Monday, December 14, 2009

Am I bad?

We all wonder how we will react when one of those moments in life comes along. I had one last night. I picked up the girls from the airport after a trip to Timaru. It was midnight when we drove into the car park of our church, which adjoins our house. As we were getting out of the car, my daughter Annie heard a noise coming from the church. I thought, 'not again!' You see, the church has been burgled twice recently and I wondered if it was nos 3. I ran into the church, unlocked it, only to come upon a burglar. It was nos 3. He did a runner, heading to the foyer of the church. I raced after him and had him cornered.

Now this was the moment when I could be hero or zero. I should have hit him with one of my famous crash tackles, well famous 20 years ago when donning the orange and green of Pakuranga. I did chase him and did grapple with him. He had a crow bar thing, which I wrestled off him. But then he broke free and headed for the door at the other end of the church. He was too quick for this old man. He scarpered down Diana Drive. I chased him and threw the crow bar at him, nearly hit him. Sadly I only had jandles on and my bare feet were no use racing down the road.

By this time my daughters and Emma my wife (and rev of the church) were on the scene. Gracie raced after him but was too late. Now at this point there was a car over the road of the church and the guy in the drivers seat said, 'what happened?' Emma frantically told him, and he said, I will chase him if you like. He took off. Annie thought, that is strange, and thankfully, got the license plate. She is a clever girl.

Emma rang the cops and they were there within a couple of minutes, nice one cops. Thankfully, in the interruption, the burglar had got away with nothing. The cops sent a dog after him, no luck. The stayed for an hour or so, took photos, interviewed us, and then we went home. The MO of this guy was the same as the last two robberies, it is surely the same bloke, looking for the new gear. Thankfully it is locked away out of his reach.

The cops checked out the license plate of the car, turns out it belongs to a criminal's family, here's hoping.

I have had all sorts of thoughts this morning. Things like, thank God I got the crow bar off him! I wonder what would have happened if I had got him. Why is this happening? Do people not have any respect for the things of God in this nation? (Many don't actually of course). Thank God he got away with nothing. I have prayed for him.

But deep down I am disappointed. This was my moment. I could have taken him down with a big tackle, held him down until the cops and Emma arrived. I could have been a hero. I can see the photo now, front page of the Herald. Me sitting on the criminal, holding him down, the cops coming. Me the hero.

But I butchered the chance. All it would have taken was a return to my youth, a shoulder charge. He was not a big bloke.

Of course, equally likely, I might have got a crow bar in the head, he might have had a knife or worse? Then again, I might have done some serious damage to him and myself. I can see the headlines, Laidlaw College lecturer and Presbyterian minister charged with manslaughter! I can see the photo in the Herald!

So, all in all, it turned out good. He got the shock of his life. He didn't get away with anything. No one was hurt... except my ego.

The truth is that I am not that happy with my reaction. I am not keen on violence. But the truth was, that in the heat of the moment, I was up for a good scrap. You never know how you will react in such a situation. I am not sure how I did to be honest? Tongue in cheek though, am I bad?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Catch a Tiger By the Tail 2

Well well. Good start Tiger. He has given up golf for a little while. This sounds like a man who is serious. There is another rumour out there that he spent up to $60,000 a weekend and was supplied with numerous women for his pleasure. It sounds like ancient Rome. An athlete of huge renown on and off the field!

Still, it is a good start to put his wife and family first (at last), and seek help. I am sure the notion of "sexual addiction" will now emerge. It is hard to know what to make of sexual addiction. Some write it off as an excuse for lust. Others acknowledge it as an illness. I would imagine that it is truly an issue for some. Anything can become an addiction if we allow it to flourish in our lives and take over. Things like eating and sex are so basic to being human, that undoubtedly they can overtake us.

We Christian men have to watch this seriously (and some women I presume). We are all prone to sexual desire. Sexual desire is not a wrong thing, it is a gift of the creator, essential to the marriage unit, which lies at the heart of God's plan for humanity (Gen 2:24). Sexual gratification, like excessive eating (alcohol and drugs for that matter), can easily become a means to meet emotional need. Like all addictions, it can only be satisfied with more.

Many young men start with porn, fantasy and masturbation, with feeding their desires with treating women as objects, dehumanising them, violated their image-bearing nature, and seeing them as merely a means of self-satisfaction. Walking down this path is dangerous. It inevitably leads to a desire for more, something different. At its heart is self-centredness, placing one's own gratification above others. In this sexually promiscuous society this can go in any number of directions whether it be multiple partners, prostitution even sexual abuse of others. For many it does not go that far, but the truth is that they live out their lust, if in secret.

Today men who take seriously the Scriptures need to be utterly controlled. If we set out on a path of determination here, we can gain control, and this can become habitual. The converse is to make a habit of sexual lust, and this is dangerous. Our sexual drive can easily become an untamable tiger (pardon the pun).

Before coming to Christ I was very flawed in this area. Since coming to Christ I found myself with a renewed power to overcome. It was not all that easy, but God has been good. Here are some thoughts:

1. Look women in the eye, do not see them as objects for sexual gratification. See them as blessed image bearers.
2. Remember that when you treat them as sexual objects, you are violating your relationship with Christ (union with Christ) and the Spirit (Temple), you are violating their creator, you are violating their humanity, you are violating your own humanity, and you are in sin in so many ways (check out 1 Cor 6 here).
3. "Keep your hand off it." Make it a rule to do this. This is not always easy, but you can train yourself in self-control. It can become a habit.
4. Find alternative ways of expressing your physicality. Physical exercise is critical here. Use up that energy on the field, in the gym, etc.
5. Focus on worship of God, serving him and others, and not on self-gratification. Living to see others cherished will see you well whether married or single. I am told there is nothing less attractive to a woman than a man who is self-absorbed.
6. Keep humble in the area of sexuality. Never think you are there and it is in control. Live dependent. Sexual desire has a habit of sneaking up on you.
7. Deal with issues quickly. If you find yourself attracted, don't pretend it is not an issue. Confess it and seek God's strength. Ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit.
8. Get help if you can't overcome. Stage one is a friend of the same gender, prayer and accountability. Stage two is help from a professional. Often sexual desire is linked to other emotional deficits which will need dealing with to be resolved. 
9. If you get married, see sex not as a means of your own gratification, but hers. Make it your goal to ensure that she is satisfied.
10. Don't think marriage solves it all. There will be times in your marriage where you will have to practice celibacy for health or other reasons. Get used to it, it is part of being human.
11. Determine from this point on to be celibate if single, no matter what it takes. If you are married, make a commitment to never put yourself at risk, where you will be in a position to be vulnerable. Take note of the example of Joseph and the injunction "flee immorality."

It is possible to train yourself in self-discipline here. It works if you persevere. If you feed it, it will become obsessive and demonic.

Let's not fall into the tiger trap.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Catch a Tiger by the Tail

I have to say something. Tiger, Tiger, Tiger! What were you thinking? Well, he wasn't of course. Had he been thinking, he would not have done what he has done. He has allowed desire to over ride his brain.

The truth is that Tiger Woods will continue on. He might lose his marriage and a bag of money. But, he will probably go on and become the greatest golfer of all time with the most majors. Most of his sponsors will likely stay with him. He will manage the PR to ensure minimum damage to his brand. He will go on Oprah, he will claim sex addiction, he will engender compassion for his problems. He will possibly even come out smelling of roses. I have heard for example, some saying that he seems human now. He is like us all!

Well the truth is, he is not like us all. Yes, he is human; yes we are all prone to failure as I indeed am. But to have God knows how many affairs with a beautiful wife and kids a home, is not something many of us have done, nor would we contemplate doing it.

So what is our response? Here's some thoughts.

First, what he has done cannot be condoned and merely written off as him being a man. It is not justifiable. He has committed a tremendous wrong. It is tragic. He has been exposed as a man with a double life. He is a great golfer, but a terrible husband with a dreadful problem.
Secondly, his legacy will never be the same again. Many will overlook it. However, those who understand what really matters in this world will see through him. What matters is our character, our values. The measure of these things is our marriage and families. While he may be the greatest golfer ever, he can never hope to be considered a great man. He is a tragic man who can lie to and deceive those closest to him. His integrity is irrevocably violated. Like Shane Warne, his reputation is forever tarnished.
Thirdly, it shows us again what matters in this world. We need to get our priorities in order. Fame, glory, money, sex, power, charisma, looks, charm, talent; all these things seem so seductive, so important, so to be sought, the things that matter most. Yet, they are not. Better to sacrifice these things for love, mercy, compassion, integrity, truth, fidelity, consistency. We are not to have hidden lives like this. We are to be "what you see is what you get people." And what you see should be laced with the values of the gospel.
Where are these found? In the Scriptures in the 10 Commandments, in the writings of the prophets, in the Sermons on the Mount and Plain, in the fruit of the Spirit in Gal 5, in the love chapter of 1 Cor 13 and so on. Most especially they are to be found in Christ who showed us what it meant to be the complete package. He had the charisma, the power, the talent; so much so, he could lay hands or speak to another and raise them from death or heal them of disease. What power! Yet, he refused to use them for monetary gain. He renounced using them for power or personal aggrandisement. He did not use them to get hot girls, take them back to his tent, and secretly get it on. He sought to love, but in the true sense of the word. He preferred to die than violate the principle that what matters above all, is love. That is why he wouldn't do signs for those who demanded it. No hot marketing campaigns, cool brand names for Jesus. No seeking the limelight. You don't find Jesus in the Decapolis, Sepphoris, Tiberius or other big cities. Nor did he do most of his work in Jerusalem, aside from attendance at festivals and his death. He chose the wilderness, the little towns, places like Capernaum. He preferred to get away from all the glitz and glamour. He was determined to use his wonderful talents for others and their good.

