The Underrated Annunciation

Today is the Feast of the Annunciation.  In one sense, it is more important than Christmas. It is the real feast of Incarnation. It celebrates the moment Very God of Very God confines Himself to the womb of the most holy Mother of God.  It is the reason her veneration is so vital to Orthodoxy – using not just her womb, but her ovum, her chromosomes, her DNA, God became Man.Yet it is the most under-celebrated feast of the year.

If Pascha originally began a fast-free period until after Pentecost (since reduced to a week thanks to the ascendency of ascetism within the Church) and Christmas has a two-week feast, surely Annunciation should fall somewhere in between. Unfortunately, the hierarchs of the Church have been entirely unified in not consulting me about these matters.

I find it odd that one of the developments in the Eastern Church has been to turn the Wednesday and Friday fast given to us by the Holy Apostles into a year with more fasting than non-fasting days. This year there are 213 fasting days and 152 non-fasting days. Nearly 60% of the year is spent fasting. In case you are wondering, I’m not counting fish days or cheesefare days as non-fasting. If it doesn’t involve killing and eating something that walks and breathes air, it’s a fasting day.

Invariably this includes the Annunciation.

When compared to the feasts of the Church the constrast is even starker. Other than the twelve days of Christmas and the Bright Week of Pascha, the feast days are one-day affairs. Of these, the Universal Exaltation of the Precious and Life-creating Cross, is also a fast day. So we fast even on feast days.

We need to be having Annunciation parties. We need to perkiest, most joyful music. Well, as perky as we get with eighth century tones. But that’s another matter altogether.

Success is Failure in British Education

For the first time ever, a grammar school has failed an inspection. For those unfamiliar with British education, grammar schools are selective schools. Prospective pupils have to pass an entrance exam known as the 11-plus. Where they use to be commonplace, there are now only 168 remaining in England. In most places in the state sector there are only non-selective comprehensive schools.

So how did Stretford Grammar School fail inspection? Was it the location in a highly disadvantaged area? The 30% of pupils for whom English is a second language? After all, if the national average of good GCSE grades  (A*- C) when English and maths are included is 47%, how poorly must Stretford Grammar have been doing to have failed and threatened with closure unless the turn things around? I’ll tell you how poorly: 92% at grades A*-C. Nearly twice the national average.

So what did Ofsted find wrong with Stretford Grammar?

“These include the good personal development and well-being of pupils, the positive attitudes found among students, good attendance and behaviour, the feeling of safety and security in the school, positive pupil/teacher relationships, high staff morale and the good teaching and learning in the sixth form.” Oh, wait, sorry. Those were more of the good points.

So what was wrong with Stretford Grammar?

Lacklustre teaching. The inspectors didn’t like the teaching styles. They couldn’t tick the right boxes concerning what makes a good lesson. Oh, and girls weren’t making enough progress. This is surprising, because everywhere else the problem is that boys are underachieving. In other words, Stretford managed what other schools don’t.

So in case you were wondering, this is what a failing school looks like.

Discriminating Against Christians Yet Again

Here we go again.

Peter and Hazelmary Bull are Christians. They own Chymorvah Private Hotel in Marazion, Cornwall. They aren’t liberal, Christianity-is-whatever-I-decide-it-is Christians. As a result, on the booking form page of their website they state:

Here at Chymorvah we have few rules, but please note that as Christians we have a deep regard for marriage(being the union of one man to one woman for life to the exclusion of all others).

Therefore, although we extend to all a warm welcome to our home, our double bedded accommodation is not available to unmarried couples – Thank you.

If you have been paying attention to UK equality legislation, you know what happened next. Someone in a same-sex relationship was looking for a hotel, came across the site and notified Stonewall, the anti-heterosexual rights organisation, who then took it upon themselves to warn the Bulls they were breaking the law by not positively facilitating fornication irrespective of gender coupling or bodily oriface.

After all, the hotel has refused double beds to plenty of unmarried heterosexual couples, including Mrs Bull’s own brother and his girlfriend.

Now I just don’t believe that Steven Preddy then happened to ring to book a room without having seen the website, or the complaint from Stonewall, for that matter. He and his partner Martyn Hall were not surprised when the hotel refused to honour their booking when they showed up. It was a set up to try to stick it to the Christians. They were only there to set up a case of “discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation”.

Mr Preddy and Mr Hall reported the incident to the police and have filed a civil case claiming £5,000 in damages for the alleged discrimination.

Preddy and Hall are right about one thing. This is a case involving discrimination. There is discrimination against those who have beliefs that particularly kinds of behaviour are wrong. These are not beliefs unique to the Bulls. This is the universal witness of Christianity, with the exception of a few people in the last few years who decided that they could find sexual immorality and Christianity compatible by simply calling evil “good” and good “evil”. For that matter, it is the universal witness of of Islam and Judaism and most of the world’s other religions.

