I was sent a long (spelt looooooooooooong) message from someone who does not live in the USA asking me to forward it to contacts. It was a long explanation as to how much good Trump had done and how Biden is not going to be good for the USA, and written in very strong terms. I replied saying I could not forward it, and not because I am anti-Trump. I also could not forward such a message if the content was reversed.
Such messages do not help bring about a level of understanding of one another, but simply increase the polarisation. There are those who are extremists, but most people see themselves as pretty much in the centre. My centre for some is extreme! Gayle and I have been called communists when in the USA! For those who believe that health care is a privilege to be paid for we are extreme left! From my position on the spectrum others are extreme right. (In Spain where I am able to vote I vote for what the media often terms as ‘extreme left’, I am told most evangelicals are now leaning toward the ‘(extreme) right’. Votes are never easy – the party who tends to get my vote are pro-choice. That is not a comfortable position but I find many other parties are not pro-life once the life is born – that too is not comfortable if the X goes against their name.) There are extremists on both left and right but for the most part people simply want something better than what is here. The important part is not where we are on the spectrum but how we relate to those of a different persuasion.
I could not forward the message because there was nothing redemptive in it and it can only sow into the divide (again the documentary ‘The Social Media’ is an eye opener).
Second, not only do I not live in the USA but I am not responsible for her. Many things in the world disturb us and we can feel responsible but powerless. It leads more to criticism than effectiveness (I see no issue with being disturbed and as a result having an opinion, but taking responsibility for something is considerably more helpful). Whatever we mean by ‘the Lord spoke to me’, the Lord spoke to me one day saying that I was not responsible for the USA and I needed to leave that in the hands of those who were taking responsibility. It was a release, but also pushed me to take responsibility for what was – in measure – landing on my lap. If responsible I have a right of input, of say. Ever been tempted to criticise the parenting of someone else? For that reason I have never been able to claim that I was a ‘good’ father, nor for the same reason a ‘good’ husband.
In the flow of reading the LOOOOOONG message, footsteps came up our apartment block. There on the door was an eleven year old. He came in for about an hour. I had a Zoom call lined up. Into my incredibly important life he came.
Make the connection, Martin.
Pray for the future of a land – and maybe we are not doing too well when we consider how things are for many people, but pray for the future and at least make some space for a person born in the land and in the future will fill space after I have gone from here.
So back to my WhatsApp. One candidate might be much better than the other. I might have an opinion on that… but I need to be able to see an eleven year old as through the eyes of his creator / redeemer. Resent him coming in and disturbing me, send the WhatsApp (or an opposite one) to whoever. I hope I am better than that. I hope we all are.
Way back in the day, when I was not so grown up (!!) I loved to talk of transformation, of city-shifting (not easy to say, and did on more than one occasion got it wrong… though we do need to see a whole lot of that sifted and shifted!) influences. A straight line from strategic prayer that would change the effects of history and open up a new spirituality where the church would prosper was my focus. As the years go on beliefs are refined, honed, and even sometimes abandoned. In my case a core continues unabated… Jesus poured out his Spirit redemptively on a growing number of followers, not simply so as those followers could grow in numbers, and certainly not so as they might have a ticket to somewhere else, but so that they might take responsibility for the world around them. So that that world might change.
I have been away for the past week engaging with two interesting scenarios. Both in the South West of England. Both with a focus on entrepreneurship so that there can be a societal, an environmental change. The first, based in a city and focused on that region looking to re-open what had been abandoned, looking to spark leading-edge technology. The other coincidentally meeting in that area of the UK but with a strong emphasis that all of us, that is us communicating animals, carry the image of God, and that we are to be changed in order to bring about change. I resonated very strongly, with no emphasis on the financial outcome being the bottom line, but health and well-being being the gauge of progress.
Two environments, both looking for transformation.
I am deeply grateful for the strategic (and sometimes in my case I am sure un-strategic prayer) that has gone on. I consider that it has opened up so much space during these past decades. It has also contributed to some of the crises, for the Western house that has been built, at least in part, on sand was never going to be fit for purpose.
My vote is for those who are engaged beyond the congregation, those who take the call to business, health care, the arts etc., seriously. There is space now. Space that is visible, sometimes space in the midst of the mess for engagement.
