Speechless of late

I know I’ve been speechless of late
Without utterance
It’s what happens when your ears are full
Your mouth is empty
And your heart is silence overflowing

I still see things and wonder and create
Small chains of ideas
But the energy to bother has been cruelled
Slipping through cracks
And running down the dirty city gutter

It occurred to me as a small example –
Our life addiction
How we settle for many impoverishings
Because we at least
Are alive to breath and remember

Or to notice the man with maddened hair
Dark tanned cracked face
Sitting on a shady step on hot King St
Counting his coins
Black eyes catch mine before we separate

Or to feel tears swell when crackly speakers
Come to life and bid
Us all stand and silently remember
I saw just a boy’s name
And recalled the worth of two quiet minutes

Here’s to all the dreamers and lovers and stealers
For the ‘sparks soul’
Where ‘love is the only art’; so mention
It again to yourself
And open wide your flailing utterance

Fake men, lots of kids and not enough housework…

Sydney Opera House with a tall ship in the for...
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The Opera House was a dangerous idea in its time and so it is fitting hat it hosts the Festival Ideas of Dangerous Idea in early October.

Having argued that there is no more Dangerous Idea than Jesus, let’s check out a few of the less dangerous ideas under consideration at the festival: Are all men fakes?; Why the religious will inherit the earth; and Australian husbands are the worst in the world and why it’s women’s fault.

Oh, and at the end of the story, check out my ‘Biblical perspective’ on the ‘dangerous ideas’ covered…Read More »

Jesus is still a dangerous idea…

Stained glass at St John the Baptist's Anglica...
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The Festival of Dangerous Ideas is on again at Sydney Opera House on October 2-3 covering everything from The Right is the New Left through to that most important of questions, Are All Men Fakes?

But before we take a closer a look at the festival (tomorrow), I recall discovering a dangerous idea when I was at university studying humanities back in the early eighties.

That was a time when Australia still had an active communist party and I think most of its members were either studying or lecturing in my course.

It might also explain why one of the subjects on offer was Studies in Rebellion and I was just rebellious enough to take it.

Then while most of my comrades where sliding to the left politically or dallying deeply into capitalism, I became a Christian and began volunteering in a soup kitchen.Read More »

Politicians fail to deliver on asylum seeker policy

Check out some comment on the asylum seeker issue I’ve made on my other blog, Australian Christian Voter.

Christians, along with just about every other section of the community, are divided about how best to respond to the arrival of refugees by boat.

The politicians have no hope of coming up with cohesive policy because they are playing to political audiences. But Christians are often not much better, sniping at each other from behind entrenched views.

If a forum of Christians across a variety of perspectives could provide a united voice, we might actually lead the nation in a prophetic way. We need national Christian leadership to do this – it’s there I’m sure but where do we find it? PH

Nature, nurture and the spiritual life

Nature versus nurture is an ongoing debate in the scientific community but what implications does it have for the spiritual life?

Is our identity, personality and behaviour fixed by our genes or is the raw material of ourselves molded by the environment into which we are born – our family, parenting, experience.

Likewise does a person’s spiritual origin determine what they look like or is it more to do with spiritual environment in which they live?Read More »

How will we create in 2020?

Ever wondered where the rapid spread and influence of technology, particularly in the area of digital communication, is taking us?

Author John Maeda has some interesting ideas of what our lives might look like in 2020. For him, digital technology will become more of an unconscious norm leaving us free to major on more nuanced, creative and physical realities.

‘We’ll witness a return to the integrity of craft, the humanity of authorship, and the rebalancing of our virtual and physical spaces. We’ll see a 21st-century renaissance in arts- and design-centered approaches to making things, where you-the individual-will take centre stage in culture and commerce.’

This may have implications for churches (and already is) where technology allows small, boutique churches to be heavily related to their own indigenous culture while powerfully connected in an organic way to global communities.

Read Maeda’s full article in the Sydney Morning Herald.

God dethroned, humanity is next

The ABC’s Q and A program last night gave a rare display of the logical outcome of secular humanism.

Having begun discussing the relative merits of saving whales verses chickens, the show ended, under the guidance of unethicist Peter Singer, considering that it might not be so bad for humans to have sexual relations with their pets.

While most people on the panel and in the audience couldn’t even engage with that outrageous final topic, it did show us where popular secular thinking is taking us.

Having dethroned God, the next logical step for secular atheism is to dethrone humanity. If there is no God to say that human life is sacred, made in His image, then people are just animals, right and wrong mean nothing and euthanising children and oral sex with dogs is acceptable.

If you don’t believe me, read the transcript. It happened on national television and while hugely offensive, was at least an honest viewing of the dismal trajectory of the thinking of Singer and the secularists.

If you have been flirting naively with some of their ideas, take a good look at the whole murky monster and flirt no more.

God drives the bus to his own defence

God gave a clue to his reality during our bus trip to the ‘In defence of God’ session of the Sydney Writer’s festival today (May 23).

Running late due to bus delays, we were worried about missing the session until our bus driver got lost in the Rocks and pulled over randomly to let us out – right in front of our destination, Sydney Theatre, instead of the actual bus stop two streets away! God is providential, generous and has a sense of humour…

As we gathered with the unfaithful – the session was chaired by an atheist and featured a lapsed Episcopalian – we found we had more in common with the other speaker, the Iranian-American author and scholar, Reza Aslan.

While Eric Lax, author of Faith Interrupted, lamented his fall from faith (I believe he’ll be back though), Aslan launched an attack against the new atheists. He described their behaviour as being as fundamentalist as some of the religious people they hate. He also reminded the audience that despite a century of violent secularism, the number of religious adherents  had risen from half to two thirds of the global population.

