No News Good News?

Written by Anthony Douglas on Saturday, 22 October 2016.

Blank NewspaperWe are confused about what’s new. There’s a long-running magazine that claims to be a New Idea, although it’s been in circulation since 1902, and certainly seems to have run out of new ideas some time ago.

Nevertheless, we hear the term ‘new’ positively. A new flavour must be worth trying; a new smartphone is bound to be an improvement on last year’s version. Because we are wedded to the assumption of progress, new always means better.

And of course, the opposite is also held to be true. Old-fashioned is not a compliment. Indeed, just the idea of looking ‘old’ is a source of fear for many, and we cannot calculate the time and money spent on trying to deny the passage of time.

As a result, we often don’t just forget that the past can be exactly what we need, we actively run from it. Our society, for example, is hopelessly and totally confused about sexuality, obsessed with proclaiming our new understanding of it, and determined to flaunt our new-found freedom. The corresponding dirty word is ‘puritanical’ - though if we listened to the godly wisdom of the Puritans we’d do far better.

Whatever we do, we don’t want to get left behind. We would look backwards. Like we were stuck in the past. And sometimes that’s true, but every now and then, perhaps our world would do well to consider why they call them ‘the good old days’...

Accepted Wisdom?

Written by Anthony Douglas on Friday, 14 October 2016.

CoyoteThe other day I came across a list of the laws of cartoon physics. You’ve probably observed them in action: for example, if a character runs off a cliff, they will not fall until after they’ve had a chance to look down at the eye-wateringly large drop. If they run through a wall, they’ll leave a precise silhouette of themselves cut out of the wall after they’re gone. You get the idea. It’s the rules of the game in Cartoon World.

Sadly, it’s not all that different in Cartoon Religion World. That’s the place where you’ll find that all the characters are Christian (because it’s not yet socially acceptable to mock other faiths with the same glee). Where everyone believes in an ‘invisible sky daddy’. Where the purpose of life is to work out new ways in which to avoid having any fun. Where the church is ever-shrinking to irrelevancy, but still manages to retain greater wealth than El Dorado by dodging more tax than it actually gains in income.

In the real world, of course, Jesus was neither invisible nor altitudinally-challenged, and hardly dispensed the items on everyone’s wish list. And the Christian life is so attractive to so many because it offers such profound joy, not misery. And the church is growing, despite being the most charitable institution on the planet.

Why do people persist in believing the fairy stories of Cartoon Religion World? I’m sure there’s many reasons. Perhaps the best solution is to make sure that we are out there, in the real world, in all three of our dimensions!

Only One Letter

Written by Anthony Douglas on Saturday, 01 October 2016.

It’s a nice feeling, when you think you’re on track. Things are going swimmingly, you’re headed in the right direction. You give yourself a pat on the back. Up to this point, you might be described as merely satisfied; go further, though, and you become smug.

We do it all the time, silently, in our own hearts. We observe the lives of others, and pity them where they’ve missed out on something that we’ve got sorted. We might even patronise them, comforting ourselves with the knowledge that they’ll make it in the end.

MugIt’s an unattractive trait, if we’re discovered in our smugness, but it’s downright dangerous if our smugness is attached to our faith. Given that our relationship with God has been wholly achieved by him, and at great expense, you’d think we’d never dream of giving ourselves credit for it ... but we do, sometimes, don’t we? We investigated the claims of Jesus, we did the research, we asked the right questions and weighed up the answers.

Let’s not indulge the lie.

After all, when you type it on the keyboard, there’s only one letter difference between being smug and being a mug...

What Are We Doing Here?

Written by Anthony Douglas on Saturday, 24 September 2016.

A word with you, if I may.Word in Ear

And with that, and nothing much else, you’re reading. Just a polite request is enough to have you donate a minute of your time. If what I write is worthy of it, you’ll spend a little more time thinking about my words and how they strike you.

We were reminded last weekend that the gospel makes us talkative. Having discovered how profoundly Jesus has loved us, we cannot help but want to speak about it with others. It’s simply who we’ve become.

Despite this, however, we somehow go quiet. Lionel very gently exposed the various reasons for our silence, which often boiled down to a lack of confidence in ourselves as ambassadors for Christ. The more we recognise the magnificence of the message, the more we realise our inadequacy.

What we were helpfully reminded of was that we’re meant to be inadequate.  There’s little point proclaiming that everyone needs Jesus while pretending that I’m the exception to that rule.

We’ve begun to think about how we might talk ourselves out of the way we’ve talked ourselves out of talking, and how we might open up a few more opportunities to reach out to our neighbours. You’ll hear more about this, but in the meantime, think and pray about this. You can listen to the talks on the website, if you wish to hear them again - or for the first time.

Half-Hearted

Written by Anthony Douglas on Sunday, 11 September 2016.

We’re a people that love to see someone have a go. Sail around the world single-handedly? We’ll love you for it. Score an Oscar for an arty film? We’ll go see it, even if it’s not our thing. Invent some whizz-bang new gadget that nobody had ever thought of before? You’re welcome to plug it on the TV news.

But even when someone isn’t successful, we applaud the attempt. Burke and Wills are national heroes, despite the fatal outcome of their expedition. The Gallipoli campaign was a strategic disaster, but we have the highest respect for those who gave it their all.

The reverse is true as well. Those who don’t stay the course are in for it. Remember the ugly demeaning of ‘Lay Down’ Sally? It wasn’t out of character for us. We’ve got no time for the politician who bends with the breeze and doesn’t stick to their principles. Just ask the Australian Democrats.

I think it’s true to say that in every field, every endeavour, Australians will respect those who fight hard for their goals. In every field, that is, except one. When it comes to religion, we prefer people to be as weak as dishwater. Please don’t believe anything too extreme, and don’t hold to it too firmly.

Half-HeartedWhy the inconsistency? I suspect it’s because as a nation we really are half-hearted. We’ve only got time for things that are public, shared between us. And we’ve bought the lie that faith is a personal matter. (Except when it leads people to do nice things, like feed the homeless. As long as they do it quietly.)

What would our society be like, if the other half of our hearts began to beat again?

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