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Weblog Archive 

 

May 25, 2002

 

 

Saturday 25th May, 2002

 

Martin Roth posts:

 

Welcome Bene Diction

Welcome Bene Diction, who from now will be sharing blog duties with me, and has already made several postings.

 

When I started this website I intended it as a resource for Christians. I’m a writer, and I intended to do articles and interviews that would help Christians around the world in their walk with the Lord - and perhaps challenge them too. The blog, although it is here on the home page, was not really intended to be the focus of the site.

 

But with few articles ready initially, I put a lot of effort into the blog, in order to keep the site fresh. And I certainly enjoy writing the blog. But I also find it taking a lot more time than I expected. It has kept me from writing the articles that I always intended to be the point of the website.

 

So when, out of the blue, an email arrived from a Canadian journalist offering to contribute to the blog it was – really – a Godsend.

 

Bene Diction was the name offered for the new contributor by a reader. Thank you JR for the suggestion. It’s a lovely name, meaning (I’m told) “sing to the Lord a new song”, in French.

 

 

“You Want Equality? You’ve Got It.”

An enjoyable Saturday morning spent meeting old friends at my former church, at a men’s breakfast, featuring a doctor talking about men’s health.

 

Two points –

 

  1. Aboriginal men in the 30s and 40s have a death rate that is 11 times that for other Australians. I never knew it was that bad. What a disgrace. The doctor gave the example of the Collingwood football team, which won the 1958 premiership, and a particular Aboriginal football team of that year. He said that a few years ago someone found that all the Collingwood players were then still alive, while every one of the Aboriginal players had already died.

 

  1. Several decades ago lots of men smoked, and not so many women did. Then women took up smoking in greater numbers, at the same time as the number of men smokers began to decline. So eight times more men than women used to die of lung cancer, but now the ratio is down to three-to-one. And three years ago the number of men dying from lung cancer actually began to decline, whereas for women it is still rising. Commented another doctor at the breakfast: “You Want Equality? You’ve Got It.”

 

 

ProdigalGod.com

Welcome to Frank Johnson’s new blog, ProdigalGod.com. Frank is an internet strategist and avid sports fan. He has also been a pastor, with lots to say on church and the role of pastor.

 

 

Soka Gakkai – What Does It Really Offer?

Tomorrow night, ABC’s Compass programme here in Australia will show a documentary on the Japanese Soka Gakkai Buddhist sect, titled “The Power of Chanting”. It brings back memories of my years in Buddhism in Japan.

 

I was mainly involved in Zen Buddhism, though I also took an interest in other streams. I even once participated in a Shinto pilgrimage. (Buddhism and Shintoism co-exist as Japan’s two dominant religions.)

 

But I never had the slightest interest in Soka Gakkai.

 

To me at the time, it seemed a shadowy, sinister movement with long tentacles, as much concerned with power as with religion. It was involved in politics, through Komeito, the Clean Government Party. It operated schools, a university and a newspaper.

 

I recall some friends at one of Japan’s biggest corporations whispering to me how their company had just recruited some graduates from Soka Gakkai’s university, even though it normally only hired from the elite universities. The company did not want to get off-side with Soka Gakkai.

 

In 1984, The Guardian journalist Polly Toynbee wrote an article highly critical of Soka Gakkai. She made a meeting with the sect’s head sound like an encounter with the leaders of North Korea.

 

I have a vague recollection of a Western friend then in a fairly senior position on one of Tokyo’s English-language newspapers – the Daily Yomiuri, I think – telling me that he arranged to reproduce Toynbee’s article in his paper. Later one of his Japanese superiors took him quietly aside, and muttered words to the effect: “No more articles critical of Soka Gakkai.”

