Friday, March 26, 2010

Call a spade a spade.

Not long ago I see a female person verbally attacking a man, telling him off and putting him down, and when he reacted in the same way she accused him of being 'afraid of strong women.' I felt like telling her there is a BIG difference between a strong woman and a bully. It is another case of calling something obnoxious by a fine sounding name in an attempt to make it better than it is.
I know some strong women. I've been privileged to be involved with several strong women, and none of them needs to be abusive, critical, loudly in my face or hostile. None of them tries to be intimidating to get their own way. That is a very important difference. There is some self-serving dishonesty in confusing the two, by calling one the name that belongs to the other.
One strong woman I know stuck by her husband and family, doggedly working hard to help keep the family's struggling farm going. She is my mother. Another strong woman has coped with a lot of grief and disappointment, been through two lots of cancer surgery, and still works while still being there for her friends.
Another strong woman has overcome a miserable childhood to work at her marriage and raise five children. I should know. I'm married to her!
None of those, and others like them, is a strident harridan who pushes people around and belittles them.
Some pushy, bullying women I know try to walk on a man's face and then accuse him of male chauvinism when he simply insists on not being treated that way.
A good woman is worth more than rubies, as the Bible says - and I don't mean that condescendingly. It is true. But let's get the definitions right. Strong need not be loud. Real strength is not the same as vindictiveness, or personal ego. Some female bullies, like male ones, have a problem with fear of their own. They are scared stiff that someone might see their uncertainty so they cover it up with bluster, and try to intimidate others with abuse.
For pure strength, look at the Messiah. He could have called the vengeance of God down on His tormentors, but he asked that they be forgiven instead. Strength and brutality are two utterly different things. We all need to know the difference.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

"If God did not exist..." (Heaven forbid!)

A philosopher once said, "If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent Him."
I think it was Voltaire. He knew what he was getting at!
The Global Atheists Convention has just been held in Melbourne, Australia. One columnist who attended it said that it had worked a miracle on him. He describes himself as agnostice, but as he put it, "I've never felt more like believing in God. Especially the Christian one." He feels that way because of the way the atheists behave. As he put it, without God "...there's not much to stop people in our society from behaving like barbarians."
It was the most perfect illustration of what the philosopher mentioned above, was getting at.
Certain things were said at the convention that were utterly discreditable to those who said them. One speaker described Joseph Ratzinger as ' "the Pope Nazi' ', when in fact that man was conscripted into the Hitler Youth, it did not require allegiance to Nazism to be a member.
We have a Senator in Australia named Steve Fielding, also a Christian, who was described by an atheist speaker as stupider than an "earthworm".Yet another speaker asked if there were any believers in the audience, and when some put up their hands he rejoined by saying that he would speak slowly (so that they could keep up with him!). In other words, there were brutish and slanderous insults aimed at Christians for being believers. The journalist reporting went into more detail, which any one reading this could check by going to the site and reading the full text.
My point here is that in challenging the Christians, the atheists do not set an example of better behaviout than the Christians. The atheists resort to the sort of spite and malice that they have accused Christians of. Instead of disagreeing while respecting the rights of others to their views, it seems they wish to intimidate believers out of stating their beliefs. This while claiming to respect freedom of belief. Figure that out!
And the underlying concern is, that a universe without God would be such a vicious barbaric jungle that it would probably render itself extinct. Human beings do not behave better when they reject the idea of Divine Justice or punishment. They feel free to do just as they please! It's been said many times, when people think they can get away with anything they sometimes resort to utterly evil behaviour if it suits them. They would not dare to if they knew they would be named, shamed and punished.
William Golding wrote "Lord Of The Flies" about a group of highly civilized schoolboys from an advanced western culture, marooned without adult supervision or social restraint. They became barbarians, with a dictator, acts of murder and cruelty, and they set up a grotesque pagan god - the pig's head.
Joseph Conrad wrote "Heart Of Darkness" to show what happens when sophisticated people from an advanced culture are in the jungle without the restraint of their culture and its beliefs, including the influence of the Christian church. They become just as savage as the people they say need to be civilized.
I once heard human beings described as 'theotropic'. That means they have an inbuilt instinct to seek God. The only question is, which god will they choose. Centuries ago, when the Israelites were wandering in the wilderness, Moses left them for a few days and they pressured Aaron to make them a god - the golden calf. They wanted a god who was convenient, who they could make look like they wanted and which would be there when they demanded.
History reports that one society trying to get rid of the idea of god set up a statue of 'the goddess of reason.' They had to have a focus of worship that was outside themselves. So atheists don't live without a god, they make one of their own intellect, or the writings of people who say what they want to hear. Or as Paul put it, a god of their own stomach - broadly speaking, their own apetites and desires.
So it seems if you want to see why we need God, a good place to start looking for proof is among people who openly reject God. For examples from history, look at Stalin's regime in the then U.S.S.R. where practicing a faith was forbidden and Christians persecuted. Mao's regime in China likewise tried to drive out belief in God, and set up the party and its leader in place of Him. Hitler's Nazi regime was hostile to Christianity. That is why people like Martin Niemoller and Diederich Bonhoffer were persecuted. They stood up for Christianity in a state that did not want to tolerate it.
If God did not exist this universe wouldn't either, but the 'rationalists' insist that several chance accidents, each of odds at several million to one, made it happen. That is the most wild folly I've heard. But people relying on their own 'reason and intellect' stand there and say it.
I'm terribly thankful that God does exist, that He reaches out to us and we aren't left madly trying to make sense of life and find something to believe in. As Jesus said, 'the truth will set you free.' We're free from being duped and bullied by those who try telling us they know everything and we should do what they say.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

"You've got the wood on us."

