Saturday, November 28, 2009

Check your focus.

Someone was having a bit of a grumble about our church recently. They asked me if I felt there was enough leadership in it. Their view is that the church pastor is a leader and should lead.
I didn't have an arguement, just heard him out. But I've heard those comments before and it makes me wonder: do people sometimes get the focus a bit wrong, and look to the church, the human congregation and the pastor, for things that should come from the Holy Spirit?
Yes, a church pastor has a leadership role in their church, so do the elders. But it can be a mistake, I believe, if the pastor or any group within the church take too much on themselves in telling other people what to do. Some churches, especially those ones that might be called sects, have gained a bad reputation for being too heavy handed and controlling in their attitude to their congregations. They may be assuming an authority that only belongs to God. The human leaders of the church are there to teach and guide, but the ultimate Lordship is God's alone. And the most critical leadership for any Christian does not come from another mere human being. It comes from the Holy Spirit dwelling within you. The Spirit's guidance goes hand in hand with the Scriptures. If anyone claims they have been told 'in the spirit' to do or say something, and that something contradicts the teachings of the Bible, then it is a false leading. That is why we need both. But if human leaders gain or claim too much influence, too much power in running other peoples' lives then you get the Jim Jones mistake. It seems Jones acted and said things contrary to what the Bible actually teaches, and his followers did not see it because they looked to him for things that they should have found from the Written Word and the guidance of the Holy Spirit in prayer. Some more mainstream churches can lead their followers astray, also, when in an attempt to be 'modern' they compromise the Word.
The moral of the story is, do not mistake the mere human body of the church, its pastor or any one else for He who is not of this flesh and world. The leadership of a church should always be subject to that limit. Ultimately we do not rely on the human members of the church, although it is good to join in worship and seek the guidance of others where it can help. But too much emphasis on leadership in a church can lead people astray. I heard of one pastor who told some of his congregants that if they left the church they would break the bond with the Holy Spirit. He as good as said that they could only communicate with God through him. That man was, I think, going way over the top claiming that. And all humans are fallible and imperfect. No human should claim the mantle of God in holding too much power or authority over others. We need to remember that when we talk about church leadership. Its real leader is not the pastor, but the God who calls him and all of us too.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

"Expelled": They just don't get it!

Watching "Expelled" I recall one of the non-believers saying that he and other rationalists don't want to 'abolish religion' as he put it. What he thinks will happen is that science will gradually cause the disappearance of religion. In his words, let people have their religion if it means getting together and having fun. But as time passes there will be more scientific discovery and religion will just fade away. He talked about 'a little bit more science, a little bit less religion, a little bit more science, a little bit less religion' until it simply doesn't have any followers anymore. That speaker, and others like him, just don't get it. They do not understand what faith and belief mean to people. Perhaps he perceives churches as social organizations or old-fashioned cultural things that have outlived their use. In fact if a person has a real faith, a really genuine belief in God, then all science does is reveal more of the genius of God. Or when science tries to prove the non-existence of God it gets caught out breaking its own rules, namely accepting what the evidence shows honestly instead of using it to suit itself. Some of the laws of science, like the Laws of Thermodyamics, are evidence against evolution. One of those laws says that things tend to go from a state of order to a state of disorder. That is the exact opposite of what evolutionary theory suggests, that things become more ordered and complex.
If science was going to stifle interest in faith it would have happened decades ago. It did not because even though scientific investigation can explain HOW things happen, that does not explain WHY things happened. Finding meaning in life is not just a matter of understanding what happens, it also requires us to see a point to it. From a purely rational viewpoint, an atheist viewpoint, humans exist like animals to propogate their own species. All that they do just serves to prolong their existence so that they will have more offspring. A belief in God gives you a reason to go on existing.
Discoveries made seem to give humans more power, so that they can start deluding themselves they've made God unnecessary, or become as powerful. So then people learn the hard way to respect His place. When antibiotics were discovered, some humans thought they had the power to scorn God's rules. They could control disease. Instead, antibiotic resistant strains began to appear. With discoveries enabling contraception, preventing pregnancy and STDs, some arrogant unbelievers thought they could disdain the rules God made. Then they found out the hard way that contraception can leave people sterile when they want to conceive, and STDs became antibiotic resistant. When science learned what was needed to build the Titanic, some FOOL wrote 'Even God can't sink this ship'. History records how clever that comment was. So humans think they can displace God by learning the things they do, and find they are just as helpless before Him as their ancestors thousands of years ago. They just managed to hide the fact with all their technological rinky-tinks. How humiliating!
The longer we go, the more we have to face the fact that there are things we cannot do, and ways in which only a superior intelligence has the answers. But there, one of the atheist speakers in "Expelled" ended up admitting that there must be some intelligent design in the beginning of life - and said it must be from another planet! That's the old von Danniken stuff, "Chariots of the Gods."
Some people will talk about men from Mars before they accept the place of God in this universe. But to those who believe, the reality of God is only shown more and more by human attempts to scorn Him. Religion will not disappear in the face of scientific discovery. The more science finds out and tells us, the less it will have answers to the question "Why are we here?"
Jesus Himself said, some people will hear but not understand, see but not believe, because their wicked hearts are hardened.
Jesus is eternal. So is the Holy Spirit, reaching out to us. Science can't equal that. Scientific discovery will all become redundant when Heaven and Earth pass away, but Jesus' words do not pass away.

Monday, November 9, 2009


I've finally seen "Expelled," after it came to the cinema here. So that's why it caused a stir! Scary stuff! People who dare even mention the idea of Intelligent Design find the thought police falling on them, and their jobs lost. A new version of the Spanish Inquisition, in which people were victimised for uttering ideas that those in power did not approve of. And here's the classic irony. The people behind the persecution claim to believe in freedom of thought and speech. Humbug!
How many cases were there? I'll have to see it again sometime and take notes. Academics, researchers and journalists found themselves in trouble because they even referred to the idea in passing. It's fear, partly. Some people who consider themselves the judges of what is right are scared rigid of the idea that there may be a God or any such being who could have made the universe and life in it take the forms that they did. There is no reason to be so ferocious about stifling an idea unless they are frightened of it.
The excuse used is that it leads to a belief in some 'religious' teaching, whether it be Christian, Jewish or any other. For that reason, they have to stifle any suggestion that life is not a gigantic accident and series of ongoing accidents called mutations. The opposition to religion is justified by saying that it creates division and starts wars. The claim there is that an atheistic, secular, 'logic and science based society is safer. Oh really? Did anyone here about the horrific human rights violations that occurred in the Soviet Union and the euphemistically misnamed "Peoples Republic" of China under Mao Zedong? The gulags? Mao's purges? The secret police state that existed in East Germany? So that is what the atheists do when they set up a society, do they? And that is safe?
I feel like telling some 'rational thinkers' who claim they offer a better way that people like them are the least likely to inspire my confidence. A world ruled by the hard-line leftists I've known would be a cold and ruthless place, lacking in the better, warmer side of humanity. That is to say, it would reflect them!
The problem is partly that to make a lie seem true you have to make sure everyone believes it. You can't have some bright spark speaking up and saying that the emperor has no clothes. So dissent has to be squashed if some dictator wants to set up their great new world based on science, rationality and atheism. Hence the blood on the hands of people like Lenin, Stalin and others. They spout about freedom of thought and proceed to deny freedom of thought.
It would alarm me if I didn't remember the words of the Psalm: "Do not fret because of evil men, or be envious of those who do wrong, for like the grass they will soon pass away." (Psalm 37, verses 1 and 2.) Again, "Do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their evil schemes." (verse 7) "For evil men will be cut off, but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land." (verse 9).
One of the reasons I became a Christian was a complete loss of hope that mere human beings could be relied on or make the world a good place - and that includes myself. I could see the weakness and sin in me.
Those who deny God His place will not only not succeed, but will earn His retribution.
As for our household, we will serve God. And may He shield and protect us.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Professing themselves wise...

Cynicism can be a cheap imitation of wisdom. It means, by definition, to doubt the good of things. The cynic does not think critically and carefully like the sceptic, the cynic dismisses and derides things as worthless. The cynic may consider themselves too wise to be taken in and fooled into believing in anything. And the cynic may think themselves wise and yet become a fool.
To the cynic, anything uplifting or good cannot be true. For sure, sometimes it is necessary to look at things carefully so that we're not deceived. Satan is the arch deceiver. It ( I can't use a personal pronoun like 'he' for something so vile) had its first ever contact with God's children in the Garden of Eden by causing them to doubt God's Word. And the modern approach is to say 'How can a loving God let bad things happen?' etc. The answer is that God does not control us all like little puppets and a lot of the bad things that happen are the fault of humans who make or let them happen. They are not God's doing at all. And if God does not stop disasters like cyclones or earthquakes, that might be because humans choose to ignore Him. Also God does not promise a rose garden, He promises comfort and salvation. But the cynical approach of the 'enlightened intellectual' scorns the idea. They say it is too good to be true. They compare the idea of a loving God to the tooth fairy and Santa Claus. The cynic therefore will not afford themselves the joy that they could receive, and worse, they try to deny it to others.
To themselves, the cynics of this world are too clever to believe in such things. But if they were really so clever, they could see the awesomeness of God in the good things that do happen, even in the midst of the bad. Trouble is, that would be embarrassing to them. It seems clever to just rubbish it all.
So the cynic will let their own 'wisdom' stand between them and coming to know the living God. It is easier to be destructive and contemptuous because it excuses their own mean ungiving behaviour. One author I admire put it this way: "We cannot endure the goodness of God". (Glendon Swarthout in "Bless the Beast and Children."
So the cynic turns their face away from the wonder of God's love and grace, and thinks they are being clever to do that. As the Bible itself says, "Professing themselves wise they became fools."

