Friday, May 30, 2008

You know what I'd love to see?

There are some brillaint Christian films. "The Passion of The Christ" showed Jesus' crucifiction, and His agonies leading up to it. It was powerful stuff. Other Bibical films show the crossing of the Red Sea, Lazarus being raised from the dead; the Miracle of the loaves and fishes, feeding the five thousand; and Jesus reappearing to His disciples after He rose to life again. "The Story Of Jesus" did that scene really well. When Bible history is done with good cinematography, it's great to see. The next time someone makes a film about Jesus' life, I can think of one thing I'd love to see, though.
Check out Matthew's Gospel. In Chapter 27, the crucifiction is described. And there are some events mentioned that I've never seen presented on film.
In verse 50, Jesus "gave up His spirit." He died.
Look what happens next.
"At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.
(Emphasis added. From the New International Version).
The first time I really read that, it stopped me in my tracks.
Just imagine seeing that! Suppose that we lived in the time of the crucifiction. We remembered certain people who had been faithful believers - not self-righteous types, but real, loving, kind hearted believers who walked in the faith. And when this shocking horrible event happened -Jesus tortured and flogged, tormented and abused, dragged up to Golgotha and killed horribly - and when He breathed His last, the earth shook; the rocks split. An earthquake would be terrifying. No wonder the centurion said "Truly, this was the Son of God."
And then - just short days later, when Jesus had risen, these people you knew were alive again. I've tried to imagine, remembering Christian friends who have died, what it would be like to see them walking around our town, and being seen.
It would not be like "The Mummy Walks" or some sort of zombie movie.
It would leave you astounded, shaken, but absolutely certain of one thing. Jesus said that His believers live again. He gives them eternal life.And there's a sign. Those people were dead, and now they live again.
Of course, the eternal life is in the spirit, not the flesh. But the sign was there. Those people had died. Their bodies had been enclosed in the earth. And yet they were seen walking around, alive.
Is that really what you'd call AWESOME?

Unschooling? Faith schooling?

It seems that home-schooling is a major thing in the U.S. at the moment. I can see why. More on that later. And on another front, in at least three countries, there's a clash between the secular position of schools or universities, and the stance taken by people who stand by their faith.
In Turkey, according to the news I heard, universities used to forbid the wearing of the Islamic woman's headscarf. Because the university was secular, religious observance was excluded from it. The result was some women did not feel able to attend university. They would not give up what they considered their duty to their faith.
In France, as well as Australia, there is debate about the right of people to wear such things as a Crucifix, the Islamic woman's headscarf and other regalia that go with practicing a faith. The Jewish male skullcap and the Sikh man's turban might be other cases in point.
Some years ago the Royal Canadian Mounted Police agreed that Sikh officers should be allowed to wear a turban instead of the usual Mountie hat. That admitedly was a rule for adults. But it makes a point. A man practicing the Sikh faith feels obliged to wear the turban. To forbid that is requiring him to deny his faith.
In schools, the French government tried preventing Muslim girls wearing their headscarves to school. The same argument was used in New South Wales, Australia. The argument is, the school is a secular institution and not a place for advocating a religion or faith.
We might have come to a point where it is difficult to have a school system that suits all members of a society. This could be why there is a growth in home-schooling in the Western world. Apart from that, it explains why there is more interest in faith based schools: Christian, both Protestant and Catholic; Jewish, Moslem, and in one place I know of, Hare Krishna.
Critics of this complain that it causes division in society. Their view is that a universal school system that all children attend will bring them together on a common ground.
The idea of social unity and peace, is great. But having a one-size-fits-all school system is harder than it looks.
If a person is seriously committed to something, if they have real convictions, then those beliefs go with them everywhere, 24/7. You can't tell someone to leave their religious or spiritual beliefs outside the school, the way you leave a vehicle outside or take a raincoat off when you go into a place. It doesn't work that way.
Use another example. If a person is vegetarian, they are vegetarian all the time and should not be asked to forget the fact and eat meat because they're in a place where meet is served. If a person is non-racist, they're non-racist all the time. You can't expect them to take part in a Ku Klux Klan Rally, or a White Supremacy parade, or for that matter a Black Panthers demonstration. They reject racism and can't be expected to forget the fact in order to do what someone else wants them to. And the same exactly goes for practicing a faith. If a person, being an Orthodox Jew, wears the yarmulka as part of following their faith, you can't tell them "Yes, we respect your religion but the school is secular. Please don't wear it to school." That is telling them to pretend they are not Orthodox Jewish while at school. The same applies to a Moslem wearing a headscarf. To tell them that you respect their right to their religion is contradicted as soon if you tell them not to wear the headscarf. And a Christian (such as myself) is a Christian all the time. If I feel the leading to wear a crucifix or the fish symbol, as part of showing who I am, then to tell me not to is denying me the right to identify with my faith. More importantly, if I'm a Christian, then I'm a Christian all the time and I can't teach things that I honestly believe are counter-Christian. I may accept that other people can say them, but I can't. For example, if I'm involved in any personal development teaching, and the curriculum says that sexual experimentation with multiple partners is a good thing, then I can't teach it. I taught English and History. Some books set for student reading try to teach the reader things that I cannot go along with. So I may not forbid them to be said, but I can't be ordered to say them myself. I can't stop someone else saying it, but I won't say it - so I can't do what a secular school might expect me to. Likewise, when I taught history, it would not be honest for me to say that I believed evolution was the only explanation for human origins. In all honesty, my beliefs include the notion of God creating all things, and I'd have to say that. That's not the same as forcing it on people. It's just telling them what the different explanations are, so that they are fully informed. And Christian students should not be expected to say that they believe in evolution just because the secular science curriculum offers no other explanation.
So we end up wondering if there can be a school system equally suitable for all. It needs to be remembered, the secular school system says that it does not not teach any particular religious faith. That is NOT the same as suppressing expressions faith. And if you tell a student or teacher to keep their beliefs private, you have to remember that their beliefs might stop them from doing certain things the school says to: so they cannot be kept private. They come out in your actions.
Home schooling seems to have become a common thing in the U.S., and it may be growing in Australia, precisely because secular schools are not 'user friendly' to quite a lot of people. If a society REALLY respects freedom of thought, then it must accept that some of its members do not feel the public school system works for them. Come to that, for some people schools are not good places at all. When you have a large number of kids having to share rooms and be in close proximity, some of them feel intimidated or crowded by the others, especially by the dominant ones. We might see a time when going to school is not what everybody does; and the school that some kids do go to might be faith based. The public school as we know it might gradually become a minority thing. It's not hard to understand why.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Christianity's effect

