Ties that bind us in Gillard-gloating-blue to smoke-on-the-water purple

Tony Abbott wore a blue tie everyday of his Prime Ministership, bar one.

And was criticised for being partisan, or was that Parisian, or worse still, that he wore only gloating-at-Gillard blue.

Clearly he could have worn more inclusive tie colours (as the leader of a nation that by and large avoids ties like the plague).

An occasional Rudd-red for the Labor constituents, glamping green for the, well, Green citizens. Some mottled-dinosaur prints would have calmed down the Clive Palmer voters and perhaps no tie at all for the sex-party supporters.

But on the day of his Prime Ministerial demise it was noted he wore deep purple.

The traditional colour of faith and mourning; perhaps of Herod’s robe.

And certainly of smoke on the water.

Turnbull and Shorten, we are watching your ties, don’t let us down.

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Watch Andrew Chan funeral: self-authored eulogy plus transcript

More than 1500 people attended the funeral service for Andrew Chan at Hillsong today.

Not long before he was executed, Andrew told a friend: ‘I love being a pastor in the prison, no-one can leave’.

The same sense of faith and humour is obvious in Andrew’s self-written eulogy.

‘Each day is a diamond. For each day is valuable, as you can never buy it back.’ Watch and/or read below:

‘Thank you all for gathering here on this day to witness something great. It’s a day that I will arise from my own coffin, rigandrew-chan-order-of-serviceht now as the words are spoken, in Jesus’ name, arise. Or I am just enjoying it too much in heaven, and I will wait for you all up there. Now I know it is a sad day, we would have all wished it didn’t come to this. However it is funny that even in death there’s still a lesson to be learnt.

‘We learned that we do not need to be old to die, nor do we need to have something wrong with us. But we learned that when it’s time to go home, God has the kitchen table and sink ready. Every person that is sitting here now has impacted my life in one way or another. The truth is, you have all taught me just as much as I have taught you. If I had to thank everyone individually, I don’t think I can place them on one sheet of paper.

‘And one of the biggest influences in my life is my brother. Stand up Mick, and look at the crowd, knowing that you’d hate to do that, because you don’t like the spotlight. People were touched by his love, time, effort, persistence, and many other things through him. And I’ve learnt a lot through Jesus too. I promised Mick I would not steal your birth certificate in heaven to make a fake ID.

‘Another person I learned so much from is my wife Feby. She has taught me the meaning of love and endurance, peace and much more. As I said, to all of you gathered here today, taught me something valuable in life which I have learned to cherish. Treat each day as a diamond, for each day is valuable, as you can never buy it back. Learn to use it doing the things you love, spend it with the people you care for most, because we just never know when we will say goodbye.

‘My last moments here on earth I sing out “Hallelujah!” I ran the good race. I fought the good fight and came out a winner in God’s eyes and men. I do have a story to tell, that story’s determined by you all on how you witness me. Ask yourself: “What did I leave with you?” That will determine my legacy. I leave now in peace and love. I pray that you will all know how I valued and treasured you. Treasure your love and friendship. As you all leave here today, who will you witness too, today?

Love Andrew Chan.”

‘My struggle with Struggle Street’ – Jon Owen

struggle street, sbs, documentary, blacktown, mt druitt, Jon Owen, UNOH
SBS promo shot for Struggle Street

As soon as I heard about SBS’s Struggle Street I thought of Jon Owen, Minister-at-large, who has a long term commitment to Mt Druitt as part of Urban Neighbourhood of Hope (UNOH).

Unlike the makers of this program, he lives within the community he works with, has local people coming and going from his family’s home and is in every way an integral part of the neighbourhood.

Here’s a bit of what he had to say about Struggle Street in his regular email newsletter, called The Huddle. It is not only insightful commentary on this program, but also on the opportunity, more broadly, for journalists to either hurt or heal, to reveal people or problems:

‘Journalists have the power to heal or to hurt.

‘There is no doubt that there is some satisfaction to be gained (and perhaps ratings) by unfolding a story that invites ridicule on the part of the wider community who knows little or nothing of the neighbourhood I call home.

‘There is a dark side through our whole culture that seems to enjoy feeling a bit better because there is always someone else to look down upon.

‘We ought to be wide awake to any attempt that looks like it might be concerned for the community that might really be inviting disgust on a large scale.

