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.

Good Anzac

While leaders erred their courage held
Bloodied birth waters for a young nation
Anzac Day.
Not so far from there a crowd yelled
Bloody minded in their mob betrayal
Good Friday.

Quiet days that soar still on our modern calendars
Far places weighing on our clever consciences
Calvary and Anzac Cove say, ‘Not my will, lest we forget’.
Great defeats born with blood, borne by love
Teaching us still decades, centuries, eternally
That winning is not always won in victory
But sometimes by the brave, in loss.

The good die young, die in sand and mud, die in their thousands
And we remember them, more than ever, more than mostMoved and strangely weeping.
But listen, echoing along with shuffling feet on dawn’s street
The sound of metal striking metal
Wood giving way, and flesh
And the cry of an only Son
Who dies on a tree, dies with scorn, dies alone
Not my will, lest we forget.

Peter Hallett

This Anzac Day, we have 23 million redemptive opportunities

Anzac Day 2013, Anzacs, redemption, Australia, Australian, 23 millionIn discussing the amazing opportunity that lies before the 23rd million Australian who joined us last night, Michael Pascoe says that perhaps the most significant thing about being Australian is redemption.

‘…it came down to redemption, to giving people a second chance.’

Pascoe says that while he hoped baby 23 million would make the most of its first chance at a lucky life, he agreed with John Menadue that being Australian is all about the great second chance. Here’s some of what Menadue wrote at Australia Day:

‘…whether Australian born, migrants or refugees an equal opportunity in life, a second chance. That ethos of redemption is a core part of our history…. A friend of mine, Ian McAuley, said that whilst the British sent the puritans to America, they sent convicts to Australia and that we got the better of the deal. The underprivileged and the outcasts in Australia got a second chance.’

We see redemption also in Anzac Day and perhaps this is why it has become such a powerful national symbol. Young Australians caught up in a military mistake, a tactical disaster and a human tragedy find a way to redeem this hopelessness through courage, self-sacrifice, comradery and humour. We may have lost the battle and many thousands of sons, but we bought at great price a sense of national identity and pride.

If that is true, if as Pascoe, Menadue and McAuley seem to agree – redemption is at the core of who we are – then there is great hope because national redemption is still needed.Read More »

Aboriginal standing stones could pre-date Stonehenge

The cultures of Aboriginal Australia have not been well respected or understood by those of us who have arrived in this great land more recently. So many opportunities to learn, understand and work together were missed, and continue to be.

Little by little this is changing, in part to the gradual emergence of research and discovery that is filling in some of the many gaps. One example is research into a standing-stone arrangement in Victoria that may even date Stonehenge. The BBC report begins:

“An egg-shaped ring of standing stones in Australia could prove to be older than Britain’s Stonehenge – and it may show that ancient Aboriginal cultures had a deep understanding of the movements of the stars.

Fifty metres wide and containing more than 100 basalt boulders, the site of Wurdi Youang in Victoria was noted by European settlers two centuries ago, and charted by archaeologists in 1977, but only now is its purpose being rediscovered.

It is thought the site was built by the Wadda Wurrung people – the traditional inhabitants of the area. All understanding of the rocks’ significance was lost, however, when traditional language and practices were banned at the beginning of the 20th Century.

Now a team of archaeologists, astronomers and Aboriginal advisers is reclaiming that knowledge.”

Read more.

Repentance baffles secular Australians

Repentance is a world rarely heard outside of a Christian or other religious gatherings and so it is no wonder Australian journalists have matched it with terms like ‘puzzling’, ‘scratching their heads’ and ‘bolt from the blue’ when reporting Papua New Guinea’s first Day of Repentance held today.

True, the public holiday for Repentance Day was announced in PNG with little fanfare or explanation and this has baffled reporters and some (mainly ex-pat) business owners.

But there is no doubt the very large majority of Christians in PNG know exactly what it’s about and many will have participated in prayer events held across PNG today.

Even the small Muslim sector of PNG society was in favour, with their leader’s only caution being that people should not think repentance is for only one day of the year.