One of my favourite passages in Scripture in this regard is 1 Cor 13:1-3. We all love the next bit defining love with 15 verbs. Well, the first three verses are glorious. Paul lists a series of wonderful spiritual gifts. He starts with those the Corinthians love, like tongues and wisdom. These achieve nothing without love. He climaxes the section with two others. One is to give all we possess to the poor. Another is to give our bodies over that we might boast (not as some manuscripts say "in order that I might burn", this is an interpolation). Giving what we possess to the poor is the greatest act of love isn't it? Isn't there no greater love than to give oneself up for a friend (Jn 14)? Yet, Paul tells us that even these are worthless without love. Even the greatest of Christian gifts are nothing without love.
This is shocking and stunning stuff to make the point. What matters is not charisma, power, money, sexual prowess, personal glory or even flawless religious ritual etc. What matters is selfless service for others motivated out of love. Our hearts are what matters.
Tiger is an object lesson to us who follow Christ. The illusion of this world is exposed through him. Yes, we can be the greatest sportsman of our generation, the best of the best perhaps. We can have it all: the wife, the family, the millions, the fame, the glory, the world at our fingertips. Yet, if we do not live by the right values, empowered by the true humanity that is love, it is exposed and we are nothing.
My prayer for Tiger is that he comes back. That he seeks help. That he does not do it to make himself look good, to manage his PR. Rather, that he gets on his knees before God, repents, turns from this clearly serious problem, and give his all to his God and his wife and kids. I pray he finds that place of integrity and consistency. It is a tough ask, but it can be done. You see, our God is a God of second chances (and third, fourth, fifth...). There is a path back to integrity or Tiger but it will not be easy. Can he do it at all? Will he do it genuinely? I hope so for his sake.

My other prayer is for his wife and kids. Marrying into a world like Tiger's is a tough ask for anyone. Being raised in the limelight as his kids are must be horrendous. I pray god holds them all in the palm of his hand and that they find him in the mess. 

Harry Potter and the Gospel

For the last week I have been given orders by the doc to take a week off. I crashed last Saturday, had stomach problems, was rather emotional (unusual for me), and was utterly knackered. Doc said, you are showing signs of stress, take a week completely off. So I have. And I feel a lot better for it.


Anywho, one of the perks of such an arrangement is that you have to fill your time. My kids have hassled me for years to finish reading Harry Potter, having got to the first part of Book 4 years ago. So, over the last four days I have raced through books four to seven.

It has inspired me to blog…

The first thing to say is that it is GOOD! It is, to put it mildly, brilliant! I can see why kids and many adults love it. For me in my youth it was the Narnia series by C.S. Lewis. I loved those books and still love them! Great as those books are, begrudgingly I admit that Potter is even better. Narnia is a bit piecemeal, with the Magician’s Nephew great, the Lion the Witch the Wardrobe stunning (surely one of the greatest books ever written), and the Last Battle fantastic. The Horse and His Boy in its own way too, was very good. The others are great in their own right. However, as a flowing saga, the Potter series is superb. Based on 7 calendar and school years, while every book is self-contained, they link perfectly, the narrative continually building; it is phenomenal. I rate it as the best piece of tweenage – teenage writing I have ever read.

Of course, this is related to the genre, classic good vs. evil fantasy with all its components, goodies, horrendous badies, power struggles, death, heroism, failure, mystery, double agents, and a glorious climax in which the baddie is defeated and the goodies reign supreme. There are keys though. Firstly, unlike say Lord of the Rings which is completely “otherworldly” and Narnia which is set in another world with only distant links to our own, it is intertwined in our own world. This means that all readers can feel a part of it and imagine it at every turn. This must be strongest for the British where it is set; however, all western young readers can relate to it. One can easily imagine that there are wizards and witches, that one is not a mere muggle (normal human), and that there are schools of witchcraft in one’s own country. One can imagine that there is wizardry around us as we speak.

Secondly, for a kid’s book, it is dangerous stuff. There is death, even among the best characters. This puts some off, and for good reason. However, this makes it exciting and compelling.

Thirdly, it is set in a school with all the normal school stuff like poor or nasty teachers, homework, exams, detentions and more. It has kids’ testing and beating the system. Kids love this stuff.

Thirdly, in Quidditch it has a sporting twist with heroes, a world cup, with Harry as a star, with injuries.

Fourthly, it has kids in among adults beating them and being the heroes. It makes kids feel special.

Fifthly, there is romance. There is Cho and the developing relationship of Hermione and Ron, after it seeming earlier that Harry and Hermione hook up. There is young Ginny who eventually becomes the object of Harry’s interest. Then, running through it all is magic. It has mystery, intrigue, powers that can be wielded and kids can do it.

The second thing is looking at it from a Christian point of view. Some Christians, concerned about the occult (as we should be), see all the magic and world view of HP as negative. They tell kids not to read it, concerned that they might be influenced into an interest in the occult. I think there is a danger for some kids that this could occur.

However, I think that at another level HP has positive possibilities for Christianity. I believe that, as a book that has been and will be read by almost an entire generation, it will shape minds in the direction of an openness to spirituality. Sure, it is not Christianity, but often the first step to recognition of God is the opening of mind and heart to possibilities.

In my childhood, modernistic thinking rationalized everything, and the possibility of God and spirituality was poo-pooed by many. HP represents the next generation which is skeptical of modernism and its claims to authority. HP imagines a world full of unseen forces for good and evil, spirituality, possibilities of cosmic forces guiding history, that there is more out their than our apparent reality. HP I believe will serve to open people to the possibilities of God, Jesus, Spirit and a Christian worldview. God is in the business of using all at his disposal to make himself known. I think that HP is worse news for atheism than for Christianity.

Looking back in my life three books helped open me up: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Lord of the Rings and the Stephen Donaldson Thomas Covenant Chronicles. They helped open my up to spirituality. The gospel was able to seed in my life and Jesus is now my Lord. I believe HP could do this for some in our world. To me it raises the possibility that, as Christianity is shunned by older generations for modernistic reasons, a new generation will rise up that will dare to stand against the status quo, and will take on the faith.

It is up to Christians to use HP to further the gospel. There is the surface level way of doing this, helping people see parallels between the HP worldview and Christian faith. We can notice how HP is a redeemer figure; we can see the differences between him and Jesus. Jesus is divine and human, HP is human. Jesus was sinless, HP is flawed. Jesus never uses force, HP does. They both have in common love, love being the ultimate power in the book. We can draw people to the depth of the love of Christ as compared to HP. Jesus was a servant and showed love to all refusing to use force, HP’s love wins through, but not with the depth and completeness of JC. HP uses magic, Jesus uses power drawn from the divine. There are powerful values to be drawn from the book like courage, justice (I love Hermione’s SPEW movement to release Elves from slavery), love (needs defining), equality (all to be treated equally whether muggles, mud-bloods, witches, giants etc), unity and more. We can notice the similarities and difference between the ultimate moment in the book and Jesus’ death and resurrection. It is similar in that death is conquered through love. In HP’s case, he doesn’t die, only appears dead. This is a Gnostic or liberal perspective of Jesus, who genuinely died, but then rises (mind you, what happened to Jesus’ soul is never discussed biblically and so the two may line up more than I suggest here). We can notice that there is no reference in HP to the power behind the whole magic of the world. The “God” of HP seems to be more like the Force in Star Wars than the biblical God. Similarly, there is no reference to demons in HP. All the wizards and witches are admixtures of power, without anything seemingly behind it. This can be used as a question raiser.

I could go on. At a deeper level, HP gives us a clue as to how to preach into the HP generation. They have been captured by a glorious good vs. evil saga. We should tell our story in the same way. My own kids have read HP up to ten times each. It is etched into them. They reject its worldview. However, they love to hear the gospel story told in similar terms, as a glorious drama/epic/saga/story about a God who created a world and how its history flows on. We need to teach them to read the bible like this, to be excited about being invited into the story. In a sense, we Christians are the “wizards and witches.” The rest of the world are the muggles. Unlike HP there is a mission in our story, to invite all humanity to join those who are invited to Hogwarts and to have the power of the divine in us to shape the world. There is “magic” in the world, and it is there for us to be a part of. It is not to be wielded for self, but for good, to see the world become as it should be. We need to carefully tell the story to point out the differences from the HP story, but, nevertheless, to tell it in that way. I believe that HP will be a powerful aid at this deeper level. It has opened the heart of a generation. We can move away from the apologetic, defensive, “proofing” approach, and tell the story. We need imagination to tell it again and again differently. We need not to tell the whole story all the time. We can draw out moments in the story, telling of heroes and heroines who have, like HP, Ron and Hermione, been flawed, but have worked for good. We should draw them primarily from our source book, the Bible, but we can draw them from the ongoing story of Christian history. We need songs, poetry, novels (like the Shack), that can excite imaginations as HP has done. We need to allow the Spirit to lead us here, he is bursting to break out through us into this open generation.

I am excited after reading HP. I realize that in front of me, when I see a person in their early 20’s or below, that almost all will have had their thinking and worldview shaped by HP. They will be excited by the gospel if I can go to that deep level and tell it in a way that calls to mind the excitement they experienced when reading the book that has shaped their mind and view. They are yearning to be a part of something that can change the world. They want to resist evil. They yearn for justice. They want love and to know how to fight through love and not power and coercive force. They are open to spirituality and have a powerful sense of imagination.

Thank you J.K. Rowling. You are brilliant and I stand in awe of your ability to tell a great great story. I have read and heard different claims to faith where you are concerned, it is not mine to judge. I believe that your book will be used of the Lord to help many find the one true God who is Father, Son and Spirit. Some may be lost into darkness through it. But others will be opened to the good news. Shalom.

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Crisis that is NZ Political Leadership

In my mind, NZ political leadership is under the microscope. First, we have the business of MP's housing expenses. MP's like deputy PM Bill English were exposed for rorting the system. Then, we have the problem of travel expenses with MP's like Chris Carter, Roger Douglas, Hone Harawira and Rodney Hide. These MP's and others have been exposed for taking spouses and partners on trips and turning them into junkets. The whole things smacks of corruption, even if it supposedly legitimised. Finally, we have the problem of Hone Harawira's email.
This email speaks of "white man bull****"; "white mother *******" who "have been raping our lands and ripping us off for centuries". It describes the rules of government expenses as "puritanical bull****."  He defends his right to take his wife with him on the basis of her years of support. Those of us who know our history, know that Maori have suffered greatly through colonisation. However, is this necessary?