I was tumbling helpless, into flames of scorching fire,
Doomed to lasting torment by the devil's vile sword,
But a hand reached out to save me from a fearful fate and dire,
The only hand that could do so. The hand of Christ the Lord

The funeral was held for a young Christian man who'd died in a vehicle accident. It was a shocking sad business, losing him like that at 33 years of age, and his parents had already had some grief and trials to cope with. But the family are Christians, and they have the hope Christians all have: physical death is a departure from this world, not the end of existence. IT's a temporary separation between the person whose body has died and those left behind, who miss them. The minister conducting the service was a vibrant believer, and it showed in what he said. There was grief at that event, but there was hope too. And a large number of people were there, whose aquaintance or friendship with the man came from different times or parts of his life. So not all the attendees were Christians. One was a former school teacher and debating coach who came to pay respects.
That man is a communist. I get on well with him, because after years of arguing our different view points we respect each other. But as a communist, he definitely does not believe Christian teaching. Still, being at that funeral and seeing the people there made a deep impression on him. Near the end of the service, when the hearse had left, he said to me quietly, "I think you've got the wood on us." For those not familiar with that expression, it means having the edge. He could see that Christianity could uplift people in a way that a political ideology could not. The Holy Spirit can do what plain human inspiration cannot. I'm not gloating over him. It is itself a witness. Even an unbeliever could see how much difference it made to people that they believed Jesus, and His words, and held to the hope they gain.
Without that hope there could have been nothing but despair and an increasing weariness with life.
If I didn't have Jesus I would have become too bitter and depressed to go on living. If that family did not have Christ they could end up wishing for death themselves to be out of their misery.
I should have said to my friend, "We've haven't got the edge, Jesus gives it to us." I didn't think quickly enough, but then if I was meant to say that the Holy Spirit would have given me those words. They might have sounded too neat, or something. What I know is, the Holy Spirit showed an unbeliever something that day. I pray he took it to heart.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Which came first?

The home schooling movement is growing in Australia, as well as the U.S., and I can see why! Working as a high school teacher for twenty five years, shows what the shortcomings are - not only with schools themselves, but also with the way society views them, and tries to use them.
God did NOT invent schools, He invented families. That has been forgotten by too many people who think that the school is an absolutely essential fact of modern life. It is not. It is a human innovation, and has all the shortcomings that humans' works have.
God gave families first responsibility for the care and nurture of children, and with that the right to be involved in what shape their education takes. That does not mean that all Christians should home-school. There are Christian schools, and Christian teachers in some secular schools, so that Christian content and perspective can be presented to kids who attend a school. But the paramount responsibilty for raising the young rests with families; and if Christian parents decide to home school, I can see exactly why. Some of the content directed at school enrollees is unsympathetic to Christians and their beliefs. One example is the modern 'rationalist' view that life began without the involvement of a Divine Being. Another is the idea that everyone makes their own moral decisions without being answerable to anyone but themselves. Then there is the teaching by secular schools that homosexuality is an entirely healthy individual difference. Christians should not be hostile to such people as homosexuals, in line with rejecting the sin but not the sinner. But they cannot be required to agree that it is a normal good thing if they believe the Bible's clear teaching on the subject. Some individual teachers are quite scornful and hostile to Christianity, and talk openly about trying to turn children away from it. They have no right to do so, but claim they have, and some others would agree. So there are good reasons why Christians may decide to avoid pernicious or hostile influences being directed at their kids.
From another angle, the expectations imposed on schools become quite ridiculous at times. Some parents take the view that if teachers know their job, they can make right anything that is wrong in the life of anyone aged 18 or under. They can make up for the deficit left by inadequate parents, that is! Very convenient for under committed parents who want someone else to do it for them!
Some months ago there were some racially based fights in southern Sydney. A senior officer in the Teachers' Federation stated that these riots drew attention to the role of the school in the community. The implication is that teachers should socially program all students so that they don't get involved in racial tensions. It is as if schools and teachers alone shape the attitudes and beliefs of all students. That is rubbish. Family background, peer group influence and personal experiences have a huge effect on the attitudes people develop. So it is unreasonable to require the school system to take care of all the business of raising children in a healthy way. By this means, schools and teachers are sometimes blamed for things they can't change. So secular society demands that schools take responsibility for raising children, instead of families. Too convenient! It saves parents the trouble of doing it themselves! This is especially the case with some parents who pay huge costs for expensive private schools, especially boarding schools, and expect the school to raise their children for them.
In addition to all this, some individual kids have a horrible time at school because schools can be emotional ghettoes full of bullying and unpleasantness. In New South Wales recently there have been suicides by kids overcome by the torment they endure at school. And the staff of schools are flaccidly useless in doing anything about it, in some cases because they cannot. Part of the problem there is, bullies have all the rights and none of the responsibilities. There is always someone thinking they are on the side of the angels when they stand up for malefactors, claiming that they are misunderstood or 'never had a chance', and so on. Meanwhile, the victims have to just cop it.
So too much is expected of schools, and there are good reasons why some people hate being there.
It is a feature of atheist societies, or totalitarian ones, that the role of parents and families is diminished and the role of educational institutions increased. This gives 'the state' more control over children, and more chance to indoctrinate them. And it never should have been either empowered to do that, or made responsible for doing so. Teachers neither have the right nor should have the responsibility to replace parents. The de-schooling of society can be a reaction to this: that too much has been handed over to schools for too long.
So I entirely understand why home-schooling is increasing. It may even be the way of the future. Other ways can be found for children to mingle with people their own age. It does not have to be at school. God did not invent schools. He invented families, and with them should rest the task of raisng children.