Wednesday, May 30, 2007

4 Year Cycles

Have you ever noticed that the Olympics fall every four years as do most sports in terms of world cups e.g. soccer, rugby, cricket etc.

Now that is a great idea in one sense as it makes it very special to win one. The problem is that it makes winning one of these events rather based too much on luck rather than on skill.

Take an athlete who gets a slight injury just before the Olympics (e.g. Sarah Ulmer in 2000) and thus it is 8 years between opportunities. Or take a rugby team that has a key player injured (Tana Umaga in 2003) at the wrong time or gets food poisoning before a final (All Blacks 1995) or has a one off shocker despite being the dominant team for the years before and after (1999, 2003 All Blacks). In addition, as we see in rugby of late, the internationals between world cups are being devalued because it is world cup or bust. The latest French team to come here is a joke!

I think we should look at a different model for judging greatness in sport rather than basing it on one performance on one week every four years or on a tournament every four years. In terms of Athletics etc, world championships and world records are a better judge than Olympic golds. In terms of rugby, world rankings and series and consistency should be rewarded. Winning a world cup is not the be all and end all surely.

I like the netball approach, a world champs every two years. Of course in cricket it is irrelevant as whatever cycle is used the Australians are so utterly superior that they win anyway!

Is NZ a Christian Country?

Brian Tamaki is in the news again, this time questioning the statement on diversity on the basis that NZ is a Christian country. So what does the statement say?

Statement on Religious Diversity
New Zealand is a country of many faiths with a significant minority who profess no religion. Increasing religious diversity is a significant feature of public life.

At the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, Governor Hobson affirmed, in response to a question from Catholic Bishop Pompallier, "the several faiths (beliefs) of England, of the Wesleyans, of Rome, and also Maori custom shall alike be protected". This foundation creates the opportunity to reaffirm an acknowledgement of the diversity of beliefs in New Zealand.
Christianity has played and continues to play a formative role in the development of New Zealand in terms of the nation's identity, culture, beliefs, institutions and values.

New settlers have always been religiously diverse, but only recently have the numbers of some of their faith communities grown significantly as a result of migration from Asia, Africa and the Middle East. These communities have a positive role to play in our society. It is in this context that we recognise the right to religion and the responsibilities of religious communities.
International treaties including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights uphold the right to freedom of religion and belief - the right to hold a belief; the right to change one's religion or belief; the right to express one's religion or belief; and the right not to hold a belief. These rights are reflected in the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act and Human Rights Act. The right to religion entails affording this right to others and not infringing their human rights.

The following statement provides a framework for the recognition of New Zealand's diverse faith communities and their harmonious interaction with each other, with government and with other groups in society:

1. The State and Religion: The State seeks to treat all faith communities and those who profess no religion equally before the law. New Zealand has no official or established religion.
2. The Right to Religion: New Zealand upholds the right to freedom of religion and belief and the right to freedom from discrimination on the grounds of religious or other belief.
3. The Right to Safety: Faith communities and their members have a right to safety and security.
4. The Right of Freedom of Expression: The right to freedom of expression and freedom of the media are vital for democracy but should be exercised with responsibility.
5. Recognition and Accommodation: Reasonable steps should be taken in educational and work environments and in the delivery of public services to recognise and accommodate diverse religious beliefs and practices.
6. Education: Schools should teach an understanding of different religious and spiritual traditions in a manner that reflects the diversity of their national and local community.
7. Religious Differences: Debate and disagreement about religious beliefs will occur but must be exercised within the rule of law and without resort to violence.
8. Cooperation and understanding: Government and faith communities have a responsibility to build and maintain positive relationships with each other, and to promote mutual respect and understanding.

So should we as Christians uphold the notion that we are a Christian nation or should be uphold the principles of the statement?

As I see it, we are not a Christian nation and have never been. In fact, I would argue that the notion of a 'Christian nation' does not and has never existed. There are Christian people and the Christian church made up of the community of Christians. Beyond that, it is debatable that anything is 'Christian'. Sure, Christianity played a massive role in the formation of our nation; its justice and ethics etc. But it was never a Christian state.