Friday, October 16, 2009

Distractions to see through.

Checking the ninsemen news, I hear about a marriage celebrant refusing to marry a mixed-race couple. The husband was black, the wife white, and they had to find another celebrant. His reason was, 'he always thinks of the children'.
It didn't quote any Christian principle. If it did, that marriage celebrant should be reminded of what God revealed to Peter as described in Acts chapter 10: God does not exclude any race from His Kingdom or His presence. We are ALL made in His image.
Racial prejudice is not from God. It is a vexatious delusion suffered or perpetrated by some humans.
The celebrant's stated reasons were that marriages between the different races do not last and the children of them are not accepted by either race. If anyone can tell me whether or not it's true that inter racial relationships fail more often than others, I can only say that I never knew that before. There should be no reason why people can't love and live close to those of other races - not if we see what is really human. About the children, I hope that's not true nowadows. Is that view a bit out of date? In Australia, and (I thought) the U.S. there are so many people who are 'biracial' that it's not an issue anymore. Please correct me if I'm wrong. But I blogged not long ago about Muhammed Ali visiting Ireland, because one of his great-great grandfathers came from there. And I'm sure it was reported recently that one of Michelle Obama's great grandfathers was white, as well. Come to that, who has NOT heard that the U.S. president has a parent from each race? So how do we get this attitude that such children can't get a life?
It is a shame that race has become such a huge issue. If you think about it scientifically, in purely genetic terms, race is just a matter of adaption to the environment that humans have undergone. It's well known that darker skin is an advantage in a very hot sunny climate. Narrow deep set eyes, as seen in some Northern Eurpoeans, are an advantage in a climate where there is cold wind. My own ancestry is mostly Scottish, English, and some German and French. People used to tease me about having small narrow eyes. And the reason is my ancestors lived in a cold windy climate and God is His wisdom gave them physical characteristics suited to that environment. In biological terms that is all race is: a physical type suited to the place where people of that type live. Or their ancestors did.
Of course different races, and nations, may have varying cultures. But culture is a learned thing. Far too much is made of race as a distinction or a barrier between people. It is regrettable. Nowadays, when the races are so widely dispersed and so mingled, it should be clear that we are all equally human. But for some reason too many people want someone to look down on. It is a distraction that Christians in particular need to see through. Racial characteristics are God's gift to His created beings so that they can cope with living in a certain set of conditions. They are NOT the way He decided to make some of them 'better' than others. It's easier to talk than to do, I realize. But correct me if I'm wrong. There is NO good Christian reason for objection to inter-racial relationships.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The past is another place

All the raging over Roman Polanski brings a few interesting arguments to light.
As some people say, if Polanski was not famous and widely admired then there would not be so many people standing up for him. If he was an obscure person found years after getting away with what he did, few people would bother taking his side. So why does being talented and famous excuse something pretty nasty?
On the other side, people say he has suffered a lot in life already. True, but that doesn't help his victim to cope with what he did. Too much excuse making for the wrong-doer goes on already.
It's worth noting that the young victim's mother put her in that situation, where she was at the mercy of an adult who did this. Was the mother so fixated with making her daughter a show-biz success that she put the daughter at risk? So much for the shallow view of life that without being rich and famous life is not worth living.
My own ten cents worth is this: in some ways, Roman Polanski's behaviour was symptomatic of the seventies. If you recall the 1960s and 70s, or read about them, it wasn't all as good as some people say. What was called the 'sexual revolution' aimed to break down all taboos about sex, and 'liberate' people. What actually happened was some important social restraints were broken down. Very young people became sexualized. On the one hand, they were encouraged by parts of society to 'experiment', or 'find themselves', or 'discover their sexual identity', and all that. On the other hand, they were no longer considered off-limits for such involvement. Those who raised any objection were howled down as 'fascists' or sick repression cases.
Too see the seventies from inside, look at what they produced. One famous and widely read novel of that period was "Papillion", by French author Henri Charriere. In the novel, (though not the film), the narrator describes seducing his 13 year old sister in law. While living with Venezuelan Natives, he marries a woman and also has her younger sister. At the time, this was widely admired literature, considered a modern classic. The school where I worked had copies for student reading. Nowadays, that passage from the novel would be considered a glamorization of paedophilia.
A famous film of that era was 'The Summer of '42', in which a fifteen year old boy is sexually initiated by an adult woman. At the time this too was considered fine artistic entertainment about a young man's 'awakening'. Today, the female lead character would be considered criminal.
But that was the 70s. Anything except openly coercive rape was legitimate. It was 'liberated'. If a person regretted any sexual involvement afterwards, they were accused of being too 'hung up' or 'inhibited' and in need of getting used to it. I'm utterly sure there were people living in the 1970s who thought an adult enticing a 13year old into sex was simply 'liberating' them, helping them get free of their 'hang-ups'. That was the 70s. There were psychologists who had intimate relationships with their patients, and called it part of the therapy. There was a lot of interest in Sweden where, it was said, children as young as 13 sometimes had children and even married. That was the 70s.
So what Polanski did was criminal, right enough. But he might not have considered tyring it on in a different social climalte. I believe that some of the so-called 'progressive' thinkers of the time have a lot to answer for. They tried to tell us all that we should do whatever we wanted and 'be free'. The idea of ethical restraint in sexual behaviour was ridiculed.In that sort of climate, there were probably a lot more incidents like the one for which Polanski is indicted. Some of them involved female adults on male children. Some of those pointing fingers at Polanski now were probably jealous at the time that he did what some of them would have liked to. That sounds harsh, but it might be true all the same.
The 1970s was another place from today, and in some ways a much worse place. People in millions scorned the notion of God holding out guidance for living, thought they had better ideas and made a shocking mess. Polanski might only be a symbol of much that was wrong with that era.
We need to get back to God's way. When that gets forgotten, the results can be dreadful and the realization too late.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Which way is it to be?

In Australia, some women are claiming the right to be front-line soldiers on the same basis as men. The claim is that they should be allowed to go into battle as combatants on precisely the same terms as male soldiers, as part of equal rights. There could be a problem here that some people have not considered.
If the world wants to prevent violence against women, women should not be put in situations where they could experience unavoidable violence, such as a combat zone. And nor should they behave violently towards men, if the man is not to retaliate. To put it simply, if a woman attacks a man she cannot blame him for defending himself; and in combat, she could find herself attacking a man, forcing him to fight back. This could give the female soldier an unfair advantage. If a man has been taught not to offer violence to a woman, or has a natural aversion to doing so, then he can't fight back against a female soldier the way he could do against a male one. It is sometimes possible in combat to clearly see and identify your adversary. A man realizing that the soldier in his line of fire is female may be less able to fight back against her. This gives the female soldier an illegitimate advantage. Of course, we can say violence should be avoided altogether, but so far no-one has found a way of preventing war. It only takes one side to insist on getting their way by armed or physical force, and their intended victim has to defend themselves. At least if we can't stop war we might limit the evil of it by restricting the way it is conducted. That is the basis of the Geneva Convention, with rules such as no killing of prisoners.
Some commentators say that women are less suited to combatant duty than men. That probably varies with the individual. Some men loath violence utterly. Some women resort to it very easily. The point here is that if violence against women is a thing we want to abolish, then women should not be in a situation where they would either inflict it or suffer it. For that matter, if it is worse for a man to attack a woman than to attack another man, the same applies in reverse. It is bad for a woman to attack another woman, worse to attack a man. Cross gender violence violates the special relationship that should exist between the two genders.
Equality in principle is not the same thing as being identical in practice. It may be that in some ways the two sexes are different and that should be reflected in the duties they undertake. Any thoughts?

Thursday, September 3, 2009

False distinctions

According to an Australian newspaper, Muhammed Ali has visited Ireland - to get in touch with some of his relatives. That's right - Muhammed Ali, the Afro-American boxer, is part Irish. One of his great grandfathers came from the town in Ireland, emigrated to the U.S., and Muhammed has traceable relatives there. It seems to me like one of the greatest things he has ever done. The reciprocal gesture would be if a prominent white sportsman who has in fact got some African ancestry to say the same thing. The bitter division between the races that sometimes arises overlooks the fact that in fact some people of each race have blood kinspeople belonging to the other. The same thing happens in Australia. Some people who identify as white do in fact have some Aboriginal ancestry. And many people who identify as Aboriginal are quite obviously part European (white, if you like). It is quite easy to see why the feelings of anger are there. Too much blood has been shed. There are reasons for the anger and hostility. But no good comes of it. It just causes the hostility to carry on. Apparently the Irish people in this town welcomed Muhammed Ali as one of their own migrant sons. Good on them! Why should they reject him on racial grounds! Now can someone tell people like Jeremiah Wright? Or Michael Mansell, or Jeff Clark?
These last two are Australian Aboriginal activist leaders, the second of them apparently the son of a Scottish migrant to Australia. Making a war over race simply means the hate goes on. We ARE one and the same race. God did not invent racial distinctions. Abram, later Abraham, was originally a Babylonian. He came fro Ur, of the Chaldees. And Peter was sent his vision, that God is no preferer of persons. We are all made in God's image. We need to remember that.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Stick to the plan - 2