I found out today that in the state of New South Wales, a marriage certificate issued by a church is not a legal document. You need to have a government issued one as well. I'm sure it wasn't always that way. So it looks as though a government decision has been made to reduce the authority or standing of the church in this society. There has been quite a movement that way. The role of the church has been talked down by some secular legislators. Some commentators and self-styled intellectuals also try denying the place of the Christian church in society. Sure, we all know some people choose not to be Christians. They may follow another faith, or none at all. But it is a bad mistake to not realize what Christianity has done for our society. It gave us the grounding for a lot of important things.
For one: it is NOT a universal human value that life is sacred. There have been cultures and societies in which killing another human is not forbidden by law. To start with an extreme example, child sacrifice was practiced by some ancient peoples, in worship of the god Molech. Human sacrifice is illustrated in pictures which have survived from the earlier Native South Americans. (Incas or Aztecs, I can't remember which). Killing of one person by another was legal in some circumstances among the Australia Aboriginals. Infanticide was practiced, of children born with a handicap or simply where twins were born, only one was allowed to live.
The idea that ALL people are valueable and should be allowed certain rights is not a universal human right. Apart from the Spartans and their helots, there have been societies in which some people were held to deserve less care and fewer rights than others. Christian missionaries have been critized retrospectively because they 'interfered' with other cultures. They did! They acted to stop female infanticide, slavery, exploitation of the powerless by the empowered and other evils. It is a matter of deep regret that some people calling themselves Christians endorsed or practices slavery, economical exploitation and racial elitism. But the Christian Gospel itself does NOT. It commands people to respect others as oneself. It calls on all to respect TRUTH. And Christian ideals were the basis for the first European societies in Australia, the United States, Canada and New Zealand. Christian teachings were the philosophy behind British society for centuries. Democracy grows out of the Christian idea that all humans are human and should all have certain rights.
The world owes Christian teachings and ideals more than it cares to admit.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


