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.Read More »
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 […]
Remembrance Day last week was highlighted by a preponderance of 11s – 11/11/11 at 11am – and reminds us that the events of time and space are not only measured by dates and location but by our less exacting recollections.
Memory and identity are in many ways at the heart of Julian Barne’s 2011 Booker Prize winning novel, The Sense of an Ending, which includes character Adrian quoting, ‘History is that certainty produced at the point where the imperfections of memory meet the inadequacy of documentation.’
If that is true, even in part, then all the more reason to have rituals of remembrance so that some things are not lost. Many of the world’s most memorised sayings or occurrences, such as those of the Christian faith, were passed down through oral traditions that perfected remembrance in a way we rarely do today.
One such ritual is Remembrance Day which recalls for us Armistice Day, November 11, 1918 when hostilities ceased on the western front, virtually bringing to and end The Great War. It came too late for my great-uncle Roy who was killed in action on April 4, 1918 at Villers Bretonneax. He was one of 60,000 Australians who died in WWI and one of 11,000 or more whose bodies were never recovered.
The day before Remembrance Day I visited my sister’s grave because even though 17 years have passed since she was killed, we still remember and are still affected by her loss. We have a body, but no explanation as to who killed her and why, and so our remembrance is unsettled to this day.
It made me realise that as a nation, we must have been powerfully affected by 60,000 families all caught in a remembrance of loved ones lost. Even those who had graves to attend and accounts to read, would still have found the deaths of their loved ones hard to reconcile. Maybe our very identity as a people shifted through this mass remembering of those who would not return.
And so we remember, through to World War 2 and it’s 40,000 slain Australians and onwards to today, including three more Diggers dying in Afghanistan. And while the casualties of war-time are just a part of the never-ceasing tide of life and death and birth and ageing that we are all part of, it is the sheer enormity of loss of life that these wars brought that stir us to find ways to remember, to acknowledge, to incorporate a sense of who we are through what has occurred.
But I fear that our remembering in this sphere is too often marked by what is forgotten or ignored as by what is recalled. The only number that comes close to the casualties of the two world wars, was that of Aboriginal deaths during frontier conflict across Australia.
While estimates by some writers of up to 100,000 Aboriginal deaths due to conflict with settlers is regarded as too high, many historians agree on a figure of about 20,000 Aboriginal people killed during a relatively short period as British colonisation of this land occurred. Perhaps 1-2000 white people were killed in these same conflicts which were, on more than on occasion, referred to at the time as the Black War or similar.
A mature nation, I believe, would realise that if white remembrance of the losses of war are vital to our sense of identity, healing and balance, then so too, or even more so, that of Aboriginal people. We cannot go back and undo these horrific losses for the first Australians, any more than I can go back and undo the death of great-uncle Roy. We can’t set aside the tide of history that produced colonial powers sweeping the globe any more than we can for the not dissimilar causes of World War 1 and 2.
But we can acknowledge that it happened – that many thousands of Aboriginal people died in attempts to defend their homes and their families and many more were killed in acts of revenge, extermination and ethnic cleansing so that white people would feel safe. We can acknowledge that this was and is brutally hurtful to those left behind and those that followed, and that it had far-reaching consequences then and now.
Are we ready as a modern Australian society to include in Remembrance Day or Anzac Day or Australia Day the idea that there is another great conflict at the heart of Australian identity and it is the one between Aboriginal and European?
It doesn’t mean that conflict need remain. Australia has rebuilt excellent relationships with many previous enemies – not by forgetting, but by remembering and at the same time, choosing to move forward. As to whether, when and how Aboriginal people may want to do this is another matter.
I fear our (white Australian) refusal to acknowledge this war in our past makes it harder for all of us, black and white, to enter into a peace that is authentic, just and durable. We can ignore it, but an unsettled loss rarely goes away on its own. That’s why we stop to remember year by year, so that in time the remembering hurts less and we are able to reflect and learn from our past.
The television adaptation of Christos Tsiolkas’ 2008 novel The Slap is about to screen on ABC 1 and while it is a best-selling book in Australia and beyond, many of the television viewers will be encountering the story for the first time.
