Tuesday, October 28, 2008

NZ News

What is it with the NZ television news?

I was watching El Jazeera news the other day on Triangle, just having a coffee and flicked on the box, you know how it is. The news was out that in Pakistan 1500 people had been killed in a raid on a town. 1500! That is half the number killed in the Twin Towers attack in 2001 and that dominated TV for a month or so, not to mention how it has dominated the world since as the US have sought to stop terrorism. Here we have the deaths of 1500 people and I have seen no mention on NZ TV. If it has been mentioned, and it may have because I haven't watched all the news of late, it was brief. I would have thought that this would have warranted leading the news??

You can check it out yourself if you want: http://english.aljazeera.net/news/asia/2008/10/2008102663817338879.html.

I am increasingly of the view that we need to be independent ferrets for the news of the world and not trust rather than relying on the NZ news bulletins. We as a nation are very isolated and self-absorbed. Fair enough to a degree, but we need to be people who know what is going on in the world too. I was disappointed.

I was also interested to watch in the sports news last night that the brilliant Silver Ferns victory over Australia ran fourth after news of the 5 All Blacks who have resigned, that the cricket in Bangladesh was rained out, that the Kiwi's were thrashed in league. Worse, two brilliant international triathlon results were tagged onto the news later on, the wins by Warrender and Gemmell. There is a sexism and a narrow perspective on sport in our TV sports; almost all women's sport is marginalised with the sports news almost exclusively male. There is an obsession with rugby which does not accord with its dwindling popularity as compared to yesteryear. League is over-rated. Cricket is even more over-rated, does a washed out cricket test really warrant running ahead of a great netball win?

The media need to wake up to the fact that half the population are women and that there is more to sport than rugby, cricket, and league. Mind you, I love all three!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Judgementalism of the Church

There is another thing that is bugging me which I must get off my chest.

I recently read a blog in which a number of people engaged in some rather harsh criticism of Laidlaw College, its direction, its past and its decision making.

I have to say that I was not surprised but deeply saddened by much of what I read (not all). What I read there stands in continuity with something that is to me, an outstanding feature of contemporary western Christianity. That is, people of God who assume the right and authority (on what basis I am not sure) who stand in judgement over churches, Christian organisations and other Christian workers. I hear it continually of the church. Pentecostals abuse the mainstream church. Christian theologians slam contemporary worship, the emerging church, tradition etc. Micro-church advocates slam the mega church and churches devoted to growth.

I am appalled by the continuous criticism given out by critics, theologians, pastors, lay people etc of others. I wonder, what gives anyone the right and authority to stand in judgement over each other? Where there is such judgement, doesn't the heart of the Gospel call us to do so with great love; for we know in part, we prophesy in part, but the greatest of these is love!

I spend one semester every year teaching from the book of 1 Corinthians. As I read 1 Corinthians I read about a group of immature Christians who have been converted 3-5 years previously, and who have failed to fully understand the implications of the cross. They are proud and arrogant, divided and factional, judgemental, angry, negative, immoral and destructive in the way in which they are relating to Paul and each other. They are prepared to see others fall from faith in pursuit of their way of thinking.

Paul spends the first four chapters challenging their lack of humility on the basis that they do not fully understand what it means to be 'in Christ'. They have failed to realise that a cruciform life in not merely reliance on the cross for salvation, but a way of life. It is a way of life that involves servanthood on behalf of others, love, loving action from the motive of love for the good of others. He refuses to be judged by them, not even judging himself, but trusting that Christ will do the judging. At this time, his life will be laid bare and he will be saved and receive whatever reward he deserves. He honours other Christians and Christian workers; even those like Apollos that the immature Corinthians are favouring over him.

I think the contemporary Christian scene in NZ needs to take up the cruciform life. Instead of dishonouring each other with our judgementalism, we should work constructively with love, encouragement, strengthening and comfort and build each other up! It is amazing how the impossible becomes possible when bridges of love are built. We continually reinforce the walls between us with our harsh criticism, instead of breaking them down with love. We speak at each other, past each other, and little changes. We forget that it is by our fruit that we are to be perceived and judged. Didn't Jesus say, many would stand before him and say they have done awesome things in his name, yet they will be rejected because 'they never knew him'. The context speaks of fruit!

