Coffee czar bucks Hybel’s global summit

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…

The debate goes on…

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Kate enters MasterChef final with plenty of prayerful support

Several thousand past and present students of Greenacre Baptist Christian Community School will be glued to the MasterChef finale with former teacher Kate Bracks one of the final two contestants.

And quite a few might be saying the occasional prayer to see her win the final challenge next week. They’ll be joined by the members of Orange Evangelical Church where Kate, husband Luke and three children are members. Throw in additional prayerful support from Orange Christian School and it could be suggested that Kate has an unfair advantage.

But it will come down to taste and so far, Kate has proved time and again that her food has plenty of that. The township of Orange is, no doubt, in raptures about her success and will be hopeful her cool and calm approach will continue into the grand final.

Back in the early years of this century when Kate was teaching at Greenacre, she was a much-loved and respected teacher at a beautiful little school located in an area often referred to, somewhat ominously, as south-west Sydney.

And while fires and shootings at nearby car wrecking yards were routine, there was an atmosphere of love and peace that enveloped the school and embraced two of my children for several years.

Kate taught my youngest son in his pivotal Year 6 and, while there was no hint of her cooking prowess in those days, she was an excellent teacher.

On his Year 6 progress report, she wrote: “He is cooperative, modest and encouraging in his dealings with others.” Sounds very much like Kate’s own approach to her time on MasterChef.

Kate spoke about taking on the challenge of MasterChef to show her children that it’s possible to chase one’s dreams and be stretched beyond our normal existence. It might also be a shout-out to all parents to be living examples of faith in action to their children, shrugging of conformity and consumerism and doing something generous with their lives.

As for taking on the MasterChef challenge, Kate credits family and friends for their support. The Central Western Daily newspaper (worked there myself back in the day…) reports:

“Despite her love of cooking Mrs Bracks said she wouldn’t be competing in MasterChef if she didn’t have the support of her family and friends, including those from the Orange Evangelical Church. ‘I’ve got such a supportive network,’ she said.
Even after a successful audition for the show it took an extra push from her husband Luke, a teacher at Orange Christian School, to remind her that she was up to the challenge ahead. ‘He just told me not to let other things get in the way [of me doing this],’ she said.”

Kate and the Dalai Lama

Speaking in tongues comes to ABC news

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 »

Oslo shooter ‘Christian’ label questioned

Claims have now surfaced that the supposed Facebook page for Oslo terrorist Anders Behring Breivik may have been altered to make it appear that he had conservative Christian beliefs.

While the issue should not overshadow the grief and suffering of victims of the atrocity, the issue of why Breivik would act as he did is obviously important to those directly affected but also the millions world-wide trying to come to terms with the crimes.

And as news breaks of a 1500 page manifesto and video from Breivik that delve into his motivations (see below), the use of Facebook information initially and the labelling of the shooter as a Christian fundamentalist still warrant examination.

Utterance was first alerted to the fake Facebook claims by a commenter on our previous post, Oslo misery compounded by shooter ‘Christian’ claim. John Covert claimed to provide a link to the Google cached version of the page. It does not show a reference to Christian belief.

Other bloggers go further and display the Facebook page allegedly as it appeared just before being removed by Facebook with no reference to Christianity and another later version that contains the Christian belief and conservative politics references.

The issues this raises are:

  • It is dangerous when the media reports that crimes may have been motivated by certain religious or political beliefs (and that applies across the spectrum) when they have no corroborating evidence. (This evidence has reportedly now surfaced – see below).
  • Using people’s private social networking information as the basis for news reports is bad journalism as it may be an invasion of privacy and open to inaccuracy – how many people misrepresent themselves on Facebook etc?
  • The ability to manipulate internet information (as may or may not be the case here) means even if it is not considered an ethical problem to access the information, it should still be viewed as in need of corroboration.

People who regard themselves as conservative, Christian or fundamentalist obviously felt targeted, ashamed or unfairly associated with the crimes of Breivik and this might be useful insight into how people of other faiths or political persuasions feel when the actions of an individual or group are used to taint all those of similar beliefs.

It’s important for Christians to remember it is their actions day to day that will have the most influence on what people think of the Christian faith. Headlines come and go and are quickly forgotten, but our lives are daily on display.

STOP PRESS: New sources of information are appearing regarding Anders Behring Breivik’s beliefs and the motivation for his shocking killing spree. Reports indicate he left behind a 1,500 page manifesto likened to an al Qaede document except from a European Christian perspective and also a video summarising his views. 

Read the New York Times report

Fox News shows some of the manifesto

The original Facebook page of Anders Behring Breivik?
The altered page of the Olso shooter?

Australian Cadel Evans wins Tour de France

Australian Cadel Evans has won the Tour de France after converting a 57 second deficit into a more than 90 second victory in the final time trial of the historic 108th year of the vent.