Essentially we have on display in these MP's corruption and racist abuse.

Going further back we have a government that defies the majority of NZers over the anti-smacking legislation. Whatever you think about smacking, it is an arrogant and defiant government who, in a supposed democracy, flicks the bird at over 80% of its citizens.

If this is the standard of our politicians at the moment, we are in serious trouble. What we need is a new generation of NZ leaders who will lead with honesty and integrity. People who are statesmen and women, and can rise above such anger, abuse and who are determined not to rort the system. We need people who lead with grace, truth and wisdom.

The challenge for training institutions like Laidlaw College is to continue to increasingly become environments that equip people for the challenge. We have the greatest role models in Scripture to draw on: Jesus of course, Paul, Priscilla and Aquila, Timothy, Deborah, Moses, Abraham, David and more. In the history of God's people there have been many role models like Wilberforce and others. We must be inspired to take seriously the patterns of leadership laid down for us, take them into our churches, into our schools, into our communities, into our social clubs and into our parliament. We have to learn the art of servant-leadership and, taking up our crosses and towels, go into these hard places, and lead.

We have to do so humbly, without assumption of power, without resorting to the patterns of corruption and power-abuse which dominate our world. Sadly, our churches are not uncommonly led in false ways. Some have been in the news recently. We must go into a new era of determination to lead as Jesus' led.

I don't think NZ will change quickly. I think it will take years of faithful service from ministers in church and state (cf. Rom 13). It will be hard, as Christians learn how to be political while remaining principled. It might take a few generations. Some will be crucified along the way. Some will fall and fail. However, some will show the way. Let's not slip back into Christian ghettoism like "Christian" political parties, and get in amongst the big players in NZ politics. We must have generations of NZ Christians who, without resorting to moralism, bring true humanity into the public realm.

To be successful will take brilliance and much much more importantly, character. Character is the missing link in all of this. Character not to rort the system, even when it is "legal" to do so. Character not to resort to anger and abuse when one is challenged. Character to stand firm in one's faith, yet work with others of different views for the desired goal. Character to learn the art of debate without being defensive and retreating. Character to die for Jesus in the public realm. Character to lead not for popularity and pragmatism, but with humility and principle.

It is a supreme challenge, it is the narrow road. But with God, all things are possible.

All Blacks Starting to Look Good

Having flogged Graham Henry and his team for he last 2 years, I am getting really encouraged about the direction they are taking. They lost the last world cup in my view, because they had the wrong game plan for the top level. They continued to believe NZ could outrun every other nation with pace and flair. When they hit the finals stage of the World Cup, that style did not work. They lost an arm wrestle with France.

What I am seeing is that they are now starting to play the right game to win the tough ones. To win the big ones the All Blacks won't win with the free flowing game that we are used to. The fitness of the modern players and the rules mean that it is a kicking, forward and defence game. They thus need a ruthless, uncompromising pack that plays 80 minutes game after game relentlessly. They need to win the breakdown and have great set pieces. They need an inside back combination that can control the game. They need brilliant destructive defence. They need a great kicking game, especially goal kicking.

All the signs are there that they are getting it. The last three games have been excellent. We out muscled the Australians, and on Sunday morning, the Welsh. The Welsh can moan all they like, but they were lucky to get as close as they did. The disallowed tries could easily have been awarded, and the All Blacks would have won by 21 points. The second half was all the All Blacks and they were dominant. The pitch evened the teams out. The Welsh were pathetically negative when it came to kicking goals in the second half. They were not even trying to win, seeming to be satisfied with a draw. They completely over-rate themselves.

The All Blacks are tracking well. The weak spots to me are Tialata who lacks mobility. If Hayman comes back, or MacIntosh succeeds as a tighthead, this will strengthen us at tighthead. We are blessed at hooker and loosehead, Crockett was great. We have locks everywhere with Williams, Borich and Ross at home. Our loosies are a good unit now with Read and Kaino complementing McCaw, the best in the business, really well. I am not a Leonard fan, but Cowan and Carter are a great combination. Smith is now the best centre in the world. Guilford adds the sort of pace we need and should retain his spot. Muliaina is great and Jane is very good.

At home and not on tour there are a host of All Blacks like Mealamu, Borich, Mackintosh, Hosea Gear, Whitelock, Ali Williams, Weepu, de Malmanche, Lauaki, Elliot, Evans, Wulf, Masaga, Ross and Toeava. There are also some amazing players emerging like Sean Maitland, Granger, Heskith, I. Thompson, Cruden, Israel Dagg, Colin Bourke, Colin Slade, the Waldrons, Stephen Brett, Tim Bateman, Ryan Crotty, Bekhuis and  David Smith among others.

So, things are looking good. The South Africans are peaking now, doing and AB's. We are building. If they get the selections right, a blend of the old and the new. And they peak right. And they get some luck... who knows, perhaps they have a chance in 2011.

One more thing. The attitude of the Welsh before the game talking themselves up, and then after the game whinging about the referee - when rubbish refereeing kept them in the game (3 disallowed tries, 2 of which should have been awarded) - is pathetic. They need humility. They are not as good as they think. You would imagine, after 56 years, they might have found humility and what it means to be a good loser. They are not good losers and they lack humility. When they find it, they might go to the next level.
 

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Destiny

So, what should we make of the Destiny phenomenon in the news this week? There is a lot of talk about them being a cult (see Garth George in http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10605962). The first thing we have to do is define "cult". According to Webster there are five meanings of cult: 1) Formal religious veneration: worship; 2) A system of religious beliefs and ritual; also : its body of adherents; 3) A religion regarded as unorthodox or spurious; also: its body of adherents; 4) A system for the cure of disease based on dogma set forth by its promulgator; 5) A great devotion to a person, idea, object, movement, or work (as a film or book); especially : such devotion regarded as a literary or intellectual fad b: the object of such devotion c: a usually small group of people characterized by such devotion. Clearly, the one in in mind is meaning 3), a religion seen as unorthodox or spurious. The question is this then, is Tamaki's church drifting out of orthodox Christianity?

This is a difficult question for a brother to answer. I am always very wary of judging another Christian and their work. In 1 Corinthians Paul gets rather upset when the Corinthians break into factions and stand in judgement over he and others. The sin against the Holy Spirit in Matthew comes at the end of a dispute between Jesus and some of the Jewish leaders. They accuse Jesus of being an emissary of Satan. He retorts with the warning. My reading of that text then is, that to reject the works of the Spirit as Satan's work could see one sin against the Spirit. As such, my standing in judgement over Brian and his church is something we all as Christians should be very careful about. Having said that, history is replete with points at which God's people identifying a false teaching, teacher of movement (e.g. Paul and Judaisers in Galatians; Luther and the Reformation). So, what do we make of this phenomenon?

The first thing to say, is that the covenant signed by some of the men of Destiny is nothing new. It is a very visible expression of something that is common among some Pentecostal and other churches. That is, the people of the Church are to offer honour to their leader, to now question them. The verses "do not speak against the Lord's anointed" is often quoted in this regard (e.g. 2 Sam 19:21). It is also common to see this attitude in Polynesia and other cultures. Ministers are venerated and honoured. It is expected that they eat first at meals. Emma and I had this experience at a former church. We would be given a seat of honour and the people would wait for us to eat first. This is hard for westerners with their radical egalitarianism and especially to European Kiwi's who absolutely despite tall poppies. What has happened here, is that it has gone very public.

The second thought I have is on tithing. As Brian Tamaki said on TV, this is nothing new. Many churches call for the tithe.

Thirdly, we need to be very careful to view Destiny with balance and see the good they are doing. Many people are being reached and their lives turned around through the church. Many of these people would never be reached through other churches. I am delighted that people are being saved. Paul helps us with this in Phil 1:14-18. Paul is in prison in Rome (others say Ephesus). He is about to face Caesar Nero. Nero is in his peak of lunacy, killing off his enemies, ruthless and dangerous. Paul is delighted that some soldiers are being saved through his proclamation in the prison. Many of the Romans are getting into evangelism, inspired in the Lord by Paul's chains; they are full of courage. Some believe these people are false teachers, but they are not, they are all preaching "Christ" indicating that they are preaching the genuine gospel. However, they are differently motivated. Some are motivated out of goodwill, love and sincerity, knowing that Paul is appointed by God. Others however, are not so motivated; concerned for rivalry, envy and selfish ambition. Paul is not delighted with this. He might die as a result. The whole letter to the Philippians is seeking to stop them doing the same. So deep down he is hurt and upset. Yet he states, "what matters is that in every way, whether through pretense or truth, Christ is proclaimed." Despite flaws in the preachers, his passion is the gospel and he rejoices.

Now, contrast Paul's attitude with his attitude when he hits false teachers. Check out 2 Cor 11; Phil 3 and Galatians. He flips his lid when he hits those preaching a false gospel. He calls them emissaries of Satan, dogs, mutilators of the flesh; telling some of them to cut off their penises! Yet he never talks to Christians like this. Check out his letters. When he hits Christians who are out of balance like the Corinthians he repeatedly calls them brothers and sisters and addresses the whole letter to the "holy ones". In other words, he is careful to reinforce that they are God's people, then he critiques them. Through the letter he speaks as a father to his children, strongly challenging them, urging them to come back to the cross and its patterns of living.

That being the case, the question is, is Destiny a false expression of the faith? Is it a cult? Is it preaching heresy? Should Brian Tamaki be attacked as a false teacher and his church as a cult?

To me the answer is emphatically, no. The evidence is that they preach Christ for salvation. They urge people to give their lives to Jesus. They call for faith. They lay hands on the sick. They urge people to live their whole lives for Jesus. They are open to the public. You can attend their meetings. His preaching is there for all to see and hear on public TV.

So is everything perfect in the church? No. Neither is everything perfect in my church? I have been a Baptist pastor and a Presbyterian minister. Let me tell you, all is not well in any church and in every denomination. In fact, I could tell you things that would make your hair curl!