I really don't get the criticism of BCNZ. I was a student there in the early 1990's and I had the most brilliant education. It was not dualistic; contrary to that criticism. Some of the lecturers had a different eschatology to the amillenial perspectives which are really becoming popular, but they were awesome men and women of God, academics of calibre, who deserve to be honoured in Christ. Some didn't have doctorates, but a doctorate does not make a great teacher, mark my words. More theological damage has been done in the last 250 years by people with doctorates than by those without them! They were people who put people first; always available, always praying, alway reading the Word, always loving. Perhaps they did not have time to be the most academically qualified and published people because they had their priorities right; love first, all else second.

I now have a doctorate in theology, am developing a publishing record and seeking to live out that legacy for Christ. This is to a huge degree due to these men and women. How any one can say Merv Coates, David Crawley, Shiela Pritchard, Bill Osborne, Ian Kemp, David Stewart, John Hitchen, Bob Glenn, Max Liddle, Tony Plews, Barry Tetley, Stuart Lange, John Roxborough and Chris Marshall are anything but jewels in the crown of the work of God in this nation? I will never understand anything less than honour for them. Chris Marshall inspired me, I love him, he is a legend. He was no dualist; through the rubric of the Kingdom trying to heal me of my dualism! He taught me what it means to be a man of God in a place like BCNZ/Laidlaw.

Since my day, others such as Brian Hathaway, Hudson Deane, Gordon Stewart, Nicola HG, David Mulholland, Phil Church, Jacqui Lloyd, Tim Meadowcroft and others have come and (some) gone and they are wonderful people I honour in the Lord. Now there is a new bunch, Meredith Wheeler, Rod Thompson, Martin Sutherland. These people are pastors, theologians; men and women of God who I am privileged to be named alongside!

Going further back I will never ever forget hearing J. Sanders speak at College in his 90's. What a legend. If I am half the man now that he was at 90, I will be a man who can stand before my Lord with honour. Not to mention others like Robert Laidlaw and the Kemps!

I for one do not stand in judgement over the church, other Christians, this college and other colleges (whether it be Life Leadership, Southern Cross or Carey etc). This does not mean that I will not think, critique and challenge. But I will seek to do so with love, grace, gentleness, encouragement; seeing the good in what is done and working constructively for transformation. These are our brothers and sisters and we are a team!

One lecturer in particular came under severe scrutiny or at least his appointment was scrutinised; his name is Rev Dr Rod Thompson. I want to say to anyone who stumbles on this blog...he is a wonderful man. He embodies 1 Cor 13 and the spirit that Paul appeals for. He is a great thinker. He is a great husband and father. He is always warm and encouraging. He is an inspiring leader. He is influencing many to think think think; but to do so in love. He is not judgemental. He is engaging. So he doesn't have a doctorate in those things that some value. So! His strengths are enormous and I consider it a huge honour to work with him and under him as the head of theology. He releases us to be 'us', he challenges, he inspires. Through Compass, he has been hugely influential in changing the dualistic mind-sets of a generation of Kiwi Christians.

I urge us all to spend a long time reading 1 Corinthians and consider how the letter flows to 1 Cor 13, Paul's antedote to the syncretism of the Corinthians; and I believe, the challenge we need to hear (we need to read 1 Cor 15 on resurrection as well!).

It is great to think, challenge and critique; but the way in which we do so is what counts. Though I am the world's greatest pastor, philosophical theologian, NT scholar (hehehe, there's a joke), genius, sportsman or whatever our claim may be ... whatever my glorious list of credentials and ideas on the way the world should be... without love I am nothing, achieve nothing and gain nothing. We are called to work with what we have got for the Kingdom and seek humility.

Have a read of Phil 1:27-2:16 again and again and again noting the call for love to make Paul's joy complete as well! Consider Christ, who went to the cross in service and love. Consider his words that it is by love that we are seen to be his disciples! Let us learn what it means to love.

One more thing. We are in a perilous state and time in this nation. The church is under extreme challenge at all points. We MUST come together in love, honour each other, work together, gently correct each other, seek to do better knowing that our best is always enough for the Lord, and work to see God's reign extended. The key is the Spirit, it is love, it is the fruit of the Spirit.

I believe we need a new reformation; not of structures, but of love. 'Maranatha!' Lord, come, bring your grace to us, fill us with it, cause us to take up our towels and wash each other's feet; cause us to be one as you are one in your triuneness! Come, fill us Spirit of God with love!'

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Who Needs Dan?

As to my earlier blog bemoaning Dan Carter not playing. I heard a rep from the NZRFU on Scoreboard ZB yesterday stating it was Dan and the Canterbury union's choice, not the NZRFU. That being said, I withdraw that earlier comment criticising them. As it was, Canterbury did not need him, slogging out a good win, just.

