A couple of nights ago we were in a part of the city where we do not normally frequent – the other side and not a place that pulls us. However, it was the third time in four days we had been there (circumstantially), and again in the next few days we will be there. Gayle said – must be something there that is pulling us and we had better do some research. Well no need to do research as the people we met with told us that this was where the tanks finally rolled in during the Civil War. Not sure how but being there pushed me to think about something we had not touched on before – the atrocities committed, not by the Franco side but, by the Republican side in the Civil War within Madrid. An early morning and – in brief – a few things kicked in:
A place to the north of Madrid just the other side of the airport where between 2000 – 10000 prisoners were taken and killed who were supporters of / sympathetic to the nationalist side (Franco). Civilians and clergy among them.
The government in Madrid that sought to defend Madrid at the time of the Civil War was made up of (pretty much) the same make up as the government that had supported Pedro Sanchez: socialists, a few communists, other left wing parties, Basque and Catalan members. That government eventually could not hold together and fought against each other thus being weakened Franco was eventually able to take Madrid. (This part will be very important to us in the next few weeks with the outcome of this recent election and the forthcoming elections for the city and communidad governments.)
There were so many parallels in what we read… We went this morning to the place (Paracuellos) where the assassinations took place. I wrote our friend in Calpe, Noë about our thoughts. He replied: ‘Just yesterday I was thinking to share with you on the Paracuellos slaughter.’ Nice confirmation.
When we met the couple the other side of the city a few nights ago they prayed for us. ‘You are not coming with a bright light, you are coming with salt, and it is going deep.’ We live in Salitre street – because there was a salt factory here in the past and the type of salt produced, one use was to extract old roots that were embedded deep in the land. So bags of salt and off we went to Paracuellos de Jarama.
Apart from a great view of Madrid the area had many dead burnt out trees. Gayle said let’s go over the ridge, I am sure there will be some poppies there as a sign. (Clever woman that one!)
There were no other poppies in that area. Later when we went down from the ridge to the river a rainbow appeared through the white clouds. Sweet!!
Hopefully a small contribution so that history does not continue to repeat or rhyme.
The general election for Spain took place on Sunday and now we wait to see how a government will be formed. There is no one-party overall majority and this both opens up the possibility for some great coalition possibilities and not so good ones!
There are any number of articles on line about the election. This one from the NY Times seeks to put it in the context of bucking the trends in Europe.
Some years back, from left of field, we had the strong impression that the Lord was asking us to take responsibility for the political shape of Spain. Left of field as I can just about spell the ‘p’ word. However, when that kind of responsibility meets incompetence it gets one thinking. What is ‘politics’ and what does it mean to take responsibility.
I like the term political shape. There are political parties and I appreciate there are people who are members of a specific party. However, normally we are those who ‘I like this party on this issue but not on that one’. It is always further complicated by our faith perspective. We can be very critical of sharia law but happy with ‘Christianised’ law. Issues such as a stance on abortion, or on same-sex marriage often sways the Christian vote. If only it was as easy as that!
Political shape I understand to be where healthy choices and opportunities become a greater possibility. Everything in Scripture is centred on people. Created in the image of God surely focuses us toward humanity. God’s desired address is in the midst of humanity so societal shape is very important to him. The health of all aspects of society is when a shape is held that enables people to move toward their destiny – that destiny ultimately being helping others to the release of who they were born to be. It is not ultimately ‘the economy, stupid’ that should pull our vote but ‘the people, stupid’ that should help us determine where the ballot paper is marked.
Overall shape – our responsibility
And this is where I see the role of the body of Christ. People live within a context, a geo-societal context that has been shaped by history which gives ground to the demonic powers. OK… now I think I am getting somewhere. We might not know very much about politics and some of that is best left to those who know much better, but there is so much material in Scripture about the powers. If there needs to be a healthy people-centred political shape then there needs to be an overall ‘powers restrained’ shape in which that healthy politics can develop and be expressed. That I understand as being our responsibility (and beyond politics, to economics, health, education etc.). I do not see this as trying to get to the top of the mountain to influence but in going to the deepest places to cleanse. Our desire is not to see Christians occupying the positions, indeed some of the greatest joys we have is when one could take speeches by those who are atheists, remove their name, give the speech to a believer and ask them to underline the Jesus-themes in it.
We took this current election very seriously. Spain has had a challenging past, with many issues undealt with. Cataloña is not a recent issue, and it will not and cannot be resolved by a referendum nor the refusal for a referendum. As in many nations a handful of the powerful (one politician says 20 families in Spain) shape what goes on. There is economic control that shapes the lives of those who are not seen but are simply fodder for the status quo. There is considerable corruption. The (former) major party has something just under 8000 major scandals against it, and one person tweeted that post Sunday they have more MP’s in prison now than they will have in the parliament.