I would also question whether we would ever want it to be a Christian state. Where state and church come together has often led to problems as Christianity became caught up in war and the imposition of belief on others.

At the coming of Christ, the focus of God shifted from a nation (Israel) to the person of Christ to a newly consituted people who are those who have faith in Christ and not any one nation. We as a nation have no covenant with God as a nation, but through faith in Christ.

At the essence of the gospel is freedom; freedom to believe or reject the faith. Christianity is by definition the gathering of people from all states aside from the state. We should respect deeply the rights of all to believe or disbelieve while proclaiming that a failure to believe will bring negative consequences while belief will bring salvation and eternal life.

I differ then with Brian Tamaki while I deeply respect his zeal and commitment but I think her errs in reading the OT principles of national covenant with God into the new era of nations like our own. I approve of the statement; I think it is fair. But I do agree that our Christian heritage should be more highly valued and honoured!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Survivor Fiji, Dreamz and Ethical Dilemmas

If you have been watching Survivor Fiji as I have, you will have seen an amazing ethical dilemma unfold. A few weeks ago the contestants played a reward challenge for a car. Dreamz, an African American ex-homeless young man, had expressed his desire to win the car. At the challenge however, Yau Man a really amazing Asian man won the car. After the challenge he offered to give the car to Dreamz on one condition; that if Dreamz and he were together in the last four, and if Dreamz won the immunity challenge, that he would give immunity to Yau Man. At this point Dreamz agreed, swearing in the name of God and his son that he would honour the commitment. He also restated that he was a man of his word and wanted his son to see that.

Well as it played out, Dreamz did win what turned out to be the final immunity challenge and was in the position envisaged at the giving of the car. When the crunch came at Tribal Council, Dreamz chose not to honour his word. He realised if he did give immunity to Yau, he would be voted out and lose his chance of a million dollars! So, he broke his word and Yau was promptly voted out. Note too, that Dreamz had expressed that he is a Christian.

The question; should he have honoured his word?

In favour of his decision is that Survivor is just a game and the name of the game is outwitting, outplaying and outlasting the opposition. One can play the game in a different way to 'real life' in the 'real world'; lying, tricking and deceiving. This is legitimate because the rules of the game include all such things. As such, he did nothing wrong. In fact, he should be congratulated for playing well, for tricking Yau, and knocking him out of the game. Christians should not be critical for he was merely playing well. His witness is not blurred because he is entitled to play the game by a different set of rules.

Against this is that as a Christian, Dreamz must not live a dualistic life. Survivor is no different to any part of life. As a Christian he should live 24/7, living ethically including keeping his word. Survivor while a game, intersects with real life, the winner getting $1m and in this case, a $60,000 car. The world is watching, and as such, his witness should include keeping his integrity. He thus brings disgrace to the name of Christ in not keeping his word. He also used the name of God in making his vow; as such, he has broken his vow.

The latter is the way that Boo another contestant took it. He criticised Dreamz for being an immature Christian and stated that he would pray for him to become mature and not live such an inconsistent life.

So which is it? Did Dreamz play it right? What is a Christian response?

I will hold giving my view just in case there is someone out there who reads this and wants to comment... in a day or so, I will give my perspective?

Friday, May 18, 2007

The 2007 All Blacks Mark 1

So I was close. I missed Schwalger in the props.

I missed Hore at hooker; I should have realised they would go for him.

I got the locks. I am surprised at the loosies with Luaki missing out!

I am pleased Leonard got in, but I didn't think they would pick him yet... he is a rare talent. I feel sorry for Jimmy Cowan who has been in great form.

I am glad they went for Evans and not Donald; I am a great fan of Evans and believe Donald has some serious deficiencies.

The second fives picked themselves; Mauger and McAlister.

Great to see Toeava and Smith together; two styles at centre. I feel sorry for Nonu however; he is a game breaker.

