Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Happy Feet: Is it Just Me?

I am all for the care of animals and conservation, ecology etc, but sometimes you have to wonder. So an Emperor Penguin washes up on a NZ beach, it begins to eat sand as if it is snow, and it looks like it will die. So, then a full scale salvation operation is on to save the penguin with surgery and then supposedly, on recovery, taken back to Antarctica. Now, forgive me but, is all this warranted in a nation where we have people in Christchurch suffering immensely, where the economic downturn still causes problems, and where we struggle to find money to recover the Pike River miners? Wouldn't this money better spent on reducing waiting lists for surgery? If we think globally, I can think of a billion better ways of spending the money – the poor. Doctors in our hospitals are making medical calls every day because money is limited and we are spending money on this – bizarre.  

Now, if an emperor penguin washes up on shore somewhere in NZ at this time of year, 3000 km from where it should be, there is likely something wrong with its internal programming. So, it may well be, that the penguin will be returned and do the same thing again. Or perhaps, its fate is sealed by what it has been through. Shouldn't the money be better spent on something else? Animals die like this every day through such natural events; that is the real world. Is it really worth all the money and effort in a world where suffering is so extreme? Why not send the money to Haiti? Or use it in the Christchurch recovery? Or put it into one of the many conservation programs which are desperately short of money at present.

This comes as a result of distorted values. Yes, we have not cared for creation and the animal world over the last centuries and we feel guilty. The green movement prays on people's guilt and fear of the worst-case scenario. But this is going to ridiculous lengths in my view. It's also because it's a feel-good story too. The media have made such a thing of it that those with the power to help feel they have no option. They should have put it down, but the public outcry would be so great that it is not worth it. I sometimes wonder too whether the impact of animated films has been to distort people's perspective as if such animals are pretty much on a par with humanity. I remember the Jungle Book when I was a kid and I think I would have walked up and patted a panther if I had had the chance straight after it. But animals are not humans! This penguin does not dance!

In a perfect world, where there is no limit on resources, I would say this is a great thing that is being done – another of God's creatures saved. But it is not that world, resources are limited, very much so. So, in my view it would have been well justified to put the animal down. It would have been a little sad for some, but it is simply not worth the money or the effort, not when a world struggles so much. Perhaps I am a heartless guy, ruining a feel-good story, but it seems to me to right option.

Or is it just me?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Alisdair Thompson – What To Make of Him?

I watched the news tonight and didn't know whether to laugh or cry. Emma certainly wasn't laughing!

Alistair Thompson, the CEO of the Employers and Manufacturers Association (would you believe it!), says that a women's monthly 'sick problem' and maternity leave etc, causes women to take more sick leave than men. Then he was interviewed on TV3 and I have to say, aside from Monty Python, it was the best comedy I have seen in the last twenty years, magnificent! Check it out at http://www.3news.co.nz/Alasdair-Thompson-Sorry-but-its-true/tabid/369/articleID/216242/Default.aspx. If I may say so, what a plonka, a plank, a twat! The interview is a classic, 'don't interrupt me!' Classic! What about the 'cut!' What an utter loon.

He also showed how to give an apology, not! He had the gall to claim that he believes in equal pay – that would make a good Tooheys ad. He said he didn't mean to upset anyone – even better! He then apologised saying he did not want to cause offense – what was he trying to do then? As one women put it, he is a dinosaur – but actually that is dinosaurism, they are better than that. After all that he stuck to his guns, why, because it is true! When asked to back it up with data, he couldn't, except he just knows it is true. We once knew that the world is flat.

TV One checked out with the government departments that matter and they had no stats to back up his claim. Their own human resources department found that men took a bit more time off than women. http://tvnz.co.nz/national-news/action-demanded-over-sexist-comments-4258057/video.

I am not surprised that TVNZ men need to take more time off than men, we have sport like the good football games and the US Open final day to watch.

Here are some thoughts for him. Perhaps men should be paid less because they think about sex every 7 seconds (supposedly), and so they must be less productive. Or perhaps men should be paid less because they can't multi-task, one of our sicknesses. We also have to play Virtual Rugby. We need to pee more often, because of our wonky prostates. I mean, come on. We have lower threshold for pain, so we need more time off. We have more heart disease, so we need more time off. The guy needs some serious sorting out.

