Monday, July 27, 2015

My Claim to Royalty

Last week I learned something interesting about myself. It turns out that my whanau on my mum’s side, is descended from royalty. And some serious royalty. I have a royal whakapapa (genealogy).

It all goes back forty generations to a certain Rollo (Hrólfr, Rou(f)). While his origins are fiercely disputed between Norwegian and Danish historians, he was clearly a Norse Viking, and the first duke of Normandy (c. 846–932).

In the family line he is followed by five dukes of Normandy, William I (Longsword), Richard I, II, III, and Robert I. These reigned Normandy in what is now Northern France from 911 to 1066 when the Duke of Normandy, William, conquered England—the Battle of Hastings. I am thus a descendant of William the Conqueror, otherwise known as “William the Bastard”—not because he was a nasty piece of work, although I am sure he was, but because he was illegitimate. He reigned until 100.

After him in my family line comes Henry I also known as Henry Beaulerc (reigned 1100–1135), Empress Matilda (also Maude) (1102–1167), King Henry II (1154–1189), King John (1166–1216), King Henry III (1216–1272), King Edward I (Edward Longshanks, the Hammer of the Scots) (1272–1307), and King Edward II (1307–1327). He was forced by his son Edward III to relinquish the throne and he reigned (1327–1377) who declared himself king of France and started the One Hundred Years’ War—which of course did not last hundred years, but went from 1337–1453.

After this my family tree moves away from direct line to the English throne but includes princes, earls, countesses, lady’s, sirs, and a few revs.[1] So 24 generations ago, my direct ancestors were kings and queens of England, and 19 to royal blood. Mind you when I put it that way, the royal blood is pretty diluted! Likely half of England can claim the same in one way or another.

Anywhen, I was somewhat shocked when I heard this, having no idea that my forebears were English kings. I have to admit I have mixed feelings. After all, rulers like this were marked by all the usual things that go with ancient royalty—military might, abuse of power, political intrigue, oppression, and so on.

I shared my whakapapa with a Maori friend at Laidlaw. He was taken aback too, and then wondered if it gave license to give me a hiding—colonialism and all that. He told me his whakapapa was full of murderers and worse. I said, “Well we have that in common then.”

I also pondered returning to England to take back what is arguably (very arguably) rightfully mine—England. Or at least, lay claim to some land. Just as William conquered England, it could happen again.

But then I also thought of Jesus’ whakapapa in Matt 1:1–18. His whakapapa is full of kings from David to Jechoniah, and followed by legitimate heirs like Zerubbabel. In fact, he can lay claim to royal blood only 14 generations before he turned up. I then remembered that his whakapapa also has a few interesting characters like the fake prostitute Tamar and the prostitute Rahab. Goodness knows who else is in mine!

Then I thought about how Jesus related to the throne that was (arguably) deservedly his. He didn’t claim it by military power, as indeed everyone expected a Messiah would someday do. Rather, he did so by relentless love, compassion, mercy, non-violence, healing, feeding, and more. Now that is what a king should do.

So, I suppose I won’t gather an army to take England. I am now a bit past it. That would require a good deal of money and forces. No. There’s enough of that sort of thing going on in the Middle East and Africa at present.

Anyway, I am royalty anyway. Having yielded my allegiance to Jesus, Son of David, Son of God, Son of Man, Messiah of Israel, and Lord of the Cosmos, King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Firstborn over all creation, Head of the Church, Emperor of the Universe and all Universes, I am by adoption a son of the king of the universe. I am thus a prince. This is achieved not by physical descent (John 1:13), but by God inviting me to be his heir (along with all humanity), my bending the knee in allegiance, and then he fusing me into his being through his Spirit downloaded into my being. So, I am royalty and I don’t need all that worldly kingship stuff. After all, it is mostly associated with the most despicable of injustice and oppression. Indeed, my whakapapa would give a lot of people good reason to come hunt me out and sort me out! 

So, I will content myself with being a son of God with a glorious inheritance in store. Now, back to the work of the kingdom . . .