Certain ways of doing things have a natural logic. Doing them differently can be at least pointless, or even damaging. For a simple example: human beings are designed to walk on two legs, not four limbs or on their arms. To do so, unless you have a disability and can't use your legs, is pointless for a start and can be damaging to the body because the load-bearing is on limbs not intended for it.
This applies also to sexuality. There is a natural and right way for it to happen, and variations on it may not just be individual preferences. They defy natural logic or law.
Sexual relations have two intended purposes if approached in the right way: the affectionate bonding of the two participants and the conception of children. Even if someone is not convinced by Christian teaching, or Jewish, or any other, pure logic shows this: the only kind of sexual relations that meet these two purposes is, consenting sex between adults of opposite genders. Any other form fails to meet one or both of those criteria.
Sex between two people of the same gender cannot produce children. It is naturally illogical.
Sex between a human and an animal cannot produce children. Apart from the disgust it may cause, it is naturally illogical.
Sex between an adult and a child can be traumatic or injurious to the child. It does not cause affectionate and safe bonding between the people involved, so it does not serve both the two purposes intended.
Forced sex, or rape, is traumatic to the unwilling partner, and denies to notion of affectionate bonding. For that reason, as well as denying the victim's rights, it is a bad idea. It can hurt someone, so it should not happen.
Sex involving multiple partners can cause uncertainty about who the father of a given child is. It also denies the bond between two individuals, dissipating it among a group.
Sex among strangers, with no real connection, denies the idea of bonding between the people involved. It is physical intimacy without emotional intimacy, thus a clash with the ideal of affectionate bonding.
God made things a certain way. Trying to vary it leads to dysfuntion and adverse side effects. God makes rules for our sake, not to be a spoiler.
Stick to the plan.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Stick to the Plan - 1

The saying goes, why reinvent the wheel? It makes sense, but that doesn't stop people trying to do things their own way - and messing up badly sometimes.
This is all pretty direct, but then life's like that. Things need to be said.
Back in the 1960s something happened which they call the 'sexual revolution'.
It was meant to bring in an era of universal love and peace, with everyone loving everyone else and no fighting, no being possessive and controlling, and so on.
It failed. In short, it failed because it tried to do things differently from how the Maker of all things meant them to operate. More specifically, it failed because what it expected to happen was simply impossible. Human nature did not allow it.
For the idea of 'universal love' to work, everyone would have to feel included. Everyone would have to feel that they got their share of the love. Nobody should be left out, and feel rejected and unwanted. As soon as someone was, then the 'revolution' was not doing what it claimed. It was not freeing everyone and making them all feel loved and happy. What happened in the 60s was, it simply degenerated into a lot of casual sex, and a lot of emptiness and resentment.
This is the trouble with casual or promiscuous sex, sometimes called 'free love.'
Some people attract far more partners than others, and have a queue waiting to get near them. Others are always waiting in a queue. And this draws attention to the fact that, in human terms we're not all equally advantaged in the way we're born. We're all equally human, and all equally valued by God, but we are not equally valued by each other. Some people are much more admired and respected simply because of the way they look or the talents they are born with. And they have suitors by the hundred. Others just don't turn heads everywhere they go. They only look good to those who know them and see the worth of them as people. And the 'sexual revolution' drew cruel attention to the fact! Instead of making us all free and fulfilled it made the problem worse. Some people had a wild time until it all turned sour because of the shallowness of it, others were constantly reminded that they did not attract others.
Add to that, the fact that casual sex was about using someone for one thing only, and not really connecting with them as anything more than a physical body. How ironic that the 'free love' advocates talked about reaching out to others, when in fact they were making human relationships incredibly shallow.
The race started out with a man and a woman. It was not a man and several women, or a woman and several men. It was one to one. And that was the template, the Divine Plan. People who thought they knew better had slogans like 'smash monogamy', and 'share the love'; and what they got was widespread divorce, anger, estrangement, lonliness, rejection - and an epidemic of STDs. So where did they go wrong to start with? They thought they could trash the way God set things out. What was also forgotten was that sexual relations sometimes have this side effect called conception- it leads to the birth or children. Yes, that comment is ironic. But people act as if intercourse was just like having a dance, or something, with no lasting consequence at all. Another thing they forgot was that it can be immportant to know who is father to a child, which might not be known if there has been too much 'freedom' in partnering. It has happened that people who do not know, accidentally form relationships with their own siblings.
God knew what He was doing. Who were these people who reckoned they knew better?
Stick to the plan.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Taking back the right.

Apparently there has been an increase in home schooling in Australia. I'm told that's happening in the U.S. as well. The press reported yesterday that over 2000 children are registered as home schooled - which in Australia is a significant number, in a population of 22 million. And, the report adds, there are more who are simply not registered, the parents home school them without asking permission of the government.
I can see exactly why! After being a teacher for twenty-five years, I can see why parents decide not to hand their kids over to a school. In fact, without critisizing all schools and teachers, it may be a good thing. It could be called taking back what never should have been given away.
For a start, some kids have a really miserable time at school. Here is some horrible news. There is a school in Australia which has had four suicides in a year. Does that make the blood run cold? And all of them have been associated with cyber-bullying - abusive and cruel messages sent to a kid, or said about them and put about over the net. Can you beat that for rottenness? And bullying did not start with the invention of the internet or the mobile phone. I went to school back in the distant 1960s. Tormenting of some kids by others was horribly alive and well then. In fact it probably happened back in Hellenic Age, when the highly civilized Greeks had schools for boys whose parents could spare them from working at home.
It costs teachers, too. Those of us who try to stop it can find ourselves accused by the bullies of picking on them. They insist it's all a frame-up. They never did anything wrong at all. Sure, and the moon's made of cheese, as well!
That's not the only reason, though.
For as long as I can remember, people have been saying 'schools should be doing something about...' whatever problem has come up with kids. Whether it is teaching them road safety, teaching them the law, teaching them to drive (yes, I've heard that said!) the things traditionally done by parents have been shifted onto schools and their staffs. This can be a huge cop-out by parents who don't want to raise their own children, they want someone else to take care of that and they just enjoy the finished product. Or if they're not happy with the result, they blame the school. That's far easier than doing it themselves. But it is not how it should be. The proverb says "It takes a village to raise a child", which means that children grow up in a community of which all members help to care for them and show them how to get on with the world and be part of it. And God did not invent schools. God invented families. Children need families to care for them. A school is not the same thing, at all. A school, like a hospital, has a specialized function. A hospital is for health treatment and care - hopefully only for a limited time. A school is for education, and only for a limited time. It should not be the whole of a child's care-giving and nurture. In fact, a school, even if the staff really care, would be a poor substitute for a caring family.
There can be a more sinister side to it, in addition. Without getting into too many conspiracy theories, it really is true that totalitarian societies try to reduce the extent of family loyalty. They aim to fix the individual's allegiance on the state, or the leader of the state. People like Karl Marx derided the family. The Khmer Rouge, Cambodian communists, made of policy of trying to turn children against their parents. And years ago the hard line left in the West said things like "until you people are prepared to kill your parents, we will never change this society." (I think that was Jerry Reuben, before he changed sides.) Even without going that far, the family can be an focus of attachment that takes precedence over a person's allegiance to political leaders. And dictators do not like that.
There is a growing number of Christian schools in the English speaking world, because parents object to the secular state trying to teach their children things that contravene Christian teaching. For that matter there have long been Jewish schools, and in Australia there are Islamic schools being founded. Some people object because they say it divides society. Sure, it is not a good thing if a community fractures into groups hostile to those not of their own belief, or race, or anything else. But if a public school system tries to be all things to all people it can only end up not really including some. Secular thinkers, or the politically correct, teach things which Christianity and Judaism reject. And Christians, Jews and others do not have to give up their beliefs to please the state, or the self-appointed judges of what is right. So it is not only understandable that some families decide not to let the school system take charge and decide what beliefs to teach. It is understandable that some parents decide to spare their children the misery of being in a place where they will be miserable and feel victimized. And it is quite right if parents undertake to bring their children up themselves, NOT try to get a government agency to do it for them.
Some teachers I've known respect parents' rights, and just want to educate children in the curriculum in a pleasant environment. But some teachers I've known think it is their right to indoctrinate and programme children. They assume the right to contradict parents, undermine the family's attempts to pass on their beliefs to their kids and treat students as a captive audience for themselves. I do not accept their right to do that to my children, or anyone else's and I when I was teaching didn't claim the right to take kids' loyalty away from their parents. No-one has that right. So the schools system should not be a way of sweeping away parental right and influence, and setting up a society of politically indoctrinated subjects.
I can see why some people talk about unschooling society. The school has been used to substitute for parents, and as a way of getting kids away from the counsel of their parents. God did not invent schools. He invented families. Sure, kids may want to do things in groups so that the learning can be shared. And we all need to learn to get on with others. But families should be the ones in control, not a faceless government bureaucracy. And the school system should not be a way of messing with peoples' minds. It could be that we need more home-schooling.
Critics of home schooling say kids need to learn about the world. School does not necessarily teach people about the world, only that other people can be horribly cruel. Also, the world is full of things we try to protect ourselves from. The world is full of disease and danger. We try to avoid falling victim to them. The bad peer groups that exist in some schools might be another thing worth protecting vulnerable kids from.
I don't know what I would have done if I hadn't been a teacher. But God would have put me where I should be, no doubt. Things change. I wonder what education will be like in another hundred years.

