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Number 74, October 2016 ISSN 1837-8447
Brought to you by the Bible Society
Healing the abuse New fix for marriage breakdown Patrick Parkinson
Why I love The truth ‘Thou about shalt not!’ Hillsong John Dickson
Church attenders sense of moral duty to act on climate change
In Depth 5-10
Bible Society 13
VOTED OUT: As Eternity goes to press, Obadiah does not know whether we are having a plebiscite or not. This is the third edition in a row that we thought might be a plebiscite special. So it is obvious this Obadiah is no prophet. CITY OF CHURCHES STILL: The demolition of the landmark Maughan Church in Adelaide’s city centre - for social housing and a new HQ for welfare group Uniting Communities – might bring into question whether the old “city of churches” tag has ANY resonance anymore. Obadiah can report that an Eternity survey for our SA state page (we publish special pages, specific to various states) found a renewed keenness for church planting in the centre state.
Bibles being distributed in China is just part of what will be celebrated during BSA’s bicentenary next year.
Special year for the Bible “It is always a good time for Christians to promote the word of God. But 2017 will be special,” says Bible Society CEO Greg Clarke. Bible Society is turning 200 on March 7, 2017. “We want 2017 to be not just a celebration of the Bible Society, but of the Bible” says Clarke. “We are organising events and campaigns that we hope will be easy for churches to pick up, adapt and use in their own ministry.” A major event, a National Celebration of the Bible, will take place on Sunday, March 5. It will be webcast from the Hillsong Convention Centre in Sydney,
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featuring church leaders including Anglican Archbishop Glenn Davies and Hillsong’s Brian Houston. Any church can use the live stream or show a delayed stream. There also will be ‘Lighthouse Churches’ in every state, which will partner to carry the event live. If your church would like be a ‘Lighthouse Church’, email firstname.lastname@example.org or contact 0475 01 2017. “During the month of March, Bible Society, Hillsong and others will create a Digital Resources Centre, a website where you can download free a whole range of videos which promote, explain
and celebrate the Bible in various ways’” says Clarke. “Churches can use this material in whatever way you wish: sermons, small groups, Sunday Schools... It’s all yours.” “After 200 years, we’re here for good” is the theme of Bible Society Australia’s bicentenary. BSA is the oldest continuously operating organisation in Australia. It predates the first bank, now Westpac, by one month - and all its original directors were directors of the Bible Society. The Word came one month before Mammon! But 200 years on, Clarke reminds us that “there is an enormous amount of work still to be done.”
UBS / Dag Smemo
W(U)NDERDOG: Obadiah has a soft spot for Michael Collie, who plugs away organising the Australian Christian Book of the Year, which raises money to help Christian publishing overseas. He insisted we tell everyone about Child, Arise! (see page 5). It got the top book award, even though it did not have a big publisher behind it. A real win for the underdog.
Sign up for NCLS 2016 - ncls.org.au
Michael Jensen On Racism – Page 15 “In that pride is an
idolatry – a worship of my cultural identity.”
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Lives transformed through theological study Janie Beasley didn’t expect her life to change when she signed up for Bible college – especially when it was online. But then she began the two-year Guided Spiritual Formation subject, and her faith took on a whole new dimension. The police ofﬁcer and part-time children’s minister from Watsonia, Victoria says the program gave her “a whole new understanding of my identity in the cross and my transformation by the Holy Spirit. I better understand my gifts and what is needed to be continually transformed and strengthened by the Holy Spirit”. James Oakley, from Launceston, Tasmania also found his faith transformed. James decided to study theology to be better equipped to share the gospel with children and young people in his community. “The biggest difference that I see in my faith has come through the Guided Spiritual Formation unit. I’ve now discovered some practices that help me to approach God simply.” Ridley Online is not just about information; it is also about transformation. This is a big challenge for online learning, which is often regarded as being weak in this regard. However, Ridley’s approach in its Guided Spiritual Formation (GFS) program is to provide structure for a student’s engagement with God and to support a mentoring relationship. The online community also promotes formation, as students share how God is
I have a greater sense of conviction about what I believe, and I can express this with more clarity.” Sharon Kirk
working in their lives throughout the process. As a result, many students have experienced deep and powerful changes in their own lives. Graham Stanton, Lecturer in
Practical Theology at Ridley, developed the GSF program and believes that studying theology is an act of worship that helps to shape and develop a life transformed by Christ.
Graham explains that “all Ridley Online subjects are intended to shape students’ hearts and actions along with shaping their minds. GSF has a focus on the practices of personal spiritual life
as people who are known by God and love God.” Transformation is not an end in itself but leads to missional engagement. Sharon Kirk, who lives in regional NSW, found that out of a greater knowledge of God and his work in Jesus she felt a deeper love for Christ and desire to serve him. “I have a greater sense of conviction about what I believe, and I can express this with more clarity,” says Sharon. This was also James’s experience. He reﬂects that “as I’ve come to see God’s activity in the world here and now, I am coming to appreciate better the purpose for which God has called me into his church and the partnership that we all have with him in his mission on earth.” Ridley Online brings together leading scholars from across the globe - but it offers more than great learning. It offers the potential of a life transformed.
Pray for TV tough guy to be marriage JOHN SANDEMAN
DOWN, DOWN: Planetshakers, a large conference in Melbourne run by the Pentecostal multi-campus church of the same name, is offering a cheap price for its 2017 meeting. Conference-goers will only pay $20 for the four-day event in April. They will be encouraged to give away the money they will save.
face of Alpha ad JOHN SANDEMAN Bear Grylls, a tough guy television adventurer, is the face of an Alpha campaign aimed at boosting young men attending the evangelistic course. Alpha “Invite Australia” will kick off in 2017, supporting the churches, business lunches and prison groups that run Alpha. “We are aiming for 1,000 courses to run in the first half of 2017,” says Daryn Sutton, the Alpha communications manager. “That’s an increase over the 1300 which will have run this year.” Tough guy Bear has agreed to be the face of the Alpha campaign – he found his own Christian faith through an Alpha course. Grylls has become known as the face of adventure and outdoor survival. He has climbed Mount Everest and ventured to Antarctica. With 1.5 billion viewers worldwide, he is recognised from New York to New Delhi, and his fastest growing market is now China. His show Man vs. Wild was the No. 1 ranked reality show in the US last year and he’s also authored six best-selling books. “I’ve crawled onto the roof of the world”, says Grylls. “But finding a simple faith? That’s been my greatest adventure yet.”
SURVIVOR: One of Australia’s newest church networks, the Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches (FIEC), has wanted to appoint Canberra pastor Dave McDonald as its national director for a few years. But he had cancer, a story he told to Eternity and in his book Hope Beyond Cure. Finally, he was appointed to the FIEC job, last month.
Flickr / Lwp Kommunikáció
A call to make October a month of prayer for (traditional) marriage, issued by the Australian Catholic Marriage and Family Council, has been endorsed by a wide variety of other Christian networks. Approximately one dozen denominational leaders, church network leaders and prayer leaders have called for Australia’s Christian churches and organisations to get behind this important call for prayer. The “National Day of Prayer and Fasting” team has co-ordinated this response to the Catholic call. “Together, all these leaders congratulate the Catholic Church for showing leadership and taking the initiative on this important issue,” says Warwick Marsh, from the national team. The ACMFC stated: “We hope in this time of national conversation on the subject of marriage, we can encourage all to pray for the wellbeing of marriages and families, and in a particular way for people who are same-sex attracted or gender questioning.” The ACMFC has created a prayer resource for parishes. It can be accessed at http://www.acmfc.org. au/month-of-prayer-and-fasting/ The national day of prayer and fasting resource sign-up is here: bit.ly/2cS6ijA
Bear Grylls is the face of next year’s Alpha campaign. The Grylls campaign, which has already kicked off in the Northern hemisphere, aims at the what Sutton called “Alpha’s toughest demographic” - males in their 20s. Any church or organisation that would like to get involved in the “Join the Adventure” campaign for can join at inviteaustralia.com All Alpha resources are free,
including training and promotional materials, through alpha.org.au The Alpha campaign is only one of the evangelistic campaigns which Australian churches will run in 2017. The Presbyterian Church of Australia is planning an evangelistic campaign to mark the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. Watch this space.
NEW BIRTH, NEW BERTH: Kaley Payne, deputy editor of Eternity has stepped down from that job and has had her first child, Gideon. Ben McEachen, a former editor of Empire film magazine and a graduate of Moore Theological College, has taken on the role while Kaley is away. FOUNDING TALK: An annual John Stott memorial lecture has commenced in Australia as Langham Partnership, which supports Christian scholars around the world, honours its founder. BIBLEMAN: An Australian, Dr Andrew Shead, head of Old Testament at Moore Theological College, has joined the Committee on Bible Translation that oversees the NIV Bible, the most popular translation sold in this country.
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Tess Holgate on how to respond to abuse victims
Sexually abused as a child, award-winning author Jane Dowling came to realise God’s love and care for her was real and life-saving.
