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Weblog Archive 


May 11 - May 16, 2003


Friday 16th May, 2003


Jesus Reloaded

Is Matrix Reloaded (filmed here in Australia) Christian allegory? Evangelistic tool? Or spiritual mish-mash?


Here’s the BBC’s Steven Tomkins:


Neo's mission, foretold by prophets, is to reveal the truth that will set humankind free. And if that's not messianic enough for you, he gives his life for others and then rises from the dead more powerful than ever. He even ends the movie ascending to heaven….


But where the jury is really out is on the spiritual message of the film. What does The Matrix "believe"?...


For a start, there is no idea of sin, repentance, or forgiveness in The Matrix. Instead people just need to be liberated from illusion, which seems more Buddhist than Christian….More seriously, there is no God in charge. Instead their lives are ruled by "fate". Again, this is more Buddhist than Christian.


The BBC website invites readers’ comments. Here are a few:


- The Christian Rhetoric in the original Matrix film was quite clear. The message is a message of hope and that is basically a Christian message. But the film can only be an allegory for Christianity. It is not a Christian film; it is a Sci-Fi film with a Christian message of hope at its core.


- The Matrix brings a message of hope... to everyone except other film-makers. Why bother guys? Seriously. Retire now. You just aren't going to make a film as good as The Matrix.


- Nah, I still say it's about "guns, lots of guns".


- As a Muslim, the one thing from the original Matrix I found to be in alignment with my religion was the amazing scene when Keanu actually "wakes up" and sees the world for what it is. As Muslims, we believe that the life of this world is, in effect, like a dream. It will pass us by in the blink of an eye. Hence, we should use our time here wisely and not get too caught up in material things or idle life but excel in prayer and spirituality to realise that this life is merely a stepping stone and a test prior to what comes after.


- What about all the Alice in Wonderland references? The pills, the tunnel, the white rabbit, the mirror, alternative realities...


- I'm sure that Mother Teresa, the Pope, Mahatma Ghandi, Siddhartha, Mohammed, and Confucius have a lot in common with a movie in which more than half the time is spent on explosions.



Land of Dreams

As Australia’s self-proclaimed biggest fan of Southern Gospel music, I have the pleasure of receiving occasional emails from fans in the US. The latest is from Lori Brainard, of The Brainards. She invites me to take a look at the group’s very attractive new website and to listen to a song from their latest CD “Land of Dreams”. They’re great. Check them out.



Persecuted Church

I have just received the latest Christian Monitor newsletter, covering the persecuted church. It was especially concerning to read of renewed violence against Christians in the Philippines.


The newsletter is a resource that I highly recommend. And they need help, from Christians anywhere in the world. Go to their Help Out page for more detail.


-posted 9:35am


Wednesday 14th May, 2003


Watching Malaysia

I’ve spent the past hour on a virtual tour of Malaysia, thanks to Irene Q, a Christian journalist (like me) who blogs from there. Hers is a lovely blog, full of moving personal reflections on her struggles to follow Jesus, along with snippets of information on life in Malaysia, and links to other bloggers.


Did you know there’s a new Malaysian blog called Old Testament Passion? What a great name (and it’s a great blog, too). It’s from a pastor and seminary lecturer.


Ikan Bakar (it means “grilled fish”) is a blog from a 22-year-old medical student, Fooji, who will put to rest any notions you had that the people of Malaysia are all too cowed to say anything critical of their country’s leadership. I was fascinated by this blog and by a couple of others that he operates, including, a journal of his “Christian inclinations”.


I’ve been to Malaysia several times. It’s a fabulous place. I run a small weekly Bible study group at my home, and three of the participants are Chinese Christians from Malaysia. They tell wonderful stories of the growth of faith in their country, despite restrictions on evangelism.


It seems to me the revival in Christianity in China is spreading to other parts of the world. Here in Australia, for example, Chinese congregations are booming, in the midst of a general Christian malaise. But in Malaysia it’s thriving in a Muslim country, and that’s unique.


I once read of a survey of migrants to Australia which said that those from Malaysia had fewer adjustment problems than just about anyone else. That’s because Malaysia is a multi-cultural country, like Australia.


But it’s also a multi-faith country, and, by and large, a democracy. If the people there don’t get distracted by radical Islam, or by their “let’s blame the West for our problems” leaders, they have the potential to create one of the globe’s most exciting countries. Watch Malaysia. I think it’s one of the countries of our future.