I would however say, that my years of study in the NT do give me concerns about many modern churches. I am not going to single out Brian Tamaki and his church. My concerns are these:
1) I get worried when any person, pastor, leader, lecturer, teacher etc, becomes a really strong focus of people's focus. What happens is that Jesus can get obscured. The teacher's view becomes dominant over the Scriptures. This happens at Laidlaw College where I teach. This is something we can all slip into. The Corinthians did this big time. Chloe tells Paul that the church is divided over those who follow Paul, Apollos and Cephas (Peter). The church was split in adulation of different teachers and leaders. Some believe there was also a Christ-group, "I follow Christ" (see 1 Cor 1:10-11). However, I believe "I follow Christ" is Paul's answer. I love John the Baptist who says, "He must increase, I must decrease" (Jn 3:30). He then lays out four chapters to tell them to stop. Whether it is Brian T or any leader, we must always divert people's attention to Christ. This concerns me in the contemporary charismatic and Pentecostal church.

2) I am worried about money in the contemporary charismatic and Pentecostal church. There are a number of issues here. First, having studied very closely tithing in the Bible, it is debatable that tithing is to be practised by NT Christians. I have blogged on this  http://drmarkk.blogspot.com/search?q=tithing. Suffice to say here, tithing is mentioned 4x in the NT. Three times Jesus challenges false understandings of tithing. He exhorts Christians to go beyond the tithe. It is also mentioned in Heb 7 not to tell people to do so, but to prove Jesus is a superior high priest. The tithe is not mentioned in Acts, Paul's letters, Peter's letters or the writings of John, James and Jude. Rather, the Christian is to give all they have. They are to care for their family and basic needs, and the rest is to be invested in the work of the kingdom from the church, to mission, to the poor.

Secondly, I am concerned about the way we appeal for money in the church. We often ask people to give so that they can be blessed. It is true that the NT endorses that those who give to God will be blessed (see 2 Cor 9 for example). However, this must not be used as a motivation. As a motivation, it means we give to gain. This is the antithesis of Christian giving. Christian giving is "no strings attached." It is a response to God who has given us everything from creation, to provision and salvation. Check out 1 Cor 13:3 where Paul says giving all we possess to the poor without love profits us nothing. Check out Luke's Gospel e.g. Luke 12:32-33. Yes, God will bless, but this is not our motivation.

Thirdly, I freak out at the idea that if we give we will be prosperous. Jesus gave his all; becoming poor that we might become rich; and he died a poor man without even a robe (2 Cor 8:9). Paul knew what it was to give, he worked himself to the bone, knowing poverty sometimes, knowing plenty. There is no formula to prosperity (see Phil 4:10-14; 2 Cor 11:23-28). Ultimately we will all be loaded. When we reach eternity we will experience glorious plenty. That is our hope and prize, that is what we run for (Phil 3:12-14). In the present, we are called to take up our crosses and live as Christ did. This will involve sacrifice, suffering, service. I call this the pattern of the cross. Paul in 1 and 2 Corinthians is arguing against a bunch of Christians who effectively had a prosperity teaching view believing a true apostle would not suffer, would do miracles, would be wealthy and prosperous. He hammers it into touch. Read the letters, he hammers them going on and on about present suffering. Christian life in the present is the life of suffering. It is the life of experiencing Friday.

Fourthly, I am concerned that what is happening about money in these churches is really a form of syncretism. Syncretism is when the gospel gets distorted or imbalanced by accommodating it to culture. Prosperity teaching is very popular in the west because it feeds our greatest sin, greed and materialism. It uses the culture to win the culture. In my view however, it is a selling out of one portion of the gospel. It is not a heresy, but an imbalance.

So how do we go about asking for money. I have no problem with church's asking for money. As Brian says on TV we need money. I suggest we encourage people to give freely, according to their means and radically (check out the principles in 1 Cor 16:1-4; 2 Cor 8-9). We tell them God will bless them but urge them to give not to be rich or get yet more, we ask them to give to bless God and further the mission. We ask them to give as they can to see God's great mission furthered, the poor fed, injustice removed. It is a subtle but important difference.

My final issue with such churches is leadership. The model of leadership in the NT is one of servanthood (see Mark 10:39-45). In Mark 10:39-45 James and John have just come asking for the primary leadership positions in the Kingdom to come. Jesus responds telling them to renounce the leadership methods of the world, and serve. He tells them  that he came not to be served but to serve. He tells them the greatest in the Kingdom are the greatest servants. Specifically, they are to renounce autocratic leadership. They are to renounce the use of power and domination of any sort. This runs through the whole NT. When Jesus is recognised as Messiah by Peter the first thing Jesus says to him is that he will suffer and die. He then tells them that they must do the same, take up their crosses and follow him (Mark 8:27-38). This is an appeal to serve. We are to die serving God, the church and the world. Philippians 2:5-11 lays out the Christ pattern, whereby Christ though God, came in self-emptying, humility, as a slave. The whole of Philippians lays out examples to the Philippians to make the same point. Read Philippians and note the examples, note the use of service, sacrifice and suffering language. The pattern of the cross is to live in service, sacrifice, suffering even to the point of death! Leaders are to be the greatest servants. This will cost them wealth. It will cost them prestige. It will cost them glory in the present. It will hurt. They will sometimes be destroyed by churches.

In the world of Paul leadership was enforced with status through social class, through military and political power. Ceasar is the number one example. Jesus and Paul offer a different model completely. It is this: take up your cross and your towel and follow me. Renounce autocracy and dominance. Power is found not in the power of charisma, brilliant speech and intelligence; it is found in love and service.

This is the same today. We love the talented, the articulate. We seek prestige and honour through wealth and power. Christianity turns this upside down. Read through 1 Corinthians. It is about wealthy strong leaders lording it, divided, putting others down. 1 Corinthians 12 and 14 speak of spiritual gifts and talents. 1 Corinthians 13 sits in between, the centrepiece of the letter and section. It declares, all that matters is love. Spiritual fruit and Christian attitudes are more important than worldly power, talent and charisma.

So, to me, churches that venerate the leaders like this and emphasise charisma make an error. it is not a cult or a heresy, but it is an imbalance. It is a syncretism to contemporary models of power and culture. However, this is not a new mistake or phenomenon. It gets things done actually. I am concerned, but we must take care not to go too far and fall into the same trap ourselves, of standing in judgement over our brother, writing them off and over-reacting.

In conclusion, to me Destiny has some weaknesses (as do all churches). They are not alone but part of a movement which to me has these weaknesses. I write from the Presbyterian church and Brian Tamaki and others would have plenty to criticise in our churches. Fair enough, we deserve it. We are nominal, liberal and lack the sort of passion for mission that they have. We are so egalitarian that hardly anything ever gets done. Our people don't tithe, many don't give at all. We have terrible weaknesses.

I was deeply upset by the Cult Watch speaker on TV One Close Up the other night. He likened Destiny to a suicide cult, that was most unwise. He went too far. I felt that Brian Tamaki and Richard Lewis handled themselves with grace.

What I am saying is this, people in glass houses should not throw stones. We need to take the logs out of our own eyes. We need to be very careful what we say. I love Brian Tamaki, he is a brother. I pray for his church that it continues to see people won to Christ. I pray that they continue to pursue Christ in the Scriptures and God brings correction in these areas (I say this humbly because this is my view). I pray they never lose their passion and edge. I pray that many come to Christ through the movement. I pray that they remain open to fellowship with others, not standing in judgement over them, not allowing the criticism to isolate them. God, pour out your Spirit on them and on all of us.

A final thought. The church in NZ cannot afford to be divided over differences. We have a huge challenge to reach this nation. Let's do it in unity!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Hermaphrodite? What is the Right Response?

There is a great deal of interest in Caster Semenya, the person who won the 800m at the recent world champs. Word is out that she is an hermaphrodite or 'intersex' as some call it. This means she has both male and female reproductive organs. In some animal groups like slugs, creatures do not have separate sexes and they reproduce with both partners acting as 'male' or 'female.' The term is drawn from the Greek god Hermaphrotus, the son of Hermes and Aphrodite. In the case of Caster, what should happen? What is the right response to this situation?

First, on a human level, Caster should be afforded complete integrity. She (using this for want of a better term) should be respected. She is human, made in the image of God, and to be shown grace and love. This has already been violated with her situation all over the public eye. Mind you in this world, this is unavoidable. The IAAF is naive if they think that the situation would not break. It would have been better to do the tests and release the results in a controlled manner. They should make their decision in the public eye.

Second, as an athlete she needs to be tested to assess whether she fits biologically into male or female categories. This will have to be based on her hormone levels and genitalia etc. It seems from the information leaking that she fits more into the male category. On the basis of the data she should be informed that she must in the future run as a man or can run as a woman. If, as is being reported, she has 3x the testosterone levels of a 'normal' woman, and has internal testes, has no ovaries and can produce sperm, it would seem that she can no longer run as a woman but must run as a man. It makes a mockery of the sport to allow her to run putting other middle distance female runners at a complete disadvantage.

Third, that being said, she deserves grace and compassion. I think she should keep her gold medal from the Worlds. Perhaps the woman who finished 2nd in the race should receive a gold as well, with the 3rd and 4th runners receiving silver and bronze as well. She should be honoured for her victory. However, as I see it, she can't keep running in women's races. This would be utterly unfair to every other female athlete.

Fourth, I suggest we pray for Caster. I feel for her and all connected to the situation. She is a human being.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

NZ Morality

The results of a very interesting study have just been released. The study has interviewed 750 NZers on their morality. The question was this: 'I'm going to read you a list of issues. Regardless of whether or not you think it should be legal, for each one, please tell me whether you personally believe that in general it is morally acceptable or morally wrong. How about...?' The margin of error for the sample size of 750 for a 50% figure at the ‘95% confidence level’ is ± 3.6%.