Monday, July 6, 2009

The right stuff

I had a joyful surprise one day, quite out of the blue. My daughter, then aged 7, was playing with her toy horses. Two of them, an adult and a foal, were close together, the big one was protecting and looking after the small one.
"That looks nice" I said, "the mother and the baby together."
She replied, "That's not the mother, this one is," and held up another toy horse.
"Oh, right," I answered, "which one is that?" meaning the one right beside the foal.
She replied "The father."
That was such a small thing, but I was exhilarated - clean over the moon. So that is my daugther's view of a father, a protector she is safe with! It got me thinking because then, as now, there were some news headlines about wildly abusive fathers, and it gets so bad that all male parents seem to be under suspicion. To know my own child does NOT distrust me and think of me with suspicion is a huge relief!
Like any parent, unless they've got serious issues, I like to think I've got the 'rigth stuff' as a father. It is not only bringing home the pay. Mothers do not only wash and cook, they also nurture. Fathers do not only bring home the cheque, they should protect and nurture. The trouble is, you can never feel perfectly sure that you're doing it right - until something like this happens, and it gives you a lift.
Just today there was news about another 'Josef Fritzl' type of pseudo-father. He made a sex-slave of his own daughter. How do you get to be such a freak that you'd do that?!
Some commentators, especially of the hard-line feminist (or female chauvinist) type say that fathers are not necessary. When you hear of a bad bad case like this one they play it right up to the max. But they choose to forget that there are some horror female parents around, too. Just listen to the news if you want to know how bad it gets!
Male and female He made them. Human children need two parents to be conceived and born, and both have a responsibility to make sure their children are cared for. That includes teaching them respect and self-control, and making them feel appreciated and welcome in the world. Or if you want to put it sentimentally, loved.
It is easy to see your own faults as a parent. I feel like a serious failure sometimes. But my wife and I pleaded with God to make us the parents we should be. We just had to make sure we listened. Perhaps with His help we got some things right.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Not sentimentality - science.

Someone told me years ago why orphanages were closed down, and foster caring became the way of caring for children without parents. It was a bit of a shock! The mortality rate was higher among children brought up in orphanages than among those raised in family homes. The reason was, children need to feel loved. This is not just mush and sentiment - it is actual health science. Just having a balanced diet, a regime of exercise and all the material stuff was not adequate. To live, human beings need to have a reason to live. And the best place is in a proper home.
Now for a slightly different angle on the issue. An article I read told of a people complaining that they were lonely and could not find a partner. There just (they said) 'wasn't anyone out there.'
Right, so I can't claim to know all about them. But I've heard said, by someone who runs an introduction agency, that some of those searching for partners are just too hard to please! If male, they want a cross between Cleopatra, Queen Guinevere and Miss Universe. If female, they want a cross between King Arthur, Romeo and Superman. The expectations are not just unreasonable, they are plain shallow! The idea is that you draw up a set of specifications and the partner has to match them. They have to be what you want, like the man in "Pygmalion" who made a statue of his 'ideal' woman.
So to get to the point, is that approach really loving someone?
Love does not mean you have to be a doormat. It DOES mean that you care about someone for themselves, and not just because they please you. Loving a wife or husband does NOT mean they make a good trophy to be seen with, or a good social connection. It means you value what they are, warts and all. Because we all have some crinkles and imperfections. And if you get too picky and critical of others, you invite them to say, 'look in a mirror. Aren't you only human too?'
This is the frightening bit. It seems some people really do not know what love is. Now there is an irony! The word 'love' gets thrown around like a confetti at a mass wedding. People talk, sing or joke about it all the time. Do they really know what they mean? Mushy stuff all aside, love is something people need to live. And it is about giving to someone one, not just enjoying them for yourself. But some people do not seem to realize that.
So what is a good example? Try this. The human race has nothing that Jesus Christ needs, because He can make anything He wants any time He chooses. As He said, God can turn stones into bread, or into people, if He chooses. So why did He bother to go through Hell (literally!) to save us? Because He cared enough to suffer that, for us not for Himself. To give, not just take.
Humans need to get that. Loving is giving, not just getting what you want.
And I need to remember that too. To coin a phrase: lecturer, learn thyself.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

You should see us now!

In some ways life is good in the 21st Century. I love hearing about new discoveries in medicine, and new treatments for sickness and injury. I also like being able to travel several hundred miles or kilometres in a day, in a car. Horse powered travel might seem quaint but not everyone wants to take a week to cover the distance that takes a day with a powered vehicle. Some modern things are precious. But there is another side to it, maybe.
Centuries ago, even decades ago, more than half of the world's people lived on the land. They grew crops or raised livestock. Or they worked at trades. In each case, they actually made something, to use or to consume. Or they provided a service, for the direct benefit of others. Today, in areas like finance and investment, people do not actually make anything new, they manipulate things to their own advantage.
Tell me if I'm wrong. I'll stand corrected if need be. But is that right or not? Thousands of people do not actually make, grow or gather anything. They just mess about with what other people have made. They make huge salaries messing about with money, buying and selling shares or arranging loans to make their own profit without actually producing or value-adding.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not a communist. It is quite legitimate to work as a trader making things available to people who want to buy, and providing a service to those who need to sell and haven't the time to do their own marketing. I've got some small business ventures going myself. But it seems a huge amount of commercial activity is about getting hold of some money, thinking up things to do with it and getting a profit without making anything new. Nobody's car gets repaired. No new food crops are grown. No clothes are made. No person's health is restored. No new medications are discovered. No new houses are built. If you saw the film "Greed", that's what it showed. Find new ways of doing things with money to make more money, instead of making any new product or service.
Have I got this right? The world's financial wizards built this huge Tower of Babel out of paper wealth, and then it collapsed and caused shocking damage to millions of others. The ones who put it there were not the only ones to suffer.
Is this the heart of the problem? Instead of growing something, making something or providing a service the clever thing is to buy what is there already, transport it three times round the world, get others to buy shares in it and sell it for heaps more than it cost - without the ones who provided it getting much of the proceeds. Is this another way of getting further and further from the way God intended us to live and communicate with Him?
If this is wrong, I'll learn from anyone who can show me how. I need to learn, not just lecture to others. Now I think of it, when there is a recession going on people might have more important things to do than read my scribblings. But any and all comments are welcome.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Know what you're messing with.

A columnist I read wrote something worth repeating today. Miranda Devine, in the Sydney Morning Herald, commented: "In the end, men's drives are not all violent and predatory. Most have a deep, possibly hard-wired, desire to be noble and chivalrous. That's why in situations such as the Port Arthur Massacre, so many men died shielding their wives or women around them."
In crises, people of both genders (and all races) sometimes show their best and you can see how they are, after all, made in the image of God - even if that image gets distorted and blurred by the downside of their human nature.
Devine is replying to a litany of bitter critisism about mens' behaviour and their attitude to women. The background to this is a major news story getting ongoing coverage in Eastern Australia: another sex scandal, involving a major Rugby League club.
It seems that in 2002 the team, Cronulla Sharks, were in New Zealand to play and after the game two of them pursuaded a young woman to accompany them back to their hotel room for sex. Then, the story goes, other players came to the room and joined in. At the time, the woman agreed to it; and according to some of her workmates, she boasted about it to them the next day. Years afterwards she came forward to tell a journalist that the experience had left her feeling used and abused.
It's gross behaviour, rightly enough. The men involved simply used the woman and probably regarded her another notch to mark up in their list of 'conquests'.
But in all the commentary, some women have been honest enough to say that they too treat men like trophies. Some (not all,not even most, but some) women treat it as bagging a trophy to have an encounter of that kind with male celebrity.
Dare I say that this is a really bad idea? Or is that 'being judgemental' etc etc?
A human being is not an article to be toyed with, some sort of plaything. Collecting celebrity autographs might be a harmless hobby, but collecting more intimate souvenirs of other human beings becomes a gross misuse of what was made by God, for God's purposes and which should be respected because the Creator should be. You would not collect a piece of the Mona Lisa to show off, because that is a misuse of a famous work of art. You would damage it for your own bad satisfaction.
It is worse to help yourself to part of a human being in a way which demeans them.
Most people agree that it is wrong to kill. What they don't always realize is, it is just as bad to damage something by misusing it. And they don't seem to get that using someone in some sort of ego trip is damaging because it makes them into a target, or a trophy if you can get them. And it is not just men who do this.
Some men try blaming women for their own bad behaviour: 'she led me on', etc. To do that is to deny responsibility for your own actions. So many things that people regret afterwards would not happen if we all just 'got it'; a human being is not a plaything or something to use for your own pleasure.
So here's the irony. Some 'modern thinkers' say that we're all too 'hung up' about sex, and should be more 'liberated' about it. Then when some individuals act in a 'liberated' way - do just what they feel like on the spur of the moment - it can end in anger and tears.
I could be accused of trying to impose my views on others here, but the reply to that is: look what happens around you, and see if what I'm saying is wrong.
If you wrote a history of bad ideas in human history, they would all have one thing in common. They ignored the guidelines and advice given by God's Word about how to live. The way I heard it put once is this: the Bible is the owner's manual for how to run your life. God is not just a spoilsport or dictator, He knows what will and will not work in trying to make life good. If you reckon you know better, you might find He knows better than people realize. Trust me! I've had some bad ideas, and found out after the event just how bad they were!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Remember where your help comes from.