So Howlett got the nod ahead of Gear at wing. Fair enough, he has played very well. I am not sure that he is a better option. Great to see Rokocoko in; he has been poorly treated at the Blues and I am confident he will be back to being the worlds number 1 or 2 again asap. I wonder if Smith is so brilliant that we are erring in promoting him; he could be a brilliant unexpected world cup player much like Williams in South Africa in 1970, Batty in 1972, S. Wilson in 1978, Kirwan in 1987, G. Wilson in 1994, Lomu in 1995 etc. Wings to me are different; when a brilliant young player comes through, they need to be let loose asap as they tend to lose pace and effectiveness. Everyone of these players except perhaps S. Wilson shone brightly for a short period; I hope we have not missed the boat with this rare talent.

I am glad Muliaina was picked at fullback; he is the best in the world, and in my view, one of the most complete fullbacks of all time. He may play centre but only if MacDonald really improves his game.

It is a good team! Good enough?

Van Dyk and Silver Ferns

Irene Van Dyk is not playing well. Her performances in England this week have been far below her brilliant best. She is the greatest team sportswoman I have ever seen but, is this the beginning of the end? Our mid court is a problem. Why we have to go back and pick a 36 year old even if she is a fine player. At her peak, she, Leslie Nicholl and Anna Rowberry were consistently out performed by the Australians; why bring her back now? Where are the young mid courters with pace and flair? Tutaia is sensational as is Casey Williams.

Having said that Irene is not playing well... she is not being fed well and the opposition defenders are getting away with murder. As I said in an earlier blog, they need a card system to stop blatant cheating. I thought the Aussie defenders played more cleanly; the English were a disgrace as was Anna Scarlett! Get on top of this netball!

I am concerned about the World Cup. They will have to get a speedier midcourt and get Irene and Tutaia working well. It should work with Maria shooting from wide out and Irene drawing away the defenders under the net. Can we do it?

All Black Team Prediction

In 45 minutes the AB's will be named. Here is my team:

Fullbacks: MacDonald, Muliaina
Wings: Sivivatu, Rokocoko, Gear
Centres: Smith, Tuiava
2nd Fives: McAlistar, Mauger
1st Fives: Carter, Evans
Half Backs: Weepu, Kelleher, Cowan
Nos 8: So'oailo, Lauaki
Flankers: McGaw, Collins, Masoe, Thorne
Locks: Williams, Jack, Flavell, Robinson
Props: Woodcock, Haymen, Tialata, Afoa
Hookers: Mealamu, Oliver, Whitcombe

We could see Muliaina at centre; but who would then be the other full back (Hamilton?; Howlett?)
Howlett may make wing? I would like to see Smith in there..
Nonu could knock Smith out.
Donald may be a bolter at first five
Leonard could be a bolter at halfback ahead of Cowan
Tuialii could be number eight with Lauaki at flanker for Thorne
Rawlinson could be lock and Flavell flanker for Thorne.
The fourth prop could be Demody, Schwalger, Crockett?
The third hooker could be Hore or Willis

We will see in 32 minutes

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Attention Sports and Free to Air TV

I am one of the those people who do not subscribe to Sky TV. It is simply too expensive with our family costs. I live my life following sport on the net, papers, radio etc. It is a tragedy to me that I cannot watch at any reasonable time (except one game every Saturday night) the rugby, league, cricket, soccer, golf and other sports which are exclusively on Sky Sport. I think it is also destructive to the sports involved. A generation of NZer's are growing up who really do not get to watch these sports. This will affect playing numbers I think over time.

There is thus a gap in the Free to Air world for lesser known sports to make their move for the hearts of NZer's. There are some who do like surf lifesaving, motor sport and netball who retain their Free to Air commitment. What I am advocating is that those of you in minor sports like hockey, lacrosse, athletics, swimming, triathlon, biathlon, cycling etc move decisively to fill Free to Air TV with your products. This would mean that I can turn TV on on a weekend afternoon and have a feast of interesting entertainment. I see Maori TV are doing it with the lesser known league fixtures.

