Category Archives: Opinion

The Need for Aboriginal Ethics

The ongoing destruction of Indigenous Australia demonstrates the need for Aboriginal ethics

Morgan Brigg and Mary Graham Posted on ABC Religion and Ethics on Mon 15 Jun 2020

The destruction of ancient rock shelters by Rio Tinto and the scourge of deaths in custody are expressions of how the dominant political order bludgeons Indigenous Australia — they are also signs of the need to embrace Aboriginal ethics.

It is not coincidental that the destruction of the Juukan Gorge rock shelters and the paucity of cultural heritage protections thereby brought into public view have the feel of a colonial frontier. Resource companies, as necessary as they are in our contemporary economy, are key agents of the longstanding extractive and developmentalist expansion that have been at the forefront of dispossessing Aboriginal people across the Australian continent.

The bludgeoning of Indigenous people through the carceral institutions of the dominant society are similarly longstanding and bound with the same developmentalist expansion. The ancestors of those who die in custody today were forcibly removed from their homelands by agents of the state — including police and Aboriginal “protectors” — in processes that made way for pastoralism and other primary industries.

Nonetheless, the violence released in the explosions that destroyed the Juukan Gorge rock shelters and dispensed in police custody does not mean that the relationship between Indigenous people and miners, and the wider relationship between Indigenous people and Settler Australia, is mono-dimensional. Indigenous-Settler relations are complicated, characterised by intimate entanglement that mixes support with destruction, care with brutal violence, and appreciation with shocking disregard.

Our entanglements are confronting when they are brutalising, but they are also the basis for deeper understanding of the problems we face, and a source of possibility. We should thoroughly excoriate mining companies and the police, along with many others, for appalling practices in relation to Indigenous people, but the extensiveness of such practices also highlights the systemic and structural nature of the problem.

To begin to understand what is at stake and to develop the means to recast the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australia requires interrogating the philosophical underpinnings of the dominant political order.

As commentator Stan Grant has observed, Australia is deeply attached to liberalism, and thus to commitments to personal liberty, equality before the law and moral neutrality of the state. Grant has spoken of liberalism as if it is a rock of Australian political order. But as the destruction of the Juukan Gorge shelters shows, how we relate to longstanding artefacts of human creation is in our hands.

To read the rest of this article go to: ABC Religion and Ethics

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Black Lives Matter to Jesus, despite the views of the Australian Christian Lobby.

Posted on June 15, 2020by gregoryjenks

This post was first published as an opinion piece for A Progressive Christian Voice Australia and then on Greg Jenk’s webpage.

Greg Jenks

[Greg Jenks:

Greg Jenks is an Australian religion scholar and Anglican priest serving in the Diocese of Grafton on the north coast of New South Wales. He is an adjunct a Senior Lecturer in the School of Theology at Charles Sturt University.

Jenks served as Dean of St George’s College, Jerusalem (2015–2017). He had previously served as Academic Dean at St Francis Theological College, Brisbane between 2008 and 2015.  Jenks is a Fellow of the Westar Institute, and served as its Associate Director 1999-2001.

Jenks was awarded a PhD by the University of Queensland for his research into the origins and early development of the Antichrist myth. He has a long-standing interest in Christian origins, and is a co-director of the Bethsaida Archaeological Excavation in northern Israel.

Jenks had been Visiting Professor and Scholar-in-Residence at St George’s College, Jerusalem on several occasions prior to his appointment as Dean in mid-2015.

His recent publications include The Once and Future Bible (Wipf & Stock, 2011), The Once and Future Scriptures (Polebridge Press, 2013), Jesus Then and Jesus Now (Morning Star Publishing, 2014) and Wisdom and Imagination (Morning Star Publishing, 2014).]


There is an age-old divide among religious people about just what God—however understood—wants of humans.

For the better part of 3,000 years in the Jewish and Christian spiritual traditions, there have been those stressing the need for purity (often expressed through codes about sex and food) and those who focus on justice for the victims of structural evil.

Recently, Martyn Iles, the Managing Director of the Australian Christian Lobby has stoked the kind of controversy that appeals to their base and drives their fund-raising efforts with a claim that the Black Lives Matter movement is “anti-Christ”.

