Because Blog

Farewell to a servant prince

At 99 years old, the death of the Duke of Edinburgh was hardly a surprise. Nevertheless, to me and many others in the UK it came as a shock. After all for the majority of people alive today, Prince Philip has been there in the background throughout our lives.

There have been plenty of articles giving the details of his life, his difficult childhood, his excellent war service in the navy and how he met and eventually married Queen Elizabeth. These articles have focused on his charity work, how he had to carve out a role for himself and the disdainful way many people in the palace treated him in the early years of the Queen’s rule.

 But today I’d like to focus on his servant-like attitude to both the Queen and the UK. He was a man of many talents with a keen inquiring mind who some say could have gone right to the top in his naval career. He could command a ship, fly a jet, play polo or drive carriages with great aplomb and a highly competitive spirit.

So it is particularly interesting to me that he founded and remained involved in the Duke of Edinburgh’s award scheme for young people. He was not a remote founder who took an occasional interest, but someone who was deeply involved in this most ambitious of projects. He believed in young people and wanted them to have the challenge of growing in character and service in their teenage years.

Alongside that he was deeply involved in the World Wildlife Fund, years before concern with nature and the environment became fashionable. Again, it was not a remote or occasional influence, but a real hands on example of leadership and service.

But perhaps his greatest service of all was to the Queen, both in their long marriage but also in the public support he gave by being a constant companion during her long years of public service. His so called “gaffes” were often attempts to break the ice and put people at ease when they were meeting the Queen.

In addition to accompanying the Queen on countless occasions, he also carried out 22,000 solo engagements, often linked with some of the 800 charities that he was involved with over the years.

 Alongside the Queen or on his own the Duke was a real servant to the UK, both here and abroad, simply by being there. He represented the Queen and the UK superbly on the world stage.

Prince Philip was a talented and gifted individual who would have been successful in his own right had he not married Princess Elizabeth. Yet from the moment she became Queen, much earlier than expected, his support of her became his priority in life. His diary was always subservient to the Queen’s and his relationship to her, which many say was a true partnership, was always that of a devoted servant. He sacrificed his life and interests to hers.

The Duke laid down his life not by dying for his Queen, but by devoting thousands of hours, a lifetime in fact, to being what the Queen called, “My strength and stay.”

As a Christian, when I reflect on a servant prince who exemplified loyalty, devotion, and love; who was prepared to sacrifice his own life for the benefit of others, I naturally think of Jesus.

 And while I would not compare Prince Phillip with Jesus, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if that is who he took his example from.

Keith Hartrick info@because.uk.com

 Keith is an editor at Because.

What is freedom?

I’ve just received my new British Passport. My old one was close to expiring, so I dutifully applied for another. Now I am wondering why I bothered. Freedom to travel is currently off the agenda for all but a few essential business travellers. And even when it becomes possible once again to buy that cheap flight to Marbella, I may need more than my shiny new passport before I am allowed to board a plane. With governments and airlines seriously considering a number of vaccine passport schemes, the freedom to travel might well be conditional on being able to provide proof of immunity to Covid.

Many people are asking if that’s fair, given that a large chunk of the adult population has yet to be offered the vaccination. And what about those who, for a whole range of different reasons, are not able to have the jab or wish to exercise their democratic freedom to say no, thank you?

This pandemic is shaking, even redefining, the relationship between the state and individual rights. We will have to watch this space to see where it ends. But for now, many argue that our freedoms are under threat.

Much of that depends, of course, on your definition of freedom.

It’s safe to say that the majority of people in the West see freedom in terms of a lack of physical restrictions – the power and right to act and speak as one wants. In this country we have traditionally enjoyed the privilege of enormous freedoms such as these. As well as the freedom to travel to other countries and the freedom of speech, we’ve been free to buy and sell, marry who we like and practise the religious belief of our choosing. I’m sure you can think of many more examples. But these are generalities. Everyone has their own very particular and personal understanding of what freedom is and what it means.

