Christine and I have just got back from 21 days walking one of the worlds premier desert treks.
Have a read of our adventures here on my travel blog.
Christine and I have just got back from 21 days walking one of the worlds premier desert treks.
Have a read of our adventures here on my travel blog.
I had a Facebook conversation yesterday with an old contact from a church I was a pastor in over 15 years ago. In short the conversation went like this in response to a post I put up on SSMarriage; (this is a VERY abbreviated version with my interpretation)
Person – If you just obeyed Leviticus you would know what God want you to vote.
Me – Hahaha, if you obeyed Leviticus you would not wear clothes of mixed blend, we would be killing people for doing all sorts of things…Because “God says!”
Person – Look, DON’T ARGUE WITH ME – ITS GOD, HIS WORD, NOT ME YOU HAVE TO ARGUE WITH, YOU WILL STAND BEFORE HIM TO BE JUDGED. And by the way I don’t like the passive aggressive tone you took with me in the above comment.
Me – Tone? I’m not the one on caps lock shouting down the internet! I just was hoping for some interaction, some robust discussion, some push and pull.
Person – You had better take that up with God, it seems you have a problem with him, not me. All I am doing is speaking His truth.
What disturbed me more was that I was that person! And truth be told, too often, I AM that person. Give me a bone to chew I will go at it if I believe strongly enough in it!! “Person” had his kids in my Youth Ministry, I no doubt reacted to them the same way 20 years ago when they would come to me with doubts and questions, desire for discussion. “You had better stop thinking that way, it’s not how we think as Christians…just think proper…like me, as I am God’s voice…I read the bible!”
Today, I called past home to eat lunch as I was in the area and picked up a reflection book by one of my favorites, David Whyte. In it he writes on robustness, he reflects my desire for healthy conversation, healthy community, here it is;
To be robust is to be physically or imaginatively present in the very firm presence of something or someone else. Being robust means we acknowledge the living current in something other than our own story. Robustness is a measure of the live frontier in our lives, whether it is a wrestling match, a good exchange of ideas in the seminar room or a marital argument in the kitchen. Without robustness all relationships become defined by their fragility, whither and then die. To be robust is to attempt something beyond the perimeter of our own constituted identity; to get beyond our own thoughts or the edge of our own selfishness. Robustness is not the opposite of vulnerability: robustness and vulnerability belong together; to be robust is to show a willingness to take collateral damage, to put up with noise, chaos or our systems being temporarily undone. Robustness means we can veer off either side of the line while keeping a firm on-going intent. Robustness is the essence of parenting: both of children and ideas.
A lack of robustness denotes ill-health, psychological or physical, it can feed on itself; the less contact we have with anything other than our own body, our own rhythm or the way we have arranged our life, the more afraid we can become of the frontier where actual noise, meetings and changes occur, the temporary need to stop things happening eventually becoming a permanent identity based on siege, where life itself has been turned into the enemy…
We are never one thing, but always the meeting…Robustness is not an option in most human lives, to choose its opposite is to disappear.
May I always honour the divine in the ‘other’. I pray my desire to be ‘right’ never over takes my desire to engage in healthy community which includes disagreeing, debating and some robust conversations.
(Kind of appropriate on the 500th anniversary of one of the worlds most famous invitations to a robust conversation me thinx!)
Sophie, 16, wrote this speech for English. She read it at dinner tonight, wow!
“I remember the noise of the gun shots shaking the floor, I remember having to leave everything I had behind, I remember the murder of my father right in front of me. I remember my mother telling me that we would be happier, safer where we were going, we got on a boat, along with hundreds of others, in the dead of the night. I remember what felt like months passing while we were bashed around at sea. It wasn’t any better when we finally got to land, in fact it was worse. I remember my disappointment when realising we wouldn’t be safer here. I was exposed to rape, suicide, murdet on the daily basis in this ‘prison’. I remember thinking I would never see my family again, I remember thinking that this must be hell, because nothing could be worse than this.