Life is full of ironies. Just now, what comes to mind is this. There are times when people can really annoy you or upset you; you feel like writing them off completely. You can see why some humans become so alienated and angry. Then there are times when the same species, humans, fill you with joy and you can see why God loves them - enough even to become one for thirty three years, put up with all their stuff, and at the end of that time to die for them.
Working with people, or being around them in a school or workplace, you can see the best and the worst. Sometimes they can exasperate with what seems like their pure selfishness and folly. Yet at other times, when you see their best (or see them with a better attitude yourself? ) then you know why it says: we are fearfully and wonderfully made.
I would like to pay a compliment to some of the people I've found on the net, blogging and searching for other bloggers. The Christians in particular can be inspiring to meet; but that's not to say only the Christians. I should remember, all humans are made in the image of God. When they show their better self, they show what it is that makes Creation so awesome. Seeing what some people have to say, and the way they share life and thoughts, it is possible to keep up hope for the human race.
I do not want to condescend. Something I never want to be is a 'head patter', treating people as if they needed my approval. So please don't mind me saying this, because I really mean it. I've read peoples' blogs and found out about the burdens of pain they have to carry. There are people talking about on-going health problems, about bereavements they've been through; and on the positive side, their love for their children and friends, which can mean they sometimes suffer heartbreak. Just this last week several people have posted about the death of a little girl and called on prayer for the parents. They care! That makes one incredible difference! My own life has been a lot easier than many peoples, but as is the case with anyone I've had some miserable moments. Knowing that someone else feels your pain takes away the loneliness.
So I can see why the Bible uses such metaphors for people as Jewels in the Saviour's Crown.
This might sound sentimental, but remember: lack of respect for people, of concern for them, is the attitude that enables someone to deliberately hurt others. There were a number of mass shootings earlier this year, or late last year. Some of the shooters went on the record as saying they didn't consider their victims fit to live. To have that attitude is to not see the worth of people. Any lack of consideration for others' feelings is to lace appreciation of them. That attitude destroys.
So that's the irony. Human beings can make you angry, scared or other negative things. And yet they can leave you exhilarated, and full of joy as well.

Friday, May 23, 2008


There is a bit of reassurance I would like to offer any one who reads this. Sometimes I hear Christians saying they feel inadequate because they do not make more difference to the people around them. They do not cause all their friends and acquaintances to know Jesus Christ. I've felt it myself. But then, there's another angle that might be worth seeing, too. They might be doing more good than they know.
I recall being a non-Christian. Just before my 25th birthday was when I made the decision to give my life to Jesus Christ and take Him as saviour. I can remember the moment. And when that happened it was the end of a long slow process, in which numerous Christians had a part.
My mother took us to church when we were young, and we had scripture lessons at school. So I knew something about Christianity, basically who God and Jesus were, and Mary and Joseph and John the Baptist.
When I was at school and more at university I had conversations with Christians in which they ran past me what the critical things in Christianity were. Even before I was a Christian myself I could see, Christians had a reassurance that the rest of the world did not have. They believed that God made things come out right, no matter what. They were not alone or at the mercy of chance.
There was something else, too. In general, Christians were less likely to be spiteful or unpleasant in the way they treated you. Sometimes they were ridiculed as 'goody-goodies' by others, but in a general way you felt safe round them.
It all added up. Finally, I had a Christian flatmate. He made a difference.
The point is, it was a gradual process. Several small steps. And some of the people who were part of it did not see the outcome. When I was 20 I had a conversation with a warm and kind hearted Christian girl who explained convincingly why just being basically 'good' in a human sense was not the way of being saved. It took the sacrifice of the Lamb of God, to spare humans the punishment they had incurred. That girl might never know in this world that she made a difference. What she said and how she said it served in part to evangelize me.
Remember what Paul the Apostle said. One plants, one waters and God brings the increase. You might not see the outcome but the seeds you plant might grow. It is important not to lose heart.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Scared of Christians.

