Month: March 2011

Quote of the week

Gerard Henderson, the pugnacious author of the excellent Media Watch Dog blog and director of the Sydney Institute, wrote this week:

For eons, Nancy has declared that the ABC is bipartisan in that the public broadcaster tends to attack both the Coalition and Labor – but only from the left.  And so it came to pass, last Monday, that the Prime Minister was subjected to a “gotcha moment” on Q&A from Julian Assange, who accused her of “treason” and declared that she could be charged with treason by “the Australian people”. No one asked Mr Assange how “the Australian people” could charge the prime minister with any offence – least of all treason.  Ms Gillard was being attacked from the left, so everything was okay.

Gerard hits the nail on the head for this one, accurately describing the mindset that besets the taxpayer funded ABC. Quote of the week to you this week.

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Idiot of the week (belated)

Mark Dreyfus, Labor MP for Isaacs, last week accused Tony Abbott of running a Goebellian campaign against Labor’s carbon tax. Joseph Goebells was the Propaganda Minister in the Nazi Germany and of course, Tony Abbott is totally worth comparing to Goebells since he is committed to the extermination of the Jews and total war on a global scale.

So Mark Dreyfus, for being a hypocrite and invoking Godwin’s Law, you are last week’s Idiot of the Week.

Ningaloo and the green beat up

Nothing is sure to fire up the greenies than the prospect of greedy, evil multinational corporations digging around the isolated coastline of WA for that apocalypse-waiting-to-happen: oil. Not surprisingly, when Shell lodged a proposal to drill 50kms away from Ningaloo’s Marine Park, the greenies got on their soap boxes.

Rachel Siewert (WA Greens Senator) condemned the plan, saying that, “Ningaloo is one place which is too important to jeopardise with oil and gas exploration. All the regulations and precautions in the world will not offer the level of protection the area needs.”

Paul Gamblin of WWF said, “Clearly for a place like Ningaloo we should be protecting these areas, and not allowing oil and gas activity so close.” Mr Gamblin reckon tourism is under threat because of this oil rig, which would be a great loss.

Ronnie Fleay, however, burst their little bubble though with this:

The Shire president Ronnie Fleay says the project should not come as a suprise because Shell has kept the community well informed.

She says there are already operations closer to the reef than the Shell proposal.

"I don’t think it will have any impact to be honest, none of the others have, in fact tourists are quite fascinated to stand on our hill where our lighthouse is and to be able to see the flaring out there on the platforms," she said.

"I don’t think the tourists in general will even know they are there."

Oh dear, the hysteria of the greenies is shown up for what it is. It is disappointing that Geoff Hutchison would first go to the WWF and Paul Gamblin, who presumably doesn’t actually live in Exmouth (more likely inner-city Perth), when the president of the Shire of Exmouth could immediately put things into perspective.

Or maybe Geoff wanted to lend his soft-touch interviewing skills to the cause.

Internet trolls and freedom of speech

Emma Jane, on today’s Punch, discusses the ubiquity of the internet troll in internet forums, social media and via email.

TROLL-BANK-GR1

If only all trolls on the net were this harmless

Emma raises the point at the end of the article that we should shut down legal loop holes to curtail those who pedal vile hate speech on the internet.

One of the definite downsides of having a mainly anonymous internet means that anyone can say whatever they want, without fear of repercussion. I think this leads many to almost an exaggerated recklessness, or a fearlessness, of the impact their words have on others. Opinions can become increasing strident and the rhetoric heightens so that many contentious discussions become a ‘take-no-prisoners’ affair. My experiences on some online philosophy and political discussion forums certain bear out that ruthless vitriol goes hand in hand with faceless, anonymous interaction. I certainly don’t envy those, such as politicians, activists and journos, who cop a lot of flak from those in the community with a belly full of hate and a desire to vent in on all who they oppose (Emma Jane’s recollections on this are particularly disturbing).

However, are restrictions on what can and can’t be said really the best way to deal with the issue? Is the best way to preserve free speech to deny it to some? I would contend that this would be the totally wrong way of dealing with this issue. Freedom of speech is a hard won freedom, bought with blood, sweat and tears of those who have gone up against tyranny in the centuries preceding us. Many people have fought the oppressive power of tyranny, usually in the form of absolute monarchy (and too often welded to church power), and its clamp down on their voices. It is always the first recourse of the dictator to restrict free speech before denying it all together.

