Archive for the 'Belief' Category

08
Sep
17

Rainbow Connection: SSM and Religious Freedom

During Australia’s same sex marriage debate, one group (on the “NO” side) continues to claim that religious freedom will be put at risk should SSM be legalised. The other group (on the “YES” side) continue to insist such concerns are unfounded and are mere red herrings – that the only issue at stake is the happiness of people who want to marry their same sex partner.

But what is the reality?

 

I heard an interview* on ABC radio this morning that made it clear that any protection of religious freedom will ONLY be applied to religious institutions and not to Christian individuals.
Bringing out the now clichéd example of a cake maker refusing to supply a cake for a same sex wedding, it was made clear that they will be guilty of breaking anti-discrimination laws and will be subject to prosecution.

 

My own view of that is that it is the EVENT being “discriminated” against – not the people involved. I’m sure the cake maker would be willing to bake cakes for anyone as an individual – just not willing to bake a cake for an event that compromises their religious beliefs.
To take a step to the side – should a cake maker (religious or otherwise) be legally required to supply a cake promoting (legal) extreme right wing groups or other political views that challenge their conscience, or would their refusal be deemed prosecutable discrimination?

 

Apart from that hypothetical and now clichéd example, we have current cases to look at (not exclusively religious), such as the one described in this story:

A petition with more than 2000 signatures has likened doctors who oppose marriage equality to racists and accused them of contributing to “increased depression.”

The open letter accompanying the petition was written by Perth medical student Carolyn O’Neil and accused more than 400 doctors of adding to “increased depression, anxiety, self‐harm, and suicidal behaviours.”

https://au.news.yahoo.com/a/37005078/doctors-opposing-marriage-equality-slam-petition-against-them/

 

This follows a situation that I mentioned in an earlier post, where a doctor was being subjected to a petition calling for her to be struck off the medical register.

A woman that appeared in the advertisement for the ‘no’ camp in the same-sex marriage debate is now at the centre of an online campaign to have her medical licence stripped.

The online petition has just over 6,000 signatures and calls for a “review of the registration of Dr Pansy Lai”.

Dr Lai, a GP in northern Sydney, appeared as one of three mothers in the Marriage Coalition advertisement that first aired at the end of last month.

She told The Australian she has been inundated with phone and social media threats since the ad was released and said she had reported one threat to police that she would be shot “this week”.

https://au.news.yahoo.com/a/36946222/online-petition-wants-dr-pansy-lai-from-sydney-deregistered/

 

In recent weeks I’ve kept an eye on several discussions in the media around the topic of same sex marriage and have found very strong anti-Christian attitudes being shown that don’t line up with the assurances that religious freedom won’t be reduced.
The problem with those assurances is what “religious freedom” actually means to those making them. The nature of that “freedom” is being defined by those who won’t be needing it – by the irreligious, the non-believer, and at times those who are actually hostile to all kinds of religious belief.

Those people have NO qualification for understanding the reasons why Christians (or adherents of other religious beliefs) might not agree with same sex marriage. To have that understanding they would need to recognise what it means to believe in a God who has revealed what HE requires of His creation – that it is GOD’s standards that count – not man’s ever changing whims.

Genuine Christians believe in a very REAL God and desire to commit their lives to Him and His ways – to them “religion” is not a mere interest, a hobby – an alternative to sport or any other past time. Their relationship to God is the most important part of their life: in fact it IS their life.

_______________________

* http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/breakfast/same-sex-marriage-hate-speech-santow/8884594

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19
Aug
17

Deja Vu and the SSM Issue.

As Australia continues on the slow road to (inevitably) legalising same sex marriage, there are continuing claims being made about bullying and abuse being directed at those supporting SSM.

That is despite the claim that 70% or so of the population are said to be in support of it. It is also despite the fact that the majority of the abusiveness and hateful commentary I’ve seen has been directed against “the religious”.

For examples see the comments after the article here:

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/aug/17/religious-freedom-is-an-important-right-once-same-sex-marriage-is-legal-it-must-be-protected

 

One of those comments even suggests that businesses owned by people objecting to SSM should have some kind of identification placed in their windows as a sign of their beliefs.

 

For some reason that suggestion seems scarily familiar.

 

19
Jul
17

Who is the White Evangelicals’ “Christ”?

Despite holding the presidency and having majorities in congress and the senate, the republicans (the white evangelicals’ party of choice) seem to have no ability to deliver anything workable on healthcare. Their only agreement seems to be on their desire to remove “Obamacare”.