As for women's periods being a 'sickness', far out! He sounds like he has been reading Leviticus.

If Paul Henry was essentially fired for his comments, how long does he now have? While I am not sure he should lose his job, I will be surprised if he is around long – watch the pressure on him grow.

The Income of Ralph Norris

I heard on a news show the other day that Ralph Norris, the CEO of the Commonwealth Bank in Australia earns a tidy $22m NZ. I thought I would check out whether that is indeed the case, because I was stunned. And it most certainly is, this link telling us he is the best paid CEO in this region, getting $16m Aus a year (http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/city-beat/cba-chief-executive-ralph-norris-sees-pay-packet-soar-to-162m/story-fn4xq4zx-1225925367015).

At one level we may think that this is an Australian issue, but it is not, as NZ banks are in the main owned overseas. So for example, the Australia New Zealand Bank (ANZ) owns the National Bank and the NZ ANZ, which are now merged. The National Australia Bank (NAB) owns the BNZ (Bank of NZ). According to Allan Bollard, now, 85% of NZ banks are owned by Australian banks (http://www.rbnz.govt.nz/speeches/0155840.html). The Commonwealth Bank owns the ASB, where Emma and I do our banking. So, what the CEO of the Commonwealth Bank gets is an important issue, as he runs 'our' bank.

One can argue that the income is justified as that is the market. He is paid to ensure a profit and we benefit as bankers with his bank by the quality of his leadership. The bank will say, well he is worth it. If you pay peanuts you get monkeys, bla bla bla. Yeah right.

Perhaps I am naive, but it is an abomination and makes me feel sick. How on earth can a $22m income be justified for anyone? He leads an organisation that takes money from good hard working Kiwis and Aussies. These people get some return, but not a lot. And the boss creams off $22m. At the same time, the gap between the rich and poor grows. There are people all over Queensland, Victoria, and NZ suffering in the aftermath of the horror of natural events. There are good people working for the minimum wage in NZ of $13 and in Aus $15 and hour. Many of these people simply did not have the advantages that come with wealth and opportunity. Yet, a guy who runs a bank gets this – and from other people's money. Ridiculous!

What about Ralph taking a cool $1mill a year (that's plenty for anyone), and the rest distributed to those who invest in the bank. The banking system is a mess.

Now don't get me wrong, I am not picking on the guy personally, good on him. It is the system he is embedded in and serving that is screwed. I shouldn't pick him out as this is a problem all over our nation. In my view almost everything is overpriced. Call anyone to fix something in your house, it's a hundred bucks gone. Go the dentist, take out a mortgage. Buy petrol, make sure the credit card limit is massive. When someone is creaming this sort of level of income, it keeps forcing up all incomes, as 'that is the market.' How long can this go on?

Perhaps this is the real centre of the answer to the essential problem of the west. Jesus said you cannot serve God and money, our culture serves money. Amos would have had a few things to say about this I should think were he here. I think it will all come crashing down. It almost did a year or so ago. One can feel it coming, because this cannot go on.


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A Guy Called Grant

Just met a guy today. He came around our house to install a cat door for our new moggy, 'Squid'. He was a nice guy, got about his work. His name is Grant, about my age, European around 50. He asked me if I had the day off, I said I was working from home. He asked what I did, and I said I was a lecturer. He asked where I worked, I said Laidlaw, and he asked what we teach. I said, theology, bible stuff, and he said, 'ah, I know about that.' He then asked me whether the earthquakes in Christchurch were the tribulation. Then, as you can imagine, a most interesting conversation ensued.