The results are fascinating. Asked whether certain things were morally acceptable here is a list of the outcomes:
Divorce:81% (Men 78%/Women 83%)
Sex Between and Unmarried Man and Woman: 77% (Men 79%/ Women 75%)
Having a Baby Outside of Marriage: 71%
Medical Research Using Stem Cells Obtained From Human Embryos: 63% (Men 69%/Women 57%)
Homosexual Relations: 61% (Men 53%/Women 69%)
Doctor Assisted Suicide: 55%
Abortion: 55% (Men 54%/Women 56%)
Gambling: 52% (Men 61%/Women 43%)
Medical Testing on Animals: 52% (Men 63%/Women 42%)
Buying and Wearing Clothing made of animal fur: 48% (Men 59%/Women 38%)
The death penalty: 43% (Men 47%/Women 39%)
Cloning Animals: 27% (Men 37%/women 18%)
Married men and women having an affair: 13% (Men 19%/Women 8%)
Polygamy, one man has more than one wife at the same time: 11% (Men 17%/Women 5%) Cloning Humans: 7% (Men 11%/Women 4%)

The press release does not indicate the breakdown of age. However, on Radio this morning, a spokesperson indicated that on the whole, younger people were more liberal and permissive than older. This indicates a trend toward a more liberal morality.

So what do we make of this as believers? First, I have to say I am a little surprised at how liberal we are becoming. I kind of naively hoped that NZ still had a Judaeo-Christian heart. This reveals that it does not and we are moving at pace toward a new NZ with a liberal ethic.
10 NZ
Secondly, as a Christian who bases his moral ethics on the teachings of Christ and the Apostles as revealed through Scripture I find myself increasingly out of kilter with NZ.

As far as I see it, divorce is not morally permissable in Scripture except in cases of sexual infidelity (and analagous contexts like violence), and when an unbeliever seeks to leave. The emphasis does fall on remarriage in the teachings of Christ. So, while I would want to nuance it, I am out of kilter with witih 81% of NZers on this one. Sex outside of marriage of any sort between a man and a woman is clearly not gospel morality; this puts me in with 1 in four NZers whereas 3 out of 4 will disagree with me. Similarly, homosexuality is not endorsed in the Biblical data, so I am now in a 40% minority which is dropping fast. Having a baby outside of marriage is now permissable for 7/10 Kiwis; I am in a 30% minority. Apart from exceptional circumstances to me abortion and the use of embryonic stems cells form aborted children is utterly reprehensible; I am in the minority on this one (63% of NZers disagree on stem cells and 53% on abortion). The same goes for euthanasia, I am out of kilter with 45% of Kiwis. On the death penalty, which I oppose, I am still in the majority, yay! Thankfully NZers are rejecting Polygamy, affairs and cloning! There is hope!

One stunning point is that people reject gambling, medical testing on animals and the buying and wearing of clothing made of animal fur at about the same level as abortion and euthanasia. That grieves me deeply. We are losing our sense of the value of human life as sacred. The unborn child and the elderly and infirm are now on a par with animals. That is so very sad it is tragic.

It is clear, I am in the minority on most moral issues, and the rejection of traditional Judaeo-Christian moral values is growing. The question then becomes, how do I now live? Here are some thoughts and observations.

First, I am now in a situation like that of the first Christians in the Graeco-Roman world. They lived in a world with a very different moral compass to that of Christ and the gospel. This informs me. So to the ideas.

1. I do not compromise or soften the biblical ethic to accommodate that of the world. This is tempting, to get soft at the edges and allow certain things to reach them. If we take sexual immorality as case in point; the first Christians did not soften their stance on this. We must not either. I have seen this in the church in protestant liberalism and sense it growing among some in the church today. We must not go there; it will lead to an erosion of the gospel not only in the nation, but the church.

2. I need to take account of this in my proclamation and social relationships outside the church. I need to be full of grace and conviction. I need to hold my ground with good sound reason. But I need to do so in a non-judgemental way. I must not moralise, but recognise that my gospel is going to clash with that of the world. I must continue to share Christ, the full gospel, and allow for rejection. I must do so with 'gentleness and respect', with humility, with patience, with grace, showing the grace of Christ as I do so. I must not back off the world, but engage; but do so without compromising the truth and grace of the gospel. Jesus walked among sinners with grace and truth, I must find a way to do this in this 'crooked and depraved generation.' I must shine like a star in the universe among them.

3. I need to be ready to be rejected for Christ, to suffer. I should expect that, while I might find and interested person, in the main the ethics of the gospel will suffer. I should expect this increasingly as I engage with society standing against libertinism. Christ showed us the way, as he emptied himself, humbled himself and served. They killed him, but his blood is the seed of all life.

4. My witness needs to demonstrate a new ethic. I need to live the ethic of the gospel and not trumpet it in their faces, arrogantly. After all, Christians are in the main, little better than the world. We are simply forgiven and have a fresh power to overcome. Sometimes we do, sometimes we don't. Where we do, we don't trumpet our superiority but are humble. Where we don't we demonstrate humility and repentance. But, I need to be determined through my attitudes, relationships, family, integrity, purity, grace and love, to demonstrate that the way of Christ is a better way.

5. I should expect to see social problems in NZ continue to increase as brokenness increases. I need to model a different way. I need to graciously and non-coercively hold forth the gospel in its fullness as a way forward, in hope that they will begin to see the futility of this way.

6. As Church communities we will increasingly look wooden and ethically out of touch. We need to stand by the gospel, uphold its morality. However, we must do so in love and grace and openness; or they will never come. We need to allow people room to grow in their understanding. We need to be inclusive. We need to model the values of the kingdom so that they see the difference. We need to be the community of love that will transcend such moral questions, they being absorbed in a community of love, grace, joy and hope. This will take time, perhaps generations. We need to take the long term approach.

7. We need to go out into the world and work to use all our resources not to stand in judgement over them, but be salt and light among them, sowing the ethics of the gospel in our leadership, relationships and lives. We need to show them a new way on the sports field, in schools and universities, in workplaces, in parliament, in every part of God's great world.

8. We need to keep bringing things back to Christ and what it means to be truly human. He is the centre of what we say and do, not morality (although that will follow). As we do, hopefully they will meet Christ, encounter him through his Word, and be transformed from the inside out by the Spirit. This means mission and engagement with the world will be messy as people get it to varying degrees at different speeds. We must allow room for failure, bring back authencity, and grace more and more.

So, I now know more clearly that I am out of kilter with NZ in a moral sense. I need to be shaped by the gospel, its truth and grace, and go among them and show them Christ. This tells me it will be hard and that we will struggle and suffer. We may find our churches shrink where we uphold the gospel. All we can do is pray and be faithful!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Smacking and Maori Seats; National Hubris!

Man Oh Man I am stunned at John Key and National after the smacking legislation was pulled out of the ballot at parliament yesterday. Here was a chance to do something really good. The new legislation seeks to define smacking, what is appropriate, what is not? I think it is a great idea. This is where the philosophical debate lies. What is violence toward a child? When is a smack legitimate, if it ever is? Etc. Yet with utter contempt John Key simply wrote it off. I am stunned at his attitude.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of this, he throws contempt on NZ. He shows he is no better as a leader than Helen Clark, who despite her many strengths, imposed her social liberalism on NZ despite NZ not liking it. It is to a large degree middle NZ's fault; we sit passively in our lazo-boys and girls and watch TV and do not get involved. We are apathetic and passive. Yet, I am certain NZ is not happy. They are not happy with legalised prostitution. They are uncomfortable about the number of abortions, homosexual relationships, de facto relationships and civil unions. They struggle with what NZ is becoming, caught up in it, not sure what to do, and living with it. They don't say it out loud, but they are restless and deep down, in many cases, unhappy. They do need to get active. Well, actually, in this case they have, telling the Government that they don't want this legislation as it stands.

Yet John Key can simply say, there will be no change. Why? Because John knows best! Rubbish! This is a disgrace John Key. You do not know better, and you are being politically naiive.

I believe you are being idealistic and unrealistic about Maori seats in the Auckland council as well. For sure, ideally we will have no race favoured as we forge our identity into our history. That is ahead of us at some point. However, we will never get there unless we move with grace, partnership and good sense. Pakeha NZ of which I am a part are too impatient on this. We need to be prepared to walk the long walk in hui with Maori, doing all we can to right wrongs, helping them to raise themselves up. Middle NZ won't help on this one. But I suspect Maori are going to make his life very uncomfortable. So, he started off so well, embracing the Maoris, the right wing NZer. Yet now he is alienating people at pace. Why? It seems to me, because of a certain arrogance and political naiivity.

I suspect he believes he needs to be a strong leader. Helen was and she killed of a string of National Party leaders who were, as Muldoon said of Rowling, shivers looking for spine to sliver up (or words to that effect). But a good leader thinks carefully and does not simply ignore people, especially when 87% of NZers believe something. They read situations carefully, and sometimes shift positions (carefully), make adjustments etc. This was one such time John. You missed it.

I am deeply perturbed at the loss of genuine democratic process. Sure, the Referendum was not a great question, but it got the point across. Here was a chance to seek to refine the legislation with clear definitions. It was not going back to the old, it was a middle ground. John, you missed it. As I have said in previous blogs, it is looking like you won't be PM for as long as I thought. Mind you, the lack of an alternative is obvious. Phil Goff is hardly going to worry you. But don't think NZ is happy John. Some will be, most definitely aren't.

What's the Story

This blog relates to my world at Laidlaw College. At College we love now to talk about the Bible as 'one story' starting at creation, centred on Christ, and ending in the renewed earth. This was a great idea when it really started to take off because it pulled together the disparate parts of the Bible into one flowing narrative. This is good. It is important. It is one important element in biblical interpretation.

The problem is with the term 'story.' I am so sick of it! Everytime I hear it I groan. A few years ago the same thing happened with the word 'journey.' So, I have been thinking. How else can we say it. Here are some ideas: a narrative; an epic; a symphony; a drama; a saga; an account; a chronicle; a tale; a record; a history; a movie. So people of God, try and be creative. I am not sure all these work as well as the other, but surely we can speak in different ways.

