The Morality of Spying, Lying, Deceiving – Interview with a former CIA Intelligence officer.

Last night I sat and watched this fascinating interview on Al Mohler’s ‘Thinking in Public’ channel with a former CIA operative whose wife was also a spy. It was promised to be fascinating. And it was. Here’s the full title of the interview:

Spycraft and Soulcraft on the Front Lines of History: A Conversation with Former CIA Chief of Counterintelligence James Olson

If you’ve ever contemplated the idea of the Nazis knocking on your door and asking if ‘there are any Jews in there?’ then you’ll be interested in this. Or if you’ve ever wondered what it takes to go about your life in relative peace and safety you might like it. Would you lie? I’d like to think I would. No question. Not even a debate for me. I’d rather not lie of course, but for me, it would be the moral thing to do in that situation. The spies of Jericho were quoted to make the case for lying in certain situations (Josh 2:1).

‘Spying has always been based on deception. I look for guidance from the greatest of all sources, the Bible. And we all know the story from the book of Joshua, about how when Joshua was conducting his campaign for the conquest of Canaan, he’s standing before Jericho, and he sends two spies into Jericho to gather intelligence on the defenses. And the spies are sheltered, protected, hidden by the prostitute Rahab. And thanks to Rahab they survive when the king’s men came looking for them, she lied about their whereabouts. They were able to return safely to the Israelite camp. And I think it was because of their intelligence to a large extent that the campaign was successful.’ (Quote is from the transcript)

Just this Sunday we had a sermon about Ehud. Ehud straps on a sword with the intent of killing Eglon. It was just assumed that he did the right thing but he entered with a concealed weapon and used subterfuge and lying to get an audience with the king in order to get him on his own and plunge the sword into his belly; literally spilling his guts before making his escape. He went there with one aim: kill the king. It wasn’t murder, he delivered justice. (Judges 3:19-23) So it isn’t just the spies of Jericho.

‘I often ask my students, “What are your moral absolutes?” And students say, “Well, I would never kill anyone.” I say, “Well, you’re a soldier, our country’s being attacked. You are a parent, your children are being threatened. Could you kill to protect your children or your right?” Yeah, there are exceptions. Would you ever steal? I know I can never steal anything, but how about to feed your family? How about to steal the secrets from an enemy? Would you ever lie? No, but we all tell white lies. And there are occasions, as you mentioned, where lies I believe are the only course of action to protect human life.’ (Quote is from the transcript)

The espionage world in which this man lived and operated, with his wife, and now training other operatives, is a world of lying, deceit, manipulation, subterfuge, torture, and execution (killing). What might surprise some is that he operated with a Christian moral worldview. The prospective spies he trains are expected to have a moral compass. He didn’t say this, but without some sort of objective morality they might just as well employ as many psychopaths as they can. I’m sure Russia aren’t the only ones to have psychopaths on the payroll.

You might find the whole interview intensely annoying and not agree with a single thing he says. And that’s fine. But remember this: while you sleep peacefully in your bed or go about your life each day there are men and women out ‘there’ literally putting their lives on the line for our safety and doing things so we can keep our moral superiority. I recall some years ago a story in the papers of a British Army colonel, I think, who had infiltrated the IRA. I remember thinking about what would happen to that man had he been caught.

‘And it’s really unfair after the fact, I think, for people sitting back in Washington to say, “You went too far, you should not have kidnapped that person. You should not have waterboarded that person.” Because it’s easy to say, and our people were doing this with the best of intentions. Waterboarding is nasty. I hate the fact that we had to do that. But it’s easy to take the moral high ground and say, “We’re not going to do that.” And of course the Obama administration decreed that we would not do it anymore. That’s fine, tell us, we won’t cross the line. But we have to realize that when we refrain from activities like that, and I would contend as my good friend and colleague Jose Rodriguez wrote in his book, Hard Measures, that waterboarding these three people did save lives.’
(Quote is from the transcript)

It’s a messy fallen world, and yes I know, governments aren’t always working for the interest of their own people. I’m putting a best case on this knowing, that other governments are probably operating with more dubious moral standards.

One other thing he said was that if they’d (The US) have had the intelligence at the time they could’ve prevented Pearl Harbour as the German ‘chatter’ about it was being listened to. One of the ‘What If’s of history.

