Thursday, November 27, 2008

Tribute to Stuart Lange

For anyone who is interested, I have attached my tribute to Rev Stuart Lange here. He is a legend! It was fun to roast him....

A Tribute to Stuart Lange, No Longer Vice Principal Community of Laidlaw… But still church history lecturer… so not a good bye, but my way of Saying Thanks to you for your years as VP Community…

Stuart Lange, not Langey; or Longey; or not langgggg.. but Lange! Or, as I like to put it, S.lang… Slang… for good reason.
Stuart Lange, history prof, a man who truly embodies his subject; the quintessential historical prof…
Slightly eccentric, crooked smile, hooked and bent nose… you know he has a crook elbow too, took the dog for a walk, hit the chain, smashed the elbow… Of course the dog was unharmed…
No Surprise, a lover of animals, each year looking after the animals at the Massey Christmas drive through, donkeys, lamas… etc…
Then there is his Einsteinlich hair… kind of a wild man of Southland look… in fact… Stuart Lange
A face a cartoonist would die for!
The nemesis of the liberal wing of the Presbyterian Church… A man who Affirms the faith, in fact, the head of Prez Affirm, head of the Prezie evangelicals, a Luther-type reformer… did you not know? … it was he who led the charge for the Word… someone must write a biography of this man… Stuart Lange… but, long odds on ever becoming moderator
Stuart Lange… A Forrest Gump like runner, once bounding 8 hours over the Keppler Track.
Sources tell me, he ran like a gazelle for the first 2 hours, but the last two were hell.
He was heard to say, man is not made to run that long! Ran with 3 ministers and an undertaker! In safe hands… Stuart Lange
A Shepherd to his flock, here and in his churches, from Tuatapere to Massey, from BCNZ to Laidlaw.
Lover of sheep and people, a farmer at heart, a midwife to lambs and people like, truly obedient to his Lord… Feed my sheep, feed my lambs!
He lost one you know! Last week… but he has recovered.
Evangelist… once learnt to shear sheep to win the lost, learnt Samoan to win the lost… loves to win the lost… A lost sheep kind of man, a kind of father to the prodigals.
Speaking of sons… Father of four, strapping lads, most getting hitched as we speak, pillars of the church… if one can judge a man by his kids… good on you Stu!
A husband of the great Christine, her support through unenviable struggles, but faith won out... good on ya mate.
Brilliant mind, theological extraordinaire, soon to be Doctor, about beeping time!... So, the Rev Dr…
Stuart Lange.
Vice principal, aptly entitled… principal of vice, or should I say, anti-vice… like Miami Vice, only Massey Vice!
Trouble shooter where students went awol of OTT or lost the plot… like doctors who were no doctors… or out of control Calvinists… lots of them!
But always embodying humour, grace and truth…
Stuart Lange
Who rolls his R’s, who plays mean blues piano, who on occasion (so I have been told by reliable sources) wears women’s blouses to church to preach and lead… and that in the middle of the great dispute that racked the church!...
A white one it was, frilly, with white cloth buttons, with shoulder pads! Mmmm, now there’s a sight, Stu in his wife’s blouse with shoulder pads…
You see his mum got Christine’s blouses mixed up when she did the ironing!
Christine joined him at the door, of course she never warned him, not til he was shaking hands…
I am told, that at the door, he was offered the full range of women’s accessories… red stilettos, fish net stockings…
Now you’re talking, that would be a sight, with those hairy legs in fishnets…. Of is it fish legs in hairy stockings… Stuart Lange…
What else does he get up to in his spare time?
Tramper, man of the south, a real bloke’s bloke, but with that soft touch when required.
You know he loved his pijerro… full of hay and fragrance
A Great teacher… I even had him when he started here… took ribbing well… Stuart Lange …
You know he hates clerical clothes does this Stuart Lange… yet one class dressed up in full regalia one year, mitres, dog collars, the lot… you won’t see him in clerical robes, just his wife’s clothes
Stuart Lange
Then there was the class that set up completely in the courtyard… unfazed was Stuart Lange, so he took the whole lecture out there… college was fun back then!
Did you know… he keeps a folder of funny things students say in assignments and exams… there are lots of those… hey, you could be in there… watch what you say!
Like the class who found out his birthday… every answer in the exam worked that birthday into their answers… he likes a good joke, he can take it, cause he is a good joker… is Stuart Lange
Leader of community, full of wit, off-hand humour, turns of phrase, clean but edgy, self-deprecating, razor sharp mind, reminds me of the flight of the Concordes, but with history, or more likely, John Cleese from Fawlty Towers… Basil Lange!
Or better… Stuart Lange.
We will miss you as leader of community, you did well, you were fun, you had wisdom (no surprise for one so historical), you led well, you cared, you knew when to laugh, when to cry, your encourage, your scolded when you had to, you will be a hard act to follow … for you are a good fellow…
Stuart Lange, pastor, friend, mentor and leader…
Thanks and Shalom

