Testing times?

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The picture above has appeared on my Facebook timeline a lot over the past couple of years. It is always there because a friend of mine has Iiked it meaning, by extension, that they agree with the idea of automatic drug testing for welfare claimants.

Now, I’ll start by saying that I have a deal of sympathy with the reasoning behind wanting this. Why would we want state funding for illegal drug use and the illegal drug trade? Why would we want to see money meant to allow people to live when they have fallen on hard times be wasted on drugs?

There is a higher than average proportion of benefit claimants who are problem drug users and an estimated 100,000 of these are not getting any treatment. It is an issue and one which needs to be addressed.

However, is compulsory drug testing of welfare recipients the answer? Let’s assume for a moment that the idea is testing of those on means tested benefits, not universal ones like Child Benefit or State Pension. So, are we testing all those on Tax Credits (which will include most of the people I know who agree with this idea)? They are welfare recipients and “want” to be so as they have voluntarily completed an application for the Tax Credits they receive.

I’ll assume, again, that this is not a form of welfare people are thinking of. I’ll assume that forms of unemployment benefit are the ones meant. So, will that include disability, incapacity, sickness or carers’ benefits? Benefits meant for people who cannot work, rather than those who are able to but, for whatever reason, aren’t working? This would seem rather churlish, especially as many of the people on these benefits are physically or mentally incapable of becoming drug users or, in the case of carers, are actually fulfilling a role which saves the state money.

So, I assume, yet again, that what is really meant is drug testing for those on Income Support or low income benefits. Well, my first question to anybody who suggests this is whether they, if they were unfortunate enough to find themselves out of work, would be happy to undergo compulsory drug testing. I suspect that, although they would go ahead with it, they would feel rather uncomfortable and demeaned further by the insinuation and invasion of the process.

Also, as of the latest figures in May 2014, there are 2.47 million ESA claimants and 5.2 million working age benefit claimants in the UK. Who pays for the testing? Not just the kits, but the human resourcing and facilities for the tests to take place? How often do the tests take place?

And what happens if a test is failed? Do they lose benefits completely and live on… well, nothing? Or do they undergo compulsory rehab? If so, who pays for that?

Suddenly this is frighteningly expensive or frighteningly inhuman. Either way, although the suggestion is borne from genuine concern and a real issue, it is more of a knee-jerk reaction to the current fad of demonising those on benefits than it is of trying to solve a real human problem.

Addiction is an illness. Like all illnesses it requires treatment and work on both sides to overcome. I am no expert in this field, but it seems to me that those who are experts are probably in a much better position to come up with a workable solution than I am. Or people posting a photo on Facebook are. Or politicians who have spent the last five years cutting funding for drug rehab projects are.

Let’s start getting the right people suggesting solutions for problems and stop letting our own prejudices get in the way of that.

Advent 17: Galatians 4:1-7

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Adoption. It’s an amazing thing to do for a child. There are so many children in this world who, for one reason or another, find themselves without a proper home or family. many of them are so young that they really don’t know or understand the situation that they’re in.

Others, however, are old enough to know that they are missing something fundamental to their lives. They crave the love and stability which a family (should) bring. Many have experienced things which would seriously mess most adults up and will take an incredible amount of love and care to help mould them into people who will function well in society. It takes a very special person or people to give some of these children the upbringing and environment that they need and there is a huge need for people to step up to the plate for these children. Organisations such as Home For Good help to facilitate those wishing to adopt or foster to find out everything they need to know to set down that road.

We are all in the position of those children. We are messed up, rudderless, in need of the right guidance to get us through a dark world. Yet, we have a Father wanting to adopt us into his family, to make us all his heirs. We have the opportunity to be straightened out, cared for, loved and set on the right path as well as being given ta share in the most amazing kingdom we can imagine.

All we need to do is ask.