If there is one thing the gospel of our Lord Jesus teaches us in this area, is that all men have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). We cannot trust the good nature and benevolence of those who hold the keys to free speech and the free flow of information to do the right thing. All are compromised by the selfishness of human rebellion against God and so we cannot be certain that they won’t abuse the power vested to them.

Instead, the best solution to a bad use of free speech is actually more free speech. The voices of hatred and ignorance should be contested by those who reject their nonsense. For example, I despise the Birther movement and its questioning of Barack Obama’s natural-born citizen status. In my view, it is actually racism because if Obama was white, no one would ask if he was a natural born citizen, a requirement to be President. This is all about people’s unwillingness to accept a black man as President.

How should we best respond to this bulldust? The wrong way is to find a legal mechanism to squash those voices who claim that Obama is disqualified. It won’t stop them from venting their stupidity and it turns them into martyrs, as well as opening the door for the government to use their powers against those who speak the uncomfortable truth. Instead, whenever they speak out, those who understand the truth should speak up against them. The solution isn’t found in government but in the people and in collective community action. Rather than relinquishing our responsibility to government, we should see it as our duty to our nation to speak out.

Christian teenagers and dating: a youth pastor’s dilemma pt 1

Over the last year as part of my ministry apprenticeship, I wrote an article of my reflections on Christian teens and our culture’s approach to dating. My hope for this blog is a bit of dialogue – you commenting and critiquing my ideas, with the hope that both your thinking and mine will be sharpened – iron on iron as I have heard said.

So I present the first part of a few of my draft article. Please feel free to comment away.

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The sign is always ominous – the relationship status on Facebook for one of the guys in your youth group changing to ‘In a relationship’. In our modern world, dating is normal and commonplace for young people today and Christians are no different. For me, Christian teenagers dating always fills the pit of my stomach with dread, all stemming from the question, ‘how will dating impact my young charge’s relationship with Jesus?’. And I believe this question is one all of us involved in the lives of Christian teenagers – parents, youth pastors, youth group leaders, should seek to answer.

Dating and the modern world

 

Now for the purposes of this article, I will not be exploring whether Christian adults should or shouldn’t date – there are plenty of books out there that deal with this issue. What I want to look at primarily is how our culture of dating is affecting the spiritual growth of Christian teenagers, particularly those aged 10 – 16, and the implications for those involved in youth ministry.

Also, I want to add that I am not talking about Christianised kids, that is kids who have grown up in church but haven’t come to personally trust Jesus as Lord and accept him personally as Saviour. Although the reality of youth groups are far from that cut and dried, it is important that I point out that I am talking about regenerated kids, who are to be discipled in their relationship with Jesus.

So we should begin by defining what dating is and I would describe it like this: a form of romantic courtship between two individuals who may or may not expect marriage (wikitionary). The key elements are that it is a romantic relationship, as opposed to friendship alone; that it is exclusive; and that there is no permanent commitment to marriage.

It is this formula that makes dating so common today. We live in a world that doesn’t see marriage as the pinnacle of a relationship between men and women; instead, marriage is one option amongst many. People are reluctant to commit their lives to another easily so dating has everything people want (an exclusive romantic relationship) with none of what they don’t want (permanent commitment).

Amongst young people, dating is commonplace. In my experience, it isn’t unheard of for kids as young as 10 or 11 to have boyfriends or girlfriends, even with a sexual element to their relationships. I find a TV show like Home and Away to be an excellent barometer of public opinion on a variety of issues. It tries to capture the majority of mainstream thinking in order to be immensely popular, with a dash of the edgy to make it controversial. And when we look at that show, we see teenagers dating all the time. No one at home would ever raise an eyebrow now to the kids portrayed positively in the show dating others (though, of course, with a lot of breakups to make it suitably dramatic).

Christian kids live aren’t immune to this worldview. As they will reach puberty, their peers will start dating and so they will be tempted to date members of the opposite sex too. However, is that what is best for them? Is it compatible with what the Bible has to say on relationships between men and women?

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Part 2 I shall unveil later this week Smile

The curse of the Law

It is often perceived by the secular Western world that Christianity is a religion about keeping rules. Christians are those who keep God’s rules and God will reward them for their good deeds in the end. But what does the Bible have to say?