It seems to me that if this happens the landscape of NZ sport will change and the days of rugby, league, cricket dominance will be over. I also think that these major sports need to realise that they need to be on free-to-air TV consistently to capture the broader audience. In this way too, Sky TV will get more subscribers as people are hooked into their core sports. So go for it you lesser sports; fill the gap and show NZ that there is more to life than rugby... just!

Joe Karam

I heard more on Joe Karam on TV discussions last night. He said in an interview that he has spent 10million dollars of his own money on fighting for David Bain. He suggested that many of us have our Everest's and perhaps this was his.

This leads me to reiterate the point of my last blog; Joe Karam is a modern day example of what it means to give himself to a cause in the name of justice.

He has copped a lot of flack. I have heard that many of his old sporting buddies from his All Black and League days have given him grief. Talk show hosts and commentators have effectively written him off. The legal profession have treated him in many cases with disdain. Yet due to his sacrifice, David Bain is now going to be freed.

Interestingly he reported too that David Bain when he leaves jail will move into Joe Karam's own home! This guy is a phenomenon! Not only has he worked to free him, he is waiting on the other side. The guy comes out to nothing; his life has been taken away. Yet, he has hope now. This to me emulates Christ who gave his all for us, giving up the wealth and prerogatives of his divinity, to save us. And when we hear his call and accept his salvation, we are like David Bain, coming kicking and screaming out of the prison of sin and death and he is there waiting for us and he transforms us through his Spirit, word and love.

It makes me wonder what drives him. If he is not a Christian, he would appear to me to be not far from the Kingdom of God!

We who name Christ as Lord; we need to take note! Let us seek God, find the cause that God is calling us to (our own Everests), and take up our crosses, make the sacrifice and go after it. So, let's get on our knees and ask the Lord to lead us into his cause for our life, and let's die for the Kingdom of God and his righteousness/justice.

Statues

I heard an interesting discussion today on Radio Sport about putting statues of prominent NZ sporting icons up at grounds. We move ever closer to true idolatry with sport in this nation. I love sport, but it must remain sport. The real stuff of life is found in people's struggles to provide, to live, to overcome pain. As I look around the world at Iraq, Zimbabwe etc, I realise that sport is just sport. Let's keep it in its right place; a wonderful expression of humanity; a way to release tension and experience competition; a far better option than war... It is just a game

Blues vs Sharks; Bulls vs Crusaders

So I should give my view of what will happen in these games tonight. I think they will be both won by the South African sides. I think the combination of the Ali Williams affair; Nucifora's wierd approaches to selection including the failure to start with all the All Blacks since they returned and especially for this game Ali Williams, Mealamu and Rokocoko; the injury to Luke McAlister; the failure to select a kicking back in the Blues esp. David Holwell; the home-ground advantage; the quality of the Sharks and the South African determination with their first home semi-final; the heat and humidity of Durban means that the Blues have little hope tonight. I expect them to be competitive but in the end fall short.

The Crusaders similarly will be well beaten by a team running at full throttle, on the Veldt, with the passion of a crazy home crowd and the advantage this will bring. Contrary to others, I think the Crusaders have the better chance. However, without Sommerville, Crockett; with Jack not fully fit; with Carter and McCaw not fully there yet; their chance is really little better than the Blues. I am not sure that they will ever get into the game.

In the big picture of the year it means little. I believe the South Africans and All Blacks will both be formidable whoever wins. I also know that these games are still anyones when they hit the field; but it will be a monumental effort for the NZers to get up for these games.

I hope we see Carter, McCaw, Mauger, Thorne and Flavell have big games whatever the outcome.

Friday, May 11, 2007

David Bain

It is no surprise to me that David Bain has received a favourable result from the Privy Council. It is patently obvious that he is a victim of injustice not necessarily on the basis of clear innocence, but on the basis of the principle that such a decision must be found 'without reasonable doubt'.