[1] To be specific: After Edward III—Prince Lionel of Antwerp (1388–1368) (he tried to take over Ireland, woops!), Philippa Plantaganet 5th Countess of Ulster (1355–1382) (should have been Queen, usurped by Henry precipitated by the War of the Roses), Elizabeth Mortimer (1371-1417), Henry Percy 1st Earl of Northumberland (also Henry Hotspur) (1364–1403)—a very famous knight, Henry Percy 2nd Earl of Northumberland (1393–1455), Lady Margaret Percy (1477–?), Sir William Gascoigne (the “younger”), Sir William Gascoigne, William Gascoigne, Margaret Gascoigne, Margaret Wentworth (d. 1614), Anne Darcy/Henry Savile, William Savile, William Savile/Mary West, Mary Savile/William Maude, Mary Maude/Darcy Preston, Rosamond Preston/Rev George Haggitt (1730–1798), Rev D’Arcy (Percy) Haggitt (1796–1835), D’Arcy Haggitt (1763–1850)/Mary Martin (1782/83–1858), D’Arcy Haggitt (1805–1869)/Mary Ann Walters, D’Arcy Haggitt (1842–1927), Cecil Strange Haggitt (1871–1933), Gordon Gunion Haggitt, Nolarae Haggitt (my mum), moi and my sisters Nina and Jill.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

What is a Kiwi?

What is a Kiwi? Well, according to the it is “Any of several flightless birds of the genus Apteryx native to New Zealand, having vestigial wings and a long slender bill. Also called apteryx.” This led me to look up vestigial wings, which are apparently things on the body that have lost most or all of their ancestral function; in the case of the Kiwi, the ability to fly.

The dictionary also lists a Kiwifruit as a Kiwi. It is interesting in the light of this blog post that originally the Kiwifruit was Chinese. It originated from north, central, and eastern China and was commonly called the Chinese Gooseberry. It spread to NZ from China in the early 20th century. So, the Kiwifruit which has become a quintessential kiwi icon is an immigrant from China. Interesting.

The dictionary gives another meaning, and this is the meaning that interests me: a Kiwi is “a New Zealander.” Now in popular NZ culture, the term “Kiwi” is not quite used as the Dictionary suggests. Usually, it is used of a “European” Kiwi, i.e. someone who has identified as a New Zealander from European descent. It helps to have a Kiwi accent to be absolutely recognised in this camp. Someone with an English accent may still be called a Pom, or someone with an Australian accent an Aussie, etc. But, generally speaking, the epithet is applied to New Zealanders who speaks with a NZ accent, or more broadly, a European Kiwi. Often it is not used of Polynesian New Zealanders, and even less so of Asian New Zealanders—especially those with an Asian accent.

I often hear Christians use this language as well. Indeed, I find myself using it at times. In recent times, however, I have made a resolution to do my darndest to stop using it as I have and is popular. The reason is that doing so perpetuates an implicit racism that pervades our society (church included). That is, a Kiwi is implicitly understood to be a white New Zealander with a NZ accent. This inadvertently creates an in and out mentality. Us Kiwis of European descent tend to see people who are different from the dominant white majority, as different, and as invading out turf. They are changing our culture. By using Kiwi of white NZers we perpetuate this myth.

And it is a myth! Maori were the first NZers, the first Kiwis, and they are Polynesians. So, if anyone is a Kiwi, a Maori is. They are Tangata Whenua; a Maori is a Kiwi of Kiwis (cf. Phil 3:5). In 2013, 15% of Kiwis identified as Maori. If there is a degree of kiwi scale, they are most Kiwi Kiwis you can find.

The second “lot” of Kiwis are people like my family which came to NZ in the great European migration of the 1800s up to the present. Within a generation or two we took on a NZ accent, and we are recognised as Kiwis. And we are. According to the 2013 census, 74% of Kiwis identified with at least one European ethnicity.

Then there has been the great Pacific migration especially in the mid-late 1900s. 7% of Kiwis identify with at least one Pacifica people group.

There has also been the more recent wave of Asian immigrants to NZ. 12% of Kiwis identify with at least one Asian identity. We cannot also forget that there are many Kiwis now from the Middle East, Latin and South America, North America, and other African countries. These are as Kiwi as my, a sixth generation NZer on both sides of my whanau. A quarter of NZers then are Kiwis but are not European. Many have a different accent, different skin colour, different facial features, but they are Kiwi as you and I.

