Casting stones

I wrote this post a while ago now, on my iphone using an application that clearly failed to post.  Anyway, while it is less current, I thought I’d post it now anyway….

These rambling thoughts are probably going to ruffle a few feathers, including my own. But I feel stirred to write, a rare occurrence these days. I have just read a story from the ABC website about David Ferguson, convicted pedophile who has served his time and is in the process of trying to establish a life of sorts on the other side of the bars. Except that he really has nowhere to live. Understandably, his current neighbours don’t want him living next door. Would I? Probably not, if I am really honest. But the man has served his sentence. One hopes useful interventions were put in place while he was a captive audience as it were. Perhaps he is rehabilitated. Or maybe he has learned to harness himself. I am saddened,because I feel as though he will never have opportunity to be anything other than an abuser. I am not suggesting placing children at risk, but surely he should be given an opportunity to live in a manner that takes even the tiniest step towards reintegration in society.  Where does grace fit in here? The man has most certainly been placed outside society by his conduct. The damage done to his victims is not repayable.  His conduct is barely forgivable.  But the question remains – where is grace for him, and what does it look like, if he is our neighbour, both literally and figuratively.

Way to go Harvey

I just read this article in the Age (thanks for the tip off Cheryl).  From the article:

Asked in a new book about his community role, Mr Harvey said giving to people who “are not putting anything back into the community” is like “helping a whole heap of no-hopers to survive for no good reason”

“He said it was arguable that giving charity to the homeless was “just wasted”. “It might be a callous way of putting it but what are they doing?” he said. “They are just a drag on the whole community.”

This statement could only come from someone someone who has never known what it is to struggle.  And someone who is totally ignorant of the issues that result in homelessness.  Nothing like the billionaire armchair perspective on society’s most vulnerable.  If someone’s intrinsic value is only based on what he or she can put in to the community, we can all be written off at one stage or another of our lives.   Yes Harvey, it was callous. Not to mention Darwinian.  And your stores won’t be getting another cent from me.

The Abbey

Tonight I finished viewing the last installment of a series that recently aired on the ABC – “The Abbey“.  For those who missed it, it is a kind of reality tv show set in a Benedictine monastery.  It documents the personal and communal journeys of five women with diverse backgrounds, ages and personal stories as they undertake 33 days of life as Benedictine nuns.  I found it quite profound.  Most notably, the way in which each of the women encountered God through their experience.  They found the vigils hard and inflexible, constant, tiring.  But each experienced breakthroughs in their lives, release from past hurts, and greater attunement with the physical and spiritual.   As someone who wrestles with institutionalized imaginations (do those two words go together?!) of church and faith, the impact of the experience was surprising.   The nuns were not “seeker sensitive”.  They were not “cool”.  They did not use the latest technology to create amazing experiences of worship.  There was no Hillsong, Vineyard, or anything likely to have been written in the last century or so.  They did not take the women to the pub to “hang out” and discuss spirituality.  Instead they met for prayer seven times a day commencing at 4.30am, worked in the garden, earned their keep, practiced silence (even when eating).  For the nuns, the most important thing they could do was pray for the world.  To be honest, it did not look very appealing to me – at least not as a lifestyle option.  Yet these women found God.  And not shallowly.  Deep spiritual and emotional work and healing took place.   God is to be found deeply in all places.  Rituals are not dead if God is honoured through and by their practice.  And God can reveal himself profoundly in a way that brings life through what seems to be void of life and freedom.  After watching the women’s stories unfold, it seems that one of the greatest robbers of vital spirituality is clutter in our lives.  Gadgets, internet (eek on both accounts 🙂 ), addiction to the instant and immediate,  crowded lives filled with stuff, events, talking, escapism, searching for meaning by filling every last moment.   We do not take time often enough to listen, to be silent, to feel the cool soil in our fingers, to watch and wait for things to grow.  Rather challenging.   

APEC in the red light

I have been rather quiet here, for a number of reasons. I don’t like writing without having something to say, although this conviction has not really halted this post! I am frantically busy, and have too many “shoulds” and “musts” on my list. Blogging is not one of them.