Thank God we are seeing a shift. A shift has to take place because if the history is cleansed the demonic does not have the right of presence they had before and what was hidden or undealt with comes to the light. Social transformation is the barometer of spiritual change.
I am not of a so-called right wing persuasion and like all others uneducated in a field am opinionated and biased. There are those who are better educated than I in politics and more ardent in their commitment to Jesus who would vote much further to the right than I do, so my comments that follow are not about ‘the right’ but about the rise of something that is very disturbing – often called the ultra-right. In Europe it is so disturbing, and it can also pull in the Christian support. Normally there is within it a call to protect our values (and borders), our Christian heritage, family values etc., but there is no sight nor place for the ‘other’. The anger expressed is not a righteous anger but a cover for hate and a legitimising of demonising whole groups of people. Spain’s background of course was through and post the Civil War of the 30s in Fascism. And the sins committed were not simply on one side – at the door of the republicans is placed the slaughter of all-but 7000 Catholic clergy, so we cannot simply demonise one side.
Some months back we salted the entire surround of one of the party headquarters in Madrid. In the election campaign it was a little more than amusing that the façade that they placed up on their prominent building came down causing the road to be closed for safety reasons! In this election their representation has been halved from what it was. They will probably never recover as a party in Spain. For this we are grateful as their history of lies, deception and scandal reaches unbelievable proportions. At the same time there has been the rise here of a party, VOX, that espouses a nationalism, anti-immigration and an anti-feminist stance of the extreme kind. They wish to make certain media illegal and also certain political parties illegal. They have pulled on in their rhetoric on the ReConquista and the spirit of Columbus. The party is not our enemy but what they are pulling on we have been praying into. It is personally very galling that the last ultra-right representative in the Spanish parliament lost their seat in 1982 but once this new parliament is formed there will be 24 such representatives. Five of the 37 seats available in Madrid will be taken by them.
This party made a significant breakthrough in the recent regional elections in the south of Spain and we have stood in the main gate into Madrid from the south a few weeks ago to declare ‘not here’. And now? I take it personally.
The shifts in this election are very significant, perhaps the shape of politics in Spain will never be the same again and although the extreme right have not made the level of inroads it wished I remain very disturbed.
A few weeks ago we came across a photo of a republican poster from the Civil War. It will soon be on our wall here.
The poster reads:
Fascism wants to conquer Madrid. Madrid will be the tomb of Fascism.
Fascism is to be given no space in Europe. The soil in Spain is supposed to be cleansed so it can have no power here, and Madrid is to be its tomb. So five representatives? An insult.
Over the past days we have been four times in a part of the city where we would not normally go. We have been pulled there circumstantially, and again tomorrow we will be there. When we left last night to meet a couple over there Gayle said there has to be a reason. Well we have just found out that is where the fascist tanks rolled in with a great slaughter into Madrid. Why are we being pulled there circumstantially, because there is a tomb in Madrid for fascism. Interestingly this was the area where we already resisted the plans to rebury Franco. Battles won are great, advances that should not take place are more than annoying, we are all in this for the long haul, but this is our watch, and when our watch is over the political shape will be one of the markers as to what happened on our watch.
Gayle has great insight to these Spanish elections and here is a short resumé that she put out yesterday.
Far right got seats but not what they hoped for. We have to face them now which is a bummer but like the boar (reference to a dream) it is boundaried now and can’t pull off the past.
The PP (the main historical right political party) after years of corruption and mafia like behaviour is completely broken. They flirted with VOX and the people said ‘no’.
Podemos did enough just to stand in a place of influence not power. We (Martin and I) still are praying for that coalition.
A HUGE sign for me was the crowds outside PSOE (who won most seats) shouting for this coalition of Peter (PSOE) and Paul (Podemos) and using Podemos slogan of ‘It can be done’.
Pablo Iglesias prophesied there would be unexpected signs… well for another party to shout out the Podemos slogan ‘si se puede’ – this has to be a massive sign.
June 10th stays in the diary as the moving out of Franco’s bones. A space and date we are guarding.
In the previous posts I have given a few windows into our attempts to cover issues from history through going on site, praying, acting and declaring. It is great to be able to connect some dots along the way, and very satisfying to see the path from 2008 (piracy, betrayal and murder) through to the day we moved to Madrid. Of course there is no way anyone can claim that one’s actions at any point were key. Maybe it all would happen anyway, or any ‘results’ were down to some other event. Faith is faith. We all have to do what we believe is right. There is no voice coming from heaven saying that God has never found anyone so obedient and smart in all of history! The great aspect also concerning faith is that it is not based on getting it right. Sometimes we have just got to do something that resonates with our spirits and the situation.