During the Obama presidency, while far too many professing Christians were lapping up (and sharing) anti-Obama rhetoric no matter what its source and veracity; one of the complaints that I couldn’t understand was the passionate “Christian” hostility to the idea of affordable health care for all US citizens. Whether or not the so-called “Obamacare” could deliver that wasn’t even the issue. A lot of “Christian” opposition I saw was against the whole idea of making healthcare accessible to those unable to pay for it.

This morning I came across the following, making some interesting observations and claims:

…until recently, most [US] politicians [were] insisting that US healthcare was the best in the world. In reality, the World Health Organisation ranks it 38th, behind Colombia (22nd) and Saudi Arabia (26th) and just above Cuba. The No 1 cause of bankruptcy in the US? Medical debt. And with more than 250,000 deaths a year, medical errors are the third leading cause of death, behind heart disease and cancer. Obamacare has made things somewhat better, but there are still 27 million people without health insurance because they can’t afford it, and millions more who can’t afford the co-payment on prescriptions.

 

Rightwing Christian fundamentalism has had a devastating effect on women’s health. There’s little care for poor women or children once they’ve been born ; according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 25 other industrialised nations are better than the US at keeping babies alive. Americans who say they are pro-life merely mean they are pro-birth. Republicans want to slash Medicaid – government help for those who cannot afford to pay – which pays for nearly half the births in the US.

 

full article here:

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/jul/14/attack-healthcare-policy-with-comedy-jonathan-lynn-yes-minister 

 

Considering the attitudes I’ve seen expressed by many professing Christians over many years, I have to wonder what kind of “Christ” do they think they are following?

Their “Christ” seems to be very different to the person I read about in scripture; their “Christ” seems more associated with partisan politics and political slogans and labels than in reaching out to the most needy people within society.

14
Jul
17

Son of God?

Son(s) of God)

(a brief overview)

The Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem reportedly has the following inscription, expressing ONE of the tenets of Islam that distinguishes it from Christian belief:

“God is only One God. Far be it removed from His transcendent majesty that He should have a son”.

That statement is a clear attempt to distance Islam from Christianity, and it’s surely no coincidence that other inscriptions near to it focus on the persons of Jesus and His mother Mary.*

The identity of Jesus as the Son of God is central to the Christian faith and Jesus regularly identified God as His Father. That relationship was continually disputed by enemies throughout His life on earth.

The gospels give an account of how Satan challenged the Sonship of Jesus. The recorded temptations in the wilderness were centred on it, as he tried to tempt Jesus to prove He was the Son of God.

“Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.”

“Then he brought Him to Jerusalem, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here.”

Religious authorities were determined to kill Him because of His claim to be God’s Son, considering it to be blasphemy.

“We have a law, and according to our law He ought to die, because He made Himself the Son of God.”

But many who heard his teaching and experienced His miracles readily recognised Him as Son of God.

“Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”

When crucified He was mocked by the crowds because of the claim He was the Son of God.

“saying, “You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross.”

“He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now if He will have Him; for He said, ‘I am the Son of God.’

But not everyone mocked, even a Roman Centurion witnessing the crucifixion recognised Jesus as the Son of God.

So when the centurion, who stood opposite Him, saw that He cried out like this and breathed His last, he said,

“Truly this Man was the Son of God!”

After His resurrection His disciples recognised and preached that He was the Son of God.

Saul (Paul):

Immediately he preached the Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God.

For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us—by me, Silvanus, and Timothy

John:

He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son.

These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.

And most significantly, God Himself confirmed the Sonship of Jesus.

And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

and

While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”

It is also important that the question of whether God could have a Son goes beyond His relationship to Jesus.

The Bible describes Adam as “son of God” within one of the lists of Jesus’s ancestors.

the son of Enosh, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.

Scripture also refers to others who are considered as sons of God:

“Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God.”

For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.

There is also the promise that followers of Jesus are adopted as sons.

“you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.”

and

adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will”

And that last quote (“according to the good pleasure of His will”) perhaps gives the most significant rebuttal to the claim that having a son would somehow reduce God’s “transcendent majesty”; as if God could be reduced in some way by the fact of being Father.

Does God Himself not have the right to make that choice? Is it not up to God Himself what He can or cannot do and what He can or cannot be?

For any man to say God cannot have a Son, that man is in fact limiting God, enforcing some kind of restriction on God’s own right to choose and act and BE according to the good pleasure of God’s own will.