Nevertheless, this caught my eye whilst perusing the ABC news website. Before I elaborate (please don’t follow the link yet), consider the media coverage for recent APEC gathering. I don’t believe I heard about anything other than the issue of security, with a few nasty protest moments. And a lovely story about the partners of heads of states off for a little fraternizing together. The official website boasts the following motto – “strengthening our communities – building a sustainable future”. Of course, strengthening communities and sustaining our future is all about money. Let there be no confusion – the “E” in APEC does not stand for the environment, or equality, or any other noble “e” word. The economy is god. And the much heralded APEC event has given Sydney’s red light economy a good boost. Apparently in the weeks leading up to the event phones were running hot for Sydney brothels, as the delegates frantically tried to set up discrete dalliances to tide them through the two days. APEC offers included “the Presidential Platter”, and the “United Nations double”. Mixing business and pleasure. Tell me, how does this strengthen communities and builds sustainable futures? What does it mean for the women left at home in the various countries represented by APEC? For our Australian women? Just further evidence of the brokenness of our world.

Please dont chute the baby

I am someone notorious for lateness. Late arrivals, late returns of books, dvds. I have been fined many a time, and in the past avoided the library for years for fear of the fines that awaited me. Currently (thanks to a name change) I am in the clear. The library chute was my friend, providing a faceless opportunity to return that book that had graced my shelves for a year or so, with accumulated fines that could have bought the book two or three times over. So I am all for chutes. But for babies?

Let me explain. I read the paper today accompanied by an excellent latte at my favorite cafe in Belgrave, Earthly Pleasures. Today’s paper seemed littered with stories about unwanted children. In Perth a dead baby was found in a plastic bag, in a handbag, at the tip. I feel horrified even typing out these words. They are real, the picture devastating, but true. A couple of articles later, a five year old boy murdered by his substance addicted father. A few pages more I learned that in Germany and Italy, hospitals now have chutes for unwanted babies. They provide an opportunity for mothers to safely and discreetly deposit their unwanted babies. This saddens me greatly. Not that Germany has taken this initiative, for surely it is a better alternative than the fate of the little baby boy from Perth, but why is such a thing necessary? How can our ‘advanced’ western society have broken down to such an extent that a mother unable to care for her baby has no option but to “dispose” of the infant? I understand that there are many reasons that may lead a woman to make such a decision, and it is tragic, for both mother and baby. But even more lamentable is a society that can be so disconnected that a tiny boy can be thrown out in the garbage with no-one knowing, and no-one offering an alternative to support the mother, either in keeping or relinquishment, or caring for her if the boy was stillborn. When the church engages with the issues of mothers and unwanted babies, too often the focus is restricted to strong stands against abortion. The church (once again) is noted more for what it is against in this issue, rather than being part of the answers to the social/political/economic/psychological issues that lead to unwanted pregnancies, unwanted babies, and the need for chutes.


Aww… you poor thing.

The phrase “Aussie battler” is one that is deeply entrenched in the Australian psyche – it captures the struggles of life surviving and even flourishing against incredible odds, a fair enough picture of our early settlement history where the term originated. It is applied particularly to people slaving away at horrible jobs for next to nothing to make ends meet. Barely. It is a title of endearment that bolsters the solidarity of those considered the underclass. Introducing today’s Aussie battler. Mr and Mrs Aussie Battler now have a a million dollar mortgage over the modestly large home nestled in a sought after suburban estate. They probably have two newish cars, a necessity as they both work full time, and Mr Battler juggles two jobs. The credit card is maxed to furnish the home theatre room to make the best use of the Foxtel subscription… Sunday afternoon is the only time Mr Battler gets to attack his driveway with the leaf blower while Mrs Battler is out for some retail therapy.  It sounds like a load of hyperbole, and I hope I am exaggerating a bit.  According to Clive Hamilton, co-author of Affluenza, there was a recent article in an Aussie newspaper featuring a forlorn couple wondering how they will manage their million dollar mortgage if interest rates go up.   They were labelled Aussie battlers.   Clive Hamilton was interviewed by Sydney radio station FM103.2  , you can find the link to the interview here  (thanks for the tip Andrew!).   Sounds like a case of “affluenza” to me rather than a victim of old fashioned aussie battling.  Or at least it is a self-inflicted battle.  The fact of the matter is we are all caught up in a cycle where we never have enough.  We are conditioned to want more.  We are skilled at justifying our desires, even feeling hard done by if we don’t have what we think we should.  This state is irrespective of social status.  If we are “poor” we want more.  If we are “rich” we want more.  Somehow we forget that we are in the richest 2% of the world.  Poor us.