‘Journalists can investigate and reveal “problems” or “people”. If they take the time to ask why someone might be living in a deplorable state, they can show a story that explains the circumstances that reveal the person.

‘The effect of such a exercise in journalism would be to cause the viewer to discover a neighbour in need.

‘The effect of revealing mere “problems” will cause a viewer to recoil in judgement and disgust.’

Someone like Jon has earned the right to speak on a topic like this because he has done the hard yards of ‘incarnational life’ in the community where he longs to see life and hope flourish. It’s a good model of ‘sharing our lives’ that the New Testament exhorts us to (and that Jesus modeled) in preference to a distant preaching…

Let’s hope we all learn something from this process. Read more from Jon Owen on Struggle Street

Meyer, Warren, Lucado out-tweet Gaga, Perry and Kardashian

The New York Times has used social media compilation tool Storify to show that spiritual leaders such as Joyce Meyer or Max Lucado receive massively greater response from followers to their tweets than celebrities such as Lady Gaga or Kim Kardashian.

While celebrities have far more followers, there is very little interaction with their messages while for the ‘spiritual leaders’ with less followers (but still large numbers) there is often strong engagement with the messages they deliver through Twitter.

Perhaps this says something about why people  follow Rhiannon and other celebrities in comparison to Rick Warren and the ‘spiritual leaders’ group. Or perhaps it is about the content of their respective tweets – Trivia vs transformation?

And if Twitter and Storify are new to you, this is a helpful insight into how both platforms are being used across the planet to connect and influence. See Storify here:

[View the story “Comparing responses to spiritual leaders’ and Twitter celebrities’ tweets” on Storify]

PS> Dear WordPress, please introduce a Storify embed option. Thank you.

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

Model’s faith no secret as she leaves lingerie behind…

“I am still modeling but only with brands that respect my decision not to wear lingerie,” tweeted former Victoria’s Secret model Kylie Bisutti, aged 21.

The Californian Christian won Victoria’s Secret Model Search  ahead of 10,000 other girls in 2009 but has quit the company because of her Christian values.

“Victoria’s Secret was my absolutely biggest goal in life, and it was all I ever wanted career-wise,” she told FOX411.

“I actually loved it while I was there, it was so much fun and I had a blast. But the more I was modelling lingerie – and lingerie isn’t clothing – I just started becoming more uncomfortable with it because of my faith. I’m Christian, and reading the Bible more, I was becoming more convicted about it.”

Her comment that “her body should only be for my husband” was widely reported, and ridiculed, but for Kylie “it’s a sacred thing”.

“I didn’t really want to be that kind of role model for younger girls because I had a lot of younger Christian girls that were looking up to me and then thinking that it was okay for them to walk around and show their bodies in lingerie to guys.”

She has a number of career opportunities ahead including an appearance with Jennifer Lopez and will continue to model for companies that respect her decision not to model lingerie.

“It is a very hard industry to be in without falling into things you don’t want to do,” she said.

Husband Mike had apparently prayed that Kylie might come to this decision but allowed her to reach it in her own time.

In a world where people do anything to achieve success, particularly if it involves celebrity, it is encouraging to see someone allow their conscience to guide their decisions and trust God with the outcome.

Follow Kylie on Twitter at @vskylie

LL Cool J opens Grammys with prayer for Whitney Houston

“Tonight, we ask ourselves how do we speak to this time, to this day. There is no way around this, there’s been a death in our family. And at least for me, for me, the only thing that seems right to me is to begin with a prayer.”

And so LL Cool J begins the 2012 Grammys in Los Angeles, leading the large group of celebrities, many with heads bowed, in a prayer for Whitney Houston.

“Heavenly Father, we thank you for sharing our sister Whitney with us. Today our thoughts are with her mother, her daughter and all of her loved ones. And although she is gone too soon, we remain truly blessed to have been touched by her beautiful spirit, and to have the legacy of her music to cherish and share forever. Amen.”

Prayer is so often the cry of our heart in the midst of tragedy and joy and many other circumstances.

If you are in need of prayer and are struggling for the words, simply express yourself as you would to a good friend and believe that God who loves you is listening. For more prayer help, visit Wesley Mission’s prayer page or Hillsong’s prayer and support page.