Nice to see Hosea Gear in the AB's, he deserved it.

That being said, he should have played. Go the Kiwis! Go the Silver Ferns! Go the Phoenix!

United and National

Interesting! According to the Herald Peter Dunne has gone into 'bed' with national (http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz-election-2008/news/article.cfm?c_id=1501799&objectid=10539486). This means a vote for UnitedFuture is a vote for the right. It is great that Dunne has clarified which direction he will go in. This makes UnitedFuture a viable option for those who are uncomfortable with Labour and with national but with right leaning preferences. On the other hand, it helps those who want to support the left and Labour to make sure that they don't vote for UnitedFuture. My suspicion is that a number of Christians will go this way, liking the morality of UnitedFuture. The only danger here is the question of whether UnitedFuture get the numbers or an electorate seat to get anyone in. If not, the vote is lost in the wilderness. However, the election is certainly becoming clearer in terms of what the implications of a vote are.

To add to my earlier blog:
A vote for UnitedFuture is a vote for National and vice versa (if they get in).
A vote for National is a vote for Act if they crack the 5%.
A vote for Labour is a vote for Greens (not just the other way around)

Someone read my earlier blog and thought it sounded right wing. Well, that is where the problem lies. In terms of the ethics if marriage and family, for me it is a no-brainer, the right is better. In terms of social concern, globalisation, ecology etc, it is equally a no-brainer, the left is better. Where economics is concerned I am not so sure. It could be we need wealth generation at the moment as we face the recession; if so, we need the right. However, it could be that we need a government that will distribute the wealth to the poor of whom there could be a number as we face this recession; if so, the left may be better. That was the point of the blog. It is a tough call; I am still thinking, thinking, thinking...

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Dan Carter and NPC Final

So why is Dan Carter not playing in the final of the NPC tonight?

The way that NZ rugby players are wrapped in cotton wool is weird. It is a privilege to play rugby professionally and they should play! Get him out there.

The NZ rugby union shows its lack of understanding of the professional sports world. Older professional leagues like the Premier League, NRL, AFL etc do not do this. Their people play for their pay. The NRL is a long season with more physical toll than rugby, of that I am sure. Yet, week in week out they front. The Heineken cup and other British rugby leagues are tough and their players play. The last world cup saw England and France make the semi's and England the final with supposedly weaker teams with players who played. NZ lost the last world cup because their players did not play.

The sponsors need him to play. The fans need him to play. The TV magnates who support the ediface need him to play. He should play. He should, 'go to work, the work for which he is paid.' He can rest at the end of the season. NZ rugby doesn't realise this, but its players should play and rest when injured. They don't need to rest, except at season's end. They don't need to rotate, they will get dizzy! Rugby is such a high attrition game that the opportunities come when there are injuries. When they are hurt, they rest and recover. Then they play.

I might not go to work on Tuesday and front my students because I need a rest. I might just rotate for the day. I am tired. I need a rest. I will only turn up to lectures every second week, then I will stay fresh, ready for the big lecture. Yeah, that sounds nice. Ah, I will also go for 6 months to another institution and lecture for a few million bucks. But I better have a rest to be ready for that. This is rubbish.

Election Dilemma

Mmmmm. Who to vote for? It seems an easy election for Christians to vote in doesn't it. We have had labour for 9 years and they have continued to dismantle NZ's Judeo-Christian ethical basis... well, what might be called Judeo-Christian??? Anyway, they have had a social policy that has reframed marriage allowing same-sex unions (not marriage directly, but in guise); they have gone against the desires of most NZer's to smack; they have allowed prostitution to be legal etc etc. So, it is time for a change. Simple really, vote to get them out if you believe in God's Word.

Well, I wish it was that simple. To me, while these things are biggies and concern me to differing degrees, there is the matter of economics. Jesus had more to say about money than any ethical issue, social or otherwise. I won't go over the data, you can read it... start with Luke's Gospel and pop into Matt 5-6; 25. Then there is James epistle, 1 Jn 3:16-17, Acts 2-4 and other passages which reiterate all this. It seems to me that economics are more important than social issues. God does not want to see the rich get richer and the poor poorer. He is deeply offended by the oppression of the poor by the rich and the western world stands condemned before him... me included (by the way pray for me, Mammon calls me... I will pray for you too).