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Problem of a Christian Party

How would it be possible for a Christian party to get traction in NZ now? I really have my doubts that it could even if there were the will.

It would require all the Christians to work together, which seems impossible. Look at the current situation with 4 parties, 3 of whom polled beneath Legalise Cannabis and the Bill and Ben party!

Even then, it would require getting 5% of NZer's to agree to vote for them and/or get an electorate seat or two. Getting 5% seems an aweful long way off when the combined vote was 2.8%!

Peter Dunne may get another crack in the future, but he was close to losing this time. Can he pull off another one? Plus, he can't go on forever.

The smaller parties have built themselves, in the main, off disaffected mainline party MP's (Anderton, Dunne, Peters) who have pulled the plug on the parties and gone alone. Are there others who could come out of the mainstream to work with Dunne and the other Christians? They would have to be high profile, safe seat people. Do they exist? Perhaps they do.

Alternatively we go the way of the Greens and avoid individuals and find a set of core policies which NZers care greatly about and go for it. But are NZers moved by such family and social ethics as much as they are on the huge global ecological issues.

Such a party would have to come together with a coherant set of policies. Christians tend to be right wing in their politics because of a concern for family and personal ethics. Yet, Christ I think while not opposing wealth creation, would align very much with the left's view of wealth distribution to care for the poor and needy (generally speaking... a much more nuanced discussion needed here!)

A true Christian party would have to combine Christian family, personal and social ethics. I suspect that is very difficult in today's fragmented church environment ranging from Christian socialism through to a prosperity doctrine. There are such different views of the relationship of church and state where some want separation and others want engagement.

Why not abandon the idea of a 'Christian party' and work within the mainstream parties. Let's resolve over the next 100 years to choose the party closest to our values (always prepared to compromise), join, and work for constructive change.

Election 2008: Is it Fair?

Another thought on the election has come to me.

Ask yourself, is this electoral system fair when a party gets 4.21% of the vote and gets no members of parliament while parties with less votes gets members.

Two parties with less than 1% of the vote now have members of parliament i.e. (0.89 [United Future]; 0.93 [Anderton]). Maori and Act have five members of parliament (2.24 [Maori]; 3.72 ]Act]). Yet neither did as well as NZ First but NZ First is not in parliament at all.

It seems to me that the system is flawed. Sure, those that got one, Rodney Hide and the Maori's won electoral seats, and one can argue that as a result they deserve their places. But I think there is a problem here. NZ First deserve on a proportional representation basis to have more in parliament than all of these parties.

Is the system fair? Then again, life's tough in politics.

Election 2008: How Close Was It!

The election was a closer run thing than people think. I got onto the electorate calculator and did some sums.

The current arrangement on the basis of election night is as follows:

The right included National 59; Act 5; United Future 1. All up, 65.
The left included Labour 43; Green 8; Maori 5; Anderton 1. All up, 57.

Now that looks nice and clearcut.

But think about this. If NZ First party had got 5% of the vote, which is only .79% more than they polled, and National had goe 44.66 instead of the 45.45 they did get, it would look like this (using the Election calculator (http://www.elections.org.nz/calculator/):

The right including National 55; Acts 5; United Future 1. All up, 61.
The left including Labour 41; Green 8; NZ First 6; Anderton 1; Maori 5. All up 62!

According to this analysis, this would have given Labour the chance of leading the nation with the other 4 leftist parties.

Alternatively Maori would have supported the right which would have given the right 66 and the left 57. Indeed, the Maori party would have dictated the government, and it would have taken hui up and down the country to sort it.

Interestingly, the government would be a '4-headed monster' if the right governed or a '5-headed monster' if the left governed.