 

Here’s what my former boss, Peter Tasker, wrote in his marvellous book Inside Japan - titled The Japanese in America – (which though out of print, is still, in my opinion, one of the best books on modern Japan):

 

The Soka Gakkai (Society for the Creation of Value) has been easily the most successful of Japan’s “new religions”, attracting eight million members in Japan, and an estimated nine million worldwide. Its teachings, which derive from the Nichiren school of Buddhism, stress the necessity of changing one’s karma by spiritual effort, symbolised by the repeated invocation of the Lotus Sutra.

 

Nichiren, one of the great figures in Japanese Buddhism, lived in the fourteenth century, a time of social and political confusion that he identified with mappo, the last degenerate stage of human history. In contrast to the arcane doctrines of the traditional sects, he propounded a simple relationship between faith and salvation that anyone could grasp.

 

Soka Gakkai offers its believers a modern-day version of the same consolation, plus a tight communal structure, including schools and neighbourhood study groups, which replicates the social involvement of village life. Its appeal is to those disoriented by the upheavals of our own times, and often to those with physical, mental or financial problems.

 

Undoubtedly many unfortunate individuals have attained a remarkable inner balance and cheerfulness through their practices. The self-help philosophy can, however, be taken in an alarmingly literal way. The following “testimony” is taken from UK Express, the monthly bulletin of the organisation’s British division:

 

I started chanting about a car that in fact I had up for sale for about seven months and which nobody had any desire to buy. So I thought, right – if this Buddhism is that great, I want to sell my car today. When they heard me chanting, my mother was quite frightened….In fact that day, of course, I sold my car. Both my parents chanted the same day and also my grandfather, who for 18 months had been looking for accommodation to suit him because he was 82. That day he also found a flat which he now lives in…

 

Not even Japan’s best-connected pork-barrel politicians could ever compete with that.

 

It’s my understanding (I could be wrong on this) that much of Soka Gakkai’s international expansion came – at least initially - among expatriate Japanese families seeking community. So what on earth is the appeal to young (or old) Aussies?

 

According to the ABC:

 

Although relatively small in Australia, Soka Gakkai has been steadily growing here since the 1950s. Members met in homes, at BBQs or in places called “cultural centres”.

 

A Christian friend with a deep knowledge of Asian religions described Soka Gakkai in the following way: “You tell God what you want, you chant, and then God gives it to you.” In theory, at least.

 

I can only cynically wonder if the sect’s main appeal locally is to Buddhists who find the happy platitudes of the Dalai Lama too demanding. The ABC documentary could be enlightening.

 

-posted 2:35pm, by Martin Roth

 

 

Bene Diction posts:

 

Blogwatch

What is this Blogwatch you ask? Good question.

 

It is a summary of what is on other blogs today. With over 180 blogs linked on the side here, we can’t cover them all, let alone 400,00+ others out there, but it’s not for lack of trying.

 

Midwest Conservative Journal looks at the EU getting steamed about anti- Muslim attitudes supposedly being promoted in Britain.

 

Canadian David Janes of Ranting and Roaring gets steamed about anti-Israeli attitudes taught and promoted by an extra-curricular group in a Toronto school. I’m sickened too, David.

 

Praying the Post wonder why erroneous attitudes toward Catholics are called anti-Catholic.

 

Tal G was up very late in Israel last night. I would have been too.

 

Bryon Preston of JunkYardBlog wonders how unstable Iran’s Mullocracy is.

 

Spudlets comments on the intra-denominational blog discussion started by Mark Byron on the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

 

Ted Esler, who knows about missions, has something to say about the Christianity Today article on ransom for kidnapped missionaries.

 

David Chilton of Presbytermark has a discussion with his 7-year-old about evangelical worship.

 

Managing Editor David P. Henreckson of the New Christendom Journal, finally got it ‘put to bed’ as they say in the business, and links to articles in his blog, Chronicles of a Poet-Warrior.

 

-posted 1:45pm by Bene Diction.

 

 

Google Pigeons

I read this article on how the Google Search techies do their voodoo about a month ago. I actually learned something. Put it this way. Snorting coffee through my nose isn’t fun.  Interesting and informative.