Smoke what you’re selling

No, I am not promoting drug use, but this quote from Brian Mclaren’s series presented at the Revolution Conference has stayed with me.  As intended, it grabbed my attention as Brian hit the crux of his point – it is easier for us to promote Christianity than practice it.  You can listen to the mp3s here.  Do we merely promote our faith, or do we live it?  I think those who are opposed to Christianity have a keenly honed radar for the hypocrite, hence the media delight in the church’s fallen heroes.  No need to name anyone for the media does its job well.  But I think McLaren was not necessarily talking about those the media descends upon like a murder of crows (love that line from an old Sting song…!).  Promotion is not synonymous with practice.  Practicing Christianity is far more scary.  Lets be honest here – evangelism (aka promotion in one of its more easily recognised forms) is a scary prospect.  We are often not bold and mumble apologetically “um yeah, I go to church” or whatever admission we feel comfortable to make.  But it is not a patch on practice. Practicing Christianity is simply seeking to live like Jesus. To really do that, not just paying lip service, is the most full on risky endeavour we could ever undertake.  It could take us to places and people where we would rather not go.  It could, and should, cost us everything.

God’s love “gift-wrapped”

“It is our goal to wrap God’s message — His love — in acceptance, and in a way that blends seamlessly into `pop’ culture while still upholding the values we, as Christians, value most,” Wright Generation’s mission statement reads.”

I found this quote on this blog via the Jolly Blogger (convoluted way to start this post I know, but the eternal uni student within feels compelled to quote sources).

This quote is apparently part of the rationale behind “Gifted” – the subject of my last post. Wrap God’s message, His love?  As if anything we do could possibly contain, “wrap” or express all that is God’s love.  I know that one way of describing the incarnation is God sending his Son as the ultimate gift to us, but I didn’t see Jesus blend seamlessly into the “pop-culture” of his time. Jesus was not one for blending in, seamlessly or otherwise. Or for being wrapt up in the trappings of his culture. How Jesus challenged, complied with and transcended his culture is a topic for another post.   To me it looks like cashing in on a marketplace strategy – showcase young talent (to be one of the “Gifted” you need to be between 18-24 years old), make profit off the CDs, boost TBN’s ratings. To be honest, where is God’s love in that? He may be the subject of the songs, but that’s all. I am all for engaging with culture and using it’s mediums to engage in stories that lead to Jesus.  We don’t need to lose our saltiness to do so.

This summation from Hal Paxton says it all:

What we have here is yet another example of some in the Church setting aside the robes made white by the blood of the Lamb for the tattered garments of the world.”

Be in the world but not of it – or set up your own

Christians like quoting the “be in the world not of it” mantra. However, I think that the tendency is to shun “being of the world” (whatever that really means) to such an extent that a parallel world is established that looks disarmingly like the real one but with a glossy Christian smile all over it. Thus we have Christian tv shows, Christian clothing, rapture-ready mugs, Christian clubs, Christian music and so on. And now we have “Christian Idol”. Surely that is an oxymoron? TBN (Christian US Broadcasting Network) will be hosting Christian reality show called “Gifted“.

National auditions for the Gifted talent competition were held over a year long period in churches situated in major markets throughout the United States”.

What will they be performing? Apparently a recording of the finalists singing “Amazing Love (You Are My King)” (must confess I don’t know that one) will get radio airplay. Now I have no issue with people entering talent quests etc (although you would not find me anywhere near such a thing, even if had talent), but something grates for me about Christians competing with each other singing worship songs. It somehow seems to miss the essence of worship to me, a God focused action, not “how good am I”. Join American/Australian/anywhere in the world Idol if you wish to showcase your talent. We don’t need it wrapped up in Christian trimmings.

How will we ever share the story of Jesus with others if we continue to construct and live in a Christian parallel universe?

Dr Warnie

I am not one given to blogging about sport, its icons or events. In fact (apart from a vague monitoring of Essendon’s progress or sadly, lack thereof), my interest in spectator sport is minimal – I would far rather be out there playing myself. However, I was very disturbed today by Warnie’s latest geurnsey in the Herald Sun today. Ok, he is probably the best thing to happen to Australian cricket in recent times. He is one of Australia’s loved larrikins, in a “Geez, did you hear what Warnie got up to.” kind of way… But does this make him worthy of a doctorate? Dr Warne? For what? His ball handling skills? Honary or otherwise, “that’s just not cricket”, so to speak. Actually, in the photo (on page 5) he looks more like a crossing lady in his dashing orange robe than someone who has earned a doctorate. If you look closely he is wearing his trademark zinc too. I wonder what other Aussie achievers might be considered for honourary doctorates.