The global church can be a great institution, one that has more potential opportunity to make long lasting change than anything else. It really is the hope of the world and at the same time carries with it, I believe, an ultimate truth that cannot be compared.

With the rise of the ‘global village’ and the ever-changing society that we live in, it stands to reason that sometimes things pervade our church and that includes aspects of culture that are particularly undesirable. It is the responsibility of the church to resist, at all costs, aspects of culture that maintain the status quo of inequality, racism, class stratification and so on. It is the responsibility of the global church to have an activist branch that lobbies politicians, revitalises equality in culture, fights against social injustice and celebrates freedom. Just like we already celebrate freedom from Sin, we should fight for a chance to be able to celebrate freedom from all of the above negative things too.

As always, there is rhetoric in constant motion within the church about what it is that defines us as men and women. However, sometimes the discourse that some within the church, whether leaders or not, choose to use can be corrosive and prop up lad culture, inequality, and injustice. Almost all the time, these things are done in naivety and with a good heart – which makes the problem even more dangerous.

It has become apparent that there is an increasing notion that to be a man you need to have a job, be the sole bread winner, and therefore be fiscally stable. At the same time, men are expected to aim to be a leader of some description, get married, have a family, act selflessly all the time and be ‘strong’. The type of image you expect Chuck Norris to be if he were an advert for the church…

Don’t get me wrong, all of the above are great things. Wonderful things; and the world would be a better place should all men be like that. It is not wrong to encourage men to be better and strive to improve themselves, but when all of the above is thrown upon any male individual and they are told that “This is what it means to be a man” then the picture looks somewhat unrealistic. Equally, it fosters a generation of men who only operate on the micro, local level and don’t get involved in national or international focus outside of the church as well as inside it.

We lament, as Christians, about the crisis of dwindling numbers of men in church. Increasingly, we are seeing less men stick at it and as a result ‘fall away’ from the church community. Yet, it’s at this very point that we see the problem, masked in holiness and good intentions, but actually inherently evil and misleading. Men that leave the church as a result of not living up to the above are seen as men that ‘did not choose responsibility’ or ‘failed to grasp what it was to be a man’. Before all of this happens, comparisons are drawn to some of cultures ‘best’ men. Driscoll, Virgo, Chan to name some of the big names, but also the local ‘men’ in your church too.

All those men are good examples of what it is to have faith, as a man. Now that is the difference. They are not good examples of what it is to ‘be a man’. Each man is different and has a unique identity in Christ. Why does the church insist on comparing men to other men in the church when we already have the perfect display of manliness in Jesus Christ?

We are pushing men out of the church. We know that. But the problem, friends, is much more severe. In perpetuating this culture of comparison and gender stereotyping we are continuously propping up sexism, racism, facism… and most people would disagree with me on that. Alas, it all starts somewhere. Jokes, flippant comments and a lack of understanding of what culture does to people means that the church, unfortunately, is only replicating itself. The church fails to catch working class people, politically minded activists, the LGBT community, students, and young men and women effectively. At the same time, we are training the men and women that we do have to continue to gender stereotype, act as lads, support a system that is full of inequality and put pressure on them to be fiscally stable in a fiscally unstable economic climate.

So here’s the solution:

Let’s look at Jesus for what He actually is. The perfect man. Let’s stop comparing our men and women to others in the church and just look at the source then it would be so much easier for these people to change. Jesus supported equality and danced against injustice. The church needs to scratch deeper than surface level and look at what and how it really makes change in society and accept that, whether it had good intentions or not, sometimes having a model for manliness that doesn’t consider the individual, like Jesus always did, is unrealistic.

Things need to change. Society needs to change. The church is not immune. Let’s be the trend setters and the culture shifters first time round… just for once. I’m bored of playing catch up with wider society when it comes to being relevant.

We can do better than this, because our God is better than this.

So this blog, on request of my birth giver, is about Osborne’s latest idea that has come straight out of his ‘Crazy Idea Machine’.

It is conference season and the Conservative conference 2013 is in full swing, and if my humble opinion is anything to value, it’s in the shadow of a gleaming bright and hope giving Labour conference – but then what does an unemployed, postgrad student who has been demonised by the current government actually know?