The Slap is an explicit novel – explicit in its treatment of nearly every bodily function and relationship dysfunction you can think of, or prefer not to think of. Oh, and did I mention the abundant use of legal and illicit drugs?
The television adaptation apparently holds little back and if that is the case, many will find reason why they can’t watch it, which is understandable, but a pity that some of the extremes of description were not moderated originally by the author. The story would not have suffered…
But that’s not his style and if you’re not sure if it’s your’s, check out a review of the book I wrote some time ago – it might give you some more insight, or a little more to offer around the water cooler tomorrow.
Muslim writer Mehdi Hasan writes in The Guardian about Muslim response, or lack of, to the death sentence for Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani in Iran.
‘Pleas for clemency from the archbishop of Canterbury, the UK’s foreign secretary and Amnesty International, among others, have fallen on deaf ears in Tehran. Meanwhile the silence from the world’s Muslims – especially the UK’s usually voluble Muslim organisations and self-appointed “community leaders” – has been shameful. The irony is that I have yet to come across an ordinary Muslim who agrees that a fellow believer who loses, changes or abandons his or her faith should be hanged. Yet frustratingly few Muslims are willing to speak out against such medieval barbarism. We mumble excuses, avert our eyes.’
When this behaviour changes we will have real hope for freedom in many dangerous places for Christians and others.
Most of the media coverage of the current debate over marriage-law portrays anyone who advocates for retaining marriage as it is, as a bigoted Neanderthal.
The reality is that many people have long and deeply held beliefs about marriage that were formed long before there was any debate about its fundamental nature. They didn’t wake up a month or two ago and say, “Oh, “I’m going to stick my neck out and believe that marriage is between one man and one woman”.
Neither did they decide that they would oppose marriage-law change because they hate or want to harm any person or segment of the community. It’s the debate on marriage-law that has moved and people are being asked to decide if they will move too.
For many people of faith, marriage is deeply entwined with fundamental beliefs about the nature of humanity, the expression of relationship and the very essence of God. It is not something on a bit of paper in isolation. That’s why, in many cases, the marriages of these people are among the most resilient in society – something they want to pass on to their children.
Whether we are a majority or minority is difficult to say. Whether marriage will be somehow harmed is yet to be seen. In the long run, the heart-felt belief of individuals in the context of a supportive faith-community and in relation with God is more important than any law, or anyone else’s view.
In the Parliament today, of the 30 members who spoke on marriage, 18 said an extraordinary majority in their electorates supported retaining the current definition of marriage, six said they favoured changed and six didn’t indicate the numbers in their electorate.
This does not equate to a large majority who are homophobic or hateful towards gay people, it is a large majority who hold certain beliefs about marriage, many for deeply personal or religious views. These are as valid as any of the populist, media-savvy voices that we hear.
You’ll hear more and more about Rick Perry in coming days and most of it will be bad. Not to say that he is bad, but being a conservative Christian who is demonstrative about his faith and running for US president ensures he’ll get plenty of bad press. Maybe he deserves it, but don’t believe everything you read.
American politics is complex, polarised and confrontational with far less political correctness than is present in Australia. Australians would find it hard to even imagine a character like Perry surviving anywhere except on the very fringes of Australian politics, and yet he is emerging as a genuine presidential contender. It would be like Fred Nile being a strong contender for Australian Prime Minister… not likely, no hard feelings Fred.
But is his faith genuine, heartfelt, intelligent – giving genuine moral and spiritual impetus to his personal and public life? The secular media won’t even consider such questions. They’ve already stereotyped him as someone to dismiss. Perhaps we’ll join them, but there could be more to him than that.
I’m going to keep an eye on him, and to begin with, check out this thoughtful article from Kathleen Kennedy Townsend in The Atlantic.
And while you’re at it, you might want to think about this call to prayer Perry sent to other governors before his controversial August 6 prayer breakfast:
“I sincerely hope you’ll join me in Houston on August 6th and take your place in Reliant Stadium with praying people asking God’s forgiveness, wisdom and provision for our state and nation. There is hope for America. It lies in heaven, and we will find it on our knees.
