Saturday, 27 February 2016

The Conflict of Light and Dark

Ever since the first episode of Star Wars lit up the cinema screens (that would be Star Wars iv), and audiences almost universally had a sharp intake of breath, theological controversy has dogged the heels of the saga.

I clearly recall learned Christian articles, and a few books, that were written around the time, as dismissing the concept of a ‘Force’ being made up of the ‘Light’ and the ‘Darkness’, in a constant struggle to bring a ‘Balance’, as dodgy Eastern, Yin & Yang philosophy.  Pretty much all of orthodox Christian thought dismissed Star Wars’  theological universe as un-Christian, un-biblical and, well let’s say, spiritually unhealthy.

But, as a Christian, of some 50 years at time of writing, the debate has long intrigued me.  From an early age, I have always enjoyed Sci-Fi: Asimov, Arthur C. Clark, Van Vogt, John Wyndham, Star Trek, etc., the list is long and glorious, but when I became a Christian in 1966 at one of the Billy Graham meetings in London, Sci-Fi was laid aside as the Bible became my main reading. 

Later (1980) my wife and I went to Bible College, and the irony is that the intense Bible studies led me to places in the Bible along paths less trod; places rarely ventured, and verses rarely, if ever, preached upon.  And it was here, in the somewhat dusty corners of the book of Isaiah (45th Chapter, 7th verse) that I was effectively smacked in the face by this: 

I form the light and create darkness,
I bring prosperity and create disaster;
I, the Lord (aka God), do all these things.

I underlined the words in my Bible, knowing there was something contained within them, something extraordinary, which I couldn’t get my head round at the time, and even now, all these years later, still rocks me to the core of my faith. I tried to shut them out, but they kept coming back to challenge me, and I kept trying to ignore them.

The reason I desperately tried to ignore these words in Isaiah was because of this date, some three years earlier: Tuesday 27th December 1977, the day Star Wars was released in the UK.  Naturally, when it came to our local cinema in Essex, some time later, early 1978 I think, we (my wife and I) went to see it, and, yes, we had a sharp intake of - w0w - at the opening scene. 

Of course, the film was amazing.  Loved every moment of it.  Acknowledged the Yin & Yang philosophy, ignored it, as it went against the last 11 years of Christian teaching I had received, and got on with life, hoping the next film wouldn’t be too long in coming.

This Christian teaching (I am no theologian by the way) can loosely be summed up as follows:  the Lord God is high over all, God is good and God created everything and is in control of everything.  Evil (aka Sin, Darkness) entered the world because an Angel, Lucifer, aka The Devil, rebelled against God and he and his followers were banished to Earth from Heaven.  To sort out the resulting mess, God sent his Son, Jesus, to die for all our Sin.  All those who follow Jesus will be saved and live forever.  Yes, I know we could discuss this for a century or two, and many have and do, but let’s move on.

Indeed let’s move on, and go back to the future (another great film!), and those words in Isaiah’s book.  ‘I form the light and create darkness,  I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the Lord (aka God), do all these things.’

Brain freeze, red alert, DEFCON 5........

As a child grows, and as they eventually make their own way in the world, they will discover for themselves what they believe to be true about everything; the world, the universe, body, mind spirit and soul. Sometimes they will naturally rebel against the core beliefs of those who raised them.  I found that, being faced with something which is in the Bible, but fundamentally shakes that core belief, leads to conflicting possibilities:  If the Bible is true, then it conflicts with everything I had been taught about everything.  So I choose to ignore that which caused this fundamental conflict.

But, as I have said, it kept on coming back over the years, and still does. 

Here then is the tough bit.  If, as Star Wars’ philosophy, which is basically rooted in Eastern Philosophy, contends, there is a ‘Force’ and that there is a ‘Darkness’ and there is a ‘Light’, and these two ‘sides’, Light and Darkness, are in constant conflict, do not those words begin to look very much like those words from the Bible’s book of Isaiah?  Are they not, indeed, saying the same thing, just under different names?

This view, if we go with it for a moment, makes a lot more sense of what we see and experience of the world around us:  the goodness balanced against the badness, The Light balanced against the Dark.  It also starts to put a different perspective on why doesn’t God simply stop all the bad things from happening?  Why?  If there is the need for a world both of Light and Darkness, in the same way that there is Day and Night, if this need is fundamentally part of the whole thing, then the significance might just blow all our home-brewed Christian theologies and philosophies clear out of the waters of our fundamental Christian belief.