I am aware that every scenario is different. We might not always see those situations correctly. Some we might be over-optimistic about, others where we have despaired might be the very ones where there is hope.
Over the past 5 years we have taken responsibility to pray for the political scene in Spain. We are not those who believe that change takes place through legislation, through influence from the top down (a christendom value). Yet we are looking for that political realm to come into health, to create a shape where there can be true prosperity. A kind of ‘we hold a shape’ so that there can be a ‘healthy political shape’ so that people can prosper, with great grace for the marginalised being expressed. An unhealthy political shape then is an offence and we take it as a personal insult.
2019… they shall not pass!
There are times we are caught out, not seeing what is coming and as a result we end up playing catch up. However, in 2019 it seemed that we were so ahead of what was coming. We saw the patterns of history and understood the geographical ground where that was expressed, were able to go there and be ever so strategic (!) with our timings, actions, prayers and declarations. Then… what a set of blows came our way as one aspect after another went against us. History just seemed intent on repeating itself with intent. We saw the number of fascists in parliament go from 0 to 24 to 52 in the course of 7 months. We saw divisions appear and hostility against one another be vehemently expressed by those who should have known better. I could go on… To be honest it proved pretty tough and insulting. Seemed almost personal when the ultra-right proclaimed ‘we have passed’ when entering the parliament. I still ask – could we have done more.
2020… a level see-saw?
It has been a battle to see something healthier come through. Just as the year turned a promising coalition, the first in 80 years, where a level of maturity has been shown., has been voted in. It made it in by 2 votes – had one person gone the other way (and there was huge pressure on those sitting in the middle) we would have been headed to yet another election, and with the growth of the ultra-right this would not have been something we would have been optimistic about. In the government, one of the ministers is a card carrying communist! Neither Gayle nor I are of that persuasion (as if!!), but given the history of Spain what a sign. (Ultra-right and ultra-left carry the same spirit – people are subject to a centralised and depersonalised power, a true principality or god.)
I am not suggesting that where I started – the business realm, nor where I am now focused – the political realm – is where it is at. I simply find it interesting that there are evidences of a level playing field appearing. Not everything is reversed, indeed one could suggest the political scene, for example, in Spain is worse than ever. Perhaps. Or perhaps game on. I consider it is the most dangerous yet with the most potential in the past 80+ years.
Let’s look for the gaps, the places where we can squeeze in, or make space through some spiritual elbow work for others to enter that space. I am convinced we are not going to see things just shut down, keeping the space open though will require our engagement.
Some while back we had a confirming word sent us while we were focusing on the removal of Franco’s body from the valley of the fallen. It was during the time when the process seemed stuck. We had begun to home in on the release of three groups of people: the students (youth), the women and the pensioners as key in that process and the wider picture of Spain. After a number of weeks without knowing about our focus Michael Schiffman called us to say we needed to release 3 distinct groups of people and the shift on Franco would come.
Today Greta Thunberg will arrive in Spain and will be present at the climate crisis change conference in Madrid over the coming days. She is a sign in these times. A young woman. And with her are rising an army of youth. It is their future that they are calling for. Recently while presenting a small paper on politics and theology I touched on the ‘touchstone’ issue for many Christians, the issue of abortion, which for sure is a major issue, yet I suggested there is a spectrum that it sits on which has to include that of creation care (also war, nationalism and immigration are on the same spectrum). Both the issue of abortion and climate care are to do with the future and how we relate to those not yet born and those who are yet to live – true life being defined as becoming those who contribute to others, that being the real test of how much glory is present.
Some years back we made a small visit to Columbus Square where the adventurer(*) is honoured and it has become one of the centres for nationalism (Spain Day), the military and power displays. Since our little venture into that square we have noted some wonderful shifts in the response to such celebrations of power. And just after that time this wonderful focused statue of the woman has been there. And in this photo with the juxtaposition of the woman and the Spanish flag surely speaks loudly! Love for nation and nationalism are not one and the same. It is the same as equating evangelism with seeing people as objects to be evangelised… no good news there!!