This is theological ‘dog-whistling’, and especially in the deliberate evoking of the biblical term ‘Antichrist’.

In the current context of global protests and persistent systemic discrimination against people of colour, this claim is highly partisan. It is also ‘tone-deaf’ to the cries of the oppressed which ascend to the God who has promised to hear them.

The intention to provoke (opponents) and alarm (supporters) was clear when—rather than apologise or retract those comments—Martyn Iles doubled down on them by producing a special podcast session with a 20-minute tirade again BLW as another example of radical secular Marxism seeking to destroy Christianity.

Despite his self-description as a “lover of law, theology and politics” (Facebook – About), Martyn Iles has no formal theology qualifications. His only listed qualifications are in the law. That lack of formal training in theology is evident in his public statements.

Iles espouses a fundamentalist form of Evangelical Christianity, with a fascination on apocalyptic eschatology. He has recently announced a new YouTube channel dealing with questions about the ‘End Times’.

The problem is not his naïve use of the complex texts which constitute the Bible, nor his total disconnect from critical religion scholarship. Both those things are typical of Australian Evangelicals. Rather, what concerns me most is the way that he ‘verbals’ Jesus by imposing his own concept of Christ onto the biblical texts.

The domesticated Jesus promoted by Martyn Iles does not engage in political action, so I presume he would neither support nor join the ACL.

His Jesus only cares about ‘saving souls’ and did not care about feeding the hungry, healing the sick, or letting the oppressed go free (fact check that claim against Luke 4:18–19).

Such a Jesus would not have bothered himself or his disciples with a campaign against a religious discrimination bill; or indeed opposed legislation for same-sex marriage. He just came to save souls.

This kind of Jesus crosses to the other side of the road when he encounters a victim lying wounded in the ditch. Nothing can be allowed to distract from saving souls.

He would not have protected a woman from death by stoning at the hands of a self-righteous religious mob. He would have invited the lady to accept Jesus into her heart but done nothing to address the immediate danger of killing by the authorities.

It seems that Martyn Iles frets over a secular Marxism that he sees in the DNA of every social movement, but is blissfully unperturbed by the multiple structural injustices which have promoted white prosperity at the expense of black lives, not to mention indigenous Australian lives.

He notes the correlation of black deaths with crime rates in black neighbourhoods, but he does not question why we have black neighbourhoods nor why poverty is allowed to continue in the wealthiest societies we have ever seen on the planet.

That myopia must be convenient.

Secular Marxism is a special worry to Martyn Iles.

He recycles the nonsensical idea that a secret KGB operation created liberation theology (apparently an especially virulent form of secular Marxism) to subvert Catholicism in Latin America, while simultaneously infiltrating the World Council of Churches in Geneva.

Some people do love conspiracy theories.

It seems that Martyn Iles has no idea that liberation theology occurs spontaneously any time that an oppressed person reads Scripture (not just the Gospels) through the lens of their own experience.

They may be peasants in Latin America, blacks in South Africa or the USA, Palestinians languishing under decades of illegal military occupation by Israel or—an LGBTQI Christian in a Sydney Anglican congregation.

Such is the power of Scripture when the Spirit of God moves in the heart of a reader.

However, as already mentioned, the deeper problem with the analysis promoted by the ACL, is its self-serving blindness to systemic evil.

Possibly the ACL members need to spend some time reading the prophets of ancient Israel. They make up quite a large section of the Bible, actually. Anyone who reads these texts could hardly miss the prophetic denunciation of injustice, poverty and exploitation.

Never mind the prophets, even Deuteronomy is crystal clear about what is expected of those who might seek God’s blessing on them:

Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue, so that you may live and occupy the land that the LORD your God is giving you. (Deut. 16:20)

If it is too much to ask dedicated Christians who support ACL to read the biblical prophets, perhaps they could find the time to reflect on the earliest version of the Lord’s Prayer and notice the raw edges of poverty in that prayer before we spiritualised it:

Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.
And forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.
And do not bring us to the time of trial.
 (Luke 11:2–4)

As a sequel, let me recommend Luke’s version of the Beatitudes:

Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.
Blessed are you who are hungry now,
for you will be filled.
Blessed are you who weep now,
for you will laugh.