Deep healing for abuse survivors ANNE LIM It’s been a long, slow and torturous journey for Jane Dowling, but God has transformed her amazingly through the power of his word. The former child sexual abuse victim has written a timely and valuable book, Child, Arise! The Courage to Stand: A Spiritual Handbook for Survivors of Sexual Abuse. It documents her journey and is helping other survivors overcome deep, serious spiritual effects of child sexual abuse. Also, it was named the Australian Christian Book of the
Year in August. Michael Collie – National Director of Sparklit, which organises the awards – calls the book a “gift”, not only to other survivors but also to the church. “She decides to give God another chance, and while she reads the Bible, she hears her story from God’s point of view,” describes Collie. “She is one of the most powerful advocates for Bible reading I’ve ever come across.” Sexually abused by her father from the age of four, Jane had a short period of relief after he moved out when she was 16. But the long years of fear and
domination left her vulnerable. Later, she was abused by a trusted Catholic priest for nearly 2½ years. Baptised and brought up a practising Catholic, Jane became increasingly disillusioned with a God she felt was not protecting her and had abandoned her. “I’d think ‘If there is a God, why can’t he stop it and make the perpetrator go away?’ And then every time I heard ‘God loves you,’ I’d think, ‘How can that be, God loves me?’” The turning point came when Jane had an emotional breakdown after the priest finally stopped
his abuse. Aged just 19, she felt as though she was in a very dark tunnel with no way out other than to end her life. “I just didn’t see one bit of light or one bit of hope and I felt so alone and isolated with no one really knowing what was going on. I was just living with sheer terror and desperation and feeling overwhelmed; my body was saying it can’t take any more.” Jane always kept a Bible by her bedside but she never read it until one day, unable to get out of bed, she picked it up and opened it at a random page.
“For some divine inspiration, on this particular day when I was feeling suicidal, I opened up at Isaiah 43:1, which happened to be that beautiful passage where it says ‘Don’t be afraid for I have redeemed you, I have called you by name; you are mine,’” Jane tells Eternity. “I realised there was a presence speaking to me through these words; these words that were coming from inside that darkness as I read them – ‘Don’t be afraid’ – were quite powerful. But I had the sense of ‘Who’s this who’s calling continued page 6
from page 5 me by name? I really want to know this person,’ and saying to me ‘You are mine.’ So, I was really struck by that warm and caring and loving presence … So the word became light in that darkness and that presence became a flicker of life and hope in that darkness.” Jane knew it was God speaking to her but, at that stage, she had no experiential knowledge of God. A hunger to know the person behind the words was ignited. Her personal search for God led her to join an international Catholic missionary community called Prayer and Ministry of the Word, and spend several years in Spain. It was while in Spain that her inability to communicate in Spanish and the need for silence in the community triggered emotions associated with the sexual abuse. “I began to experience fear coming up there but I didn’t know what it was. I used to talk with the people who were guiding me in my spiritual journey but they didn’t have the experience I had.” “Then when I came back to Sydney four years later – so I was about 26 at the time – it began to come out more. I began waking up in the middle of the night with night sweats and nightmares, night terrors; I’d have flashbacks of different things coming to me from my family; smells started to trigger fear and some despair.” Still living as a consecrated member of the community, Jane would run to her bedroom and lock
“I’ve got to get out of here” JANE DOWLING It was peak hour and I was catching the bus to go home. As I got on, there were still quite a few people getting on behind me. The people behind me were pushing me down as far as we could go. There was only one seat right at the very back. I sheepishly took the seat. The bus was full to capacity. The driver revved up the engine and we began to move. As we did, I began to feel suffocated. I began struggling for breath. There were no windows that could be opened and the heating was on. I could feel my whole body breaking out into a sweat. I was very hot and clammy. Suddenly my heart started racing and I could feel every one of its deep pounds. I felt as though I was going to have the door whenever a man came into the house. “I didn’t know how to explain what was happening to me. It was terror. So what was happening was I was being re-traumatised by the triggers of the sexual abuse, so I was taking on the behaviour of the child at whatever time the trigger was relating to; sometimes, I was a seven-year-old muted child. “People in my community would talk to me as an adult but I would sit there and couldn’t communicate, as I relived many of those experiences. It felt like I was going crazy at the time and I was really afraid.”
a heart attack. My mind was going as quickly as my heart. I began to have flashbacks to when my perpetrator abused me on the back seat of a bus. My body began to re-experience that terrifying occasion. I felt trapped, paralysed, as though I could not escape. My hands and legs felt like jelly. My panic increased when I noticed I was surrounded by men. Alarm bells rang in my mind. “I’ve got to get out of here! This is unsafe! I don’t want to be here! How can I get out?” I felt as though I was going to pass out as I tried to gasp for breath. Fear built up in my body. Panic attacks are associated with post-traumatic stress disorder. A panic attack can be a terrifying experience. In the moment, we feel as though we
are going to die because the physical symptoms are so intense. The challenge of any panic attack is calming the inner turmoil and reaching a state of peace and stillness again. Panic attacks are the perfect opportunity to learn to “wake up Jesus” in our life and to experience how he can quieten us down again.
Jane worried that she was losing her religious vocation but her leader suggested her problem was psychological rather than spiritual, so she embarked on a journey of psychological healing that felt like “inner chaos”. She felt out of control in her whole being because she could go into a panic attack anywhere and, if that happened, she would be like a little girl instead of a 26-year-old woman. But this is when she experienced the amazing power of the word of God to integrate the distorted spiritual experience of her inner child with her healthy adult self. “All those feelings I had towards
God during the time of the sexual abuse began to come out. So, within the process, I did feel that God was uncaring but … reading the word would tell me, ‘No, God is someone who’s close to me.’” But even God’s desire for closeness and intimacy has “monstrous connotations” for someone who has been abused by their father, or a priest, she points out. “Anything that implied intimacy with God Father, I used to run away from it,” she says. “All those beautiful passages of ‘I will take you into the desert and seduce you’ from Hosea 2. For a long time, they used to give us that on retreats
Edited extract of Child, Arise! The Courage to Stand: A Spiritual Handbook for Survivors of Sexual Abuse, by Jane Dowling
and I’d think ‘I don’t want to go into the desert alone with God Father. I could be abused again; I won’t feel safe.’ “And I had to physically, mentally and spiritually stop and do that work in prayer time and say to God Father, ‘OK, I’m sorry. I’m putting my feelings of soand-so in you; I know you’re very different. I’m going to take the risk and I’m going to trust you, so OK, you can call me your dearest child.’ “And even with doing that I’d still get this sense within me that I’m not totally safe here, but I’d still try and remain there with God the Father and do that work. It was a slow journey. Eventually, those feelings were being transformed the more I was able to stay there with God in prayer and work through those feelings.” Through sticking with such spiritual exercises for up to three hours per day, Jane was able to change her image of God from an angry God who wanted to punish her – as her own father had – to experience God as loving and caring. “And that turns around that whole experience of me feeling I’m bad because God told me over and over again through many Scripture passages, ‘Jane, you’re very good’ – like Genesis – or ‘you are my dearest child’ in Isaiah 43; ‘You’re honoured, precious and I love you’ – just beautiful passages that kept reaffirming God’s love. “So whenever I’d feel I might have done something and feel I made a mistake and given a talk and thought ‘Gee, that was really bad,’ and just all that shame coming up again from the abuse, continued page 7
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“Don’t silence the victims” TESS HOLGATE
from page 6 I’d stop and just be conscious of that and let God say to me, ‘No, it was actually very good; I love you.’ “So it was just practising the word on many occasions during the day, that that belief of shame was being changed.” Whenever Jane gave talks in retreats, she was able to speak of God’s word with authority – not just theoretically but as something she had experienced in her life.
