Thursday, June 25th
Morning on Curbar Edge, Derbyshire
When did the first Black community settle in Britain? Probably in around 300AD when Roman soldiers from North Africa garrisoned the fort at the western end of Hadrians Wall at Aballava (Burgh-by-Sands) near Carlisle. There can be little doubt that with a degree of interbreeding over the centuries, the blackness was lost in terms of skin colour, but who knows how many Britons are now linked to those early Africans? Eddie Izzard was involved in a series called Mongrel Nation which showed the diversity of heritage which probably affects even those who speak the Queen's English without a hint of accent!
I often think that all those so called patriots of the English Defence League and other phoney nationalists should be presented with the results of their own DNA analysis to show just how ridiculous it is to think that any of us are pure Angles, Saxons, Celts or Picts. As a Welshman, I have to recognise that the Celts probably originated in Eastern Europe, but were pushed further and further west by successive conquerors until we inhabited the fringes of Britain, France and the Iberian Peninsula with only vestiges of various Gaelic languages and dialects as evidence of our heritage.
Extreme nationalism has raised its ugly head in recent years and is evident currently in counter demonstrations during the Black Lives Matter protests. In my view, there is no place for it in our Global Village where our only hope is for a new sense of common heritage as humankind. Surely, the signs are telling us that if we do not cooperate to care for each other and our planet as never before, there will be a bleak future for our grandchildren and future generations.
I have been struggling through Genesis and Exodus readings with the URC Daily Devotional offerings in the last few weeks. I do feel sorry for the contributors who have been landed with passages which, at times, seem ethically outrageous and even ridiculous as we have followed the antics of Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob and Moses.
I understand the writers' intentions in establishing a Hebrew identity during times of migration, conquest and enslavement. I can even see why you might turn a blind eye to the shady practices and jealousies of the Patriarchs - though why mention them in the first place? What I find quite ridiculous is the way in which the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is portrayed at times as capricious, vengeful, and totally biased towards his favourites. That is a picture of a god not far removed from the ever so human and volatile gods of the Greek and Roman pantheons.
If we are to progress as a people, do we not need to paint a bigger picture? A picture where nature's wealth is cherished, not exploited; where we see every person as a brother and sister to be valued equally; where, if we have a sense of God, she is bigger than the petty whims of human fickleness and at least as big as the loving God who gave his son to tell us all how precious we are.
We limit not the truth of God
To our poor reach of mind,
By notions of our day and sect,
Crude, partial and confined.
Now let a new and better hope
Within our hearts be stirred:
The Lord hath yet more light and truth
To break forth from His Word.
George Rawson 1807-1889 (born in Leeds, a Congregationalist, solicitor by profession)
The White Cliffs of England! Seven Sisters towards Beachy Head