April 8 - April 19, 2002
Friday 19th April, 2002
Believers in the Philippines will soon be
able to receive Bible extracts, prayers and spiritual messages as
text messages on their cell phones, the result of a new “catextism”
campaign by the local Catholic Church (thanks to the
Christianity Today weblog for this story). Last year the excellent
Ship of Fools website ran a contest to reduce the Lord’s Prayer to a
160-character text message. The winner:
dad@hvn,ur spshl.we want wot u want&urth2b like hvn.giv us food&4giv r sins
lyk we 4giv uvaz.don't test us!save us!bcos we kno ur boss,ur tuf&ur cool 4
Thursday 18th April, 2002
A correspondent comments on yesterday’s
posting (scroll down) on confused Christianity in the Middle East:
I had heard that Arafat's wife was supposed to be a Christian. The term
"Christian" obviously means different things to different
people/races/ethnic groups/etc. It's become so general and vague and
oft-misused that we need a new word, like "Jesusian". Reckon it would catch
on? (Sounds a bit New Age, perhaps...or maybe Star Trekkish.....)
What Would Jesus Watch?
Christian movie director Tom Shadyac (Dragonfly,
Patch Adams, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Nutty Professor)
Jesus would have enjoyed many of the cinematic "parables" on the big screen
today. Fearful and critical, however, Jesus' followers sometimes fall short
of the Teacher's example. "Christians so often, I think, put up walls
instead of building bridges," Shadyac said.
"You'd be so surprised at the conversations that
I've had with...some of the biggest talents out here [Hollywood], about God,
Strung Up, Struck Down
The Royal Australian Navy has suspended
“crossing the line” initiation ceremonies.
The ceremonies are a Navy tradition, which occur as a ship crosses the
equator. Video footage from three years ago, which shows sailors being
strung up naked and having juice forced down their throats, has been shown
on Channel 7….The Shadow Defence Minister, Chris Evans, has welcomed the
move. He says scenes portrayed in the video are not accepted in any other
workplace in Australia.
Come to think of it, getting torpedoes fired
at you isn’t accepted in any other workplace either.
Prime Minister John Howard is often derided
narrow-minded. So how does he come out with
gems like this, in an interview with Radio 2GB?
“We don't want to create the impression in the community that everywhere
adults interact with children in a caring environment there is paedophilia.
I don't want people to be discouraged from the love and attention and
affection they display towards children, including children other than their
own." Asked about teachers being told not to touch children, he exclaimed:
"Isn't that terrible? I think that is appalling. I wander around the
community and you see a little child and you pick it up and you give it a
cuddle. Are we going to become a society that becomes reluctant to do that?"
When we take our three sons back to Seoul to meet my wife’s family, any
man—young or old—who meets them will give them an enormous hug. In Korea
it’s the manly thing to do. But a teenage Korean friend here in Melbourne to
study English says his teachers have warned him not to hug young boys in
this country, in case he creates alarm. He feels something missing from his
Wednesday 17th April, 2002
The Liver of the Israeli Soldier
Suha Arafat, wife of Yasser Arafat, has
endorsed the suicide bombers. Previously she had described her
hatred of Israel and her rejection of attempts by Israeli women to make
contact with her.
It raises questions about the nature of
Christianity in the Mideast.
Convent-educated Suha Arafat comes from a
wealthy Palestinian Christian family. She nominally converted to Islam after
her secret 1990 marriage to the PLO chairman. Yet the
Arab media has said she remains at heart a Christian, attending church
regularly and having her daughter baptised. A New York Times writer
visited her in 1999 spoke of her “deep-seated Christian faith”, and
found in her living room many images of Jesus Christ and Pope John Paul II.
Suha’s Christian mother, the writer Raymonda
Tawil, has reportedly
penned a poem with the words, “I want to eat the liver of the Israeli
soldier and to bore my teeth into his flesh”.
And in an article that examined the roots of
The Spectator reported on the
Anglican bishop of
Jerusalem, Riah Abu El-Assal,“ a Palestinian who is intemperate in his
attacks on Israel”.
“We interviewed Bishop
Riah after some terrorist outrage in Israel,” says Colin Blakely [editor of
the Church of England Newspaper], “and his line was that it was all
the fault of the Jews. I was astounded.”