But woe to you who are rich,
for you have received your consolation.
Woe to you who are full now,
for you will be hungry.
Woe to you who are laughing now,
for you will mourn and weep.
 (6:20–21,23–25)

If even these brief epitomes of the central message of Jesus are too much for the ACL supporters to absorb, perhaps it would suffice for them simply to take to heart the words of the prophet Micah:

He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
and what does the LORD require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?
 (Micah 6:8)

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A new transformative narrative of Easter for Christianity

James Burklo

[Jim Burklo is an ordained United Church of Christ pastor who serves as the Associate Dean of Religious Life at the University of Southern California. He is the author of BIRDLIKE AND BARNLESS: Meditations, Prayers, and Songs for Progressive Christians (2008) and OPEN CHRISTIANITY: Home By Another Road (2000) – both available from the “store ” at www.tcpc.org. Jim served as pastor of Sausalito (CA) Presbyterian Church, and of College Heights UCC Church in San Mateo, CA, served as ecumenical Protestant campus minister at Stanford University, and was the founder and executive director of the interfaith Urban Ministry of Palo Alto. His Masters of Divinity degree is from San Francisco Theological Seminary.]

“Christianity needs a new narrative based on the elements of the Easter week myths. Here is an option: Rabbi Jesus practiced and taught radical compassion to the people of Israel. This threatened the authority of the Jewish elite and the Roman occupiers, so they killed him on a cross – from which he forgave them. This unconditional love prevailed beyond his death and lived on in his followers, who regrouped and formed a new, compassionate community of faith. In this narrative, Jesus and his followers are not victims. Jesus was an agent of positive action, and so are we who follow him. The transformative power of this narrative inspires us to forgive.

For progressive Christians, forgiveness is not in the supernatural hands of a Guy-In-The-Sky God. Forgiveness is up to us. Just as it was up to Jesus whether or not to forgive the people who crucified him. The mythic narratives of Easter week speak for our souls as we recognize our pain, loss, and disappointment, and move from being victims to becoming active agents of positive personal and social transformation. Fred Luskin summarizes forgiveness as the release of our attachment to enforcing unenforceable rules we’ve constructed. We think that our HTOTB’s (How Things Ought to Be) really are the immutable laws of the universe. But other people in fact do get to make choices, even if they hurt us. And we get to make our own choices in the aftermath, as well.”


For the complete article go to: A New Narrative

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Why do we need Progressive Christianity?

What Is Progressive Christianity—And Why Do We Need It?
by Steve Kindle

In a nutshell, Progressive Christianity recognizes that the world has moved on in its understanding of how the world works—and that Christianity hasn’t. Most denominations and many Christians still live in the 4th century of the church. That is, they accept the creedal formulations of that age, as well as the prescientific worldview, as relevant to our own, even though they are based on understandings that our age no longer finds credible.

Since the Nicene Creed (325 CE), we have learned our planet is round (spherical), and the sun is the center of our solar system; the earth is billions of years in the making; that humans, as all of life, emerged through a process of biological evolution; that germs cause disease, that the universe is expanding and there is nothing beyond it. All of which is not only unknown in the Bible, but it teaches the very opposite. Unfortunately, many Christians refuse to accept these realities. They deny evolution, teach that the earth is no more than 10,000 years old, and still live in a three-tiered universe with God “up there” and hell below us. (Yes, and some even refuse medical help and prefer “faith healing.”)

Progressive Christianity offers searchers who accept the modern scientific worldview a way of respecting it and how the Bible and Christianity can be relevant in this world. Many of our churches advertise themselves as a place where you don’t have to leave your brain at the door. In fact, Progressive Christians revel in the questions life presents and understand that whatever we think we know is always tentative and in need of further clarification. You may find principles among us but not creeds that define what you must believe. That’s that old way of doing Christianity that only leads to triumphalism,  elitism, and division.