-posted 10:50am

Tuesday 13th May, 2003


Homage à Roger

A couple of decades ago, living in Tokyo and trying to write thrillers, I came across a book called The Big Fix, a Moses Wine private eye mystery. I was riveted.


In smooth, effortless prose, author Roger Simon created an atmosphere that held me to the end. It connected at many levels, not least because my father was a Jewish Communist (in New Zealand) and I, like Moses Wine, was something of a disillusioned ‘60s political activist.


The book’s opening is a classic:


The last time I was with Lila Shea we were making love in the back of a 1952 Chrysler hearse parked across the street from the Oakland Induction Center. Tear gas was seeping through the floorboards and the crack of police truncheons was in our ears.


I don’t know how many times I read that first chapter, trying to deconstruct it and then somehow imitate it in my own writing. It was even better than the other first chapter I was then trying to deconstruct, Graham Greene’s The Quiet American.


The fact that I didn’t get my fiction published is no reflection on that book. (And for the record, I’ve just tried again, with my thriller Prophets & Loss, which I’ve placed on my blog.)


Meanwhile, Roger Simon himself recently moved into blogging, and again he is making it all seem so effortless. Like many bloggers, he blends the personal and the political, with humour and commentary. Yet somehow he has managed to create an ambience about his website. There’s a kind of a nonchalant mood there, but drawn from a deep well of soul. It’s a blog with a heart.


It’s way too early to call it a classic (are there any classic blogs?), but I suspect many budding bloggers are going to be turning to him for instruction. And like me and The Big Fix, they’re probably going to learn that being effortless just ain’t easy.


-posted 10:05am

Sunday 11th May, 2003

Blessed are the Anti-American Peacemakers

Now, let’s see if I’ve got this straight. Millions have been killed in the continuing civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Mothers are raped and murdered, kids are dying of starvation.


Meanwhile, the people of Iraq are celebrating their liberation from tyranny.


But according to this month’s edition of my denominational newspaper, handed to me in church this morning, blessed are those who opposed the Iraq war.


“Blessed are the Peacemakers” is the headline of a full-page report (not online) of how the Baptist Union of Victoria’s Director of Ministries used the occasion of a Palm Sunday ecumenical service last month to attack the war.


How many lies have we been told about the need for this invasion: about weapons of mass destruction, chemical weapon plants, nuclear weapons, links with terrorists? These were the reasons we could not afford to wait.


Well in the past couple of weeks we have learned about who does have weapons of mass destruction and I don’t think it is the Iraqis….


It’s expensive but comparatively easy to bomb a nation to the edge of oblivion….If the experience of Afghanistan is anything to go by, the big guys with the bombs will soon lose interest when the real work has to be done.


Not a word in the report about the Congo. Or the African AIDS crisis. Or any other human tragedy where Jesus might be waiting to hand out some blessings.


For the record, here are a few of the reasons the coalition liberated Iraq. May the record forever show that the Baptist Union of Victoria peacemakers opposed this action of liberation.



Pastors for the Elderly

Thanks to Donald Sensing of One Hand Clapping for linking to Rev George Lazenby’s plea on my site – actually an excerpt from his autobiography – for churches to consider pastors for the elderly.


It has roused some debate, with lots of comments and at least two other bloggers posting their thoughts.


According to The Bemusement Park:

I'm sorry to make this observation, but nobody under 65 has ever told me they didn't want a single thing to change about their church, ever. Lots of folks over 65 have, however. But lots of churches knuckle under and let this group dictate how the church will minister to everyone, not just their own age group.


Trojan Horseshoes said:


In my experience (also, largely in the Methodist Church), I do see a large emphasis on the Elderly. It isn't that there is a specific pastor assigned to issues for the elderly. It’s that most of the primary functions of the church are focused on the needs of the Elderly. Generally, they are the ones who run the church, and have for years, and the Pastor and various members spend a large, large amount of time and effort dealing with the Elderly. It isn't specified as such, simply because the needs and wants of the Elderly are built into what the church already does. Those who have been around for years, leading church committees, building, maintaining and running the church... the elderly are disproportionately represented in that group.


Dr Lazenby is 90 and still preaches every Sunday at Northcote Baptist Church, here in Melbourne. Now, if only I can get him to start his own blog…


-posted 7:05pm