There is an interesting moment in the first Matrix film.  Morpheus is confronted by Agent  Smith.

Agent Smith: “Did you know that the first Matrix was designed to be a perfect human world? Where none suffered, where everyone would be happy. It was a disaster. No one would accept the program. Some believed we lacked the programming language to describe your perfect world. But I believe that, as a species, human beings define their reality through suffering and misery.”

Maybe we are, at a deep and fundamentally level, only able to function within  a world of conflict between Light and Dark.  Is this what those shocking words in Isaiah mean?

Where then is Christian faith?  I still, in the face of this, deeply believe in Jesus as my Saviour.  I still believe there is a God, who made the Universe, and who loves me at a level I have no hope of truly understanding.  

Everything I have experienced in the last 50 years proves, deeply in my very being and soul, that God loves me.  Do I understand it all, how it all fits together and what are the deeper implications? No, and I would venture to suggest that after some 2000 years of debate and learned theological discourse, of myriad writings, of a million songs and of untold questioning, that no-one else does either. 

In the Bible, The Book of Hebrews, 11th Chapter 1st verse are these words - Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.  

The whole chapter is about what can be done, and was done, because of faith, even when people didn’t understand what was going on and could only see darkness rather than light.

And that is what faith is really about, isn’t it?

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

What If You Reach Your 'Best Before' Date?

It was inevitable that a society, committed to killing the unborn, would turn its attention to the other end of the age spectrum and look at ways of ridding us of those who are, because of ill health or old age, an unnecessary drain on resources. Those considered well past their ..... Sell By Date.

When Nazi Germany embarked on its horrific eugenic cleansing of the Jewish and other minority races, who would have dreamt that before the century was out the UK and other European Union countries would be considering similar courses of action?

In 1967 when the UK passed a law that would effectively condemn millions of unborn children to death by abortion, a door was opened which has led the UK steadily towards legalising euthanasia.

Euthanasia: n. bringing about a gentle and easy death, particularly in the case of painful and incurable disease [Gk, eu = well; thanatos = death]

Sounds so reasonable doesn't it, almost benevolent? Well, have no doubt about it, this is no benevolent ideology, but rather a malevolent and dark course which we are on, because we are not simply talking about an individual's personal choice to end their life, but the wholesale governmental termination of certain sections of its citizens.

But first let us look back along the path.....

In July 1999, the UK Government unveiled plans that Social Workers, appointed by the courts as 'managers' will be given the right to make decisions on behalf of those no longer to make decisions for themselves. Who are those who will be thrown into the 'merciful' hands of these new breed of 'managers'? The mentally incapacitated. In extreme cases these 'managers' will have the right to decide whether to stop a patient being given food and water. In other words, they will have the right to decide whether a fellow Human Being is denied the basic requirements to sustain life; the right to murder them legally.

The scheme, dreamed up by the Lord Chancellor's Department, will, of course, by couched in legal jargon; 'extended Power of Attorney', and 'Courts of Protection' etc., etc..

Family campaigner, Dr. John Campion, commented, "There is great danger here. There is so much pressure from within the medical profession and the courts. The courts have already described giving food and water as, 'treatment', when in fact it is basic care."

Does no-one else find the irony seriously disturbing that it is certain sections of the medical profession which is pressurising for euthanasia? But should we be surprised? It was inevitable. Since the UK National Health Service is now a business, with increasing pressure to balance the books rather than cure the diseased and heal the sick, anyone who is seen as a drain on these resources; the old, the long-term incapacitated, the inconvenient, is going to be looked upon as a financial liability to be off-loaded, rather than someone in need of care.

Sadly the euthanasia movement is even further down the road in at least one other European country. In July 99, a government Bill was delivered to the Dutch lower house of parliament which proposed that doctors should have immunity from prosecution when performing euthanasia. The Dutch have tolerated 'mercy killings' for a number of years, but this Bill would remove the legal grey areas.

So just what does our medical hierarchy really think in the UK? The British Medical Association's Ethics Committee issued a report (July 1999) that states, 'artificial nutrition and hydration can be withdrawn from patients on the decision of doctors alone, and that doctors should not routinely be obliged to seek court approval before withdrawing such nutrition.