It is time to jettison the whole “a Kiwi is a European thing” or “a Kiwi is a white person with a NZ accent,” and adjust our perspective and language. We all came off a waka from somewhere, whether it be this generation or an earlier one. If someone has made NZ their home, they are a Kiwi. A Kiwi is no longer necessarily white, and their accents vary (although by the second generation they usually have a common accent).

I find myself having interesting conversations with immigrants. As you do, the question of origins comes up. They might say something like, I came here from South Korea about 15 years ago. Warmly, I will say something like, “So you are a Kiwi then.” They will respond, something like, “oh no, I am a Korean,” or look at me quizzically.

If appropriate, I will push them a bit. “Oh, are you planning to go back and live there.”

They almost always say, “No, I am staying here.”

Often they will express their love for NZ. I will say to them, “so you are a Kiwi then, a Korean Kiwi, you know you can be both .”

Then I will get into a conversation about all this. I find generally that this is received very favourably. Maybe it helps them. I am not sure, but I find it helps me. I am learning that my euro-centric understanding of kiwiism is breaking down as I determine to treat anyone who calls NZ home a Kiwi.

I think it is essential in the church that we do this. We need to recognise that NZ is shifting, especially Auckland. Take a look at the NZ sports teams; they are full of wonderfully gifted Kiwis who have settled in NZ—South African Kiwis like Irene van Dyk, Korean Kiwis like Lydia Ko and Danny Lee, Polynesian Kiwis like Julian Savea or Kevin Mealamu, and more. These people are as Kiwi as you and I. When they begin to fill up our churches, as they are now doing especially in Auckland (PRAISE GOD!), this is not some kind of challenge to “our culture.” Rather it is exciting and thrilling! They just got here a little after us. After all, our forebears ALL came from somewhere else.

I love the way NZ is changing. It is renewing us. I delight in the shift in the church. Churches like my own are now a glorious mix of Kiwis from all over the world. Our community nights are awesome, and food is fantastic. Our discipleship is deepening. We are getting to understand the wonderful truth that in Christ Jesus, there is neither Jew nor Greek, European nor Asian, African nor Maori, Chinese or Iranian. We get a weekly vision of Rev 7:9–12.

So in sum, I suggest we all rethink how we use the term “kiwi.” Of course we don’t need to collapse our vibrant cultures into one bland Kiwi thing. I like the idea of people having the choice of saying, I am a Korean Kiwi for example, or retaining their Korean identity. However, if say a Chinese person who has settled here defines themselves as “a Kiwi,” I say good on them and “yeah baby yeah.”

The truth is that there are many species of kiwi, all human, all making this wonderful nation home—just as all kiwis from the apteryx family are kiwis. Just as the Chinese Gooseberry has become the Kiwifruit through immigration, so indeed there are many and from this global village becoming Kiwi. Let us embrace them. There are a lot of implicit things in our language and attitude that need to change. I think this is one of them.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

A Trip to the Mall

I was wandering around the Mall yesterday, in a kind of "I've just ridden 100k" haze, as is usual on a Saturday afternoon. As I wandered the Mall intent on hunting, killing, and bagging a couple of long-sleeve T Shirts I got a bit of a shock. There was a kid running around the Mall with a toy machine gun. He was darting back and forth through the crowd shooting away at anyone he saw, sound effect and all.

The first thing that I felt was real shock at seeing a kid with a gun like this. I wondered why I felt this. After all, there was a time when I wouldn't have batted an eyelid, having grown up playing goodies and baddies, cowboys and Indians. I think it is because you just don't see this sort of thing anymore. At least in NZ, running around in public with any kind of gun is kind of frowned upon. Dare I say, for good reason.

Then I thought it is because I am influenced by the PC police. Have I gone a bit silly stopping kids having fun. Then I realised that this is for good reason. In a world like this where horrible events happen with guns including things very close to home, we don't want to see kids running around in public with guns do we? Or am I barking up the wrong tree?

