Kill the church but go easy on the gurus…

As a wobbly sounding plane flies over head through the cloud and light rain of an early Leichhardt morning, I consider another staple of inner west life, the Inner West Courier.

It has thrown up a spiritual conundrum, a coded message of religious reality in our time. Actually, it’s just demonstrating the bleeding obvious…

On page 12 of the August 31 edition, a story celebrates the awarding of the Australian Writers Guild Kit Denton Fellowship Award to Petersham resident George Casti for his script I Want to be Slim.

Great, I think. Good to see some local talent being rewarded and $30,000 can make all the difference as a writer seeks to stave off poverty and establish their craft.

I read on to see what his script is about: ‘…award judged on courage and excellence… Catsi’s “anti-Hillsong” script won… religion is a very polarised area… satirical script is about the Rev Slim Limits and his performance in getting the masses to follow his evangelical ways.’

Mmm, so George gets $30,000 to perfect his script, poking fun, in a courageous and excellent way, at a section of society that, obviously, it is perfectly appropriate to ridicule. The Courier report is matter-of-fact, as if we shouldn’t be surprised that a local church is award-winning, satire material.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 »

Religion of hate loses touch with God of love

‘Many women who do not dress modestly … lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which (consequently) increases earthquakes.’ – Senior Iranian cleric,  Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi, as quoted by Iranian media. 

‘Thank God for eight more dead troops. We are praying for 8,000 more. We’ve turned America over to the fags; they’re coming home in body bags.’ April 16, 2010 Press Release from Pastor Fred Phelp’s Westboro Baptist Church, Kansas, US. 

If Mr Sedighi and Mr Phelps met in the street they would no doubt be mortal enemies, except they are speaking from the same script. One believes God is sending earthquakes to Iran due to short dresses and the other believes God is sending home dead soldiers because of the US tolerance of homosexuality. 

While these two ‘clerics’ might seem to be at opposite ends of the religious spectrum (Muslim v Christian) they are actually of the same religious spirit, just wearing different colours. 

Religion is a set of laws that people observe externally with scant regard for the state of their heart, or other’s. Power is gained by asserting these laws in ever-increasing measure to affirm one’s own superiority and to ensure the others sublimation. 

It is true that we live in a moral universe and that there is a way of living that is right before God. But none of us attain it and our only hope is not more religion, but a freeing relationship with the one who is always truth, and love.When the religious power-mongers of Jesus’ day brought an adulterous woman before him, he first reminded them of their own sin and then dealt graciously with the woman. ‘He that is without sin, throw the first stone.’ No stones were thrown and the only one entitled too, Jesus, chose to love, forgive and gently direct the woman to a better life – one that she found in following him. 

Now if Jesus didn’t cast a stone, how is that Mr Sedighi and Mr Phelps (and, let’s be honest, occasionally you and I)think they can? Because they have lost sight (or never known) their own brokenness before God and that in Jesus, judgement has fallen, been met, and the way thrown open for new life. Does God hate sin? Yes, because of what it does to people. Does God hate people? No, he died for them. All of us. 

A certain Australian pastor, who I’ll refrain from naming at this point, made some frighteningly similar remarks to these vengeful clerics in the context of the Victorian bushfires last year. It is to be hoped that he submits his theology to the crucible of his peers before making any more remarks like that… PH