In December 1999 the government condemned any form of so-called voluntary euthanasia which deprives elderly patients of food and drink. Speaking at question time in the House of Lords, Junior Health Minister Lord Hunt of Kings Heath said any such action by NHS doctors would be "quite wrong".

In January 2000, a Private members Billl, launched by Tory MP Ann Winterton, called for a tightening of the law on euthanasia. Mrs Winterton's Medical Treatment (Prevention of Euthanasia) Bill was prompted by allegations that the NHS was denying treatment to the oldest and sickest patients in order to free beds. The objective was to make it clear to doctors that they cannot bring about the deaths of their patients either by a positive action, or by an omission, such as withholding or withdrawing life-prolonging treatment, or withdrawing food and drink for the terminally ill. The Bill received its second reading after MPs voted to close the debate by 113 votes to two, a majority of 111. In April 2000 the Bill was effectively killed off after being blocked by MP's.

The common law precedent was the Tony Bland case. Tony Bland, severely injured in the Hillsborough stadium disaster of 1989, was left in a Persistent Vegetative State (PVS). He was not dying but had no cognitive ability. After a long and protracted haul through the courts by the Bland family, the final ruling from the House of Lords was that this form of murder-by-starvation was to be permitted in PVS cases such as Tony Bland's, but future cases had to be overseen by the courts.

Because of this case, the medical and legal taboo has been broken. It's now medically and legally OK for the old, the sick and the dying to be hastened on their way, whether they want it or not, by the deliberate with-holding of the basic need of nutrition and hydration - food and water to you and me.

The case of Diane Pretty, the motor neurone disease patient who went to court to seek the right to die elicited enormous public sympathy. She sadly died in May 2002 having lost her right-to-die court challenge in the European Court of Human Rights.

As in the case of abortion and all the rhetoric in 1967, which categorically said we would never have a situation of 'abortion-on-demand', we do have. It will be no different with euthanasia. In less than a generation it is quite feasible that we will be living in a society which routinely kills the old, sick and infirm on nothing more than a scrawled signature on a crumpled form.

On the 6th June 2003, the UK House of Lords gave a second reading to Lord Joffe’s "Patient Assisted Dying Bill", commomly known as, "The Voluntary Euthanasia Bill", which would have legalised Dutch-style euthanasia throughout Britain for "competent, terminally ill individuals.". Although this reading meant the Bill took one more step towards become law in the UK it eventually failed through lack of parliamentary time.

Over the ensuing few years, various attempts to clarify the law have been made. In 2009, a landmark decision was made when Debbie Purdy won the right to have the law clarifies as to whether her husband would be prosecuted if he helped her end her life in Switzerland.

full story here

Attacking the decision, Phyllis Bowman, executive officer of Right To Life, said Much as we sympathise with Ms Purdy, we are extremely concerned about the manner in which this will leave the vulnerable - that is the disabled, the sick, and the aged. Without exception, every disability rights group in the country, are completely opposed to any changing of the laws on assisted suicide and euthanasia."

full article here

We will doubtless continue to see attempts to open the door leading to legalised euthanasia in the UK, which if successful, as in the case of the Abortion Bill, will see us yet again swept away by the flood. If this does happen, and it is almost inevitable that it will, how many steps away will we be from the situation of doctors becoming executioners?

In Dec 2013, The Dean of the Faculty of Law at a Belgian University warned that laws permitting euthanasia cannot be introduced without endangering the lives and safety of patients, and that safeguards and controls introduced in any such legislation will not work.

Speaking at a press conference in Quebec, Professor Etienne Montero explained that it is difficult to maintain a strict interpretation of safeguards in a way that is consistent with the intentions of the legislator, and that once euthanasia is legalised, the boundaries of what is acceptable become wider. full article here

In November 2014, speaking in a personal capacity, Dr Kailash Chand, the deputy chair of the British Medical Association (BMA), has thrown his weight behind Lord Falconer’s private member’s bill, which would offer assisted dying to terminally ill patients who are deemed mentally capable and are likely to have less than six months to live.  He commented further that, 'A change in the law that will allow terminally ill people to be helped to end their lives is inevitable and will happen within as little as a couple of years'.  full article here

As we march inexorable towards the slippery slope of legal euthanasia, the question remains: once mutually consensual euthanasia becomes legal, how long will it be before society judges that those who no longer contribute 'worth' to the society:  the terminally ill, the disabled and the old, those who are using up precious financial resources which would better be spent elsewhere, should be 'removed'?    