George Osborne has announced the new scheme of “unpaid work for benefits” and, as expected, it received a resounding round of applause at the conference.

Firstly, let’s start by stating the obvious – “unpaid work for benefits” … why not just pay them!? I mean come on, I’m no economist and I’m certainly not as suave as Osborne but even he could have thought of that one. Why not show the advantages of paid work by giving people paid work? We’re going to put them in private sector jobs, working for free (because it’s not just litter picking they’d be expected to do) and increase private sector profits… WITHOUT PAY!? It’s disgusting.

Alas, with the death of the ‘Big Society’ they had to find other ways to get jobs done without paying for them whilst at the same time still having the ability to demonise an entire demographic on benefits, continuing to feed a moral panic with a lack of evidence, and still failing to target the crimes that cost this country the most money: White Collar Crime (something that many Conservative MP’s are guilty of might I add!).

Yet again, those on benefits are being targeted as free loaders and it is the same old discourse coming from the Conservatives, and their blind followers, that victimise millions of people who are on benefits for various reasons. All of this happening while hundreds of corperations do not pay tax appropriately, the majority of those in top earning positions are avoiding tax – BECAUSE IT IS STILL LEGAL – and those that cost this country very little in comparison are targeted. It’s a fallacy and nothing more than a moral panic.

However, let’s be fair. There are some good aspects to this proposal. Offering those that need an opportunity to change illiteracy and other issues. That’s a positive thing. Well… let’s look at that…

How can you trust a Government to provide training and education to those that need it when they have already marginalised education, attacked the sector, and successfully blocked those that could have gone into further and higher education? I don’t know about you, but those good aspects seem a little too good to be true. I’m sure they’ll be an unannounced loop hole in that entire policy, just like there’s already loop holes announced in the freezing of Fuel Duty (but that’s for another blogger to discuss).

The most sinister aspect of this entire policy, in my opinion, is the way in which those that breach the rules will lose four weeks of benefit, whilst a second offence will be three months. EVERYONE knows how easy it is for there to be errors and miscommunication which lead into someone “breaching the rules”. Are we seriously going to support a government that will take away a month, or three months, worth of benefits? Whilst at the same time use those in that situation to increase the profits of private companies without offering them pay?
The implications of that are catastrophic. That’s a month – potentially three – that someone is not going to be able to eat and will be worried sick about money and therefore negatively effecting mental health. This seems very right wing indeed, especially when those that avoid tax or even illegally dodge paying tax, get a slap on the wrist and a fine that is well within their means to pay.

So this idea that it is “fair for those who need it and fair for those who pay for it” is – dare I say it – bullshit.

Quite frankly, I’m bored of the same old Tory discourse. Bashing the poor, demonising single and unmarried parents, ostracizing those on benefits and looking down on anyone that is unemployed.

We are at a time when, more than ever, we need social cohesion and an integrating society. We have an increase of immigration (A GOOD THING!), varying cultures finding their place in UK Society, an increase (we’re not there yet) in equality and a flux of people out of work because there are not enough jobs to give.

We need a government that ceases to suggest policies such as this with an undertone of elitism and disdain. We need a government that targets corporations that avoid paying their way. We need a government that’s not in the back pocket of bankers and other individuals that have a lot of money. We need a government that is willing to listen to the majority of the people, and not the top 2% of those with wealth.

Let’s see this latest proposal for what it really is. A proposal that promises nothing tangible, will create more inequality, continue with a class divide and fan the flame of the stigma of those in that situation.

This proposal is nothing more than an attack. So make sure you attack back at the next General Election.

TRIGGER WARNING: Rape, Misogyny, Abuse, Lad Culture

Edinburgh Students’ Union recently made a decision to ban the song ‘Blurred Lines’ by Robin Thicke. This has quickly led to many public debates on social networks, and of course, public debates already being planned by Students’ Unions around the country. However, it is the fact that these debates are even happening which makes me believe Edinburgh Students’ Union made a wise, and excellent, decision.

The song itself has been identified by organisations like Rape Crisis Scotland as a rape apologetic song which fuels rape culture. Edinburgh Students’ Union clearly identified it in the same way as have many women that I know personally.