 

 

Wow.

 

 

A Brit in Canada’s True North Strong and Free

British explorer David Mills got stranded Canada’s Nunavut Territory in his attempt to be the first solo walker to the North Pole. Uh. Brrrr. Technology saved him. He emailed a digital picture of the runway he made on the ice flow to Canada’s Search and Rescue Team. He was taken to Resolute Bay. Nice try David.

 

Useless fact for the day: We Canadians don’t lay claim to the North Pole. As far as we are concerned Santa can keep it. (Thanks to Aussie Tim Blair for the link.)

 

 

Aussie Cabbie Makes 4,500-Kilometre Round Trip

Let’s see if I understand this.

 

A disabled man was not allowed to board a Qantas flight because he didn’t have a caregiver with him. So, he hired a cab to go from Brisbane airport to Adelaide. The cab fare was around $5,500.00, paid up front. That’s not quite the point. Got that part.

 

Yes, I know airlines have rules, but I get grumpy when I read something like this. 

    

A Qantas spokeswoman said it was airline policy that anyone requiring constant care needed to travel with a carer on a flight.

 

She said the passenger had been booked on an evening flight on Sunday night but had failed to turn up for the flight and had arrived at the airport the following morning.

 

That begs the question. Would he have been allowed to board the evening flight either?  Is Qantas that busy? They can’t handle this circumstance without all the rules? The man survived a 2000 kilometre cab ride without a caregiver. Did he medically really need constant care? Was he on a ventilator? How long does it take to fly from Brisbane to Adelaide?  Was he was refused under two separate rules?

 

Oops. That’s more than one question.  I’m still grumpy.

 

-posted 1:15pm, by Bene Diction


 

So Far, So Good.

Martin and I survived our first northern-southern hemisphere blog transfer.  However, I have to learn to spell precisely, correctly and right the first time.  When you work in radio or TV and type up your own newscasts, you can pretty much spell things any way you want, preferably phonetically. When you are working with a team of broadcasters, they know what story you are working on and can figure out what word is really behind that typing mistake you made.  You can’t do that when you are working in print.

 

My first typo - reverend.  I spelled it reverand. On a hyper-link. What can I say? That’s how we pronounce it here. Sorry about that Mr. Roth, sir.

 

 

Don’t Believe Everything You Read

On Wednesday, May 15th Martin warned about the Nigerian email scam that doesn’t want to die. It certainly doesn’t - it’s been cloned according to the US secret service

 
 

Desensitisation

Yesterday I posted the Israel security map and a link to an Israeli blogger. We are bombarded with bad news while diplomats and politicians cry peace, peace when there is no peace. Compliancy is capitulation and moral failure. I can’t solve the world’s problems, so I let the events of a troubled world slide by me. No. I don’t have to be that way. I can take a few minutes every day to gain knowledge, which can give me wisdom to pray. I can put a human face on statistics and lift my fellow man to the throne of mercy. Little pieces of knowledge add up like these 20 facts about the mid east conflict. Read it. Take one fact with you and pray about what you learned.

 

Update:  I got up this morning in Canada to learn a car bomb attack was thwarted in Israel. It’s the third attack in 28 hours. And, in the West Bank eleven were wounded, including a 4-year-old Palestinian girl.

 

 

Quantum Leaps

 Hello David Heddle of He Lives blog.  Are you out there? We could really use your help here. How about posting comments for us ordinary folks on what Steven Hawkings is theorizing about?

 

 

Big Brother is Watching?

Well they certainly aren’t big brother. It’s the Google Search team. According to the chatter over in The Corner Andrew Stuttaford says an article in London’s Spectator (not on line) reports that those wacky geniuses over at Google headquarters project all queries onto a giant screen as they come up. “ This is the nearest one can get to peeping into the world’s brain.”

 

Wow, Must be very busy in there.

 

-posted 7:20am, by Bene Diction