Advent 16: Matthew 2:1-12

Herod is one of those well known, almost pantomime style, villains of our childhood stories. The evil king who tries to trick the wise men into revealing where Jesus has been born so he can… well, the Nativity plays rarely expand on what he intended on doing. He was thwarted by an angelic dream, however, as Mary, Joseph and their newborn son escape his clutches.

What happens next is definitely not mentioned in any school Nativity play,

“When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:  
“A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.””
(Matthew 2:16-18 NIV)

Wow. That’s far removed from the fluffy, tinsel covered angels and children singing Little Donkey. It shows the kind of danger and evil which was present in those times. Thank heavens we don’t see that kind of thing today…

Tell that to the people of Peshawar. Just when you think you’ve seen every kind of evil a group of hate filled fanatics burst into a school and massacre over 100 innocent children. And they claim to do it in the name of God.

This is not the God worshipped in Mosques around the world by peace loving Muslims.

This is not the God worshipped by wisdom seeking, peaceful Sikhs.

This is not the God worshipped by enlightenment seeking, loving Hindus.

This is not the God worshipped by devout, priestly, chosen Jews.

This is not the God worshipped by me and billions of other Christians.

This is not the God who came down to Earth to teach us, lead us and save us from our own desires, arrogance and hatred.

I don’t know the god the Taliban, Am Qaeda and Islamic State claim to worship, much as I don’t know the god who bigoted extremists who claim to follow Christ claim to worship.

I know the one who inspires his followers to love him each other as his greatest commandments. I know the one who humbled himself and put himself through unimaginable agony for us.

And I know the God who, right now, is weeping tears of sorrow for the victims of the innocent victims of hatred in Peshawar as well as the victims of hated and bigotry around the world.

These acts are carried out by people. Badly flawed, selfish people influenced by evil. The response from each and every one of us can and should be influenced by the God who loves us all.

URGENT RECALL NOTICE

This is an urgent recall from Pharage Pharmaceuticals.

Our best selling, groundbreaking sedative, You Kip, has been found to have some unusual side effects. Users may, in some circumstances, experience bouts of inappropriate language which include, but are not limited to, racism, homophobia, sexism and snobbery.

Anyone experience these side effects are encouraged to blame the use of the sedative, then hand your prescription back for an immediate exchange with an identical box of You Kip. You are then encouraged to stay quiet fora wile until everyone has forgotten about you.

Note: Side effects may remain once the use of You Kip has been discontinued. This product has not been approved by the European Union.

Advent 14 and 15: Acts 15:22-31 Luke 1 Jeremiah 32:17

No post yesterday. Church, stuff at home and a trip to a major sports award ceremony prevented it.

So, two in one…

I was struck by both Acts and Luke here regarding the importance of news being reported correctly and research being done thoroughly.

I think we very often get short changed with the standard of news we get. Much of it is excellent, well researched, well written and in the public interest. However, on many occasions we get half truths and cherry picked, well spun facts in order to elicit a particular reaction or promote a political ideology.

This is something the Bible itself is accused of regularly. It’s pretty much impossible to prove one way or the other, but its clear that we are asked by God to look into things to do with faith, the way we live, the news we hear and every other important matter to make sure what we hear, say and believe is truthful and right.

With so much bias and so many agendas everywhere this is difficult, but we need to try.

Advent 13: Psalm 150

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There’s an amazing amount of disagreement within the Church about the little things. Not least among these things is the music used for worship. The music is always too old, too new, too loud, too quiet, too archaic in its language, too repetitive, too boring, too upbeat, too full of guitars, too reliant on the organ…

Here’s the thing; when it comes to worship music, we are not the audience, we are the performers. The audience is just one; God.

It really doesn’t matter what style of music we sing or what instruments we use. When the psalmist talks about praising God with the harp, lyre, tambourine, cymbals, strings and pipes he is saying to praise God with whatever you have. You may not like the song, you may wish it was more modern or more traditional, but as long as you are singing it in a spirit of praise and worship that is all that matters. You are singing to God and, as long as you are singing with the right heart, he doesn’t care what the music is.

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. However they are able to do so at the time.