Should he have another trial? No way! It would cause an uproar and with the course of time and the prejudice now involved in the case, be impossible to get any level of clarity of objectivity into it.

Should he receive compensation? Absolutely. His life has been destroyed including his home, his hopes, his eductation, his reputation, his hopes of marriage and family. I say about 10 million dollars or there-abouts.

Should we be worried about our justice system? Absolutely. I am deeply concerned. The biblical principles of 2-3 witnesses as per Deut 19:15, I am deeply concerned. When one considers Peter Ellis, David Bain and serious doubts about Scott Watson; we have to ask whether our system is working. I believe we erred in leaving behind the Privy Council and this demonstrates why.

Central to our faith is the unjust conviction of the saviour of the world through faulty judicial system. We as Christians must work to ensure that this nation has a justice system that has very sound and impartial safeguards to ensure that the David Bain's of this world do not recur.

We need to pray for all involved; David Bain and the wider Bain family.

Another thought: Joe Karam is a modern day example of a man who will stand up against injustice and fight for a cause. I admired him as an All Black and I admire his resolute stand. He deserves a knighthood; woops, we have got rid of that too... a shame!

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Rugby World Cup Final

Without doubt the World Cup final will be battled out between the All Blacks and South Africa. The performance of the Bulls and Sharks indicates that this year we will see the genesis of a great South African team. The All Blacks are in the third year of greatness. It will be a clash of the titans with a mature team against a young team on the rise. Who will win? Can't say yet. We will have to see how the two teams scrub up in the Tri-Nations.

One of the questions is; is this All Black team still rising, at the top or on the decline. This will be revealed as the year unfolds. It will also depend on injuries, refereeing, goal kicking, how France scrub up (they could be the wildcard) and on the day sort of stuff.

But mark my words, as I see it, it will be an All Black South Africa final calling to mind the halcyon days of 1921, 1937, 1949, 1956, 1960, 1965, 1970, 1976 and 1981! South Africa are back and this could mean a resumption of the great days of All Black - Springbok clashes with the rest of the world lying in their wake.

Netball Physicality

Today I sat down and watched the Magic (Waikato) play the Auckland based franchise the Diamonds in netball. It was a really good game with the Diamonds pipping the Magic rather surprisingly. Maria Tutaia was sensational in the circle for the Diamonds. The defences were rugged with Casey Williams playing very well.

What struck me was the way in which the Diamonds dealt with Irene van Dyk. Now I write as a Diamonds fan and supporter, but was totally shocked with the failure of the umpires to deal with the continuous contacts and over defending on the part of the two defenders Anna Scarlet and Stephanie Bond. They were all over her, contacting her, knocking the ball out of her hands and continuously breaking the rule to disrupt her. It worked but I think it ruined the game. The

Magic couldn't get the ball to her. I noticed the same tactics in Invercargill last week with the Sting and in the most recent games with Australia. I think the rules and umpiring are failing to stop perpetual offending.

Now I am all for tough defence but continuous fouls need to be sorted. To me Scarlett in particular should have been warned and sin binned. She deserved to be sent off. Her performance was on the one hand brilliant as she disprupted the greatest shooter in the history of the game and I think was a major reason the Diamonds won.

However, it is tragic that she was able to get away with it. I suggest that netball must come down on repeated offending and fouls. They need a foul system or a warning and sinbinning system or the game will degenerate into a farce.

I suspect that the netball world cup will be decided on this issue. The Australians will target Irene van Dyk with continuous and repeated fouls, contacting her and doing anything to disrupt her. Hopefully with Maria Tutaia and Donna Willkens we can counterpunch by them taking the bulk of the scoring.