The bishop also has an
astounding interpretation of the Old Testament. Last December, he claimed of
Palestinian Christians, “We are the true Israel ...no one can deny me the
right to inherit the promises, and after all the promises were first given
to Abraham and Abraham is never spoken of in the Bible as a Jew.... He is
the father of the faithful.”
Of course we know that the Mideast is a
mess. Does any of this matter?
Well, yes, it should matter to all of us
Christians who yearn to see the message of Jesus—of love, of reconciliation,
It also raises a concern about the church in
Palestinian suicide bombings are a moral outrage that must be condemned
without reservation. Yet check two local Christian websites that offer
regular commentary on religious and ethical issues—those of
Melbourne Anglicans—and you will struggle to find such condemnation. Or,
until very recently, much condemnation at all.
I posted an item last week (scroll down)
suggesting bias by Sydney Anglicans for a report on their website that
described alleged Palestinian terrorists as “resistance” fighters. Since
then their website has published a pro-Israel article by an Israeli
Christian. It has also provided a link to reporting by the Israeli newspaper
But Melbourne Anglicans? Here are examples
of how their website is covering the conflict:
Fear stalks the streets of Bethlehem. Israeli troops leave a trail of
destruction in one of Christianity’s holiest sites.
Bishop’s anger as Israeli tanks move in.
Bethlehem priest shelters Palestinians. A priest in Bethlehem says his
church and others all over the town are being used as refuges by local
families fleeing from Israeli tanks and soldiers.
Israel accelerates military offensive. Israel appears to have intensified
its military offensive in the West Bank after US President Bush demanded
that it withdraw from Palestinian areas "without delay".
Australian Government must help end Israel’s ‘unimaginable retaliation’ –
It is natural for local church leaders to
wish to give support to what they perceive to be a besieged Christian
minority in the Middle East.
But bias and equivocation and a lack of
knowledge can only further lower the church’s diminishing prestige and cause
despair among its members.
Tuesday 16th April 2002
More Like Moore
Tim Blair does a
powerful demolition of Richard Neville’s
anti-American tirade in Saturday’s Good Weekend magazine. He
might have added this amusing entry from the Links page of Neville’s
www.michaelmoore.com – One of a kind and I wish I was him. The only man in
the world who made me doubt the guilt of Ojay Simpson. Moore’s current open
letter to George Bush reminds us of what lily livered drones we suffer in
Michael Moore is author of the current
best-seller Stupid White Men, summed up by
Andrew Sullivan as “a rant, a series of rhetorical explosions, fantasies
and occasional facts that build upon each other through repetition rather
Monday 15th April, 2002
Sacrificing the Good Life in Pursuit of a Better One
You can hardly do better than
The Age in its headline (above) for a lengthy report on a growing
number of young professionals dropping out to study theology.
She could have been a partner by now. But instead of the big law office and
a fat pay packet, Meg Warner has a dying bank account and lives in student
She still dresses office-smart but, at 35, she is focused on meaning, not on
making it. A student at Carlton's United Faculty of Theology (UFT), she is
part of a new wave of lay people who have ditched full-time work to study
theology, a subject that for them, job-wise, goes nowhere.
More than 1,800 are taking it in Melbourne,
and nearly all of them have no wish to wear a dog collar. In a twist to
tradition, theology, the study of religion, has gone from being a
preparation for preaching to a way of wondering how to live.
Here’s where some of them end up.
Australia has been rocked by
the largest number of anti-Semitic attacks in one week since the
intifada erupted 18 months ago. For Canberra University student Abd-alrahman
Hijazi, Palestinian suicide bombers are
heroes and heroines.
Sydney’s largest cemetery is
running out of space for Muslims. Jews and Anglicans are also being
squeezed. Only Catholics are lying pretty.
Anything But Woolly
Prince Charles is not noted for his
religious fervour, even if his
official website says that he is “profoundly attached to the traditional
rites of the Church of England and to the Book of Common Prayer”. Heir to
the roles of Supreme Governor of the Church and Defender of the Faith, he
has commented that the latter position ought to be rebadged simply “Defender
of Faith”. But now he has launched a
multi-faith initiative that seems anything but woolly.
The religious campaign will see Prince
Charles taking the lead in moves to bridge the faith divide in schools,
relief work and deprived areas.