It would be great if we could show that when we faced up to the very real possible betrayal and loss of money that it had an effect into the original issues (piracy…). We certainly hope so!!
Ultimately we want to see substance, but signs are an important element on the way. Symbolism / signs in Scripture are important and seem to be two-fold in significance:
they point to the substance, and so are a real boost to sight. We are to lift our eyes when a sign appears so that we can see what they are pointing to. That is a real help, but beyond their obvious purpose they
draw to themselves the substance they are pointing to. This is so key. When the sign takes place they accelerate the shift, and act beyond a time marker. Something actually moves.
Signs can be external to ourselves, but so often the sign will manifest much closer to home. There is a reason for this. When it is close to home we have leverage, and leverage means we can move something way beyond our weight. This is something we see so often in Scripture with the prophets. They become signs and symbols, living through in their bodies and circumstances what is in the land. This was not to make them victims but to give them an authority to shift something in the land.
Of course there needs to be a caveat in all this. We can be in danger of making everything a sign… NO NO and again I say NO! Yet there are times when we have an inner conviction that what we are experiencing is a sign. Or we focus in prayer on something in the bigger picture, and then at a personal level we begin to experience the same but at a smaller scale.
Something small and personal can shift something big and societal.
40 days in the wilderness… and 40 years… 400 years… all is ready to see a shift.
There are two errors to avoid:
Taking on a victim spirit – this is happening because of the filth in the land and I am experiencing this because the church is so passive and lukewarm.
Proclaiming how victorious I am in Christ, getting personal freedom and missing what else could come through.
Both of the above are focused on ‘me’. Poor me or victorious me. The promises of God are corporate promises so that life can flow through us, not simply to us.
We have consistently had to battle through at a personal level whenever we have pushed into corporate issues. There seems to be three possible outcomes in those times.
1) a personal breakthrough but nothing changes on the wider front. 2) a breakthrough on the wider front but the personal circumstances do not. 3) a breakthrough on both fronts – that is the one we pull for!!!
Of course the third option is the one we all like to have 100% of the time. There are so many factors that mean we do not quite live in an ‘ideal’ world (as if!) but at least let’s kick in that direction.
The challenge of recounting stories is that the impression can be given that the story teller lives above all of the rest of us, with ‘I did this’ and the heavens opened and… Scripture is full of stories but not all the stories are full of ‘success’. Indeed success is not the measure, but faithfulness, and if we are faithful somehow there is an effectiveness. Success is my story; effectiveness is there is change somewhere else and I often don’t know how I contributed to it. A success syndrome means we have no need of a final assessment day; effectiveness means that on that day we will hear a voice something along the lines of ‘well done’.
So now in danger of success story-telling but seeking to outline the principle of ‘close to home’. I have recounted before of rupturing a disc in my back. Those things happen and there are so many testimonies of healing. However, it was not too long before we realised there was a major parallel between my physical experience and the land. This focused our prayers two ways – personal and land.
The final shift came when I had my back tattooed with a compass over the problem disc and the words ‘true north’ on the spine. Symbolism for sure. The problem disc was clearly where Madrid is positioned on the land and where ‘true north’ needs to bring about an alignment. (For those who want to think about the practice – I once read about someone who spat in mud and slapped it on a blind person’s eyes… just a little out there?)
We do not come with great success stories and any breakthrough is always challenged. The latest book from the Fascist wing of Spain is roughly translated ‘Vertebrate Spain’. Now there is a challenge!! That is life. A great move forward today, a kick back tomorrow… but the faithfulness of the saints is being stored up in heaven, the materials that God is building the New Jerusalem with. (Apparently ‘with’ is not how to end a sentence, but ‘with’ is a God word so no apologies there!)
The above image is of the ‘Toros de Guisando’. They are ancient statues of bulls or possibly wild boars. There are a number of these in north west Spain – these ones are 70kms from Madrid and we recently paid them a visit. They are also located at a very historic site in Spain where a treaty shaped the future of the peninsula.
