Two Tales of Persecution

Two Tales of Persecution

Two high profile Christians fell foul of their critics this week. For one it meant the loss of his career as an international rugby player. For the other, it means up to seven years in a Chinese prison. One has been fired for continuing to post provocative messages about homosexuality on social media, even after being warned not to. The other may be imprisoned because of his work on behalf of the poor and disenfranchized. In both cases, commentators are referring to them as evidence of persecution against the Christian faith. Let’s look at each one separately:   CASE ONE: CHU YIU-MING For some years now, I’ve been telling the inspirational story of Rev Chu Yiu-ming, leader of Chai Wan Baptist Church in Hong Kong. Chu’s social conscience was pricked in 1989 when he was in a position to help ferry Chinese student protesters out of the country during the aftermath of the Tiananmen Square massacre. Since then he has preached a gospel that includes a commitment to human rights, dignity, and care for the poor. In 2013, Chu was one of several Hong Kong leaders who launched Occupy Central with Love and Peace, a mass movement of nonviolent civil disobedience on the streets of the city to protest the anti-democratic incursions of the Chinese government. Occupy Central brought the city

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Our male privilege is revealed by the things we DON’T think about

Our male privilege is revealed by the things we DON’T think about

I work with a great team at the Tinsley Institute, one of whom is the redoubtable Dr Karina Kreminski. I’ve known Karina for decades now and have worked alongside her for nearly five years. She’s formidable – highly skilled, an excellent communicator, a great researcher and writer, a deeply committed urban missionary. The other day she posted this quote on social media from the Nigerian novelist, Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche from her book, Dear Ijeawele: “We have a world full of women who are unable to exhale fully because they have for so long been conditioned to fold themselves into shapes to make themselves likeable.”   A world full of women. So all women feel this way? I was surprised. Not Karina, surely. She always gives me the impression of ease and confidence, not of one folding herself into shapes to impress others. So I commented on her post, asking whether she felt that way. Her reply was curt: “Of course!” Another woman chimed in, “Of course! There’s no woman who doesn’t feel that way.” And women kept commenting: “This is how we live.” “All women have felt that way.” “So poignant and so true. Brought tears to my eyes just reading it this morning.” Then one of my friends, a female Mennonite pastor from Pennsylvania, shared this: “Yes. Always self

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Outspoken people are so annoying

Outspoken people are so annoying

Recently, during the normally benign blather and cheesy product endorsements that make up the bulk of morning television, things really blew up when one chat-show panelist accused another of making racist remarks. Things were only made worse by the fact that the one being accused of racism was an older white woman known as the “queen of daytime TV,” and that her accuser was Yumi Stynes, a young woman of color. The Twittersphere and mainstream media blew up with all the usual angsty stuff about what actually comprises racism and lots of “how dare she say this or that”, etc. But one reaction caught my eye. It was penned by the former producer of the very show the altercation took place on. Robert McKnight was the executive producer of Studio 10 from 2013 until 2017, and in an extraordinary blog post he revealed that he would never allow Yumi Stynes on the show when he was in charge because she’s too opinionated. “Morning television is like having a cup of coffee with a friend,” he wrote, “viewers do not want to watch world war three erupt.”   That’s interesting because he doesn’t say he would never have Kerri Anne Kennerley, the aforemented queen of daytime television, on his show. No, he wouldn’t have Yumi Stynes on his show because you

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Lies they taught me in school about the ‘Brown People’ of this land

Lies they taught me in school about the ‘Brown People’ of this land

When I was in school in the 1960s we were all made to read a book entitled, The Dreamtime: Australian Aboriginal Myths in Paintings (1965). That book was dedicated “To the Brown People, who handed down these Dreamtime Myths.” Those “Brown People” — the original inhabitants of the nation of Australia — were presented to us as a simple, primitive, childlike people. Their stories were quaint. Their children were cute. They lived aesthetic lives as hunter-gatherers in the wild interior of our country. But more recently I’ve discovered that so much of what I was taught about the original inhabitants of this great land was based on misinformation or racism. Even today I’m still learning how limited my education was in my youth. Here are a series of myths you were probably also taught. It’s time to bury them for good.   MYTH 1: THERE IS ONLY ONE ABORIGINAL CULTURE That book I mentioned earlier, The Dreamtime, was written by anthropologist Charles Mountford and illustrated with the surrealist paintings of artist Ainslie Roberts. It was a collection of origin stories, a bit like Kipling’s Just So Stories, only set in Australia. But neither Mountford nor Roberts were Aboriginal people. In fact, Roberts was British. And they retold the Aboriginal myths as over-simplified, popularised, and radically contracted versions of the original stories.

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Do we really want to conserve all the values of that so-called “Christian era”?

Do we really want to conserve all the values of that so-called “Christian era”?