There is another problem with 'story'. I tested this with a few friends recently and they all agreed that 'story' can have the sense of 'fiction', 'fairy-tale', not true. That being said, we need to really take care here.

So, to the 7 people who read this blog, let's get creative and use a variety of means to describe the oneness of the Scriptures... please! Cause its driving me up the wall!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Theosis

A friend also asked me about Theosis. Theosis is that idea that humans on becoming one with Christ are in some sense deified or divinised and so become God themselves.

This is a tricky question and for me it is not so much important to define our relationship with God as to set limits.

The first limit is that we as the created can never cross the line to become god's or God. We are humans, created in God's image, and even in our completely transformed states as eternal beings, will be dependent on God and not God.

On the other hand, the other limit is that cannot simply say that we are human as we are now. We are swept up into Christ at salvation, and the Spirit inhabits us. We are thus drawn up into the Community of the Godhead (perichoresis). The mutual indwelling of Christ, Spirit and us means that we are now in some sense drawn into God. At our transformation we become eternal beings, forever a part of God's being in some sense.

For me, as long as theologians and people are working between these two limits, then it is an exciting doctrine to consider. My major concern is the idea that we speak of divination, theosis, deification in an ontological sense. We are forever created and human. However, I am so excited about what it leads to in my mind to think that I am 'in Christ', and the Spirit is in me, and that I will one day be free from sin and death to experience this fully. At that point, I will sin no more, and the impulse will be consumed. I will then have a creator and all that he has done to live in fellowship with. I will forever be the created and He the creator, I will be the worship and he the worshiped, I will be dependent and he utterly in no need of anything; yet he is mine, and I am his.

Wow! That causes me to pause, well up a bit, and worship... 'My best friend is the creator of the universe' (the Lads).

What saves us?

A friend sent me an email the other day. He asked me, "what does it mean to be saved?" Ultimately it is an easy question. Being saved is 'being with the Lord forever.' It is eternal life with Christ. Christians dispute whether this will be 'in heaven' (as in another dimension separate from this creation, a new heaven and earth); or on this earth restored. I think the balance of biblical data favours the latter, we will live with God forever on this world restored and renewed (e.g. Rom 8:19-23).

However, there are many questions. First, how does salvation begin? Paul hammers the point, salvation is by grace through faith. That is, the work of Christ in his life, death and resurrection, has won salvation. He has fulfilled the requirements of the law. He has died a vicarious sacrifice for humanity. He has risen from the dead. His work saves us. He offers us salvation.

For our part, we have to respond to this. The most common NT term to summarise response is 'faith, to believe, to trust.' This is where things get sticky. What does it mean to believe? What things do we have to believe? How must we live out this belief for it to be genuine? At this point it gets tricky and technical depending on interpretations of verses, ideas and whole books.

For me, I cut through this in this way. God wants all to be saved and is reaching out to all humanity. I am uncomfortable with any theology which states that God decrees simply by his own choice some and not others. This would be akin to me as a father choosing one of my daughters as the object of my affection and blessing, and the others for destruction. This is not love in any sense that I can understand whether biblical or otherwise. So, God wants all to be saved and is active in seeking this through his work in history, creation, the Spirit, believers, the church and world.

Salvation faith to me is simply a human saying yes to the offer of relationship God makes. Faith is relational. it is us responding to God's grace with a desire to walk in that relationship. This even applies in human history before Christ's coming, say Abraham and Melchizedek, to name two.

In the NT Christ is revealed as God the Son and salvation faith is found in acceptance of him as saviour and Lord. It is saying, yes Jesus, I believe, save me. Yes Jesus, I trust in you, I seek to live for you. What is clear in Paul is that while good works will flow from a genuine faith, these works do not save. Otherwise grace would not be grace. We would be stuck in the problem of working through how much work saves, what works save?

No, when we accept Christ as saviour and Lord, we enter into Christ and his work saves us, despite our failings. So, it is a cognitive assent to Christ as saviour, a commitment to live for him as Lord. Repentance is clearly a part of this; not in the sense of penitence or necessarily of contrition, but a change of orientation to live for self alone, to God as first priority.

Christianity in its history has lurched back and forth on this. We go through phases of rendering grace impotent by adding works, usually to keep the gospel safe and demand discipleship. At other times we overcook grace making faith empty (e.g. Jas 2). However, one thing is clear to me. We are saved by grace and our response to this grace is 'yes.'

This means that there are many in this nation who do not darken the door of a church and are saved. There are conversely probably many who are not who do go to church. Faith is impossible to quantify. How do you know you believe? Because you do believe.

So, in sum, it is a relational term. It is saying yes to the glorious offer of salvation God gives in Christ. It is accompanied with a desire to live for Christ. At that moment of faith, the Spirit enters us and marks us. We then walk in relationship. The challenge is to yield to the Spirit who now indwells us and not the flesh (sinful desire). When we sin, we do not lose our salvation. We may lose our joy as the Spirit convicts us. However, we are as saved as we were before it happened. As I work with a relational definition of faith, and a volitional view of the relationship in this world, I think there is a point where the relationship is broken. But God will not break it. He will seek us, pursue us, woo us, reach out to us, forever. He is desperate not to lose us. As far as it depends on him, we will remain saved. However, there is a point where we can be broken off the vine through unbelief.

So this means we can have huge assurance. Ask yourself, do I want eternal life? Do I want to be with God forever? Do I desire to believe and yield to God? Even if you stumble and fall, even if you have doubts, even if you make huge errors that would see society completely reject you, God won't, at least while there is a wisp of faith. The NT talks about mustard seeds of faith, perhaps that is all that it takes. The grace of God is way bigger than we can know or imagine. I pray we can know its depth, breadth, height and width.

In the meantime, as believers, we are now joined to God in Christ. We are to get on with being human, to live out our beings with authenticity, reality and joy. We are to build God's world as we go about our work, life, play and family. We are to let this Spirit life well up in us and flow out from us, from our whole beings. This will lead us to spread goodness, joy, hope, peace, life through attitudes, deeds and words. People will be drawn to Christ. Evangelism and mission is not meant to be mechanical but an outpouring of Spirit life from grateful hearts full of grace. We will find as we yield to the Spirit that the world looks different, suffering looks different, joy breaks in, we become winsome and people want Christ. So, yield to God, Christ and Spirit and all will be well with our souls, and planet earth, even in the midst of chaos and brokenness.

So salvation is Jesus, not Jesus + anything. It is Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.



Maori Seats on Council

Have the government made the right decision concerning Maori seats on the new Auckland Super-council? On the one hand, I agree with Rodney Hide, Leighton Smith on Newstalk ZB and national who have ruled them out. Their logic is sound. There should be no ethnic or other group that gets favoured treatment. This is sound democratic logic. In this way of thinking, there should be no favoured groups. Let the people decide. This is similiar to right wing capitalistic free market views, let the market dictate. So, at one level, they are correct. There should not be seats for Maori, PI, Asian, European, Christian, Muslim; or any other group.

But is it as simple as this? While the Treaty of Waitangi is a minefield and difficult to interpret, what I think we can say with confidence, is that it means that Pakeha NZers (the State + other immigrants) have a responsibility under the Treaty to ensure that Maori are given some degree of priority and a say within NZ. This means I suppose, that while Maori are in the minority, and they are unable through the democratic process to get representation, that the government has a responsibility to ensure that they do. In this case, it would seem that a good argument can be mounted to say that the government should ensure that they Maori are represented. Auckland is a big city and it is important that Maori are represented.

On the other hand again though, this could in fact have the reverse effect. It could stop Maori working hard as all the rest of NZ must do, to win seats through the democratic process. It could stop Maori working to develop the skills and doing the hard yards everyone else has to do. It could in fact limit the number of seats they get as they will get two, and Maori will not work harder to win more. It could reinforce the problem of dependency.

I can see real value in ensuring the Maori voice is heard. Such a voice could be a handbrake to rampant land developers who see Auckland purely as an economic product and will sell it off, develop it, in ways that do not protect the land. They could be a hindrance say to those who want to develop a park into an industrial site, or do something dumb to the sea shore. Can the remainder of Aucklanders be trusted with Auckland's assets?

To me, the time must come when 'affirmative action' will end and Maori, like all NZers will have to take their part in the processess. I hope we mature to the point where we can move ahead as one people with all people on the same level. The question for me is, are we there yet?

So have National got it right? I do not think they have. I think they have unnecessarily alienated Maori and the left. Some will now drift back to Labour/Green/Maori party allegiences.

I think they should have gone in one of two ways; both with a review period? First, they decide not to have Maori seats (as has been done) but set into the process a review of this decision after 3 terms. If there are sufficient Maori able to be elected through the 'natural' political processes, they leave it as it is? If they find they are not, they bring back the Maori seats to ensure representation. Second, which is not ruled out, that Maori seats are included in the process, but Maori are encouraged to stand in other seats as well. If after 3 terms it is clear that Maori can gain places on the council aside from the Maori process, then they are removed.

Either way, Maori should take up the challenge of getting elected.

What National have done is perhaps opened up a hornet's nest with an absolute decision. Personally, I would prefer the first option above. So, behind closed doors I would have hammered that out with Maori the idea that initially there will be no Maori sets and Maori are challenged to seek election through the democratic process. However, if this is unsuccessful, for whatever reason, I would promise a review ensuring that Maori are represented into the future if this does not work.

I have to say though that if Maori had determined to dig their heels in, as I suspect they would have, I may have gone for the other option, even if I lost Rodney in the meantime. I suspect the latter would have been the outcome because while I want us to be at that point where no ethnic group, Maori or otherwise, gets special treatment, I simply don't think we are there yet. We may be a generation away from this. Whatever else, I believe we want Maori represented in such groups.

I get the feeling that National are moving into troubled times. They have alienated many NZers on the smacking issue. They have upset Maori. They have upset the many socially liberal culturally sensitive NZers. They have to realise, that if NZ First had got a few more votes, the left would have won the last election. I sense they are struggling. I am doubting Key's ability to hold it all together. He is making mistakes. I thought he might be a 4 term man; I think he may be a 1 or 2 term man at best now.

