And You Thought We Had It Bad

Written by Anthony Douglas on Saturday, 19 August 2017.

It’s been a tough time for optimists around the country lately. On any given day, there’s been some news out of Canberra that would have been inconceivable a decade ago - or even a week ago. Our political representatives have sought in vain for safe ground, and found only quicksand.

If that weren’t bad enough, as a nation we’re in deep ourselves, struggling to work out whether there’s any way to resolve the debate around marriage peacefully. Or are we doomed to shout at each other for weeks and decades to come?

HannieBut spare a thought for the Netherlands, the first nation in the world to legalise euthanasia. Last year, a documentary examined how the legal framework had been working, and it included the story of Hannie Goudriaan, a 68-year-old woman who was suffering from dementia.

Her husband, with the camera rolling, said this: “If [the euthanasia] doesn’t go through then Hannie will soon have to go to a care home. If she goes to a care home, I won’t visit her anymore because I won’t go visit an empty person. If Hannie doesn’t see me for a month then she won’t recognize me anymore and then I won’t feel like visiting her anymore.”

No matter where people stand on the ethics of euthanasia or quality of life, it is pretty unavoidable to consider Hannie’s husband’s words deeply offensive - not just to her, but also to the concept of marriage. Yet in the Netherlands, the next move is to further loosen the legislative constraints.

Worse than national division is a national consensus that is profoundly tragic. Lord have mercy.

Speaking With Care

Written by Anthony Douglas on Saturday, 12 August 2017.

Handle With CareOur society stands at a crossroads, and yet we think we’re somewhere completely different. Listen to the radio, wander through Facebook, pick up a newspaper: wherever you look, the tension is simmering over Australia’s marriage laws, and how they might be changed.

But as significant as that discussion is, it’s not the real point of conflict in our society. Rather, the critical question is whether or not we are still able to communicate with one another. In an age dominated by mobile phones, the internet, and 24/7 news feeds, the tragic irony is that we seem less able than ever to talk with one another.

The evidence abounds. In the last decade of federal politics, even people within the same party have feuded endlessly. Pollsters can’t get a straight answer out of the public, whether it’s US elections or British referenda. What passes for debate in the public sphere too often looks a lot like a shouting match, and any effort at finding common ground is seen as betrayal.

In the next couple of months, especially, we are going to need to speak with care. And also, to speak with care. We will need to be as clear as we can that we speak out of love, not hate; out of grace, not a grudge; out of hope, not fear. That will mean we also must choose our words carefully, to avoid unnecessary offence or misunderstanding.

It won’t be easy, but this is a great opportunity. Christians will have the chance to not merely think differently, but to sound different. We’ll get many chances to turn the other cheek. Proverbs 15:28 tells us that ‘the heart of the righteous weighs its answers’ - so get out your scales!

Fighting For the Other Side

Written by Anthony Douglas on Saturday, 05 August 2017.

We’ve heard it all before, of course.

“It’s time to settle this issue.” “It’s going to happen eventually, so let’s just get on with it.” “You were elected to make these kind of decisions.”

The translation: “You must be tired of hearing the same demands.” “We will keep on agitating until we get our way, so you might as well give up.” “...That is, to make the decision that I want.” This has been the strategy for decades, to keep pushing and pushing for the next inch of legislative gain, and to label each step as progress.

Press OnAnd so the same-sex marriage issue is back in the headlines once more, and once again we’re tired of hearing about it. Why is it allowed to displace domestic violence and entrenched homelessness? The continued plight of refugees denied refuge?

I’m tired of talking about it. The strategy is sound; we’re tempted to just give up. But we cannot. Someone has to fight for the other side. Someone has to fight to protect them from greater delusion, greater complacency. It is always right to seek the good of others. “If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles,” Jesus told us.

The Liberal Party meets to discuss the question again tomorrow. If you’d like to express your opinion, the Australian Christian Lobby has set up a tool to email it to our local MP and state senators at www.acl.org.au/keep_your_promise.

Fifty Years is a Long Time

Written by Anthony Douglas on Friday, 28 July 2017.

StaceA half-century ago, an old man named Arthur died of a stroke in a nursing home in Hammondville, aged 83. For the last 35 years of his life, he had written a single word, ‘eternity’, in chalk on pavements all over Sydney. And at last, it had come to claim him.

Arthur Stace was born in a slum and soon joined the family business: alcoholism. He’d been in prison on and off since he was 15 and his life was a mess. And then someone offered him a free meal - tea and rock cake, it turned out to be. Stace stumbled upon a men’s meeting at St Barnabas Broadway, heard the gospel, and knew that at last he’d found someone with the power to rescue him. He gave himself to Jesus and found himself made new. “That night, I realised that Christ was stronger than drink,” he later said.

Two years later, he heard an evangelist talk about how everyone needed to work out where they would spend eternity, shouting, “I wish I could shout ETERNITY through the streets of Sydney.” With the words ringing in his ears, Stace pulled a stick of chalk from his pocket, bent over, and wrote that single word on the footpath. His copperplate script was immaculate: not bad for a man who’d never been to school and was largely illiterate, with handwriting that was illegible.

Half a million words later, his time ran out - or did it? Half a century later, he lies forgotten by Sydney in Botany cemetery - or does he? Half his life spent on a one-word sermon that washed away overnight - or has it?

Time will tell.

Deeply Tragic

Written by Anthony Douglas on Sunday, 23 July 2017.

JustineThe story that absorbed our media this week was the horrifying and absurd death of Justine Damond in Minneapolis. It’s easy to understand why. She sounds like she was a lovely woman to know at any level, and she was only a matter of days away from marrying the love of her life. She is an easy victim for us to sympathise with, and the fact that she was shot by the very police she had called for, while seeking to look after a stranger, only added to the pathos.

It is without doubt a terrible tragedy, but I fear that the scale of the tragedy has been missed, many times.

For a start, I think we should be grieved that Justine’s death has become a ‘story’ - a media event, a topic for making conversation, a political football in the making. Any death deserves more respect and compassion than that. Many people are genuine in their grief, but there are also many who are just curious about the latest story.

Then we should ask why Justine’s death garners so much attention, when there have been 540 people shot dead by police in the US this year before Justine. Is it the novelty of her Australian nationality? Is it because she is a white woman who was just trying to do the right thing?

But the deeper tragedy in this is that Justine’s life has been cut short. By rights, she could have expected many more years. And the question that we’ll never hear in the press is the most vital one: did she hear the gospel? To rob someone of their life is criminal; to rob them of their chance at eternal life is infinitely worse.

Our society fears and abhors death, but tragically chooses to forget the peril of the second death - and this may be the deepest tragedy of all.

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