We have a way to go, but we are working on rebuilding trust and creating a safe church.”
job and still keep your faith alive? TS: When people hear that such a person [a minister] behaved in this way, their own faith can be called into question. It could well be that they have in some way been subject to abuse – or aware of abuse – and it can touch old, painful places in them. Or it could be that they actually start to grieve for the loss of the church that they believed existed - which now they don’t believe exists because, within that church, these things happen. NL: For most of us as we come into contact with this sort of information, we have to mourn as we’re confronted by the terrible truth that our churches have not been safe places. In fact, quite the opposite – our churches have been dangerous places where our children have been terribly hurt by people within our community. As difficult as that is, to go through that process of mourning, I think it brings us to a place of reality. Our churches are but a reflection of the world that we live in, and the world that we live in is a broken place. As we’re confronted with the reality of that, that is actually a place of challenging our faith. And ours is not a simplistic faith; we actually have to wrestle with this idea of how to confront the reality of evil that is pervasive throughout the world. It is something that happens in our churches, as well. And so, it is a place of great spiritual growth when we actually confront this reality. TS: There’s an opportunity for us to grow in our faith and come to a place where we realise that the behaviour and the betrayal of a
“A living God had transformed me through that word and that was then what I was sharing with others,” she says. There’s no need to memorise long passages of Scripture, she says, but just a few words that are powerful for a person. For example, Jane finds power in Jesus’s word to his disciples in Gethsemane – “enough”. “Sometimes he’d just say to me,
few doesn’t negate the gospel [and] does not negate our faith in God. We can actually find God in the dark places. Does the information uncovered in the Royal Commission affect you personally? TS: After looking at the transcripts of the first few days, I can remember sharing with colleagues that I felt quite hollow; it’s a yucky feeling. That the church I am a priest within actually would have those sorts of things happening, leaves a very difficult feeling within. We need to be prayerfully supportive of survivors of sexual abuse – the ones we know about and the ones we don’t know about. How can local churches grieve these realities? NL: I think it can be something as simple as deciding that in one particular week, all the home groups and study groups are going to hold a minute’s silence and remember that these things occur in our community and, maybe,
even in the group that we’re sitting in. And then holding these people in prayer. And staying in that place of contemplation. For most of us, if we actually contemplate these things for a minute, in silence, we will come to a place of touching the sadness of these events. TS: In the first stage, it’s helpful to just sit with the reality of it, and then, once that’s done, there’s a place to step off from and that’s really important. Too many people just want to get their life back without actually owning the reality of it within, and then it’ll just come back and bite them later. NL: This always reminds me of the beginning of Job. When Job had lost everything (health, family, wealth), his friends came to him and they were fantastic; they just sat with him for seven days and said nothing. They exerted this idea of “presence ministry”; they sat with him in his distress. To be with someone in that time of darkness, to support them; this is what you can do – join with people in that place of distress. TS: It’s pointless telling people what they have to think or believe or feel. That is something they need to work out for themselves. To take something outside of yourself and lay it over your own painful place, and try and live that out, is never going to work. It has to come from within. It’s a decision you make on the basis of what you believe is right and true for yourself. And it’s a process; it takes time. How do you give hope to a victim of abuse? NL: We can hold the hope that some recovery is possible. But many will carry deep scars for the
rest of their lives. Our bodies can heal and our emotions can heal. If you’ve had a very serious physical wound, you may heal but you may be left with a limp. If you’ve had a very serious psychological or emotional wound, you heal – but you may be left with a bit of a limp. I think we can hold that hope for people – that a degree of healing is possible. And, obviously, ultimate complete healing is something for heaven. What keeps you going in this challening profession? NL: I have felt called into this ministry. I am here because this is where God wants me to be. But also, it is an enormous privilege to journey with survivors of abuse through their journey of recovery. They are brave, courageous people and it’s a privilege that people are prepared to share of themselves as they go on that journey. My other motivation is that we need to do better than this. We need to be working towards creating a safe church in the future. We want our churches to be safe places, where people can come and be safe. And even though sometimes the “Safe Ministry” guidelines may seem restrictive, we need to embrace those for the good of protecting children and vulnerable people in our churches. We need everybody in the church community to be working at this. TS: I’m not entirely sure when I actually put the first foot on the ladder of being involved, but there’s a rightness about it, [even though] sometimes it is quite an uncomfortable place to be in. Anything else to add? NL: I am keen to say that while the Royal Commission is going on, we are hearing terrible stories – many about historic abuse. But I’m also keen to say that for the last 20 years, certainly the last 15 years, churches have been working really hard to make churches safe places. We have a way to go, but we are working on rebuilding trust and creating a safe church. Nicky Lock and Tim Spencer are both members of the Professional Standards Commission of the Anglican Church of Australia. If you or someone you know wants to report abuse, please call the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Abuse on 1800 099 340.
‘Jane, enough!’ Or when all the negative thoughts come up, and I’d be in that boat when suddenly the storm comes up, and he’d just say ‘Jane, be quiet, be still.’ “It was just the spiritual exercises of allowing Jesus to speak to me and really change me at that time, to really try and be faithful to that. If he said ‘Quiet, be still,’ well, OK, be still with those thoughts.” In 2010, just when she had achieved some stability in her life, Jane was diagnosed with a chronic auto-immune illness, which
presented a new set of challenges and unravelled deeper layers of the trauma of sexual abuse. In 2012, while she was taking a leave of absence from her community, she heard former prime minister Julia Gillard announce the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, Jane felt called by God to write a book for the benefit of other survivors of sexual abuse. “I’m so grateful that I can use it because there was a part of
my journey where I felt God was inviting me to share that more,” shares Jane. “But in religious life that could never happen, so I’m so grateful for all the events – as painful as they have been – since 2012, from my coming out of religious life, and the trauma that happens at that time, and then with the illness. “It has been such a painful journey that it’s a beautiful blessing in disguise, because I actually feel now I can use all that for others.”
We as a Christian community, as hard as it is, we actually need to own that these criminal behaviours took place within our community.”
Flickr / roberto volterra
First responders to victims of sexual abuse in the church say that if we don’t listen to the victims and take heed of their experiences, we are silencing them and sending them to hide in the shadows. Counsellor Nicky Lock and hospital chaplain Tim Spencer are among the first people to hear victim statements and they spoke to Eternity about what justice looks like for victims of child abuse in the church, as well as how everyday Aussies can grieve over these awful criminal acts. How can Christians respond to allegations/evidence being uncovered? Nicky Lock: To be shocked and devastated is an appropriate response. Maybe the wider public are learning about things they hadn’t been aware were happening. Tim Spencer: I agree. A lot of people are hearing things they would rather not hear, or don’t want to hear. It’s important for people to deal with how they feel, what they’re experiencing and what’s going on in their community. How can people avoid becoming numb to the stories that are coming to light? NL: The danger is that this story of sexual abuse in the church is a stain on the Christian community and if we don’t listen to it and hear it and take note, we are – in effect – silencing again all the victims of the terrible crimes. We’re sending them to hide in the shadows. And we as a Christian community, as hard as it is, we actually need to own that these criminal behaviours took place within our community. And we need to denounce these criminal behaviours that took place within our community. And we need to seek justice for those who were hurt by these criminal behaviours. What do you think justice looks like in this situation? NL: We need to listen to victims and take them seriously. And we need to apologise and take responsibility for what’s happened to them, to find pathways for healing. And we need to be prepared to be serious about some form of redress for the damage that they’ve experienced. And we also need to deal with the perpetrators appropriately. TS: How we behave in our church communities, and how we safeguard those who come within our community, has to be a priority for us too. So we are actively working at how to actually encourage our community to create safe environments for children and adults. How do you continue to do this
When marriages break down: Is there a Christian way to separate? Patrick Parkinson on an alternative to the Family Court
pixabay / stevepb
Every Christian who gets married hopes their commitment to the other person is for life. “What God has joined together,” said Jesus, “let no-one separate.” Would that it were so; but the reality is that some Christian marriages do break down. It only takes one person to want to leave the relationship, and there is not much the other person can do about it, in an age of nofault divorce. Divorce is typically a terrible time for people. Sometimes the decision to end the marriage is reached mutually after a long period of difficulty or growing far apart but, very often, there is a “leaver” and a “left”. The “leaver” is the one who decides the marriage is over, or effectively walks out of the marriage by having an affair. The “left” is the one for whom the breakdown of the marriage is not a choice or is, at best, a choice made to accept the inevitable. For some, the partner’s decision to walk out of the relationship can come as a real shock, even if things have not been happy for some time. When people separate, there can be a whirlpool of different emotions and reactions – anger, blame, depression, self-justification, feelings of betrayal or of failure, shame, embarrassment, fear for the future, even a desire to see the other one suffer. Separation often brings out the worst in us. Of course, separation is not the best for a Christian, though it may sometimes be necessary and justified in cases of violence, abuse, persistent cruelty, addiction or where the other has broken the marriage covenant and remains unrepentant. The Christian calling is to try to work most difficulties
Case study–David and Maddy
David and Maddy, a Christian couple with two young children, separated after years of conflict and the discovery of David’s affairs. Maddy wanted him to walk away, leaving her the house and an adequate child support payment. David wanted his share of the property and half-time care of their children. They fought bitterly for the next four years. All attempts at pastoral intervention and mediation failed. through, to remain faithful to our marriage vows to the extent that
Finally, a judge decided their case; but between them they spent about $80,000 in legal fees. In fact, all the money David received from the property division went to pay his lawyers. Maddy kept the house, but was left with a mortgage twice the size of when they purchased it. Within two years of the court orders being made, their circumstances changed when Maddy remarried, and she and David had to renegotiate the
arrangements for the children that the judge had ordered. If they had used arbitration, their property division could have been determined within about six weeks, saving tens of thousands of dollars. The decision of a qualified arbitrator takes effect like a court order. They also could have agreed to accept the advice of a neutral psychologist or other expert; this may have been better for the children than the judge’s decision.
it is in our power. So, in light of all that, is there a Christian way
to separate? There are plenty of “un-Christian” ways to separate!