Go the All Blacks

Go the All Blacks. They were a different team last night in the test in Sydney. They still made too many mistakes, the backs are still not playing fluidly, and the mistake rate is too high. But their defense and the pressure they exerted was superb. Kieran Read is the man at nos 8. Dan Carter was great not only at first five, but in his ability to lead the AB's around the park. The lineout was a great improvement. The scrum is not what it was but still dominated. The AB's won the breakdown.

My view of the game was that the AB's could have won by more. The Wallabies defended superbly and got the rub of the green. But it was the AB's who pressured the Wallabies. They are not a great side to me, especially without Sterling Mortlock. Their backs are talented but green. Their forwards are triers but lack the sort of power that can dominate the Blacks or Boks.

So, well done Graham H and the team. I suspect that they are starting to peak. I am still concerned about the wings. I am not sure Sivivatu and Rokocoko are the best wingers in NZ. I wonder if David Smith, Hosea Gear and Rudy Wolf are all better wings. Our wings to me lack pace at the moment, and their error rates are far too high. Beyond that, I think we are back on track.

I now believe the Blacks can beat the Boks when they come down here. The forwards are starting to role. They have the right mix now that Tialata is out of the team. They are growing in confidence. I think we have a chance. I think too we are on track with a good chance in 2011. If Haymen and others come home as word has it they are, then it will be a hugely competitive fight to get into the team. The team chosen will be tough. If Dan and Richie are fit for the whole tournament, and they get the mix right, it will titanic, but we have a chance.

A final word of G.Henry. I have questioned him and whether there is true unity in the team. I saw him walking through the team after the game. That is a man who has the players trust. I read Richie McCaw's defence of him the other day in the Sunday papers. The team is united and behind him. I think I have been a little tough on him.

On the other hand I think Robbie Deans is now under pressure. If they lose twice to the Boks which they may indeed do now, how long will the honeymoon last? This is crunch time for the Wallabies. Isn't it amazing what one point either way does? If the AB's had lost, it would Graham feeling the crunch! Who would be an international coach?

Democracy on Trial

The overwhelming result of the smacking referendum should make the government respond. 88%% is a resounding rejection of the current legislation and a statement that NZer’s, right or wrong, believe that they should be able to smack their child. It does not endorse beating a child, but a smack given in love for good discipline. For me, this now puts the government on trial. Both Labour and National tried it on with NZ in their determination to push the legislation through despite it being clear to all that could see that the majority of NZers rejected it. It is possible that this was the decisive factor that stopped the left of NZ politics being reelected. National threw their lot in with this at the time. Now they are on trial. This result is a clear signal from mainstream NZ that they want a change. How they respond could define whether the Key-led government will be a multi-term government or whether it will a one or maybe two term government. If they themselves believe in the democratic process that upholds NZ and much of western society, they have no choice but to respond by revising the legislation to ensure that the average NZer who smacks their child out of love and as a last resort to enforce good values. If they don’t they will not last and neither should they. If they ignore it they insult NZ. They will demonstrate the arrogance NZers have come to hate from politicians. They will reinforce the widely held view that politicians have lost touch with NZ and they should be removed from office at the next election. This has become much bigger than a vote of smacking, it has become a test of whether NZ is genuinely democratic. Who I vote for at the next election will be profoundly affected by their response. What I am seeing so far from Key is a mistake. He should front up and acknowledge NZ's will and democracy. He is making mistakes.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

7's and Golf and Olympics

Should 7's and golf get admission to the 2016 Olympics?

To me the answer is an unambiguous, no! There are multiple reasons 7's should not be there. First, it is not the top flight of rugby. It is a derivation sport played by the next tier of players and not the top players. So the best players in the world will not be there. Second, it is not truly a sport played by both genders. It is a novelty sport mainly played by men. I really can't believe it is in the Olympics. Having said that, NZ might win a gold medal, so it is good for us! Mind you, soccer should not be there either. It is an U23 event and the best players are not there. There are enough rugby and soccer tournaments without this.

Golf should not be there. The pinnacle of golf are the 4 majors and that is that. Winning an Olympic gold may excite some players but ultimately, it will become a second rate event. It should not be there.

Just what should and should not be there is an interesting question. The summer sport list includes aquatics, archery, athletics, badminton, baseball, basketball, boxing, kayaking, cycling, equestrian, fencing, football/soccer, gymnastics, handleball, hockey, judo, modern pentathlon, rowing, sailing, shooting, softball, table tennis, taekwondo, tennis, triathlon, volleyball, weightlifting and wrestling.

Looking at the list, those sports with an ancient heritage from the Greek games of old like athletics and wrestling should be there. Rowing has its roots in that age as does archery, fencing and arguably equestrian and sailing, so it makes sense that they are there. Sports that focus on individual effort in a similar way like swimming, triathlon, cycling, boxing, kayaking, judo, taekwondo etc seem to fit nicely. Gymnastics has to be there with its tumbling, vaulting, motion and movement. Modern pentathlon is appropriate with its set of all round skills. Shooting fits as it has the sense of combat which the ancient games had, linking sport and military combat. Similarly, weightlifting fits the idea of strongest, fittest and fastest. Questionable must be badminton, baseball, basketball, handball, hockey, softball, table tennis and volleyball. Some of these games are a great watch though for sure. In common these games are team sports and so it seems to me that it is here that the problem lies. Should they be there and if so, which ones, and on what criteria?

Whatever, I don't get Sevens and golf being there. What do you think?

Sunday, July 19, 2009

AB's Vs Aust 18 July 2

So I got it right on the button. Don't always!

The All Blacks looked pretty shaky for 20 minutes but after that it was back to business. The All Blacks pressured the Wallabies when it counted.

Kaino was great in defence. Richie and Rodney S were remarkable after their break. Jimmy Cowan kicked excellently and Weepu added value. Franks looks a better prop than Tialata. The two other youngters in the pack, Isaac Ross and Kieran Read are real finds. So, the future still looks good. Stephen Donald started rough but played really well. As I suspected the Australian outside backs struggled under pressure in the last quarter, inexperience caught them out.

The scrum was great, the AB's were great at breadown but the lineout remains a problem.

But, the greatest thing of all was the spirit. I was concerned that the spirit was down in the side and that in the earlier games, they had relational problems. But, they really dug deep and showed the values that make the AB's so hard to beat. They remain on track.

And what about the NZ softballers! Go Kiwi. The black sox remain the greatest NZ sports team of all time, despite the claims of the AB's. Don't forget the NZ women's rugby team too!

And go Hayden Roulston, 3rd in a Tour de France leg, phenomenal! What an athlete, 2 olympic medals, recovery from heart problems.

Back to the AB's, it will be a huge ask to win at Bloemfontein next week!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

AB's Vs Aust 18 July

So it is half an hour before kick off and this one could go eiter way. The Aussies have some advantages. They have a great inside backs combo, strong in the midfield. They have great loosies, a superior line out and a great coach. They are a big chance. The AB's in some ways are ripe for the picking with poor form, an unsettled inside back combo, no Ali Williams and some players without match time... but...

I kind of think the scene is set for a Kiwi victory. They have their backs to the wall with heavy criticism and NZ are tough when this happens. They are playing at Eden Park and they have not lost for 23 years here. They have Captain Richie back with Rodney S, Andrew H and a few others. So, they are a different unit that played the Italians. The Aussies have some problems too. They have a pretty inexperienced back three and in the conditions they will get tonight in the wind and a bit of rain, may struggle and make some mistakes. The AB's pack also play best when they are under pressure from the public.

So, yes, Aussie have a good chance. And I will not be that surprised if they pull it off. Indeed, if they do, I don't think it will be that big a deal. The games the AB's must win at Eden Park are in 2 years. It might be good to lose a few this year to add edge and wipe away the smugness they have taken to the last 2 world cups!

But, I think the Aussies will struggle and find the pressure a bit much. Having said that, they will be tough to beat at home in a few weeks as will the Springboks. Go the AB's.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Lessons From the Death of Michael Jackson

What do we as Christians make of the life and death of Michael Jackson? The first thing I would say is that he was surely one of the most brilliant performers of history. I have never seen someone who could sing and dance like him. As one who could create brilliant songs with dramatic and creative performances he is unrivalled. He was a great performer.


Yet his life and death bring out a whole lot of things. First, it should tell us that we need to take care as parents how we seek to cultivate and/or handle brilliance? His life was corrupted irrevocably by a father who pushed him mercilessly seemingly to fulfil his own dreams. I have such mixed feelings when I see footage of him as a child performer. Yes, he was brilliant, but what sort of childhood was it? He never recovered being pushed where no child should be forced to go; despite the apparent glory! Here's a lesson to us parents. We have to find the balance between encouragement and urging them on, and pushing them too hard and violating their childhood. Clearly the Jacksons went way too far!


Secondly, it tells me that character is always more important than talent. Like us all the talent eventually dries up as we age and can no longer move like we used to. In his case, the decline was accelerated by the way he treated himself. He clearly had a corrupted self-image and completely wrecked his very good looks as a boy and young man. This indicates that while he was dynamic on the outside, inwardly he was a mess. He did not have a clear belief in himself, a clear identity. The entertainment industry must test character like nothing else. Without a well-formed identity and sense of self, you will go down. Sadly for me, his brilliance was completely overwhelmed by his character flaws.

Thirdly, the world of Hollywood is a have. They are self-absorbed and congratulate each other living in the bubble of their own creation. They feed off each other. They feed off the media but moan about it when the media puts the heat on. The problem is you can't have it both ways as Princess Diana knows. If you play it, you have to be prepared to have it turn on you. Then, when one of Hollywood's own, who is clearly a person with immense problems dies, they glory in the person's life despite its hypocrisy. I find the whole thing tragic. Sadly we feed it everytime we buy a CD, watch a movie and tune into another Hollywood gossip artist telling us about the lives of these people. It is shallow and pathetic. It is one of the saddest features of 21st century western life. It is rank and status, elitism, and it has no depth.