My father was part of what is referred to as the Greatest Generation. They were the guys who fought the Second World War, defeated the Nazis and the Japanese, and returned to build the booming post-war economy. They built family homes in the suburbs and bought nice cars and refrigerators and television sets. They were the churchgoing generation who attended church picnics and potluck suppers, and whose children crowded Sunday schools and vacation Bible camps. In Australia, where I grew up, church attendance in the 1950s approached 50% of the population. In the US, it was well over 60%. When Billy Graham first visited our shores in 1959, my father’s generation turned out in droves to hear him preach. Between his 14 meetings across ten cities, around 3 million people heard his message. And that’s out of a total population of just over 10 million. More than 143,000 people attended his Melbourne Cricket Ground rally alone. People reported that alcohol consumption dropped in 1960-61, and that the crime rate slowed during that period. Less children were born to unmarried women, businesses reported a spike in the repayment of bad debts, enrolments in Bible Colleges went through the roof. Some have called it a revival. In fact, those days are considered such a golden era for religion, I regularly hear people calling

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And a little old lady shall lead them

And a little old lady shall lead them

Recently I’ve been enjoying doing a bit of research into the history and role of the church in New Zealand. The impression I had was that the Kiwi church was dominated by large Pentecostal churches and Brethren communities engaged in political activism around conservative family values. All of which is fine, but I’ve discovered the Christian church in New Zealand has a long and rich history of engagement in big issues like nation building, racial reconciliation, social activism and evangelism. An Anglican missionary did the primary work in understanding the vocabulary and grammar of the Māori language. And another Anglican missionary translated the Treaty of Waitangi, New Zealand’s primary founding document, into that language, so it could be signed by Britain and over 500 tribal chiefs in 1840. In a previous blog post I retold the story of that first man, the missionary, linguist and arms dealer, Thomas Kendall. In another post I looked at the inspirational story of the Māori prophet, chief and Christian leader in passive resistance, Te Whiti. In this, my third attempt to dip my toe into the Christian history of New Zealand, I want to focus on a woman to whom the title Mother of the Nation was bestowed — Whina Cooper. Born Hōhepine Te Wake in 1895, Whina was raised in a devout Catholic

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Don’t call them toxic, call them “sociopathic baby men”

Don’t call them toxic, call them “sociopathic baby men”

Urban Dictionary: Baby Man A fully grown man that by all appearances looks normal. However, once you get to know him, you realize he’s a big baby trapped in a man’s body.   A couple of weeks ago I was flicking channels in a hotel room when I came upon Tucker Carlson from Fox News berating the idea of toxic masculinity. Bizarrely, the catalyst for his rant were the on-stage remarks of singer John Mayer, but that’s not exactly important here (and it would take too long to explain Carlson’s enormous leaps of logic that night). Carlson, who appears to have no idea what the phrase toxic masculinity means, referred to it as a “made-up dumb feminist term” and the product of a “bunch of ludicrous low-IQ academics making it up as they go along.” His guest that night, political commentator Anushay Hossain, did her best to explain what toxic masculinity means (“Toxic masculinity is actually about men being violent towards women”) but Carlson wasn’t having any of it. He berated and belittled Hossain, he obfuscated and talked over her. In other words, he behaved like a typical Fox News evening presenter. For people like Tucker Carlson, any negative reference to masculinity is anathema. Furious at what he sees as anti-male feminism, Carlson raged ignorantly, “I object to the term. Is there such a thing as

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Franklin Graham’s strange inconsistency on teen sexual sin

Franklin Graham’s strange inconsistency on teen sexual sin

Either your sexual behavior as a teenager matters or it doesn’t. After myriad messages from the sexual purity movement telling teens not to practice pre-marital sex, we now hear that Franklin Graham thinks your behavior as a teenager isn’t relevant to your character in adulthood. Commenting on the recent allegations of sexual assault made against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh when he was a teenager, Mr Graham said, “There’s a lot of things that I’ve done when I was a teenager that I certainly am ashamed of and not proud of. People are up in arms over this like ‘oh, this is such a disaster.’ You’re talking about two teenagers 40 years ago. That has nothing to do with what we’re talking about today about this man being a judge on the Supreme court.” Remember, Franklin Graham also defended Judge Roy Moore, a man accused of sexual misconduct against nine women when they were teenagers, by saying he was “a courageous man… willing to stand for God’s moral laws.” And this is the same Franklin Graham whose own denomination founded True Love Waits, a ministry for promoting sexual abstinence outside of marriage for teenagers and college students. TLW is sponsored by LifeWay Christian Resources. TLW tells teens that if they signed an abstinence pledge and followed the biblical model of

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What would Newbigin have said if he’d been invited to that White House dinner?

