Sunday, 7 January 2018

Misunderstanding Forgiveness

Firstly, a very happy new year to you. As mentioned previously, we moved house in December, and we’ve only very recently managed to get the internet working in in our new place, hence the lack of posts. I hope you had a very pleasant Christmas and New Year.

I also achieved my adjusted target, as per my last post, of writing at least something each and every day during November. I didn’t win NaNo, but I achieved my lesser, personal target.

Right, now that’s out of the way, time for today’s post.

I’ve just got back from the supermarket (and want to write this while it’s fresh in my mind). On the way out, I glanced at the newspaper headlines, and my eye was caught by that of the Daily Star in particular. If you don’t live in the UK, you might be unfamiliar with this publication, but it is amongst the more egregious of our several populist tabloid ‘newspapers’.

The headline that caught my attention was this: EVIL BLACK CAB RAPIST’S SICK CLAIM- WORBOYS: GOD HAS FORGIVEN ME.

The whole article can be found on their website, if you want to read it.

It may not surprise you to discover that this headline frustrated and infuriated me, as it attacks the very heart of my faith. If you are not aware, John Worboys is a convicted serial rapist who assaulted a vast number of women whilst working as a London taxi driver. His crimes have been proven, and admitted. That much is certain. Papers like the Star revel in emotive and emotionally manipulative language, but even the most cautious of commentators would have to admit that his crimes were indeed evil.

What I take issue with is the assertion that his claim that God has forgiven him is ‘sick’. It is, after all, the very essence of Christian belief. To quote the hymn, ‘the vilest offender who truly believes, that moment from Jesus a pardon receives’.

Does Worboys truly believe? Has he truly repented, confessed his crimes before God and thrown himself on God’s mercy and salvation? Is he indeed a changed man who fully repents of his crimes and is now determined to live a better life? Or is it, as the article claims, merely a cynical ploy to accelerate his release from prison? I have no idea, and no way of finding out.

Worboys will, I assume remain on a sex offenders register, and I imagine the terms of his parole will be strict. I will acknowledge that steps need to be taken to ensure that he doesn’t pose a continued threat to others. Sadly we cannot simply take him at his word and hope for the best. That would be utterly negligent. However, beyond that, I would prefer to give him the benefit of the doubt. Past crimes don’t remove the (sadly increasingly eroded) principle of ‘innocent until proven guilty’.

And why is his claim ‘sick’? Because of the nature of his crimes? They were heinous and disgusting, probably deserving of significantly more than the eight years of prison time that he has served. But his claim to God’s forgiveness is the very core of my faith. The idea that even a man like Worboys can, if he truly repents, be forgiven, be remade, be reborn, washed clean, is the absolute fundament and foundation of my faith. It doesn’t matter how many talents he owes, the debt can be forgiven. And that goes for each and every one of us, no matter how great or small our transgressions might be.

From the article; “He thinks he is born again since embracing religion and that he has been forgiven. He says he is a changed man – but how can this be proved?” 

Very simply. Watch him. Watch the life he leads, the actions he takes, the things he says. If he has indeed been remade, it will be obvious. Is he different to the way he was before? Then he has changed. Might he backslide? Perhaps. From the article I understand that there is an effort to have him charged with further crimes that came to light since his imprisonment. If these crimes are proven, then it will only be justice if he serves a further sentence for them.

But don’t label his forgiveness sick. It isn’t. It represents hope. In fact, it represents the only hope any of us have. You may not find it pleasant to be compared to a convicted serial rapist, but we are all in the same boat. We have all fallen short of God, we all owe debts we have no power to repay, and we have all been offered an unlimited forgiveness and eternal redemption. That is the core of Christianity, it is the purpose of the crucifixion, it is the Promise of God. That the Daily Star completely fails to understand this is no great surprise, but it also says far more about them than it does about Worboys, if he is indeed being honest.

I have no way of knowing, but I will assume that he is until he shows otherwise. And if he isn't? If he's lying, and cynically using that hope of God's promise to deceive his way out of serving part of his sentence? Then even now, God's forgiveness is not beyond him. It is never too late, and there is no-one so evil or so far gone that they are beyond God's reach, if only they wish to be helped.

“Oh, perfect redemption, the purchase of blood,
To every believer the promise of God;
The vilest offender who truly believes,
That moment from Jesus a pardon receives.”