For Scotland’s First Minister, Nicholas Sturgeon, freedom would mean breaking the yoke of Westminster over Scotland. The people of Myanmar would say that freedom would be the ability to protest without the fear of death. For TV presenter Piers Morgan, freedom might be to the ability to have and express an opinion without public vilification or the fear of losing your job. And if you were to ask a person grieving the loss of a loved one from Covid or another depressed by the loneliness caused by multiple lockdowns, I’m sure freedom for them has more to do with internal torment than physical territory.

I recently read a very interesting take on freedom written by the concentration camp survivor, Viktor Frankel. His thoughts written over 60 years ago still have a profound impact on my understanding of freedom today.

He said, “We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way”.

When I ponder the future of our freedom as we emerge from the grip of this pandemic, I do fear some freedoms may be lost. Yet whatever the loss, or the restrictions, caused by external forces, I find encouragement in Viktor Frankel’s insight.

I have the freedom of choice. To choose how I react when circumstances are difficult. To choose my own way. To decide what my attitude will be.

Richard Fowler info@because.uk.com

Richard is editorial assistant at Because.

 

A better way

Did you read in the news this week of an attempted robbery that took place in Augusta, Georgia? At around 4am one morning a hooded man smashed his way into Diablo’s Southwest Grill, grabbed the till, which was empty, and fled.

When interviewed about the incident the Grill’s owner, Carl Wallace, said his first reaction was one of anger, frustration and wanting to call the police, as he had to get up in the middle of the night to clean up the mess and get everything ready to open later that day.

But then his thoughts turned to the would-be robber and that maybe this man has never had an opportunity and had always been put down in life – he asked himself what would Jesus do?  ‘Forgiveness’ flashed into his mind and so instead of reporting the incident to the police, Wallace thought the better way was to show forgiveness, and so he used his Facebook page to invite the burglar to ‘swing by for a job application’ and ‘let’s see how we can help you and fix the road you are on.’

The founder of Christianity, Jesus Christ, forgave people as the first step in turning their lives around. With there being so much hatred in the world the better way of forgiveness advocated by Jesus is certainly something to consider.

Barry Robinson info@because.uk.com

Passport to freedom?

The controversy around so-called vaccination passports has been all over the news recently. It seems the British government is now actively looking at how Covid status certification, to use the jargon term, can be used to open up parts of the economy.

Boris Johnson and MPs across the political spectrum believe it can play a role in getting people back into theatres and night clubs as well as mainstream spectator events such as festivals or mass sports gatherings, while minimising the risk of spreading the virus.

Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, Michael Gove, the Minister leading the review into the use of Covid passports, also said that certification for international travel is “inevitable”. Scores of nations – including Britain – already insist on negative tests before arrival. But a number of other countries are taking this further with full blown Covid status certification schemes. From Israel’s “Green Pass” system that allows inoculated citizens to use gyms and hotels, to “Coronapas”, Denmark’s plan to enable access to hairdressers, restaurants and cinemas for immunised citizens. Meanwhile, China has built a vaccine passport system into WeChat, its most popular social network.

In the private sector, British Airways is the first UK airline to trial a travel health ‘passport’ which stores coronavirus test results and proof of vaccination. Many other UK and International airlines are following suit and who can blame them? Their business has been disastrously impacted by the pandemic and they are desperate for any opportunity to see global travel reignited.

Detractors say proposals for vaccine or immunity passports are flawed, discriminatory and counter to the fundamental British values of freedom and democracy, raising practical and ethical questions that deserve to be more fully discussed. UK civil liberties campaign group Big Brother Watch argued it could “create a two-tier nation of division, discrimination and injustice”. Is it really fair to grant the ability to shop, eat, be entertained, work or travel to one group of people – yet restrict them to another – simply on the basis of the antibodies that are present in their blood stream? Looking at it in this way, it is easy to see how for some a so-called passport to freedom would be anything but.