Our 'Best Before' dates might be a lot closer than we would like to think.

"I will use treatment to help the sick according to my ability and
judgment, but I will never use it to injure or wrong them. I will not give
poison to anyone though asked to do so, nor will I suggest such a plan…
But in purity and in holiness I will guard my life and my art."

(excerpt from the Hippocratic Oath) R.I.P.

(C) David A. W. Peddie 2014

My Anosmia was a Nutty Experience

anosmia: n - loss of, or lack of, sense of smell 

It’s rather difficult to point-point exactly when my anosmic experience began. What I can say is that it was around the time our family moved from the Isle of Wight, in the UK, to Birkenhead, Wirral. Birkenhead is a town in the North-West of England, and displays most of the typical traits of that kind of environment. Higher than average cardio-pulmonary disease, crime, poverty and other inner-city afflictions.

 About 18 months after moving I began to notice that my sense of smell was diminishing, and simply put this down to the change from sea-air to city air. I also developed an intermittent nagging cough. I talked to my new GP about this. He asked where had we recently moved from, and I replied, ‘the Isle of Wight’. He suggested we should perhaps, move back there. Clearly, he was well acquainted with the local, endemic health issue of where we now lived.

 Eventually my sense of smell vanished completely. I didn't bother taking this development back to my GP. However, If we went on holiday, and we always tried to go somewhere near good surfing beaches and good sea, after a couple of days, I found my sense of smell returned. As good as new, as it were. I logically put this done to the transition from, bad air, to, good air. Because within 2 days of going home, back came the anosmia.

This was a pattern that pretty much continued over the years until, about 5 years ago, when the wonders of the British seaside no longer had any effect and my sense of smell seemed now to be permanent. But during this time, for unfathomable reasons, on odd occasions, I would wake to discover, out of the blue, my sense of smell had returned. Alas, at best, it would be for a few hours, or perhaps a day, and then it vanished again. Confusing.

Two years ago, we moved again, not far from Birkenhead, to a corner of Wirral called, New Brighton. A seaside resort which, over the previous 30 years, had fallen on hard times, as many UK seaside resorts had done. It had though, had an investment stimulated re-birth, and was becoming quite a desirable place to live. One morning, I walked outside to my car, and could smell wood-smoke, and all that day my sense of smell had, once more mysteriously return. It stayed for two whole days before bidding goodbye again. While it was back, I was able to walk into our staff room at work, and tell who was eating soup, what flavour the soup was, smell someone walking by with a coffee, etc. I was, by this time, resigned to the mysteries of the random, and un-heralded. return of my 5th sense.

In September, this year, we went on holiday again, not too close to the sea, but to Northumberland with the intent of visiting, Lindisfarne (Holy Island). Within 2 days of arriving my sense of smell had returned. It was a nice surprise, but I figured it wouldn't last. 4 days in, and it hadn't vanished. Now whilst I wasn't thinking about it in any great depth, my brain was obviously ticking over: what was causing this? what had changed just coming on holiday? What is different? So in something of a ‘light bulb’ moment, in the middle of a fairly interesting TV programme, my brain metaphorically tapped me on the shoulder and whispered in my ear, ‘Peanuts’. Now I eat mixed nuts, almost daily, and have done for years. Biggest ingredient in most packs of mixed nuts? Peanuts. Thinking about this, I was puzzled because, in my ignorance, I imagined the Peanut problems meant extreme allergic reactions possibly leading to death.

Could Peanuts be responsible?

One way to find out. I bought some peanuts the next morning, ate them (and, sadly, enjoyed them) and by the next day my sense of smell had gone. It took a day to come back. Since then I have not eaten a single Peanut. And what of my sense of smell? Still going strong as I write this (early December 2014). An added bonus is that I can also breath very much better through my nose than I have done for years. I imagine that an ENT specialist would have a good explanation for all this, but for me the Peanut connection is very clear.

So, if you have anosmia, and eat peanuts, think about it. Peanuts took my sense of smell away, and maybe they have had the same effect on you.