So the message of this Blog is; sort out the fouls. Bring in a foul system a la basketball or have a warning and sin-bin/send off system (yellow/red card) and start using it. The game is already disrupted too much by whistle. Indeed, as the game goes professional next year, this will be essential as the level of athleticism continues to rise.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Chapel Last Week, Wilberforce and Abortion

At the BCNZ chapel last week our principal Mark Strom gave a great address on William Wilberforce using clips from the upcoming movie on his life and speaking about the need for us as the people of God to take on great social issues of our day as he did with slavery. I asked at the end of the chapel what the social issue of our day is.

On a global scale there are some monster social issues like poverty, human rights, disease, child-oppression, slavery, oppression of women, the legacy of war, global warming and more. Perhaps poverty and the death of a child every 3 seconds is the greatest problem the world faces. On a national level there is the growing divide between rich and poor and the associated problems of illness, life-expectancy, illiteracy, family violence and violence against children and other issues and especially among Maori and Pacific Islanders.

Yet for me perhaps the biggest issue certainly in the west, remains abortion. The Scriptures speak of God working in a human life within the womb and seems to work with the assumption that life begins at conception.

In Genesis 25:23 God says to Rebekah that two nations are in her womb i.e. even though they are unborn, the future nationhood and history exists in vitiro. Similarly Hosea speaks of Jacob and Esau contending within the womb (Hos 12:3).

There are a number of examples of people in the Scriptures who are set apart for their future ministries in the womb. These include Samson (Jud 13:5; 16:17); the servant of the Lord (Jesus) (Is 49:1); Jeremiah (Jer 1:5); John the Baptist (Lk 1:15); Paul (Gal 1:15).

Similarly in Job 31:15 the womb is the context in which God creates humanity. We may question this on the basis of modern understandings of growth; however, I would counter that it is through these natural innate God-given and governed processes that we are all formed by God. It is God who brings David from his mother’s womb (Ps 71:6). This picture of God forming the child in the womb is reinforced in Isaiah’s metaphorical picture of the formation of Israel in the womb along the lines of the formation of a human child (Is 44:2).

In 2 Sam 7:12 the unborn children of David represent the Kings who will succeed him (cf. 1 Chron 17:11).

Then of course there is the incarnation whereby God by his Holy Spirit impregnated Mary and God's own child was found in a woman's womb. It is inconceivable that abortion would be acceptable to a God who became flesh through the womb.

In addition the command 'do not kill' is central to the biblical witness from the ten commandments on. Attempts to say it is not murder are futile; a child is a living human from conception who deserves the right to become an adult as does a 1 year old, a 10 year old or adolescent.

The argument from women's rights is inadequate as they must be seen as subordinate to the rights of the defenseless unborn child. Abortion, although understandable due to the enormous impact a child has on the life of a woman, is in reality selfish. Placing oneself above others is indeed the heart of all sin. To abort a child is robbing not only the child of life but the world of seeing that child bring to it what God has created it for.

To put it bluntly, I have never heard an argument that dents the conservative Christian view that abortion is repugnant.

The figures on abortion are staggering with literally millions of children killed every year in this way. Check out the stats in http://www.johnstonsarchive.net/policy/abortion/index.html. According to this website in 2004 alone there were in these nations this many abortions in these nations alone: Australia: 72214; USA: 542286; NZ: 17531.

According to this site's analysis of the figures which come in the main from the last 30-40 years there have been 928,978,112 known abortions. In China there have been 303m alone between 1971-2001! No doubt over all time this figure would blow out enormously!

In terms of the last 40 years there is nothing in the world that by direct and active human agency kills this many people. It is homicide or should I say infanticide on the most disgusting and inhuman scale.

So for me THE issue among all issues for us to stand against in the social realm is abortion. We must do what Wilberforce did and work with all our being for as long as it takes to convince the legislators of this nation to change the law and make it illegal to have abortions.

Having said this, I want to state that there is grace for those who have had an abortion or aided another in abortion. God will forgive and grant freedom to all who come to him seeking his forgiveness.

But I pray in Jesus name that God raises up a William Wilberforce who will find a way to change the hearts and minds of NZers and this whole world and see the most defenseless of humanity given safe passage into the world.