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And there are plenty of ways that will cause a great deal of distress to children, waste large amounts of money, or otherwise make things worse over time. There is much that estranged couples can do to separate sensibly – if not amicably – if they get the right kind of help. Here are some of them. Prioritise the needs of the children: That is much easier said than done. It requires a lot of maturity, and may involve sacrifice for one or both parents. In most cases, unless a parent is violent, abusive or utterly disinterested, children will do best if they have the active involvement of both parents in their lives. That doesn’t mean equal time – that works well continued page 9
from page 8 for some children but not for others – but it does mean that the parent who is living elsewhere needs to try to remain as involved as possible. That in turn means that it is better if the parents do not live too far apart. It may be optimal also if the children can stay in the same house or, at least, the same school, for a while. They have enough to cope with in the separation without every aspect of their lives being turned upside down. Giving priority to the children also means: Not involving them as messengers in a conflict or asking for reports on what the other parent is doing; not denigrating the other parent; not undermining the
other parent’s authority; and doing everything possible to support the children’s relationship with the other parent. Children should never, under any circumstances, be used to hurt the other partner. Negotiate workable parenting arrangements: Knowing that the goal is to keep both parents involved, work out practical arrangements for this that are focused primarily on the children’s needs, while the parents maintain respectful boundaries. There are government-funded Family Relationship Centres across Australia which will help parents work out sensible parenting arrangements using mediation. If the parents cannot agree, then one option is to get a referral to a child psychologist who can give them independent advice on what
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would be best for the children. Lawyers will be able to assist if the parents cannot agree, especially if there may be a need to go to court; but legal representation is expensive and it can take two years or more to get a judge to hear the case, so court should be avoided wherever possible. The judge will decide what he or she thinks is best for the children, but judges usually aren’t child-development experts. So, after spending a lot of time and money, the outcome may not be all that different from the compromises parents could work out for themselves, with assistance from mediators and psychologists. Use professionals to help negotiate the division of property: Dividing the property can be one of the hardest things. It is important to get legal advice, but putting
everything into the hands of lawyers can be expensive. There are basic things each person can do to save a lot of time and money before involving lawyers: – Both spouses need to know about all their income and assets. – Draw up, and try to agree upon, a comprehensive list of assets and liabilities (with estimated values). – List any significant assets owned before marriage or received by inheritance. If people cannot quickly reach an agreement, arbitration offers a much better way for many people than going to court. The division of property can be resolved by a senior lawyer or retired judge at a fraction of the cost of a court hearing. Paul taught that Christians should take disputes to those qualified to resolve them within
the church (1 Cor 6:1-6). There may be Christian family lawyers who pastors can recommend. The Alternative Courtroom (www. alternativecourtroom.com.au) offers an arbitration service, and the Australian Institute of Family Law Arbitrators and Mediators. (www.aiflam.org.au) also is helpful. For most people, life does get better after separation – eventually – but it is a tough time. How people behave can make a big difference to their future. Prof. Patrick Parkinson is a Professor of Law at the University of Sydney and a former President of the International Society of Family Law. For further help, go to his website www.amicableseparation. com.au or to Family Relationship Centre www.familyrelationships. gov.au/services/frc
Are people with disabilities really superhuman?
… disability is about what it is to be human, at one and the same time strong and weak, confident and fearful, successful and failing …” Shane Clifton Channel 4 UK
The promotional ad for the 2016 Paralympic Games is nothing short of spectacular. Entitled “We’re the superhumans,” the ad was created by the UK’s Paralympics broadcaster Channel 4. It features The Superhuman Band, fronted by Australian musician Tony Dee. Tony was born with spina bifida, a birth defect where there is incomplete closing of the backbone and membranes around the spinal cord, and he uses a wheelchair full-time. The producers of the ad embarked on a worldwide search for a frontman for the band, and they were looking for someone with a disability. They approached Tony after they saw a clip of him singing on YouTube, and he beat thousands of other applicants to be selected to front the band. Tony and the band perform a cover of Sammy Davis Jr’s Yes I Can in the three-minute ad. “Yes I Can communicates a lot of things,” Dee told Eternity. “I believe each one of us is here for a reason, and that’s the thing that we can do. So for example, my thing is music and singing, putting a smile on people’s faces, and I can do that, regardless of a so-called disability that I have or whatever challenges
Tony Dee was the face of the international Paralympic Games ad campaign. may be in the way. I think God gave me a reason to be on the earth and this is a part of it. “And the people who are really struggling with disability are the people who don’t know what that purpose is or can’t see themselves achieving it,” said Dee. Shane Clifton is a theology lecturer at Alphacrucis College in Sydney who became a paraplegic six years ago, after a tragic accident. Clifton disagreed with Dee’s perspective.
A positive attitude will not enable a person to overcome every barrier they face in life, wrote Clifton on his blog. “While it might be a motivating sentiment, it’s just not true.” “Disabled people aren’t superhuman,” noted Clifton. “On the contrary, disability is about what it is to be human, at one and the same time strong and weak, confident and fearful, successful and failing – occasionally triumphing, but most of the
time wanting the same thing as everybody else: to be treated neither as freakish or superhuman, but as a family member, friend and colleague.” Clifton believes that the majority of people with disabilities cannot do the things shown in the Paralympics ad, and that while it’s right to celebrate the achievements represented in the advertisement, the lyrics “gee I’m afraid to go on has turned into yes I can” are “downright insulting”.
“I’ve never met a disabled person who is afraid to go on,” continued Clifton, “but I’ve met some who can’t go on because, in one way or another, the world in which they live has said, ‘We want nothing to do with you.’ And no positive attitude can solve this.” Clifton went on to make the point that disability is primarily a social problem, centred around the idea that people with disability are excluded from certain public and private spaces, or public transport. Dee agreed: “If a person can’t get into their community and be part of it, then it’s not necessarily the person that’s dysfunctional; maybe it’s the community. Maybe access is the issue.”
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Supporting faith inside the Syrian warzone KALEY PAYNE Mariam fled Homs in Syria after her son was killed by Islamic militants while he was working in the field; he was 26 years old. Mariam’s daughter-in-law was pregnant with her second child. Having been able to escape to Lebanon in 2014, Mariam arrived with her daughter-in-law and grandchildren. Now, she is trying to survive in a small room without any support. She hopes she will be resettled in a third country, as life in Lebanon is becoming dangerous and difficult. But she “will never go back to Homs”. Sahar lives in Jurmana in southeast Damascus, an area with other displaced Christians. After losing her husband to a heart attack in 2011, she lives alone with her three children in a very small room. After six years of war, the family survives on her son’s wages from working in a restaurant. Her daughters used to work in a factory, but many of the factories have been damaged or closed down due to the war. They haven’t been able to find work. Sahar says there has been shelling in the neighbourhood but it’s just not possible for them to leave. Mariam and Sahar are Syrian Christians. Their stories could belong to thousands of Syrians just like them. When Jude Simion from Barnabas Fund visited Syria
Many Syrian Christians want to stay in their homeland despite the danger. earlier this year, he came back with reports of the great need felt within the Christian community remaining in Syria, and also from those he met in refugee camps in Lebanon and Jordan. Barnabas Fund seeks to strengthen persecuted Christian communities by providing practical aid at the direction of local Christian leaders. For both Mariam and Sahar, Barnabas Fund provides practical aid in the form of dry rations and rental assistance, to ensure they have
a place to live. In other places such as Aleppo – a city divided between the Syrian government and rebel forces since 2012 – the organisation has been digging wells to offer safe drinking water to sections of the city cut off during a government siege. Jude was in Syria earlier this year at the invitation of church leaders in Damascus, Aleppo and Homs. He saw first-hand how the Barnabas Fund is working with the local church to purchase food, hygiene items and medical
