About the Bible
Sir: I was confirmed by Richard Holloway as a schoolboy at Fettes College, and then taught by John Barton while an Anglican ordinand at Oxford University. So I was intrigued to read Holloway’s review of Barton’s latest book, A History of the Bible (30 March), and disturbed by their conclusions. Indeed, both the book and the review go a long way to explaining why the median size of a Church of England congregation is 28, and why numbers are at an all-time low. One doesn’t have to be an anti-intellectual fundamentalist to believe in orthodox biblical Christianity, or to realise that being a disciple of Christ means one cannot have a lower view of the Bible than he did. Jesus consistently upheld the Old Testament (including the early chapters of Genesis) as the word of God, and made provision for the authoritative New Testament (which Holloway dismisses as ‘an untidy bundle of writings’).
Of course the Bible must be read and interpreted carefully. Emptying it of its historicity, reliability and authority in favour of ‘a tolerant and ecumenical attitude’ will inevitably lead to Holloway’s depressing conclusion: ‘Which of us really knows what’s going on?’ Preaching like that empties churches. Churches like the one I serve, which seek to preach the Bible in line with the historic Christian creeds and the formularies of the Church of England, are the ones that are growing.
Revd Robin Weekes
Not Cameron’s fault
Sir: Richard Liss asserts that David Cameron could have learned from Harold Wilson’s experiences in 1975 (Letters, 30 March). But the point is that in 2016 a significantly larger percentage of people voted to leave the EU than to remain. It is therefore clear that even if Cameron had heeded Wilson’s tactics, there was a reasonable groundswell of opinion throughout the UK in favour of Brexit. To avert this feeling through clever politics doesn’t get rid of it. It kicks the can down the road for some other poor unfortunate prime minister who will eventually have to deal with it. Cameron did nothing wrong. He just kept the game moving forward.
Guilden Morden, Hertfordshire
Role models for all
Sir: Victorian women explorers didn’t talk about women’s rights — they realised them (‘Doing it for themselves’, 30 March). They defied the status quo and paved the way for others to do the same. That is feminism, a true quest for equality of the sexes. When women couldn’t even walk across London unaccompanied, Mary Kingsley was exploring uncharted parts of West Africa alone. While others battled for women’s suffrage, she was busy challenging European colonialism and championing the rights of indigenous peoples.
The stories of these invincible women — who explored the world in the name of geography, science and humanitarianism — are often lost in history. Let’s get them back on the map as 21st-century role models, not just for our daughters, but for everyone.
Rosemary J. Brown
Sir: The story of rhubarb is even more cloak-and-dagger and interesting than your correspondent suggests (‘Notes on … rhubarb’, 30 March). The export of a rhubarb plant from its homeland in Central Asia, at that time part of the Russian empire, was a crime punishable by death. This is because in the days before manufactured remedies, it was a much-prized laxative. In days when constipation was common, and could prove fatal, it was a potentially life-saving medicine.
Rhubarb was smuggled out of Russia by a Scot, Dr James Mounsey, who was the first physician and Privy Councillor for Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia. Dr Mounsey insisted that every room in the house he built for his retirement, Rammerscales near Lockerbie, should have more than one exit so that if he were surprised in one of his rooms by some vengeful agent of the Empress, he could make good his escape.
A fond memory
Sir: I enjoyed Clementine Hain-Cole’s article on rhubarb. During the war my grandfather ‘Dug for Victory’ in his kitchen garden to feed an extended family. As a five-year-old, I was detailed to follow the baker’s dray down the avenue collecting any droppings. ‘Hello young man. What are you collecting that for?’ I was asked.
‘We put it on our rhubarb sir.’
‘S’funny, we put custard on ours.’
I laugh as I type this and still love rhubarb crumble on Sundays.
Sir: Nigel D. Moore is correct when he says that tuition fees deter would-be nurses from training (Letters, 30 March). Worse is the abolition of the bursary. The maximum student nurses can borrow is £5,000 a year. They are often not able to work for money in their free time because they are needed to do unpaid work on the hospital wards. How can anyone be surprised that so few apply to train?
Heather Richardson (Registered nurse)
Relegated as usual
Sir: It would appear that a keen Tottenham Hotspur fan edited this week’s Barometer (30 March), given that the top eight capacity stadia listed to commemorate the opening of the new Spurs stadium omits the third highest capacity ground in England: that of Arsenal, Spurs’ local rivals. Highlighting this fact results in my team, Aston Villa, being relegated from Barometer’s top flight; a feeling that we Villa fans have become sadly accustomed to.
Porth, South Wales