A brilliant TV series, (I think), is ‘The Americans.’ It’s about Russian operatives in America living as Americans, complete with a family, but living double lives. And you get to see the CIA as well. Quite gruesome in places so if you’re squeamish or object strongly to bad language then best not to watch it. But it is quite brilliant. 6 seasons I think.

I’m fascinated by it all so I’d like to hear more on this. He’s written a couple of books so they might be worth checking out.

Note: Because the CIA was like it was in James Olson’s day, it doesn’t mean it’s the same today. Check out for example Andrew Klavan’s show.

Some might (will be) be outraged by this, but then we don’t have to make these decisions – someone else does. There was so much more and it all raises so many many questions, but here’s the video link.

‘Slowhand’ Eric Clapton Biography – Brief ‘Kind of’ Review

This year I’m trying to read a few non-Christian books. ‘Slowhand’ was on display at the local library, so I decided that it would be a good book to read. Slowhand: The Life and Music of Eric Clapton by Philip Norman was published last year (2018), so is nicely up to date. I finished it a few weeks ago but as far as the readability goes, it’s easy going and I enjoyed reading it. The text is a nice size and the chapters divide up into easy chunks and are not too long. There’s even an Index (and I used it). As I go through the book I note the dates and think how old I was and what was going on at the time. For example, I was at the Rainbow Concert after just turning nineteen. I didn’t become a Christian until I was 25.

I’ve not picked a guitar up for nearly 40 years, and most likely won’t again, but I remember back then having very heated discussions in the pub over who was the greatest guitarist. At the time (early 1970’s), for me, it was Jan Akkerman (Focus). There were a lot of contenders, so Clapton was probably one of them. I do recall the ‘Clapton is God’ label. There are several songs that I really like. For example White Room, Bell Bottom Blues, Crossroads, and Sunshine of Your Love and even though I heard a lot of his music I never actually owned any of his albums (including Cream) until I recently bought a Best of Eric Clapton CD. I suppose, for me, and it is a matter of taste, the Blues is not my favourite style of music, although I appreciate it when it’s done well. In the Blues genre, Clapton is definitely one of its great exponents and I do like a lot of it.

The book starts with Eric in a Service Station with George Harrison. Initially, I thought it was going to miss his childhood but the author then takes us back to when Eric was born in Ripley. His early childhood, or the effects of it anyway, feature throughout his life. His mother left him when he was two. He thought his mother was his sister and his grandmother was his mother. He found out the terrible deception when he was nine. His grandmother Rose, spoilt him rotten (and continued to do so) and so consequently spoilt him.

Thankfully, there are no graphic descriptions but pretty much everybody, perhaps especially Clapton, lived totally promiscuous lifestyles: even when they were in ‘proper’ relationships or were married. It becomes a bit wearisome to continually read about his constant state of drunkenness or drug abuse. But that was how it was and the author faithfully records it all, while (most of the time) avoiding too many value judgments. There is some strong language in the book but It’s kept to a minimum and isn’t gratuitous. My language was quite extreme before becoming a Christian so to me it’s all quite tame.

I wondered if Clapton came into contact with Christians. He was brought up in a culturally Christian environment, as I was, so he would have some vague knowledge of the Christian faith. Vague knowledge, however, is most often completely wrong. After thinking about that the very next chapter found him undergoing radical treatment for his drug addiction by Christian doctors. The nurse was fired though because her evangelism was a bit too ‘full on’.

The temptation is to be judgemental about him and think of him as a spoilt brat (which he was) who seemed to get away with just about anything and everything (which he mostly did) whilst in the main avoiding the carnage he created for others around him. The way he treated the women in is his life is appalling. So appalling that it becomes impossible for the author not to say something. As the saying goes, however, ‘there but for the grace of God go I.’ No matter how much money or talent he had, ultimately, it couldn’t protect him from himself or later tragedy. It’s quite amazing that he has survived as long as he has. So many of his musical peers died while young.

He becomes a father and this finally begins to wake him up to some responsibility. And then tragedy strikes. In just one short paragraph (one sentence really) Norman writes about the death of Connor, Clapton’s four-year-old son. What happened is jaw-dropping. It stopped me in my tracks. So, so, sad.  The service was held in Ripley. I’ve no idea what Christian content there was at the funeral apart from the set C of E service.

