Armageddon arrives with emotional depth and musical perfection

Guy Sebastian brought his Armageddon concert to the Hordern Pavilion tonight and showed again why he will continue to be one of Australia’s leading performers.

Not only was the show energetic, fun and original, it was also faultless with Sebastian using his voice like a well tuned, well loved instrument.

His vocal precision was matched by a ‘killer band’ by his own estimation and no one could argue.

Carmen Smith of The Voice fame had a large vocal (and groovin’) role, often stepping up from backing singer to take the lead with Guy.

And while the all-age audience loved his pop and soul favourites, the night belonged to the deeper, more telling music off the yet to be completed Armageddon album.

Perhaps it was the recent birth of his son or a natural progression for this man of talent and faith, but the new songs he performed all have an edge of strength and emotion that will earn Guy Sebastian new fans and recognition.

Big Bad World is a song for his son but is a song for all parents and all children while title song Armageddon is a love song that collides with thoughts of the end of the world, more than a little beyond some of the catchy but light tunes of the past.

It was all class and even the somewhat tired Hordern couldn’t contain the sheer pleasure of the audience.

Armageddon the album is just a few weeks away from completion, Sebastian told his fans tonight. And after two years in the making it will be worth the wait.

Dennis Prince refuses to let atheist convention go unchallenged

Rupert Murdoch has been hailed as an entrepreneurial risk-taker in launching a Sunday tabloid into the “mature and declining” market of printed newspapers with his launch of the Sun on Sunday.

This has not deterred Dennis Prince from launching The Regal Standard, as a direct challenge to the second Global Atheist Convention to be held in Melbourne from April 13 to 15.

The semi-retired pastor co-founder of Kingston City Church and long-time publisher of Resource Christian Music has produced a (presumably) one-off 12 page tabloid to counter the convention being held “in our backyard – on our watch”.

“If this event were to be held in, say, New York, we would expect Christians there to unite boldly and decisively to honour God and proclaim his greatness. That lot has instead fallen on us,” Dennis says on The Regal Standard’s website.

Dennis told Fairfax Media that he “has a tiger by the tail” by creating the Regal Standard, designed to counter atheist arguments. Fairfax reports that there are already orders for 25,000 copies of the 12-page tabloid, which will be distributed to churches, dropped in letter boxes, given to the curious, and sent to convention speakers.

‘Mr Prince… felt God telling him that the convention was happening on his watch, and he had to respond. He has spent $5000 and some 300 hours producing the paper, and needs to sell 45,000 at an average of 20¢ each to recover his costs.’

Dennis advocated for a positive but energetic response to the convention that would stimulate thought and conversation but could see the gullible “led down the garden path”.

Speakers at the convention include Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, Peter Singer, Ayaan Hirsi Ali and, perhaps somewhat in the “den”, Marion Maddox, who with a PhD in Theology will participate in panel discussions. (Marion and my paths crossed when we were both children living in and around the Uniting Church’s old Leigh College in South Strathfield…).

Christopher Hitchens is also pictured on the speakers page for the convention, perhaps a sign that the atheist’s are slightly enamoured with the idea of life after death…

PDF sample of The Regal Standard
Atheist Convention 2012

Some Utterance encounters with atheism…

Atheists sick of atheists
Atheism led me to faith
Ethic classes new atheism in slim disguise

Or search the tag atheism

Would the real Jesus please not wear a robe?

SMH.TV has brought us another amazing documentary, this time about a man claiming to be the Messiah and living in the wilds of Siberia.

Vissarion, the Teacher, Jesus… wearing a flowing white robe, sitting on the side of a hill and teaching his followers, who also are wearing flowing white garments.

Vissarion’s real name is Sergey Anatolyevitch Torop who was born in 1961, served in the Russian Army, became a traffic policeman, before losing his job and becoming Christ.

In many ways Vissarion is reminiscent of our very own North Queensland Jesus, Allan John Miller who also lives in a remote location and is busy gathering followers and building utopia. Although Siberia looked quite warm in the video, I can only imagine Miller would be a better choice in winter…

It is interesting to see the faith of many who follow, and there is a certain sense of harmony apparent in the documentary, produced by a combination of the community’s music and the beautiful scenery.

But with the benefit of distance, there is also strong sense of religiosity, stifling spiritual deception and a shallow confusion of thought.

One thing we know, both Miller and Torop can’t be right – one of them is an imposter, or more obviously both.

Jesus, of the New Testament, warned that many would claim to be him, but not to run after them. He can be found, right where you are.

Watch Jesus of Siberia
Wikipedia’s bio of Vissarion

Our national undertow surfaces


This morning I tweeted: ‘#AustraliaDay, like any anniversary arrives amidst strength & weakness, sorry & joy. These are acknowledged & we move on together #AusDayNSW’.

Later in the day Tony Abbott said something similar and the drama pictured (7 News) unfolded.

