Processed people

There is much use of the word 'processed' in the media at the moment. Sadly, l am hearing it used in relation to people. When l think of the word, l think of cheese. That gluey stuff that binds countless burgers around the world. Or sausages, ham, or the suspiciously titled 'luncheon meat'. 'Processed' in the food world is no complement, but rather speaks of inferiority, impurity, attached to foodstuffs that would be inedible or at least unappetizing without the mysterious 'processing'.

The word 'detain' has become distasteful. We have seen the footage, heard the stories, and none of it is pretty. No, we don't like the idea of detaining all that much, especially children. So now we process them instead, offshore. Just as l am ignorant of all that is encompassed by the processing of bibs and bobs to make sausages, l, and the rest of the Australian public, will now be ignorant of how refugees are 'processed'. We don't tend to worry to much about what we don't see. Why can't we use words like 'assessed', 'assisted', 'supported' in relation to responding to the needs of refugees? l guess these words have expectations attached. Like the sausages, who knows what 'processed' really means.

Biblical infection…

I have been a bit quiet here of late as my old laptop completely died, and I have just got a replacement. I am in the frustrating midst of configuring a dual boot system with not a lot of success on either front – Windows is currently faring no better for me than Linux. I can foresee a few more late nights…

Anyway, I happened to read a few snippets in the Herald Sun today (my newspaper of choice when confined to a small table in a cafe) and spotted a few comments concerning the removal of the Gideon's Bible from hospitals in the "Your Say" section. I must confess that I didn't know about this until reading these responses, so if my subsequent rant is ill-informed, please do fill me in on the facts! One writer suggests that the primary reason for banning the Gideon's from the hospital is for infection control. Now the types of diseases that one may catch from the word of God is worth pondering, especially those that one will not catch from your average glossy trash magazine that is probably several years out of date, and I dare say more well-thumbed than the poor old Gideon. Perhaps the fear is more to do with worrying that while patients risk 'catching' spiritual comfort from the bible, others may be offended. Now I come to the bit that really impressed me. A Muslim man wrote in his views. He did not say "burn the Gideons", or how about handing out a bedside edition of the Qur'an alongside or instead of the Bible. He wrote that he and his family/friends felt it was a shame that the Bible had been banished from Victorian hospitals and schools. He described the Bible as a holy book that did not offend him.

As a nation we are wondering how deep our tolerance goes, especially in religious and racial terms. I am not sure that collectively as Christians we are all that different. Except that our notions of tolerance is constrained by an incredible ability to split hairs between denominations, doctrine, ecclesiology, as well as the usual biggies challenging our nation as a whole. This comes partially from our desire to categorise and work out who is in or out. This consumes us so much at times that we miss the bridges. We stand on one side of a divide staring hopelessly to the other, wondering how they will come to us. If only we were not so blind. No wonder so many in our community seem innoculated to the Bible. The Muslim man saw the Bible as a holy book, and I am sure he is not alone. Now there's a bridge if ever I saw one.

He chose me, he chose me not

“Whether it’s God who makes us puppets, or whether it’s genes…… it doesn’t matter much to me. I have little time for determinism. If it’s true then I can’t help but not believe in it, because, after all, I have not choice.”

This quote comes from Brian McClaren's book "A Generous Orthodoxy" and was referenced here as part of Geoff's comprehensive book review. Well worth a read, if you have read McClaren's book, or are thinking about it. Geoff highlights this quote as McClaren's contribution to the issue of predestination. I have pondered this question for years. The most interesting place I recall discussing it was perched high at the MCG for an Essendon match with an ex-Dutch Reformed Calvinist minister. I found a t-shirt on the internet somewhere that I seriously considered buying for him – on the front it said "this t-shirt chose me", and on the back it said "I chose this t-shirt".

I just can't reconcile myself to the fact that some are chosen to be saved, and some are not, and that in fact some are chosen for damnation (double predestination). I struggle to reconcile this with a God who is merciful, a "father", one who sacrificed beyond my comprehension for the sake of restoring relationship with His people. On the other hand, I realize that God has a whole lot to do with the conversion process, so I can't fully accept the Armenian position either. For those who are not familiar with Calvinism and Armenianism, these two perspectives sum up the dominant opposing views on the subject of predestination. The wikipedia offers a reasonable introduction to the topic. I have come to the conclusion that this issue is a) beyond my understanding; b) not something that should affect my salvation; c) not a very helpful evangelistic tool. Maybe this whole issue is a theological re-packaging of a problem endemic amongst Christians – the need to determine who is in or out of church, saved or unsaved, chosen or damned.

fields vs barns…

Neil Cole likes his farming analogies when he talks about church life. In that regard he is in good company. Farming images frequently featured in Jesus' stories. The harvest in particular was a dominant theme (for both Jesus and Neil). This is a metaphor the church still uses, especially in relation to yearning for growth. How many times have I heard earnest men and women passionately seeking God for the harvest, measured usually by the crops stored in the barn. That is where the church comes into her own – eveything needed to process the produce is safely ensconced in the barn. What seems to be missing is cheerfully heading out of the barn with a fistful of seeds and time to spend with those who come our way. It is God that grows the seeds. I am so thankful for this, for gardening and how things grow is mostly a mystery to me. But I do know how to plant seeds. Neil Cole says that church should take place in the fields not the barns. Sounds pretty good to me.