I remember vividly.”
To the press, media, Australian parliament
My name is Sophie Vawser and today I am here to tell you of the fatal, devastating results that your actions or decisions are causing.
The account that I just read, was from a young, 15-year-old teenage girl who was trying to seek asylum in Australia, away from ISIS terrorising her home country. This girl who remains nameless, was 15 years old when she witnessed her father be murdered at the hands of cowardly terrorists. 15 when she saw her own mother be raped, 15 being held in a detention centre, refused entry into Australia, and only 16 when she took her own life.
The term ‘asylum seeker’ is used to refer to someone- a person, a human, who has left their home country as a refugee and is seeking asylum or refuge in another. They have not done anything wrong, nor are they treated as if this statement is true.
The first article of the united nations universal declaration of human rights states that; “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” If this is true then why are hundreds of innocent people being stripped of their human rights every day?
The shocking fact is that Australia is the only country in the world with a policy of mandatory detention and offshore processing of asylum seekers who arrive without a valid visa. To hear this statistic, essentially, made me feel embarrassed. Embarrassment towards the idea that we deny these desperate people, basic help in their darkest times.
I’m sure some of you, if not a majority of you in this room have children of your own. Children that you would risk your life for, go to the sun and back for. Just to ensure that they would be happy and safe. Yes? Of course, because you love them, and you are human. Now imagine if the account I read was from one of your children. It is heartbreaking to know that this is many people’s reality and we aren’t doing nearly enough to help them.
As a nation, as a whole human race, we must come together.
Australia, we need to change our ways.
and a version of the letter here written by a mate Colin Craggs x sarcasm for illustration of the same intent minus a kind of literary violence often used …by me 😉 and you … I’m sure!!
Dear Franklin Graham
My name is Peter and this is an open letter, pastor to pastor, with other’s watching. I have to say I was insulted when I learned that your Decision America Tour took a detour off the beaten path to call upon us “small community churches.” Not that we don’t want you to visit, I do. I think there is a lot we can talk about it. I was insulted in how it was promoted and how we are portrayed.
Yes, we are small community churches. We are nothing if not small. We seat 30-40 on a good Sunday. And we are a century old fixture of our small community. Most often we are overlooked and overshadowed by mega-churches and politically influential religious voices like your own. We don’t hold a candle to an auditorium filled with the music of a one hundred voice choir led by professional musicians. We probably will never be recognized in any nationally syndicated media. After all, we don’t do anything really “newsworthy.” We just preach the good news of Jesus Christ; love one another the best we can (which sometimes isn’t very well); feed the hungry that come to our doors; care for the sick; comfort the dying; and bury the dead. Are we not the image you want for the mega-churches? Is this not the kind of prayer and action you are seeking in your ministry? We are small but we are trying our best to live out our faith well.
I have to say, though, that I was a little confused by your summons. Of all the things that worry me, loss of religious freedom for Christians in America isn’t one of them. I can’t say I have ever experienced anything in this country that could reasonably be called a restriction on my religious liberty, much less persecution. When you started talking about attacks on Christianity, I thought you might have been referring to the racially motivated slaying of pastors and lay people at Mother Emmanuel church in Charleston some time back. Or I figured you were referring to the slaughter of Coptic Christians in Egypt this past Palm Sunday. That’s what I call persecution. But having to pay a judgment for refusing to bake a cake for a same sex couple in violation of the law against discrimination? This you call persecution? In Peter’s writing, as an expert on persecution, having been on the receiving end of it more than once. He says you don’t get divine kudos from suffering the consequences of breaking the law-even if you are a Christian. Likewise, the Apostle Paul (aka Saul) said that if your enemy is hungry you should feed him. So wouldn’t it have been the Christian way to have baked a cake for the same sex couple in your example, even if you deem them enemies (another assertion I don’t quite understand)? I think your idea of persecution is confusing and takes away from the plight of those shedding their blood for Christ. Am I wrong in this? Clarify this point for me please?