The woman, the feminine. There is a future that is held at this time in the hands and hearts of women. In the same way as there were good men at the time of Jesus, so there are ‘bad’ women today, who use power and ungodly position for their own ends. Yet Jesus died as a man – he nailed where the central corruption of humanity lay. So I suggest there is a new centring in of hope to be found in and among women in this time.
In Spain since 2003 there are over 1000 women who have been killed in domestic violence situations. Many more physically and emotionally beaten. Yes there is a violence that at times has gone the other way, but this is not a level field.
Pensioners. Some who have made their contribution, have lived through trauma to help give a future (and some of course who have not been contributors over their years). Care for the elderly. Honour those who have walked before, otherwise there is little genuine hope for a better tomorrow. Many pensioners are going to find a new lease of life. Their time is not over, even if the money (in Spain) set aside for them has been raided by previous governments. (Not a surprise when so much financial basis is founded on debt, the way to ‘create’ wealth!)
Yesterday in parliament – yes still no government here, and a total police barricade so we were not able to get to the building yesterday – Agustin Zamarron (70+ and still seeking to serve as an MP) with great dignity spoke of the responsibility to Spain and the deep embarrassment he felt that to date there has been no success in forming a government.
An army that is different. That has a different spirit. I am looking at this when I think of the 2010 -2020 dream and the final level playing field. I am not a student, nor a woman nor a pensioner… but I am and need to be involved. There is though a centre, and maybe it is just Spain but there is something congregating around youth, women and pensioners.
Madrid, with the work of the last mayoress, despite reversals being activated by the new administration has seen pollution drop by 20%, the most of any major world city. The climate conference is here, and the TV news spoke of this conference and ‘the planet is looking for her salvation’. That is a quote from someone I read… where then are the daughters and sons of God? And maybe we also have to ask who then are the daughters and sons of God? The opening day one of the biggest Spanish polluters of the environment were on the front page of most of the main papers. Money can buy publicity, as always. It buys elections. Power wins. Or it has, but here comes 2020. A level playing field. Could love find a way?
Before 2020, comes tomorrow (literally). The streets will speak once again in Spain, so we need to be there as wisdom cries out in the public square. Walking boots on and with many thousands others we will walk.
*I very generously described Columbus as an adventurer. Read the stories as he left in the service of God and Spanish crown, accompanied by a priest who preached in Spanish, giving all an opportunity to respond to the message of salvation (I know some preaching is hard to understand but this takes the cake!), then those who did not respond were ‘legitimately’ killed or enslaved. I called him an adventurer, and I do that not to excuse him, but to allow the challenge to be ours of clearing up the mess, for those who have conviction that something is wrong surely must be those who seek to shift the effects of what has gone before.
Gayle and I are in London for a couple of days, hosted by Adrian & Pauline Hawkes. They, their colleagues and friends are great to hang out with. Always challenging, inspiring and refreshing. I am not quite as young as I was, and they are not quite as young as I am, but when they talk about what they are going to give themselves to for the next 30 years it does kind of encourage one not to complain but to make a half-decent attempt at aligning with God’s direction.
Very graciously Adrian asked me if I would seek to address the subject of ‘theology and politics’. Graciously as I know almost nothing about politics, and on theology rumour has it the proverbial significantly sight-challenged bus driver was very confident of driving the double-decker through my various arguments without hitting anything in the process. As I explained last night my politics were shaped when I saw, in the 1960’s, a prime minister of the UK from Yorkshire smoking a pipe. I thought somehow that looked cool, so basically that party had my vote from then on. There are, dare I suggest it, deeper approaches to political issues, hence the graciousness of Adrian.
I will post here over the next few days the gist of what I shared. A perspective, a biased one, but nevertheless a perspective.
Of course a certain amount of what I adhere to is shaped by our social and geographic context, and springs from a clear sense some 5 years ago this month that the Lord was asking us to ‘take responsibility for the politics of Spain’. So often (did I hear ‘always’?) we do not understand what it means when the Lord speaks, as our great resource of knowledge does seem to get in the way, and we certainly do not know the journey that will entail. Five years later we are still pretty clueless and certainly do not believe we are qualified.
Crazy – not qualified, and as immigrants not even able to vote in the national elections. Just hope there is something in Scripture about not many smart people being called.