Fourthly, the world of these people is in many cases, corrupt. It is all on now. Accusations of murder, greed; fights for custody and no doubt for the rights to his music and that of the Beatles etc; and poor Michael Jackson as a victim are well underway. No doubt it will get messy and the winners will be the lawyers.

For me, it is a tragedy and it is a product of western civilisation's greed, hedonism and voyeurism.

So we can learn a lot from the Michael Jackson debacle. What a waste of talent. For me it reinforces that we have to move beyond the shallowness of western pop culture. This is a lesson for the church which mimics this world. What would Jesus say?

Friday, June 26, 2009

NZ's Most Trusted

I watched with interest the TV One news story the other day on Breakfast where they announced who the most trusted New Zealanders were. I heard that Willie Apiata had won and that the majority of the top ten were sportspeople. This set me off. I thought, what? What does this say about our values? We value sport more than anything. A guy who does a great feat in a war is someone that people trust. I thought, trust in what sense? In a war, yes, Willie is the man. Or is he? I don't know him. He might have just been the man of a moment and really the rest of the time who knows? But, should I trust him with my money? With my kids? With a secret I don't want anyone else to know? Mmmmm.

The Evers-Swindell twins came in 2nd/3rd. Now they are great athletes, they appear to be lovely girls. But, are they to be trusted? I have no idea. How is it that John Kirwan makes it on. He was despised in his day as an arrogant Auckland tosser. I played against him, and that description was no completely without warrant. Yet, he bore his soul on TV and he is in. So my first thought was that NZ's values were screwed. Sport is everything and this proves it.

Then I dug a little deeper and searched it out. It turns out that 500 NZers were given a list of 85 NZers and asked to rank them. Then I realised the whole thing was loaded from the start. The 85 were chosen by Readers Digest. My wife Emma missed the list, cause she should have won. You can trust her with anything. So to say, Ed Hillary has been NZ's most trusted NZer for the last three years and now Willie A is is nonsense. Rather, they are the most trusted among a list of NZers prominent in the media! Again, the media rule the nation.

So, the whole thing is wrongly promoted. To find the most trusted New Zealander you would interview people with a blank canvas and ask them, outside of your close family, who is the New Zealander you trust the most. 'Trust' would have to be defined.

In actual fact, the New Zealanders I trust the most are my fellow drivers, pilots, emergency and medical staff. I dare to trust them everytime I take to the road, get in a plane, and have a medical issue. Of course, these are unnamed. For me personally, my wife and kids I trust absolutely. My brother and sister in law too.

The list does however reveal some interesting things. First, it does reveal that we judge our sportspeople very highly. After Apiata, the Swindells were 2nd equal, Barbara Kendell was
3rd, Peter Snell 4th, Susan Devoy 5th, Meads 6th, Kirwan 7th, Irene van Dyk 8th, Vili 10th, Hadlee 11th, Hamish Carter 12th, McCaw 16th, Vettori 20th, Lohore 21st, Greg Murphy 25th. So, of the top 9, 8 were sportspeople! Yet, we do not know these people except that they play good sport and come over nice and humble on TV.

Aside from self and money, which undoubtedly reign in the NZ pantheon, without question sport has pride of place in the gods of this age. While I love sport and respect most if not all of those named, what the heck is going on? Mind you, not all sports people did well, Mark Ellis was 68th and Matthew Ridge and impressive 78th. That is because they behave like gits on TV and their messy private lives have been scrutinised in public.

I see all politicians did poorly. Helen Clark topped them in 52nd, Key just behind in 53rd, Jeanette Fitzimmons in 67th, Bill English (just behind David Bain!) in 71st; Phil Goff a brilliant 74th; Sharples, 75th; Russell Norman 76th; Rodney Hide the self-appointed watch dog of NZ politics 79th; Turia 80th; Sue Bradford 81st; Roger Douglas 82nd; and Winston Peters 83rd! I don't think you will see NZ first back in 2011. The result says Kiwis do not trust politicians! On the other hand, it does show how naive NZers are about politics. Let's face it, being a politician is a no-win situation. It is the art of compromise and every decision is scrutinised and disappoints some, while pleasing others. The realities of running a country are far trickier than any NZer understands. I suspect some of these people are as trustworthy as anyone, its just that they are so scrutinised both privately and publically, that they are in a no-win situation.

So for me it is a load of nonsense. These are not NZ's most trusted people. The most trusted people are those who every day we entrust our lives to. Like surgeons who cut our cancers out. Doctors in whose hands our very lives are. Husbands and wives we share it all with. Emergency service people who respond to our crises. And yes, politicians in many cases. And of course for those of us with faith, at all times, and when all things fail, Jesus Christ who is with us always! (Phil 4:9).

Thursday, June 25, 2009

When is a killing murder?

What the heck! How is it that you can go around to your former girl friend with a knife, stab her mercilessly 216x.

Clayton Robert Weatherston is on trial for allegedly doing this to Sophie Elliot in Dunedin in 2008. Supposedly he stabbed her 216 times with the knife. She had stab wounds to both eyes, her genitals, breasts, left cheek, left temple, left ear, the left side of the neck and 45 stab wounds to the front of her throat. He cut off the tip of her nose! That is utterly disgusting and my heart goes out to her and her family for what they have gone through.

He admits he killed her but claims 'partial defence of provocation' and claims it is manslaughter. Apparently he admited the killing immediately in a calm tone. Allegedly he told the office he killed her and mutilated her for 'the emotional pain that she has caused me over the past year.' It is alleged that he believed she had cost him a chance at a permanent lecturer's position at Otago University.

Supposedly he was, to quote the defence, ill-equipped to deal with' the relationship 'because of his unique personality make-up.' The claim is that she attacked him with the scissors so he dealt to her with the knife.

Holy moley! When is a killing a murder. If she had one fatal stab wound and he had not come into the house with a knife, maybe. But come on! This is ludicrous. Here's a guy 'slighty' over-reacting! What on earth is he doing claiming manslaughter. When is such an action justified? When a man responds to a woman in such a way, what is this? I say, thank God for Otago University that they did not employ him! As a lecturer myself, I can't imagine anything worse. He's not the sort of guy you would want meet up with in the staff room. Imagine the conversation!

'Hey Clayt,' you're looking tired.

'What, you messing with me,' he replies, threateningly.

'No... just ... you don't look yourself...,' you reply sheepishly.

Next thing you know you are pinned to the noticeboard with a knife to the throat!

Anyway, that is all rather insensitive and I apologise.

What I don't get is how such behaviour from a man can ever be justified as anything other than murder unless this man is claiming insanity. First, he brought the knife. Second, he didn't just kill her, he utterly mutilated her.

To me it raises 2 questions. First, is there something wrong with our justice system? By the way, I was speaking to a police investigator off the record the other day (not being investigated!), and he said to me as an investigator that there was nothing in the Bain trial at an investigative level that supported the idea that Robyn Bain had killed his family. Interesting. Not saying I acccept this, I don't know enough and he has done the time whatever the real truth; but, to me, there are real problems in the NZ justice system around violent crime. This manslaughter plea is another. What the!

Secondly, shouldn't he just do the right thing?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Open Entry for Maori to Uni?

I see Pita Sharples is advocating that Maori should get open entry into university (http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10579221). Now, I am fully committed to seeing all NZers become well educated and am deeply concerned at the educational progress of Maori who consistently underachieve as compared with other ethnic groups. However, this can only be described as daft! Universities stand on their international reputation. We simply can't drop standards to let people in, no matter what their ethnicity. I am not sure that this would help anyway except in a few cases. Most who come in through the back door will not have the necessary academic ability to get through. It will lead to a deeper sense of failure and be counterproductive. I am sure there will be the odd student who would make it through this process. However, they have other ways they can do this. They can go back to school as a mature student or enrol in night classes etc. There are other paths.

What I don't really get when I read something like this is what Pita Sharples is trying to achieve. It seems to me that the Maori party wants credibility and to broaden its appeal. To do so requires taking real care to ensure that Maori as represented well. By functioning in a reasonable manner, other non-Maori may be drawn into supporting them particularly in the party vote. There are many European NZers like me who are very sympathetic to the cause of Maori. We do acknowledge that a great wrong was done historically in the colonial period. We do acknowledge that to facilitate the correction of this historical wrong, there must be efforts made, concessions and some degree of 'affirmative action.' But lowering the standards to entry into university is simply ridiculous!

A deeper problem is at what point does NZ become a nation where people of all ethnicities are on the same playing field. In my view, in the long term, I am not sure any nation can run with different systems for different ethnic groups (or any group for that matter). My forebears came to NZ in the 1840's on both sides. This means that I am a 6th - 7th generation NZer. I am a Kiwi. This is my home. There is nowhere to go. While I undoubtedly live withi the benefits of colonialism and must acknowledge this, at what point do my forebears no longer have to bear the cost of my forebearers' mistakes? I did not do what they did, I do not approve, but there is no going back in history as I see it. The world has moved on.

I believe we are some years and perhaps generations away from this. We must continue the Waitangi process and work to raise the good of Maori. But ultimately, there must be a time when special help is not given to people on the basis of race but on the basis of need; where all NZers are acknowledged as Kiwi with one law and on one footing; where it is acknowledged that the current generation is no longer guilty of the past; where we are one people with one law and one way.

I believe the recent statement by Pita Sharples is terribly counterproductive and only serves to animate anti-Maori sentiment in NZ, and we don't need this! I am pleased to hear Maori themselves coming out and critiquing this idea; good on them. My prayer is this: that NZ can continue to live in harmony, to find ways to honour the Treaty, and ultimately to come to a point of unity and oneness with one law and way for all (and in a way which enshrines the principles of the Treaty as best we can without favouring one people over another). Having said this, I am not sure how it can be done. There must be grace and reconciliation from all parties.

I pray that when we are there it will be a situation where Maori feel honoured and accepted and where to the best of our ability, the Treaty is honoured. I pray we can get there without the gun. One way we can do it is to rediscover the call of the Gospel to lay down our lives for each other (whoever we are), to come together in faith at the cross, and live its pattern.