It seems to me that the church in America has persecution complex. We need to stop with the drama. We are not under attack just because we have to follow the rules like everyone else. Look, I understand the owners of this establishment you mention in your speech don’t approve of gay and lesbian people getting married. They don’t have to approve of them. But if they are going to do business in this country, they have to follow the law against discrimination-just like the rest of us. If you don’t like the rules, don’t join the game. It’s that simple. Furthermore, I don’t understand why baking a cake for people whose conduct you find personally offensive is such a big deal. Heck, Frank, if all of us small church pastors refused to bury everyone whose conduct we didn’t approve of, the country would be ten feet deep in corpses! We are to live in the world and this is a part of it.
I am struggling, too, with your claim that Donald Trump is a champion (albeit an unlikely one) for religious freedom. What freedoms are we talking about here, Franklin? We are called to use our freedom to serve one another, to love our neighbours and not to ‘bite and devour one another’. Is the language of Donald Trump promoting this freedom? When he refers to woman as “dogs,” “fat pigs,” and “ugly” can we say that’s the freedom the Bible talks about? Or calling his opponents “idiots,” “losers,” “liars” and “frauds”? Is he not guilty of slander toward people with accusations of criminal conduct based on absolutely no evidence? He is our president but I must question your assertion that he is our champion for religious freedom.
You might be right about God putting Donald Trump in the White House-though your reasons for so believing are probably different from what I might conjecture. Still, how do you know that? Where did you get this info? I’m concerned that this pro-Trump movement is not standing on solid Biblical ground. What makes you right and another wrong if both are claiming to have heard from God? As I read the Scriptures it seems to me that God is more concerned about how men treat women in the workplace, how people of color are treated in the real estate market, how the hungry and homeless are cared for (or not), and less concerned if we bake a cake for a same sex couple to celebrate their wedding? Let’s continue this dialogue from a Biblical basis. How do you know? Show me how you get to your conclusion that baking a cake is a bigger deal than caring for the hungry and homeless?
Here’s the thing, Franklin. At the last judgment, Jesus doesn’t ask anyone about who they voted for, how many times they have been divorced, what their sexual history or orientation is or for whom they did or did not bake wedding cakes. He isn’t even concerned with how we treated the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the imprisoned, those deemed “least” among us. We all fall short of God’s ideal. We commit adultery and we abandon the least among us. We offend our enemies and we live in abundance while those around us starve. But God is interested in whether we are united in himself through his son. That’s where the compassion begins. That’s where the power to love our enemies and feed the hungry comes from. That’s where we can stand together and work through this as brothers in Christ despite our opinions on politics.
You know, Franklin, I would like to think that we are brothers. I would like to believe that we are on the same side. I would like to believe that, beneath our differences, we worship the same God and follow the same Savior. But quite honestly, I don’t recognize the Jesus I learned from my parents, my Sunday School teachers, my pastors or my years of study and reflection on the Bible in your angry, fearful rhetoric. Yes Franklin, your sound angry and fearful. In Jesus you are in love and there is no need for fear. Yes, I will answer your call for prayer. But I will be praying for the real victims of persecution-the victims of racial discrimination, sexual violence and bullying. I will answer your call to action. But I will be acting to establish health care as a right for all people; making the college campus and the workplace spaces where women and girls need not fear being called “pigs,” “dogs” or “ugly” nor will they need to fear rich, white celebrity males who feel entitled to grab them by the genitals. I will respond to your call for action by working for a society in which no one needs to worry about where she will sleep at night or where the next meal is coming from. You want prayer? You want action? You’ve got it. Please tell me you are praying for these things too!
Franklin, we have the scriptures, we have prayer, and we are learning every day what it means to love God with all our hearts, souls, minds and strength and to love our neighbors as ourselves. That’s all we need.