Finally, most mornings when I get up, I go into the kitchen to make breakfast for my wife, unscrew the top of the Ginger Preserve jar and have a good sniff. Very pleasing indeed!

(C) David A. W. Peddie 2014

Friday, 6 April 2012

Making Me Cross

I am a Christian, and I have been since 1966, but I don’t wear a cross. Never have done. Wearing a cross is not a requirement of the Christian Faith. In fact, Christianity is not concerned with the wearing of certain garments or jewellery as a symbol of that faith. We need to be clear, before moving forward, that Faith and Religion (in its many Christian forms), are not the same thing, and much of the religious trappings of garments, vestments, etc., which surround Christianity are man-made and therefore irrelevant to this argument.

What is relevant, in the UK especially, is that there is a clear, deliberate, cowardly and mendacious policy emerging within both personal, corporate and governmental society, to marginalise and undermine the Christian Faith and those who hold to that faith. This is currently focussing on the wearing of crosses as a symbol of a person’s faith.

Now we have already said that wearing a cross is not a requirement of the Christian Faith, so where is the conflict? The conflict is occurring because, whilst the wearing of the cross is not a faith requirement, it is a tradition that goes back more than 2000 years to the very heart of the Christian Faith; the Crucifixion of Christ. From that time the cross, as a symbol of Christianity, was forever implanted within the heart of believers. It became the prime, the foremost and most important icon of everything that Christianity means, of what the Christian faith is, at its heart, and what it will always be about both philosophically, religiously, ideologically and personally.

Which brings us back to the argument. If a Christian chooses to wear a cross, whether as a necklace, badge, brooch perhaps even as a tattoo, they do so as a testimony to what they personally believe, as a testimony to their faith; the Christian Faith. That it is not a requirement has no bearing on the fact that the cross is what it is; a 2000 year old, deeply rooted symbol of Christian Faith, and to strike at its significance, to say that the wearing of the cross means nothing because it is a not requirement of the faith, is to insult 2000 years (and counting!) of Christian tradition, 2000 years of faith and 2000 years of deep, deep significance.

Those who dismiss the cross thus, are insulting 2000 years of Christian faith, all those who would call themselves Christians and the basic belief of Christianity; that Christ died on a cross for the redemption of the human race.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

The Infection of Christian Faith.

The recent High Court ruling against Eunice & Owen Johns, where the judge regarded Christian faith as an 'infection', continues to be extremely disturbing. Although the wording was later, 'regretted', it was said in one of the highest courts in the land, and indicates worrying prejudicial, and legal, bias against the Christian faith in the UK.

It is only a very small step away from the rhetoric employed by the Nazi party in 1930s Germany, regarding the Jews. In many Nazi writings, the Jews were referred to as an infection. An infection that needed to be 'cured'.

Horrific and unthinkable as it is, has the judiciary in the UK, made a step along that road, in its decision to deny Eunice & Owen Johns the legal freedom to foster children?

If this were an isolated incident, we could, perhaps, simply regard it as the mendacious ramblings of a semi-senile judge for whom retirement should have beckoned some years ago. But this is not an isolated incident.

In March 2010, a Christian nurse, Shirley Chaplin, was barred from work for wearing a cross. She won support from seven senior Anglican bishops. Dr George Carey, said this was a fresh example of discrimination against their faith.

Interestingly, but unsurprisingly, The NHS trust involved allows exemptions from its uniform policy to other faiths, including allowing Muslim nurses to wear headscarves.

In October 2006, Nadia Eweida, a Christian employee of British Airways, was asked to cover up a necklace which depicted a Christian cross. She was wearing the necklace on the outside of her uniform, contravening BA's uniform policy, and yet Sikh and Muslim employees are not prevented from wearing religious garments at work.

There are numerous other examples where, in small, but increasingly common ways, Christian Faith is being marginalised.

The problem is not confined to the UK. Across Europe, Christians find that expressing their faith as part of their everyday life, in public, his become more difficult.

A new report has voiced concern over the ability of Christians in Europe to publicly express their faith.

The Nov 2010 report from the Vienna-based Observatory of Intolerance and Discrimination Against Christians in Europe, warns that discriminatory laws were preventing the equal exercise of freedom in the areas of speech, conscience and religion, while the introduction of equality legislation was leading to “side-effect discrimination”, against Christians, and that, “Hate speech legislation has a tendency to indirectly discriminate against Christians, criminalising core elements of Christian teaching”. read the article here

A here are a couple of other articles.