His story is this. He grew up in a strong Christian home with a mum who was full on. He said that he grew up 'shit-scared' of God, who was a wrathful God, 'hell, fire, and brimstone.' He hated it. He mentioned his distaste for the story of Lot's wife and Abraham being told by God to sacrifice his son (I mentioned that God didn't get him to follow through, but he still wasn't impressed – can't blame him). He talked of growing up living in fear of the rapture, of being 'left behind.' Clearly those preaching in his church were full on Dispensationalists, preaching that any moment, China, Russia and the world would converge on Jerusalem, and all hell would break loose. We talked about the end times, tribulations (I was pretty sober on this as you might expect), the nature of God, religion, Muslims (he really doesn't have much time for them), reincarnation (he likes it), and karma (he is into it). Every four word was the f-bomb (doesn't faze me as that was me and mates until I got saved – the odd one still slips out under pressure, don't tell anyone). I kept thinking, this is the sort of guy who Jesus would really love to hang out with – a kind of Peter bloke. He admitted a degree of faith, but complete disillusionment with Christianity. He now has a syncretistic personal faith in God, no heaven and hell, reincarnation, with Christianity as a short-cut. He was into the idea of the bible as written sometime around the 800's AD, so I told him gently about the dating of the NT and textual criticism. He was really interested and intrigued – not sure he quite believed me, but I think he thought I seemed to know something about what I was talking about (more fool him, lol).

So I thought, why not, and I asked him if he was a reader. He said he was, just read The Source by Mitchener, obviously he is into reading! So I said would you like a book I have recently written, and he said yes. So I gave him my book What's God Up To, and said he would read it and maybe give me a call and have a chat.

To me Grant is so typical of the Kiwi European. Grew up sort of familiar with the story, but with a distorted view of it, with a wrathful God who would return anytime soon and met out the punishment. Such a God turns him off, who can blame him? He hates religious zealotism (who doesn't), and his Mum's 'obsession' worries him.

Herein lies the challenge. How to connect with guys like Grant, and to hang out with him, and help him see that God is not so much about that, as he is about all of life, relationships, love, and hanging out with guys like him?

It is funny that this encounter happened when I am in the midst of a Facebook conversation about evangelicalism and the gospel. We have been discussing the need for a full gospel, but still with a call for conversion. Here is a guy who has heard a corrupted flawed imbalanced gospel and it now makes him so hard to reach. We have to think deeply about what the gospel is and share it and live it well!

I will pray for Grant, that when he reads the book, God opens his heart... Come Holy Spirit.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Abu Bashir and Shappelle Corby

As is well known, in 2004, Shappelle Corby, a young Australian tourist, was arrested with 4.2kg of cannabis in her boogie board bag. She was sentenced in Bali to twenty years in Indonesian prison. She is due for release 12 April, 2024.

Today we hear that Abu Bashir, the Muslim cleric who was party to the Bali bombings has got 15 years for his role. In the Bali Bombings, 202 people were killed, including 88 Australians and 38 Indonesians. This involved bags too, a bombs in the pack of a suicide bomber and two others. Several people have been executed for their roles in the bombing.

Now forgive me is I am wrong, but there seems to be something rather wrong here. How is it that a young Australian woman at the bottom of the drug 'food chain' gets 20 years for her role, whereas one of the masterminds behind Islamic extremist terrorism gets 15 years? That is nonsense and a travesty of justice. Need I say more?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

What’s God Up To On Planet Earth: Author Interview

Listen here to a comprehensive interview on NZ's Radio Rhema with Mark J. Keown, author of the Book What's God Up To On Planet Earth: A No-Strings Attached Explanation of the Christian Message: http://www.rhema.co.nz/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=10083:one-2-one-chuck-missler-and-difficult-questions&catid=86:one-2-one&Itemid=430

The book explains the Christian message to unbelievers clearly and based around an easy to remember structure of five R's: Relationship, Rupture, Restoration, Return, and Response. It is also a very useful tool for discipleship of young Christians. For those who want to be better equipped for evangelism, it is a very helpful resource. It is not too heavy, but gives a compelling vision of what God is up to in this world.

The book can be purchased in NZ from Castle Publishing: http://www.castlepublishing.co.nz/whats-God-up-to-on-planet-earth.html. Or, you can request the book from a NZ Christian book shop like Manna.

The book can be purchased from Koorong in Australia: http://www.koorong.com.au/search/product/view.jhtml?code=9780986462108.

The book has just been published and about to be released in the US: (https://wipfandstock.com/store/What_Gods_Up_To_on_Planet_Earth_A_NoStringsAttached_Explanation_of_the_Christian_Message).

It can be purchased internationally from Amazon Books: http://www.amazon.com/Whats-God-Planet-Earth-explanation/dp/0986462101.