It also shows that it can be argued that the vote for or against NZ First was the most important factor in the election as it turned out. For those who adhere to an anti-Peters conspiracy, it worked! If there was a plot among some on the right to destroy his chances in the election, it stopped him being king-maker; or as he had promised, queen-maker.

So, heck, it was far closer than people think!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Clark, Peter, Greens

I have to pay tribute to Helen Clark. She is despised by many Christians for her morality and the social engineering of the last 9 years. And there is much to concern us with the liberalisation of marriage, sexuality, prostitution and other laws. I am deeply concerned at the shifts in NZ culture over the last years as we move away from the Judeo-Christian ethic. However, she is not alone in holding these values. Both national and labour have been involved in the liberalisation of these things and earlier issues such as abortion, the greatest social issue of our day.

I think the other side of Helen Clark that we have to acknowledge is her greatness as a leader. She has led through a period of MMP and held together government against great odds. She knew where she was going and what she wanted to do and she carried out. She worked with others and kept governments together with the art of strong leadership with compromise and team leading. She was a strong leader who was prepared to make tough decisions. She lost that ability a little this election, as she allowed the party to play it dirty and was prepared to compromise too far to retain the possibility of NZ First. She was never deposed and gathered around her a loyal and, in the main, a very competent team. While many do not like Cullen, he has done a great job and together they have been resilient and able to take NZ through the last 9 years. She has had stability in her team, a great asset; no doubt due to her shrewd management. She has worked within her limitations. She is not charismatic, but is competent. She is measured. She keeps her cool. She is not prone to quick decisions, knowing the art of buying time under pressure. She finished well! She did the right thing last night, fought to the end, and then resigned at exactly the right time (watch and learn Graham Henry!). Without doubt, she has been the best Prime Minister in terms of her leadership that I have seen. Lange lost his way. Muldoon messed up. Rowling and Marshall lacked the dynamism and strength. Clark has given us a 9 year lesson in leadership. I pay tribute to her, despite being very very unhappy with where she has led us.

On the other hand, there is the story of Winston Peters. To me, his story is not as great. Sure, he has hung in for 30 odd years in politics, no mean feat. He has been a very influential person and has led parties, been finance minister and more. He is astute and charismatic. The problem is that he blew it. He lacked the stability of character and the ability to work with others and in a media environment that is needed in the white hot world of politics. If he had hung in, kept his cool, worked within the system and holding together, he would have been the first Maori PM of NZ (not before time may I say). The Obama story could have been ours 20 or so years earlier. When Shipley was leader and PM for a short time, Peters could have been the man. However, he could not handle the pressure, and broke away. He, like Jim Anderton, Peter Dunn, Philip Field and others, have created new parties which have done ok, but have failed to really gain traction; they will all fade away. Peters has finished poorly. He made a goose of himself over the last year and was exposed if not for his dishonesty, for his questionable ethics at least. He could have been king, not king maker. He had a million times the charisma of Clark, but he lacked the wisdom and character required to lead NZ.

Then there are the Greens. The Greens really annoy me. They are labelled 'Green' but they are corrupted. They are more interested in social engineering than really addressing ecological issues. They are aligned with the left far too much. There are NZers who have a conservative view of morality, who are left leaning economically and politically, but who are not interested in the extremist views of legalising marijuana, demolishing family and family values. They are utterly liberal and have an even worse voting record than Labour in regards to family values. they are unequivically proabortion and proeuthanasia. I say to the Greens, get off the social engineering, move to the centre, and become what you say you are, Green. There are a huge number of Christians who agree with their concern for the environment and the poor.

This exposes a huge gap in NZ politics, a party with the full range of Christian ethical concerns. That is, a passion for family that we see with Family First; along with a concern for wealth distribution among the poor and needy like the left (Progressive, Alliance, Labour movement etc). There is nothing there. All the Christian parties are right wing; all the left wing parties are totally unchristian in their morality. They might be good in terms of social justice.

The Greens should now be able to work with National, but it is out of the question because the party has been taken over by socially liberal anti-Judeo-Christian family and individual ethics. They should be now working alongside national but because of their imbalance they are not. Perhaps it is time for Christians with these ideals to join the Greens en-mass, pick up the ecological concern, the social justice concern and add to it a Christian ethic. They of all people should be opposing abortion, fighting for the most defenseless of all people/humans, the unborn child.

