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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 eva!ok?


-posted 1:30pm



Thursday 18th April, 2002


Born-Again Jesusian

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) believes:


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.


He adds:


"You'd be so surprised at the conversations that I've had with...some of the biggest talents out here [Hollywood], about God, spirituality, Jesus."



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.



Cuddle Me

Prime Minister John Howard is often derided as 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 life.


-posted 4:10pm



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 who 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 Christian anti-Semitism, 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 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, of forgiveness—prevail.


It also raises a concern about the church in Australia


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 Sydney and 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 Ha’aretz.


But Melbourne Anglicans? Here are examples of how their website is covering the conflict:


April 5


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.


April 8


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".


April 10


Australian Government must help end Israel’s ‘unimaginable retaliation’ – Archbishop Watson


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.


-posted 1:05pm



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 own website: – 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 Australia.


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 than logic”.


-posted 10:35am



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 digs.


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.


Mideast Quagmire

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.


Grave Concern

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 planning changes to their marriage rules, to allow Charles to marry long-time lover Camilla Parker Bowles.


-posted 2:40pm



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 latest animal.


"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 carried 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 Coming. The Rapture Index stands at a rapturously high 173 points.


-posted 12:35pm



Thursday 11th April, 2002


Jesus, the Pig of God

Debate 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 Australia’s 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.


-posted 5:55pm



Wednesday 10th April, 2002


Our Awfully Biased Corporation?

Are a couple of senior clergy concerned that they 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 church.

"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 inside.



Our Awfully Biased Church?

Sydney Anglicans maintain an impressive website with a large archive of media reports from around the world on religious and ethical issues.


There is absolutely heaps on the moral quandaries of stem cell research.


There is this statement:


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 Yossi Klein Halevi, author of At the Entrance to the Garden of Eden: A Jew's Search for God With Christians and Muslims in the Holy Land.


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 Catholic Church.

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

Does politician-pastor 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.


-posted 10:30am



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. Christianity Today 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”.

-posted 11;30am

Monday 8th April, 2002

For those in the West trying to live as Christians it sometimes seems that the whole culture is conspiring against us.


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 integrity.


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.


-posted 11.55am