I sense abortion-fatigue around me and the voice against this crime going quiet; it is time to stand again against this horrendous child-abuse, murder which is an offence to God. This voice needs to go to the heart of the powers of this nation enabling them to see. So if you are a bright spark out there with a call to give your life to something... what about ending the greatest crime of this time, abortion.

Friday, May 4, 2007

New Zealand at the World Cup

It is hard to know whether to feel good or bad about the NZ performance at the Cup. On the one hand they made the semi's and performed very well up until the last few games destroying England, the West Indies and South Africa.

On the other hand they flattered to decieve, losing decisively to Sri Lanka, Australia and Sri Lanka again in the semi. In the end, when the pressure came on, they did not rise up.

Over all I am deeply disappointed. In none of these important games did they compete. The losses to Sri Lanka were particularly disappointing because it was the same bogies that came home to destroy them; Murali, Malinga, Jayasuriya, Sangikara. Surely after playing Sri Lanka repeatedly for the last 3 years we could have done better. Then Fleming's over-confidence which served only to motivate Jayawardena etc! He has egg all over his face in my view.

Then there were the disappointing performances of Bond, Vetorri, Fleming, MacMillan, McCullem, Oram and co in the games that mattered. I still cannot erase the images of the batting capitulation in the semi final! It was not as if the dismissals were due to pressure; they were poor shots which demonstrated a tremendous lack of confidence or ability to function under pressure.

Styris was magnificent as was Bond in the earlier part of the tournament. I felt sorry for the young Ross Taylor whose injury caused him to lose form.

One wonders how much the loss of Vincent affected the team; it disrupted what had become a solution to the problem of the top order. His loss alone may have changed the balance of the tournament and team.

So all in all I am disappointed.

So what should happen? I do not think anyone has to be sacked immediately. Fleming has stood down. The players will be selected on form as they should be.

What about Bracewell? I am not sure he has the kind of character that lends itself best to an effective international cricket coach. He clearly has fallen out with players including Cairns and Astle. He is too strong a personality for me. I prefer the cricket coach to be a background guide and leader; giving strategy, selection, motivation, confidence, encouragement and managing the team well. The captain is the leader in the cricket and Fleming has not been the same under his management. Bracewell reminds me too much of John Mitchell when he was AB coach; too many wierd selections. He too struggled with some of the older more experienced players like Anton Oliver and Andrew Merhtons.

For me I would like to see John Wright get a crack. He has coached in the most difficult nation in the world and came up trumps. I think he would complement the likes of Fleming, Vetorri, Oram, McMillan and Styris who will give leadership. Otherwise, bring back Steve Rixon!

Technology and Cricket

Why on earth does cricket not use technology more?

It is great that they use technologies to adjudicate run outs, stumpings and the legitimacy of catches. I say why not go further and use it for caught behinds and for LBW's.

Anti-technology proponents argue it will slow the game down. How could it possibly? The game is already slow. It will give us something to look at in between balls. In most cases one or two quick looks brings clarity.

Another protest is that the LBW technology is not perfect yet. After watching cricket for the last 30 years I have to say it is more accurate than umpires! They haven't got a clue!

Similarly the extreme close up and use of audio technology to hear sound makes caught behinds far more accurate through technology.

I say get the umpire to go upstairs when it is unclear. The third umpire could even communicate to the on-field umpire when they feel something should get a second look.

I know NZ were slaughtered by Sri Lanka at the World Cup and they have no excuses, but the game may have been different without a couple of shockers!

So I say, let's get into the twenty-first century and use the technology. I think it adds to the suspense.

Cricket World Cup: What can we learn?

So Australia won the cricket world cup as I predicted on Monday 29 January in this blog. It was not even close; the truth is, they demolished the world! The supposedly next best in the world South Africa, the Kiwi's, the Sri Lankans and more swept aside. Hayden, Ponting, and all the bowlers were sublime. And when it really matters Gilchrist does what only Gilchrist can! So what can we learn.