In Christian circles, you hear the phrase ‘I don’t know how I’d cope if I weren’t a Christian. But people do. And sometimes they cope rather well. It’s not a phrase I like, even though I understand what’s meant. Clapton appears to change after this. He quits the drugs and the drink and takes control of his life. The last two chapters, I thought, were a bit rushed as we read that his grandmother Rose eventually dies, as does his mother, probably the two most influential people in his life. And so here we are in 2019 and Clapton is still playing. He survived. That is remarkable.

I’d definitely recommend reading it. Especially if you are a fan. I think it was good for me to read it.




12 Rules for Life – An Antidote to Chaos by Jordan B. Peterson (Review Article by Dr John Ling)

Dr John Ling has written a ‘review’ article of ’12 Rules for life’ by Jordan Peterson (Follow this link and go to Articles). So this a few comments on John’s ‘review’. However, a review is understating it! John writes:

This article was not what I originally had in mind – I thought it would be a simple, snappy review.  Instead, it rather ran away with me to the tune of 19,000 words!  Also it has turned out to be a rather unconventional review-cum-synopsis-cum-précis with a multitude of quotations.

Whatever we call it, his review is worth reading. Why? Jordan Peterson is everywhere, mostly on YouTube ‘destroying’ someone. So we (Christians) ought to know something about his book. John’s review is so comprehensive I’m not sure I need to read the real thing now. Especially as it’s gone up to £11.99 I might have to wait for it to appear in The Works for a Fiver!

I should restate, that as far as we know, Dr Peterson is not a Christian – not yet anyway. Please pray for him. Please read the ‘review’. It’s a valuable contribution to The Peterson phenomenon.

One more quote from John:

It is reminiscent of the Enlightenment’s doomed attempt at Christian virtue without embracing Christian truth – a wanting the fruits without the roots.’  At base level, Peterson’s stance is one of moral rearmament – turn over a new leaf, pull yourself up by your bootstraps.  Maybe, just maybe, Peterson will come into a full-orbed understanding of true Christianity.  Wouldn’t that be wonderful?

For all that, given Common Grace, Peterson is saying many things we Christians can support (read the review). I certainly don’t reject him at all. If I do read the book – and I think I ought to – my ‘insights’ will probably be far less insightful but definitely briefer.

Thank you, John, for the article.




A Belated VE Thanks – Thanks Dad

I looked on all my drives for some pictures I took a few years ago of my Dad wearing his medals, blazer with badge and his cap. I couldn’t find them but I do have his cap. So I took  a picture of his Cap & Badge. Here it is.
Dads Cap


To All Those That Fought for our Freedom

The Incomparable 29th Division

War Memorial at Stretton-on-Dunsmore - geograp...

It’s in the very distant past for most of us and way before our time. But with the many ‘celebrations’ or commemorations of the First World War this year, other more localised memorials easily pass us by. One of these memorials is to ‘The Incomparable 29th Division‘. On my way home from church yesterday morning I came upon four soldiers dressed in FFW uniform marching by the side of the road. After a double take – not a normal sight on a busy duel-carriageway – right in front of me were a number of people gathering round a monument in the centre of the approaching (large) roundabout. I’ve passed this monument hundreds of times and not given it a second thought, but as home was not too far away, I quickly collected my camera and made my way back to the scene. By the time I got back there were a good few more people gathered, about twenty or so in FFW uniform and a number of old soldiers from the various branches of The British Legion – complete with Banners – and a few others. I reckon about fifty or so all together.

King George V inspects the 29th Division at Du...
King George V inspects the 29th Division at Dunchurch, 21 March 1915. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The history is King George V inspected the troops on this spot in 1915 before going off to Gallipoli where many of them met their death – and maker. Someone I think said there were 20,000 troops there. Info below says total losses for the division were 94,000. An incredible figure. A good number of people in the picture then, probably never came back. All of them young men. The tragedy of war.

One of the old soldiers said to me ‘we promised to remember them and that’s what we will do’. I admire that. I’ll not pass that monument in quite the same way again. Below are a few of my pictures from yesterday. Some more historical info follows after my pictures.

