Can you really condemn racism when your church is one color?

Can you really condemn racism when your church is one color?

In 2005 Australia had its own version of Charlottesville when race riots and mob violence broke out in the southern Sydney suburb of Cronulla. It happened on a hot Sunday in summer when around 5000 people gathered to protest the presence of Middle Easterners in their predominantly white beachside neighborhood. It began ominously with white Australians chanting that they wanted Middle Easterners, particularly those of Lebanese descent from a nearby suburb, out of their town and off their beaches. When a Middle Eastern man happened into the middle of the crowd he was surrounded and attacked. The police intervened and all hell broke loose. Other assaults and retaliatory attacks combusted across the southern parts of Sydney, resulting in 26 serious injuries, including two stabbings, and attacks on paramedics and police. A local man, Eiad Diyab was quoted as saying, “We knew always there was racism, but we never knew it was to this extent.” It was as shameful to Australia as Charlottesville has become for the USA. The Prime Minister John Howard condemned the violence, but refused to acknowledge racism was at the heart of it. “I do not accept there is underlying racism in this country,” Mr Howard said, “I have always taken a more optimistic view of the character of the Australian people.” Nonetheless, many other politicians, police, local

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It’s the white supremacists you can’t see that you’ve gotta worry about

It’s the white supremacists you can’t see that you’ve gotta worry about

Some years ago I was on a speaking tour in North Carolina. A local pastor was driving me to my various engagements, and one day he casually asked me, “What do you guys do about your black problem down there in Australia?” “Our black problem?” I enquired. “Oh, you mean our indigenous community? Oh, we’ve treated them shamefully…” “No, no,” he cut me off, “I don’t mean Aborigines. I mean African Americans. What do you do about them?” It possibly hadn’t occurred to him that any Africans who live in Australia wouldn’t be referred to as African Americans, but I wasn’t going to quibble at that stage. I already had an ominous feeling about this conversation. I informed him that Australia has a very small African community. “You’ve got no blacks down there?” he asked incredulously, “Wow. Do you want some?” I felt ill. This man was the pastor of a church. He wore a blue blazer with gold buttons. His hair was immaculately coiffed. He had a doctorate in Christian ministry. And he was a racist. When racists wear black shirts, helmets, and boots they’re easy to spot. When they cheer the former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan and raise their arms in Nazi salutes, you’re under no illusions about their beliefs. When they march through the University of

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It is morally wrong to possess nuclear weapons and Christians should say so

It is morally wrong to possess nuclear weapons and Christians should say so

“The existence of nuclear weapons in the world is a grave threat to peace and we need to abolish them.” ~ Archbishop Joseph Takami of Nagasaki   As the world teeters yet again on the precipice of nuclear war, it has astounded me to hear that one Christian leader has granted God’s blessing to Donald Trump to “take out” Kim Jong-Un. Whether this emboldened the US president to tweet that he was ready to rain down “fire and fury” on the North Korean leader we don’t know. But it raises the question for me about whether it is ever possible for the church to give its blessing to a policy of nuclear deterrence? I would say it is not. In fact, I would agree with scholars and leaders from across most Christian denominations, and many other religious traditions, in saying that nuclear weapons have no legitimate use for deterrence or in conflict, and it is wrong for any nation to possess them. In addition to their obvious danger, they pose an inherent moral contradiction. On the one hand, our faith affirms the ultimate value of each human life and indeed calls us to respect all life, while on the other nuclear weapons threaten indiscriminate death to massive numbers of people, including innocent non-combatants, as well as threatening the ecosystem. In fact,

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When faith is stealing a miracle based on a false assumption

When faith is stealing a miracle based on a false assumption

It’s tempting sometimes to fall into the habit of thinking that God only hears the prayers of those who have achieved some level of holiness above the average. Have you ever found yourself asking your pastor or priest to pray for something as if their prayers are likely to ring louder in the ears of God than yours? We’re taught, Jesus won’t hear your prayers if your motives are selfish. And, Jesus won’t answer you if you don’t believe the right things about him. Really? Because in the Bible we find Jesus not just answering, but honoring, the request of a woman made out of selfish motives and based on an entirely false assumption about him. The nameless woman’s story appears in all three synoptic gospels (Mark 5:25–34, Matthew 9:20–22, Luke 8:43–48) and it’s one of Jesus’ strangest and yet most touching miracles. In all three accounts, the healing of the bleeding woman is presented as an interruption to a larger story – Jesus raising Jairus’ daughter from the dead. Jairus, a synagogue leader has approached Jesus, asking him to heal his dying child, and the two of them, together with the disciples, are making their way through a dense crowd of onlookers and supplicants toward Jairus’ house. En route, the nameless woman approaches Jesus in secret, blending in with

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People from Somewhere vs People from Anywhere

People from Somewhere vs People from Anywhere

Are you a Somewhere or an Anywhere? Last years Brexit vote stunned many pundits and social commentators, who struggled to explain how it could have happened. But one of them, author David Goodhart has come up with an intriguing explanation for the deep divisions in British society. It’s all about “people from Somewhere versus people from Anywhere.” I think this fascinating idea helps make sense not only of Brexit, but the emergence of conservative nationalism in Europe and Australia, and the election of US President Donald Trump. Let me explain. In his book The Road to Somewhere: The Populist Revolt and the Future of Politics, David Goodhart says society can be broken into two large groups. First, there’s the Somewheres. These are people whose identity is shaped by a sense of place and attachment to a group. In Britain, they could be a Scottish farmer, a working-class Geordie, or a Cornish housewife. The equivalent in the US might be an Appalachian car mechanic or Oklahoman farmer or Alabaman home-schooler. They come from somewhere. They feel a deep attachment to their community, to a likeminded cohort, with a strong sense of where they’re from, sometimes with roots going back generations. According to Goodhart, Somewheres have an ascribed identity. That is, an identity ascribed by the community and the place to which they

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