For ages there have been articles in newspapers, books in the shops and feminists in public debates explaining and identifying that misogynistic behaviour still exists, that it may not be the same as before, but like a vicious viral disease, has evolved to be more resilient and immune to attempts to kill it off. We are living in a time where the glass ceiling is still there, lad mags are still objectifying women, songs like ‘Blurred Lines’ are still being produced and our eyes are daily arrested by advertisements that feed all of the above!

Ok so the average man wouldn’t walk up to a woman at university and say “Why are you in my lecture? This isn’t home economics or cooking lessons.” But that doesn’t mean we’ve eradicated the disease of Misogyny. It’s more discreet than that, and what’s worse, is that women are being socialised into Misogyny and wouldn’t always recognise it when they saw it! So much so, that they would even choose to defend a song such as ‘Blurred Lines’…

The standard quotes from these debates, by those defending the song, come down to the same old war cries of a misguided bunch of self proclaiming lefties:

“It’s censorship!”

“Unions are there for what the majority of the membership wants!”

“The song doesn’t hurt anyone! If they don’t want to listen to it, go somewhere else!”

“Where do we draw the lines?! What will we ban next!?”

I’m going to pick apart the above four quotes. Rather easily too.

The Censorship Argument
OxfordDictionary.com rather kindly gives definitions to words… Something I think people often forget. It defines censorship as “an official who examines books, films, news, etc. that are about to be published and suppresses any parts that are considered obscene, politically unacceptable, or a threat to security”.
I’d like you to read that definition again.

Since when was talking about blurred lines regarding consent, lyrics and videos that objectify women and rape apology anything other than “obscene, politically unacceptable, or a threat to [an individual’s] security”?

I know censorship is a loaded word and makes people feel awkward, somewhat scared and will entice them to quote history books but let’s face it… some things just need to be censored! If a union chooses to ban a song, people can still listen to it because it’s already been published… it just won’t be something you listen to at a union led event. Get over it.

The Membership Argument
Another point that I’ve seen getting made when responding to the refreshing, brilliant, wise, amazing (Am I giving myself away here…?) decision made by Edinburgh Students’ Union.
For the most part, on almost 90% of all cases made, I would agree with this statement. Unions are nothing without their membership, they are there to represent their needs (notice I didn’t say opinions…), and ensure that life is made better for them. It’s a mantra I hold dear and will always uphold whenever involved with a union.

Alas, let’s not forget that it is statistically certain that members of any union have experienced rape, misogyny, lad culture, abuse and many other disgustingly, detrimental, experiences not already listed. Unions are to ensure that they protect their entire membership and that includes triggers that could cause unwanted memories of events that the individual finds harmful to their mental well-being.

The banning of such a song will not harm those that want to listen to it but will protect those that do not want to or cannot listen to the song for whatever reason. Let’s not hide behind the façade of democracy, suggesting that this is a matter of representation, when it simply isn’t.

Oh… and if Edinburgh’s Conservative and Unionist Society are reading this then here’s me practicing my free speech: “You’re disgusting, make me glad that my university hasn’t got a society like yours, and I cannot believe that you’ve actually had the gall to trivialize such a matter into something as simple as ‘Free Speech’. My suggestion is you move to the moon so that this planet doesn’t have to be plagued by such a foul smelling rhetoric”. – Don’t you just love free speech guys!?

The ‘It Doesn’t Hurt Anyone’ Argument
Actually, it does. There are plenty (more than most people are willing to admit and that’s half the problem!) of members in any given Students’ Union that will have encountered experiences of rape, sexual assault and/or abuse and find misogynistic things very offensive and detrimental to their well-being. Not to mention the countless amount of demographics, notwithstanding those with religious convictions, that do not want to hear nor see the kinds of things they’d be subjected to through the song ‘Blurred Lines’ by Robin Thicke. The idea that people should go somewhere else when a union should be a safe space for its members is abhorrent.

It’s just simple fact and such a weak, poorly constructed, phallic argument needs nothing more than a mere paragraph to show it for what it really is.

The “Where do we draw the lines?!” Argument
This is yet another fairly simple argument to deconstruct and explain. We should draw the lines at anything that is harmful, obscenely offensive without need, rape apologetic, objectifying of women, misogynistic in general and likely to trigger a person to re-experience a horrific experience.