It’s not like there are aren’t lots of other hotels of an equal or superior quality or price that could have accommodated Preddy and Hall or anyone else Stonewall wants to send around. So in fact Preddy and Hall weren’t been denied the chance to stay in a hotel. It is about an agenda to force everyone to accept a particular behaviour as equal and normative. The gay rights lobby have the Government on their side. The Bulls’ hope the European Convention on Human Rights will be interpreted to supercede this as it says that people are able to hold a religious belief and manifest it in the way they act. But will plain language prevail against the unholy spirit of the age?

More Terrorism in London

I was going to blog about the Christians that beat up an imam, stole his copy of the Qur’an and laptop, and threatened to break his legs if he ever went back into the studio after the imam had an argument with Christians who called into his live TV show. Except of course that it didn’t happen. The only thing is that not surprisingly it happened the other way around, and it wasn’t in Pakistan or Afghanistan or Egypt or Turkey, it was in west London.

Rev. Noble Samuel of Asian Gospel Ministries International hosts the Asian Gospel Show on a satellite channel broadcast from Wembley. Several Muslim callers rang into the show in recent weeks trying to argue with him. He wouldn’t take the bait and said, “Those are your views and these are my views.” The callers got very aggressive.

It seems verbal aggression wasn’t enough for them. A car pulled in front of him and a man got out to ask directions in Urdu.  Rev. Samuel described what happened when he rolled down his window, “He put his hand into my window, which was half open, and grabbed my hair and opened the door. He started slapping my face and punching my neck. He was trying to smash my head on the steering wheel. Then he grabbed my cross and pulled it off and it fell on the floor. He was swearing. The other two men came from the car and took my laptop and Bible.” Then they warned him, “If you go back to the studio, we’ll break your legs.”

Rev. Samuel and his family are now in fear for their safety. The thugs that attacked him may not have blown up buildings or killed any one (that we know of) they are still terrorists.

Half-way to 90

I suppose this makes me middle-aged.  Not that I want to stop at 90, of course. The scary thing is that 2054 doesn’t seem that far off.

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Bill Clinton’s Biological Ignorance

I saw this on the Mere Comments blog. I clicked on the link thinking surely this can’t be true. Surely Bill Clinton knows what an embryo is. Surely someone is capitalising on a slip of the tongue. Nope. Bill Clinton is against using embyros if they have been fertilised and could become a baby. He says it more than once.

You gotta see this.

I have to agree with Bill Clinton. Experimentation on unfertilised embryos is perfectly fine by me.

Obama’s Deadly Confusion or Diabolical Deceit

It is hard to believe that President Obama hasn’t made the connection between science and theology. He’s either not so bright or ever so dishonest. First of all, he calls it difference between facts and ideology. It is nothing of the sort.

I’m sure all readers have seen the video clip of Obama signing the executive order lifting the ban on federal funding for killing embryonic humans. Here’s what he said: “As a person of faith, I believe we are called to care for each other and work to ease human suffering. I believe we have been given the capacity and will to pursue this research — and the humanity and conscience to do so responsibly.”

Here’s what he means: “As a person who wants to claim to be a Christian while offending no one, especially my liberal constituency, I believe we are called to care for those humans whose lives do not offend the abortion rights lobby and work to ease the suffering of a select group of humans at the expense of the lives of others. I believe we have been given this capacity by a Generic Non-judgmental Supreme Being, and the ability to choose our will to pursue this research — and the inhumanity and lack of conscience to think we can take innocent lives responsibly and call it science.”

So what drives Obama? It appears that the US can’t afford to let scientists in other countries get ahead of research in the US. Why? The only thing I can think of is that all of this federal funding will go to creating treatments  that will then make millions and millions of dollars for the health care industry. As Obama said, “When government fails to make these investments, opportunities are missed. Promising avenues go unexplored. Some of our best scientists leave for other countries that will sponsor their work. And those countries may surge ahead of ours in the advances that transform our lives. No, we can’t let other countries transform people’s lives!

And why shouldn’t it be us? “But in recent years, when it comes to stem cell research, rather than furthering discovery, our government has forced what I believe is a false choice between sound science and moral values.” That’s right if scientists say they are doing something based on facts, then there can be nothing wrong with it. It’s the fact, ma’am, just the facts.

So how can Obama then flip around and say “We cannot ever tolerate misuse or abuse. And we will ensure that our government never opens the door to the use of cloning for human reproduction. It is dangerous, profoundly wrong, and has no place in our society, or any society.” So killing humans is not profoundly wrong and has a place in our society. And how, exactly is Obama going to guarantee the government never opens the door to human reproductive cloning?

After all, he has just opened the door to non-reproductive (in other words, embryonic experimental) cloning. Where is the ethical distinction that reproductive cloning is profoundly wrong yet killing embyronic human life is not? What if scientists decide that there is either great research value in a birthed clone or that even greater life-enhancing suffering-easing advancements will be accomplished this way? If those are the scientific facts, what right has ideology or theology to stand in the way?