What are some of the principles that unite us? We need to be clear that Progressive Christianity is not monolithic, and represents many different points of view. But there are some things that most would find hospitable. Here are a few:

Just as people of the Bible lived according to their understanding of the world, we must live according to ours. This is not a repudiation of the biblical worldview, but a recognition that there is no other way life can be lived. To try to do otherwise is ultimately self-defeating. The differences between the biblical world and ours illuminate why we need to move on from it, yet offer us ways to make sense of our own. The fact that ancients believed that God created the world in six days may miss the evolutionary point, but it does point to God as the reality behind creation.

The Bible is the record of certain humans’ encounters with the divine, and as such is a rich source of spiritual wisdom that can transcend the ages. It discloses points of view about God and humanity that resonate today. The inspiration of the Bible comes from our relationship with the stories and the people, not from any supernatural input from God that directly resulted in its words. The sense that God dictated the Bible turns it into a legalistic text that functions more like law than grace. Rather than seek the presence of God in our lives, as is the case of the biblical characters, we then become those who must obey the text. Progressive Christians see these as mutually exclusive.

God is seen as transcendent and immanent. God is wholly other than any aspect of creation, yet resides wholly within it. Since the universe is a self-contained whole, God must be not only part of it but within all of it. God does not reside beyond it “looking down upon us.” Being in touch with every aspect of creation means that God relates to all things, and this certainly includes you and me. Prayer is as close as our breath.

Jesus lived as close to God as anyone can and, consequently, is able to model what a life fully devoted to God looks like. This includes his teachings and actions. As disciples of Jesus, we seek to model our lives after his. In particular, this means that we move away from a religion about Jesus and into the religion of Jesus: God-centered, love-driven, and inclusive of all. We measure the value of all actions by the Golden Rule.

Salvation is oriented to this life, not the hereafter. This is not to deny an afterlife, but we believe that God’s purpose is for the earth not only to prosper but thrive. The Kingdom of God is to be found “on earth as it is in heaven,”

God as Trinity is a useful metaphor but is based on ancient Greek ideas of substance that are no longer helpful. That God relates to all creation as Creator, Savior, and Sustainer

We at Faith on the Edge provide pastors and congregations with means to develop these progressive themes. We do so through a series of videos that lead viewers through the process of seeing the Bible in new ways. Ways that enlighten and transform.

The mission of Faith on the Edge is to revitalize the church for the 20th Century.

A religion is as much a progressive unlearning of false ideas concerning God as it is the learning of true ideas concerning God.” ~Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan

For more information go to: Faith on the Edge.

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A further Reflection from Kevin Smith

WHAT HAPPENED? … studying the Rabbi Yeshuah story … 15 THESES

In concluding a session of my limited observations and drawing on life-long learning, I arrive at some opinions (an opinion, it is said, being midway between fact and belief). There is no weakness in me admitting that I may be wrong:

-(i) I am a citizen of Planet Tellus where all human observations, conclusions and opinions are tentative and challengeable; I make it clear that philosophy invites us to challenge our most cherished assumptions on a regular basis, even when those assumptions are as life-defining as religious assumptions often are. “There are no sacred cows in philosophy; everything is up for scrutiny, fair game to be challenged.”  For Kant & Descartes ‘doubt’ is the key to wisdom.  -(ii) A human who has totally died does not come back to everyday life again and so there was no resurrection;    

-(iii)   Virgin-Mary type pregnancies don’t occur. It’d mean that her infant would have had no male DNA;

-(iv)   All miracles are scientifically suspect; consider Apostle Simon-Peter walking on water.
-(v)    The existence of divinity or divine-nature is theologically suspect; I see a human Rabbi Yeshuah as more impressive than a divine rabbi.
-(vi)  That great literary work, the Bible, is a wholly human construct, written by human hands. It has therefore very questionable verisimilitude on account of its many discrepancies, contradictions and mistakes (fake news and false facts). It also contains lots of sublime wisdom;
-(vii)  You must distrust churchianity, i.e., traditional institutional christianity, because of the christology that it created which was presented to followers as divinely revealed deposit-of-faith dogma ;
-(viii) Faith is often the enemy of evidential fact. Assertions without evidence may merit denial without evidence;
-(ix)   History shows for me no evidence of what I taught as a catechist (scripture-teacher) for 20 years, “Adonai-God the Father is a loving, caring God”. Prayer may be beneficial but no one is listening;
-(x)    It has been difficult for me to arrive at these theses; it has taken me 8 decades of devoted application trying to find out what really happened;
-(xi)   I declare that these observations are for me joyful and liberating.