Aslan was challenged by a few questioners but was able to mount a good defence for God before the brief question section was wound up. He even began his talk by referring to the blogs that had questioned why an atheist, lapsed Episcopalian and Muslim were leading this session, with no Christian authors present. I take it from this, that he has read Utterance!

In the long run, however, there was inability of all panelists to consider a God who is a personal, tangible reality in our lives with the chair Louise Adler asking for a more concrete definition of faith and God. It wasn’t forthcoming and this was because no one had been invited to speak who actually believes in God this way. It was a timely reminder that atheists and agnostics are searching for something to lovingly but powerfully challenge their unbelief.

A good place to start might be to invite New York minister and author Timothy Keller to next year’s Sydney Writer’s Festival. In the meantime, read his book, The Reason For God – Belief in the age of Scepticism. PH

Listen to a short section of Reza Aslan’s defence of God:

Reza Aslan
Reza Aslan.mp3
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Writers’ festival ‘undefends’ God…

Read, Rethink, Respond... catch-line for Sydney Writers' Festival

At first glance, Christians might be gratified to learn that the Sydney Writers’ Festival in May will feature a session called, In Defence of God. Closer examination though suggests a name change is in order – God Thrown to the Lions… Media reports say festival director, Chip Rolley, felt that ‘God deserved some time’ after recent visits to Australia by high-profile atheists such as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens.

Good one Chip, are you having a joke with us? The session will be chaired by atheist and publisher-in-chief at Melbourne University Press, Louise Adler, and the two speakers are Eric Lax, a lapsed Episcopalian, now described as a ‘hopeful unbeliever’; and Reza Aslan, an acclaimed Muslim scholar and writer. Reza’s surname is the only (accidental) positive reference to Christianity (think CS Lewis). 

The plot (pun intended) thickens when it is realised the session will be held on Sunday 10am (May 23). Now, where would most Christians usually be at 10am on a Sunday?

Read More »

All you have to do is live your life

“‘Oh Val,’ said Father. ‘All you have to do is live your life , and everyone around you will be happier.’
‘No greatness, then.’
‘Val,’ said Mother, ‘goodness trumps greatness any day.’
‘Not in the history books,’ said Valentine.
‘Then the wrong people are writing history, aren’t they?’ said Father.

From Ender in Exile, by Orson Scott Card.

The naked face of human emotion

“The face is not a secondary billboard for our internal feelings. It is an equal partner in the emotional process” writes Malcolm Gladwell in Blink.

He is referring to the discovery by researchers that not only does our face spontaneously express our emotions, but that our emotions are impacted by the expressions on our face.

Scientists working to collate the full range of human facial expressions spent hours perfecting facial muscle movements, including those that would usually express, sadness, anger and other negative feelings. They began to realise that on those days, they began to feel terrible emotionally.Read More »

How are those resolutions going?

This is my 21st blog post for 2010 having boldly resolved to post every day of the year. So I’ve already broken my New Year’s resolution eight times and January is not even over! I may attempt multiple posts to catch up. Do you think that counts?

 It’s an interesting phrase when you think about it:

  • Resolution is a firm resolve to do something;
  • Re can mean “again and again” while solution means “answer” so a resolution might be coming back to the answer again and again (which sounds very much like a new year’s resolution!)
  • Tracing back to its origin, the word resolution comes from the Latin resolutionem (nom. resolutio) meaning “process of reducing things into simpler forms,” which in turn comes the stem of resolvere – “loosen”. The solution, it would seem, is in finding the simplest way forward, free of restraints.
  • Resolution in our age also refers to the fineness of detail in an image which could mean a new year’s resolution is a sharper view of life. Or a blurrier one…
  • And as for being a new year, if the only thing that changes is the date – and not your decision, your thinking, your spirit – then is it new at all?

How are you going with your New Year resolutions? PH

The challenge for the democratic west…

I’m re-reading the classic science fiction trilogy, Dune, by Frank Herbert, and came across an interesting quote in a typical Herbert entree to a chapter.

In Children of Dune the quote has this citation: ‘Words of an ancient philosopher (Attributed by Harq al-Ada to one Louis Veuillot).’

Harq al-Ada is a fictional charcter while Veuillot was a 19th century journalist, man of letters and radical Catholic ultramontane which means he supported the Pope to the exclusion of local church authorities. Ultramontane means ‘dweller beyond the mountains’ (ultra montes), that is beyond the alps – referring to the Pope in Rome…

Read More »

Sleepless in the sands of time

I woke up one night with a line from the intro to Days of Our Lives going through my head. For the record, I do not watch Days of our Lives.

While trying to get back to sleep my mind kept twisting the words back on themselves in a ridiculous attempt to come up with ‘deeper’ meaning from the same words in different order…

Read More »

‘This is not the beginning’, said Peter Hallett

I remember learning to write in Mrs Rickard’s first grade class at Taree West Primary School. I had a bad habit, or so she felt, of wanting to add just a little more length to my strokes such as on a ‘p’ or ‘y’. The problem was that when writing with crayons, it was almost impossible to get the two strokes to join. I can still see my gangly letters with little dislocations. I got into trouble for this but, when handwriting large letters, I still do it today.

Fortunately, I don’t hand-write much anymore because it has always been reasonably illegible. But clearly I am still writing in other ways, such as right here, right now.

A blog may well be the latest in a long line of attempts to add just a little bit more to my sometimes hesitant communication. I hope some of the things I write will at least join up, perhaps with you, or someone, or God himself.

In the meantime, Sydney weather has heeded the bitter remembrances of ANZAC Day (April 25) and rushed about angrily in cold gusts all day, tempered only by the sun’s impertinent warmth. The sun has called it quits now, however, and the door is open behind me and there is cold air on my neck.

See you later.
Peter Hallett