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 Change.org.

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

New Last Supper theory interesting, but not so new

Media outlets are today reporting claims from a new book that Easter celebrations are a day late in marking the celebration by Jesus of the Passover before being crucified.

Many close readers of the Bible who have studied the Gospel accounts of the last week of Jesus’ life would have already considered the possibility of the Last Supper occurring on the Wednesday, rather than Thursday, before Good Friday.

The Gospels are not motivated by a desire to inform readers of exact dates – presuming early Christians were already well aware of these,  or because they were focused on the content of Jesus life and teaching rather than chronology.

However as an historic faith, it is heartening to see scientists seeking to test accounts and find explanations for these eye-witness accounts, handed down over many centuries.

And while this latest book is unlikely to change the way Christians celebrate Easter (although perhaps we could argue for an extra Easter holiday?) it is a useful reminder that Easter is more than religious tradition, it remembers extraordinary events in the lives of real people, one in particular.

“‘One of the most famous meals in history is commemorated a day late, a new  book by a Cambridge University physicist claims,” the SMH report says.

“Professor Sir Colin Humphreys, who was knighted last year for his  contribution to science, argues that the last supper Jesus Christ shared with  his disciples occurred on Wednesday, April 1, AD33, rather than on a Thursday as  traditionally celebrated in most Christian churches.

“The theory would explain the apparent inconsistencies between the Gospels of  Matthew, Mark and Luke – which say the Last Supper was a Passover meal – and  that of John, which says Jesus was tried and executed before the Jewish  festival. It would explain another puzzle: why the Bible has not allowed enough  time for all events recorded between the Last Supper and the Crucifixion.

“Sir Colin’s book, The Mystery of the Last Supper, out this week, uses  astronomy to re-create  calendars, plus  detail drawn from texts such as the  Dead Sea Scrolls  to propose a timeline for Jesus’s final  days.”

Read more at the SMH’s New theory on date of last supper.

Check out a previous Easter Utterance post

Popular TV shows discuss faith and church

Two prime time television shows and classic re-run featured characters discussing the merits of church attendance and Christian faith in the past week.

Channel 7’s Packed to the Rafters this week had character Nick ‘Carbo’ Karandonis telling his girlfriend Loretta ‘Retta’ Schembri that she would have to convert to the Greek Orthodox faith for them to be married. She replied she would not convert as she didn’t believe and it would be hypocritical. She also questioned the sincerity of Carbo’s faith, given that he claimed to be Greek Orthodox and never attended. So they attend church together and afterwards Retta says she felt the spirituality of the service and wants to attend every Sunday. Carbo is horrified that she might take faith seriously and the theme is set to continue in the show – next season.

Channel 10’s The Good Wife saw Grace Florrick challenging her mother Alicia about belief in Jesus. Mrs Florrick, the good wife, replies she believes Jesus was a person who lived 2000 years ago and she couldn’t see what impact he had on her life. grace replies that you either ‘love Jesus or hate him’, there’s no middle ground. She further argues that she is an intelligent person who believes in Jesus, and that the two things aren’t mutually exclusive. The episode finished with Mrs Florrick agreeing to take her daughter to church.

And a classic episode of Everyone Loves Raymond screened on one of the digital channels. Titled The Prodigal Son, it features Raymond arguing with his parents about going to church. Also, his wife and children go to church every week but Raymond refuses to go. After some hilarious interactions, the episode concludes with a serious discussion of church going and faith between Raymond and wife ?

‘Why don’t you go to church Raymond?’ she asks. And after complaining that all the kneeling is hard on his knees, the focus moves to ideas such as parents wanting to pass on their values, feelings of guilt and the need to believe in and be part of something bigger than ourselves.

When Raymond turns the questioning back on his wife, ‘Why do you go to church?’ she replies, ‘To say thanks for you and the children… and to pray for strength to get through another week with you and the children…’

Hopefully Australian households are discussing faith in a similarly open and revealing way and perhaps these episodes are a case of art imitating reality.

While the conclusions drawn, arguments used and theology displayed are not always satisfying, it is encouraging that writers and producers are willing to include spiritual, faith and religious issues (very occasionally) as themes for their shows.

Check out a small part of the final ‘church’ conversation in Everybody Loves Raymond…

http://www.tbs.com/video/index.jsp?oid=84388&eref=sharethisUrl

Farewell institutional power, hello grassroots influence

Sermon on the Mount by Bloch. Image: Wikipedia

Churches have probably lost the fight against the NSW Government’s plan to introduce ethic classes in public schools at the same time as optional special religious education.

Education Minister Verity Firth is glowingly positive about the review of the classes and while there are no plans to remove SRE, the once ‘sacred’ right to offer Scripture without competition in NSW public schools will soon be a thing of the past.

Of course this is a manifestation of a wider truth that the church has lost much of its institutional power and perhaps in the future will lose even more.

There are positives though and the main one is that if churches and Christians learn they can’t rely on a privileged institutional role in society, they may finally revert to the ancient source of Christian vitality –  personal and community transformation through offering real life encounters with a living God.

This of course can’t be done any other way than through authentic relationship and engagement with people of all kinds.