-(xii)  I perceive Rabbi Yeshuah as the most completely valid and most completely convincing practitioner of goodness and integrity (as the inspiring principles of all human action) that the world has ever known;

-(xiii) As one born saved I spiritually embrace Rabbi Yeshuah of Nazareth as my mentor. He is Israel’s greatest prophet, an original thinker, inspiring preacher, gifted healer & exorcist, convincing teacher of wisdom and integrity, Jewish mystic, model of kingdom-oriented life-style and promulgator of the ancient Hebrew ethics of open hospitality and neighbourly love with esteem for Adonai-Yahweh-Elohim as our loving Father.

-(xiv) Yeshuah of Nazareth died two millenia ago, having emerged from the Hebrew Israelite Jewish community; he summed up the essential of its wisdom discoveries. He was able to speak divine truth with humanity’s own voice. His brief physical presence on the earth changed the course of history in innumerable ways. We rightly honour him in titling him as ‘anointed son of God’.

-(xv) I walk through life hand-in-hand with this most admirable spiritual preceptor and I silently converse with him, and I greet his mother too. []                         [ Kevin Aryeh Hatikvah Smith in Sydney  01/11/2019 / re-edited 09-02-’20 ] 

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Proposed Religious Discrimination Bill too severe

By Naomi Neilson|28 January 2020 , first published in the Lawyers Weekly

Edward Santow has been Human Rights Commissioner at the Australian Human Rights Commission since August 2016.

Ed leads the Commission’s work on technology and human rights; refugees and migration; human rights issues affecting LGBTI people; counter-terrorism and national security; freedom of expression; freedom of religion; and implementing the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT).

Ed’s areas of expertise include human rights, public law and discrimination law. He is a Visiting Professorial Fellow at the University of New South Wales (UNSW), a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council on Human Rights and the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and serves on a number of boards and committees.

In 2009, Ed was presented with an Australian Leadership Award, and in 2017, he was recognised as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum.

From 2010-2016, Ed was chief executive of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, a leading non-profit organisation that promotes human rights through strategic litigation, policy development and education.

Ed was previously a Senior Lecturer at UNSW Law School, a research director at the Gilbert + Tobin Centre of Public Law and a solicitor in private practice.

***

Certain provisions to the proposed Religious Discrimination Bill have been rejected as being too “severe” and unduly restrict the rights of entire communities of people, said the Australian Human Rights commissioner.

Speaking at a Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) forum hosted at Gilbert + Tobin, commissioner Edward Santow said that while welcoming the government intention to fill in gaps in the law that leave people of faith unprotected, several provisions will only serve to “taint the bill as a whole” and set anti-discrimination laws back further.

“The majority of the bill is an appropriate and conventional law to prohibit any religious discrimination. The majority of the bill is similar to existing laws, here and overseas, in dealing with discrimination of religion, race, age and sex,” Mr Santow said at the forum. “But we have serious concerns about other aspects of the bill.

“We need to consider whether the bill’s problems are so severe they taint the bill as a whole. For me, the short answer is yes. In my view, certain elements of the bill are so problematic that the bill should not proceed unless those problems are addressed.”

Mr Santow pointed to several provisions in the bill the Human Rights Commission has taken issue with, which he added were “unique, even radical”. He noted that there was nothing like these provisions in Australian, or international, law.

For one, under the provisions, corporations can claim they were discriminated against based on associations. Mr Santow said that by claiming this, it is inconsistent with laws both national and international, but would also be inconsistent with logic and common sense “to suggest a corporation’s feelings have been hurt”.

“It’s axiomatic that human rights are for humans,” Mr Santow said. “If you need to be persuaded on this, just remember human rights exist to protect quintessentially human qualities, especially human qualities. And yet, the bill would allow some corporations to claim that they suffered from religious discrimination.”