The second thing that flashed through my mind was a time I was involved in an arms defender call-out at a mate's 21st. We were having a fine old time having a water pistol war in the central city when we heard sirens and were next surrounded by heavily armed men telling us to put our weapons down. Seemed someone had seen us running around and thought we were really armed and about to have a war. Needless to say we laid down our arms, got a good telling off, and went on our way.

Then I looked more closely and saw that the child was with his family surrounding their Mum. I looked at her thinking, what are you doing letting your kid run around with a gun like this? Then, noticing her clothing, I realised she was a Muslim. Now, I am not sure whether I should have responded as I did, perhaps I am guilty of racism or Islamophobia, but I thought "what the?" I said out loud, "seriously!" I then kept walking shaking my head.

Rightly or wrongly, I was shocked. Many Muslims find acceptance in NZ hard. They are victims of all being lumped together as Jihadis, even though most Muslims are not. They should not be, but they need also to be wise to aid their own course. On this occasion, I was full of questions like this. Doesn't a Muslim woman know better than to allow her kid to run around a Mall with a gun, albeit a toy one? How does she expect people who see Jihadi atrocities across the news on an almost daily basis to respond? Does allowing such things help the cause of the Muslim trying to find a place in NZ? Is she wanting to perpetuate people's prejudice? (Mine having perhaps been exposed ... again!).

After I had processed my shock, and killed and bagged my T Shirts, I wondered if I had let a great chance to chat nicely to a Muslim woman. She may have been blithely unaware of her situation. Then again, such a conversation would be difficult. As I ponder it a day later, truth is I am not sure what to think, except that it was not a great idea and I would advise her not to do so again. Then again, it helps me confront my own prejudices and to ponder the modern PC world we are in.  

The Strange Case of Lecretia Seales

Let me first express my sadness over the death of Lecretia Seales. She was clearly a fine women who contributed greatly to society and then showed immense courage not only in facing a terminal illness, but with taking legal action concerning the end of her life. Whatever one thinks of the cause, her bravery is amazing. I know what it is like to lose loved ones way too early, and my condolences go out to all concerned. Nothing in this blog is personal to her, may the Lord bless all those connected.

With that said, and not wishing to speak ill in any way of her, I find the whole thing strange. Her case began on Monday 25 May. Her desire was that her doctor could help her die, but then not face charges for doing so. The case lasted two days, until Wednesday 27 May. The judge Justin David Collins reserved his ruling but stated he would work through the Queen’s Birthday Weekend to come to a ruling. Clearly, there was a good possibility that she would die very soon anyway. As it turned out, he made his ruling on Thursday 4 June, about a week after the trial, and early the next morning, Friday 5 June, she died of natural causes. When I heard of her death, reading between the lines, the ruling must have gone against her. This was confirmed on Friday.

I find the whole thing a little strange. First, Lecretia was clearly capable of taking her own life in the weeks leading up to the trial. She appeared on TV during the period of the trial and was clearly sufficiently well to do so. I am not sure why she needed help to do it. I think suicide is a wrong option, but I understand people doing it. I don't condemn those who do, God is the one who decides. So, if she wanted to take her own life, I am not sure why she didn’t go ahead and do it? There are countless ways of doing so. Indeed, people do it all the time. I am intrigued that people in such a situation want to bring others into the process. 

Secondly, if Lecretia was so close to dying and was receiving palliative care (as is reported), why go to court to accelerate something that was coming soon anyway? And why the rush to make a ruling? After all, she was nearly at the point of death. 

Thirdly, if the law was applied, it was absolutely certain her desire that her doctor be free of culpability if he helped her take her life would fail. So, with the time frame in mind, why the whole thing? 

With all this in mind, it seems to me that, despite the denials from some in her family, the whole thing was carefully orchestrated to get euthanasia back on Parliament’s agenda. The whole thing was political from those closely involved including the doctor and judiciary.

I remain implacably against euthanasia in the sense that one person actively takes another person’s life or facilitates another person doing it. Passive euthanasia is appropriate—making a person comfortable at their end. There is also a time to switch of the machines and stop the treatment. I should know, I have been involved in three such situations in our family. They are tough and horrible, but sometimes the treatment is no longer bringing healing but hindering what is clear—it is time for a person to die. So, you do not take their life, but stop hindering their death and make them comfortable as they die. But to actively take another’s life directly or as an accessory is another thing. This is a form of murder.