Does it ever seem that some people are scared of Christianity? The same principles of tolerance and freedom of thought and belief that apply to any other code of belief should apply to Christianity too, right? So what's the problem?
Suggested answer: huge vested interests are threatened by what Christianity teaches and stands for.
Stop and think what would happen if ninety percent of all people in the United States, Canada, Britain, Australia and New Zealand became real Christians, and lived according to the Bible's teachings. Does it sound all good?
Are you sure?
If all those millions of people really lived like Christians, would there be a massive free fall in the consumption of alcohol? Christians do not have to be totally dry but they know to avoid heavy boozing and drunkeness. So guess which major industry would go into steep decline after a massive Christian revival.
If Christians are true to their faith, they do not use pornography, or use the 'sex industry' (that's the P.C. term for brothels and prostitutes, etc). Does anyone know how much money and business interest is tied up in that? I've got no idea, but I'm quite sure some affluent people would see their wallets thinning down if 'sex workers' and their agencies were suddenly all going out of business.
It doesn't stop there. Christians are much less likely to divorce, if both partners are real about their faith. Who makes money out of divorce?
Lawyers. The demand for their services could shrivel up super quick if several million people started living as the Word of God says, and stood by their marriage commitments.
Lawyers might lose another big cash cow, too. Christians are not perfect but if they treat others rightly and are treated rightly, they are less likely to be involved in law suits, civil or criminal.
Not that I should pick on lawyers. Some of them are honest and upright. So what about the entertainment industry? Would a Christian society make a multi-millionaire celebrity out of someone who bares their body on screen or in colour photographs? So think of any one who has become famour for raunchiness, rather than talent or merit, and ask where they'd be in a nation or culture which did not buy what they are selling - risque visual images.
Come to that, some members of the medical profession might see their earnings plunge, as well. I don't say that a Christian would never have plastic surgery, but would they have the extensive amount, at the extensive cost, incurred by some people for proceedures which include changing the way their navel looks? I've heard of a female entertainer doing that.
Even in regard to the essential, a society characterised by Christian behaviour would generate fewer motor accidents, stabbings, shootings, cases of sexually transmitted disease, industrial accidents caused by neglect and greed of those in charge, and liver diseases caused by alcohol. And you could add to that list. There would be less need for the services of doctors and nurses in casualty wards, not just cosmetic surgery practices.
In fact, Christians in massive numbers could give their nation such a shake up that you'd hardly know the place.
Might that be why some people get worried about it and sound off about Christianity? It is a threat to a lot of grimy vested interests and incomes, and even some honest ones.
If it happened, God would care for His own. But others might get the a frightful shock.
Some centuries ago, a Roman governor carried out a massacre of the Christians in his area because they were upsetting the local economy. They did not buy the silver idols used in the traditional worship that existed in that area. Christianity was bad for some peoples' business.
It is a sickening thing to hear, but it tells you a lot about the world.
Do you hate what drug dealers do? One way you can hurt them they have no answer to. Make sure you don't buy what they are selling. Pass the word.
Christianity can scare some people, all right. And that's even before they fall into the hands of an angry God.

Monday, May 19, 2008

If you say it, they will hear.

I can remember this movie "Field Of Dreams", starring Kevin Costner, about someone who built a baseball stadium in the middle of his cornfield because he heard a voice saying "If you build it they will come." And when he built the field, the ghosts of star baseball players came and played on his field. It was a romantic notion, but uplifting in its way. I can't remember the movie clearly, but it seemed to be about reaching out in faith rather than letting yourself be trapped by dull reality. Okay, so it's not that simple, or we could all change things at will. But sometimes if you step out and try, it will lead somewhere.
I was almost jealous that I hadn't had that idea for a storyline. It works the same for writing. Fiction is fiction, and it may reflect wishful thinking; but if you write about what could be, sometimes other people might take up the idea. Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote "Uncle Tom's Cabin", and aroused considerable passion about the issue of slavery.
A British novel "Kes" described a day in the life of a boy who lived in a dysfunctional home, with a negligent mother and no father; and the way every thing that could go wrong, did so. The message, not so original but still true: it is wicked to bully younger children, like the older sibling did in "Kes".
The best approach to writing a novel, a poem, a film or anything is to write about what you feel strongly about. And if you say it, some others might hear it, agree, and be encouraged to hear their own thoughts expressed by someone else. You know you are not alone in thinking and feeling certain things when you hear someone else say the same thing. That is probably why there is a limitless market for songs about love, broken hearts, looking for love, and all that. People feel it so they get help from hearing someone else put it into words. Sometimes, obviously it can be a real 'duh' moment to hear a person stating the obvious and thinking it makes them clever and profound. But still, there is a time and place for saying it, or writing it, and seeing who else thinks the same.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Someone I knew said that fiction was a waste of time. I was a guest in his home, so I had to be tactful. But that was one of the most oafish, small minded comments I've heard in my life. Fiction is how a whole dimension of the human spirit stays alive.
The quote was "A good book is the life blood of a precious literary spirit." It was in the front of a poetry book. Flowery prose, but I think it's quite true. Every human society I've heard of has a culture of story telling. It might be verbally recorded, stored in human memory instead of written down. Some cultures, such as the Australian Aboriginals, did not have a system of writing. The stories were memorised and taught. In early Europe, bards or minstrels made a life's work out of learning stories and telling them at gatherings. It may be spoken rather than written,but it is still a body of lore that they kept and shared. Writing makes it easier to keep these stories. The stories may have a moral, like Aesop's fables. They may be intended to inspire, like the hero myths about Hercules, William Tell, Robin Hood, or Davy Crockett. Some are intended to teach spiritual lessons. Or stories might be part of a body of spiritual belief. The story of David and Goliath is part of history, also treated as a stand-alone story.
Someone pointed out that stories, like films, let the reader experience things in their imagination that they cannot in real life. It broadens the mind. It might provoke thought, too. Sometimes the written word has changed history. Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote "Uncle Tom's Cabin" in protest against slavery, and arouse enough feeling to demand change. Slavery was abolished. Beecher Stowe's novel was not solely responsible but it made a difference. Books of fiction can inspire, as well as entertain.
Anyone is entitled to choose their own interests. Reading fiction is not what everybody wants to do to relax. But to those who like it, nothing else will do. Fiction, stories, are part of the mind's life blood.