One PNG blogger was pleased with the introduction of repentance day and discusses why it could be so useful on the basis that repentance means a change of mind. Nothing new can be done unless there is first a change in our thinking… good advice for any nation.

It’s interesting to consider that increasingly secular Australia is surrounded by many strongly religious nations. PNG, East Timor, Indonesia and many of the Pacific nations have strongly religious orientations.

An overflow of this has been seen in the prayers, songs of praise and statements of faith that have mixed with the outpouring of grief outside the home where 11 Tongan family members were killed  by a fire earlier this week.

Our prayers are with them.

 

 

 

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?

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

 

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.

One stop site for Australian Christian news

Australian Christian News is a convenient way to catch up with news from a Christian perspective.

While it includes some breaking news posts of its own, the best feature of ACN is that it contains daily news feeds from some of Australia and the world’s best Christian news sources.

In an easy to navigate display, visitors to ACN can see the top stories from sites such as Christian Today Australia, Christian Post, Christianity Today, Eternity newspaper, ABC Religion and more.

Twitter feeds from some of the world’s most incisive Christian commentators are being added and if you have a news source that you believe should be added, you can email your tip to ACN.

A quick sample of some of the stories that can be accessed on ACN right now include:

  • Fearful teen commits suicide due to end of world prediction;
  • Christian Microfinance stays on mission;
  • Justine Bieber Jesus tattoo
  • Libyan leader ready to talk to rebels
  • Rick Warren interviewed by John Piper
  • The Bible comes to Canberra
  • Anglicare warning on budget
  • Latest on Christian school issues

And from the Ship of Fools Twitter feed, some news bound to bring joy to Presbyterians everywhere, or not…

Visit Australian Christian News now and bookmark it or make it a favourite in your browser today.

If you have a news item that you would like published on ACN, please email it.

Mental health gets healthy $1.5 billion

The mentally ill are the most invisible of sufferers in our society and this has often been reflected in government policy and funding.

Having worked for years at a grassroots level with the chronically mentally ill, there are few issues I feel more strongly about than increasing support for people with mental illness, their families and those who care for and treat them.

Keep reading to see what Treasurer Wayne Swan said about his mental health funding initiatives in tonight’s 2011 federal budget speech.

And check some early response to the announcement in this report from the ABC. It qualifies Mr Swan’s announcement by showing that the funding is slow to be rolled out and there will be other losses along the way.

Read More »

Anzac more prevalent but Easter infiltrates

There has been some comment that Anzac Day on April 25 trumped Easter Sunday on April 24 with the SMH reporting that, ‘Media Monitors says there were 1878 mentions of the word Anzac in broadcast media over the long weekend, compared to only 44 resurrections.’

The unusual conjunction in the Australian calendar of the two ‘key foundation stories’ meant that the devout may have found themselves at a dawn service two days in a row!

No doubt coverage of Anzac Day did outstrip Easter commemorations, one reason being that most Anzac Day events took place out in the community with a degree of effort taken to ensure everyone was made welcome to attend. In many case Easter services took place behind church walls with the uninitiated left to work out for themselves how to attend.

For example, holidaying a long way from home, we received invitations both verbal and written, to the Anzac Dawn Service in the small town in which we stayed but were left to search Google to see if there was a church within walking distance. There wasn’t.

It may be that in some cases, the church has given up trying to make the amazing message of Easter accessible to all while momentum for Anzac Day continues to grow. I would say – more power to Anzac Day, but those of us who know the power of Easter truth should not be afraid of taking our joy outside in genuine, unself-conscious and welcoming ways.

The Divine may yet have the last headline in any case. Media commentators may not be aware, but in many Anzac Day commemorations, large and small, around the nation, Christian ministers are invited to give the address and invariably draw comparisons between the self-sacrifice, giving of life and courage embedded in Anzac Day and likewise in the Christ of Easter.

There is nothing closer to a national Christian service than Anzac Day, even though it is a secular event. The sentiments expressed are often as close to the Christian message as they two days were on the calendar this year.