If anyone reads this, you'll soon see that it's not original, but it still might be important. If anyone out there is feeling frightened by the Swine Flu threat, and all the media hype about it,remember: things like this have happened before. And what was true then is still true.
Some utterly shocking and horrifying things can happen in this world - but human beings can be completley safe and protected from them.
God sees all and He cares. I can identify with people who are worried, because I'm a worrier myself. But there are answers, places to go for reassurance.
King David, who wrote the psalms, seems to have experienced the full range of human emotions, including fear. And he put his reassurance into words for others.
Psalm 91 says:
verse 2:"I will say of the Lord, "He is my refuge and my fortress,
My God in Whom I trust.
verse 3: Surely He will save you from the fowler's snare,
and from the DEADLY PESTILENCE. (emphasis added).

Several times in the last few years, it's been said that the world is 'overdue' for another influenze pandemic, like the horror that swept through it in 1918-19.
Add this thought to the global recession, and the wars happening now, and it would be possible to lose all hope. That is what the evil one wants: loss of hope, loss of faith in God. Despair. And the evil one should be denied that satisfaction.

"A thousand might fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you."
If you read more of the same psalm, you see it talks about the punishment of the wicked. It is not my place to howl at people about their sins being judged. It is just for me to be thankful that God cares and will uphold us.
We need not fear. We need only to watch. Whether the Lord comes soon or in many more years, He is not unaware or uncaring. Fearful things might happen in this world, but God has not forgotten or abandoned us.
For whatever it is worth, may I wish you all God's blessings. In all your ways trust Him, and He will make straight your paths.

Friday, May 1, 2009

It doesn't have to be this way.

It's not good to be judgemental. I could find myself pointing the finger at others and forgetting my own shortcomings. But it's impossible not to be disappointed at some of the things you see.
Why did Mel Gibson have to go and do what he did?
It's his life, I can't live it. He doesn't answer to me. But if we have concepts of good and bad, right and wrong, we can't help thinking BAD IDEA sometimes.
Mel Gibson had been married to the same lady for thirty years. That is a real contrast to some prominent entertainers who seem to change relationships like they change fashion clothes. Also, Mr Gibson had stayed with the wife of his youth, the lady who was there for him before he was famous. Some people don't. When they start 'moving up' in life, they obtain a bigger better house, a bigger flashier car and a more ostentatious partner, to go with their new image. As a Christian, I found it inspiring to see this person avoiding all that. They had seven children - showing faith and hope in life, not giving way to the cynicism which goes with avoiding children because you fear for the future. And there was "The Passion Of The Christ". It was harrowing to watch, but it looked to me like a magnificent representation of the suffering and sacrifice of Jesus. It was said people actually became saved because the film made that much impression on them. So this seems like a human used of God to evangelise, share the Word and use his art to the glory of God instead of just his own vanity or profit.
There were problems. There was the time Mel was stopped for drunk driving and had a huge vent about Jewish people. NOT the right approach for a Christian. But we all have bad moments.
The latest thing is just tinny. Walking out of his marriage for a younger woman. Originality factor 0 our of 1000.
I don't judge this man. It just disappoints when someone who showed the world what a difference Christ could make, let it fall.
I'm in some position to comment. My marriage broke up - and we got it back together again. That was now 24 years ago. The relationship blew up and humanly speaking, we'd both had enough. There was no third party involved, except the evil one. Pressures beyond our control combined perniciously with our human shortcomings to wreck the relationship. What God led us to do is shown by Proverbs 3 vs 5-6:
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight."
If the two of us had followed our feelings, we would have called it off. But we both felt we should do what the Lord's Word said. We did. And it worked. The credit belongs to God, not us. The point here is, a spiteful win for evil was taken from it and turned into a victory for God. Of our five children, three were born after we were brought back together. It's as if evil wanted to stop them coming into the world! This year the relationship has lasted 29 years. God grant it lasts all our lives. Now THAT is what God can do.
I can't make it my place to rebuke Mel Gibson. All I can say it, it need not have been that way. He apparently asked some bishops to pray for him. So he knows God is part of the equation. And it need not have ended the way it did. God invented marriage. He said we become one flesh. And what God has joined, no human should take apart. We become one flesh. That literally DOES happen when children are born. They literally do combine the physical identity of both parents, in one.
Tell me if you think I'm wrong. Tell me if you agree. I need the counsell and fellowship other Christians, be they male or female, young or old, whatever their race. We are all made in the image of God and He gave His Word to us all. We CAN avoid lapsing into the weak behaviour of the world. It may not be easy, but ALL things are possible with God.
The maker of a brilliant Christian film might have attracted the rage of satan. But he need not be beaten by it.

Friday, April 24, 2009

No one can take it away.

When I was having a seriously bad time in life, long ago now, a friend gave me some precious words to read. What they say is pretty tough, but it tells me something as well. In the NIV they say:
"Though the fig-tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Saviour.

The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
He makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
He enables me to go on the heights."

He's not making it easy for himself, is he! Could I live up to that? At least, in my own strenght? Not much! I love drinking good coffee, and tea and hot chocolate, and...alright, that's enough. I live eating chocolate, and good wholegrain bread, and Italian food like spaghetti. It's pure joy getting into a good bookshop and seeing what I can buy. I love having our house to live in, not a tent. I sleeping in the same bed as my wife, not out under whatever shelter can be found. In fact this list could go on for several pages, listing all the things there are in life to be enjoyed because they give physical comfort and relief.
The old prophet makes a good point, though. These nice things are good to have. Life would be shorter, harder and grimmer without them. I'm seriously glad to have good pain relieving medication, and anti-depressant medication when needed. It would be a tough call to live up to what is said above. But I don't think Habakkuk was boasting.
If I understand it rightly, he was in a situation where things could not get much worse; and he realized, with the help of the Almighty, that he did not need to despair. Anything of this world is ONLY of this world. What is physical in ONLY physical. And it can all be lost because material things always have a 'use-by' date and then they're gone. What we sometimes learn, even though we would rather not, is that we can actually survive without them.
That does not mean give them all up. If you don't eat at all you starve, right? And being underweight because of body image is a serious problem even in the affluent Western world. So we do need certain things.
But what the prophet is telling us is, those things do not make life. What comes of the Spirit gives life. Jesus added to that when He pointed out, "Humanity does not live by bread alone." He said that to the devil itself - Satan in person, when the evil one tried to take advantage of Jesus' suffering to get Him to do what Satan said. And Jesus threw it right back! He did not need ordinary bread to survive. He needed God. When the time came, when the time in the wilderness was over, God gave Jesus all He needed - and because Jesus waited until God gave it, in His time, it was much much more that He received.
I pray for homeless people, unemployed people left high and dry by the economic collapse. It would be too easy for me to leave my house, carrying my credit card which is backed up by a steady income and deliver sermons at people. But then our family have been through some bad times, too. And we learnt. We need the things of God. When it all goes square-wheeled on Earth, remember God - and the love of God is what cannot be taken away by the rises and falls of the world.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

That which endures

In Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" Romeo says of his friend Mercutio, "He jokes at scars that never felt a wound." In modern English, 'he makes light of things when he has never suffered anything like them.'
Well, the world's full of that. Just one example is people trashing Christians because they want to believe things that are 'too good to be true.' They want to believe that people who die in this life will be alive again, and perfectly safe, in the next. They want to believe that nothing good is really lost, only taken away from us for a while.
Right - you can trash me too for that. I really love to think that some day our family will see the child we lost, in Heaven. One day we will see people we miss because they have gone from this world; and in the next where they won't ever be taken away again. Who would NOT like to see that? And when people ridicule that hope they are denying that we ALL miss things that are lost. That's only human.
It is just as well that we CAN believe in that. Life would reduce you to despair otherwise. People who will not accept that hope must be good at denying their feelings about certain things, trying to pretend they handle grief and loss better than they do. And when things get bad, there can be a change of heart. After the Twin Towers horror, there was an increase in church attendance and things commitment to permanent relationships. When something can be lost, we realize we miss it and want to believe that there is something more than the fragile world. If you want to try and rely on the world for your hope and joy, you might as well trust in a papier-mache umbrella. Anytime at all it could crumble.
It's been a shocking few days! Several mass shootings, an earthquake in Italy...there's not point in going on. We get the point. I'm praying that Easter can still be a happy time for people. Whoever reads this, I honestly wish you peace and joy in Christ. We're being shown at a time like this that there really isn't any thing or one in this world you can totally and utterly rely on. It or they could be taken away, so easily.
I speak with respect for people's feelings. It's too easy to lecture here about things I don't appreciate the way other people do. But it must be faced up to. Some of the buildings, even a whole town, destroyed by the earthquake in Italy were examples of Renaissance architecture, valued parts of Europe's heritage. Losing them is not as cruel as losing the people who died, but to those who value the relics of the past then it's another blow. What has stood for so long and is valued, has been lost in a few moments. It would be cruel to speak lightly about it, and not recognize the distress here. But what does it show?
Nothing in this material world is forever. Thousands of people have been fascinated by things like the Coloseum, the Parthenon, the pyramids; and we're reminded that they can be gone in a few seconds. If you pinned your reason for living on them, then you're at risk! Trust me. I was not always a Christian, and it used to really hurt me when something I liked was lost, (even something no-one else could see any value in) or a person I was attached to either left the world altogether or moved so that they weren't around anymore.
I HAD to know there was more to believe in. Everything of this world passes away. Even if it's lasted hundreds of years and been known to generations, like the pyramids of Egypt, will be gone at some time. If that's all you see value in, then complete loss of hope is in sight.
Jesus said "Heaven and Earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away." We can see all things of the Earth passing away while we watch. Did you ever feel as is you were marooned on a little island that was gradually being eroded by the water around it, and soon you would be left with nothing firm to stand on? I've had that feeling! Just ONE hope exists.
The things of the Spirit are not swept away. The Word of God is forever.
Several times in the last few years, I found myself facing something seriously stressful over Easter. One was a crisis at work, another involved a person being injured. It could have 'spoilt the holiday' but it had the effect of pushing me back closer to God.
Is this what's going on now?
It's pure horror reading about the shootings, which happen when people lose hope and blow up in desperation and rage; the earthquake, the things we cannot control fall on us. I've never been in an earthquake. I was uncomfortably close to a bushfire once, and that was bad enough.
I won't make light of other people's hurts. What has to be remembered is, nothing in this world endures and can be counted on completely.
God is forever, and if He chooses to protect you miraculously you could be caught in a bushfire and not even scorched. Remember Shadrach, Meshak and Abednego? You could be dropped in the sea and yet survive. You could go get caughtin a fearful gunfight and yet survive. Or if you do not, then you cease to live in THIS body and this world, and go to another one. We believe (or I should say KNOW) that Jesus died in the body. Proof existed of His body's death. But He reappeared, completely alive and able to tell the disciple Thomas to examine the wounds for himself.
This is that which endures, He who endures. Jesus is forever and He takes hold of His own and prevents their destruction, even as every physical thing is passing away.
God be with us all.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Where the heart is

