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Day: March 26, 2012

Just who are we to look down on Tim Farron believing in the power of prayer?

The twittersphere is up in arms. Tim Farron – who was formally the darling of all Lib Dems everywhere – believes openly in the power of prayer. Well good for him. However apparently that isn’t good and him signing a letter asking for clarification for why a spiritual group cannot say that ‘God can heal’ any more after a ruling from the Advertising Standards Agency is very very bad indeed.

Here is the letter is full for you to peruse:

Rt Hon Lord Smith of Finsbury
Chairman, Advertising Standards Agency
21st March 2012

We are writing on behalf of the all-party Christians in Parliament group in Westminster and your ruling that the Healing On The Streets ministry in Bath are no longer able to claim, in their advertising, that God can heal people from medical conditions.

We write to express our concern at this decision and to enquire about the basis on which it has been made. It appears to cut across two thousand years of Christian tradition and the very clear teaching in the Bible. Many of us have seen and experienced physical healing ourselves in our own families and churches and wonder why you have decided that this is not possible.

On what scientific research or empirical evidence have you based this decision?

You might be interested to know that I (Gary Streeter) received divine healing myself at a church meeting in 1983 on my right hand, which was in pain for many years. After prayer at that meeting, my hand was immediately free from pain and has been ever since. What does the ASA say about that? I would be the first to accept that prayed for people do not always get healed, but sometimes they do. That is all this sincere group of Christians in Bath are claiming.

It is interesting to note that since the traumatic collapse of the footballer Fabrice Muamba the whole nation appears to be praying for a physical healing for him. I enclose some media extracts. Are they wrong also and will you seek to intervene?

We invite your detailed response to this letter and unless you can persuade us that you have reached your ruling on the basis of indisputable scientific evidence, we intend to raise this matter in Parliament.

Yours sincerely,

Gary Streeter MP (Con)
Chair, Christians in Parliament

Gavin Shuker MP (Labour)
Vice Chair, Christians in Parliament

Tim Farron (Lib-Dem)
Vice Chair, Christians in Parliament

Now let me stress here that I am in no way religious. I was brought up within the church and spent two years at a faith school and my mother is a retired Methodist superintendent but I don’t believe a word of it. I just don’t. However I fully believe that those who believe in the power of prayer can believe that. I know first hand of many Christians who believe that the power of prayer works. I believe that things just happen but who am I to stop them believing and who are they to say that I’m wrong?

Many people think this letter is promoting people ignore medical advice and put their faith in God but I know of no Christians who have ever said this. When my then still preaching superintendent mother got breast cancer did any of her parishioners tell her not to go into hospital and sit at home and the power of prayer would get her through? Hell no (well not to my knowledge anyway and I suspect I’d have heard if any of them did) instead my mum was in hospital within the week and the whole Christian community of the Isle of Wight had her in her prayers hoping that God would help her get through the cancer.

Did they think that God himself would swoop in and accelerate the destruction of the cancer? I don’t know but I know of no Christians personally who put the power of prayer over medical treatment. We all know some of these fundamentalists are out there but I don’t exactly see Tim Farron MP as one of them.

He believes in the power of prayer? So what? I can’t say that the power of prayer doesn’t work and nor can anyone say that the power of prayer does work. We all have our beliefs and who are any of us to tell anyone what to believe?

As far as I read this letter all it asked for was clarification (and scientific evidence – which was a dumb line as no-one can prove either way this subject) for why the ASA made their decision. Can the power of prayer heal? Yes of course it can. Does it? I have no idea and nor does anyone else.

If people want to believe in God and the power of prayer then great but I don’t think these people really tell people that prayer alone will heal. If Tim really believed this then why was he voting against the NHS changes? If the power of prayer can heal all then he’d just tell everyone to pray and we’d all be 100%.

I’m just stunned that people are so unhappy that he believes in the power of prayer. I really am. If we are entitled to our opinion then why isn’t he (and other Christians?)

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Those who scream loudest might not represent the majority – why the death of the Lib Dems has been greatly exaggerated

I have struggled over the past few days to write anything substantial. I just haven’t been in the mood as it were. I may go into this more in another blog but something that I have noticed recently is the amount of people with opinions. The opinions who read on the internet are nearly always those who are unhappiest. They are the most dissatisfied.

Those who are happy or those who are fine with things rarely kick up too much of a fuss but those who want to vent their spleen with do so more vigorously. I wrote a blog a couple of weeks back entitled 26 comments on why the Lib Dems are in big big trouble about comments on a Comment is Free blog post about how someone had chosen to leave the Lib Dems. The comments were scathing but the correlation between anonymous internet people and those you meet on the doorstep just isn’t there.

It isn’t just a political thing though. I lurk on the Digital Spy forums and there are a few threads I read a lot. One is the F1 discussion thread which I have read for many years now. At the moment we have both F1 on Sky and F1 on the BBC and the opinions are vast but mostly people are complaining about the bad points and not praising the good points. David Croft is too ‘shouty’ say many people but Murray Walker was shouty and we loved him. Ted Kravitz sounds a bit negative say a few whereas a few months ago when he was with the Beeb he was the greatest thing ever. Martin Brundle does too much, Georgie Thompson is pointless, Simon Lazenby is too formulaic and Damon Hill adds nothing. These are just some of the opinions that are floating around. All perfectly allowable but all of them negative.

They hated Jonathan Legard when he commentated to the point where people were openly hoping James Alen would return – and they hated him to. The only person they love is Ben Edwards who is now lead for BBC F1 and they do love him. If you say a bad word about him you are looked down upon. He has God like status. Many say they don’t watch it on Sky even though they have it and prefer to wait several hours and see extended highlights just because of Ben Edwards and how awful the Sky coverage is.

If I thought that this internet forum was an accurate representation of public opinion then I’d think that Sky was doomed. However their coverage peaked at 1.5million on Sunday for the Grand Prix despite being on in the morning and most people who I’ve actually spoken to about it are more than happy with Sky’s coverage. They don’t feel the need to say how great it is because they are content. Those that want more or don’t like Sky on ideological grounds are vocal in their unhappiness and this is something all us politicos must remember.

When it comes to politics those that are unhappiest will yell loudest but those people probably wouldn’t vote for you anyway. Like in many aspects of life politics is down to momentum. The Lib Dems got a groundswell of momentum after the first leadership debate in 2010 but that momentum couldn’t be sustained because the party didn’t have the funding or any media outlets. The other two main parties have more money and more media outlets who sympathise with them.

So for Lib Dems up and down the country who’ll be campaigning over the next few weeks is to find a way to build up that momentum and not believe everything you read in the newspapers and on the internet. Not everyone hates the party and the reception on the doorstep is generally positive and yu won’t be chased off with a broom with profanities ringing in your ears.

The internet has given us a screwed view of many things and one of the most glaring it is has given a forum to haters. Yes some will dislike us but many more will want to hear what we have to say. They may or may not like it and may or may not vote for us but most will actually listen. If I believed what I read on the internet I’d think that the Lib Dems had already punched a one-way ticket to oblivion but that isn’t the case and as long as we don’t fall into that trap ourselves then the future isn’t as bleak as what everyone says.

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