Speaking in tongues has finally come to ABC News as journalist Amy Simmons investigates why Pentecostalism is “attracting the Sunday masses” and examines the rise of Pentecostalism in a separate story.
The article covers some familiar territory – it seems each new generation of journalist keeps “discovering” the non-traditional traits that have made the Pentecostals the fastest growing Christian movement across the globe in the past century.
There’s plenty in the article to allow people to make up their own minds about Pentecostal churches and some areas of belief such as healing and speaking in tongues.
Of course, most Pentecostals would rightly point to Jesus as being at the centre of their beliefs and that without a clear understanding of and vital relationship with the Son of God, then the other elements of faith are worthless.
Academic Associate Professor Rick Strelan of the University of Queensland is called on to deliver the “objective expert” view and is reasonable in most of his comments, which is noteworthy in that Pentecostals are not overly accustomed to having their faith and practice discussed in a reasonable way.Read More »
I’m not sure if this is a prayer or a product placement but you can’t argue with the passion of Pastor Joe Nelms, his appreciation of his wife Lisa and children, his love of Nascar racing and the “buggity, buggity, buggity” at the end of his prayer!Read More »
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
The world’s newest nation, and one of the poorest, came into being at midnight on July 9. The Republic of South Sudan gained its independence after decades of civil war with northern Sudan and more specifically following a 99% vote for independence in a referendum held in January this year.
The 10 southern states of Sudan now form South Sudan and the population of more than $8 million consists largely of Christian and animist Africans in contrast to the Muslim Arab north.
As well, South Sudan contains between 75-80% of Sudanese oil reserves although this has not benefited local people in the past due to northern domination and violent civil conflicts.
And while estimates vary as to the extent of Christianity, some statistics report South Sudan as having 2,009,374 practicing Roman Catholics and a large membership in the Episcopal Church of the Sudan as well as smaller Christian denominations. How many people identifying as Christian are also incorporating traditional animist practices is another matter.
For a fascinating history of Christianity in South Sudan and indeed north Africa, visit The Sudan Project blog (article written in 2006).
One area of conflict that continues between Sudan and South Sudan is the disputed area Nuba Mountains region where violence continues between the largely Christian and pro-Sudanese People’s Liberation Army Nuba people and northern government forces.
Nubian Christianity traces its origins to the “Ethiopian eunuch” who come to faith through Philip the evangelist who ran alongside the man’s chariot and explained to him how the Old Testament scriptures pointed to Christ. The story is recorded in Acts 8 from verse 26 and concludes with the African man being baptised in a pool beside the road.
‘The “Ethiopian eunuch” of Acts was in fact not from the land today bearing that name, but from Nubia. (The queenly title given in Acts 8:27, Candace, is peculiar to the ancient Nubian kingdom of Meroe.)’ – From Nubian Christianity – the Neglected Heritage by Paul Bowers.
With such a strong link to the very earliest days of Christian faith, it is fair to say that the youngest nation in the world is also the youngest Christian nation.Read More »
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.
Seeing the phrase “mission from God” on the front page of one of Sydney’s Sunday papers (June 26, 2011) sounds great until you realise it is a tongue-in-cheek reference to an evangelist crashing his car on the Pacific Highway after downing a few double-shots of Scotch.
Jason Hooper is an American evangelist touring parts of Australia with a New Zealand born Australian evangelist Ben Hughes. Hooper crashed into a parked Hyundai in Macksville and was found to have a blood-alcohol level of .206.
He later appeared in court and was disqualified from driving in NSW for three years but otherwise escaped penalty, much to the chagrin of locals, motoring organisations, the police and the Sunday Telegraph.
The magistrate took into account Hooper’s remorse and good character but the Telegraph was not impressed with Hooper’s reported claim that God had already forgiven him for his error.
And true to form with Sydney papers, the Telegraph found a way to inculcate Hillsong into the story saying that Hooper was touring with “Hillsong protegé Ben Hughes” – a claim that made it into the second paragraph.
As far as I can see, the only connection between Hughes and Hillsong is that he studied at Hillsong Leadership College at some stage, along with many thousands of other people. Keep in mind, Hughes has done nothing wrong and Hillsong isn’t even involved, so why were they mentioned?
It’s very unusual to see people defined by a place of study when describing traffic incidents. I don’t recall former-Judge Marcus Einfield being described as a “Sydney University protegé” when his traffic indiscretions were reported.
But to bring Jason Hooper and Marcus Enfield together for a moment – they both have learned the special retribution we save for people who make a career out of saying one thing, and then doing the opposite.
No wonder James in his New Testament letter warned against becoming a teacher because you would be “judged with greater strictness”. In both these cases, the men involved may have not been judged by the courts over-strictly, but certainly they will be by the public and the media. (Einfield has had another traffic scrape this week.)