Christ’s servant and yours,
I love this daily reflection from Richard Rohr;
The Scapegoat Mechanism
Sunday, April 30, 2017
As I mentioned last week, Jesus on the cross echoes three healing images: the Passover lamb, the “Lifted-Up One,” and the scapegoat ritual. The third symbol deserves a deeper exploration because it is central to understanding how Jesus resets the pattern of history. We’ll spend this week looking at Jesus as scapegoat before we move on to the promise of resurrection.
Humans have always struggled to deal with fear and evil by ways other than forgiveness, most often through sacrificial systems. Philosopher René Girard (1923-2015) saw the tendency to scapegoat others as the primary story line of human history in every culture.  Why? Because it works, and it is largely an immediate and an unconscious egoic response. The scapegoat mechanism was ritualized by the Israelites, as we’ll see tomorrow (see Leviticus 16:20-22).
If your ego is still in charge, you will find a “disposable” person or group on which to project your problems. People who haven’t come to at least a minimal awareness of their own dark side will always find someone else to hate or fear. Hatred holds a group together much more quickly and easily than love and inclusivity, I am sorry to say. Something has to be sacrificed. Blood has to be shed. Someone has to be blamed, attacked, tortured, imprisoned, or killed. Sacrificial systems create religions and governments of exclusion and violence. Yet Jesus taught and modeled inclusivity and forgiveness!
Sadly, the history of violence and the history of religion are almost the same history. When religion remains at the immature level, it tends to create very violent people who ensconce themselves on the side of the good, the worthy, the pure, the saved. They project all their evil somewhere else and attack it over there. At this level, they export the natural death instinct onto others, as though it’s someone else who has to die.
As long as you can deal with evil by some means other than forgiveness, you will never experience the real meaning of evil and sin. You will keep projecting, fearing, and attacking it over there, instead of “gazing” on it within and “weeping” over it within yourself and all of us. The longer you gaze, the more you will see your own complicity in and profitability from the sin of others, even if it is the satisfaction of feeling you are on higher moral ground. Forgiveness demands three new simultaneous “seeings”: I must see God in the other; I must access God in myself; and I must experience God in a new way that is larger than an “Enforcer.”
I was driving along minding my own business at the beginning of this year with a knot in my stomach. I did all that my coach had taught me and began to meditate/pray/reflect into this simple question (something a bit new for me. A shoulder shrug and never a second thought has been my style), the question; “Where did this anxiety come from?”
I came up with a list; a lack sleep, a fight I’d had with my wife, and then it struck me, I was in the middle of one of those discussions on Facebook that involve me against another with combative ideas on a topic (this one being environmentalism), and in between comments I would go about wondering, “What will he say in response to my last comment, what will I say in response to that last comment?” And, the bigger question that came to mind in my car that day…”Who is ‘HE‘ ?”
“He”…well I am just not sure who he is. I know he got to be a ‘friend’ on Facebook somehow. Normally I abide by a rule that I have had to have met a person face to face before agreeing to be friends. But somehow this stranger to me (sorry if you are reading this stranger/friend and we are old mates, I just can’t place you!) But this person ‘had me’. He had control of my emotions to the point of a knot in my stomach and anxiety in my emotions, he was taking up hours of my day, at least week. Did I enjoy the ‘banter’? I’m not sure I did, not with him, well maybe sometimes. It was respectful. it was mutual, we even stuck up for each other when someone else dug the knife in with comments, but I was never going turn this guy over to my way of thinking nor he, me. It felt, in a way, a kind of violence, a grenade slinging from our Facebook trenches.
