There was once a poor man who had a prized lamb. She was so tame that she had become part of the family. There was also a rich man who had lots of everything, but he was jealous of the poor man and his lamb. The rich man was very powerful and he took the poor man’s lamb, leaving the poor man bereft and distraught.
What was the poor man to do? He loved his lamb, but he didn’t have much money. How could he get the rich man to return his pet lamb? Then he had an idea. He would set up a number of websites in which he would give details of what the rich man had done. He would contact the rich man’s clients and ask them if they knew what sort of man they were dealing with. He would post videos of the rich man playing with the poor man’s lamb, so that everyone would know what the rich man was really like and what he had done to the poor man.
Although the lamb rather liked living with the rich man, as she got a better class of food, she eventually returned to the poor man’s home where they hoped to live happily ever after. However, the police knocked at the poor man’s door and accused the poor man of being mean to the rich man and causing him psychological harm. But the poor man insisted he was within his rights to do what he did. Eventually the poor man was asked to tell his story to a wise old prophet, called a Judge. The Judge decided that the poor man had been right all along and that the rich man couldn’t expect to get away with doing such a thing, after all, who did he think he was, an Old Testament King?
This is, roughly speaking, the story of Ian Puddick, accused of harassing Timothy Haynes, a wealthy City boss, via the internet, after he discovered that Mr Haynes was having an affair with his wife. It is hard to know quite how Mr and Mrs Puddick’s relationship has survived Mr Puddick’s onslaught against Mr Haynes, but apparently it has done so. Mr Puddick’s argument was not specifically related to his wife’s affair, but to the reaction of the authorities to Mr Haynes’s wealth and power. His own attitude to his wife’s part in the affair is less clear.
The day after Ian Puddick was found not guilty, it was reported that Brian Haw had died. Brian Haw was the peace campaigner who set up camp on the pavement outside the Houses Parliament in 2001, where he continued to live until hospitalised at the beginning of this year. On hearing of his death Tony Benn said:
“Brian sacrificed his life in his work for peace and against the Iraq war, and although he did not succeed in stopping it, what he did and said and the many hours of the day and night he devoted to it kept alive a flicker of hope in the hearts and minds of people who shared his view. Brian did not stop the Iraq war, but he will be remembered as a man who stood against it and put his life at the disposal of those who were against that hideous operation.”
Mr Haw’s father had been one of the first British soldiers to enter Belsen Concentration Camp at the end of the War. A committed Christian, Mr Haw Senior was traumatised by what he had seen and he took his own life in the church kitchen when Brian Haw was 13. Brian Haw was also a devout Christian and at one time spent 6 months training to be an evangelist. This led to his aim to bring peace to the world. In the 1970s he sang carols in the most hardened Loyalist and Republican districts in Northern Ireland. At the end of the 1980s, inspired by John Pilger’s documentaries, he went to the ‘Killing Fields’ of Cambodia. He was there for three months, but when he returned home, he was disappointed to find a lack of interest in what he had witnessed: “My church gave me 10 minutes in a midweek prayer meeting to talk about genocide.”
His next enterprise was to use his minivan to take disadvantaged young people on day trips, but this was met with abuse – verbal and physical – by other local residents. Finally, in 2001, he set up the Peace Camp, decorated with pictures of bloated Iraqi children and placards with wild accusations which were notable for their somewhat erratic spelling.
Brian Haw divided opinion. There were those, like Tony Benn, who supported him, but there were others who considered that there was little to choose between him and the rats and mice that infested the camp.
The modern parable doesn’t really work as a comparison for either Ian Puddick or Brian Haw. If Mr Puddick had come up against King David, he wouldn’t have been around to have fought back. If we were looking for a Biblical comparison for Brian Haw, it could be John the Baptist. Except, if Brian Haw had faced Herod Antipas, rather than Tony Blair, he may not have survived to have died in his bed.
However, both of these men are examples of people who have exercised a prophetic voice: one for his own ends and the other for what he saw as the good of humanity. What links both men is that neither worried about what anyone else thought of him. This is also what links these people with their Biblical counterparts. The means may be different, but Brian Haw’s words should challenge us: “My church gave me 10 minutes in a midweek prayer meeting to talk about genocide.”