A good reason to remain humble, accountable and realistic about your state of well-being – and driving! And let’s hope the next time God get’s a mention on the front page, it’s for something positive…
Believe it or not, there is a website devoted to ranking the most popular Bible books, verses and even chapters appearing on the Internet.
Top Verses claims to analyse thousands of pages of teaching material to determine the most frequently referenced Bible verses. This information is entered into their search engine enabling it to return the most familiar verses first.
It’s list time at Utterance and first up is a look at the most interesting pages on Facebook, in which Jesus is a clear winner.
Unofficial Facebook resource, All Facebook, records the fan numbers and interactions of dedicated Facebook pages across the globe.
While noting that Justin Bieber had taken a leap forward, the site says that “he is ultimately left in the dust yet again by two religious pages that have spent all of June in the top two spots.”
Basing their list on the number of page interactions (comments, likes etc) All Facebook has Jesus Daily in first place with 1,645,286 interactions in June (5,948,071 fans) followed by The Bible with 1,071,096 interactions (7,609,076 fans).
Justine Bieber came in third with a mere 933,719 interactions (from a massive 29,756,538 fans) followed by Mario Teguh with 838,761 interactions from 4,221,188 fans.
Others in the top 20 include Lady Gaga, Harry Potter, Manchester United and Britney Spears.
But other Christian pages are also found in the top 20 including Jesus Christ in 13th place and Dios Es Bueno (God is good) in 14th. One way or another, Jesus is alive and well in the world of social networking.
Another interesting phenomenon is the influence of the growing use of social media – Facebook in particular – in non-Western nations.
A page called MTV Roadies is in the top 20 thanks to adoring Indian viewers of the reality television show of the same name while in Egypt, We are Khaled Said continues to be a very vocal page of the Egyptian uprising.
Tim Mathieson was married to a woman who was a Liberal Party candidate, lost his licence for 16 months after driving with a blood alcohol level four times the legal limit and once owned a Gold Coast hair salon that is now owned by Tony Abbott (no, not that Tony Abbott!). Now he is better known as Australia’s First Bloke – the partner of Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
He is also a self-confessed, God-believing Anglican who claims he has not even discussed his faith with Australia’s most famous atheist.
Mathieson, recently announced as a patron of the Men’s Shed movement, appears tonight in a much-publicised interview on 60 minutes where he explains he will propose to Julia one day, but not any day soon.
“One wedding I think is enough this year,” Mathieson said, referring to the couple’s attendance at the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. And in previous interviews, Mathieson said when they do marry it would not be in the church, due to Ms Gillard’s beliefs.
Apart from his best known occupation – hairdresser – the one through which he met Julia Gillard, Mathieson has also been an importer of Levi Jeans, supplier of marble interiors, a sales representative for a hair products company and is current job is as a property agent with Ubertas Group, selling apartments in a St Kilda Road 50-storey complex.
Mathieson has two adult children from his marriage to Dianne Stark and another daughter fathered in his teens, Staci Childs, who is well-known hair stylist known for her tattoos, parties and celebrity clients such as Lady Gaga.
There are other, what might be regarded, dark moments in his history – broken relationships, failed businesses, car-crashes. In the long run he is typical of many people seeking to make their way through the maze of life who found himself in love with a woman who became Australia’s leader.
And he has endeavoured to make the most of his newly-found prominence and apart from his Men’s Shed patronship, he is also a Men’s Health Ambassador and works hard to promote men’s health issues around Australia. Ironically, the idea of taking up volunteer work was first suggested to him Therese Rein, wife of former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd…
The Australian Men’s Shed Association is a movement granting a special place for men who lack social outlets, to tinker and share stories over a barbecue.
Let’s pray that as Tim chats with men in sheds, interviewers in the media and his partner in the privacy of their home, that his faith moves to the foreground to inform his words, his choices and his into the future.
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.
God is once again assisting British scientist Stephen Hawking to receive world-wide media publicity, even though Hawking is saying nothing new.
In an ‘exclusive’ interview in Britain’s Guardian newspaper on May 16, Hawking said there was ‘no heaven or afterlife… that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.’
The author of international best-seller A Brief History of Time admitted his views were influenced in part by his long fight with motor neurone disease.
‘I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail.’
Hawking’s has moved from a position where belief in God was not necessarily at odds with a scientific understanding of the universe – as expressed in A Brief History of Time – to one where God no longer has a place in theories on the creation of the universe – expressed in his 2010 book The Grand Design.
Baroness Susan Greenfield, one of England’s most distinguished scientists, said in response to Hawking’s (and other scientists’) comments on God: ‘Yes I am [worried]. Of course they can make whatever comments they like but when they assume, rather in a Taliban-like way, that they have all the answers then I do feel uncomfortable. I think that doesn’t necessarily do science a service.’
So before you throw away your Bible and consider yourself nothing more than a computer on legs, check out these responses to Stephen Hawking.