The bill also allows religious bodies – including schools, charities and providers – to be exempt from religious discrimination law. As such, they are permitted [to] be discriminatory if it is in “good faith and in accordance with religious doctrines”. For example, a teacher of faith at a religious childcare centre can discriminate against a single mother.

“It undercuts protections against religious discrimination, particularly in sections such as employment and the provisions of goods and services. In other words, a significant portion of the bill isn’t about prohibiting religious discrimination, it does something that is the exact opposite of that,” Mr Santow said, adding that the bill would give “license” to certain parties to engage in discriminatory conduct based on their beliefs.

Mr Santow added that parts of the bill, if it proceeds, will override all anti-discrimination laws because it would favour one group’s rights over another.

“We believe that the bill would be easy to fix. The problematic provisions with this bill seem to have been tacked onto a much more conventional bill. If you were to remove the problematic elements, you would be left with a typical anti-discrimination law,” he said.

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Love is impossible without law

From – Lawyers Weekly (Thanks to Tim O’Dwyer for referring us to this item)

[About Lawyers Weekly

Lawyers Weekly is the authoritative source of independent news, analysis and opinion about the practice of law in Australia.

Published daily, and reaching over 110,000 lawyers, www.lawyersweekly.com.au is the essential resource for news, business and market developments for legal businesses and practitioners — both corporate and in-house.

In addition to its digital platform and awards, including the 30 Under 30, Australian Law Awards and Women in Law Awards, the monthly Lawyers Weekly print magazine brings the best of in-depth reporting and feature writing to leaders in the profession.

Lawyers Weekly not only takes pride in its news-breaking reporting, but also in its active role in shaping and progressing the way legal business is conducted in Australia.]

If The Beatles are to be believed, “All You Need Is Love”. This isn’t quite true, says one ANU law lecturer – besides love, he says, there is law.

According to Dr Joshua Neoh, who is an associate professor at the ANU College of Law, a common life would be impossible without the common law. In short, the law unites us in this common life, he posits, and saves us from ourselves.

“Without the authority of law, we would be at the constant risk of collapsing back into the state of war, where no humane relationships could ever survive, let alone relationships of love. Law stabilises social relations and makes the condition of love possible,” Dr Neoh explains.

Dr Neoh is the author of a new book – Law, Love and Freedom – which argues that the law does not just enable love, it may itself be an expression of love.

Submission to the authority of law is an expression of the love of neighbour. The authority of law unites individuals and binds them together in a community. In a complex society with its coordination problems, the only way of expressing the love of neighbour is through obedience to the authoritative plan for the common good, which we call law,” Dr Neoh told Lawyers Weekly.

“At times, I may disagree with the law, but in matters where a collective decision has to be made, my submission to the collective judgment as embodied in the law, in spite of my disagreement with it, is an expression of my desire to continue living with my fellow citizens in the one community.”

The nexus between law, love and freedom

Law is not just about a set of rules, he continued. It is a “value that is connected to a whole set of other values”, he submitted, which – when put together – makes up what we collectively understand to be a “good life”.

In drawing such a conclusion, Dr Neoh recalled that he explored three key values for his book: law, love and freedom.

For the rest of this item go to: Love is impossible without the law

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Reflection: Progressing Spirit

A SEARCH FOR ULTIMATE MEANING — I present here my own edited version of an essay by Rev. Fran Pratt, Pastor of Worship and Liturgy at Peace of Christ Church in Round Rock, Texas in “Progessing Spirit”.:  

            In recent millennia our main western religious history started in east mediterranean Asia as a clan, a tribe, a community, sought a way to relate to the divine … in all the ways that complex and fallible humans do … getting some ideas right and misunderstanding others. 

            It created traditions, assumptions and rituals surrounding its understanding of higher power, some of which were timeless and others hopelessly limited. The clan grows into a tribe, then into a nation, gradually spreading its understandings across places and cultures … all the while struggling to connect with and understand the divine, and never quite realising that the divine is within them all along.