aid for thousands of Christian families impacted by the war. Over winter, the organisation provides blankets and paraffin heaters to those struggling to get by without electricity or fuel. “Many Christians want to stay in Syria, and we’re finding ways to help them stay,” says Jude. “It could be livelihood assistance grants that could help start a new business, or helping families repair homes damaged in war.” While in Damascus, Jude stayed in the Christian quarter of the city. He stayed on the “Straight Street”, the biblical street where the Apostle Paul stayed after he met Jesus on the road to Damascus. It was on the “street called Straight Street” that Ananias was told to go and lay hands on Paul, whose sight was then restored to him and he was baptised. Jude said this location was a daily reminder that Syria’s Christian community is one of the world’s oldest. While in Damascus, he heard from many church leaders that their prayer is Christians will remain, to preserve the Christian heritage. “‘Help people to stay’, is what the Christian leaders in Syria are telling us,” said Jude. “They want people to stay and rebuild.” But people in Syria live in fear. “The people feel that, at any time, anything can happen. There’s an explosion and then a few hours
later people go back to their normal lives. This is their reality,” said Jude. Barnabas Fund is offering assistance to Christians wanting to stay in Syria but it has also launched Operation Safe Haven, working with Western governments to relocate and resettle Christians who have been internally displaced or fled Syria to refugee camps in neighbouring countries like Lebanon and Jordan. The organisation has helped settle more than 153 refugees in the Czech Republic and another 157 in Poland. Working with churches in Australia, Barnabas Fund says it has supported around 200 Syrians to come to Australia under family reunion humanitarian visas – and helped them in paying for their air tickets and supporting the families in education, employment and integration initiatives. We are urging churches across Australia to observe the Suffering Church Action Week (30 Oct-6 November), to pray and remember the persecuted Christians. Please make time during your weekend services to view a brief, twominute video, distribute a special bulletin insert, and spend time in prayer for our persecuted brothers and sisters. If you would like more information, and the Suffering Church Action Week resource pack, contact bfa.partnerships@ barnabasfund.org
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E MORLING COLLEGE SPONSORED PAGE 12
Morling College Celebrates 100 Years ROSS CLIFFORD At such a time as this, our 100 Year Anniversary, it is a privilege to be Principal of Morling College. Theological College anniversaries are about people, and we praise God for how he has raised up Morling graduates over the past century, and we thank him for those who will serve for another 100 years. For 100 years, Morling graduates have followed the Great Commission and shared the gospel overseas in partnership with Global Interaction (ABMS) and other agencies. They have often done this at great personal sacriﬁce. Others have planted churches throughout our state and country. Some have heard the call to denominational leadership, both here and overseas. Many Morling graduates have served in leadership roles in our association of churches, as well as having a strong presence in our national Baptist life, the Asia Paciﬁc Baptist Federation and the Baptist World Alliance. A signiﬁcant number have served as faculty of Theological Colleges across the country and overseas. Others have served in community service areas such as counselling and chaplaincy. Then there are those whose calling was to bring the Christian worldview to their places of employment. Within our current College staff and faculty, there are individuals such as Mike Frost, who has been
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8)
Morling College Class of 1962 outside the College’s Macquarie Park campus. either a student or lecturer at the College for the past 30 years. Or Mal MacCallum, the Dean of Morling Residential College, who is creating a home away from home for up to 100 residents students who are being exposed to a community of God on a daily basis. The Dean of Students,
Gayle Kent, aspires to equip and challenge young men and women to love God deeply and to better understand how God has uniquely equipped them, being courageous in their faith and ministry. It is people such as these who we are thankful for, as they shape the community within the
College which, in turn, shapes the Christian community in Sydney, and across the globe. All this ministry has been for the glory of God, and we continue to rely on the Lord to fulﬁl our mission to equip the whole believer to take the whole gospel to the whole world. What has the
role of Morling College community been in your life and in the lives of those whom you know? Together with you, we celebrate and thank God for the role of these individuals who are building up generations of students, who will be building the kingdom of God over the next 100 years. As we open our Morling Residential College this month, we are thankful that God’s provision over the College is evident in this event. On the front of the building, the plaque which records the opening of the MRC has this verse on it: Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8) This century records the glorious truth that the Lord Jesus, who guided and directed us as a denomination to begin Morling, is the same Lord who directs and guides us today - and until he returns, speaking in to the life of every individual who is a part of the wider Morling College community. Rev Dr. Ross Clifford, Principal, Morling College
BIBLE @ WORK
Gary, left, with chaplain Stuart Adamson, at Prince of Wales Hospital in Randwick, Sydney.
Witness on the wards
ANNE LIM Eternity spends a day with Rev. Stuart Adamson, one of three Anglican chaplains at the Prince of Wales and Randwick Hospitals Campus in Sydney. He also is a recipient of Scripture grants from Bible Society’s frontline support of chaplains. Normally I’m up before my alarm, but I was called out last night just as I was going to bed. [So] when the alarm goes off at 6.45am, I feel pinned to the bed. Still, I reach the hospital by 7.45am. First up are 30 minutes of chat, coffee and prayer with volunteers Rossie and Louise. I give them the lists of patients who have said on admission they are happy to be visited, and tick those to follow up. We’re blessed that the hospital
views chaplaincy as a key part of holistic care and recognises research that indicates patients who receive pastoral and spiritual care are more likely to get well and go home sooner. Today, my first visit is to Gary in the renal ward. He is a bit of a frequent flier. He’s in a jovial mood, but we’ve had some rough times. He’s a diabetic and, over the past six years, he’s had two leg amputations, several strokes, had a stent put in his heart and he’s just been diagnosed with Parkinson’s. He came to faith in the rehab ward about four years ago. Last year we thought he wouldn’t see his first granddaughter born and he was really down, but he’s in a different place now. “I don’t like the situation but I’m coping now, thanks to divine intervention,” he says in his soft
but laboured voice. I recently discovered that Gary lives not too far from me, so I worked out a day I could take him to his local church and now a bunch of guys turn up every second Sunday and roll him off there in his wheelchair. It has been an absolute joy to introduce Gary to his local church and for them to pick up the ball. At my next stop, I visit a woman in her early 50s who is in pain from a pinched nerve in her spine and is distressed because the doctors don’t know what’s wrong. She is happy for me to pray with her. Early afternoon is rest time for patients, so I tend to do quiet, unobtrusive visits on wards that are dark. I bump into people as I go along and a chance meeting with someone who is going through a difficult time can end up being a really significant conversation. I’ve
learnt that if I try to anticipate the action of the Spirit, things all go pear-shaped, so I roll with it and trust God. I follow up on a lady with multiple infections who has refused more treatment. She is tired. She has been by herself all day because her daughter is sick. I stay a short time, then pray, thanking God that even though she and her daughter couldn’t be together, their heavenly Father has promised that he will never leave or forsake them and that their names are “written in the book of life because they trust in Jesus”. Short, sweet and to the point. Late in the afternoon, I see a gaunt man about my age with three days of stubble; he’s sitting on the pavement in front of the psychiatric emergency care centre, his IV stand next to him like a ball
and chain. I sit down next to him and stick out my hand. “Stuart. Chaplain.” His hand meets mine and he tells me his name. He talks for ten minutes about some people in his family who have cancer, about his partner’s mental illness, her refusal to seek help (because she doesn’t want to be seen as weak), and about his anguish as he considers how best to help her. He seems both sad and philosophical as he opens his heart to me. Our paths have crossed for just a short while, but he was grateful to have been able to tell someone what was on his heart – to share even the tiniest fragment of his personal burden. It is after 6pm when I make my way home and I am struck by what a wonderful mutual blessing that last little chat was. Thank you, Lord. I must follow him up next week.
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Mark Fowler on religious freedom v same sex marriage John Sandeman Can Hollywood tell the truth about Hillsong?