If I point to our geographic context there are some BIG negatives and a few positives in terms of what we see. Maybe the negatives are not so negative, maybe there are more positives than seem to be visible… and maybe the negatives are even BIGG… No don’t go there. My point is that it so difficult to assess. And sometimes there is little point in seeking to assess. If ever we gain a victory it is always time to push again, and if there is a real ‘failure’ time to push again. I like that as for someone fairly simple to condense things down to a simple activity is very helpful. And hopefully that is our approach.
My final disclaimers are that in what I will post I will use the term ‘church’ for shorthand for those who self-consciously follow Jesus – by using the term I am not limiting it to any specific expression nor am I denying it to other sets of relationships.
In approaching theology we can quickly make one aspect the whole and when we (as I will) suggest that the call of the church is sharply focused on shaping politics it can be easy to ignore other aspects of the call of the church. However, I make no apology in focusing on the issue of church, theology and politics as, for too long, the church has either:
been silent on major political issues, or
or complicit with the powers, or
only interested in a narrow set of issues.
The church has also often chosen to support the party that has a proposed bias toward ‘family values’, or is pro-life, turning a blind eye to any criticism that could be brought against that party. No political party can be baptised as ‘Christian’, nor can we remain uncritical of those who exercise authority. The critique of power is essential to the Gospel and with the demise of Christendom (the supposed domain over which Christ reigns) we have a fresh opportunity to find new ways of engagement.
OK enough for now.
But finally… We do not have a vote in Spain. Elections took place on Sunday, and a dear friend sent us a note saying ‘you have voted’. I thought surely he understands that we do not have a vote. In various text exchanges he repeated this the following day. So eventually I wrote back with
we do have a biased vote in the court of heaven but not a biased vote on paper in the land.
Then he clarified – he did not vote based on his choice, but knowing we could not vote he put the cross where we would have put it. We voted!
Four elections in four years… Spain, but typical of so many places where there is political turmoil or lock up. A coalition did not come together as a result of the elections in April, and given the results this time round a coalition will be even more challenging. The big news is the phenomenal growth of the extreme right. In 8 months a growth from 0 to 24 and now to 52 seats. Around 7% of the new parliament will be from that party – the largest percentage from that wing in any European country… and from 0% a few months ago. Absolutely gutting… as it has taken place on our watch.
We physically went to the geographical setting in Madrid months ago where there would be a threat of entrance. We declared ‘no pasarán’ (they will not pass), and some of the first words proclaimed by the far right in parliament in April were ‘we have passed’. We, this past week, went to a street, prayed and went round the whole block scattering salt on the road. The evening of the election, and we did not know this would happen, the very corner where we began the prayer was where the extreme right met to celebrate. Hard not to see it as personal!! And struggling with the results and our focused activity and prayers. Where did we miss it?
Our perspective is that coalition was not possible last time round because the financial institutions, the day after the April election, declared that there was one coalition that would be acceptable. The very coalition that the supporters of PSOE (the party who won in April but without an overall majority) shouted on the street was not acceptable to them. They shouted that specifically the night before the institutions declared what was acceptable.
Money, so controls. (Why was it again that Jesus appointed a thief? Why are so many of the OT laws about economics? Who is that says you will not buy and sell? Note to self – must go and read that book that seems intent on giving us answers to those kind of questions.)
Meanwhile there never was a desire for a coalition. The intent was always to go for a re-run of the election. This has backfired on the acting president (PSOE). It has not strengthened his hand but weakened it.
In the campaign a strong anti-Catalan independence was used by all the main parties (except one) as that gets a vote. Now any coalition will only be possible with some measure of support from the pro-independence parties from Cataluña.
Are there any silver linings? Of course there is always the possibility of positive spins. What was there is revealed – yes for sure. BUT, BUT when results come through as we have seen what was already there is strengthened, permissioned and multiplied. Our responsibility is to see that does not happen, and here we are!
Maybe the most positive is that for any move forward it will mean some humility, embracing of others (Cataluña for example, where dialogue is so needed).
Silver linings… Always but the clouds were dark.