I have been friends for years with a lady who doesn't blog, so she won't read this. That's good, because I have to say something that sounds hard, but I'm making a point. This friend has a face very like Ichabod Crane in 'The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow'.
She also has a heart of pure gold.
She has friends who value her because of the sort of person she is, not because she is stunning to look at.
As a study in contrasts, there is the 'Swedish countess' having a bitter divorce battle with a mega rich ex-husband, and claiming the millions of dollars offered her is not enough. Apparently she needs $4000-00 a month just for clothes, $600-00 for flowers, and some incredible amount for hair and skin treatment.
Can you get that? Most people do not spend in a year the amount she claims she 'needs' each month. It is astounding that someone can stand there and say that with a straight face. Is there something wildly over the top here?
Back to my friend: I can remember the time she spent being there for others who needed someone to talk to, and the amount of coffee she brewed for all the visitors who dropped in because she was always a sympathetic ear. Sometimes she was taken for granted, and not shown the respect she deserved, precisely because she never made herself hard to get on with. I should add, she is a believer in Christ.
If I had to risk my life for someone, and found the courage to do so, then those worth dying for would be my wife, our children...and a friend like this one I speak of. The world needs people who live and treat others the way they do.
Maybe I'm overlooking something. Could it be that this countess is actually pitiable because she has such a warped view of what matters in life? I can't say. This much is true, thoug: The world suffers from the greed of people who insist that they simply must have more money to live on in a year than most of the world's people see in a lifetime.
No doubt some persons think they become attractive and deserving of admiration because they're expensively dressed and made over, and have money to indulge themselves or their favorites. So could I be accused of jealousy here? Okay, I'll admit, it would be really handy to have more money than we do. But I would be embarrassed at myself if I was caught standing there claiming that I need FOUR THOUSAND DOLLARS A MONTH for clothes!
Which of those two women would make a more trustworthy friend? Which of them does more to make the world a better place? Which of them more genuinely shows that humankind is made in the image of God? The one who wants to take, more and more, or the one who gives?
There might be some allegories in nature. Some flowers are quite beautiful to look at but toxic if touched. Perhaps God made things that way to serve as a lesson about life.
God knows true beauty. This is a case in point of "My ways are not your ways," says the Lord. Human folly can value and worship greed and vanity, and fail to appreciate what really matters. This is something I have to remember myself.
Women such as this friend of mine, and my wife, don't get mentioned in the news. But we see them around us in daily life. We would do well to appreciate them.
So appearances do NOT indicate true beauty. What matters is where the heart is, or what it is.

Saturday, March 21, 2009


I know where the expression "cold feet" comes from. I've felt it. When you have an attack of serious fear, there is a sensation of chilling in the feet and lower legs. It happened to me when I was badly affected by clinical depression, brought on by a constant sense of danger. It is not as though I had to go into combat or something, it only took 25 years working as a teacher in 'disadvantaged' high schools. One the one hand you have a duty of care to students, which requires you to prevent bullying (and quite rightly too) but on the other hand if you ever firmly instruct a student to cease and desist from bullying or other obnoxious behaviour, they are likely to accuse you of picking on them and threaten to complain to a lawyer. And the so-called
'leaders' of the school tell you it is your own fault it happened. "You should have handled it better". And just as women live with the fear of sexual assault, men live with the fear of being falsely accused of it. And some female high school students I had to work with were damaged, and dangerous. Staff were warned, they were capable of trying to lie adults into trouble. Men have been lynched because of lying accusations. After a quarter century of it, despite praying and seeking the help of God, enough was enough. Christians still bleed when they are cut, after all. Going through this must be God's plan for my life experience, which we know is not all a easy and convenient. We all have trials to face. This was one of mine. And it brought on depression and a sense of fear. Once when I was cooking a meal, while my wife was putting linen away, it hit me right out of the blue: a shocking sense that something terrible was going to happen. Part of it was the physical sense of 'cold feet'. Men are supposed to 'tough it out', according the the macho culture of the world. But men can be fools, and ignore the call of God. Happily for me I was called by God, so I did not have to deal with it alone. I would have gone under if I'd tried.
I'm putting it down in writing because some very valuable words came to me, and helped me through it. I'm very grateful for the Gideons Bible in our house, which suggests helpful reading for situations. That is how I came upon some favourite Bible verses. Psalm 56 says: "When I am afraid I will trust in you.
In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust,
I will not be afraid.
Whaat can mortal man do to me?"

Psalm 118:6 says "The Lord is with me, I will not be afraid. What can anyone do
to me?"
The cynical answer is that humans can kill you - but only the body, not the soul, and NOTHING happens to us that God does not allow and know we can bear. I need to know that!

There are numerous passages on this theme. One more worth mentioning here is from
Isaiah 26:3, "You will keep in perfect peace him whose heart is steadfast, because he trusts in You."

An important thing to note there is that the believer has to trust, and stick to God's path. There is an image from "Pilgrim's Progress" (I think) in which two leopards are chained on either side of a narrow path. The chains are such that they cannot reach anyone passing who sticks to that narrow track. They can lunge very close, so close that you could clearly see them and feel their hot breath, but they can't reach you if you just stick to the path. They can be seriously frightening. It can stress you; but if you remember to stick to the path, you are safe. The symbol is obvious. Extreme danger can threaten you, but not reach you. Nothing will overcome anyone except what God allows. No hurt can fall on one of God's followers that He does not know they can bear. If it comes to death, then it is because God's time has come. But the greatest difficulty is fear. Like depression, it is one of the evil one's ways of sapping the will to live and overcome. And it is an illusory threat from an enemy already beaten, although still dangerous to the unsuspecting. Even though it was not said in a Christian context there is truth in the saying of F.D Roosevelt during the Great Depression: "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." As Jesus said, "In this world you will have troubles. But take courage. I have overcome the world." (John 16:33).

Monday, March 9, 2009

The fire will not die

I just heard some bad news. Someone walked into a Baptist church, somewhere in the U.S. and shot dead the pastor who was preaching. So I've prayed for those who were bereaved by that murder, but it's impossible not to be downcast about a thing like that - and to feel angry as well. But there is something to remember here. What happened when that man died was not a defeat. It was a painful tragedy, but not a defeat for Christianity.
The evil one, aka 'Satan', wants to hurt Christians, and to destroy Christianity; and when you see it resorting to a thing like that then you know the evil one is getting desperate. (I say 'it' because I will not dignify the evil one with a respectful personal pronoun). Satan's usual tactic is to be guileful, to try and deceive people into ignoring the calls of God. It gives them distractions, or lies to lead them astray. If people are content and complacent, and feel no need to stay in touch with God, then satan is getting things arranged just nicely. That is when they are furthest from God. When a crisis arises, or a period of suffering, that's when the human reaches out for help and comfort from God. So the evil one prefers not to do it that way, it seems. Besides, since Satan is 'the father of lies' then doing things in an underhanded, dishonest way is the preferred modus operandi. It is as if Satan knows just how despicable a thing it is, and its actions are; and feels embarrassed at itself when seen too openly. So if people can be kept foolishly happy with amusements, distractions or indulgences like food, drink, money, ego-boosts, sexual indulgence, then all is smooth and sweatless for the 'prince of darkness'. We can't so easily see the potential evil in keeping people dulled and duped that way. But if something jars their complacency or spoils their party and humans see the need for God then the evil one loses its grip on them. It is better for Satan to act covertly without showing its hand too clearly. Therefore when something violent and terrible happens, we can see the evil of it straight away. And that alerts us to the need for God, to know Him and keep in contact. So to lash out and strike in this obvious way shows the evil one has run out of better ideas. What has happened is the making of a martyr.
Centuries ago, when the Romans were persecuting Christians, they defeated their own object. Some people would see the Christians dying in the Colosseum and realize: those followers of Jesus have got something worth dying for. Many of the spectators could see the power of Christianity - and turned to it themselves. The evil that satan drove the persecuters too backfired on it, and instead of destroying Christianity it enlarged it.
It is unfortunate that hurt and pain are sometimes what it takes to turn humans to God. But it seems that is what happens. After the attacks on the Twin Towers in 2001,
reports were that many people looked to God. They were reminded, rather terribly, how fragile life and the things of this world are. Sometimes it can be done another way, happily. The first Billy Graham crusade in Australia was followed by a measurable drop in the crime rate; a decrease in the number of births outside marriage; and (I think) a decrease in the incidence of suicide. So it need not take a cruel shock or pain to evangelize. It can be done by preaching, proclaiming the Word. But you can be sure the evil one saw what God was doing through Billy Graham and was frantic with rage. God did not allow Satan to strike Billy Graham and silence him. I can't know why some of God's people live to old age and others die early. I can't say why this Baptist pastor was not protected from the gunman. I'm not God, and there are many things I can't know. What I do think is, when satan does manage to take someone down violently it is because it cannot do so any other way. The evil one is forced out into the open, seen for what it is and not able to deceive by operating from the shadows. And the souls of the Christians will not perish, they're taken to be with God in the Kingdom. That is the devil's final defeat. What it would most like to have, human souls, it is deprived.
Come again, Lord Jesus.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

A little learning...