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Is there significant racism in contemporary Australia? And worse; is it in the church too? Michael Jensen on casting out sin from our churches
A friend told me this story: “My mum is from the Philippines and she moved into the Penrith area around five years ago. She started attending a local Anglican church and everyone there was (probably still is) white. The first women’s Bible study that she went to, she was told by one of the women in the group, ‘Don’t take this the wrong way, I just prefer to associate only with white people.’ Nobody said anything to defend my mum. She didn’t even say anything to defend herself. She kept going; she even started serving, mostly the jobs that the others don’t want to do. I don’t know why. Because she’s a
better woman than I am, I guess. Or worse; she’s used to it.” Another friend, who is a pastor, and of Southeast Asian extraction, told me that he was spat on in a car park of a shopping centre in Sydney’s affluent and supposedly enlightened eastern suburbs. An Indigenous friend was asked by a fellow Christian, “Do lots of Abos go to your church?” Another friend with Indigenous heritage was told an Aboriginal joke at church the Sunday after Kevin Rudd’s apology to the stolen generation in 2008. A Sri Lankan woman I know – an academic – was told to “get back
in the gutter where you came from.” Another Asian woman said, “I was called a ‘slope’ by a Caucasian dad and his daughters in their Holden, at the local petrol station,” in the Hills district in Sydney. Another was spat at from a passing car in leafy Killara. A Japanese friend once heard her minister say from the pulpit that he “did not like all these Asians coming into Australia” – though he was quick to add that he did not include her in this statement. A Facebook friend of Asian descent wrote recently, “Today on my morning run in local Wahroonga, a tradesman stopped
me in my tracks to yell ‘Gangnam Style’ and proceeded to do the appropriate actions.” So what are we to make of all these instances? They are all relatively recent events. They happened in and out of the church. They didn’t just happen in the boondocks, where we latte-sippers imagine all the rednecks live. They happened well within the bounds of so-called civilisation, where people think they should know better. Some of them happened in a church. And the truth is this: if you ask a person of Indigenous or Asian background whether continued page 16
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Can Hollywood tell the plain truth about Hillsong Church? JOHN SANDEMAN
from page 15 they have experienced racism in Australia, their answer will be pretty much yes. Sometimes even in church. Now, I need to make a couple of things clear. The first of these is that racism or racial prejudice can and does exist in non-Anglo communities. We Anglos are not the only ones with a superiority complex! The other thing is that, while racism undoubtedly exists in Australia, it also exists in other countries – and in worse form. Relatively speaking, Australia isn’t a place (at least, not anymore) where there are openly racist laws, or where there are also racially directed policies. But being not as bad as somewhere else is beside the point. It is simply the response of a child to say “Oh, she’s far worse than me,” when they are caught doing the wrong thing. It isn’t exactly evidence of great insight, though, to say that “racism is wrong”. The more urgent question is: why is racism so persistent in human societies? Why, when we know the devastation that racism can wreak, is prejudice against someone on the basis of race or ethnicity something that is so casually evident? Let me put it more pointedly: why is it that, even though I know that racism is terrible, I still find within my own heart evidence of racist assumptions? I still assume, pretty much, that white guys should be in charge of most things. And, as the flipside, I do catch myself suspecting the motives of people who are not like me. Typical, I catch myself thinking, they can’t control their kids. They are always stealing. They are all corrupt. They breed like rabbits. The Bible traces the roots of this division amongst human tribes and cultures back to the very distant past. The story of the scattering of the people and the confusion of the languages at the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11 tells us that cultural and linguistic differences are not simply something we experience as neutral, but sources of deep fear for
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Handing over creative control to a Hollywood film crew to tell the story of a Christian ministry sounds like a big risk. But it is a risk that Hillsong UNITED, the worship band at the centre of Hillsong church’s global ministry was prepared to take. After a long delay caused by distribution hassles, and a production company going bankrupt, Let Hope Rise has hit Australian cinemas. Does it tell the story fairly? Does it cover a Christian ministry in Hollywood hype? Hillsong UNITED Singer JD told Eternity’s Kaley Payne that the band shared these anxieties. “Initially we were really worried that some of these Hollywood people were coming to us with smiles on their faces, telling us that they wanted to tell the good story, but that they’d go away and twist it into something we are not about,” JD said. But once filming
began, said JD, the makers of the film “really wanted to spread the message of hope that we have found in Jesus”. Hillsong’s lead pastor, Brian Houston, asked the producers, “Why would anyone watch a movie about us?” when the producers first approached Hillsong over two years ago. He meant it. The question of “How has a team of ordinary kids from the ordinary western suburbs of Sydney grown into a worldwide ministry?” runs through Let Hope Rise. They have ordinary families, some with the sort of tragedies and troubles that affect all of us. They ask God the same hard questions. Houston put it this way: “But you know what? The thing about Hillsong UNITED and Hillsong church is God took some pretty ordinary kids and some pretty ordinary people and over 30 years has actually done something quite significant. It is something none of us could have done on our own.”
At the Hillsong preview of this movie, producer John Bock asked singer JD what it is like to have his head so big on the screen. “It is embarrassing,” JD responds, sounding like an awkward recruit to a footy team before the media managers have got to them.
“Some people use the words ‘Christian Rockstars’,” he adds. “That is so far from what we are.” They are not putting it on. Director John Warren gets what the Hillsong UNITED team wants to do (even though he personally doesn’t get Jesus). “Their mission – without exaggeration – is to make music to save souls. They are trying to get people to discover Jesus. That’s probably the most righteous reason to make music. Whether you’re religious or not, it’s hard to look at that and not feel good about it,” he says. But this is not a hardsell gospel fillm. As the Hillsongers explain, the music and worship draws people in towards God. There is also a struggle behind the music. We follow the “agony and ecstasy” of songwriter Joel Houston as he works and reworks a lyric. In one shot he has an open Bible and a copy of Henri Nouwen’s The Selfless Way of Christ. It comes as a faint surprise (and perhaps it should not) that Houston is reading a work by a
Shocked by first attack When Eternity asked Ina Scales – an Indigenous staff member of Bible Society who also works as Co-commissioner for Aboriginal Advancement in SA – to comment on racism, we were shocked. “I live in a remote community in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) lands in the north of SA .I grew up in the APY lands went to school in Alice Springs and Adelaide. Never had issues, personally. But in towns and cities, I am wary of people. “At the start of this year I was at Norwood Parade in Adelaide, I was wearing a Aboriginal designed t-shirt. Sadly, it was Target. She asked me if I was Aboriginal, which I proudly said ‘I am.’ “After talking to me, she started human beings. There is in human experience not simply an “us”; there is also a “them”. Indeed, it may be that being a tighter, more closeknit “us” depends on the presence of the “them”. It is an instinctive habit of human societies to draw closer together when threatened by another. Our identity and culture becomes clearer, or we become prouder of it. And in that pride is an idolatry – a worship of my cultural identity as an absolute and ultimate thing, the final word that can be said about me and mine, and against you and yours. Immediately after the Babel story, though, we get introduced to Abraham. What’s God’s plan to heal the divided world? One nation, the people of Israel, the children of Abraham. But, isn’t that just another tribe to add to all the rest? Well, the plan is more interesting than that. Right from the beginning, God announces to Abraham that “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” The one nation is not established to be a blessing to themselves, but to be the channel through which all the peoples of the earth experience God’s blessing. They are to be separate
yelling at me ‘You are all the same. Get a job. You are all hopeless.’ As she was walking away yelling, it took me aback. It shocked me. “I know it is a common experience, but it had never happened to me before. I put it on Facebook and my friends replied: “Expect it won’t be the last time. You’re lucky it has not happened before.’” Scales believes racists simply lack education, and have had their views formed by TV news and newspapers, as well as by a generation of people who are ignorant.
In that pride is an idolatry – a worship of my cultural identity.”
and different from the nations that surround them, but there’s not a sense of deserved superiority that goes along with it. Even at that point they are to be aware that they are made by the grace of God, called out of Egypt where they were nothing but slaves. This is then the huge theological dilemma that comes to a head in the New Testament. How can the God of the universe have favourites? If he is the God who made all people in his image, then why is there a chosen people among these peoples? Doesn’t that just make him like the tribal deities of the pagan gods? The remarkable response to that in the story of the Bible is Jesus Christ. He’s the true-blue Israelite, the one who will “save his people from their sins”. His mission seems pretty nationalistic, and his disciples seem to read him
“Australians need to do Aboriginal studies - cultural awareness training - both at primary and at high school.” “Racism is alive and well and thriving in Australia. ‘Very sad to think people don’t like you just because of the colour of your skin! We all are the same but with a different culture and language. The same blood colour runs through all of us. God created us all in his image. Pray for us, as we battle this issue and pray for them, for God to reveal to them that we are human beings, too.” that way. But if we carefully listen to him, we hear him preparing the way for the globalisation of the gospel message. There’s that intriguing encounter with the Syro-Phoenecian woman, a Gentile, whose daughter has an unclean spirit. As Mark records the story: “She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. He said to her, ‘Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.’ But she answered him, ‘Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.’ Then he said to her, ‘For saying that, you may go – the demon has left your daughter.’” Is Jesus being just a bit xenophobic here in his saying, the Israelites are the “children”, and the Gentiles the “dogs”? But throughout his ministry, Jesus shows us that the grace of God is coming through him not just to Israel but to the nations. The woman’s tale, then, is a testimony to Israel about their privileged position. She takes nothing for granted, which is exactly the way to receive God’s blessing. And, thus, it is a fundamental plank of Christianity that all the nations are called by the gospel of Jesus Christ. And
Benedictine monk – an “evangelical Catholic” who has helped so many deal with brokenness. Nouwen famously wrote in that book about the Christian life as voluntary “downward social mobility”. We then get to hear the lyric: This is love Bending skies to heal the broken The most moving part of the movie was not when the Hillsong UNITED team sang their songs – and most of the movie is songs – but when their music is taken up by anonymous others. A Hillsong classic, Mighty to Save, is sung by small groups from a bewildering array of countries. The Hillsong version of Amazing Grace is overwhelmed by the audience at the big Los Angeles concert that is the movie’s centrepiece. Christianity’s strongest movements have always been accompanied by song. The best bit of this movie is that it shows many, many people want to sing about Jesus. That gladdened my heart.
remarkably, what we get is not the reversal of the Tower of Babel – the making of a new mono-cultural, mono-racial church, but the declaration of a miraculous unity amidst diversity. As the people of God, then, the church is not like an empire or a colonial power that imposes its culture on others by subduing them. The gospel of Jesus Christ is at once an invitation and a challenge to all cultures. The kingdom of God contains many kingdoms, and it leaves none of them unchanged. We need to think about this as Christians. The kingdom of God doesn’t tell us to take off our Australian flag T-shirts at the door. But it tells us two essential realities we have to grasp. The first of these is that “Australianness” is not unchangeable, nor is it ultimate, nor is it perfect. As I bring it into church, I subject it to the lordship of Jesus Christ. Second: it tells us not to fear others, but to welcome them. Isn’t this what Christ himself did? I am writing this the day after Senator Pauline Hanson’s maiden speech in our Australian parliament. Hanson complained that we were being “swamped by Muslims”, just as she said 20 years ago, we were being “swamped by Asians”. Here is a symptom of the old irrational fear of foreigners in Australia: a fear that is borne of idolatry of our own culture, and a lack of an ability to see the image of God in others. There is nothing Christian about Hansonism; and it’s appalling that we can find instances of it in churches. We in the churches of Australia, as a matter of biblical imperative, have to live out a different way of living together with others. Jesus Christ himself calls us to it. As a white guy, what am I to do? Well, I reckon the first thing I need to do is shut up and listen to what it is like to be an Indigenous person or a non-Anglo Australian in and out of the church. That’s my path to repentance. Michael Jensen is the rector of St Mark’s Anglican Church in Sydney and the author of several books.