In this case it seems to me that the person in mind did not need assistance. As is most often the case in such situations, she had ample opportunity to hasten her own death or allow nature to take its course as it did.

I hope NZ does not go down the track of allowing active euthanasia. I don’t think we should have a referendum on it, such things are not decided by democracy. If the legislation needs updating, we should update it. However, we should not allow active euthanasia, it will create a huge raft of problems. We already kill enough unborn children, let’s not give ourselves the pretext to kill the disabled, terminally ill, and elderly. Rather, we should care for them until their time comes. Or do we lack the courage and time to do this?  

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Manny vs. Floyd – What a load of . . .

Today is the day of the fight between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather. Now, I am a great lover of almost all things sport but I have to say I find the whole thing appalling.

First, the amounts of money involved are ridiculous. The two fighters will split $300m US which is around $400m NZ. Celebrities are competing for ringside seats which are going for $351,000 UD, not much under half a million dollars NZ. It is a just a load of celebrity nonsense with Rory McIlroy arranging his tee off at a professional tournament to be there, and a whole range of overly paid so-called celebs – including the likes of Clint Eastwood, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Robert De Niro, Michael J. Fox, Will Smith and many others there. This, in a week when Nepal was devastated by an earthquake in which over 6000 people have died. I say, can the fight, take the money, and send it to Nepal.

Second, this is all to watch a boxing fight. I love sport, but boxing (and other head attacking sports) is nuts. It’s all about targeting the head and concussing the opponent for victory. At a time when we are seeing the long-term effects of concussive blows in American Football, rugby league, and union, we should know better. It is dumb dumb stuff and boxing should be banned. Neurological studies show that boxing causes significant brain damage (e.g. In recent years, the British, American, Canadian and Australian Medical Associations have all called for an end to boxing, citing the high risk of brain damage and other injuries. The American Academy of Pediatrics has described boxing as sport that is unsuitable for young athletes. The whole thing is ridiculous. Not to mention that people will be watching two old guys, ways past their best, continue to smash each others heads in. Better to watch another Sylvester Stalone load of nonsense. They are way more entertaining.

Third, there is the implicit sexism in the whole thing as every part of the build-up has women wandering around in their bikinis. Most men like watching women in bikinis but come on. Re-heally! 

Finally, the whole idea of Manny Pacquiao ‘fighting for Jesus’ is, to put it bluntly, wack. At the weigh in he had a shirt on with ‘Jesus is the name of the Lord’ on the front, and ‘all glory and honor belong to God’ on the back. He said when asked about the fight, ‘the Lord is always with me and strengthen me and will deliver him into my hands.’ Pacquiao is not the first to ‘fight for the Lord’ and expect Jesus to help him win in a boxing ring, but the theology behind such claims remains ridiculous.

Jesus was anti-fighting. He renounced violence. He said ‘turn the other cheek.’ We won’t see Manny doing this will we? No, he thinks Jesus cares and will help him beat up Floyd. Where do we find such thinking in the teaching of Jesus or the Apostles? We don’t.

He assumes a naïve flawed theology based on a pre-Christ understanding of ‘God on my side’ as I smash the opposition, a la David and Goliath. Yes, Jesus is the name of the Lord. Yes, all glory and honor to him. But no to ridiculous money on a ridiculous sport claiming his name for victory. I can’t see Jesus giving a hoot about who wins the fight, he will see it as a disgrace.

The Jesus of Scripture came from a poor Jewish family, sided with the poor, gave his life ministering to them and saving them, and then died a poor man on a cross. He didn’t engage in fighting. He didn’t take on Pilate or Tiberius Caesar in a one on one fight for the world. He didn’t challenge Satan at the temptation to a boxing fight for the universe. His people are never urged to go out and fight boxing fights. They are to gird themselves with God’s armor of the virtues of honesty, love, righteousness, mercy, and so on, and care for others in need. Like those in Nepal.

Jesus had little time for money, warning of its snare, and calling his disciples to live a radical life of generosity, dependence and definitely not wealth accumulation.