Street preacher wins wrongful arrest case

Council worker looses appeal

What therefore should we say to this. Religious persecution, in a sense, comes with the territory of faith. Indeed, history records that at various times, different branches of the Christian faith were at each other's throats. In the 16th Century, Protestants and Catholics were, by turn, burning each other at the stake. Indeed, religious persecution has been, and continues to be, so wide-spread that countless books have been written and websites put online.

What makes the events of the last few years deeply significant, is that the marginalisation of the Christian faith is taking place in, what used to be called, a Christian country whose very basis of law is from the Bible, the Christians' Holy book. And also, that the marginalisation is isolated to the Christian faith; no other UK faith group being treated in such a way.

This is completely unacceptable. This concerted marginalisation, persecution and anti-Christian discriminatory ideology must end.

The DEDD Blog calls on the Government, the UK judiciary, and faith leaders to take action to end this situation.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Faith Journey

A piece I wrote on the Faith Journeys website.

It's the early 60s. The Beatles were the new kids on the Merseysound block, I had just started an engineering apprenticeship and had met my first Christian. Of course, I didn't know he was a Christian. As far as I was concerned he was a religious nut who blathered on and on about God and Jesus. However, although I didn't realise it at the time, meeting him put my feet firmly on the faith path, and my first destination was just over the horizon.

Two years later he had nagged me into submission and I went along with him, and a whole coachload of young people, to hear Billy Graham at Earls Court, London. It is 1966, and reluctantly I find myself standing in front of the charismatic American saying the sinner's prayer. The Holy Spirit had fished another one from the waves.

Going to the small Brethren hall for the first time was a cultural shock. I managed a few weeks, but I didn't own a suit, and I felt uncomfortable in this weird environment. I left and joined the young conservatives (not such a cultural shock!) learned guitar, formed a folk duo and managed to avoid God stuff for a year. But the Holy Spirit still had his fish-hook in me and began reeling me in. The folk duo split and the attraction of the Young Conservatives faded. So after a year of invites to a young people Bible study, I RSVP'd a, yes, and got back on the faith-track.

It was at that Bible study I began to learn what being a Christian was about. It was also the place where I met my future wife,Jan. At the time of writing (2010) we have been married 38 years! Nice one God!

The next few years saw me involved in a coffee-bar evangelistic team, a couple of local churches, getting engaged, an outreach rock band, getting married, buying a house and then.....

..... all our furniture is stacked around us. We're sleeping on the floor of an old house in Birmingham. Our house is sold, the bridge is burnt and we're at Bible College. How did we get here? Another destination along the path, and this path is straight up a really steep learning curve. The journey along this bit of the path was, and remains, 30 years later, a priceless spiritual experience at the feet of men and women of God who led us to places we would never have visited in a local church situation.

Faith in God is easier when things are going well. Real faith grows when you have nowhere to turn, except toward God. Many times at College we find ourselves praying that our Father will meet our different needs. Money to buy food; we never go hungry, healings, guidance, spiritual insight, courage.

The water of a number of different jobs and different churches flows under the bridges over the next few years. We now have a Son, Joel. We work together at a Christian outdoor centre and then we move to the North-West, to the Wirral, and I work for a few different Christian charities. In the local church we belong to, we are involved in home-group leadership, diaconate, worship group, worship leading, preaching, teaching, sunday school. The steep learning curve in Birmingham pays dividends.

Then the local church falls on hard times. There are three huge leadership splits and traumas. We wonder should we stay. God says stay. We stay, but often find ourselves caught in the middle as people take sides. But from the middle, sometimes, the view is clearer. We are able to see things others don't, but it doesn't prevent the traumas, but God does reveal some of the spiritual truth behind what is happening. At the end of it all God says it is time to go. We join with the ex-Pastor building a new fellowship; a fellowship which will do things differently. The difference lasts a few months. It isn't working. We leave.

But now our pathway starts to lead in a strange direction. For the first time in decades we realise our path is leading away from the institutionalised church we have been used to, have been an integral part of, and could never imagine being outside of. And this is where we find ourselves now, still continuing along the path of faith, still following Jesus, still fellowshipping with other Christians, but not aligned to a building, denomination or institution. We are openly involved with the body of Christ - which is what 'Church' really is - but not behind brick walls, not under some man-made idea of 'church'.