Why I love “thou shalt not”
John Dickson is positive about a negative
Wikipedia / Quadell
People often say that the negative form of the Bible’s instructions (“thou shalt not”) implies a negative approach to life and ethics, as if it is all about denying what is good in the world. I reckon the opposite is the case. It’s true that the famous Ten Commandments, for example, use the Hebrew particle lo (“no/not”) thirteen times. That’s a lot of NOs! And an atheist friend recently on social media thought he had a strong case when he insisted that being told what not to do all the time is the antithesis of freedom. In human relationships, being told constantly what you are not to do, or what you should not have done, can be unhealthy. The French atheist Michel Onfray relentlessly attacks religion on just this point: that religion is the great naysayer of the world. The section headings of chapter 1 of his Atheist Manifesto say it all: “Monotheism’s somber vision,” “Down with intelligence,” “Litany of taboos,” and so on. In a climactic passage on the negativity of religion, he declares with all the certainty of a preacher: Religion proceeds from the death wish. That strange dark force in the depths of our being works toward the destruction of what is. Wherever life begins to move, expand, vibrate, a countercurrent sets in, tending to arrest the newborn movement and immobilize its ebb and flow. As soon as life fights its way out of the tunnel, death is there, ready to start the clock ticking – that is its function, its modus operandi – and to collapse all life’s hopes and plans ... Fired by the same inborn death drive, the three monotheisms share a series of identical forms
The Fall of Man by Lucas Cranach from the 16th century, with the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. of aversion: hatred of reason and intelligence; hatred of freedom; hatred of all books in the name of one book alone; hatred of sexuality, women, and pleasure; hatred of the feminine; hatred of the body, of desires, of drives. (Michel Onfray, The Atheist Manifesto, Arcade Publishing, 2005, p. 67) It is stirring stuff, and I bet it sounds even stronger in the French original. But is it fair? Does the negative formulation of biblical commandments like “Thou shalt not murder, steal, etc.” provide a linguistic window into a negative approach to life? The answer is: no way! We must not confuse an ethical stance with sentence grammar. The Ten Commandments and other commands are stated negatively precisely because
the biblical approach to life is so positive. A few things are forbidden, because pretty much everything else is there to be enjoyed. Imagine if it were otherwise. Imagine if the commandments sought to itemise, with positive sentence grammar, all the things we were in fact allowed to do. It would fill a library with endless tomes on Things Permitted at Home, Activities Tolerated at Work, Foods You May Enjoy, Outings Acceptable for Families, Behaviour Endorsed for Days Off, and on and on it would go until every conceivable human exploit was mandated by divine law. By contrast, the “thou shalt nots” of Moses and Jesus may carry the grammar of negation but they are imbued with a spirit
of pure freedom. “The truth is,” wrote the great British thinker G.K. Chesterton, “that the curtness of the Commandments is an evidence, not of the gloom and narrowness of a religion, but, on the contrary, of its liberality and humanity.” How so? Chesterton answers: “It is shorter to state the things forbidden than the things permitted; precisely because most things are permitted, and only a few things are forbidden.” (The Complete Works of G K Chesterton, Ignatius Press, 1989, 32:18) The very first commandment narrated in the Bible conveys the very same logic. In the beautiful language of Genesis 2, the Lord sends Adam into the Garden of Eden with the freedom to explore everything in God’s good world, except one item:
The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” (Genesis 2:15-17) Michel Onfray exploits this passage in an attempt to prove that the Bible opposes knowledge: “You can do anything in this magnificent Garden,” he says in a caricature of God’s command, “except become intelligent”. (The Atheist Manifesto, p. 68) But the “knowledge of good and evil” in this passage has nothing to do with comprehending the world. This tree represents the determination of good and evil. The decision to eat of this tree is the decision of mankind to define right and wrong without reference to the creator. In any case, my main point is simpler. There was a single prohibition in the garden precisely because everything else was there to be enjoyed. The negative grammar of the Bible’s commandments is a function of the Bible’s liberality. So long as we avoid diminishing our maker, denigrating and deceiving our neighbours, and so on, life is there to be enjoyed. Indeed, it is probably truer to say that it is only by avoiding these things that life can truly be enjoyed. God’s negations, his thou shalt nots, are like the orange flags marking the rough patches on a ski slope. When I’m looking down my beloved Mount Perisher, I don’t want to be directed to the 50 possible routes I could take down the slope. I just want to know the two or three places I should avoid, so I can get on with the freedom and joy of skiing the mountain. The Nos of the Bible remind us where it is not safe to tread, so that we can get on with enjoying life in God’s good world. Viewed this way, even the most negatively phrased demand in Scripture is a marker of freedom. Dr John Dickson is an author and historian and is the Founding Director of the Centre for Public Christianity. This article is an edited excerpt from his new book, A Doubter’s Guide to the Ten Commandments: How, for Better or Worse, our Ideas about the Good Life Come from Moses and Jesus (Zondervan, 2016), available at Koorong Books.
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Tim Costello on being tempted by politics to leave his calling What does a Christian calling look like? It is not a matter of chance; it is a matter of choice, but sometimes the path to our vocational destination is not a straight one. We can sometimes be distracted; and start to head down the wrong road. In my new book Faith, I tell the story of once being tempted to leave my own God-given vocation. After my time as Mayor of St Kilda in the early 1990s, I didn’t want to go back to the small world of being a minister in a local church. I imagined having a larger sphere of influence. And then came the opportunity that seemed to be the right call at the right time. The Australian Democrats offered me a Senate seat in the Federal Parliament as a casual vacancy. I wouldn’t even have to go to an election. From time to time, I’d been
tempted with the idea of working in politics and now it was being offered to me on a plate. What could possibly be wrong with that? Before my political career was to be publically announced, I addressed a Christian rally on Easter Sunday on the steps of State Parliament. There were thousands of people in the crowd but, in my head, I’d already left being a minister and had emotionally deserted this mob. Then, the person who introduced me to this mob pierced my bubble. He said: “Tim, we are proud of your faith and that you belong to us.” I looked down at the crowd of smiling and nodding heads and thought: “But you don’t realise that I am out of here”. The man continued: “We pray for you; you are our voice.” Tears welled up in my eyes. These people were my mob. Hadn’t I set out on this vocation of Christian ministry with the affirmation of people like them? I look back on this now as a crossroads. It was the moment I realised that politics was my temptation but not my vocation. I turned down the offer of the Senate seat. Our deepest calling is to grow into our own authentic selfhood, whether or not it conforms to some grandiose image of who we think we should be. We are deceived if we do not live for something beyond ourselves. We must sometimes be reawakened to answer the unique call each of us has in this grand privilege called life.