Right now, America is in crisis: we have been besieged by financial debt, terrorism, and a multitude of natural disasters. As a nation, we must come together and call upon Jesus to guide us through unprecedented struggles, and thank Him for the blessings of freedom we so richly enjoy.”
It’s not only Bert and Ernie who have been caught up in the gay marriage debate. One of Amercia’s biggest churches, Willow Creek, led by Ps Bill Hybels, found itself in the eye of the gay-lobby storm during its Global Leadership Summit.
Australian minister, researcher and author, John Dickson, is one of the speakers for the event and has been tweeting about his experience. Another speaker was to be Starbucks chief executive, Howard Schultz, but he cancelled after an online petition condemned Willow Creek as anti-gay – a charge the church denies.
Bill Hybels and Willow Creek have a large following in Australia and have done a great deal to help Christians think about how churches might be more accessible to the un-churched while retaining their core Christian values. Hybels is particularly influential in encouraging church leaders to develop their leadership skills.
In explaining the withdrawal of Schultz, Hybels denied that Willow Creek persecuted gays, as the online petition alleged.
The SMH reports: ‘Mr Hybels said that Willow Creek did expect its members to follow biblical ethics and reserve sex for marriage between a man and a woman, but welcomed worshippers of all backgrounds.
“To suggest that we check sexual orientation or any other kind of issue at our doors is simply not true,” Mr Hybels said. “Just ask the hundreds of people with same-sex attraction who attend our church every week.”
Mr Hybels asked members of the audience to write to Mr Schultz “with genuine Christian love” and say he would be welcome at any future summit.
And in a strange mega-church-Starbucks cross-fertilisation, Starbucks has been printing on its coffee mugs segments from Rick Warren’s best-selling book, A Purpose Driven Life. Warren is the pastor that other well-known American mega-church, Saddleback Community Church in California. Holding very similar beliefs to Willow Creek, it seems Starbucks may be at cross-purposes…
Bert and Ernie just friends, just puppets
Oh, and as for Bert and Ernie of Sesame Street fame? A online petition has been launched calling on the creators of Sesame Street, the Children’s Television Foundation, to allow the two muppets to marry. This follow new laws in New York allowing gay couples to marry.
CTF released this statement in response: “Bert and Ernie are best friends. Even though they are identified as male characters and possess many human traits and characteristics (as most Sesame Street muppets do), they remain puppets and do not have a sexual orientation.”
On ABC radio in Sydney this morning, Adam Spencer came out in support of the marriage of Bert and Ernie using as his justification Miss Piggy’s relentless pursuit of Kermit. In a stunning loss of logic for the mathematical Spencer, he seemed to overlook the fact that Bert and Ernie are Sesame Street characters created entirely for the benefit of children while Miss Piggy is a Jim Henson creation, made for programs aimed at adults more than children. As well, it doesn’t follow that every same-sex relationship – such as life-long friends – has to be, in anyway, homosexual. Or sexualised in any way…
As the riots began in and around London, one of the UK’s favourite sons, Stephen Fry, tweeted from the film set of The Hobbit in New Zealand:
“If I’m honest 12,000 miles away in NZ, I’m not further from Brixton or Tottenham than when I’m at home in London. But my homeland is unhappy”.
Despite nearly 3 million followers on Twitter and having lived in England all his life presumably, Fry is acknowledging the gulf that exists between himself and the millions of disadvantaged, disaffected countrymen and women on his doorstep.
And this from a man who is apparently worldly-wise, intelligent and savvy to the point that his views (and his tweets) are highly prized.
On this occasion what is prized is his honesty. While lamenting what was happening in his country and city, he admitted that he had been removed from the reality of his lowly neighbours. He is no different to many millions of members of the comfortable classes, whether they be in Europe, North America or Australia.
My own experience in the past 10 years has been God’s determined dismantling of my own ivory tower . It was not so much that I didn’t care – I did – it was more that I just didn’t know. I couldn’t have called a poor man my friend, because I didn’t know him.
