far from the majority.

Human Shields

In The West Bank you are constantly asked if you have children. These people love children so much so they can’t get their heads round any married couple that don’t have any. They live together as families and if you want to see a proud dad watch the parents of children on parade. Evangelicals who claim people in The West Bank callously use their children as human shields are guilty of slander and bring shame on the gospel.

So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander.
1 Peter 2:1

Replacement Theology

This phrase is used to discredit anyone who cares about Palestinian Christians. By making eschatology the only issue people’s homes being bulldozed, people being shot without inquest and structures built to accelerate ethnic cleansing are all justified in their minds. There is a lack of integrity in this misuse of an eschatological position.

Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor will himself call out and not be answered.
Proverbs 21:13

Protection from Terrorists

I visited a number of the huge seperation walls and fences only to discover they didn’t divide the Zionist and Jewish communities at all, what most did was to cut Palestinians, often Palestinian Christians, off from their farms and restrict movement, thus bankrupting them. Evangelicals say this is to stop terrorist snipers. From what, shooting their own olives? I can understand clearing near roads used by military forces, but not cutting off acres and acres of land without paying a penny in compensation.

If one member suffers, all suffer together.
1 Corinthians 12:26

Conclusion

I am not getting involved in politics or eschatological debate over the State of Israel, but I must address slurs, slander, libel and lies from the evangelical community about Palestinians and Palestinian Christians. These must be contested as our own brothers and sisters already suffering military occupation suffer yet further as a direct result. We must address injustices against all peoples whether atheist, muslim or otherwise.

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths.
Ephesians 4:29

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White and black church manifestos – No thanks!

I first pastored in a racially violent area. I had my cheek broken, ear damaged and suffered abuse for being a minority, though not nearly as much as an Oriental brother. Sometimes I walked a tight rope through racial divisions in church, a demorilising experience and something I didn’t always succeed at, but no matter what I never agreed with racial separation.

poster

Today it is normal to see various ethnic groups, interracial couples and mixed race people in churches. I know one congregation where the mixed race kids outnumber the black and the white children! Both gospel choirs and soft rock worship teams are interracial with blacks, whites, Asians, Orientals and a glowing variance of mixed race folk. Church life in 2015 is mixed race and multiracial. Just as it should be. Wonderful!

I’m very saddened to discover the black church manifesto. If a ‘black church’ versus ‘white church’ culture grips it will hurt interracial congregations and victimise anyone who isn’t a neat fit. When I preached in Cape Town decades ago there were white areas, black areas and ‘the coloured’ area, because the inevitable result of apartheid is that ‘the coloureds’ don’t fit. Forced to choose between being black or white where do mixed race people, interracial couples, Malaysians, Orientals, Asians, Latinos, Arabs…  and all the others fit? The coloured church?

In the 1950s many black West Indians felt so ostracised they set up their own churches. There was a lot of hurt. Hurt is hurt and it is real, but hurting others is hardly the answer! A multi racial church is not easy, I know, but a ‘white church’ and ‘black church’ apartheid division will alienate mixed race children, interracial couples and ethnic people who don’t fit neatly into either. White and black church manifestos we do not need!

apartheid-signs

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Seeds of Genocide?

Armenian Genocide Banner Last week Fox News reported that Birmingham UK was a no-go area for non-muslims and that parts of London were run by vicious muslim mobs creating no-go zones where even the police were afraid to go. Our Prime Minister wonderfully wrote their expert off as ‘an idiot’ and Twitter went into comedy overload with the hilarious #foxnewsfacts. These ridiculous statements deserved ridecule, yet the very same words are simply accepted as fact when made about Arabic countries!

On Sunday I had breakfast in Palestine, not to the media stereo type of a muslim call to prayer in the background, but to the sound of church bells ringing! It was time to celebrate the Armenian Christmas. This year the Armenian Christian community recall the horrific Armenian Genocide of 100 years ago, but what is disturbing is that there are ‘evangelicals’ keen to usher in an even worse genocide now. American ‘evangelical’ preacher John Hagee wants Iran bombed and shows zero compassion, or zero knowledge, for the centuries old Christian communities there, or anyone else. His ‘evangelical’ justification for an Iranian genocide is based on a frighteningly populist end time theology, but any eschatology that promotes genocide should be treated with contempt.