Where to with Utterance?

So, I’ve had a very long case of writer’s block. More writer’s coma than block. More writer’s near-death experience than coma. More…

Anyway, I’m just searching for that sweet-spot of an idea for what to do next. Don’t tell me, I’ll get it eventually.

In the meantime, it did spark my interest that the 7pm Project discussed falling church attendances tonight. Tellingly, they quoted no hard statistics, quoted a minister from a denomination with famously declining membership due to its abandonment of faith, and quoted an atheist who is too young to have any idea if there is a God or not because he hasn’t lived long enough to have a single conviction tested. Or so it seemed to me.

Host Carrie Bickmore admitted her mother had dragged her along to Hillsong, Steve Price had the usual hackneyed response about churches and money and Hughesy said that if it makes people happy and gives them good values then what’s the problem. The too-young-to-know atheist pondered what would happen without the community  that religion provides, but failed to give an alternative.

Oh, and by the way, on a different note, I’m reading my first Ernest Hemingway book, Death in the Afternoon, which is non-fiction and about bullfighting… well, it was the only Hemingway available at Leichhardt Library – but already I’ve gained a few insights into his approach to writing, which may or may not be a good thing.

Harvest returns to the west

In some parts of country Australia, such as western NSW, it has been at least five years since there has been a harvest of any note.
The land at its people have been oppressed by a stubborn failure of rain for up to a decade.
Ironically, the challenge this year has been too much rain with flooding meaning some farmers have missed out again.
Thankfully blue skys and a warming sun are prevailing for now, allowing harvesting to begin.
The west feels profoundly different, as if the pain of past years has been washed away by renewing rains or buried beneath a mountain of multiplying grains. The birds are more abundant and even tired old trees have dressed up in the latest green shoots of spring.
I am from the city but have been deeply moved in the presence of a paddock standing thick with wheat, the wind rustling the golden stalks like a happy, dancing wraith.
While there is much yet to do before farmers will feel their harvest is safely finished, this magnificent return to reaping what you sow is a massage to the heart.
There’s a rightness to it that challenges the cynical unnaturalness, or fakeness, of so much recent thinking.
Return to hope, return to the basics of love and truth and growth and new life. Return to God, the author of it all.

Oprah’s visit recalls other Christmas arrivals

Oprah Winfrey.jpg
Photo: Wikipedia

So Oprah is coming to Australia just before Christmas, including a show at the ‘Oprah House’ on December 14.

Made me think of some other great arrivals around Christmas time and the counter-cultural nature of the Messiah’s mission – just as shocking today as it was then.

While Oprah is bringing her own audience of 300, Jesus had a few animals, shepherds and mum and dad.

Oprah is arriving on a jet plane with a crew of 150, while an unborn Jesus arrived on a donkey with no room at the inn.

Oprah will take over the Opera House with her American audience, crew and ‘thousands’ of Australian fans. When Jesus arrived at Christmas, the angels sang opera but only a shire of shepherds noticed.

Oprah’s visit is expected to be great for Australian tourism although we expect Austria may also get an unexpected boost. Meanwhile Jesus’ visit has sent people travelling all over the planet for 2000 years starting with Persian magi and including many who died for their efforts in pursuing His purpose.

Oprah no doubt will have her detractors but ‘all publicity is good publicity’ in the wild world of television. Jesus had a few detractors too and we know how that turned out.

I do love Oprah’s generosity in springing this great gift on her audience, self-serving as it may be, to a greater or lesser extent.

I do love God’s generosity in giving Jesus, the one purely altruistic act of history, which can be received freely, no strings attached. And the good news is that it is good news forever, not just for this season’s rating period…  

Balancing freedoms as Bibles and bodies are burned

The threatened burning of the Qur’an by a Florida pastor created international headlines and now a Brisbane atheist has used pages of the Bible and the Qur’an to roll fake joints and smoke them. 