Now I could do so, by the grace of God, and many of the barriers of arrogance, ignorance and apathy have been challenged. Perhaps these riots are a wake up call to the Stephen Frys and Peter Halletts of the world that we can be far too immersed in our own comfort zones to notice generation upon generation of brokenness reaping an ugly harvest, just around the corner, let alone across the world.
Ship of Fools, an alternate Christian website, summed up the feelings of many Christians when they tweeted yesterday, “Our misery is complete. The Norwegian gunman is reported as a ‘Christian fundamentalist’.” The enormity of terrorist tragedy was made worse by reports the gunman may have identified himself as a Christian.
It is unclear at this stage what evidence there is for this claim in the media apart from a Facebook page on which the shooter Behring Breivik identifies himself as ‘Christian’ with ‘conservative’ views.
But he also listed interests such as the game World of Warcraft, freemasonry, and the television series Dexter which is about a serial killer. The reality is that any group or organisation with which Breivik expressed an interest will be now horrified by the association.
As a sidelight to the issue, it is in interesting to see how quickly Breivik’s private social media entries were accessed by the media…
Hauntingly, the one message on his Twitter account dated July 17 was: “One person with a belief is equal to a force of 100,000 who have only interests.”
Regardless of the actual nature of his beliefs, it is distressing that the term Christian, first used to describe followers of Christ in Antioch in the first century, should be even remotely associated with this horrific act.
Anyone familiar with the ‘fundamentals’ of Christ’s life and teaching would know he is easily identified with those who were killed and not at all with the one who killed.
OSLO – The Norwegian police on Saturday charged a 32-year-old man, whom they identified as a Christian fundamentalist with right-wing connections, over the bombing of a government center here and a shooting attack on a nearby island that together left at least 91 people dead.
The police said they did not know if the man, identified by the Norwegian media as Anders Behring Breivik, was part of a larger conspiracy. He is being questioned under the country’s terrorism laws, the police said, and is cooperating with the investigation of the attacks, the deadliest on Norwegian soil since World War II.
“We are not sure whether he was alone or had help,” a police official, Roger Andresen, said at a televised news conference. “What we know is that he is right-wing and a Christian fundamentalist.” So far Mr. Breivik has not been linked to any anti-jihadist groups, he said.
I’ll admit missing all of these television programs as I was actually busy doing other things (for a change), but it hasn’t escaped me that although atheists are telling us we are no longer religious, religion simply won’t lay down and die.
If reality television is any gauge (let’s include Q&A in that genre for now) then religion sits right at the heart of the public’s psyche – for this week at least.
Amazing Race Australia had contestants carrying crosses through the streets of Jerusalem, MasterChef had the Dalai Lama, Rev Bill Cruse and Rev Tim Costello as guest judges while the ABC’s Q & A last night had a ‘spiritual special’ featuring Christian mathematician Prof John Lennox and perennial religious researcher, John Safran.
And an interesting inclusion in this program was “pentecostal scholar” Jacqueline Grey who lectures in Old Testament studies and is the Academic Dean of Alphacrucis College in Sydney.
Safran follows up tonight with his latest TV series – Jedis & Juggalos: Your Census Guide on ABC TV 1. In preparation for the upcoming Australian census, John scours the globe and hunts down people who blend spirituality with popular culture. The context for this program is the Australian Atheist Foundation’s billboard campaign urging Australian’s to tick ‘no religion’ on census night. (Also see the comment on this post regarding Judith Lucy’s Spiritual Journey series)
In all of this, one of the most personally challenging situations was MasterChef contestant Kate Bracks’ encounter with the Dalai Lama. Kate is a devout Christian (former teacher of my youngest son) and chose not to refer to the Buddhist leader as Your Holiness. Christian ministers, Rev Cruse and Costello had no such qualms, perhaps being acquainted with various church dignitaries who go by similar titles.
Kate’s view is that there is no one holy but God and presumably she would happily apply the same rule to Christian leaders who might have this included in their title. More power to her.