Armenian Scout Drummers Back in Bethlehem the Armenian Christian bands proclaimed Christ and people of many backgrounds came out to support them. So much for a non-muslim no-go area! Genocide is fuelled by ignorance, hatred and twisted ideology. Jewish, gypsy, disabled and other minority people were murdered en mass in World War Two, all justified by dogma. Today we see the seeds again, this time being sown against the Arabs, including the Arab Christians, with apparent evangelicals sowing them! Twisted eschatologists depend on listeners not knowing there are Christians in the Arab world or that if there are any they are always being persecuted by terrorists. Persecution is real, but to suggest it is true in every Arab street is as ignorant as thinking there were no protestants in the Republic of Ireland due to the IRA and no Catholics in Northern Ireland due to the UVF. The fact is that many Arab countries have Orthodox, Coptic, Catholic, Anglican and Evangelical communities within them and they need our support, not calls for annihilation! Any eschatology that promotes a nuclear holocaust or the physical displacement and suffering of a whole race, a race that includes many Christians, must surely be called into question.

To end on a brighter note, here is an amazing short video mix of an Easter at Beit Sahour. Look carefully at the number of Palestinian Christians involved. When did you last pray for a Christian in the Arabic world? After watching this, please take a minute to do so.

Armenian Scouts

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Fleur East’s Sidecar on X Factor (ITV)

For Fleur East’s dramatic X-Factor entrance they wanted a sidecar and with just under three days to go they couldn’t find one, then I found myself involved. The initial plan was to use my Suzuki Hayabusa sidecar outfit and I just assumed I would ride it, but they wanted a rider with model looks, so it was Sidecar in, Sinclair out! Enter Sam Kennedy, he’s got the look. A serious biker, but not an outfit rider so the day before the final we met to train. If you put a Hayabusa outfit in the hands of a solo rider they will soon need my other Hayabusa! Fortunately Sam proved to be an excellent student, so no fears of him careering off the stage.

Fleur’s entrance was based on a Mad Max theme and off stage there is a ramp, some awkward twists and a lot of stop starts involved. Quite frankly, a sexy looking Hayabusa outfit with big wide wheels simply wouldn’t work. What we needed was a Ural! What we needed was Bob the Bear!! Bob rides a 750cc Ural sidecar outfit, as used by the CCCP, Russian military and whenever possible the Mohjahaden. With Fleur’s Beyond the Thunderdome hair what could be more Mad Max than that? As for twists and turns, Urals do those while under machine gun fire! By sitting on the mudguard rather than in the sidecar Fleur could step off both deliberately and elegantly as well as look the part.

Bob the sidecar legend chats with Fleur East before her first rehearsal.

Bob the sidecar legend chats with Fleur East before her first rehearsal.

Normally Bob’s outfit is full of bears and Ivan sits in the sidecar, but they were all happy to be put into hibernation for Fleur. I must say it was a kick to be part of helping this young girl’s career. Off camera she is very respectful, keen to learn and friendly. Not even a hint of pretentiousness or pride. Having got to know her a little bit as well as watch her, I sure hope she wins!

Fleur East off stage on her X-Factor motorbike and sidecar

Sam Kennedy, now the UK’s best looking sidecar rider and Fleur East on the Ural.

Just as the Suzuki Hayabusa came second to the Ural in this story, so did Fleur to Ben. Nonetheless, both Fleur and the Hayabusa are still forces to be reckoned with!

In this story Fleur's Suzuki Hayabusa & sidecar came second, just as Fleur then did, but they are both still forces to be reckoned with!

Fleur’s Suzuki Hayabusa and Sidecar hearse, which we later swapped for the Ural.

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Morris Cerullo’s last Mission to London

Twenty years ago I was interviewed for a BBC programme that would cover Morris Cerullo’s Mission to London. I was pastor of the church that had been his first UK headquarters, my office was his old office and I’d inherited a load of newspaper clips and walking sticks from the various evangelists who had preached there in the 1960s and 70s.

They wanted to cover a controversy related to fundraising mail shots and for me to say certain things about Morris himself, but I argued against the latter explaining people really did get healed. Nonetheless they pushed and pushed, which annoyed me. Afterwards they even telephoned and asked me to return as I hadn’t said a specific phrase they wanted me to! I point blank refused. Typically the only part of the interview they used was about the fundraising letters, but Morris Cerullo handled this extraordinarily well. He was gracious, factual, self controlled and never at any point got personal.