Schemes under consideration include opening
Muslim faith schools to other religions, providing refuge for victims of
sectarian violence in Northern Ireland and joint Christian/Muslim aid for
the West Bank.
Church of England officials are said to be
changes to their marriage rules, to allow Charles to marry long-time
lover Camilla Parker Bowles.
Friday 12th April, 2002
For Unto Us A Red Heifer Is Born
Another red heifer has been
born in Israel. Can the
end of the world be nigh?
The concept would have struck many people as absurd the last time such a
calf was born, in 1997, and probably makes most readers laugh today. Big
mistake: Never underestimate the power of religious faith to shape events,
especially in the Holy Land. Especially right now.
According to certain Old Testament prophecy,
the return of the Messiah awaits the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem.
And this cannot start until those entering the Temple site have been
purified by the ashes of a ritually-sacrificed red heifer “without defect or
blemish”. (See Chapter 19 of the book of Numbers in the Bible.) The last
such beast born in Israel developed white hairs and was rendered ineligible.
Orthodox rabbis will wait three years before giving their verdict on the
"These kinds of circumstances are exactly
what people are waiting for," says Richard Landes, a Boston University
history professor and director of its
Center for Millennial Studies. "We could be starting a war. If this is a
real red heifer, and strict Orthodox rabbis have declared her worthy of
sacrifice, then a lot of Jews in Israel will take that as a sign that a new
phase of history is about to begin. The Muslims are ready for jihad anyway,
so if you have Jews up there doing sacrifices, talk about a red flag in
front of a charging bull."
The New Yorker
a detailed article in 1998 on the Pentecostal Mississippi cattle breeder
who initiated the Israeli red heifer breeding programme.
MessiahCam maintains a continual watch on Jerusalem for the Second
Rapture Index stands at a rapturously high 173 points.
Thursday 11th April, 2002
Jesus, the Pig of God
continues to rage among American evangelicals over the merits of
Zondervan’s new gender-inclusive Bible translation, Today’s New
International Version (TNIV). The Council on
Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, which affirms that "distinctions in
masculine and feminine roles are ordained by God as part of the created
order", says it has found 100 inaccuracies. But an interesting
comment comes from Tabor College academic Jim Reiher, in a letter to
New Life Christian newspaper (the letter is not available online):
We accept it when a Bible translator in a remote African village changes
“Jesus is the lamb of God” to “Jesus is the pig of God”—because the people
have never seen a lamb, and they use pigs for sacrifices to local gods. We
acknowledge that it is necessary to capture the idea behind the image or
metaphor of the lamb….We want people to know that Jesus is the once-for-all
sacrifice for sin. He paid the price. Keeping “lamb” in the Bible for such a
culture would be to make the Bible incomprehensible at that point. It would
be foolish not to be culturally sensitive.
The new NIV does not even go that far. It does not change the male metaphors
about God to gender-inclusive ones. It leaves “Father” as “Father” and it
leaves “Son of God” the same. All it does is take gender-inclusive words and
phrases and make them gender inclusive in English. Funny thing that: it is
trying to make the English translation more accurate to the modern ear.
Zondervan, the world’s largest Bible
publisher, is part of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation media empire.
Wednesday 10th April, 2002
Our Awfully Biased Corporation?
Are a couple of senior clergy concerned that
appear to have been used by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation to
abuse Israel? Read the following story from the ABC’s online newswire:
Religious leaders condemn Israeli offensive
Religious leaders in Australia have
condemned Israel's offensive in the West Bank, particularly the shelling of
the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem.
President of the Council of Christians and Jews in New South Wales,
Salvation Army Major Grahame Harris, says it is a tragedy that heavy
fighting has broken out around Bethlehem's Church of Nativity, believed by
millions to be the birthplace of Christ.
"It seems to be a denial of what the site should mean and what it should
mean to all peoples," he said.
Anglican Bishop of North Sydney Glen Davies says Anglicans across Australia
are praying for the safety of the 200 Palestinians taking shelter in the
"It's an ancient custom to find sanctuary in a place like a church building
and that ought to be respected by all people," he said.
Read the quotes again. And now the headline
and lead sentence. That’s right. No condemnation at all by the ministers of
the Israeli offensive, just concern about a sacred site and the people
Our Awfully Biased Church?