The Bishop of London, the Right Reverend and Right Honourable Dr Richard Chartres gave a stirring Address at the wedding of Prince William of Wales and Miss Catherine Middleton.
Billions around the world heard Rev Chartres urge William and Catherine and all listening to set the world on fire by being who God meant us to be.
He also highlighted that every wedding is a royal wedding in the sense that every bride and groom are kings and queens of creating new life.
Rev Chartres said that in marriage we are to make our spouse our ‘work of art’ while at the same time not placing on them a burden of expectation that only relationship with God can carry.
Interestingly, the sermon included a prayer composed by William and Catherine which asks God’s help in keeping their eyes fixed on what is real and important and to help them to be generous with their lives, ‘to serve and comfort those who suffer’.
Read the full sermon:
‘“Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.” So said St Catherine of Siena whose festival day it is today. Marriage is intended to be a way in which man and woman help each other to become what God meant each one to be, their deepest and truest selves.
‘Many are full of fear for the future of the prospects of our world but the message of the celebrations in this country and far beyond its shores is the right one – this is a joyful day! It is good that people in every continent are able to share in these celebrations because this is, as every wedding day should be, a day of hope.
In a sense every wedding is a royal wedding with the bride and the groom as king and queen of creation, making a new life together so that life can flow through them into the future.Read More »
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…
We’ve all had a chuckle or two at the Justin Bieber phenomenon and wondered how long it would last. I even thought of buying my son a Justin Bieber t-shirt as a tongue in cheek joke.
But listening to the radio today I noticed someone crooning about closing their eyes to pray for a better day on behalf of those doing it tough. When the song credit was for Justin Bieber, I decided to have a closer look:
I just can’t sleep tonight,
Knowing that things ain’t right.
It’s in the papers, it’s on the TV,
It’s everywhere that I go.
Children are crying, soldiers are dying,
Some people don’t have a home.
But I know there’s sunshine behind that rain,
I know there’s good times behind that pain (hey)
Can you tell me how I can make a change?
I close my eyes, and I can see a better day,
I close my eyes and pray.
I close my eyes and I can see a better day,
I close my eyes and pray.
When someone uses their fame to ask people to consider the needs of others, questions their own role in making a difference and encourages us to take time to pray, it deserves acknowledgement.
And to highlight the benefit that flows when popular culture turns its attention to serious issues, consider these comments on the Close My Eyes and Pray page on a popular lyric website:
‘every time i hear this song i cry and it is sooo sad and true im trying to change things too…‘ and
‘i think this song is very helpful to ppl out there because the first time i heard this song i cried…there’s so many ppl out there that don’t even care about the poor.so thank you justin for making this song.WE LOVE U!!!:)’
If you still aren’t sure, check out the YouTube clip and you may become a believer. Anyway, for what’s a worth, I’m a (kind of old) fan Biebs. I’ll be praying you don’t lose your way…
Sorry, this is a bite late, but in keeping with the hype about the latest Focker movie, a bit of God-spotting from the first movie in the franchise.
Kevin: [On who inspired him to be a wood worker] I’d have to say Jesus. He was a carpenter and I figured if you’re going to follow in somebody’s footsteps, why not the steps of our lord and savior?
Jack Byrnes: [Before Greg has a chance to respond] Greg’s Jewish.
Greg Focker: Yeah.
[Jack smiles and nods]
Kevin: Well so was J.C….
A radio advertisement in Australia for the new Gran Turismo 5 PlayStation 3 computer game, has the following dialogue (paraphrased):
‘Hello, I’m God, and I made the world in seven days – look how awesome it is! Gran Turismo 5 took five years to make, think how awesome it must be!’
#1 God is acknowledged as Creator.
#2 You don’t have to shoot, maim or kill anyone in Gran Turismo – just drive the car of your dreams. Most be a lot of car lovers out there as the game sold more than 2.5 million units in its first week.
Plenty of interesting things have been found on Google Street View ranging from dead bodies to hovering cars, but perhaps even God has made an appearance.
A god-like figure can be seen hovering midair above a lake in Quarten, Switzerland.
Discovered by the Gawker blog, the image is most likely to be the result of light distortion or lens flare, however blogger Max Read has questioned tongue-in-cheek whether it might have more mysterious origins:
‘Is it something on the camera lens? Or is it maybe… God and His only begotten Son? And who’s to say that God isn’t “something on the lens”, in some kind of a cosmic, metaphysical sense?’ he writes.
God can be anywhere and everywhere – even on a camera lens no doubt – which kind of reminds me of the supposed ‘how many angels on the head of a pin‘ theological debate. Still, when God appears again in the sky, the Bible suggests we won’t be left guessing…
And let’s not forget Perth’s famous hovering cars or an unusual man-made landscape in a remote part of China which appears to be a model of a larger piece of territory complete with snow-topped mountains, streams and valleys.