What would Newbigin have said if he’d been invited to that White House dinner?

Last week, President Donald Trump hosted a White House reception for 100 Evangelical leaders, including such figures as Paula White, Franklin Graham, Jerry Falwell Jr., Darrell Scott, Robert Jeffress, Eric Metaxas, Ralph Reed, and Tony Perkins. The president was lavish in his praise for those leaders who had supported his presidency. And he was equally lavish in his self-praise: “We’re here this evening to celebrate America’s heritage of faith, family, and freedom. As you know, in recent years, the government tried to undermine religious freedom. But the attacks on communities of faith are over. … The support you’ve given me has been incredible. But I really don’t feel guilty because I have given you a lot back, just about everything I promised. And as one of our great pastors just said, ‘Actually, you’ve given us much more, sir, than you promised.’ And I think that’s true, in many respects.” It seems the Evangelical leaders present thought it was true too. During the dinner, Florida pastor and Trump’s “closest spiritual adviser” Paula White presented the president with a Bible, “signed by over a hundred Christians, Evangelicals that love you, pray for you,” and inscribed with the following message: “First Lady and President, you are in our prayers always. Thank you for your courageous and bold stand for religious liberty, and for

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They’re fiddling while young lives burn

They’re fiddling while young lives burn

To fiddle while Rome burns (idiomatic) To neglect helping when one’s time is needed most; to ignore the major problem at hand (whilst doing something less important); to be idle, inactive, or uninterested in a time of great need.   The Emperor Nero certainly did not play the fiddle during the great fire that ravaged Rome for a week in July, 64 A.D., destroying 70 percent of the city and leaving half its population homeless. Not that it was beyond him to be so insensitive, but because the fiddle, or any instrument like it, wasn’t invented until the 11th century. He probably sang instead. The posturing Nero fancied himself as something of an ancient rockstar. He loved performing, and craved recognition in the musical world so much he launched his own singing competitions (which he won himself, of course). So when Rome went up in flames, even though he threw open his gardens and public buildings to the homeless and brought in grain from the neighboring towns, all anyone remembered was what Tacitus reported: “…he had mounted his private stage, and, typifying the ills of the present by the calamities of the past, had sung the Destruction of Troy.” Can you picture it? The injured and dispossessed survivors of the firestorm who took refuge in the imperial gardens, having lost everything

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Let’s be freed from our obsession with the bad president

Let’s be freed from our obsession with the bad president

Let’s get a little perspective, people. I’m just getting so tired of all the ire and high dudgeon. It’s exhausting. The anti-Trump outrage is at fever pitch at the moment and it’s making my ears ring. The fury and the intensity of the attacks on Donald Trump are becoming so frenzied I fear we’re all starting to lose perspective. And I say that as someone who has been more than willing to criticize the President.   In the 90s it was the Republicans who were in full outrage mode. Remember when Kenneth Starr was the Robert Mueller of the Clinton administration? The news cycle was dominated by Whitewater, the firing of White House travel agents, the alleged misuse of FBI files, and the sexual harassment lawsuit filed by Paula Jones. And then along came Monica! The anti-Clinton rhetoric was venomous and relentless, and lasted for years. But by 2004, it was the Democrats turn. Michael Moore released his incendiary film Fahrenheit 911 alleging presidential incompetence by George W Bush for his response to the September 11 attacks and the hastily cobbled together Coalition of the Willing’s invasion of Iraq. And then the so-called evidence for there being WMDs in Iraq all came to nothing. The attacks on Mr Bush’s character and intelligence were unending. The critics claimed he was surrounded by

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Don’t let policymakers tell you we don’t care about the poor

Don’t let policymakers tell you we don’t care about the poor

“It’s an 80-percent issue, people want to close down the borders.” – Deputy White House press secretary Hogan Gidley   “80 percent of Australians do not support any further spending on foreign aid.” – Australian minister for international development and the Pacific, Concetta Fierravanti-Wells   Sometimes, when you read the studies into attitudes toward the most needy in our world you wonder where all this heartlessness has come from. We’re told people want DACA dismantled and immigrants deported. We’re told people want a great big wall on America’s southern border. We’re told Australians want refugees incarcerated on Pacific islands, and cuts to foreign aid. When did everyone get so stingy?   LIES, DAMNED LIES AND STATISTICS Relying on a Lowy Institute poll that said 80% of Australians supported reductions in overseas aid, the Australian federal government recently did just that. They lowered the level of foreign aid in the national budget. In fact, the minister responsible for international development quoted the poll itself to justify the cuts. Which must have made the folks at the Lowy Institute a bit uncomfortable. Being cited while they take money away from the neediest people in South East Asia and the Pacific wouldn’t sit well with me either. So they decided to dig a bit further. And what they found surprised them. Yes, it’s

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