The latest update to my Markan commentary is here.
(Updated January 11 2011)
The problem is not how we should live. The problem is how we can live with our grief at what is happening to the world in which we live.
How can we live with our grief at what is happening to the world in which we live? A world where political orders are crumbling, and where people are profoundly dispirited, if not traumatised, by the rank violence of almost daily mass killings in the USA, for example, and the weekly killing of women by their intimate partner in Australia. The shameless lies and inhumanity of the political elite who seem to be above consequence, and the constant scapegoating of the poor which society uses to maintain itself. And behind it all, the growing realisation, if not certainty, that the planet faces a biological disaster in which we as the peak predator are among the most vulnerable species.
It is difficult not to be traumatised by all this once our eyes are open to it, and yet, in the midst of our grief, the Gospel calls us to also bear the trauma of others who are in as much, if not more, pain as ourselves. The duty of our calling is plain. The question is how we can bear it. How do we continue to function through our own great grief and then find more energy for our children and those others life gives us as neighbour? ... Read on >>>>
Theology means to talk about God. Our God-talk evolves. Babylonian theology thought there were lots of Gods which were arbitrary, capricious, and violent; rather like us, only worse. People were created as slaves when the Gods decided it was too hard getting their own food. Once when people were too noisy, the Gods wiped them out with a big flood, a story on which the story of Noah does commentary.
Jesus’ ancestors were attacked by the Babylonians, defeated in battle, and the cream of the country taken back to Babylon. Among these exiles were a group who made the remarkable decision that just because Babylon had won the war, it didn’t mean they were right about the Gods. Out of that insight and revelation came a new theology which we see, for example, in the beginning of Genesis: One God. Majestically in control, rather than struggling chaotically. Just. A God who made people at the centre of Creation in order that they might enjoy it rather than as an afterthought when that god needed some slave labour.
The long evolution of that insight and revelation has brought us to an understanding of a God who loves us extravagantly that God would rather die for us than use violence against us. It is so radical a view still, that we call one of Jesus’ stories the Parable of the Prodigal Son, as though it is about a footloose, wayward son. It is the story of a God who is so loving that we might better call it the Parable of the Profligate Father. ... Read on >>>>
In response the post The Handing Over of Kopika and Tharnicaa, which was linked on Facebook, someone said:
Where does our so called man of God [He means the Prime Minister] fit into this if at all? For the life of me I cannot see how this person can stand up in front of a church conference with which he is associated with and ask them to pray for him and then turns around and acts no differently to some thug on the street. As someone who has spent many years within a Pentecostal environment, this bloke is far removed from what I have experienced.
This is my response to that question.
The Prime Minister fascinates me and frightens me. Here’s why: He is clearly genuine about his faith. But doesn’t it have such a blind spot from our point of view‒ well, several!? What frightens me is that I have learned just how easy it is to have these blind spots, and how quickly they can develop.
How did he get there? And how did I end up where I am? .... Read on >>>>
This is an excerpt from a commentary I am currently writing on the Gospel of Mark. How might Mark see the appalling treatment of Kopika and Tharnicaa, two innocent little Australian girls from Biloela, who are being traumatised by their imprisonment and isolation on Christmas Island? We join the text of Mark at Mark 1:14-15. The text deals with faith, politics and crowds. You will find reference to three other places in the draft commentary, which I have added at the end of the section on 1:14-15... Read on >>>>
It was wonderful to meet you the other night— 35 years since youth group, where does time go!? And it was good to meet David. You've done well for yourself there; he's a really nice bloke. Don't worry about his "outburst," as you've called it. Part of the job as a minister is to stand in for God sometimes, and bear people's rage and pain, even at someone else's birthday party. Jannie's story is more than enough reason for David to be furious at God.
I must say that his being angry strikes me as a basically healthy reaction. The people who I worry for are those who are full of all the right language about God's love etc., but seem to feel no pain or anger at all. That seems to me to be a bit unnatural, and quite unhealthy. I know it's five years now, as you said, but the grief for the loss of a child... well, I don't think it ever quite goes away. My Dad's been dead ten years now, and that was a timely death in the best of circumstances really, but some days the grief pops back up as fresh as yesterday.
It's fine to be angry with God. The Psalms are full of human anger and lament. I'm sure I'd shock a few folk in my congregation by saying this but, frankly, God has a lot to answer for: Jannie is one more innocent among a countless number of innocent and unfair deaths. If the God we imagine can't handle our anger at her suffering, and the suffering of those who are left grieving her, then that God is not worthy of being God.... Read on >>>>
This ride was an approximate 300km at a time when I've not had as much riding as normal. The plan was to test a winter ride with only two trunk bags and see if I could maintain 6 hour 100km stages. There were two major climbs on this route: from Palmer up to Tungkillo, and then from Balhannah to the top of Greenhill Road.... Read on >>>>
How do we live through the climate crisis? Is there anything significant that we can do? I listen to colleagues who have worked in the area for decades and hear them wonder if any progress has been made at all. Despair can tug at us.
I think there has been significant change, even though there has been far from enough. I grew up in a conservative country community which voted Liberal and Country League. We would have voted for coal, for diesel subsidies, and derided "Greenies." Recently, I was at a meeting where someone reported that the Superannuation Fund used by many of us within the Uniting Church has said it will have divested from "dirty coal" investments by 2050. A farmer from the area I grew up exclaimed, "2050!" She muttered something under her breath which I'm pretty sure was "Bloody hell!" What enables us conservative farming types to change, and to immediately see that Fund statement as nothing but a deflection? As someone asked the meeting, "Is there anything but dirty coal?"... Read on >>>>
Because South Australia suffered very little in the pandemic, Deborah and I were able to keep fit on the fire trails and back roads of the Adelaide Hills once the original Covid lockdown was relaxed. But our planned ride to Tamworth was not able to happen on schedule due to the pandemic. However, the Triennial made some adjustments to its program... Read on >>>>
This post explores the way the church may help a person who is supporting their partner through current or recent abuse within the church. The article pays particular attention to abuse connected with a church, but much of it will apply to support of someone whose partner's abuse is unconnected with the church.... Read on >>>>
This site is about celebrating life. My own life is too busy; my work is almost designed to keep me from reflection and enjoyment. In the busyness and competition of life, it is hard, especially for men, to be honest about fears and feelings. All this works against celebrating and enjoying life except in a most shallow fashion. So here, I seek to be unbusy.
One Man's Web has grown haphazardly, reflecting the interests of friends and myself. You will find abandoned blind alleys, ideas we no longer adhere to, things we never believed but "hung out there" to see what would happen. There are areas where I am remain passionate, but can't keep up; the area on Australia's refugees is one.
If you find some enjoyment or challenge here, I am glad. Celebrate life!