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…

24/7 prayer and night club worship meets the world’s party capital

If you’ve read Pete Greig’s Red Moon Rising you would remember his descriptions of taking 24/7 Prayer Rooms to the clubbing districts of Europe to bring prayer, love and outreach to the thousands of young clubbers.

smh.tv has just released a documentary, God Bless Ibiza, which follows a group of young British Christians as they head to the Spanish clubbing hotspot of Ibiza. One website describes Ibiza as the ‘undisputed party capital of the world.’

The promo for the documentary reads: ‘Young, hip and radical, the team are a far cry from the sandaled missionaries of yester-year. They’re more at home in a club than a church, dance tracks are their hymns and they invoke the Holy Spirit in clubs with quasi-spiritual names like Godskitchen, Eden and Ascension. Whilst they have no problem hanging out with clubbers high on E, the team themselves have all sworn off drugs, alcohol and sex and say they get their kicks instead from supernatural experiences of God.’

If you are used to Christians copping it in the media, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by this documentary, not only for the in-depth and positive treatment the 24/7 outreach team is given, but by the groups faith and action. Prayer-walking, creative prayer spaces, worship in night clubs and genuine Christianity without a hint of religiosity.

Check out this nearly 40-minute online documentary and share it around.

Not so sacred fight over school enrolment

A far-flung Catholic School became the centre of inner city ire this week when news broke that a child had been denied enrolment because her parents are a same-sex couple.

Within minutes of the story being aired by the ABC, Greens schools spokesman John Kaye was on the airwaves lambasting non-government schools in general because they weren’t subject to anti-discrimination laws. He demanded that they be made to abide by these regulations if they wanted to continue receiving 85 per cent government funding.

Leaving aside the right or wrongs of the actions of the Sacred Heart School, Broken Hill, and indeed the veracity of the claims being made against it, let’s consider for a moment who is righteous enough to cast stones in this situation.

If the well-being of the child is the real issue, as the various detractors most self-righteously proclaim, then the action of the parents in taking the matter directly to the media is highly questionable. There would have been several other options, if their concerns were in fact sincere, such as appealing to the appropriate Bishop who would have quickly offered the child a place, judging by his reaction since the story broke.

Anyone who knows small towns realises that everyone in Broken Hill now knows exactly which family is at the centre of this row, surely not an ideal situation.

Then there is the hypocrisy of John Kaye who immediately politicised the case and uses it as an excuse to push the Green agenda which is to force faith-based schools to relinquish their deeply held, ancient beliefs that are at the centre of their life and community. What he would really like is to see private schools removed altogether, or at very least, all funding for them removed.Read More »

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.Read More »

John Cleese’s favourite joke

Monty Python‘s fish slapping skit (below) was described by John Cleese, speaking on Seven’s Sunday Night program, as the silliest skit the comedy group ever did.

But when it came to the funniest joke, he offered this, towards the end of the interview:

‘How do you make God laugh? You tell him your plans…’

He was commenting about whether he would be married for a fourth time. In context, the joke suggests that we know so little about what will actually happen in our lives that to tell God what we are planning is hilarious.

But I guess you got it.

The Slap hits TV and may assault your senses

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.

The Slap book review

Mr Blue Sky brightens Target’s commercials

I’ve seen a few online forums among the younger generation pondering the origins of the song currently backing Target’s Australian television commercials.

After extensive remembering, and despite the doubts of various family members, I have correctly identified the song as none other than the Electric Light Orchestra’s Mr Blue Sky (from Out of the Blue, 1977). Apparently the band’s main songwriter Jeff Lynne had suffered writer’s block while seeking to write tracks for the album in a rainy Switzerland. The sun came out, and so did the song.

I can’t say I was a big ELO fan back in the late 70s (I was sill pursuing Led Zeppelin and smuggling Eagles cassettes home in my sock), but no one could miss their constant stream of hits on the radio and I find the Target ads plunging me into a strangely euphoric recollection of youth. Not that I’m old. Enjoy:

Marriage beliefs unchanged as public debate moves

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.

For a couple of posts on marriage, check out Australian Christian News

Perry perched on precipice of prayer

Rick Perry
Rick Perry

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.

Is Rick Perry as Christian as he thinks he is?

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.”

What do you think?