Here though are a few great aspects in the latter stage of the campaign (with a biased viewpoint, but maybe one with some accuracy?).
The mayoress of Barcelona, Ada Colau, came to Madrid, on the final evening of the campaign. She addressed the crowd in Catalan, saying the place where she wanted to be was Madrid, there being no better place to be, as an act, of reconciliation at this critical time. She came bringing a hug from Cataluña.
Between the two elections there was a significant split in the Podemos party with a new party being formed. This, of course, split their vote and if the voting numbers were added together (of Podemos and Mas Pais) they would have been the third voted for party by percentage of votes, not the extreme far right party as ensued. Sure it was damaging. Mas Pais did not do well. Pablo Iglesias, leader of Podemos, sent a note to the leader of the party that split away, saying – I know this will have been a tough day for you with the disappointing results so I send you a big hug.
There is a politics at grass roots, a politics that might not be to everyone’s liking, but one that shouts that ‘love’ is the only way forward. I don’t know if that is a silver lining or not. Maybe… but even if there is no silver lining, when there are people (and ones who don’t profess a faith in Jesus) talking ‘love’ and willing to reach out hands across divides, there remains hope in a divided land.
PS… As I write some breaking news with a change of tone from Pedro Sanchez. First step… maybe silver linings!
Today was a big day to close a loop in Spain, and of course what I write here is a perspective on the events. The Valley of the Fallen was a burial place for Francisco Franco (driving force in the Civil War (1936-39), dictator until his death in 1975), José Antonio Primo de Rivera (founder of the Fanlange party, shot in Alicante, 1936) and 33,000 combatants from the war – from both sides… but many of them were also left in unmarked graves. (Spain is said to be second behind Cambodia for mass unmarked graves.)
In the Civil war there were terrible atrocities committed by both sides, so a one-side reading cannot do justice to what went on. However, the inappropriateness of Franco being buried in a place of honour along the dishonouring of those crushed has been an offence to many Spanish. And of course for Gayle and I this has been a focus for us for many years. It has taken us to the (now previous) actual grave of Franco, his birth home – the day after which parliament passed that he was to be exhumed. We have also been to the grave of Franco’s daughter which is in the main cathedral of Madrid, and was the place the family had wanted Franco to be buried if the exhumation went ahead. Gayle placed a blade of grass on it, declaring that all of us are as a blade of grass. Transient, and the effects of Franco’s domination was over. There followed many court cases fight both the exhumation and seeking to ensure that following any exhumation that the remains would be placed in the Almudena Cathedral in Madrid. Nice to get a result – though we are sure that whatever difference the above made, any shift that takes place is almost always due to the many unknown acts of people who have stood for the future.
So 80 years after the end of the Civil War, 44 years after Franco’s death and 41 years after the (supposed) end of the Transition to democracy, a HUGE event has taken place. We are so pleased that his remains were not moved into the main Madrid Cathedral. We have been praying and declaring – with some huge setbacks – that ‘Madrid will be the tomb of fascism’. Had his remains been moved into the Cathedral it would have become an easily accessible shrine to fascism.
The prime minister with great perception said a few days ago that this will bring the Transition cycle to a close. Those words sparked faith in our spirits as we had been praying into the completion of what was in its time, a good move forward, but increasingly was being shown as lacking completeness.
This day marks something enormous!! And we love days such as this. Now there are some real possibilities… and also perhaps even greater challenges. For the past 3 weeks I have had 2 nights of unbroken sleep – last night being one – so it seems to signify that there is a peace that had come…. that peace marks the closure of an era. ‘Tomorrow’, whenever that is, we will move forward from a place of rejoicing to put our shoulder back into things. As one wise politician said today (with a play on words), the remains of Franco have not been moved, his corpse has. The remains of Franco are in and through all the institutions… now is the time to move the remains of Franco.
A significant peg that was holding things in place has been removed. A brindis (toast) is in order, and tomorrow we will be calling for tomorrow. If the past cycle has been closed, now the only immediate question is what shapes what is to come.
Below is a provocative photo. The flag is a republican flag. Bottom line we do not give our allegiance. I was tempted to photoshop Gayle on the photo as this was something she might have crazily done!!
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.
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.
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.