All the World's a Stage...

Written by Anthony Douglas on Saturday, 13 October 2018.

Stage...and all the men and women merely players. Or so said Shakespeare in As You Like It, though he missed the opportunity to throw in another pun by referring to the seven ages of life as stages themselves. He was, however, recognising not just that we play roles in how we relate to one another, but that these roles inevitably change over time.

Sadly, he is too often right. Generation after generation, men and women appear content to simply walk through the different phases of their lives, with little thought given to whether there is a better path. The script is written, and we follow it slavishly.

But pause for a moment: how would things be different if we acknowledged that this world, this existence, is just that: a stage? And with the implication that it will pass through this stage into another?

The wise golfer doesn’t wear herself out over the first nine holes and keep nothing in reserve. The canny marathon runner doesn’t hit full pace until the finish line is in sight. The prudent investor bears in mind the return over the long term. If this world is a stage, it makes sense to live life in such a way that you’re set up for the world to come.

‘All the world’s a stage,’ said Jaques - and as a cynic, he went no further with his thought. He had the insight, but not the mettle to work past it. We all tread the boards of this world - and few of us are ever fully content with our role. Why not play this part as an audition for your next?

We Too

Written by Anthony Douglas on Saturday, 06 October 2018.

Twelve months ago, the New York press ran a story about the movie producer Harvey Weinstein, detailing his history of sexually abusing women in the entertainment industry. It started an avalanche, as day by day, men and women put up their hands and said ‘this happened to me too’. What’s become known as the #metoo movement has seen the shaming of both men and women, working in the arts, in politics, and in the media, from the US, from the UK, from Australia...and the list goes on. Just this week, the man who caused the cancellation of the Nobel Prize for Literature this year was jailed for rape.

It’s been a year for turning the tables. The powerful have been brought low, and the victims have at last been heard and believed. And it’s been a scandalous indictment of Western culture in particular, that for so long has looked the other way while so many have acted unconscionably.

MetooA good thing? Of course. And with human beings involved, we’ve made it evil as well. There has been an unseemly delight in condemning the guilty, and millions have proudly taken the side of the oppressed, partaking in the self-righteousness of the day. In fact, to not robe oneself in the shining armour of the white knight is seen as morally bankrupt; it is now considered immoral to refuse self-righteousness.

The lesson we should draw from the exposure of the sin of some is that this is what’s called a zero-sum game. For every #metoo victim, there is a #metoo victimiser. As sin abounds, so do the number of sinners. What should we make of this? As Jesus said, let him who is without sin cast the first stone. We are all guilty; what we need is his grace, not our smug sanctimony.

The Humble Truth

Written by Anthony Douglas on Saturday, 29 September 2018.

You may know a little about the state of Christianity in China. There are essentially two types of churches: those authorised by the state, and those that are not. State-authorised churches are required to promote a highly nationalistic version of Christianity, and the majority of Christians have found it impossible to do so if they are to remain faithful to the gospel. The result is a massive ‘underground’ church.

Staying mum on politics used to be sufficient to fly beneath the radar, but now if churches don’t push the Party line, they are facing all sorts of persecution. The government has required some to install CCTV cameras inside their church, so that services can be monitored remotely. In many cases, their building is simply demolished.

Tragically, the Pope recently cut a deal with the government that legitimised state intervention in Catholic churches, effectively abandoning millions of Chinese Catholics who continue to resist Caesar’s corruption of their faith. And Protestant believers have no real political allies to put external pressure on China either.

JinJin Mingri pastors one of the largest churches in the country. The government recently presented him with a bill for a quarter of a million dollars - the cost they incurred in destroying the church building. He sums it up this way: “Of course we’re scared, we’re in China - but we have Jesus.”

Pray for our millions of brothers and sisters, that they will remember this humble truth, and stand with our Saviour, as he stands firm by them.

A Grief Observed

Written by Anthony Douglas on Sunday, 23 September 2018.

Li Bai, having been banished from the Chinese capital in the 8th century, took up his pen and wrote:LiBai

Homeless, exiled, I climb Sin-Ping tower.
It is late on in the dying year,
The sun is declining in the sky
And the dark river runs gloomy and slow.

A cloud moves across the forests on the mountain;
Wild geese fly off down the river.
Up here I can see for ten thousand miles,
But I do not see the end of my sorrows.

It’s a brilliant work, dwelling on the sadness that he feels and how it pervades all his sense, before making its unexpected turn in the final line and twisting the knife in the reader’s heart. To be forever torn away from your home is a profound devastation.

As Christians, we too are away from our home, but our future is far more hopeful. Starting next week, we’re going to be digging deep into the radical alternative that the gospel provides - and how far from despair it takes us!

All Too Clear

Written by Anthony Douglas on Friday, 07 September 2018.

I’m writing from the Anglican Future Conference in Melbourne, where we’ve gathered to think about how to proclaim Christ with ‘truth and grace in an uncertain future.’ Though it rained as I reached the city, so there’s limits to the uncertainty...

That said, it is true that our society continues to change at an ever-increasing pace, and the foundations that were so solid a decade or two ago are not merely weakened, but in many cases washed away. It’s very easy to feel swamped by the forces that seek to repress the gospel, whether explicitly or just by accident.

Looking UpSo it was encouraging to be pointed to 2 Chronicles 20, where poor Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, receives the news that a massive horde has already invaded his territory and is coming for him. He has no chance at matching them, and he is terrified. He turns to God instinctively, trusting in him completely, and God delivers him in extraordinary circumstances. God was with his people, no matter how many surrounded them.

In the same way, Jesus was afraid on that last night in Gethsemane, but he too looked to God for rescue. Although he was surrounded by his enemies, and deserted by his friends, God did not leave him in the grave, but delivered him from death. God was with his Son.

And so we too can have confidence, no matter how hostile our culture appears. Be clear-sighted about the threats, and clear-sighted about the saviour: “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you.” (2 Chronicles 20:12)

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