And while journalists waste time over these peculiarly western debates, we hear nothing about the very real plight of millions of Christians, many in Muslim countries, where such freedoms are not enjoyed. 

For example a young Laotian woman had her Bible burned (pictured) by villagers who believed it was causing her mother’s illness. 

‘My villagers still hate me and mock me, like they mocked Jesus on the cross. It is the world’s right to hate us or to love us. But for me, I will follow Jesus.’ 

 Many people like this young woman are assisted by Voice of the Martyrs. You might wonder why we need such an organisation in the 21st century but there are more Christian martyrs today than ever before. 

VOM says, ‘In restricted nations around the world, Bibles are burned, shredded or confiscated every day. Those opposed to the gospel can destroy Bibles, but they cannot destroy the faith of those like ****’. 

To read many other heart wrenching stories of the persecution of Christians – the burning of their Bibles, churches and bodies – visit Voice of the Martyrs

We do enjoy remarkable freedoms in the west, rarely known on our planet or throughout history, very much brought about by a Christian world view that says every life is sacred and deserves dignity, freedom, opportunity and life. 

This should be extended to people of all faiths and Koran burning or Bible ‘smoking’ are ridiculous parades of ego. 

But there is something that would help balance the debate. Whenever we stand and affirm that Muslims, for example, should receive the same freedoms in Australia or America as anyone else, it would be inspiring to hear those voices, especially Muslims, speak up and say they would like to see the same freedoms for those persecuted for their faith in Muslim or other restricted countries.

How to cast the perfect vote… and not cast the first stone

Australian and I Vote
Hands up who votes for Australia?! Image by Stephen Mitchell via Flickr

Many Australian voters will be hoping to cast the perfect vote on Saturday – one that represents the best policies, the best candidates and the best future for themselves and the nation.

Christians, and many other thoughtful people, are trained to be intentional and purposeful in all that they do, conscious of rights and wrongs and doing what is best in the eyes of God or their own conscience. This brings a kind of moral pressure to bear as we sift through the competing arguments from candidates and commentators alike.

Sometimes casting a vote almost becomes a battle to see who will cast the first stone – is there any among us worthy to pass judgement on the poor, political sinners scrambling exposed in the dust?

The hard, but relieving, truth is that the perfect vote does not exist, and never has because none of the parties or candidates are perfect. So if perfection is your goal, your are looking in the wrong place. I can think of Someone perfect, but He doesn’t need your vote. He would appreciate a chat though…

So take the pressure off, sit back and read my summary of the various options based on years of journalism and a relentless reviewing of parties, policies and posting more than 110 articles on the election in the past two months. 

 Oh, and one thing I won’t be doing is telling you how to vote… That’s your decision.

Visit Australian Christian Voter to read the full article.

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Get the jump on hairy panic

It used to be the respectfully named Umbrella Grass that rolled in on a westerly wind and stacked up against farm houses like a dusty, dry dump of snow.

But a new wispy villain is covering the land, and it’s a grass aptly known as Hairy Panic. While there is some evidence that its seeds were collected and ground for food by the Wemba Wemba people of the Murray River, today it is better known for covering houses and highways and giving over-indulgent sheep the often fatal Yellow Bighead disease – no further details necessary!

Enjoying the west of NSW for a few days, scenes such as the one pictured above are commonplace. And while rural NSW has experienced the best start to a growing season for years, it has now been some time since the refreshing rains earlier in the year and perhaps there is just the first itching of the old hairy panic creeping in for some farmers.

When a big part of the success of what you do is completely outside your control, panic can quite easily roll over your life, cover familiar landmarks and stow away in hidden corners.

Of course, city folk are just as prone to the hairiness of panic and all of us often respond by strictly controlling what we can to help us cope with what we can’t.

Another option is a spiritual and emotional trampoline to put our feet above the panic and provide the joy and freedom of trampling on our hairy foe.

Faith in God is many things and it may just be the trampoline we need to jump-start an overcoming of panic, anxiety and worry, making it small and opening up the sky to hope and possibility. PH