P1050728 P1050727 P1050706 P1050721 P1050711 P1050718 P1050722 P1050701

The following text about the Memorial and some of the associated history is from

Long Description:
The Marker commemorates the The Incomparable 29th Division formed in the First World War. It reads as follows:


The 29th Division of the British Army assembled here between December 1914 and early March 1915. Many were billeted locally.

The members of the Division came largely from the north of England, Ireland, Scotland and South Wales and only a few came from the Midlands.

On the 12th March 1915, prior to their departure for Gallipoli, in Turkey, H.M. King George V reviewed his troops here at Knightlow Hill.

The Division served at Gallipoli and on the Western Front in France and Belgium thoughout the Great War. When the Armistice brought hositilies to an end on 11th November 1918 the Division moved to the Rhine.

The total casualities suffered by this single Division were 94,000. It won 27 Victoria Crosses.

The Division landed at Cape Helles in Gallipoli on 25th April 1915 under heavy fire from the Turkish Army. They fought throughout the campaign until the evacuation of Suvla on the night of 19th/20th December 1915.

Their brave efforts earned them the name ‘The Incomparable 29th’.

The Division served in France and Belgium and was involved in the first day’s fighting of the Battle of the Somme on 1st July 1916.

In 1917 it played its part at Arras and Ypres.

In 1918 it was still in action fighting at Estaires, Messines and Hazebrouck. In the same year it helped to lead the advance to victory, capturing OutterSteene Ridge, Ploegsteert and Hill 63. It was present at the final advance in Flanders, fighting again AT Ypres.

The Division was disbanded on 15th March 1919.

A Memorial Service to commemorate the Anniversary of the landing of the 29th Division on Gallipoli was held on 25th April 1993.

The event was initiated by James F. Pawsey, the Member of Parliament for Rugby and Kenilworth, and F.G. Watson, O.B.E., MM, the Chairman of Warwickshire County Council.


Money was raised by public subscription following a local wish to commemorate KING GEORGE V’s review of the troops and their brave action with the 29th Division.

The Memorial was designed by Bridgman and Sons of Lichfield and erected late in 1920 at the cost of £646.

It has an overall height of 12.3mtrs.

The Memorial was unveiled by the Lord Lieutenant of Warwickshire, Lord Craven, and handed over to the Chairman of Warwickshire County Council, Lord Algernon Percy, on Tuesday, 24th May, 1921 before a crowd estimated to be over 7,000.


An avenue of elms planted in the early eighteenth century extended for an unbroken length of six miles over Dunsmore Heath on either side of the London road (now the A45).

Many elms were blown down during the severe gales of 1916. In the interests of safety the Duke of Buccleugh wanted to fell the remainder of the trees.

So in 1917 Warwickshire County Council formed the ‘Dunchurch Avenue Committee’. Successful negotiations with the Duke resulted in the rights for the verges and trees being conveyed to the County Council, who undertook to replant the avenue.

There was also a strong local wish to commemorate in some way the King’s review of the troops and the Division’s brave efforts during the war. The committee invited subscriptions for a Memorial Monument to the 29th Division and the replanting of the avenue. The Duke of Buccleugh donated £720 to the fund and the freehold of the land for the Memorial.

During the autumn and winter of 1920/21 two miles of lime trees at the Coventry end of the Avenue and elms and beeches at the London end were planted by Messrs. Dicksons of Chester: 444 trees at a cost of £664 2s 0d.

In 1953 Kew Gardens were consulted about disease in the elms. In October that year the Committee agreed to replace the dying elms with limes (Tilia x euchlora).

A second carriageway was added in the late 1950s and some of the trees felled. The Ministry of Transport’s replanting was agreed with the Committee.

The Dunchurch Avenue Committee DAC met for the last time in 1973. The trees were inspected and 70 new limes were planted on the east side of the Memorial.

In 1985 some trees were felled to accommodate a roundabout.

In March 1993 two lime trees 6.5mtrs in height were planted as part of the scheme to enhance the setting of the Memorial.’

The Memorial stands on the roundabout nearby.

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Welcome to the New Site

If by an extraordinary act of serendipity you have landed on this page – Welcome. And if you followed the link from my old WordPress site, you are also Welcome. Last but not least, if you came here via a WordPress redirect you are also welcome – especially as I had to pay for the redirect. 🙂

It’s not quite finished, but if I didn’t make the plunge soon I’d never get round to it.  I will continue to tweek, counter tweek and then re-tweek until I’m happy with the layout. That’s not going to be for a little while as I also need to re-do the Blog roll and other links – but one step at a time.