And while the tide of religion-in-popular-culture will no doubt recede as quickly as it came, we humans are still far more likely to consider there is a God and spiritual reality than not.
Oh, and just when we thought the topic had drifted away, good old Fred Nile stirs up the opposing camps by saying he’ll vote to rescind the NSW government’s public service pay bill unless ethic classes in schools are scrapped. He and many Christians oppose them because they compete with Scripture in schools.
The Amazing Race Australia on Monday, July 18 will feature some of the four remaining teams carrying large wooden crosses through the streets of Jerusalem as part of the episode’s challenges. Check out a preview.
In a city so taut with religious and cultural tensions, it is a daring and perhaps provocative act, that recalls for Christians the crucifixion of Christ.
One of the effects of global tourism is to take long-held cultural, religious and historical events, locations and practices and make them marketable commodities for tourist consumption. While there are respectful ways of doing this, the Amazing Race epitomises the dilemma of rich tourists enjoying foreign lands while running the risk of carelessly trampling upon them.
In this case, a deeply significant religious symbol and act is incorporated into a reality show game in a city which is sacred for three world religions. It is an ‘amazing’ clash of ‘realities’ and hopefully will provoke thought about the interactions of tourists and destinations; and even more so, about the meaning of ‘carrying your cross’.
The wooden cross (the exact shape is debated, but not important) was used for capital punishment in Roman occupied Israel around the first century AD. Part of the cruelty was at times to humiliate the condemned person by forcing them to drag the heavy implement through the city before they were nailed, tied and hung from it, dying a slow and painful death.
The New Testament records this being inflicted on Jesus, after a heavy beating, and is known by some as the passion of the Christ. This term encompasses not just his physical and mental anguish, but spiritual as well.
From a theological perspective, this was God in human flesh, suffering the worst humanity had to offer as identification with us but also as a substitution. Though perfect, he allowed himself to be punished as the worst of criminals and cut off from God so that we might be forgiven and re-connected to God.
So the cross is a powerful symbol of God’s grace extended to all. Perhaps it’s fitting that the show Amazing Race is also AmazinGrace…
At another level, Jesus often used the phrase, ‘carry your cross’ as a way of describing the challenge of following him. This must have been powerful imagery for his first century audience.
They would have seen or heard of the terrible journey through Jerusalem and other occupied cities of cross-laden people, heading for their deaths, under the ruthless eye of their Roman rulers.
To liken the life of a Christ-follower to carrying the cross, was a clear sign that it involved selflessness, vulnerability, suffering, obedience and a stretching of every fibre of being.
Not unexpectedly, it may not be the most popular influence for Christians (or anyone else) when making life choices, but thankfully we have the Amazing Race to bring it back to our attention.
While the cross-bearing exploits in the Amazing Race are a pale imitation of the real event, what’s more important is what we all do without the silent witness of the cross and the call of Jesus to carry it.
You may have never even heard of this call but it resonates through history and awaits your decision. After you watch the show, give the cross more thought…
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.Matthew 16:24-25
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 1 Corinthians 1:18
After urging her young fans to let their voices be heard in support of gay marriage, Lady Gaga described herself as a traditional Catholic, in an interview with Tracey Grimshaw on Nine’s A Current Affair.
In a remarkable display of pluralism, Gaga saw no conflict with her ‘untraditional’ views on marriage and her identification with Catholicism.
Clearly Ms Grimshaw was less able to undertake the mental gymnastics required and began a line of questioning on religion by suggesting Gaga must be a lapsed Catholic.
Gaga laughed, saying she’d never heard the term and went on to explain she was very traditional, praying every day, praying before every concert.
She reminded her audience of her lyric that says “God doesn’t make mistakes” and linked her Catholicism to her Italian heritage, saying her parents had no objections to her music or concerts.
Overall Lady Gaga came across as an intelligent and talented young woman who displayed the prevailing post-modern views on morality, referring often to her song “I was born this way” as affirmation of people as they find themselves.
While agreeing with the positive impact of encouraging self-acceptance and tolerance of others, the logical extension of the view is the abrogation of personal responsibility allowing murderers and paedophiles to equally claim “I was born this way”.