By the way, the other complication here, is that a vote for National is not really a vote for better social/moral policy. Have a look at their voting records, they are not much better than Labour sadly! but, they are better. You could of course vote for United and Dunne, but if he does not get in, and it looks like this one will be close. By the way again... I don't see the point of voting for any party that won't get someone in and which is polling way below the 5% threshold... and all the Christian parties are in this place!

So which party is best for ensuring that the poor in NZ are not oppressed by the rich? Which party will care for the needy in a time when we are in recession? Which party will have a global concern for the poor? What about fair trade issues? What about ensuring the right distribution of wealth through society?

So, here it gets interesting. National will free up the economy and stimulate business growth. They will coalesce (can't spell that word???) with Act who have brought back Roger Douglas (never heard a 'bring back Roger campaign'... bring back Buck!). Anywhat, this means things will move toward privatisation and stimulating the economy with incentives for businesses, the wealthy, means of attracting foreign investment etc. All this will serve to increase the already widening gap between rich and poor in NZ. And we are already a world leader here (woo hoo... we are world leaders in something other than teen suicide and rugby... oh, we aren't world leaders in this but we are at cricket... not!).

But Labour are not exactly brilliant in this area either, they have caused the increase of this margin over their term. However, some of their partners are more in tune with this economic stuff like Progressive and the Greens (who are even more committed to dismantling the Judeo- Christian ethic by the way). Similarly, in NZ we have to admit there is a huge problem among Maori's in terms of education and crime. I love listening to Willie Jackson and John Tamihere on Radio Live and they are right about one thing, we have to see this problem resolved, and Maori have to be empowered to do this (b.t.w. We as Christians must be committed to honouring the Treaty which was made in the sight of God). Similarly, one of the key parties, NZ First (don't write them off), have a Maori leader and although he has been given a lot of stick, he is no fool and could be there.

So, for me it is not a simple election at all. Morally, it is clear, get rid of Labour. Socially, keep them? If we need to generate wealth for a few years, National/Act. If we want to see wealth distributed, left.

What is clear is that this election will be a blast and close, the left block vs the right... so

  • If you want to get rid of labour, vote National and maybe Act
  • If you want to end the social engineering (J-C ethic), vote National and maybe United if it looks like Dunne will win... but I am not sure this will change much
  • If you are concerned for economic growth vote National or Act
  • If you are concerned for social justice vote left like Labour, Green, Progressive, Maori... depending on your leanings
  • If you think we need a new leader vote for Key, its her or him
  • If you think we need to keep the status quo as the world faces troubles, vote Labour

Remember that:

  • A vote for Act is a vote for National
  • A vote for Greens is a vote for Labour
  • A vote for NZ First is a vote for Labour
  • A vote for Maori is probably a vote for Labour... maybe not
  • A vote for Progressive is a vote for Labour
  • A vote for United may be a vote for Labour, but could equally be a vote for National
  • A vote for the Christian parties aside from United is probably a vote wasted in the sense that it will not count
  • A vote for Act gets Roger Douglas back closer to the economic power base of NZ... bring back Buck!

Where have you been?

An interview:
I. Viewer: Hi DrMarkK, I see your last blog entry was Aug 19. So where have you been?

DrMarkK: Good question. I have been snowed under and work and have been in a rut, lost interest in blogging to be honest, too much on, loss of interest in life etc... it happens.

I. Viewer: Are you back bigger and better then?

DrMarkK: Bigger for sure. I have put on weight. You see, I like the red wine, and can't help eating a bowl of ice cream every evening watching reality TV shows like Survivor, Top Chef etc. I am a compulsive ice cream and reality show nut.

I. Viewer: As one who has followed your lack of progress over the years, I wonder why a bottom-class academic is watching such pivel on TV? (Is that how you spell Pivel?) Surely, you should be reading, studying, thinking, praying and if you watch TV, watch doco's and high quality TV like Coronation Street?

DrMarkK: Well I do watch the latter; it is not high class, but Emma likes it and I am married to her (and happily). Well, I do some reading... kids books, I like the picture ones especially.

I.Viewer: I see that things are only going to get deeper and better on this blog.

DrMarkK: I hope not. I am shallow. I am slightly deeper than the 1/2 inch depth of most Christianity but find myself struggling to hold my breath long enough to get down much deeper. Still, I will do my best. Anywho... interesting word? What about, anyhow? anywhen? They are good too. Let's start using them. By the way Ian, you are a pathetic interviewer, there is nothing of substance here... I am out of here... got to see Winston.