That man is making himself the limiter of God.

_____________________

* Inscriptions
See “INSCRIPTIONS ON THE INNER OCTAGONAL ARCADE”

11
Jul
17

To Forgive or Not to Forgive.

From Noriko Dethlefs’ In His Strength (p53)

“It is rare that killers are brought to justice here [in Afghanistan], but in the case of a colleague – whose cousin was shot dead for not releasing some office documents – members of the family are taking the law into their own hands. When I spoke to them about forgiveness, they agreed to forgive after they found the killer and put him to death. It is a matter of honour”

Compare to:

And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.

And

Forgive, and you will be forgiven.

And

if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins

The above quotes present interesting contrasts in attitudes to forgiveness. The resulting outcomes are also significantly different.

What is REAL forgiveness? Something we apply AFTER punishing someone for perceived wrongs? Or something we apply despite being wronged?

What do we think is more important?

Maintaining our personal sense of honour – or being eligible for God’s forgiveness?

06
Jun
17

The Radicalisation Environment

During the ongoing coverage of the weekend’s terror attack in London, I saw the end of an interview with Australian Labor Party politician, and “global counter-terrorism expert” Anne Aly, who, in 2015, was the “only Australian invited to the White House to speak at a countering-violent-extremism summit”.

 

A phrase she used caught my attention when she spoke of the conditions that led young Muslim men to turn to the kind of violent extremism displayed in the London attack and other terror events before it.

 

She spoke of a “radicalisation environment”, and from the short part of the interview I saw, I realised that the term could also be used to describe a very common kind of experience – where a community of likeminded people create an “environment” that reinforces particular views and a particular way of thinking. Contrary views are excluded, creating an echo-chamber of ideas where their adopted views are never seriously challenged.

In the “old” days – (my younger days) the term brainwashing was often used to describe a similar process, and it was conducted by groups that were often recognised as “cults” – which were comparatively benign in practice (relative to the Islamists of today), presenting no violent security threat to the community at large despite the personal and family costs that often resulted.

 

While the above mentioned “radicalisation environment” (or brainwashing) can create, reinforce and validate violent actions (as per the Islamists), that basic type of environment isn’t completely different to the experience of anyone who takes faith in God seriously. It is easy to isolate ourselves within groups of people of similar beliefs where the validity of those beliefs is not seriously challenged

The most significant difference is the nature of the God in whom we place our faith. How we think about God and what we believe about God will affect the way we act in response to Him. Simply stated; obedience to a violent god will produce violent followers and obedience to a loving God will produce loving followers.

 

A similar kind of “radicalisation environment” can be found in political groups, and partisan bias becomes so entrenched that the faults in one’s own “wing” of politics can become invisible, as can good aspects of the other political “wing”. Those within that “environment” can easily find themselves going with the flow, turning a blind eye to things they wouldn’t normally accept because it is part of the environment they entered and settled within. By identifying as “conservative” because the “conservative” wing of politics has certain views of morality that we see as scripturally endorsed, we can also be prone to aligning ourselves with some ideological stand points that under scrutiny contradict other parts of scripture.

 

Not only are religious and political thought affected by the insularity of “radicalisation environments”, the influence extends to embrace wider cultural norms; where our own culture is seen as the best, and others are seen as lacking, or aberrant in some way. In the past this has been displayed on the “mission field” where westernised cultural standards, such as dress codes and fashion styles were pressed upon communities as part of the “gospel” being presented.

But religion, politics and culture are never experienced in isolation from each other; and the wrong mix has the potential to become toxic, with national, cultural and political identities blending with religious identity. So our particular nation and culture, or our political views, (in our minds) become more favourable to God than other countries, cultures and political viewpoints. Our group is seen as His group. Our standards are seen as His standards. Our ways are seen as His ways.

 

That can give unwarranted justification to any group’s actions that in reality may be far outside of God’s agenda, and even contrary to it.

05
Mar
17

Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation?

Christianity has been made into a very western-centric religion and yet how does that perception reflect statements like the following?

“For You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation”.

What does something like that actually look like from a non-colonialist viewpoint, where those from other tribes, tongues and nations don’t have to become like us (in the west) to fit into God’s Kingdom?
Especially when many of those “other tribes and nations” seem to reflect lifestyles more closely in line with biblical standards than our westernised lifestyles.

And then should we consider some of those highly questionable things with which “Christians” in the west have become identified? How many of those things that we think of as normal or acceptable in Christian life are in reality a result of following western cultural norms?




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