Saturday, 30 June 2012

What sort of marriages do homosexual people want?

The issue of gay marriages has been a hot topic in recent months. A report from the bible society is worth taking a look if you are interested in this topic regardless of your opinion on this.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

De-souling effects of consumerism

  In our present culture all of us find that we are studied, named, and treated as functions and things. "Consumer" is the catch-all term for the way we are viewed. From an early age we are looked upon as individuals who can buy or perform or use. Advertisers begin targeting us in those terms from the moment we are able to choose a breakfast cereal.

  For those of us who are reared in North American culture, it is inevitable that we should unconsciously acquire this way of looking at everyone we meet. Other people are potential buyers for what I am selling, students for what I am teaching, recruits for what I am doing, voters for what I am proposing, resources for what I am building or making, clients for the services I am offering. Or, to reverse the elements, I identify myself as the potential buyer, student, recruit, resource, client, and so on. But it is consumerism either way.

  I have no complaint about this at one level. I need things, other people offer what I need; I am happy to pay for and take advantage of what is offered whether it is food, clothing, information, medical and legal help, leadership in a cause that is dear to my heart, advocacy in matters of justice, or victim-rights that I care about. I'm quite happy to be a consumer in this capitalist economy where there is so much to consume.

  Except. Except that I don't want to be just a consumer. I don't even want to be predominantly a consumer. To be reduced to a consumer is to leave out most of what I am, of what makes me me. To be treated as a consumer is to be reduced to being used by another or reduced to a product for someone else's use. It makes little difference whether the using is in a generous or selfish cause, it is reduction. Widespread consumerism results in extensive depersonalization. And every time deprsonalization moves in, life leaks out.

  But souls are not sieves; souls brim with life: "Bless the Lord, O my soul!"

- p.39, Christ Plays In Ten Thousand Places by Eugene Peterson

Friday, 22 June 2012

De-souling effects of misapplied words: resources and dysfunctional

  Two words, widely used these days, are symptomatic of the reduction of soul to self in our society. The first of these, "resource," is commonly used of people who can help us in our work. I can still remember how jarring that word sounded to me when I first heard it used forty years ago by a man who was giving me direction in my work of developing a new congregation. He kept pushing me to identify the resource-people that I could use in my work. And then I noticed that he was using the word as a verb; he frequently offered to resource our church board, our financial committee, our planning committee.
  But "resource" identifies a person as something to be used. There is nothing personal to a resource - it is a thing, stuff, a function. Use the word long enough and it begins to change the way we view a person. It started out harmlessly enough as a metaphor and as such was found useful, I guess. But when it becomes habitual, it erodes our sense of this person as soul - relational at the core and God-dimensioned. 
  And "dysfunctional." It is alarming how frequently people are referred to as dysfunctional: dysfunctional families, dysfunctional committees and congregations, dysfunctional leaders, dysfunctional relationships, dysfunctional politicians. But dysfunctional is not a personal word, it is mechanical. Machines are dysfunctional but not souls; bicycles are dysfunctional but not children; water pumps are dysfunctional but not spouses. The constant, unthinking use of the word erodes our sense of worth and dignity inherent in the people we meet and work with no matter how messed up they are. 
  We cannot be too careful about the words we use; we start out using them and then they end up using us. Our imaginations become blunted. We end up dealing only with surface, functions, roles. 

    - p. 38-39, Christ plays in ten thousand places by Eugene Peterson

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

The School Chaplaincy Programme and the challenge

This morning, SMH reported that the national school chaplaincy programme is constitutionally invalid. It's 10pm and the article seems to have been edited to expand on the details and implications since this morning, and most significantly, its title has been changed to highlight that the school chaplaincy programme will continue to be funded.

From the edited version, which contain the most of the original content, I think there are two take-away points.

1) The court challenge against the school chaplaincy programme was basically on two grounds, religious freedom and the invalid use of executive power of the federal government. The court found that the funding agreement the Commonwealth committed itself was beyond its executive power, hence the scheme is constitutionally invalid. However, quite significantly, the High Court ruled unanimously that the chaplaincy programme did not infringe on the constitutional protection for religious freedom.

2) The father of four, Toowoomba man who challenged the programme reportedly said this:

"If we can't have a playing field within the public school system for our children that has freedom of religion and freedom from religion, I don't think there's anywhere else to go."

I am for the freedom of religion. But what's telling of what many outspoken atheists of our days, as with this man, is that they wish to have not just the freedom of religion but freedom from religion. I think it's common oversight in many people's thinking who are not necessarily atheists. But those who speak out against religion often seem to pursue freedom from religion knowingly. This is problematic because freedom from religion is most emphatically set against the freedom of religion. It is just as tyrannical as forcing everyone to comply with one and only state sanctioned religion, for atheism is not a neutral position you can take when religions are concerned. It is a religious position where you believe there is no God. So, in some sense, ironically, he was right in thinking that there's nowhere else to go. Not because our schools are overtly religious right now, but there's nowhere else to go but a religious place. Religious-ness is inherent in human nature, you cannot escape it.

I am glad that the chaplaincy programme was not unconstitutional on the grounds of religious freedom. I am glad I live in a country where freedom of religion is in fact upheld and rightly understood and applied (at least in most cases it seems) by law. At the same time, I am sad to be reminded of the fact that many people in this society want God banished from it. I am not surprised though. The bible informs me very well on how people, including myself, are set against God. But this in turn, reminds me of how God had mercy on me, a wretched sinner. How God reigns from heaven and in His grace, had turned me to see the wonder and glory of His Son. I can trust in His good plan for the whole world and continue to stand for truth and love those around me regardless of their religious stance.

Monday, 4 June 2012

Sunrise's neutrality on same-sex marriage

I felt very tired and almost couldn't be bothered making an effort to comment on it, but I did it. I'm not sure if Sunrise will publish it or even give a serious thought about it, but here's what I wrote on the issue of Sunrise giving support to the same-sex marriage.
I have learned that Sunrise decided to engage in supporting the same sex marriage. Perhaps I have been under a false, misguided impression about the nature of the show, but I had thought Sunrise was a current affair show. And it is disappointing to see Sunrise as a current affair show has publicly decided on a highly contentious issue, rather than facilitating discussions and presenting differing views, maintaining neutrality. Since Sunrise has decided on the issue, I'd like to ask a few questions. The Australian government has done a good job in removing discrimination in over 80 laws in 2008. Overseas, the European Court of Human Rights has ruled that the same-sex marriage is not a human right. How did you come to the conclusion that this same sex marriage issue is a human rights issue? Are you sure that you are not being pressured by certain lobbyists? If anyone's rights are at risk in this issue, it is our children's. Do our children not have fundamental "rights" to a father and a mother? Or, shall we provide such "rights" in the future by allowing a gay parent to be called a mother, and a lesbian parent to be called a father? If we did so, we would be re-defining the meaning of mother and father. It is not different with the same-sex marriage, we are not providing "rights" to same-sex couples, we are redefining the meaning of marriage. I am left to wonder that, as a citizen in this society, as a parent, as a potential viewer or the show, who disagrees with Sunrise in the issue of the same-sex marriage, what should I expect from Sunrise? Many people who are against the same-sex marriage are described as bigots by the same-sex marriage supporters. Politicians certains have been called that. What do you expect me to do with Sunrise? Am I expected to continue enjoying the show ignoring the great issue at hand? Am I expected to simply watch the show as if it is a neutral journalism? If it were, I should have been able to view Sunrise and trust the presentations. I would have gained insights and understandings of opinions that are different to mine. Now it seems Sunrise itself is no longer a neutral ground. I may need to find a different grounds for neutrality.
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