At the same time, she made it clear that she had taken personal responsibility to change from being “hell on wheels” to having nothing to with drugs or to do anything to jeapardise the relationship she has with her fans.
July 7, 2011 was a big day for Hillsong. Not only was it the penultimate day of its 25th anniversary Hillsong conference at Darling Harbour, but also the day the Sydney Morning Herald printed a reasonably intelligent, mainly positive article about the mega-church.
Having taken to task the SMH several times for its mindless bias against Hillsong, which has seen the paper link the church with negative stories to which it has no actual connection, I thought it only fair to highlight the opposite.
Writer Ross Cameron describes how some friends visiting from England explain “they want to see Hillsong” and concludes with:
“Hillsong avoids many of the excesses of American TV spirituality. It’s delivered in the Australian vernacular and it respects the audience enough to make sure speakers know how to communicate. There are elements that don’t suit me, but Hillsong is changing people’s lives for the better. Some theological custodians argue Hillsong is just the power of positive thinking with a patina of Jesus. But even if that were true, would it be a bad thing? I would prefer being uplifted than depressed and it’s clearly better than my default position – lying on the couch with a coffee, The Insiders and three newspapers.
“Sydneysiders have taken a certain pleasure in finding fault with this church, and most have no idea of its impact. Hillsong is throwing modern Christianity a lifeline, while reaching out to others in a life beyond self.”
At last glance, there were 163 comments on the article with many agreeing that it is good to see a “positive Hillsong article from SMH for a change”. As usual, wherever there is a positive potrayal of Christianity, the evangelistic atheists are in a commenting frenzy with their usual taunts of “imaginary friends” and “sky fairy”.
It’s a rainy night on cold Norton St, but still plenty of diners and movie-goers are about. As I lift the edge of my umbrella to avoid colliding with two boys, one sliding on a wheel in his shoe, my vision slides across a poster and my brain computes iconic numbers and punctuation mark.
The advertisement on the back of a public phone pictures a Bible open to John’s third chapter.
The Australian is canvassing the issue of marriage but I wonder how many will recognise God’s shout-out to humanity contained in that ancient verse near the top of the pictured page.
‘For God so loved… gave his only… whoever believes… everlasting…’
If we don’t start there we’ll never understand anything else God has to say, about marriage or anything else.
A court order for the destruction of a sculpture that is spiritually and culturally offensive to Aboriginal people creates an important precedent for other people of sincere religious or cultural conviction offended by “works of art”.
A NSW court has ruled the 8.5-tonne stone sculpture of a Kimberley Aboriginal spirit figure must be pulled down. The Wandjina spirit is sacred to three Aboriginal clans in the West Kimberley and its public depiction is deeply offensive to them.
The sculpture was erected at a New Age “wellness centre” and art gallery run by Vesna and Damir Tenodi known as ModroGorje. The couple are devotees of Anan-Do meditation.
Traditional Aboriginal owner Gordon Smith junior travelled to Sydney for the hearing.
“I’m very happy with the ruling. It shouldn’t have happened in the first place,” he said.
Worrorra elder and lawman Donny Woolagoodja said: ”The sculpture is a caricature … and its presence mocks and denigrates the spiritual beliefs of the Worrorra people.”
Given the power imbalance between Western colonisers and Aboriginal peoples, it is good to see the courts restoring the balance by protecting sensitive cultural material.
At the same time, religious symbols and icons of many kinds are fair game for misuse by popular culture and contemporary art.
Christians have for years struggled against offensive depictions of core elements of their faith such as the crucifixion of Christ but are usually labelled enemies of freedom of expression or simply wowsers.
Of course rushing into banning or destroying works of art is rarely a constructive course and sometimes material that seems offensive, such as Piss Christ, may actually be highlighting the very issues being discussed here – the cheapening of deep spiritual beliefs.
(Mind you, even putting those two words together makes me feel uncomfortable.)
I wouldn’t be surprised if it is indigenous people in our nation who lead us into rediscovering the importance of a spiritual life. Of course, a very large number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people hold deeply spiritual, Christian faith.