Gayle had two dreams about wild boars and in the first one she was being pushed around by one of them. In previous dreams concerning animals she has known that they represented something coming against her and also she has known what the strategy was to deal with those animals but this was the first with boars and in the dream she did not know how to respond. (Animals in dreams can be a challenge, for they are even that within Scripture. The serpent is on a spectrum from the devil, to a symbol of healing, wisdom right through to symbolically containing eschatological hope!) She then had a second dream concerning wild boars. The dreams were either side of a very significant women’s march in Spain, and we knew that whatever the boars represented they were at least connected with patriarchy, misogyny and the domesticating of the feminine. I was reading a book on Madrid in between the dreams and came across the many statues of bulls and/or boars that are mainly in the north of Spain. The book focused on the well known ‘Toros de Guisando’, some 70 kms to the West of Madrid. Connecting the dots we knew this was a place we had to go to and pray. They are located in the place where a Treaty was signed in 1468 that is arguably the treaty that opened the way for the unification of Spain under the ‘Catholic monarchs’, resulting in the driving out of the Muslims (1492 the last kingdom in Granada to surrender that year), the expulsion of the Jews and the sending out of Columbus (1492) to discover the new world / destroy an existing civilisation.
In these last years there has been a real battle on for the soul of Spain. At a time when there is potential for change there are two possibilities. If history is not dealt with there is a pull back and old entrenchments in the land are re-established. We have listened to language in these past months that is shocking, language literally pulling on ‘the spirit of Columbus’. A party leader recently went to these bulls of Guisando. He has taken his party much further to the right. These public figures might not know what they are pulling on but pull on it they do. Our responsibility is to be awake enough to ensure that old dangerous ‘spirits’ are not reactivated. I suspect many places are like this at this time. It indicates a time of change is here, and warns us that we could equally lose ground that has been gained thus far.
Many aspects came together in and through these recent days – we have prayed into Columbus Day and have almost certainly been on camera when we planted on the eve of that celebration some subversive art. Interestingly since the year we did that the day itself has been challenged and for the first time boycotted by certain officials. We prayed of course into the ReConquista and the subsequent events for almost a whole year.
We have had a Spanish flag for 10 years and we have known for some time that we needed to bury the flag somewhere at the right time. We have had no further discussion on this, but we both came to the conclusion that it needed to be at ‘Toros de Guisando’. Whoever said it first, the other said – that’s what I have had in my thinking for a few days… Anyway this is what we did at that place.
We first cut the flag up into 17 pieces, one for each of the governmental communidades of Spain. We did not burn the flag but symbolically cut it up, buried it soaked in oil in the ground where the treaty was made, calling for a Spain to rise up that will be a true reflection of convivencia (co-habiting of space that allows for diversity, difference, dialogue in the spirit of fraternity – which we see as the heart of Paul’s Gospel).
Part of the key response Gayle had to make in respect of the wild boars has been to hold her position and not give way to patriarchal closing down of space. This seems key at this time. There is a spirit of intimidation loosed… time to hold our ground.
The above house is for sale. It does have a history. We are not so interested in the sale of it but the history of the previous occupants… oh yes!
These next few posts will be adapted from an irregular newsletter that we send out in which we try to keep people up to date with our journey, both in terms of the practical side (what we have done) and how our thoughts are developing. In reality all theology / understanding should develop in a response to practice. We see this very clearly in Acts 15, the ‘first church council’, where those immersed in the biblical narrative needed to hear what the Holy Spirit was doing. They did not proof text their theology but found how the work of the Spirit was resonating with the texts of Scripture. Their understanding of what was taking place had to resonate with Scripture, but their Scripture had to be critiqued by what they had heard was taking place.
When I sensed the Lord was originally speaking (left of field) about relocating to Mallorca in the early months of 2008 I eventually called Michael Schiffmann to see if this at all resonated with him. He was incredibly helpful and outlined what he understood as three spiritual powers that would need to be confronted. The first was a spirit of piracy that was focused in on the banking world; this spirit had opened the door to betrayal and once betrayal was loosed a spirit of destruction and murder came forth.
We held this for the first two years while there, always looking to see what this would mean and eventually in the Autumn / Fall of 2010 in the early hours of the morning I found something that had evaded our research to that point in time. Crazy as the research did not have to go deep, yet it is usual to only find what is needed when the time is right. I discovered that a certain Juan March had engaged in all kinds of irregular financial dealings, eventually forming a bank called Banca March. The most definitive biography on his life was called ‘the Last Pirate of the Mediterranean’. I could, and others have, filled a book with his dealings, but right there as I discovered this I realised we had a connection to what Michael had informed us about. Piracy… and at work in the banks. I read on that morning and very soon I discovered that he had a business colleague, his cousin, who he believed both was cheating him financially and with respect to a relationship with his own wife. Betrayal. It was not long after these suspicions took root that the cousin was murdered. All three manifestations in one family. A family who have been termed highly secretive, and whose bank has been twice declared as a result of the ‘stress tests’ the most secure bank in all of Europe (in 2011 and 2017).