Daniel and the Cat Den
Letters Doing good while we live Dear Eternity Editor, First up, a thank-you for the wonderful service that Eternity provides. This is a request to re-consider Greg Clarke’s piece about Socrates in the September 2016 issue. There may be value in examining other lives and other mysteries as Greg focuses on, but the simplest reading of this Socratic wisdom is where we should start (and probably remain) – and it is quite godly and biblical. The great worth is in each of us examining our own life. That’s the
starting point for all conviction, repentance, sanctification – honest appraisal and reflection upon our state, thoughts, words and actions (or inactions). Life is temporary and frail – it is delusional not to stare that in the face. Ecclesiastes suggests we should aim to be happy and do good while we live. Socrates tells us it is not living that matters (it is unavoidably temporary, meaningless, vanity etc.) but living rightly. Doing good – godly good – while we can is the point. And examining where the bad might be is the starting point, starting with the self. Geoff Fletcher
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As the Royal Commission into the Institutional response to child sexual abuse concludes its hearings, Eternity publishes an amazing story of how reading the Bible transformed the life of Jane Dowling. Her account, Child, Arise!, was an appropriate winner of this year’s Australian Christian Book of the Year. But in pointing towards hope, Eternity does not wish to diminish the experience of other survivors. Nearly every kind of Christian can find stories, on the Royal Commission website, of how their particular type of church has let people down badly. They make challenging but salutary reading. Eternity urges readers to search out these stories. It is time to thank the loyal readers who have donated to the Eternity appeal featured in the August paper. Once again, I am overwhelmed by your willingness to support this paper. If you’d like to join in, eternitydonations.org.au or 1300 242 537 is the place to help. John Sandeman
When will same-sex marriage be incompatible with human rights? Mark Fowler on the need to defend religious freedom
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In September, both Bill Shorten and Adam Bandt tabled samesex marriage bills in Parliament. Both those bills purport to protect the religious freedom of religious ministers, but exclude those of celebrants or providers of goods or services. Does that accord with our international obligations? If the plebiscite is held, and if it is successful, this question is also relevant to any legislation subsequently proposed to enact same-sex marriage into law. Movers of bills are required to provide a statement of compatibility with human rights. These are then reviewed by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights (PJCHR), whose mandate is to “examine bills … for compatibility with human rights” as defined under seven international instruments, each of which Australia has ratified. These instruments include the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The ICCPR enshrines two rights that are prima facie relevant to this discussion. The first is equality, in Article 26. The second is the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion or belief, in Article 18. That freedom can be subject to limitations “prescribed by law and … necessary to protect public safety, order, health, or morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.” To be limited, one’s right to religious freedom must then, for our current purposes, conflict with a countervailing right. If there is no such opposing right, there is no ground for limiting religious
A dissenting report about an earlier same-sex marriage bill claimed it breached “religious freedom”. freedom. The question is, then: is there a right to equality in respect of “marriage”, in international human rights law? The PJCHR has previously considered such questions in its analysis of the Enstch Cross-Party Same Sex Marriage Bill 2015. Other than a few differences pertaining to retrospectivity, both the Shorten and Bandt Bills are identical to the Entsch Cross-Party Bill of 2015. The statements of compatibility on religious freedom and equality provided by Shorten and Bandt are verbatim identical to that provided by Entsch. Three Coalition members of the PJCHR lodged a dissenting report on the Enstch Bill. Citing Joslin v New Zealand, a 1999 View of the UN Human Rights Committee, they concluded: “Under the ICCPR, the UN Human Rights Committee has held that no discrimination
can arise under Article … 26 of the ICCPR in relation to samesex marriage, on the basis that [Article 23 of] the ICCPR defines marriage to include persons of the opposite sex … As there is no right to same-sex marriage … Article 18(3) cannot be enlivened to curtail the right to manifest freedom of religion or beliefs (whether of ministers of religion, celebrants or service suppliers).” They thus reached the following conclusion: “The Bill’s violation of protections for religious freedoms of religious bodies and their members breaches religious freedom as understood in international law.” These are strident claims. They seem counter-intuitive. The conventional wisdom is that human rights are the province of the progressive. However, the implications of the claims are wide-ranging. The dissenting
report argued that “marriage” is a defined criteria based upon historical and cultural constructs. There is not then a question of equality: “The inability of same-sex couples to marry does not follow from a differential treatment of same-sex couples, or an exclusion or restriction, but from the inherent nature of the institution of marriage recognized by Article 23, paragraph 2, itself.” They cite the UN Human Rights Committee for this proposition: “not every differentiation of treatment will constitute discrimination”. Has international human rights law changed since Joslin’s case in 1999, as is asserted by the Australian Human Rights Commission’s Position Paper on Marriage Equality? If we look to European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) jurisprudence, it would appear not. In decisions handed
down in 2010, July 2014, July 2015 and June 2016, the ECHR also concluded the European Convention on Human Rights does not impose an obligation to grant same-sex couples access to marriage. The right to equality in “legal recognition and protection of their relationship” was met by forms of recognition not including marriage. Consequently, the prohibition on discrimination under Article 14 of the Convention was not breached. Given their equivalence, the Shorten and Bandt Bills will be subjected to the same critique. All three Bills purport to only protect the religious freedom of ministers of religion. The dissenting report questioned the ability of even that protection to acquit its stated intention. The protection is based on the rites and customs of the denomination, not the conscience of the individual minister. There is, therefore, a question as to whether ministers of religion with a traditional view of marriage within bodies that permit solemnisation of same-sex marriage will be able to act on their conscience. Similar concerns have been raised by Professor Rex Ahdar in relation to the protections to ministers in New Zealand. Former Australian High Court Chief Justice Mason and Justice Brennan called religious freedom “the paradigm freedom of conscience [and] the essence of a free society”. Professor Michael McConnell has argued that it is the historical propensity of religious conviction to challenge state totalitarianism that renders religious freedom the ultimate test of a society’s willingness to recognise the liberty of the individual, and, we might add, their associational expressions. Religious freedoms are a litmus test for the strength of our democracy. The claims of the dissenting PJCHR members warrant detailed consideration. Mark Fowler is a lawyer and doctoral candidate in law at the University of Queensland. He was a member of the Queensland Law Society Human Rights Working Group convened to advise the QLS Council on a proposed Queensland human rights charter. His views do not represent those of the QLS.
Insults, trolling and abominations of the heart
Greg Clarke “You are such a…” “I hope you…” “Look at her, she…” I’m guessing that all of these phrases have been finished off by you, dear reader, with insults, curses and condemnations from time to time. I confess they have spilled from my mouth, too, but even more frequently lounged around in the dens of my mind, without challenge or rebuke. “You are such a pig…I hope you get what you deserve…Look at her, she thinks she’s God’s gift…” I’m sure it’s not just me, is it? And I feel like it is more evident than ever in our digital world. People feel entitled to abuse others on social media; politicians, even candidates for top office, seem to delight in slander, baiting and personal attacks. Even some leading Christian commentators are drawn into doing it. It is hard to swim against the tide of maliciousness.
There is a new willingness to say ‘whatever you feel like’ — and what we feel like is pretty rotten. Our internal conversations are often the kinds of dialogue we would expect in a murder drama, or a brutal stand-up comedy session… or in parliament. But we, lovely Christians that we are, more often keep them to ourselves, just letting our own minds stew in contempt, jealousy, rage and judgment. The great barrier between our brain and our mouths might save the world from an even greater deluge of disdain, but the work of degradation still takes place — in our own mental playgrounds. It can be very ugly. I remember one friend telling us years ago that when she first met my wife, she was intending to hate her, and was annoyed when it turned out that Amelia was very likeable after all. Our friend (bless her) was frustrated that her internal bitterness and nastiness was being threatened by real loveliness! How dare you disrupt my inner monologue of hate! I feed on those feelings! And I’ve noticed just how often my own mental monologue is something like this: “Can you believe what this idiot is saying? I’ll just have to grin and pretend I’m OK with it. What a goose! Why did God even bother creating this moron?” Or is it just me?!
The problem is that God takes this kind of thing very seriously. In Matthew 5:22, Jesus ups the stakes around our inner lives by teaching that anyone who calls a person a fool (‘raca’) is, in fact, in danger of judgment (he names the fires of hell, in case ‘danger of judgment’ sounds a bit soft!). The link between actions, words, thoughts and feelings is very real for Christians, and there’s no hiding behind the privacy of your own skull. Christianity is a religion of external and internal practice. It’s not enough for a follower of Christ simply to act well and speak well; our God asks us to renew our minds. “Be transformed by the renewal of your mind,” Paul teaches. Various proverbs tell us (horrifyingly) that God knows our innermost thoughts. In a confronting series of wise insights, we are told things like this: “Whoever hates disguises himself with his lips and harbors deceit in his heart; when he speaks graciously, believe him not, for there are seven abominations in his heart.” (Proverbs 26:24-25) This kind of internal scrutiny is a blessing and a burden. It’s a
blessing because it indicates just how profoundly God cares for us. He cares not just about how we behave, lt but about how era g / ay we think and ab x i P feel! He’s a God of the heart, not just the hands and feet. His love runs that deep. But knowing this is also a burden. It can make us feel so unworthy, as the envy, condescension and anger rise. So part of the work of being a Christian is to attend to what is happening on the inside. But be encouraged, because this is the part of us that is being renewed and made like Christ. I t’s not our bodies that are getting the work over (despite all our trips to the gym); it is our inner beings, our secret places. So the work you do here will last for eternity. As Paul tells us, “We do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.” (2 Corinthians 4:16) Now, if this is taking place, it should make a difference to what we are like on the outside, too, as “the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” (Matthew 12:34) This means that all the insults,
judgments and belittlement that we hear from each other are shocking evidence that the heartand-mind work has a long way to go. All our passive-aggressive Facebook remarks, our whispered gossip to a friend over lunch, our angry outbursts to our spouses when we don’t get exactly what we want — all signs that there is still work to be done on the inside. In the social arena, Christians would do well to pause and reflect on how we are talking about matters such as same-sex marriage, the US Presidential candidates, our own politicians, our own church leaders, our Twitter ‘community’, our celebrities and sports stars. Is our language reflecting hearts transformed by the love and mercy of Christ? Or are we still exhibiting abominations of the heart? It’s the inner life that matters, and we see that life on display particularly in the way we talk about others. As Jesus said, if you are calling someone a fool, it’s like you are a murderer. If you burst out with insults online, take a spiritual assessment of yourself and see what you think is going on. Because, according to Scripture, the flames of judgment are licking at our wagging tongues and typing fingers. Greg Clarke is CEO of Bible Society Australia.
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