Grassroots influence verses institutional authority – which one sounds more like Jesus? Continue reading

Social engagement not just for the few

Scott Stephens is probably a good bloke doing a hard job, as editor of ABC Online’s Religion and Ethics portal.

But his July 19 blog post pretty much wrote off any Christian that engaged in politics (except maybe those he agrees with) and was full of stereotyping, arrogance and perhaps a slight trace of envy.

We are all good at that, if we are honest, aren’t we? So lets pray for him as on balance it is a positive thing that such a forum exists and a Christian is the editor.

His post attacking the Australian Christian Lobby, and among other things, Hillsong, gave the impression that unless you are a trendy, left-wing intellectual who reads Eureka St you shouldn’t climb the ivory tower of social engagement for fear of embarrassment.

That’s a pity because what we really want to do is educate Christians about social engagement, for the sake of the gospel, and the best way to do that is for us all to have a go, get kicked in the head a few times, learn some lessons, grow in humility and wisdom, and keep going…

Check out my response to his post.

Are we missing the very frontline of faith?

The Australian community is engaged in an extremely active and vigorous debate about the reality of God and I’m not sure the church at large is even aware it is going on.

While we faithful pray in our services and gatherings that God would move in our land, we may be missing the very answer to those prayers. (Try and stay with me my atheist readers, I know your blood pressure just rose at the mention of answered prayer.)

One of the first signs of spiritual revival might well be that people are even thinking about first order issues such as the origins and nature of life, is there supernatural or spiritual reality or only a material universe, and if religious claims are true how do we deal with many apparent contradictions and problems.

These kinds of questions are often and vigorously debated mainly in online forums and often in response to an increasing number of articles in the media addressing these questions from one perspective or another.

I can assure you this was not the case 10 or 20 years ago when most Australians didn’t want to discuss faith at all and where apathy and materialism (in this sense of material gain) seemed far more important. Continue reading

Brush with advertising fame

B.W.A.F # 1: The new Pizza Hut ad where four delivery boys hop out of four identical Pizza Hut Morris Minis and walk into houses – filmed on Young St, Annandale a few blocks from home. Passed them making the ad while taking someone to the airport… No free pizza unfortunately.

B.W.A.F # 2: The Kit Kat ad with a guy impersonating an amp while people try out guitars in a guitar store – filmed in Billy Hyde pretty much next to our church, Eternity. They even ‘hired’ our car park while filming for the day. No free guitars and no free Kit Kats unfortunately.

I haven’t had a brush with Old Spice yet, but I’m working on it…

Utterance has no commercial blog for profit arrangements with these companies but all offers considered….

Bear Grylls soon to appear on Aussie buses

Bear Grylls has been in a lot of tough places but the side of a Sydney bus might just be the toughest of all… But that’s exactly where he’ll be shortly, featured in an advertising campaign encouraging fans to discover life’s ultimate adventure, The Alpha Course. Apart from Sydney, the campaign will also run in Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth to coincide with the visit of Alpha’s international Chairman Ken Costa.

Bear Grylls is the star of Man vs Wild, the Discovery Channel’s most popular program and also screening Monday nights on SBS.

Recently Utterance reported that Bear is a Christian and a big fan of the Alpha Course – check out his promo for it below. As well, Alpha Australia are recommending that now is a good time to encourage friends to do the Alpha Course, especially if they are fans of Bear Grylls. Check out the Alpha Australia website for details.

Julia learned Bible verses but formed different views

Faith in politics is much more on the agenda in Australia than it was a decade ago and so it is no wonder there has been intense interest as to the religious convictions, if any, of new Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

Today she was directly questioned about religious faith and the future of the Christian vote in Australia during an interview on ABC Radio.

The Australian newspaper reports that Ms Gillard appeared to be ‘surprised’ when asked whether she believed in God and how she would court the Christian vote.

‘I’m not a religious person,’ Ms Gillard told the ABC, although she was quick to point out she had won a prize for learning Bible verses as a child in the Baptist Church. ‘I’ve, you know, found a different path.’

Read more of what she had to say at Australian Christian Voter.

Stolen people, a more human Kevin and a mysterious Julia

As Kevin Rudd looked back today on his term as Prime Minister, one of his key memories, related in his speech, was the day when he said sorry to the stolen generations. Facing the assembled media, he looked up beyond them and out across the grounds of Parliament House. He raised his arm and pointed, as if he had a vision no one else could see:

‘They came in through there,’ he said with misty eyes. ‘The thing I remember… is that they were frightened… it was our job to make them welcome.’

Kevin, where has this display of humanity been? In any case, for your sake, I’m glad it’s back.

Meanwhile, the search is on for a definitive statement of Julia Gillard’s religious views. There’s not much out there and I haven’t read her biography. But I did find this from a Compass program in 2005:

Very little has been written about Prime Minister Gillard’s own religions convictions, if any, but she did have this to say on the ABC’s Compass program back in May 2005:

‘I think Labor has to learn how to connect with many of the elements of our new and growing communities. And certainly the evangelical or Pentecostal churches is one of those elements. And I don’t think we should be shy, even for those of us that value the sort of secular tradition that’s grown up within the Labor Party. I don’t think we should be shy of forging connections with those sorts of community groups.’

She was supporting Kevin Rudd’s growing connection to the churches and at least shows a recognition that this is a good thing. PH