We had an amazing connection one Saturday morning in the middle of Mallorca. Having gone to a deserted graveyard we had this expectation of meeting someone. Amazingly in this deserted location we met the nephew of Juan March’s cousin who had been murdered! He then introduced us to the nephew of Juan March. This man was the historian of the family and showed us, amongst many other items, a copy of ‘The Last Pirate of the Mediterranean’ in Russian as it had been used by the KGB to show them the evils of capitalism.
Over the years we have often wondered what was the result of that connection and have been very happy to leave it in the hands of God, as we were not focused on simply one bank but on the shaking of all economic systems that oppress. We have also seen that there is a pattern of piracy (call it greed, crossing boundaries etc.) leading to betrayal and then death. Jesus’ death certainly reversed that pattern.
Moving to mainland of Spain we have focused of course much more into the political arena and the ongoing spiritual presence of Francoism. Currently we are facing a practical issue of seeing the remains of Franco moved from its current location with the results of the current election (April 28) either seeing this accomplished or revoked; and an ongoing issue of the public rise of Fascism. This takes our energy and focus.
There are ongoing watchfulness that we are all involved in and then there are times of focused activity when there seems to be the moment of seeing something shift forward. Roger and Sue Mitchell were with us for a few days and during those days of course we focused on some dreams and insights that we had. Interestingly into this context Roger gave us this Scripture:
It is good that you grasp one thing and also not let go of the other; for the one who fears God comes forth with both of them (Eccles. 7:18).
We had been grasping for years the issues surrounding the Civil War, Franco and the shifts needed as a result and, although not quite neglecting, close to letting go of the Banca March focus. Here then was a Scripture helping us to lay hold of one and not let go of the other.
In then pursuing the current Franco issues we had tracked down where the family home was, not surprisingly in the same vicinity as the Banca March Foiundation. Then… we found a well guarded piece of news. The day, the exact day, we moved to Madrid to sign the papers and part with the money to purchase this apartment, the most secure bank in Europe entered a major crisis. This crisis blew on the same day, and perhaps even the same hour, that we faced the possible (legal) betrayal where we would have parted with in excess of 100k and lost the apartment with no recourse to the finances. We certainly prayed but knew that if we were to make any entry into Madrid we had to face a possible betrayal in the eye. Maybe – and I will pick this principle up in a future post – our possible small betrayal made a contribution into the shake up in the bank. Currently they are trying to keep the lid on it and manage it, but it seems this will change the shape of the bank significantly. We are not saying what will happen, we do not know what needs to happen, but we pull on the sign. What is stable and solid can be shaken and the purpose of shaking is to release what cannot be shaken.
In those days with Roger and Sue we went to the family home – currently on the market for a cool 50m and from there to the USA embassy, simply to cut the pull on the soul of Spain from within the USA, and from there to the Banca March foundation. Our tools? Our feeble attempts to stay with whatever plan God had given and some bread crumbs soaked in wine – the act of Jesus at the last supper. All betrayal is swallowed up at the cross, thankfully humanity’s betrayal of their privileged calling.
No need to read the verses above! Just a lot of the word ‘anthropos’ that appears there including the part that affirms that Jesus’ identity post resurrection is as ‘the man Christ Jesus’… and yet that is what I wish to challenge.
The resurrection is a very key event which has enormous ramifications for creation. The resurrection is not a Greek alive-after-death scenario affirming that there is life after death, rather it is the resurrection of a physical body that affirms God’s ongoing commitment to his work of creation and secures a physical future.
Jesus died, Jesus rose again. The body that went in the grave is the one that came out and there was a transformation of that body. He enters the grave male and comes out…
A little speculative theology about to be embarked on here.
I have considered the question about resurrection and gender in my little head before and had previously reasoned that if sexual identity is an element of my identity then resurrection would include that element. Recently though I have re-considered. So a little journey to get to where I am speculatively settling.
A few basics first, and in this terminology is not always easy. I consider that God is neither male nor female, but both masculine and feminine. Humanity (and I appreciate there are biological exceptions to this) are either male or female but both are masculine and feminine. In other words I am using male / female biologically and masculine / feminine to relate to characteristics, and in that open up the whole scenario to the critique of cultural and gender stereotypes.
Jesus was male and Jewish. Jewish as they were the redeeming nation that had lost the plot. Born of a woman and born under the law he came at a time when the ‘sins of the Jews’ had reached fullness:
Therefore this generation will be held responsible for the blood of all the prophets that has been shed since the beginning of the world, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, this generation will be held responsible for it all (Lk. 11:50,51 – ‘sins of the Jews’ is a cheeky, but I think appropriate, adaptation of the term ‘sins of the Amorites’ from Gen. 15).