The religification (my word, I think) of atheism is proceeding at pace and is part of an increased push in the Western world to remove Christian belief from public life.
Stephen Fry tweeted today, “If Christians rose up for Passion of the Christ, so humanists, agnostics, atheists etc might RT [re-tweet] the new film The Ledge!”.
The associated website describes The Ledge as, “the Brokeback Mountain moment for atheists, our tipping point, when we finally get the attention we deserve. Although books have put atheists into the intellectual mainstream, The Ledge is the first Hollywood drama to target the broader movie-going public with an openly atheist hero in a production big enough to attract A-list stars. This is unprecedented.”
Christians will notice close parallels with campaigns circulated through churches to rally support for movies such as Passion of the Christ, Amazing Grace, Bella and various other movies that were seen to authentically present Christian ‘heroes’ and messages.
Meanwhile the Atheist Foundation of Australia is launching a campaign to urge Australians to mark their census, ‘No religion’ as a way of limiting the influence of Christian beliefs in politics.
If actions display priorities, then the choice of the first official event attended by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge says a lot.
William and Kate attended a star-studded charity dinner for Ark – Absolute Return for Kids as their first official engagement since their wedding.
While what the duchess wore captured the usual attention (“a shimmering nude gown by Jenny Packham”) it was the sentiment that took them to the Ark Gala that captured mine.
The duke announced a joint venture between Ark and the Foundation of Prince William and Prince Harry.
Prince William said he, his wife and brother wanted to use philanthropy as a “catalyst for meaningful change”.
Ark sponsors academy schools in the UK and programmes for disadvantaged children around the world.
Acknowledging the privileged education and upbringing he enjoyed, the Duke of Cambridge said, “So many young people do not have these advantages and as a result can lack the confidence and knowledge to realise their full potential.”
This comment carries forward the theme of the sermon preached at the Royal couple’s wedding: “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.”
At a time when Christians and Muslims are conducting (mainly) respectful debates about large billboards with Islamic messages in Sydney, there has been a call in Pakistan for the Bible to be banned because it is blasphemous for Muslims.
The Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam party’s leader, Maulana Abdul Rauf Farooqi, at a press conference on May 30 in Lahore, informally petitioned the Supreme Court, complaining that the Bible includes stories about some of the biblical prophets that include “a variety of moral crimes, which undermine the sanctity of the holy figures.”
Pakistiani Christians, estimated at 3 million, fear the call for a Bible ban is a sign of a trend of deepening persecution against them.
Now might be a good time for people of Islamic faith enjoying democratic rights and freedom of religion in Australia to raise their voices against this call.
The inevitable failure of Harold Camping’s prediction that the world would end on Saturday, May 21 once again confirms the infallibility of Jesus’ own words about his return.
Knowing that we would be inclined to want to pin down his return to a day and hour and knowing that people like Harold Camping would claim to do just that, Jesus said (2000 years ago), ‘No one knows about that day or that hour…’ (Matthew 24:36).
Knowing that earthquakes, disasters and wars would start us thinking that perhaps the end of the world was near and knowing the advent of instant worldwide communication would mean we hear about more earthquakes, disasters and wars than ever before, Jesus said, ‘You will hear of war and rumours of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is yet to come… famines and earthquakes in various places… the beginnings of birth pains.’ (Matt 24:6,8)
Knowing that people would try to cash in on the uniqueness of Christ and claim to be him, such as the recently publicised Alan Miller, and knowing that many are desperate for a tangible, physical sense of hope and will follow these false Christs, Jesus said, ‘…if anyone says to you, “Look, here is the Christ!” or “There he is!” do not believe it.’ (Matt 24:23)
And knowing that many who were among the first to hear the message of the Gospel would forsake it; the Western world for example, which has grown so fat and comfortable and clever in its own eyes, Jesus said, ‘at that time many will turn away from the faith… increase of wickedness… love of most will grow cold’. (Matt 24: 10,12)
Thank you Harold Camping for confirming once again that Jesus’ insight into human character and history is impeccable, infallible, believable.