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Adjusting Expectations

“There are two ways to get enough,” Chesterton once wrote. “One is to continue to accumulate more and more. The other is to desire less.” It is this adjustment of expectations that I would like to consider in this post.

One of my hobbies is fencing (epee primarily, but I dabble in foil occasionally, and sabre very rarely). Now, I don’t tend to fence in competitions very much, but obviously even in club matches you are attempting to win. You’re trying to improve your own abilities and develop as a fencer, but basically you’re trying to stab the other person more times than they stab you.

You start the fight determined to win. It often happens that you begin to fence, and find that you’re falling rapidly behind. Your attacks are slow, obvious and poorly executed. You find yourself obligingly moving your blade out of their way and stumbling onto their point with all the combative grace of a blindfolded, bow-legged ostrich. “Very well,” you say to yourself, “I’m obviously not going to win, but I’ll at least get twelve points before he gets his fifteen.”

Time passes and more hits are landed (by him). “Okay then,” you concede, “but I’ll at least get to ten.”

“Fine, five.”

“Three surely?”

“He may win, but I’m at least going to score once! I shall not allow this to be a complete whitewash!”

“Oh. Bother.”

All of this is really just an elaborate preamble to my main topic. In my last post, I declared my intention to participate in the National Novel Writing Month. I am pleased that I can already report my success. I have indeed participated.

Unfortunately, what I am not going to do, alas, is win.

The primary reason for this is that our landlord spontaneously decided (having, no doubt, read my blog) that they wanted to terminate our tenancy. Cue frantic house searching, followed, in the last two or three weeks, with packing. This has seriously cut into my writing time, and even when I have had time, I’ve been rather too tired. Added to this, we spent a few days at my parents’, and although I took a laptop and a host of good intentions with me, I actually got very little done.

I am now very far behind, with little chance of catching up before the deadline of the 30th of November. Very well then, instead of accumulating more and more, I shall desire less. By that, I don’t mean that I shall consider an achievable twenty five thousand words a win. Rather, I am determined to do something I’ve never achieved before, and actually update my word count every single day. I’ve completed Nano numerous times, but I’ve never once managed to get through the entire month consistently adding words each day.

It will probably never actually be the standard 1667 words that would be required to win under normal circumstances. In fact, one day it was only twenty six words, but I am determined to achieve this small goal. I shall adjust my expectations.

And at the end of the month, although I won’t have hit the target, I shall have twenty or thirty thousand words that I didn’t have at the start, and that’s considerably better than nothing.

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Here We Go Again...

Yep, it’s October. That means that, unless something goes badly wrong, it will be November next month, and we all know what that means. National Novel Writing Month! I will once again be endeavouring to pump out 50,000 words of original fiction between the 1st and 30th of November, along with tens of thousands of others around the globe.

This year sees me return to Edmund Zenith of the Royal Air Fleet, protagonist of 2015’s successful NaNo attempt ‘Squadron’s Zenith. I posted before about the fact that I apparently started the series with the second book, and that I would need to go back and cover Zenith’s lieutenancy, prior to the promotion that put him in command of the HMA Hippolyta.

This year, I will be working on what should be (probably) the first book in the series, Ship’s Zenith. I will confess straightaway that according to the NaNo rules, I will be cheating slightly. I say this because I have actually already started work on Ship’s Zenith; although I’ve only produced 7,000 words or so. I will be producing 50,000 more words, but nonetheless, strictly speaking it’s supposed to be a completely new novel.

I do wonder whether I couldn’t start even further back in the timeline, with my main character as a very young midshipman, and call the book ‘Wardroom’s Zenith’. However, it’s already been established that Zenith was a Lieutenant on-board the Pendragon. If I do go further back and write Wardroom’s Zenith, it will have to be a totally new story again. Currently, I have no ideas for it, but we’ll see.

For now, here’s the blurb for Ship’s Zenith as it currently appears on the NaNoWriMo website:

“It’s 1876, and Edmund Zenith, a young lieutenant in the Royal Air Fleet, is posted to the Pendragon, a magnificent airship of the line. However, between a tyrannical captain, pirates, irritable Frenchmen, deserts, sandstorms and a nosy newspaperman, what should be a dream posting may prove far more than the inexperienced young officer can handle!”

That’s the plan at least. I’ll let you know how I get on.