The journey continues. Already there have been new and interesting destinations, but the ultimate destination is still over the horizon. But in the dark sky of this fallen world, its glow is now brighter as each day passes, and we keep our eyes fixed in that one direction. End of the path? The New Jerusalem!

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

The Question Of Visibility.

I've already nailed my colours to the mast in regard to being a Biker.

However, being a Biker also means accepting the fact that riding two wheels is more dangerous than driving four wheels. It's just the way it is. However, there are ways to be safer on the road; extra training like BikeSafe Courses, is a very good way. Taking Advanced Training is another. But one of the accepted techniques, received wisdom if you like, is that by having your headlight on during day-light hours, makes you more visible and hence, safer.

I want to challenge this because I believe, in some circumstances it makes the situation worse.

When I started riding a Motorbike in the mid-1960's, the issue of having your headlight on during the day never arose; you didn't have it on. Nobody did.

Then there was a time when you rode with your headlight on but covered with an orange diffuser. This was the beginning of the move towards full headlights during the day. It wasn't questioned because, of course, having your headlight on means you are more visible and so, more likely to be seen, and so.... safer.

However, over the last 2 years, I have been riding a Honda Deauville, and have found that there seems to have been a rise in the number of drivers who pull out on me, particularly, from side-roads. The scale of the problem was that, on a eight miles commute to work (16 miles round) there was a 100% certainty that at least one driver would pull out on me on each leg of the trip journey. When I say 'pull out' I mean a potential collision situation, not a mere nuisance.

This came to a head in April 2010, when a woman in a white convertible pulled out on me, at a bad junction, when I was about 20 feet away. Because it was a bad junction I was going cautiously. So when this half-blind Muppet pulls out, I braked and sounded the horn. She is, by now, completely across my side of the carriageway. At the sound of the horn she visibly jumped and her eyes widen in shock as though I had been suddenly beamed down from the Enterprise. What was even more disturbing was that all the while she had been looking directly at me and my bike. But she simply had no idea that I was there. At least, as I later thought about the problem, I believe she had seen my headlight but had no idea I was as close as I was.

So, why was this? Here is my theory.

A single point of light, which is the Motorbike's headlight, makes the judgement of distance from source very difficult. For example, an experienced road-user, if seeing a car in the distance with its headlights on, has the distance between the left and right light to judge width of the approaching vehicle and therefore the spatial ability to judge distance from source reasonably accurately. This is not true for a single point of light.

Of course, I can hear you say, 'but a motorbike is not just a headlight, it's a large lump of vehicle with a person riding on it,' and of course this is correct. But it is only correct if it can be seen so that road-users can then spatially judge how far away it is because people know how big humans are and roughly how big a motorbike is. But if the headlight dazzles the road-user (even partially) they are no longer able to clearly see the bike or rider and there is then no way for the road-user to accurately spatially judge the distance between them and the motorbike.

I believe this is the problem. So to test this theory, on 6th March 2010 I started riding during daylight hours, with the headlight off. Since that time, on my regular commute, and on other trips, I have covered (to date: 27-July-10) 1025 miles and only experienced 2 pullouts as against an estimated potential 104; an approximate reduction of 98%.

I think that is very interesting.

Of course, there have been studies in America and other countries which suggest that riding with a headlight on is safer. But there never seems to have been a definitive study carried out in the UK, and road conditions and road attitudes in other countries do not translate accurately to this country. Also, headlight positioning on motorbikes is a factor concerning dazzle.

What I have found is not necessarily true for other motorbikes; I can only relate what I have discovered experientially. On these grounds I want to challenge the notion that riding a motorbike with your headlight on is always going to mean that you are going to be safer.

So, if it is not necessarily safer to ride with your headlight on, what can be done to make motorcyclists more visible? Well for one thing, it would help if other road-users learnt to improve their observation. Then the old excuse, 'Sorry mate, I didn't see you', might become a thing of the past.

Co-incidentally, the latest knee-jerk ideology within certain police forces is that bikers need to be more visible and should all wear Hi-Viz at all times.

But it doesn't matter how visible you make yourself if other road-users simply don't look.