While the official finishing line awaited Evans on the final day of the race in Paris, his victory was sealed when he snatched victory during the time trial on the penultimate day of the event.

The day before, during the final climbing section of the race, a bike breakdown appeared to have left Evans far removed from leadership contention in the Tour de France. But an amazing fightback then brought him within reach of victory with just the time trial to come.

With the same steely resolved he has shown all race, and in fact for years of Tor de France competition, he finished the 42 kms in 55 minutes and 40 seconds, nearly three minutes faster than Luxembourg’s Andy Schleck who until then was leading the event.

Evans, now wearing the yellow jersey, led the contingent of riders into Paris with an overall race lead of about 96 seconds. Tradition dictates that leaders are rarely contested on this final leg, all he needed to do was finish the event with the main group which he did, riding onto the Avenue des Champs-Élysées as the first Australian winner.

Not much is known of the inner motivations of Evans other than he was a country boy who learned to ride a bike at a very young age, got used to riding alone in the country areas in which he grew up (around Katherine, Armidale, Barwon Heads) and that he once rode in a race with a Tibetan flag on his undershirt to support Tibetan freedom.

His mum, Helen Cocks, says, “He is a simple man who likes simple things. He will be the same Cadel [after winning the Tour de France], probably just relieved,” she said. And in Chiara, his Italian wife, she said her son had a partner who kept people’s feet firmly on the ground.

Oh, and he barracks for Geelong in the AFL – enough said.

Wikipedia supplies these biographic details for Cadel Evans:

Cadel Evans wearing the yellow jersey as winner of the Tour de France, 2011.

“Evans was born in Katherine, Northern Territory. He is married to Chiara Passerini, an Italian music teacher whom he met at the end of 2002. The two were introduced by a friend of her father’s. Evans inherited his surname from his great-grandfather who hailed from Wales, and his first name is also of Welsh origin (‘Cadell‘ being the name of three Welsh kings).[3] Evans attended Eltham High School in Melbourne, Victoria during his teenage years. In 2008, Evans wore a cycling undershirt with the Flag of Tibet and supported freedom for Tibet.[4][5] He said: ‘Trying to bring awareness of the Tibet movement is something someone in my position can do. I just feel really sorry for them. They don’t harm anyone and they are getting their culture taken away from them. I don’t want to see a repeat of what happened to Aboriginal culture [in Australia] happen to another culture.’ Evans has stated that it was his early years growing up in Armidale that was the inspiration for his cycling career. Additionally, the city’s higher altitude gave Evans an early edge in competition. Whilst living in Armidale, Evans attended Newling public school.”

Meanwhile, the elation in France is in stark contrast to the grief of Norway. While we weep with those who are weeping in Norway we take a moment to rejoice with those who rejoice in France and Australia.

A unique view of Cadel's winning time-trial effort, thanks to Paper Camera

 

Oslo misery compounded by shooter ‘Christian’ claim

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.

For a thorough analysis of this issue, visit The Christian Post’s story.

Read part of New York Times report:

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.

From MasterChef to Q&A – smorgasbord of religious offerings

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.

Read the Herald Sun’s report of Kate’s response: Title one ingredient too much for MasterChef contestant.

Fred Nile’s ethic classes demand

Watch the ABC’s Q & A’s ‘spiritual special’.

Check out details of John Lennox’s debate with Peter Singer.

See my previous post re the AFA’s billboard campaign

AmazinGrace carries the cross in Jerusalem

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.

From the film, The Passion of the Christ

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

Lady Gaga describes herself as a ‘traditional Catholic’

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.

Previous Gaga post

Father Bob neighbour of next year’s The Block

The producers of The Block may have a thing for living near celebrities but they certainly no how to make Father Bob angry.

“While this year’s houses in Richmond back on to Molly Meldrum’s lavish Egyptian-themed property, the four houses believed to have been bought for next year’s show are opposite the home of renegade priest, Father Bob Maguire,” the Herald Sun reported yesterday.

Father Bob tweeted that he was “Not happy me”. Well known for his media appearances and run-ins with Catholic authorities over his retirement, he clearly resented the renegade title.

The four side-by-side terraces in South Melbourne are located on Dorcas St, overlooking the parish of St Peter and Paul’s.

The properties were recently sold and came with planning permission for a third storey, to maximise city views.

See the Herald Sun story.

Hang on, that’s a balanced Hillsong article!

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”.
Read more at the Sydney Morning Herald.
Previous Hillsong posts:

 

Lockyer’s last Origin moments captured on Paper Camera

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Darren Lockyer played his last game of State of Origin rugby league as part of Queensland’s 34-24 defeat of NSW in front of a record-equaling crowd at Suncorp Stadium tonight.