Australia Day must be a time we celebrate the nation we are and must be a time we acknowledge the loss and pain in our history.

Today some words were spoken, tempers stirred, and responses exaggerated.

This is nothing unusual in family gatherings where feelings run deep. And yet most families find the grace and maturity to walk away arm and arm. We must do the same.

We can’t change that we are here – black, white and many colours. We should not be ashamed that we are a remarkable nation and there is much to celebrate. We cannot hide that many have suffered and still suffer. Those who have suffered less should bear the burdens of those who have suffered more. And when the chance for healing comes, let’s embrace it.

Don’t worry about today, we’ll be ok.

Make up your own mind…

News recalls the absurd and points to the perfect

Sometimes the news gets the better of me either because it is shockingly bad, relentlessly tedious are downright absurd.

If ever there was a news cycle that would lead you to covert to nihilism and start whispering ‘everything is absurd’ then the past 24 hours might just do it:

  • A boy walks from his bedroom to show his mum a bullet after yet another Sydney drive-by shooting.
  • Soldiers urinate on dead Taliban fighters and say, ‘have a nice day buddy’.
  • News readers sound thankful that an Australian man only received 75 lashes while wearing a leather jacket
  • Mexican transplant staff drop a heart on the tarmac while rushing for the benefit of cameras.

This is the tip of the iceberg. I’m not even mentioning my own strange behaviour, or yours.

It reminds me that when looking for an explanation of a world where there can be so much that is beautiful, profound and wise and so much that is absurd, evil and tedious – all at the same time – the ancient texts of the Bible answer the call.

God created a good world and made human kind in his image which includes love, truth and choice. Humanity falls from the place and introduces chaos, absurdity and evil. The goodness and image of God still tarry in a world steadily succumbing to fallenness.

The dividing line for it all is a perfect life surrendered to the imperfection in all its manifest extremes. Take a hold of this life and you find a way out of the absurd.

That’s the simplistic version, but still the best…

And the moral (s) of the current news cycle – don’t rush when holding someone’s heart, keep your head down in Sydney’s suburbs, always love your enemies and never take off your leather jacket…

Dear 2012, it’s nice to meet you

Dear 2012,

We haven’t met yet. My name is Utterance and I’m a blog. Sorry I haven’t said hello earlier but it has taken a touch of insomnia from my mate Pete to get things going this year. Um, that’s you isn’t it. This year that is. Well look, I’ve never talked to a year before so if I get a bit muddled, please forgive me.

Anyway, we have a bit in common, me (Utterance) and you (2012). Being a new year, as you are, you’d be interested to know that I pretty much began when my mate Pete made a New Year’s Resolution involving your colleague 2010. This was that Pete would write a new post on me every day during 2010.

Well he managed 266 posts which is not bad, I think 2010 was pleased, and he reflected on this here. He kept going in your other colleague, 2011, and I had my busiest ever day on August 17, 2011 when nearly 700 people dropped by to read my account of Kate Bracks winning Masterchef. Strangely enough, my most popular post of all time is to do with food as well, with 8632 people dropping in on MasterChef’s seven sins; God’s endless forgiveness.

Sorry to say there appears to be no such resolution this you, as here it is your 11th and we’ve only just met. But I’m sure we’ll get better acquainted as the year, sorry, as you progress and to help I’ll give you a bit more background.

As a blog I’m rather hard to define, deliberately so I think, which is a bit like my writer who has never been comfortable in a box, sometimes to his detriment. You know you can get further sometimes just by fitting in but he’s one of those early sixties babies who was never quite Boomer, never quite Buster and then had three Gen Y kids and so it’s all over the place.

I’m quite reflective at times, possibly a bit sentimental and even a little regretful. Please 2012, give me a slap around the ears if I go to far down that path.

I love the news – bit of the old printers’ ink in the blood  – well that would be his blood I guess as technically blogs have bytes and hits and posts but not so much of blood. But yes he was and is a journalist so there’s a newsiness to myself.

I especially like spotting God in the headlines, little signs of faith and the divine that manage to emerge in the daily dust of the world’s happenings. That’s why I might talk about Tim Tebow or job ads or Ayrton Senna or buggity, buggity, buggity or the Amazing Race.

Sydney’s a favourite, this great sprawling city of broad beaches, tense traffic, drive by shootings and colourful characters. And the occasional dead body, rainbow or pedestrian poem.

And if I try and get a little wise, a little insightful, bear with me, this too will surely pass.

So dear 2012, I hope we get along okay and catch up more than occasionally. For your part, could please slow down a little as it’s hard enough to find a moment without you being in a rush too, insomnia aside.

Oh, and as you are just at the beginning, here’s mine, it might help complete the picture of what I’m about.

Fare thee well and remember the advice I give everyone – breath, speak, breath and don’t forget to jump.

