On this miserable rough-hewn block

On this miserable rough-hewn block

You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. (Mt 20:25)   It was abundantly clear from the US presidential campaign that Donald Trump is very close to his kids. Their affirmation of his nomination at the Republican convention was pretty impressive. And since his election they have joined him as part of a quasi-official inner circle. The President’s daughter Ivanka Trump was appointed as Assistant to the President in March, and her husband Jared Kushner is one of his Senior Advisors. And while Mr Trump’s sons Donald Jr and Eric don’t have official roles in the White House they do enjoy peculiar access to him, appearing occasionally in the front row of official presidential announcements. Hey, I’m not complaining about this. That’s just the way of the world. So what if Mr Trump appoints his kids to top positions? So did Robert Mugabe, Muammar Gaddafi, and Kim Il-sung. So did plenty of leaders of the Roman Empire, the Ottoman Empire, the British Empire and, well, just about every empire in history. So when, on the eve of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, two of his disciples, James and John, and their mother Salome, approached him asking for special status in the kingdom he was about to establish, they were

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One of the most powerful weapons of privilege is the refusal to listen

One of the most powerful weapons of privilege is the refusal to listen

In Australia same-sex marriage is still illegal. But the movement for marriage equality is on a roll. Buoyed by victories in similar countries like Great Britain, Ireland, the USA, Canada and New Zealand, they can smell imminent success, and they want no further debate. They want an act of parliament. Now! They believe they are on the side of history, so have no patience for hearing the case for traditional marriage any more. And this has led some of their more strident activists to try to silence conservative voices. They routinely refer to advocates of retaining traditional marriage as homophobes or bigots. They exert public pressure on businesses to sign on with the marriage equality movement. They cast aspersions on anyone for having had ties to conservative Christian organizations. They’re particularly aggressive in their attacks on the Australian Christian Lobby, who felt forced to gain permission to keep its board members’ names secret on the grounds of “public safety” after sustained abuse. All this has led many Christians to speak of the death of free speech and to refer to those who aren’t interested in their views on marriage equality as bullies. The Anglican archbishop of Sydney recently referred to the same-sex marriage campaign as “narrow-minded, freedom-restricting carping.” “People are beginning to wake up and take notice,” he continued. “They are

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Resurrection NOW!

Resurrection NOW!

“I will cry out like a woman in labor, I will gasp and pant,” declares Yahweh. Isaiah 42:14   It is the stunning announcement that God, groaning like a woman in labor, will soon give birth to new life. It’s an unexpected metaphor for God because in the ancient world no one was more vulnerable than a birthing mother. The instances of death during childbirth were high. Women gave birth in a standing, kneeling or squatting position (probably a combination of these as the birth progressed). In many accounts they are described as squatting or kneeling on brightly painted birthing bricks over a specially dug hole, or they sat on a birthing stool or chair. In the Roman world there were special birthing chairs with a U-shaped hole in the seat and supports for the feet and back. It is believed that well-to-do Jewish women in the later biblical period would have used these too. Like a vulnerable woman in the final stages of labor, God’s silence during Israel’s defeat and captivity had been taken for powerlessness. But God’s seeming absence wasn’t weakness. It was gestation. Now, Yahweh will cry out as if in labor, birthing a new future for them. In fact, while a woman might be at greater risk during labor, her apparent helplessness shouldn’t be taken as

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Mission is a lot like midwifery

Mission is a lot like midwifery

Joseph Campbell once said, “If you want to change the world, change the metaphor.” Maybe if you want to change the church you should change the metaphors you use to describe it too. You’re probably familiar with the church’s use of militaristic imagery to describe its role in the world. This has often been expressed in the vocabulary of aggression, conquest, crusade, advance parties, and beach-heads. Church leaders often see nothing incongruous in using the language of military campaigns to describe their role of sharing Jesus with the world. At a time when the dominant evangelical tone seems arrogant, angry, or afraid (or all three), maybe now more than ever we need a different lens by which to view the church. Maybe we need a more life-giving metaphor. Why not try this metaphor on for size: the church is a midwife to the delivery of the world God is birthing. Stay with me. Isaiah 42:14 refers to God groaning like a woman in labor. And in Numbers 11:12, as the Israelites complain of only having manna to eat in the wilderness, Moses says to God with an almost sarcastic inflection, “Did I give birth to these people? Did I bring them into the world? Why did you tell me to carry them in my arms like a mother carries a

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Maybe it’s time to drop the “Christian fiction” genre altogether

Maybe it’s time to drop the “Christian fiction” genre altogether

With all the hullabaloo about the film version of The Shack I find it amusing to read reviews questioning whether the film (and by extension, the book) teaches biblical truth. Twenty years ago, Christians had no problem suggesting that Neo in The Matrix was a Christ figure, and that popping that red pill to see how deep the rabbit hole goes was a metaphor for Christian conversion. Fifteen years ago, preachers were happy to pepper their sermons with references to the Lord of the Rings film series. And even though Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ was based in part on devotional works like the Friday of Sorrows and the reputed Marian apparitions attributed to Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich, Protestants happily hosted film nights and encouraged their members to bring their friends along to see it. So why is The Shack being viewed so suspiciously? Presumably because it’s been cursed with the classification as a “Christian novel” in a way that, say, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe wasn’t. C.S. Lewis was a devoted Christian and his Narnia books (and subsequent films) were embraced by Christians as presenting biblical themes, with Aslan becoming one of the most loved Christ figures in literature. But the Narnia series was never classified in a limited sense as “Christian fiction”. Likewise, novelist

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