We know how the proverb goes: a little learning is a dangerous thing. That statement needs to be qualified. Learning is a very valuable thing. The difficulty arises when someone who learns a certain amount starts to think they know more than they do. (This includes me, I realize). What can be sad is when someone who learns a certain amount gets to think that they no longer need to show respect for what they once did.
It seems that the human race having learnt much about life and the world, and how to make it safer for them, has lost respect for the Creator. Having found technical understanding of things that once mystified and terrified them, they now think they can set themselves up as the masters of the universe. The analogy might be something like this: you learn to fly when the conditions are good, think you can fly safely at all times and then when you find yourself up in the air during a storm suddenly the shock realization comes that you knew less than you realized.
It gets more complicated than that. A doctor once told me something not everyone realizes. Back in the 1940s, human scientists discovered the use of antibiotics. They're a gift from God. Millions of people are alive today who could not have been without antibiotic cures for diseases. So far, great. The side effect wast this: when those medicines were developed, they greatly reduced the number of bacteria that existed in other life forms - and made room for virus to move into the cleared space. In the way that secondary growth moves when a forest is cleared, viruses moved in when bacteria were reduced in numbers. So now we have illnesses caused by viruses which did not attack so frequently when bacteria tended to stop viruses from being able to occupy a living host. Not that anyone should be blamed for that. What does deserve some reproach is this. Before they realized that, people began to think that they were safe doing things that were once dangerous. Instead of appreciating the blessing, people took the view that they could get away with things they once could not. Indulgent sexual behaviour was supposed to be safe because a cure was available for the diseases it sometimes spread. Then resistant strains began to appear, and we weren't so clever after all. It is too easy to think that science has the answer to everything. It can lead to disaster, thinking we can do whatever we want now that ways have been found to get away with it. In the environment, instead of treating the land and water with care, people exploit them and expect some expert to repair the damage afterwards.
From a slightly different angle, a secular society began to think human intelligence could achieve things that it never has before. A secular society tries to do with secular means what is only possible by spiritual means. My angle on this is education. Schools in Australia, and elsewhere also, are called on to 'process' the students in a certain way and shape them into good citizens, (whatever that means) and something their parents are pleased with (whatever that is supposed to be!). And here is the problem. A secular education can NOT transform and inspire a person in the way that only something spiritual can do.
From a Christian angle, I believe that the Holy Spirit is needed to lift a human above the limits of their fallible human nature. Nothing merely human can do that. In much of the world people demand that teachers take on the responsibility of influencing kids to become what they are supposed to be. They try to devise educational programmes and stragegies to make people brilliant, make them creative, change bad attitudes and behaviour issues - and find it all turns to ashes because nothing merely of this world can do what only things of the Spirit can do. It is a huge folly! Because we've found out so much about how to control the world and alter things for our own use, some people now think we can make ourselves a race of perfect citizens if we apply that knowledge through educational philosophies. They keep thinking this despite seeing some people who went to the 'best' (most expensive?) schools still becoming criminals or drop-outs with issues they're struggling with. Then the bitter complaint is made that 'schools are failing our children'. Schools and teachers should not have been expected to turn out some sort of a perfect product without the parents having to take on their responsibility; and what matter far more is, merely intellectual things should not be expected to achieve what only things of the spirit can.
Secular educationist want schools to evangelize and edify students, but in a secular way. They will not admit or cannot see that their is a spiritual part of a human which needs a spiritual approach. Human nature has become highly corrupted and unreliable. Humans need their second birth, in the Spirit, to become the best they can. That is why we need God. When agnostic or atheist thinkers try to re-invent people by other means, it is like trying to make a glider do what only a powered machine can. This was where the Leninists failed with their attempt to make the 'New Soviet Man'. They claimed that their society and its education would shape people into something better than greedy self-seekers, using Marx's writings as its inspiration. It failed - badly. To a lesser extent though the same thing happens in the West. A secular body of knowledge that does not include God tries to make people into something inspired and alive. It may achieve something in the short term. But ultimately the best that humans can do is like a robot compared to a living person. There is some similarity in appearance and behaviour, but no way can a robot do what a living breathing human can. Human brilliance cannot match the work of God. It is a modern tragedy that so many people have tried to replace God with the things of this world, and find it simply crashes and burns when the conditions become too severe.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The hand of God?

News of the bushfires in Australia has reached the U.S. and Britain, we're told. It's good to know that Christians in those countries are praying for the people affected. The situation in parts of southern Australia is pure horror. The death toll could rise to 300, so that it's worse than the Bali bombing in 2002. In fact doctors who work in casualty hospitals, treating people injured in the fires, have said just that: they remember Bali, and this is worse.
Predictably, some people are going to say the usual things about 'How could God allow this to happen?'On that subject, one Christian dropped a controversial bombshell, reported in today's newspapers. Danny Nalliah sounds like a fearless Christian who says: "I must tell people what they need to hear, not what they want to
hear." That is the pure truth, but some people are not going to like it.
Specifically, what he said was this. The bushfires in the state of Victoria have been allowed to happen because the Victorian state government has decriminalised abortion. In Danny Nalliah's words, this has made Australians "an open target for the devil to destroy."
Danny Nalliah has suffered for his faith. About a year ago, he and another pastor from Catch The Fire Ministries were taken to court by a Muslim group who claimed that these Christians had insulted Islam. It turns out that what the Christians had done was explain some differences between Islam and Christianity, with the aim of showing Christianity to be better. Members of any faith group will do that so as to explain why they follow one faith and not another. It is not inciting hatred, and after a lower court found them guilty and awarded damages a higher court overturned the decision. A good thing too, I personally think. But Pastor Nalliah has upset quite a lot of people with his comment. He is also reported as saying that he dreamt of raging fires some weeks before these bushfires broke out, and woke up with what he called 'a flash from the spirit of God: that His conditional protection has been removed from the nation of Australia.'
God deals individually with Christians. The Bible is clear on that. Shadrach, Meshak and Abednego were kept safe in a fire hot enough to kill other people who even went near that fire to throw the three believers into it. (Divine retribution?) The judgement of God does not fall clumsily on everyone just because some of people in a community have brought it down. But then the Word also warns of a whole land suffering because its people have turned away from Him.
This is something I should say with care, because my own sin is enough for me to worry about before I point out other peoples'. But I'm wondering if my brother Danny Nalliah might be doing just what he says: telling people what they need to hear, even when it is not what they want to hear.
Australia overall is not a Godly country. There is a great deal of self-satisfaction and arrogance in people, and contempt for what they call 'holy rollers' Thousands of Australians only use the words "Jesus Christ" as an exclamation of some sort. The attitude is 'Nobody can tell me what to do'. Abortion can be a classic example of serving your own convenience without caring about the rights of another human, who exists even though they are not yet born. Could it be that this has gone way too far? And as one columnist pointed out, here as in America, people from every other religion can speak their mind but Christians should just keep quiet. I hear something like that is happening in the U.S. now, with attempts to prevent Christians praying in public although a similar ban has not been proposed for others.
I can see why God could become utterly exasperated with the attitude of the human creatures He made and blessed. Without claiming to know His mind on all issues, I can see how He might allow disaster so as to show people what happens when they ignore Him. He is not an insurance policy that you buy, put in a drawer and do not think about unless you need it. God should be remembered every day, and thanked ever day. A Salvation Army officer ministering to the bushfire survivors talked quite openly about praying. Hopefully what he says might make people think: did they care about God before the calamity came down on them? I pray for them as well. Natural or human-made disasters can fall anywhere without us forseeing it. I too am a sinner. But if anyone wants to challenge me with 'How could your God allow this to happen?', my answer is 'Did you ever bother talking to God before this happened?'
Danny Nalliah might be telling people what they need to hear.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Nature or nurture