I’m sure there are others that would like to add to that list, I would welcome that, but in the context of this song and the debates that have ensued. This is where the line must be drawn.

I’m not going to sit here, like the keyboard warrior I love to be, and assume that I know the ins and outs of how detrimental this song can be. I am definitely not speaking for a feminist movement (I don’t believe men should do that either…) and I absolutely am not innocent in my past of being sucked into Lad Culture (The evil hoover that it is).
I will sit here and vehemently oppose anything that is how I’ve outlined above and ask men and women who defend it a few questions like:

“Since when did rape culture become art and an act of someone’s free speech?”

“How is the objectification of women, and rape apology, in any way empowering for women?”

“Did you ever stop to think that just because a woman says it’s ‘empowering’ and that’s why they directed the video, that doesn’t mean it is?”

“Why is it that socialisation is a term that is thrown around by liberal lefties when talking about class, but never when talking about lad culture, misogyny and rape apology?”

Edinburgh made a Stirling decision (Hope that didn’t offend them too much!). The fact that they made a stand against something that has been identified as rape apology and misogynistic by many people whilst at the same time sparking off debates which shows culture for how misguided and blind it has truly become is no small feat. I applaud the officers at that union for making one of the most land mark decisions of their time leading their Students’ Union.

I look forward to seeing my Students’ Union Students’ Council get to a point where it too can make such decisions and not be scared of the repercussions that may or may not follow. Let’s hope the University of Central Lancashire students get to a point where they will finally have a consciousness raising (as Dawkins would so lovingly describe) high enough to see this song for what it really is. Disgusting.

This blog will probably earn me a bad name, a lot of bad press, criticism, abuse and insults.

It will also probably leave me with a brand, burnt into my forehead, in some people’s eyes suggesting that “I don’t care about all the loss of life and destruction that happened at 9/11 and the two subsequent wars as a result of it”. This could not be further from the truth.

Let me start by saying that my heart absolutely goes out to all those that have suffered because of what happened that day. It truly was a lamentable event and I pray that nothing like that ever happens again.

Alas, it’s from that same heart that I feel compelled, today of all days, to write this blog. I do not believe that Al Qaeda were responsible for the events that took place 12 years ago. I specialise in cults, conspiracy theory and fan based religion with all my research. However, having uncovered the evidence I found regarding 9/11 – I no longer believe that to be a mere conspiracy theory.

I will not go into all the evidence in this short blog because I will link you to a video and website at the end. However, I will tell you a couple of the most compelling pieces of evidence which would suggest 9/11 was orchestrated by criminal elements within the American Government so that there could be new justification to pass through oppressive legislation which would impact on the civil liberties, human rights and freedom of individuals wherever the USA had jurisdiction.

Did you know that three towers actually collapsed that day? World Trade Centre 7 also collapsed. No plane hit it. There was a small fire in the building (It would never have got hot enough to melt the foundations) and it fell at free fall speed, just like a controlled demolition. Here you can see a BBC news reporter explaining that WTC7 has also collapsed 20mins before the actual collapse. This does not mean that the BBC were in on the act, but it does mean that someone knew it was going to collapse and got the information to the news desks and WTC7 then did not collapse on time.

How did that building collapse when there was no plane hitting it and there was only a small fire? Think about it.

Equally, the FBI has a list of “Hi-Jackers” from the event does not seem to be a list of those that actually Hi-jacked planes. Although the number has risen, this BBC report shows that 4 of the alleged Hi-Jackers are still alive… (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/1559151.stm) – to this day the FBI still refuses to update the list, even when they know they are still alive…

I’ve shown you the two pieces of evidence that convinced me, use the links at the end of this blog for more detailed information.

In light of all that, 9/11 still happened – just not how we are led to believe. The wrong people are being brought to justice whilst certain individuals and companies are profiting from two wars that should never have happened. Spend today remembering the victims, but at the same time think about the fact that there are people out there escaping justice.

Lest we forget.