1. Australia are the very best nation in the world.
2. Even with the retirement of Warne and now McGrath they will remain number one.
3. Pakistan, India and others need to sort their collective acts out. When one considers how many people play cricket in these nations, their performances were disappointing.
4. South Africa could not handle the pressure. I thought it was tragic that they felt that they had to play differently to win the semi against Australia. They tried to smash the Aussies instead of trusting themselves. This indicates that they were psyched out.
5. NZ for the fifth time could not make the final. This indicates that they are in much the same boat as South Africa.

As for the tournament itself it was a shocker; the worst international world cup I can remember in any sport. It started with a death. India and Pakistan capitulated absolutely embarrassingly meaning that the Super 8 lacked spark. West Indies underperformed and so the home nations did not get into it. The pricing and limitation on enjoyment at the games was seriously affected. The tournament was way too long; 2 games a day would sort that out! There were only one or two close games between the top teams. The umpiring was poor. Then it finished with boring semifinals with NZ slaughter by Sri Lanka and Australia demolishing South Africa. Finally, the Final was a farce. It should have been a 50 over match with extra days up their sleeves. Then the finish of the final was a joke!

But it didn't matter in the end. Australia are so far and away the best cricket nation in the world that I think it would have been better to simply award them the cup and save the world all the hassle. If they had, Bob Woolmer would still be alive.

Smacking, Unity and Witness

I have to say I was really sad when I saw the news yesterday as the smacking debate came to a head.

What grieved me was not the result as much as the disunity of the Christian Church before the world.

On the one hand you had Brian Tamaki and others from Destiny and others protesting outside Parliament buildings. They are totally convinced that smacking is God's will and that the Government must not intervene in family life. So convinced are they, that they are prepared to travel from all over the country to protest against the bill.

On the other hand there was another group of others who too name themselves Christian in a church declaring their support for the bill equally convinced that the bill is good for NZ, that smacking must be outlawed.

As I have said in an earlier blog, I think that smacking should not be outlawed as gentle to firm smacking that does no more than correct the child in a loving environment as a last resort is permissible. However, I respect Sue Bradford and others and can see their logic. They do not want to allow anyone a defence for violence against children.

My beef is not with either side but with the impact of the two approaches on our witness.

The media has a field day in such situations. They are found at both, reporting Tamaki, taking sound bites and rejoicing in the opportunity. Similarly, they delight in presenting to the world Christians in a church presenting the opposite view; demonstrating to all the world our inability to agree and even parade ministers who present the opposite view.

Now, I fully endorse that both groups feel led to make a public stand in this way; the right to protest is a wonderful freedom in our society. What I wonder is whether either party have considered the impact their disunity has.

With the penchant of the media to make a meal of them both and highlight their disunity, it makes us simply look stupid! What would an unbeliever think watching Christians lining up on both sides of the debate.

To me it is a tragedy. Jesus saw our unity as essential to our mission (Jn 17) and until we rediscover the ability to come together as God's people and come to resolutions on these issues and not air our disagreements in the public domain, our witness will be blunted.

Personally, I believe we need to take great care in going public on these and other issues. We need to realise that there is a greater good than winning points with public demonstrations. We need to find ways of expressing our views while endorsing our unity. We need to work harder to find the points of agreement and together helping find a third way ahead.

In this case both sides of the debate as I understand it agree that violence against children is terrible and steps need to be taken to stop it. Whatever we do we need to stand in unity! Until we do, in a world with a media that swoops on any disunity and makes it public, we will make little progress in re-evangelising the west!

On the outcome; I am not sure who won. Was it Labour who wriggled out of a hole aided by National? Was it National who initiated a solution and resolved the problem. I am not sure on a political level. Then there is the question of whether we who believe that a loving gentle-firm smack is integral to good parenting as a last resort should keep protesting. Some think so. I say, let it lie and get on with life standing in unity with love, grace and humility so that the world may see that Jesus does make a difference and is worth following.