Sydney Anglicans maintain an
impressive website with a
large archive of media reports from around the world on religious and
There is absolutely heaps on the moral
quandaries of stem cell research.
Amy Butler, Anglican Media Sydney's resident Tim Tam expert, says "Since
Arnotts has been taken over by a US company the quality of Tim Tam's has
lessened greatly - the chocolate coat is no longer thick and creamy. To
compensate a marketing ploy has been used with double-coated chocolate Tim
Tams on the market." Anglican Media says 'Bring back Tim Tams as Australians
have always know [sic] them.'
There is absolutely nothing on the morality
of Palestinian suicide bombings.
And there is a
report on the Israeli siege of Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity which
contains this paragraph:
When asked why the Palestinian resistance took the church as refuge,
[Palestinian lawyer Tony] Salman explained that they were left with two
choices, either to be killed in cold blood by the Israeli occupation forces
or run for their lives to the church. They chose the latter.
Palestinian resistance? Here is what the
Washington Times reported:
About 150 armed men, a number of them alleged by Israel to be on their "most
wanted" list of terrorists and bombers, blasted their way through a steel
door into the church, a clergyman inside the complex said using its only
still-working telephone. The church is on the site where Christians believe
Jesus was born.
The priest, who chose not to supply his name, declined to call the clergy
"hostages," but repeatedly said in fluent English: "We have absolutely no
choice. They have guns, we do not."
Read too a
moving article on the invasion of the church, written by
The Christian-Jewish dialogue is one of the great movements of
reconciliation of our time, healing two millenniums of pathological
estrangement between two sister faiths. Jewish organizations have often been
grudging in their recognition of the remarkable theological changes toward
the Jewish people undertaken by Christian denominations, especially the
Recently, those of us within the Jewish community who have argued for a more
positive Jewish attitude to Christianity have begun to sense a new
receptivity toward dialogue. Yet that precious dialogue is now being
threatened by a one-sided Christian approach to the Middle East conflict.
It is time for mainline churches to reconsider their anti-Israel bias, which
undermines the credibility of Jewish proponents of dialogue and jeopardizes
our historic reconciliation.
Up the Nile
Rev. Fred Nile really believe in the Biblical Great Commission to spread
the Good News to the peoples of the world? Perhaps he should stop issuing
press statements that demonise the boat people, and instead launch a
campaign to bring
as many boat people as possible into Australia.
Tuesday 9th April, 2002
Why all this talk about the enemy?
Are we clear about this power of God? Are we clear about its illimitable
character? Do we modern Christians realise that the weapons of our warfare
are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds? Are you
troubled still about all these philosophies and ideologies and politics, and
everything that is opposed to God—the anti-God movements? Why all this talk
about the enemy? Have we forgotten about the power of God?….The power of
God—that is what the prophet prays for. He prays that the glory and the
power of God may be made manifest. Are we praying that prayer? Is that our
innermost desire?….Why should praying like this be confined to certain
people now and again in the long history of the church? Why does every
Christian not feel this?
The latest edition of the online newsletter
Antithesis carries a classic sermon of Martyn Lloyd-Jones, from his book
Revival. And in the wake of September 11th many Christians are
starting to question the “syrupy psycho-babble” of much modern preaching.
reports a revival in expository preaching (defined as “what happens
after the preacher does the scholarly work of exegesis and the spiritual
discipline of prayer”). Helping the trend are stimulating new books, such as
Preaching to a Postmodern World by Perth pastor Graham Johnston. The
magazine describes it as a “clear treatise on delivering Bible-centred
sermons to audiences enchanted by relativistic thinking”.
Monday 8th April, 2002
For those in the West trying to live as
Christians it sometimes seems that the whole culture is conspiring against
Jesus preached a message that was
revolutionary in its day: love, forgiveness, service, integrity, trust,
humility, prayer, compassion, justice, and more. Yet too often in our world
today we see self-interest placed ahead of love and compassion, rule by the
powerful in place of justice and service, spin instead of honesty and
The message of Jesus has become
revolutionary again. Christianity is the new counter-culture.
This website is intended as a service to
Christians trying to live under God in a post-Christian world. I plan a
daily weblog and regular articles and interviews, as well as links to
resources on the web. I hope we might also have fun.
I welcome your
comments and suggestions.