Shellacking...


Massive losses for the Democratic Party in this week’s US mid-term elections, mean that President Obama will have to deal with a somewhat hostile House of Representatives for the next two years (although they did manage to hold on to the Senate, and some commentators point out that it wasn't all good news for the right wing Tea Party…)
I don't know why it came as such a surprise as, even from an observation point thousands of miles away across the Atlantic, that seemed to be the way it was shaping. Obama described the defeat as a shellacking, which produced a flurry of etymological debates... Where did this unusual word come from? Again, I'm slightly mystified as to the surprise and confusion, I've seen and read this in American sports commentaries and gangster movies for years. Originally I, like most of the current crop of internet etymologists, associated it with the "shellack" varnish, in the same way that we might talk about someone getting "pasted" but then I was reliably informed by an Irish speaker (though it was in a pub after a number of Mr Arthur Guinness' most famous product so perhaps it isn't that reliable a source) that it is an Anglicised spelling of the word meaning to be beaten with a shilleleagh, and was only associated with the varnish because it sounded similar. Given that some of the original usage of "shellacking" in terms of a "beating" seems to have been around Boston, which is easily the most Irish city in America, I could believe that. And don't forget that there's no-one so Irish as Barack O'Bama...

But whatever the origins of the word, whilst the Democrats may have taken an electoral beating, thankfully it was not a physical one (they stopped using physical intimidation in American elections years ago... although in Obama's own electoral home of Chicago that wasn't too long ago…) In America, Britain and much of the rest of the western world we enjoy enormous political freedoms. But other nations are not so fortunate when it comes to elections… Today Burma goes to the polls for the first time in 20 years… During most those 2 decades the winner of the last election Aung San Suu Kyi has been under house arrest by the military dictatorship which overturned the previous results… And they do not seem to be willing to give up power without a struggle… The junta is implicated in widespread intimidation, electoral fraud and the disappearance of opposition activists… There is also speculation that they have conspired with cyber-criminals to paralyse the internet in Burma to prevent outside bodies and countries influencing the populace as they go to the polls.
But as well as political freedoms we also enjoy phenomenal religious freedoms… As we worshipped in peace last Sunday some of our Christian brothers and sisters in Baghdad were dying because of the actions of Islamist Al Qaeda terrorists who had kidnapped them at Mass in Our Lady of Salvation Catholic Church… Like Richard Hall over at Connexions, I am perpetually dumbfounded when some in the United Kingdom whine about religious persecution here, in the light of real persecution in Iraq and elsewhere, and by the fact that we forget that the Christian community survived (if not thrived) under Muslim rule for around 1500 years in Baghdad until Bush and Blair decided to go on their hunt for weapons of mass distraction.
Two days ago on Guy Fawkes night, Britain remembered a period in British history when religion and politics were, literally an explosive combination… But we turned our back on that and built an inclusive democracy based upon tolerance and freedom… The United States theoretically went one stage further by separating church and state, a (literally) revolutionary idea at the time.
This coming week here in the UK we remember the cost of defending our freedoms in terms of the death of people in two world wars and more…
And today, in our local church, we remember in communion, together with brothers and sisters all around the globe, the freedom that Christ won for us through his death and resurrection… Not just political and religious freedom, but freedom from sin and death…
Let us not take any of these hard won priveleges for granted, but live our lives in thankful service to God… doing all we can through prayer and action to share our freedoms with others…

Comments

crookedshore said…
excellent david. I get more than a little annoyed when christians get worked up because the government didn't take their views into account over some legislation or other.

I got into trouble once for asking from the pulpit, 'What would we have to do today to ensure Tony Blair would persecute us?'

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