This question has been looked at closely before: which things are born into a human being, and which things do they learn? Is there a difference between instinctive behaviour and learned behaviour? It actually matters, because there are ways in which it might be good to change learned behaviour in a person, if they're inclined to be violent or prone to criminal acts like thieving. But there seem to be things in a person's character that can't be altered just by 'messing with their head.' That might be just as well, because if people could be programmmed like computers then the hidden persuaders could make puppets out of us.
The Marxists made this mistake when they set out to create the 'New Soviet Man' who would grow up in a socialist society and take on a different nature to people brought up in the societies of the West. The plan was to nurture people from childhood into dyed in the wool communists who would not question the system or dissent from the orders of their leaders. The upside of this, they claimed, was to stop people from living by greed and hostility to others. All members of a society would work together for the common good. The downside they did not like to admit was that it stopped people thinking as individuals and using some initiative of their own. They should simply follow their leaders. But all that aside, they did not see the distinction between learned behaviour and 'wired-in', instinctive behaviour.
The difference might be things like this. It is instinctive to drink when you're thirsty. You do not need to learn. What you do need to learn is to be careful what you drink. Avoid water that might carry infections or be polluted. In the same way, it is instinctive to eat when hungry. What is learned is, eating with cutlery instead of with the fingers, and not over eating. Also, we need to learn what is good to eat and what to treat with caution, such as too much fast food or junk food.
In trying to change human behaviour, the left-wing social planners failed to see what is instinctive in people. Marx critisised the family as a unit, and felt that family allegiance and attachment should give way to allegiance to the state. It didn't work, because among humans a bond with your family is a deep seated instinct, not just something learned. It is natural to feel protective towards your children. Even if you feel protective towards all children, your own are stil special. It is natural to want the protection of your parents when you're still young, and need adult help to deal with life. When people like Marx, Stalin and Lenin tried to teach people loyalty to the state instead of their own kin, it failed. A particular horror was the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. In the 're-education' camps set up after the communist take-over they called on children to turn against their parents and be loyal instead to the political leaders of the state. It led to one of the most abominable atrocities in history. Likewise, in the Soviet Union and Maoist China, thousands or millions of people suffered murder or imprisonment because they could not simply do as the leaders told them, as though they had no minds of their own.
So human nature is not just what other humans mould it into, like a piece of clay.
Human beings cannot live up to filling the role of God, being perfect leaders in whom we can put all our faith. When they try to do so the results can be Stalin, Hitler, Mao Zedong, or Jim Jones or Charles Manson. Each of those individuals caused utter horror in their failure to be what they tried to make of themselves. A close study of history might show that female people are just as prone to fail if they attempt to assume the role of God.
Human nature will show through attempts to change and programme it. Another example emerged when a feminist teacher gave her senior high school girls a psychological test intended to reveal their attitudes to life. This teacher did the test herself, and found the results revealing.
Each of the girls tested had a subconscious longing for a 'Prince Charming' or Knight in Shining Armour to come into their life, rescue them and be their hero. The teacher admitted, wryly, that according to the test she did too.
This is NOT to say that women are all helpless, needing a man to give them a life. It IS a revelation that women and men are made to have a certain type of relationship. By Christian teaching, God made the man first, then the woman as a companion; and directed the man to CARE for the woman, love and nurture her, not exploit her. If the themes of the gallant knight and the damsel waiting for him feature so much in folklore and literature, it might show that the male and female are meant to care for and need each other. Hostility between them and competition between them are not the way it should work. Social programming that teaches either of the genders to view each other the wrong way has a distorting affect on human nature. It attempts to change it in a way that goes against the grain. It is a perversion of the Maker's plan for men to exploit women and use them in a predatory way. It is also a perversion of the Maker's plan for women to see men as an enemy who have to be fought and overthrown. In that respect just as Marxism failed having first done much damage, hostile feminism will fail after first causing great damage. Too many attempts have been made to replace God and try doing things another way. Each time they crash and burn, and cause a lot of hurt in the process.
Come again, Lord Jesus.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Irony abounding.

In the U.K., the news says, atheists and 'free thinkers' have hired advertising space on buses to say: "There is probably no God, so relax and enjoy your life."
It is impossible to say in a few words how utterly self-contradicting and absurd that statement seems to me. It is meant to be wise and reassuring, 'freeing' people from worry. In fact, to think that there was no God would be one of the most terrifying things imaginable. To relax and enjoy life you would have to feel secure in the knowledge that help was available in certain situations.
If there was no God, who is there to turn to and seek help from? Would they care to tell me what they think about that? If they say 'human intelligence and people' they invite me to point out just how disastrously unreliable and wrong-headed human beings have shown themselves to be, so often through history.
I once asked a militant atheist who he put his trust in, what did he feel he could rely on for guidance and answers to problems in life. He said "Myself, and a select few others."
I could have told him that he was one of the people I would be least able to trust and feel safe in the hands of! Like so many hard-headed 'intellectuals' I've known, that man had quite a ruthless attitude to those he disapproved of. Given the chance, he would have run the world in a way he was sure was right, and look out any one who disagreed and got in the road. That was what happened in the regimes of people like Hitler, Stalin, Lenin and Mao Zedong. The leader and the little in-group round them made all the rules and everyone else had to just do as they were told. If the leaders got something wrong, no-one had better dare to critisize. And there is the irony. The ones who consider themselves fit to run the lives of other people are the ones who least inspire my confidence. To be that sure of themselves is a danger sign for a start. Note that I'm saying 'sure of THEMSELVES', not sure of what they believe. Such people feel they can assume the power of God to decide how life must be for everyone else.
It should be obvious that certain things are absolutely beyond human control and help. Can anyone prevent a tsunami? How about the emergence of new diseases, to which there is no cure? What about drought, or a collision between this planet and a meteor, or any other such thing that no human can prevent? It could be rather hard to 'relax and enjoy life' when there are so many uncertainties and dangers, that no human can protect us from.
It is an old saying, that 'there are no atheists on a sinking ship'. In other words, you can be complacent and think 'who needs God' when everything seems to be going well. When it all goes bad, and no human power can change the fact, how does the clever atheist handle that? If we live or die by blind chance, and there is no real fairness about life, how can you relax?
Atheists trying to sweep away belief in God make me think of ants trying to be elephants. They simply make themselves look ridiculous.
Of course, we all have a right to our beliefs. I won't start trying to persecute atheists. But do they know just how LITTLE they impress me with what they think is their cleverness?

Thursday, January 1, 2009

What is 'Man'?....

I've never been good at New Year's Resolutions. It might be better to have some New Year's Reflections.
According to a news item, a study has showed this: that promiscuous men are better at perpetuating their line of descent, because they have more children than men who do not "sleep around."
That's not exactly news. I knew a man who had nineteen children (yes, that's right, nineteen) - by nineteen different mothers. That's a stark contrast to the Duggar family, who just had their eighteenth child, born to the same two parents who maintain a committed monogamous relationship.
It sticks in my mind, this reported study, because it compares human beings to animals, in describing something as "successful" behaviour. That men who recklessly take multiple partners, and leave them pregnant, might mean their genetic legacy is well and truly passed on the the future, but that is NOT the mark of a life well lived if they've been the proverbial 'dead-beat dad' to their offspring. I blogged once before about the danger of applying standards of animal behaviour to humans. Animals settle issues by fighting, their frequently kill their own kind and in other ways too, act in a way which is unlawful or unethical in humans.
One danger with these men who beget numerous children by different partners: the number of children who are half-siblings to others they do not know could lead to accidental cases of incest or inbreeding. If any one child of a man does not know who all his others are, they are at risk of meeting them unawares and forming a relationship that is biologically unsafe. That's not just speculation. A case of that was reported some years ago, too, in Australia. A woman found that her husband had the same father as she did. He had moved from relationship to relationship, or between one-night stands, and that was what came of it. Then there was the woman who had five children by five different fathers, and did not know where any of those men were now, or what other children they might have. Same risk! Not a clever way to do things!
It all tells me something. I was not always a Christian. Having made the commitment when I was nearly 25 years old, I see more and more evidence that God knows what He is doing making the rules for living that the Bible sets out. The world sometimes admires a 'stud' who is good at getting numerous women to mate with him. But the world can be terribly stupid sometimes. A woman might boast about having numerous partners. The problem could be visited on their children, who may not have a proper father figure to be there for them; and who may not realize who they are related to. So God's laws are not just a lot of kill-joy stuff. The way I heard it put, the Bible is an owner's manual for how to use your life. The man I referred to above, he of the nineteen children by nineteen mothers, had one daughter going to the school where I taught. His daughter did not want to know him at all. He attempted to be in contact with her and she vowed she would go where he would never find her. That girl was an angry, dysfunctional person; and her biological sire was an unemployed hanger-about living off social welfare. It would not be right to condemn the children for the way they came into the world. The point is simply this: having a lot of offspring is not in itself proof of some sort of success. Human beings are not a species of animal. Success for a man in begetting descendants, lies in making sure his children are well cared for and given the right sort of start in life. Part of that comes from having a proper father figure.
So it seems this prolific breeder of a man made junk of his own life by living it in a self-denigrating way. Rather than being a success story he became of victim of his own bad attitude, that to move between partners and build up his number of 'conquest'
was the way to go. People can be victims of their own bad habits.
In that vein, it's worth pointing out that a rapist may beget children, but only in a dastardly way, the same as a thief or con-artist who becomes rich. It is true to say that rape actually has two victims, although one brings it on himself. A rapist can destroy himself, not only by getting into serious trouble with the law but because his own bad attitude consumes him. Sex is not meant to be a predatory thing, like bagging a trophy or scoring a point over someone. To some wannabe 'studs' it seems to become like the Native American idea of counting coup: proving that you can get near to someone despite their attempts to stop you. If a person, male or female, starts to make their sexual behaviour predatory that way, to 'nail' a person as a sort of personal triumph, they can warp their own psyches and leave themselves unable to have a happy relationship. Bad habits can destroy a person. So without seeking sympathy for rapists, or serial seducers, or philanderers, it may be a certain poetic justice that they find themselves losers because they can't be anything better. I should add, the man with nineteen children has no partner. If he wanted to have a happy caring relationship with a woman, it may be something he no longer can do. Dumping women and moving on has left him unable to do anything better.