Regular readers of Because know we like to explore the spiritual side of topical news stories and today’s article is no exception. It’s fair to say that most world religions talk of our life on this planet as a journey. And as with all journeys, there’s a destination – some call it paradise, others heaven, a spiritual or ethereal realm that only the privileged few are permitted to enter. Not everyone can travel from this place to that one without certain criteria that provide entry. Tests that must be passed, deeds that must be done, call it a passport. But whatever you call it, when you come to the end of your physical life, you either have one, or you don’t. You can’t buy it, it has to be earned.

Christianity is different. The passport to an eternal kingdom is not a certificate or an app which records something a person has or hasn’t done. It is in fact a person. Entry is not through a gate, but in fact a gatekeeper. His name is Jesus Christ and he spoke these momentous words: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”.1

That sounds a little scary, doesn’t it? But actually, it’s just the opposite. The more you look into it, the more you come to see that this passport isn’t discriminatory or unjust; neither does it have to be earned. It is available, free of charge, to all people.

If you want to know how, get in touch.

Peter Mill info@because.uk.com
Peter is editor-in-chief at Because.

1The Bible – John14:6 (NIV)

The devil’s shoes

Satan’s shoes just got released last week. All 666 pairs of them, each sold for $1,018.

Produced in collaboration with rapper Lil Nas X, these Nike trainers with a drop of human blood in them, have been released in conjunction with the rapper’s new hip hop song, Montero: Call Me by Your Name.

The timing, obviously for publicity – the very week commemorating the death and resurrection of Jesus, a completely opposite figure from Satan. Indeed, in addition to an inverted cross and pentagram, the trainers sport a curious reference to Jesus’ own words about Satan. Luke 10:18 is printed on the side of the trainers.

So I cracked a Bible to read, “He replied, ‘I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.” Yep, Jesus was there before Lil Nas X. This is a reference to the expulsion of Satan from heaven for his rebellion against God. Somewhat recreated in Lil Nas X’s music video.

In this hip hop rerun of John Milton’s Paradise Lost, we see the rapper willingly (although tempted by a very decorative snake) choose hell over paradise. With a poll dance down to hell, and what can only be described as a grotesque dance for Satan, the rapper then kills the devil and takes the horn-crown for himself. This is not the first time our culture has played with the story of Satan.

From the more sophisticated poetry of Milton, we now often see Satan as more myth than reality. We tend to reduce the concept of the devil down to a cute-looking, red-horned guy with a pitchfork. But for Milton and Jesus, at least, Satan was someone who had real-world influence.

Whatever you believe about Satan, I wonder whether there’s a personally relevant truth hidden in both Milton and the music video. For is it Lil Naz X who, by his own choice, descends to hell, following his desires and appetites. Milton portrays the devil with such a proclivity to elevate one’s own choice to a place where it can make ‘heaven out of hell’.

So why is this relevant to you and me? Because we all face the battle between what is good and beautiful over our desires and appetites. Our right to choice is often lorded over against what is right and proper. What we want is to bend reality to what is in our mind. This is Milton’s brilliant point when writing in the voice of Satan:

“…and thou profoundest Hell

Receive thy new Possessor: One who brings

A mind not to be chang’d by Place or Time.

The mind is its own place, and in it self

Can make a Heav’n of Hell, a Hell of Heav’n

[…]

Here we may reign secure, and in my choyce

To reign is worth ambition though in Hell:

Better to reign in Hell, then serve in Heav’n.”[1]

If we are honest with ourselves, we can all reason like this. However, the irony here is that the message of Jesus demonstrated the very opposite. True freedom comes from serving and submitting your will and choice to truth and that which is right. Choosing the right path is not bending reality to what we think or feel, but submitting our choice to truth.

This is summed up when Jesus prayed to his Father in heaven before his reluctant, yet voluntary death, for all of us, “not my will but your will be done”. That was Jesus’ pathway back to heaven and paradise.

Richard Fowler info@because.uk.com

Richard is editorial assistant at Because.

[1] Paradise Lost, Book I, Lines 221-270 by John Milton – Poems | poets.org
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