            Then a Person [ Rabbi Yeshuah of Nazareth (c.5 BCE-c. 30 CE) ] emerged from the Asian community who was able to sum up the story and speak divine truth with humanity’s own voice. In this Person the divine became immanent, wholly at hand; the best was humanised, fully embodied. 

          This Person is so compelling that his brief physical presence on the earth changed the course of history in innumerable ways. He embodied divine love and light, and believed that ordinary folks can do the same. He’s the catalyst for a whole new branch of the world’s Wisdom Tradition and inspired many other saints and sages in history to inspire much of today’s compassionate work.

            There’s a grand search for moral truth threading through the whole story, humans asking how best to be in the world and how best for humans to live wisely?       We believe we can see the divine pointing the way and remaining compassionately present when its guidance is rejected or scorned. …

            A TRIBUTE — Jewish philosopher Hannah Arendt )1906-1975) called Rabbi Yeshuah of Nazareth “the only completely valid and completely convincing experience (that the western world had ever had) of goodness as the inspiring principle of all human action”.

Kevin G Smith January 2019

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Why is church attendance declining – even among committed Christians?

In 2016 Patheos produced this summary of the reasons for this in USA:

  1. Social expectation and pressures have lightened. People used to live their lives according to social convention. Those who strayed from accepted norms were ostracized and shamed. Churches used this power to “guilt” people into a variety of behaviors, including weekly church attendance. Obviously this doesn’t work any more.
  2. Church is no longer the best show in town. For centuries, Sunday morning was an entertainment desert. Shops were closed. Sports commenced at noon. There was no cable TV or video games. Church was literally the only thing happening on Sunday morning – so people went. Sunday now presents lots of attractive options and everyone – including Christians – is taking advantage.
  3. Increased mobility. People travel as never before, so more and more churchgoers find themselves out of town on Sunday. Relatively few see the need to visit a nearby church.
  4. Weekend work. Blue laws used to keep businesses shuttered on Sunday. Now many people work on the Sabbath, which makes attendance difficult or impossible.
  5. People need a day of rest. For stressed-out couples Sunday may be the only pajama morning of the week. Can we blame families for wanting a little downtime with each other? After all, aren’t we supposed to take a sabbath?
  6. The rise of do-it-yourself Christianity. The Internet and various media offerings allow believers to tailor a spiritual life to their own liking. They get Christianity without the challenge of having to interact with other Christians.
  7. The expectation of choice. Modern Americans are used to getting exactly what they want. Amazon.com offers more than 200 million items. Petco sells more than 100 varieties of dog food. Christians shop for pastors they connect with. Megachurch attenders often have favorite teaching pastors – and will skip a Sunday if “the other guy” is preaching.
  8. The most faithful saints are burning out. I know a number of very committed Christians who no longer attend – or do so sporadically – because their churches worked them so hard in the past.
  9. Video streaming. In the past five years many churches have begun live-streaming their weekly worship services. It’s a heck of a lot easer to watch church on your iPad than it is to drag everyone to a building. And here’s the best part: no singing!
  10. Churches increasingly model individuality in weekly worship and teaching. We’ve trained people to pursue Christ on their own – so that’s what they’re doing.

The complete paper can be found at: Declining attendances

Is this the same story in Australia? More to come on this issue and your opinion is valued.

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Poem: No insurance – Poem for Australia

Rex Hunt

These crazy flames that lick and lap at all that ranges round us,  the trappings of our wealth,
experience and existence.
At birth we can’t anticipate our existential ending,
the length of life not ours to count or measure.
But then we face eternity,
or nothingness,
depending on belief.
Like night’s thief, flames hotter than hell’s painting are not some distant image,
but sharpened fronds dissembling each dwelling.
And if we leave reality says,
‘there is no return’.
Can faith uphold us through this conflagration?
Survival walks naked of all that we have known,
valued or possessed.
That is the option open to us.
Our Hobson has no choice.
So if we die we will know what rests beyond this life.
Remaining so much is loss or lost.
Whichever path we walk pray this,
pray only this,
that now and on beyond this moment
the love a letter writer once described
will hold,
enfold
and keep us still through all that is to come.
And no insurance…just the faith…

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