Not just that conversation. Nor that friendship on Facebook. I quit (At least for a few months) Facebook all together. It felt like a good thing to do, it felt like it had a kind of hold on me. Not just with this guy, hours were spent surfing, watching endless animals falling off couches, people smashing into walls on their bikes, along with an ever growing “Watch Later” list of interesting teaching videos from people who seem to have more time than me to watch ‘deep teaching’…which in turn gave me anxiety around my inadequacies of not being ‘deep’ enough our not managing my time like ‘others’ who seem to be able to watch endless teaching videos or …. ok…I know – I’ve got work to do 🙂
Two weeks ago was Easter Sunday, my marker point for re-downloading The App. I did it with minimal fanfare, in fact it took me a few days before downloading it onto my devices. I jumped on, made about six posts in 15 minutes and read a little, but it felt like I was not that keen, an addiction broken?
A few days later I sat down with a few minutes to spare and there it was, a post from THAT guy. Immediately I felt the vertigo of falling into a void of antagonism and argument, of oppositional hand grenades…
I felt empowered. I started surfing again. I surfed around for an hour, I read articles, a watched dogs falling off couches…I was back!
So what had changed?
I (re?)discovered that I can be drawn endlessly into idol time wasting. Facebook makes that easy. But so does Twitter and so does Instagram. When I went off Facebook my use of these other two programs went through the roof! I process publicly. With or without technology, I use people to help me discover what I really believe. I love a big wide community like Facebook with all it’s diversity of humanity (at least my handful of ‘friends’ is pretty diverse). I love ‘putting it out there’ and seeing what happens. Yes, sometimes I ‘bait’ (just ask my mother!), sometimes I suffer the anxiety of tense interactions. But If I can manage that anxiety, if I can keep my interaction to people I am in relationship with, at least to people I remember meeting and engaging with at some point, then I am content. People ask, why can’t you use ‘real’ face to face people to have these conversations with? My answer is; these ARE real people, they live in all places over the world, Facebook does not make them any less real than a telephone did when Mr Bell gave us that gift.
In terms of time wasting…I am the master of my own destiny! I am disciplined in many ares of my life, why not exercise some here? For ever hour I spend on Facebook, it’s an hour taken from something else, or someONE else. I choose.
I discovered there are people all over the place I disagree with on Facebook. Do I need to cut everyone of them off? We used to sing a song in Church; “All over the world are people just like us worshipping Jesus.” What a travesty. I am sure the writer didn’t intend it to mean that all over the world white middle-class evangelical Christians were gathering at the exclusion of LGBTQI, Aboriginal, Refugees, smelly homeless people…but that seems to be what it looks like! I don’t want to de-friend everyone I don’t look like, disagree with or everyone who disagrees with me and have a bland coloured Facebook community. Heck…that’s how many of us do church! I have de-friended a few people over the years, maybe 3 or 4 for various reasons, but in general, I think I like the diversity, I think I NEED the diversity.
Yes, I get misunderstood and judged by some as I do others. I have had many a face to face conversations explaining, apologising, and undoing knots created by my comments on Facebook (sorry friends!!) but I process publicly, I lack some discernment, I and have less at risk in my career (meaning…I don’t lead a church or bible college!! 🙂 ) I love to stimulate discussion and see people stimulated to think, argue and be challenged as I love the same back at me.
You may not see me on Facebook as much (right away), I find I am engaging with less obsessive passion and interest right now, maybe not a bad thing.
Will I fast from Facebook again? No doubt. We all need a cleanse, a detox to remind our systems of just who is running this show…NO I’m NOT a control freak 🙂 But that could be a post for another day…
Historically, of course, Australia Day represents the anniversary of the arrival of the First Fleet at what became known as Sydney Cove. The national public holiday marking this event is a fairly recent addition to the calendar, and many Australians will look forward to relaxing and enjoying a day off with friends and family.
And yet, for many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders the legacy of the day remains strong. Tomorrow represents not a day of enjoyment but a reminder of the wrongs that were meted out by the British and the ongoing implications of our colonial past.
It remains a contentious day in the calendar of our history.
In modern Australia inequality and disadvantage are major problems within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities…read more here…