The nation called to be the means of redemption are condemned under the power of sin and therefore needed a representative redeemer. He is the Jewish Messiah. He dies as a Jew – we will come back to his resurrection in due course on this. He is not only Jewish but male, not because of some inherent superiority in the male gender – far from it. Male, as male had partnered with the powers, as expressed in patriarchal rule. Such dominance is antithetical to the kingdom of God. Jesus, as male, broke, through his relationships, behaviour, words and action this male dominance. A simple example of his cultural opposition to patriarchy is in Luke 11: 27,28:
As Jesus was saying these things, a woman in the crowd called out, “Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.” He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”
Her world view spilled right out in the presence of such a truly human presence. A woman’s status was like climbing a set of steps to the pinnacle. A woman needed to be married (step 1), to have children (step 2), to have a male child (third step) and the ultimate was to be a woman who not only gave birth to a male child but to a rabbi of the stature of Jesus. In one short sentence he corrected this totally. A woman’s status was not tied to her marital nor maternal relationships. Males are not superior, females are not subservient.
He is male, not to demonstrate superiority, but to deal with patriarchy. Unless sin at the sharp end is dealt with there can be no redemption. If he dies as Jew he dies for the world; if he dies as male he dies for humanity. Now to the resurrection.
He rises as new humanity, a humanity that is neither Jew nor Greek. Hence I do not see Jesus today as Jewish. He dies as Jew, he rises trans-national. And then… yes I think I have also moved ground on the maleness of the resurrected Jesus. He dies male, but ‘in Christ there is neither male and female’. This verse uses the term ‘and‘ when referring to male and female, unlike the ‘nor’ when referring to Jew / Greek and slave / free. The ‘and’ pushes us back to Genesis when God created male and female. New humanity is not male and female.
There is in heaven a human mediator:
For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people (1 Tim. 2: 5,6).
I chose this translation with all its clumsy male language deliberately. ‘Mankind’ would be much better translated as’ humanity’, and the term the ‘man Christ Jesus’ is the generic ‘anthropos’ (humanity) not the specific ‘aner’ (male). Jesus was male, he (?) is now still fully human, but this verse leaves open the gender issue in the sense of ‘male’ or ‘female’.
The Godhead was not and is not male nor female. The Godhead was not Jewish. Jesus in the incarnation was both Jewish and male, but now?
Michael Heseltine, the 86 year old ex-Deputy Prime minister, as a pro-European (project) writes a passionate article in the Guardian. He bemoans that:
£350m a week for the NHS has become a £39bn severance cost to leave the EU, every penny of it to be borrowed by the current political generation, but to be repaid by the young people coming after them.
And pulling on one of the central desires for the EU to continue he writes:
Now, I look back over the years: 70 years of peace in Europe, 50 years of partnership between the UK and the rest of the EU. The fascists have gone from Spain and Portugal, the colonels from Greece. Now we have 28 democracies working together on a basis of shared sovereignty, achieving far in excess of what any one of us could individually. Never forget that it was the memories of Europe’s war that laid the foundations of the European Union today.
Enough of Michael for now, as I need to recover a little never having quoted someone from those political persuasions for some time! I have been, and remain, hopeful that somehow in the Brexit mess there can be some sort of reformation of the EU. Maybe this is hypocritical of me as I (in theory) see a Jubilee principle of tear it all back down otherwise we simply give a mandate to the Babylonian tower building that promises to make us great (again). So in my hope that there might even yet be a reversal of the Brexit (personal hope) I realise that my bigger hope for Europe might only come through what could well be a much larger collapse.
There are tensions we live with. Once we know what we believe we are responsible for we look for signs that indicate the direction we are moving in is right. We look to make sure certain things do not happen on ‘our watch’. I look at certain things in Spain where there are huge potential backward steps and at times am mentally preparing an apology speech. That is very genuine – and one of the reasons I am typing in the night hours this post – and yet I realise that God is not finished when I want to resign!
I am of the opinion that we should be able to hold certain things back, and in that sense am very happy to accept failure, for after all failure is not all it is cracked up to be, and certainly comes nowhere close to being at the same level as the sin of prideful success. Yet if we ‘fail’ it is certainly helpful to acknowledge that and to re-align oneself to whatever God is doing. He does not abandon passions like I can!
Indeed it could be argued that failure was one of the best gifts God dished out!
In Spain we have rejoiced in the government passing the rule that they will exhume Franco from the Valley of the Fallen. Another sign of dealing with the past, and recently a book has just been published documenting the 296 concentration camps in Spain, active post-Civil war, for those who were not pro-Franco. We watched last night a 99 year old man with such a sweet spirit who had been within one of those camps from age 19. Great signs of uncovering and bringing things to the light. We also watched one of the main party leaders who has a good chance of taking the reigns post-April 28 say that if that takes place and they win that they will ensure that Franco’s remains are not removed. If that happens my hands will be up in apology. We will have failed. But God will still be active, and some failure is only to show us we have to go deeper.