More information here:
Zeitgeist – The 9/11 Myth
Rethink 911

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to watch Prime Minister Questions (PMQ’s) live rather than have to catch up later. However, part of me wishes I hadn’t watched it at all…

My heart laments at some of the disgusting rhetoric that comes from that chamber, and most notably from the current government. The comment that annoyed me most wasn’t even a loud statement, it was a flippant sentence chucked in, near the end after a Labour MP asked a question about school uniform prices being too high and some parents struggling to afford them in the first place.

The Labour MP (Barbara Keeley) mentioned that the average school uniform can cost up to £285 with some parents needing to take out loans. Although Barbara mentioned Free Schools and Academies it wasn’t the point of her comment.

The response that David Cameron gave was chilling, avoidant and proved, if nothing else, that he really is out of touch with the majority of the public.

His response was more of an attack in retaliation. He merely stated that academies should, if they want to, have strict school uniform policies and that Labour should just drop the “free school debate”. He did not mention the figures or the fact that loans were needed or even that the cost was pretty high. I guess £285 for David Cameron is a good night out…

It makes me sick that this issue can be avoided. In one school, 70% of parents had to take out loans to pay for a uniform for their children. £285 is a lot of money, even to me as a single man. I can only imagine how valuable that money is to a parent who has children to look after.

More and more this education system is becoming expensive to the average parent and some parents can’t afford to give their children everything that they need to just have the same opportunity as other children.

The Bible is clear about helping those in need, especially those less financially better off than others.

Deuteronomy 15:11:

For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’

I’ve heard a lot of Christians; rather wrongly, suggest that the Conservative party is the most Christian party in parliament. I assume this is because they use the buzz words like ‘Family’ and ‘Responsibility’. Unfortunately, most the Christians I know that do say this also don’t look at the track record of what the Tories (and Lib Dems… do they even still exist!?) have been doing whilst at the same time are probably watching Sky News and reading the Daily Mail.

I’m not saying Christians are the problem, although a little more research and care into how they should vote would go a long way. I’m not even saying that one party is better than the others, I personally think you should vote based on influence and trust of your local MP to represent your views.

What I am saying – is that the current government is not good enough. I’m also saying that as a Christian, I take ministry with poorer communities very seriously and this government does not.

I know that as a Christian I’m also going to get a lot of flak for openly expressing my political opinion on these issues and a million and one Christians will be waiting to tell me that I should respect their authority and not comment publically but I refuse to just sit back and watch a supposedly Christian leader continue to disprove his care for the poorer than himself communities.

If you’re reading this, feeling slightly confused about what is wrong with how things are currently being done, then I implore you to research into it. Ask experts in education (NOT politicians), ask teachers, ask university student etc.

Do not be lethargic and when it comes to the next ballot box, vote for someone you can trust has education at the heart of their core policies and make sure that they are held to account.

Another election is coming and the run up to those elections have already started! Be active, voice your opinion and demand a better system!

It’s been a while since my last blog entry (I really need to get better at staying up to date…) and this latest one has been inspired by some of the things I’ve been involved with this summer.

At the beginning of summer I started a job with The Challenge Network which involved youth work with 16-17 year olds. Although I have very strong opinions about that charity and what it’s trying to achieve (maybe a blog for another time…) one good thing did come from it. I met a lovely woman that was involved with something called Inter-City Camp Trust (ICCT).

Upon finishing my job with The Challenge Network, I had a week to mentally prepare myself for going to the Isle of Wight with ICCT. I was told that it was an intense week and that it would be very challenging… my rather narcissistic response was something along the lines of “I’ve done Christian camps before, how hard can this actually be? I’ll be fine!”

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

It wasn’t the amount of work that needed to be done physically; I’ve been in similar situations where I’ve had to work just as hard. It was the emotional amount of work that needed to be done.

ICCT is a charity that takes kids (ages 8-12 years), predominantly from working class backgrounds, from inner parts of cities like Birmingham (to name one example…). Some of these kids come from very troubled backgrounds, and often are very challenging to work with. They may have never even been outside of the city walls, whilst at the same time really struggle personally with routine and authority.

I made it one full day of camp before I was, more or less on my knees, in floods of tears. It was at that moment that I realised that these kids needed something extravagant, unique, breathtakingly beautiful and more powerful than wealth, education and materialism could ever be.

They needed to be shown real love.