“10 For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” 11 Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because “the righteous will live by faith.” 12 The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, it says, “The person who does these things will live by them.” 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.””(Galatians 3:10-13)

Paul here is dealing with Jewish teachers coming to the Galatian Christians and telling them that if they want to be a ridgy didge Christian, they need to obey the Law of Moses, including circumcision and abiding by the food laws. If they want to show that they are really Christians, then they must essentially first become Jews. Being right with God is dependent on your actions – your obedience to the laws God gave the Jews.

Paul, however, is clear that going down the Law is the wrong path. Anyone who tries to be ok with God through works of the law, rather than being blessed by God, are under a curse (v10). Cursed is everyone who doesn’t do everything in the Law, as the quote from Deuteronomy says.

That is where the Law comes unstuck for ordinary people. We might be able to do some of the Law but we cannot keep all of it, all of the time. There will be a point where we fail and that is where judgement comes in. God is a holy god, set apart from this world and its rebellion. He cannot tolerate anything or anyone that tries to set themselves up as god outside of Him and anything tainted by rebellion cannot be in his presence. We are excluded from God at the exact point when decide to do things our way. The Law, that commends those who always obey it, becomes a millstone around our necks because of our rejection of God’s rule. We are cursed by it.

That isn’t the end of the story though. All who live by the Law are condemned but there is another group who will live – those who live by faith. Faith in the Bible is trusting in God’s promises, ultimately trusting in the fulfilment of God’s promises – Jesus. Jesus has become cursed by God on our behalf on the cross (v13). Jesus took the penalty of rebellion – death and separation from God, so that we might be redeemed, bought out of our slavery to sin.

So instead of the sure fire condemnation of God that comes from trying (and failing) to live by the Law, we can trust in the works of Jesus, who died to rescue us. Trust (faith) is the opposite from obedience to the Law because obedience to the Law depends on what we do. Faith depends on what he has done for us.

So we see from this passage that being a Christian has nothing to do with what we do, in fact it is the complete opposite. If you try to please God by what you do, you will fail. We can only be accepted by God through faith – trusting in what Jesus has done for us.

Watching CultureWatch

In the tradition of the pugnacious Gerard Henderson’s Media Watch Dog, I thought I would record my comments to Bill Meuhlenberg’s CultureWatch, especially given that he believes the only place to disagree is on your own blog, and not on his.

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In Derelict Leadership, Bill put forward the idea that Obama is trashing the US Constitution by saying the Defence of Marriage Act is unconstitutional but not trying to overturn it. Also, one of the commenters brought up that Obama really isn’t a natural-born US citizen (and thereby illegally the US President):

I’m not entirely convinced that Obama is trashing the US Constitution. I don’t think it is unconstitutional to believe something is wrong but not overturn it. Inconsistent? Yes. Unconstitutional? No.

And Rick, drop that birther nonsense. Obama has released his birth certificate and every lawsuit about this stupidity has been dismissed by the courts, including the US Supreme Court 3 times. To be perfectly honest, if Obama was white, no one would question his status as a naturally born citizen of the US.

In The Word of God lite, Bill discussed The Story, a cut down version of the Bible, containing on 31 chapters of the entire Bible:

I’ve heard of a similar thing called The Story of God, though it might have been a dramatisation of things the Bible thinks as unimportant but the writers thought were.

I think The Story is a case of where Christian culture has been defined by human thinking, when it should actually be defined by God’s view on things. I’m all for good, relevant translations of the Bible and of books that helpfully distill the essence of the teaching of Scripture, but the worst aspect of the The Story is that it is pretending to be the Bible, when it isn’t.

In A Generation of Narcissists, Bill comments on how a recent conference for psychologists, one of whom claimed there is an epidemic of narcissism amongst our current generation:

We are really reaping the consequences of the elevation of humanity in the wider culture during the Enlightenment. These comments from this conference are really 300 years in the making, which is kinda scary.

Like always, the response is to preach the gospel, that cuts down the self-centredness of every generation.

In A Review of Ethics For A Brave New World, Bill positively reviews the aforementioned book:

I have read through The How and Why of Love: An Introduction to evangelical ethics by Michael Hill (published by Matthias Media). It is a top notch book and really lays an excellent biblical framework for ethics: how God is working to establish his kingdom and how we are to fit into it.

In Even The Stones Speak Out, the criticisms of David Starkey, an historian who is also homosexual and an atheist, are recited about the recent decision by the UK High Court to stop a Christian couple from fostering children because of their views on homosexuality:

I guess David Starkey’s comments points the reality that a loss of freedoms for one group means a loss of freedom for everyone.