Friday, May 9, 2008


Doomsday 'propheteering' is so common that it has lost credibility with a lot of people. But there are some disturbing signs around us. Here in Australia, there have been years of drought in the Murray-Darling River Basin, and some climatologists are afraid that it may be a permanent climate change. We will have to live with lower rainfall and reduced food production. Then there were the horrors of the tsunami that hit Asia, on Boxing Day 2004. And just days ago there was the fearful storm surge that hit Burma, which we are still hearing about. Some say it's global warming, resulting from bad lifestyle and industrial practices causing pollution, damaging the atmosphere. Others insist that it's only part of a natural cycle. They point out that some hundreds of years ago the climate of northern Europe was warmer. Having no particular science background, I can't argue with them. I do know this, though: the Scriptures give humanity a warning, first given to the Israelites who had been led out of Egypt. Leviticus 18:28 states: "And if you defile the land, it will vomit you out as it vomited out the nations that were before you."
So, are we defiling the land? People have to live. That involves land use. But are we over-using it for greed? And in some of the life styles of the Western world, are we polluting God's Creation?
Some people do not want to involve the God factor in their life equation because they do not want to admit their debt to Him, or His authority over His creation. God did give us free will, too. But 'freedom of thought' can include terrible foolishness the becomes self-destructive.
Is God chastising the world to bring people back to Himself? If that happens, we need to pray that we are ready to cope with it ourselves.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Gender agenda

The gender issue is on the social agenda again. In the U.S. there is a female presidential candidate. In Australia we are going to have a female Governor General. And the usual politically correct comments are being made on the subject. It goes to show, female chauvinism exists just as much as male chauvinism, and it is just as obnoxious. To hear some people talk, only a woman has any humanity at all. To hear some men talk, only a man has any brains and common sense at all. It gets annoying.
Personally, I think the two genders lack respect for each other. There are things about the female, in general, that many male people fail to appreciate. And there are things about the male, generally speaking, that many female people fail to appreciate.
I've watched a the process of child birth, five times. That's how many Liz and I have. It is really sobering, and harrowing, to watch the pain and stress that it can put on the mother. And there is no other way. For someone to be born, a woman has to carry the child around in her own body for nine months, put up with the nausea, back ache and other side effects for nearly a year then go through LABOUR - an understatement about the process. Never should anyone doubt the courage of a woman who has more than one child, because the second and subsequent times she knows what she's in for.
I know this too, though. There are things that a man can do better than most women. Not only is pure physical strength the issue. In a general way, men can endure certains forms of stress better than women, just as women can cope with some things better than men. It's been deduced that a man would pass out if subject to childbirth sensations, and thus not be able to assist in the delivery process, which might be disastrous. But it's been observed that men can be harder to physically intimidate than women. And physical courage in the face of danger has its place too.
One feminist academic, I THINK it was Camille Paglia, put it this way. If women ran the world, there would be fewer wars but we'd still be living in grass huts. That might not be a completely safe generally safe generalization, but it makes a point. Women might be better at surviving by putting up with things. Men might be better at surviving by changing them. Each might have it's place. So the world works best if both perspectives are treated with respect.
Here is another example. Years ago a nurse, Sister Kenny from Australia, found out that polio-damaged limbs would heal better if kept warm by wrapping them up. It was to allow good circulation through them when they tended to lack it because they were paralysed. So a woman found out, by her nurturing approach, what would save a great deal of damage. But it was a male researcher who found out ways to kill the evil disease that caused it - and not just because there were no women involved in medical research. There have been women in medicine since the nineteenth century. The male psyche is more 'crash through or crash', while the female psych might be more 'roll with the punches'. Neither is superior. They each have their place. And from a Christian perspective, BOTH genders are made by God in His image and by His intention. It is actually unChristian to belittle females, just as it is unChristian to belittle males. Each of them is part of what God made, and what in its better moments reflects His nature.
We know God is not a racist. Nor is he sexist. He made both genders in His own image. See Genesis 1:27. So from where we are now, the need is to see that the two need each other to make a life and a world. I really like being married, and having a woman as my best friend and closest companion. I'm really glad we had a daughter as well as our four sons. In fact, without grumbling, I sometimes wish we'd had two more girls. Among the worst things that can happen is for a society to be divided between the genders. That is a device of the devil.