I’ll be trying a few things out but do let me know what you think.

Thanks for visiting.

Church on the move

We are moving!

On Sunday we had the last service in the building as it is now. The Church has prayed for a couple of years now about either moving or altering the current building. We are doing the latter, as there seems to be no suitable plot or building available. The reason is we have simply outgrown the current building and our current facilities, to be frank, are pretty useless. Though a fairly small Church by US standards, over here it’s encouraging and a privilege to be part of a growing and thriving Church. A considerable amount of money has been collected to fund the project and this has involved some sacrificial giving in order to achieve the £900,000 approx that’s needed. At the current exchange rate for US readers that’s $1,373,485.97.

We are expecting to be out of the building for about 9 months. During this time we will be meeting at two venues across the city (Coventry). Hillfields Evangelical Church and Durbar Avenue Evangelical Church both offered their buildings for our use over the course of the alterations.

There’s no doubt it will be a challenging time for us all. The morning service(s) will take place at Hillfields with ministry being shared between our two Pastors and two Pastors from Hillfields. The majority of our people will gather at the 9.30 service and the lazy ones – I include students – will meet later at 11:15. From what I understand Hillfields have a different worship style and this could be problematic for some. Having said that, Hillfields are making a considerable sacrifice for the Gospel in order to accommodate us for the next 9 months and this act of fellowship and love in Christ is very much appreciated. Durbar Avenue normally meet in the afternoon and so our evening services will be as normal, albeit in a different location.

I’m hoping to post about our progress and should have some pictures. We have to clear the building, and we’ll be doing this over the next couple of weeks before handing it over to the builders. Part of our building is going to be demolished so I might even manage a bit of video.

To be continued….


European Union Exit

European Union
European Union (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The US commented last week on the UK leaving the European Union. So this is just a brief comment to any American friends that may have wondered what this is – if it registered at all over there.

Look at it this way; how would American friends like all major American decisions to be made in Toronto or in Lima, Peru or some other city on the continent. I don’t think this would go down well. Well being governed by Brussels to a very large extent, and growing, might be a good comparison. Many of us want the promised referendum so we can say ‘no to the EU’ and get back to governing ourselves.

Since starting this post (last week) President Obama has weighed in on the issue and I was pleased to hear a member of the Question Time audience last night talk some sense. That is, get out. There is talk of ‘Drifting towards the exit’ or ‘Sleepwalking towards the exit’ but let’s ‘March towards the exit’.

Not sure we’ll be allowed to though.

Frozen Tree

Took this on the way to work this morning – beautiful!

Frozen Tree

Behind a Frowning Providence / dangers of correlation!

Citroën C3
Citroën C3 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Had a somewhat inconvenient situation this morning. A drive to Heathrow meant moving a couple of cars and I had to move my little Citroen C3 out of the garage. It’s the car I use for work. As I attempted to drive it out a terrible noise greeted me from somewhere under the front of the car. At first I thought it was a result of some work done on the car a few days ago. I took the car round to where the work was done and asked them to put it up on the ramp. The guys from Autolec couldn’t have been more helpful. This was after a 5 mph drive round the corner. Upon inspection both front springs had collapsed! O none side the spring had almost punctured the tyre and I could smell burning rubber as I limped along.

Parts of my suspension. The left spring exploded, taking all the bits with it.
Parts of my suspension. The left spring exploded, taking all the bits with it.

I discovered this at 5.30 in the morning and it couldn’t have been more convenient to say the least. Though at the time I had no idea what the problem was. As it turns out the connection or correlation I made between the problem and the cause (previous work on the car) was entirely wrong. We need to be careful about jumping to wrong conclusions because of a false correlation.

The other thing I had reinforced upon my mind and spirit was that if this had happened while driving to work – as it so easily could have – I probably wouldn’t be writing this now. The accident it could have caused would most likely have been fatal.

Atheists and skeptics may scoff – I care not – but I see in this the hand of my heavenly Father who for reasons only known to Him preserved my life, and actually has done so on many occasions. Thank you Lord Jesus.

And so as William Cowper (1731 – 1800) writes:

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

Go Here for the full hymn.

BTW, I drove to Heathrow in another car.