Enough! Got to go to church.

Shalom

The Futility of the 'Christian Parties'

So the results are in for the 2008 election. As it was looking throughout the campaign, National are in control of the country and the reign of Helen is over after 9 years. Well done John Key. He has a tough job, the economy is not in a good state and so, leading this nation, blown hither and thither on the winds of the world powers will be a challenge. Here's hoping that they can manage the economy well through this time and that they can build a stronger NZ.

What really interested me was the performance of the 'Christian' parties.

Here is a little table comparing their election night performances (these are not final, but the scene will not change that much):


National Party 951,145 45.45
Labour Party 706,666 33.77
Green Party 134,622 6.43
ACT New Zealand 77,843 3.72
Mäori Party 46,894 2.24
Jim Anderton's Progressive 19,536 0.93
United Future 18,629 0.89
New Zealand First Party 88,072 4.21
Kiwi Party 11,659 0.56
The Bill and Ben Party 10,738 0.51
Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party 7,589 0.36
New Zealand Pacific Party 6,991 0.33
Family Party 6,973 0.33
Alliance 1,721 0.08
Democrats for Social Credit 1,112 0.05
Libertarianz 1,070 0.05
Workers Party 824 0.04
RAM - Residents Action Movement 405 0.02
The Republic of New Zealand Party 298 0.01

It is disputable that United Future should be listed as a 'Christian' party but even they were fortunate to get one seat, with Peter Dunne only just holding onto his seat. However, I will include this in the discussion.

If we add up the 'Christian' parties including United Future, we have this result:
Overall 'Christian Party' 44252 2.10
With Peter Dunne in Parliament, such a result would get 3 members into parliament total. Now 3 might be seen as a good result for the supporters of these parties. They could hold the balance of power and work in a government, their voice being effective in influencing the political situation.
If we look at these results, the 'Bill and Ben' party and worse, the Legalise Cannabis party, did better than two of these parties. I do not want to disparage the integrity, hard work and genuine Christian commitment and desire to change NZ toward Christian morality; however, sure this is an appalling result. Come on! That means that more people want to see people smoke the weed than see NZ with good family values. I would have thought such a result would make these Christians want to rethink their political strategy. I have said as much earlier in this blog, and I remain convinced I am correct.

One of those parties is related to Destiny Church. About 5 or so years ago it was prophesied that this church/party would take over NZ in 5 years. This was their moment. They have failed to do so. This was a false prophecy I should imagine? It is time for them to realise the reality of their situation.

Surely, it is time to realise that, while MMP does enable Christians to cluster and fight elections in this way, it is not working with the fragmentation and marginalisation of the Christian vote. The vast majority of the votes cast by these 'Christian' parties, while perhaps a blessing to God, were an absolute political waste, they achieved nothing politically. Those cast for Peter Dunne were effective, getting him into Parliament. Those cast for the remainder of these 4 parties are now consigned to the bin of political history. They did not affect the election result, except to make it easier for the main parties to continue to dominate. The main parties results were not leavened by the Christian vote from these. Every vote for these parties aside from those for Peter Dunne was effectively a wasted vote.

Christians need to get educated about how the system works. Unless your party has a great chance of an electorate seat, or can get 5%, in the current system, you achieve nothing politically.

As such, I think it is time for us Christians to think about how we work in the political system. We need to change our approach. The current approach marginalises and renders impotent the Christian voice. The Christians are nicely confined away from the major political processes and then their votes are wasted.

There seem to me to be two better approaches.
1. Work within the main political parties: Christians get more and more involved with the good old Christian principle of servanthood in the major parties and work to see good candidates elected, and for the Christian principles to leaven their policies. This is the approach I would strongly favour. We need to work in the long-term, do the hard yards, learn the lessons of the political process, and seek to change the world from the inside out.
2. Work together as one Christian 'pan-party'. At least in this way Christians might be able to get their voice into the coalition government speaking for family and Christian values. I think there is value in this approach. However, this to me further marginalises and isolates the Christian vote.

The failure of 'Christian' parties to work together is for a major turn off. The well publicised splits reinforce the disunity of Christians in this nation.

My hope is that this result will lead to a change of strategy among Christians. We are called to transform from within and in unity. Let us do so.