The Australian, Queensland and Brisbane captain said before the game he wanted to finish with no regrets and he accomplished this with another superb performance personally and by his team.

There are few players who have carried themselves with as much control, dignity, fairness and talent as Darren Lockyer and so although I’m a NSW supporter, I could not for a moment begrudge his moment of well-deserved glory.

Tonight I also downloaded a new iPhone app called Paper Camera which has just been released and applies some funky and creative filters to your photos.

I was able to record (above) Lockyer’s lap of honour with some special effects. Enjoy.

And if we could all follow Lockyer’s ambition – to finish with no regrets – our lives would certainly be freer and lighter.

The Australian promotes John 3:16

20110701-082028.jpgIt’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.

Space provides hope for street sex workers

My only encounters with brothels and sex workers have been organising to have flowers distributed outside one of Sydney’s largest brothels in Camperdown during random acts of kindness events and trawling the area around Hollywood Boulevard, LA, in the early hours of the morning with a Dream Centre team.

In both cases the intention was to bring the kindness of God to an otherwise unkind corner of our society, hopefully surprising people with the news that God loves them.

Oh and there was one occasion on the bus from work when two young women, looking like uni students, sat behind me and begun discussing their ‘clients’. Being a consummate eaves-dropper I was soon shocked and got off feeling a little shaken about the world we live in.

So it is good news indeed to see a Christian community group featured in the Sydney Morning Herald because of complaints against sex workers – not making the complaints but being the object of them.

Baptist Church urban compassion ministry, Hope Street, has raised the ire of inner Sydney residents for running a support service for sex workers out of a Bourke Street, Darlinghurst terrace.

Established in April 1995, Women’s Space is described by Hope Street as a “safe place where we provide support for street-based sex workers and other women involved in the sex industry in inner Sydney, with a focus on encouraging those women who choose to make a change in their lives and supporting these women during and after the changes they make.”

About five street-based sex workers visit the centre each morning, according to the SMH report, and may seek counselling have a shower, get a new set of clothes or just sit in the sunny courtyard.

Coordinator Kay Syonesa said the women “can come here and have someone treat them as an individual whereas other places it’s: ‘just a sex worker’… they come here and it’s: ‘you’re human’.”

As the service only moved to the Bourke St location at the start of this year, the were asked to submit a development application to the City of Sydney and local residents have contributed 84 objections out of 88 responses.

One representative of the East Sydney Neighbourhood Association came up with this ‘impressive’ list of objections: “the street sex workers are homeless… it does not service the residents, it’s not compatible with the permissible use.”

Compelling reasoning… not. Kings Cross police have no problems with the service, street prostitution has not increased in the area and some residents are seeing the bigger picture: “It’s just pathetic, this idea of ‘not in my backyard. It will make absolutely no difference to these residents but it could do a huge amount of good for these women,” the resident told the SMH.

Let’s hope compassion wins over ‘not in my backyard’ as City of Sydney planners assess the development application.

Find out  more about Hope Street’s Women’s Space.

Check out this previous post:

Paul Moulds – into the dark places.

Man vs Stage – Bear Grylls live in Australia

As Bear Grylls’ book Mud, Sweat and Tears hits number one for sales in the UK, tickets for his Australian live stage show later this year are already selling fast.

The star of Man vs Wild will be in Australia for three shows in September with special guest hosts including Merrick Watts of Merrick and Rosso fame.

Grylls has previously been to Australia to promote Christianity introduction course, Alpha, and to speak at Hillsong.

For more information about Bear Gryll’s Oz visit, go to Australian Christian News. And check out a message from Bear below.

Pieters-Hawke and bonds of love and affection

Sue Pieters-Hawke has been in the news this week for an argument with Blanche d’Alpuget, wife of her father, former Prime Minister Bob Hawke.

The two women have reportedly been at odds over comments about Ms Pieters-Hawke’s mother, Hazel, in d’Alpuget’s biography of Mr Hawke. Hazel is suffering from advanced dementia.

The disagreement occurred at Brisbane Airport last Thursday and the next morning Ms Pieters-Hawke gave an address to HammondCare’s Rehabilitating Aged Conference in Sydney.

Listening to Pieters-Hawke, it was obvious she was passionate about the care of older people, particularly those with dementia.

In describing what she learned in the years spent caring for her mother, Ms Pieters-Hawke said, “My job description while caring for mum… was doing my best to help her maximize her own enjoyment of life. Her subjective sense of happiness and well-being was both the very point of me doing what I did and the ultimate measure of its value.”

As care for older people and the growing incidence of dementia are among the greatest challenges facing our communities, I encourage you to read the rest of my story about Sue Pieters-Hawke’s address. A more passionate advocate you will not find.

Offending sculpture creates spiritual precedent

Offending sculpture... cropped so as not further offend.

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.