Twenty years on I’ve seen a lot. Is a fundraising letter really so bad compared to usury? Churches mortgage themselves to the hilt and borrow way over what they can afford. Is even a badly written fundraising letter worse than a denomination chucking a whole congregation out of their building to secure an income, turning congregations into 10% fee payers in the guise of a tithe or buying shares in pay day loan companies? Against all this a fundraising letter seems upfront! Looking back, like Morgan Freeman in the Shawshank Redemption, I’d tell that young man, “hey young fellow, tell them the gospel, then get up and walk!’

This is Morris Cerullo’s last Mission to London. May it be blessed!

Daily Mail feature showing me outside the church that had also been Morris Cerullo's HQ in the 1960s.

Paul outside the church that had been Morris Cerullo’s HQ. The Daily Mail.

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Gospel Summit 2014 – Independents Breakthrough!

The Gospel Summit at The Drum in Birmingham

The Gospel Summit was held at The Drum in Birmingham – Marian in the picture

When Junior Robinson was asked if he was a praise and worship leader he politely replied “No” and explained that he is an evangelist. I guess the clue is in the name, Gospel Singer! Over the last few decades evangelists have been given the push by conference speakers and that doesn’t just apply to preacher evangelists, that applies to singer evangelists too! Praise and worship leaders are household names and a good stock of ‘praise and worship’ CDs is commonplace, but how often to we hear The Gospel sung? How many in the UK can even name a Gospel singer?

The Christian conference culture has massively influenced what we read and listen to, so much so many evangelists, preachers and singers alike, struggle to eat and very few can survive on their ministry without other income. When you attend a conference and see the mass of CDs and books available, just try to find an up to date book or CD on The Gospel! I’ve watched whole congregations mass book flights and hotels for a bless-me week in Toronto, buy the CDs, books and fly home… to another conference! The conference industry has created many careers, but it has also near killed gospel initiatives in the UK. However, I’m pleased to report that a fight-back is under way.

Gospel Summit 2014

This month I visited the Gospel Summit where Independent Gospel Artists showcased their abilities. Compared to the Christian Conference Industry this event was minuscule, just as Samson was before the Philistines! The UK’s Gospel artists are getting together and fighting forward, that the Gospel may be preached! These people have a message and a mission, but they also have struggle so before you rush out and buy the next conference speaker’s CD or book, please look at what the Gospel artists can offer. Your purchase will provide you with a great gift for someone who doesn’t know the Lord and help an artist get on his or her feet to preach the Gospel too.

Junior Robinson took our 6pm service at Coton Green Church the next day.

Junior Robinson took our 6pm service at Coton Green Church the next day.

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Some Funeral Directors with Jokes (BBC)

Paul Sinclair's stand up on BBC - Some Funeral Directors with Jokes, "He loved to go fast."

Paul Sinclair’s stand up on BBC – Some Funeral Directors with Jokes, “He loved to go fast.”

Tonight on BBC Four you can watch Some People with Jokes, Series 2, Some Funeral Directors with Jokes, “He loved to go fast.” Wonderfully Paul is on with a number of funeral directors he works for around the country, so you are seeing a bunch of professionals who enjoy each others company, if not their gags!

Humour is a marvellous thing, especially at a time of great loss. Often it’s something funny that helps people through. At one funeral in Kent I was taking the service as well as riding the motorbike hearse and the widow was distraught. This poor lady was near falling apart in front of me and to get her through the door of the crematorium was traumatic. Finally, to a jam packed room, I began the service and as someone was giving the eulogy a mobile went off. To my horror, it was mine! I will never forget the look on that lady’s face as her tears of loss turned to tears of laughter. That was many years ago, but to this day people pull my leg about it. It wasn’t deliberate, indeed I was mortified, but it was just what she needed. Humour, tasteful and sensitive humour in particular, is a wonderful thing at a time of loss.

Paul Sinclair's stand up on BBC - Some Funeral Directors with Jokes, "He loved to go fast."

Paul Sinclair’s stand up on BBC – Some Funeral Directors with Jokes, “He loved to go fast.”

Well, I hope you enjoy the show! Fortunately they have managed to find some of the best funeral directors in the UK, so these are people who are serious about what they do, passionate and sensitive, but they also like a good healthy laugh. Tonight, BBC4 10:30pm.

Paul Sinclair's stand up on BBC - Some Funeral Directors with Jokes, "He loved to go fast."

Paul Sinclair’s stand up on BBC – Some Funeral Directors with Jokes, “He loved to go fast.”

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