Much love

PS Mr 2012, you can also follow my friend Pete on Twitter.
PPS Mr 2012, I’ve heard rumours that you are meant to be associated with the end of the world, something to do with Mayan calendars etc. Anyway, just to reassure you I have much higher hopes for you than that and in any case, the world won’t end until He says so.

Christmas leads to Easter’s mysterious Shroud

Christmas leads inevitably to Easter in Christian understanding and so it is not surprising that the origins of the Shroud of Turin are back in the news.

ABC News (US) reports, ‘Experts at Italy’s National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Development have concluded in a report that the famed purported burial cloth of Jesus Christ could not have been faked.’

The scientists are not claiming they know the origins of the Shroud’s markings, only that they could not have been medieval forgeries. Instead they report, ‘the marks could only have been made by “a short and intense burst of VUV directional radiation.”’

The New Testament written in the first century refers to burial clothes in the empty tomb of Jesus:

‘Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen. (John 20:6, 7 NIVUK)’

Further it discusses the presence of angels around the Easter tomb with the appearance of lightning:

‘While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? (Luke 24:4, 5 NIVUK)’

If you believe in nothing more than the limited reach of science then you have no place for lightning-like angels, risen Lords or a baby who is God with us. You are also left with, currently, no explanation for the Shroud.

If you are undecided, then this Christmas may be your opportunity to entertain the thought of angels, virgin births and a God who loves you.

ABC News report on Shroud findings

Utterance post on 3D images from Shroud


Christmas speaks to the messy, bloody birth waters of our soul

Birth of Jesus by RembrandtChristmas as we know it has been culturally crafted over thousands of years around a base narrative concerning a family in Roman-occupied Israel.

Each December various scientists, atheists and pot-shotters are trotted out with their latest theories debunking Christmas and erstwhile Christian intellectuals and apologists bravely rally to defend the seasonal ground. Others argue over various cultural accoutrements to Christmas such as dates and customs and commercialistation. They act as if the average person is not intelligent enough to distinguish between later attempts to mark something significant and the significant thing itself.

Certainly the habitual attacks on the historical origins of Christmas or Easter or any Christian belief along with the confusing but largely irrelevant criticisms of the cultural artefacts that accompany those traditions, have a gradual, destabilising effect on the faith of the wavering or nominal who are probably the majority of believers in our nation. Around the globe however the effect is infinitesimal and Christian faith continues to thrive and multiply in amazing diversity with scant disregard for broadsheet column centimetres.

That is because at the heart of it, the Christmas story – to quote myself – ‘a base narrative concerning a family in Roman-occupied Israel’ is so shockingly familiar to our own human experience it reaches us where the debunkers and apologists never could, in the messy, bloody birth waters of our soul.

Here are just a few examples, in no particular order: Continue reading

Petition takes on Channel 7 over Good Christian Bitches

Since the recent Utterance post highlighting Channel 7’s promotion of 2012 series Good Christian Bitches during the grand final of X Factor, a backlash has developed, mainly aimed at the name, with a petition on

The petition was begun by Carol McFarland and at time of writing had been signed by 2,445 supporters. Carol’s reasons for opposing the show include, “It is inappropriate and rude to name this show with such explicit language that is uncalled for. We are meant to respect all religions, no matter what the belief system is, but this shows utter disrespect to the Christian Religion and also to Women and is highly offensive.”

When pilots of the show were first being considered by ABC in the US, Good Christian Bitches was the working title, in keeping with Kim Gatlin’s novel, but with pressure from the American Family Association and other organisations, the names was changed to Good Christian Belles and eventually to just GBC.

A key argument was that it was demeaning to Christians, to women and would not be used in the context of another religion, for example, Good Muslim Bitches. These arguments are certainly fuelling the fire in Australia as well. So far Channel 7 has shown no sign of changing the title and, more than likely, is revelling in the publicity. Continue reading

‘Tasteful’ advertising to tempt WordPress bloggers

Almost quietly, WordPress announced this week that it would allow bloggers to have advertising on their WordPress hosted blogs. This news has been keenly anticipated by many bloggers and yet the announcement was brief and without fanfare, perhaps to avoid an immediate avalanche of uptake.

WordPress has, rightly, closely guarded the integrity and aesthetic of its platform and perhaps predictably, the move to allow advertising is being carefully controlled. At the same time, the announcement included  thinly veiled criticisms of competitors.

The 229 word post on the WordPress news blog, began:

“Over the years one of the most frequent requests on has been to allow bloggers to earn money from their blog through ads. We’ve resisted advertising so far because most of it we had seen wasn’t terribly tasteful, and it seemed like Google’s AdSense was the state-of-the-art, which was sad. You pour a lot of time and effort into your blog and you deserve better.”

The post explained that the advertising program would be called AdWords – not dissimilar to the maligned AdSense – and “beginning with our partnership with Federated Media we’re ready to start rolling out AdWords here on” The word “beginning” suggests further advertising partners may come in the future, but Federated Media is it for now. Continue reading