So much is taking place in Europe. Heseltine writes that the Fascists have gone from Spain. ‘Ojala!’ But Michael there is such a rapid rising of that in Spain and elsewhere and Steve Bannon who is active in Europe comments on the rise of Vox noting that not only have they become visible but have shifted the other parties that claim the ‘centre-right’. They have had to change their language and position, in other words they have shifted to the right appealing to the popular vote. They have adopted language (and policies?) that echo language and policies that former Fascists would resonate with.
Vox, I am sure is pulling in the Christian vote and support, the language of ‘family values’ and ‘anti-abortion’ seems to be enough at times to ensure that. But the policies of automatic expulsion of all those who are illegal immigrants, with anyone entering the country never being eligible for papers; the right of citizens to bear arms; certain parties being made illegal! What kind of country develops from soil that is tilled in that way?
The Brexit. We should have been 3 days away from the big leave, but as the debates continue who knows where it will end. There are crises all around and even if the ‘B’ word is sorted out it will not herald the end of crisis. Surely that is one of the primary reasons for the church to be present – salt hindering evil growth and promoting good growth. And if it all ends badly it is not the end. We will be able to find a God of hope amidst the dust of death.
Keeping alert on the watch is important. There is no ‘ideal’ we are aiming for, but there are directions we are pushing for. It is great to know – and a very important hermeneutic – that the law never claimed to get it right. The laws were helpful pointers in the direction to go. The law could be summed up in ‘love’, but the full set of laws could not spell ‘love’. Only the deep incarnational commitment of God can ever spell ‘love’. Love for God and for neighbour was Jesus summary. The incarnation closes the gap between God and neighbour, for God moved into the neighbourhood. Further the NT refuses to credit to us a love for God when we do not love our neighbour, and when neighbourly connections are redefined along the Jew – Samaritan divide we are truly challenged. So if I am to love God with all heart, soul, mind and strength there really must be a very big horizontal pull on me. And that horizontal pull also calls for a watchfulness.
April 28th fresh elections in Spain for the national government. I do not have to make a choice as to who I vote for as I am not a Spanish citizen, but when it comes to elections choosing where to place one’s ‘x’ is a challenge. If the circus of the Brexit gridlock is anything to go by we are again, in some measure, seeing the façade being raised and the weakness of democracy as we have it being exposed. As I have on numerous occasions written what functions in part is simply the democratic system, a system that falls well short of democracy. Democracy is often in name only as it is so difficult to put in place. For example, Gayle is a member of a political party in Spain who seek to work democratically. If a post comes up to be filled résumées of the various possible candidates are sent to the members. I applaud the process, but who can read through dozens of such résumées, sift through them and make a fully intelligent response? The alternative is a decision made from the centre and down.
I have had some Skypes of late where the response has been so positive about what has taken place politically in their nation, but the elected candidate’s policies, for me, would be substantially in such a different direction to how I would understand an outworking of the Gospel in society. In Spain we have the rise of a party that has pulled in some level of Christian support, probably because of their stance on abortion. The same party has publicly said the greatest achievement for women is motherhood. I am not decrying parenthood nor motherhood but that is in direct conflict with the values of Jesus.
(For a link to an excellent article on the state of politics in Spain, the reason why an anti-Catalan stance pulls in votes, the situation with the new party (VOX) that I mention above, the situation in the current post-Franco era, etc., the Observer / Guardian carried an excellent article yesterday:
A great revelation is about to follow: there is no perfect party! The answers are not held in the ‘right’ nor in the ‘left’. We might lean one way or the other, and of course we are ultimately looking to see a change of heart so that society is marked by healthy relationships. Yet there is something more that we have to push for. If the church carries responsibility for the society where it is placed it becomes our responsibility to hold a shape in which certain values can grow and others are restricted. Societal change is the barometer to measure the extent to which spiritual change has taken place. If the church lives with making a name for itself we should not be surprised if society cannot step beyond that level.
Prayer… intercession in the fuller sense of not simply prayer but in becoming that intersection between heaven and earth. Planted for the society and shaped by heaven’s values of love, justice and freedom. If the church is just a waiting room to keep people clean for the exit we will be guilty of denying the incarnation, the very means by which God’s glory came to earth. If the glory of God does not enter our society we might still have great gatherings… but to what purpose?