I’m not talking about jump over the moon type love or older brother type love. I’m talking about full on, nitty gritty, hard yet so soft, awesome (click here for the definition of awesome – you probably wouldn’t have put it in this sentence!) Corinthians 13 love.

Corinthians 13v4-8:

“4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how good the day trips out are, how good the ice cream is on the beach or even how brilliant the staff may or may not be if these kids do not see us display Corinthians 13 type love.

More than I have ever realised before, Corinthians 13 love is hard to demonstrate 24/7! My patience was tested, my resolve was poked at and my strength quickly became weakness! It was a challenging week… to say the least.

You see, taking kids away on holiday and controlling their behaviour here and there is the easy part. Demonstrating Corinthians 13 love was the emotionally exhausting, yet so rewarding, part of the camp.

My understanding of real, true, love has deepened a bit more in the last couple of weeks. God displays that, for eternity (that’s 24/7 – NEVER ending), without fail. I’m not going to sit on my end of the computer, like the keyboard warrior that I like to be, and claim to have all the answers about how to help these kids, give them better opportunities and drastically improve their quality of life. That wouldn’t be my place to do so.

I will, however, always point people to the very simple fact that Corinthians 13 love is limitless, boundless, and more powerful than you can possibly imagine (I had to get a Star Wars quote in here somehow… right?!).
Now here’s the best bit.

These kids; some were troubled. I’d be the first to admit that. Alas, their background and personal strife’s do not make them the only ones in need of Corinthians 13 love. Whatever your personal situation, socio-economic background or (dare I say it?) religious conviction may be… you need it to.

It may be hard to digest, but Jesus is God (John 8:58, John 14:6) and we know that “God is love” (1 John 4:8). There’s only one place Corinthians 13 love can come from. Perfect love is something to strive for, but if this camp has taught me anything (it has taught me a lot…) it’s that perfect love only comes from Jesus.

I don’t know about you, but I want that more than anything any tent leader could give me on some random field in the Isle of Wight during the summer holidays…

By now, most people will be aware that I’m very passionate about education and that I have strong opinions on it. Equally, having moved in with a teacher and meeting some of her friends about how life in a school really works, I’m more worried than ever about the way our education system is headed.

This weekend I had the absolute honour at seeing one of my greatest friends get married. The wedding was beautiful, but I didn’t get through the weekend without making one or two jokes about just how middle class his wedding was. The reception was at a rather picturesque massive manor and all of his friends (not to mention the brides friends) coming from private school backgrounds. Having chatted with a few of them, they’re all engineers, doctors or getting the opportunity to travel the world having finished (for now…) their education at university before coming back and becoming teachers.

I couldn’t help but think what a fantastic and colourful background they’ve had. Part of me wanted to be angry at how well they were doing as a result of their private school background; but is it really their fault that they’ve benefitted from a system that allows private schools? No.

Today I read an interesting article about Teach First being the highest recruiter of university graduates. I’ve thought about taking on the challenge that Teach First have to offer to some depth and am extremely tempted to apply next year. Whilst reading this article, it struck me… this is quite possibly the single, most positive, thing I’ve heard in the last couple of months regarding the education sector. It’s been doom and gloom for the sector for a while now with changes, strikes, and poorly researched rhetoric for some time now.

I’m going to explain, in what is possibly my shortest ever blog, the one, so very simple, reason that this is positive. It’s giving those that have had their lives changed by education, the chance to give back and change others.

Those of you that follow my blogs will have inevitably heard me reference a phrase that I used in the first speech I gave in my time as the President of UCLan Students’ Union. “I believe in the power of education to change lives” – a phrase that, completely coincidently, is the same ethos promoted by Teach First.

At a time when I was beginning to see the light at the end of the educational tunnel fade in disastrous fashion, this little gem, this little glimmer of hope, emerged bringing that light back in all of its former glory with blazing effect.

Some of you probably think that I’m over emphasising this a bit… so I will end the metaphor game with a question.

Have you ever had your entire life revolutionarily changed by something, and wanted to give back, because you knew that it had the potential to make everything better because it constantly generated a culture of receiving into a culture of giving?

I have.

Education absolutely, unequivocally, changed my life for the better.

Edd Graham-Hyde