We cannot vote on April 28th. And for those who can vote who to vote for is indeed problematic. (Indeed a calculated non-vote can also be a vote if it is a considered choice.) We can however stand, and in reading the Guardian article I hope you understand our measure of distress. We alone cannot change things, people always have choice… but on our watch? We would be happier with seeing something change here for the sake of Europe than having to dig out an apology for what has grown up and is threatening the space of freedom, dignity and love.
However we are taught when there are shakings that it is a marker of time that something can enter our world that cannot be shaken. I despair some days when I watch the Brexit proceedings, the rise of Fascism in Spain and Europe, the shutting of borders and the rise of nationalism to unhealthy levels. But I must daily rise above despair and participate in the maintaining of a shape that will change the articles that are written in our newspapers.
Dreams are a very common occurrence in the narratives of Scripture and play a key part in releasing understanding and revelation. They have proved to be so for Gayle and I on different key occasions, helping us navigate our way through situations and giving clear guidance to what we should be looking for. There are books that can give us some understanding about the world of dreams and how to interpret them, and it is always great to learn from those who have familiarised themselves with the Scriptural and practical side of dreams. I have known Rachel Harris for 20+ years and she has had a passion that we might learn how to harness the power of dreams so that we might be better equipped in our walk with the Lord. She now has a site already up and running, and as it develops will be a great resource to go to on a regular basis. Click on the image and it will take you to the site:
Rachel is both visionary and practical – a great combination! She writes:
Through my site, I will show you how you can start to understand the power of your own dreams and introduce you to ways of starting your journey with dreaming. In my blog articles, I’ll show you a behind the scenes view of how I use dream interpretation to help people understand the messages and visions they receive…
Yesterday Gayle and I were out and about. First a visit to the Supreme Court, though the security is high and we were unable to get right to the building. It has been this way ever since the beginning of the trial of 12 Catalans for their role in the ‘illegal’ referendum concerning independence. We have been there before on two separate occasions and were there to pray into two aspects – the trial and also the delay on the removal of Franco’s remains from the Valley of the Fallen. A June date has been set for the latter but there still is an appeal lodged in the Supreme Court. The judiciary has been a focus for us as it is vital a judiciary is not bought nor controlled by a political wing, and here in Spain there is long way to go on that issue.
Of course I have an opinion on Catalan independence but being neither Spanish nor living in the Catalan comunidad it has to remain as an opinion without weight. Our huge respect is for those who are seeking to be a bridge and call for open dialogue. The experience of those who are bridges is they are then trodden on from both sides, that being what a bridge offers. To help us pray Michael Schiffmann sent us some direction that we had to release three groups of people so that what needs to take place will flow in a healthy direction. (This is a joy to us. For those following these posts will realise that our theology is that the church has the responsibility to ensure that the shape in which things can be expressed in society is a healthy space where hostile powers have limited access. This does not mean only good things will happen – free will see to that! – but it does ensure a healthy space.)
The three groups at this time we see, and this will have a wider application than just Spain are: women, students and pensioners. This is a day for women… and again I have to be careful what I write for obvious reasons. I am slowly becoming aware that ignorant pontificating is not wise! Let me simply say women when embodying the feminine aspects of God; students, whether in formal education or not, but who are seeking to learn about their world and how to pull for the future; and pensioners, who in Spain have lived through and seen so much; those three groups are vital – and I think in that order. Those three we called for and for the Supreme Court to hear the threefold testimony of wisdom calling out from the street.
From the Supreme Court we dropped in a cafe and found ourselves sitting among a group of right wing extremists. Not our normal habitat, but both in need of a toilet and a refreshment having been out for a while already this was the place where we happened to drop in! Dressed in semi-militaristic style clothing the atmosphere was interesting to say the least. Then we went and stood in and by the Catalan demonstration. Incredibly moving as the songs were sung and banners that appealed for justice for the non-violent prisoners facing up to 25 years for rebellion and insurrection in organising the referendum.
The demonstration itself, brave as it was with many from Cataluña in the capital, might not move things forward. It might even push people further away. We certainly saw some blatant antagonism to the march, including a very well dressed older woman walking the other way to the marchers and giving them the finger while sneering at them. The march itself had people of all ages and estimates of numbers vary, but I would suggest in excess of 50,000 and perhaps as many as 80,000. It might not make a difference but we were both so happy to stand in it and get a feel for it. The card in the image that follows was given to us by an older woman (pensioner?) and the spirit of it embodied in the last words ‘a hug’ is what is needed from and to all ‘sides’.
The text written in Castellano and not Catalan says:
Hello friends. We invite you to know Cataluña and Catalans with your own eyes. I am sure that many prejudices will drop away and you will discover that the majority is not what you have believed. You will be well received. An embrace.