I know Manny rose from poverty, does a lot of good and I am not saying he is not a Christian, but I think he needs to spend some more time meditating on the story of the rich ruler and especially how a camel might squeeze through the eye of a needle. You can’t even get a small Filipino boxer through a needle’s eye. That requires a really good blender. Perhaps the fight might help the blending as Mayweather pounds him.

So, in sum, what a load of . . . I won’t be paying the $49.99 to watch the fight. I don’t care who wins. I think it is appalling.  

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Are Jihadists Muslims?

A great debate going on at the moment is whether the Jihadists such as those from Al Qaeda and ISIL, or the independents such as Man Monis are Muslims or not. Some claim they are Muslims, and others argue they are not, as they violate Islam. 

Looking from the outside in, it would seem to me that the answer is decidedly that these people are Muslims. A Muslim holds to the six articles of faith—belief in Allah, angels, the prophets, the revelations of Allah especially in the Qur’an, judgment, and the will of Allah. A Muslim lives out of the five pillars which affirm the exclusivity of Allah and Muhammad as his messenger, the five-fold prayer ritual, almsgiving, Ramadan fasting, and pilgrimage (see 

It would seem to me from what I have heard and observed about the Jihadists of various persuasions, that they would uphold these with great discipline – indeed many of them believe they hold to them as all Muslims should. Further, they define themselves as Muslims, as evidenced by names such as Islamic State. Moreover, they are not the first Muslims who have taken to Jihad – Muslim history is full of such movements (not that Christians can claim the moral high ground here!) As such, I think it has to be said, despite the protestations of many, that these are Muslims. Of course, at the end of the day, assuming the existence of Allah as Muslims maintain, he will decide. If there is no Allah, the question is academic. That said, from my perspective, without doubt these people should be seen as Muslims.

On the other hand, we must take care not to consider all Muslims Jihadists; in fact, the evidence is that they represent a small but significant minority of Muslims. The vast majority of Muslims are not terrorists, uphold peace and justice, and do not agree with their view of the Muslim faith. That said, the Jihadists seem to me to represent denominations from a stream within Islam. 

A Christian parallel may be those from Westboro Baptist Church and other extremist fundamentalist denominations. As a Christian I abhor their views of many things such as homosexuality and capital punishment etc. But, it is not for me to decide if they are Christians or not. After all, there are heaps of Christians who hold variant views across the range of denominations – me included. And in the end, it is God decides if they are Christians or not (assuming we are on the right track of course—otherwise, the question is moot). The standard in the NT of what a Christian is salvation by faith and faith alone. All Christian believers are also sinners who have false ideas. In the case of the Jihadists in Islam, it is just that the ideas of the Jihadists are extreme and life-threatening. Yet, one could also ask whether George Bush and the many Christians who were involved in the USA invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq after 9/11 are Christians? I have yet to be convinced that these invasions were just. Yet, even if they were not, if these people had a genuine faith in Jesus Christ as saviour and Lord, they are Christians. One is saved by faith and not a flawless life.

Of course none of this justifies the unethical behaviour of Jihadists and Christians who do spurious things in the name of their faith. Such things are heinous. They are evil. Yet, it does not mean they are not members of the faith they claim. One can be a Christian and do wrong – after all, all Christians do this to some extent or another.

Neither does it mean that we should repudiate all Muslims and victimise them. That is unjust. There are evil Pakeha New Zealanders who commit horrendous crimes. However, this does not mean all Pakeha New Zealanders are to be treated with injustice and prejudice. Similarly, Maori, Polynesian, Asian, Christian, Jew, Palestinian, and so on, are guilty of the same. We need to be quite sophisticated in our thinking in this age, refusing to fall into the trap of living out of fear and prejudice toward others including Muslims just because of some who violate their name such as those from the Jihadist stream of Islam.

Yet we must also acknowledge the real and genuine religiosity of these people; they are driven by a holy zeal, they believe “God is on their side,” and this is central to their philosophy. To understand them we must recognise that they come from a religious mindset, without the separation of church and state that secularism understandings, and to understand them, we must think outside of our pre-programed western dualisms. I get greatly disturbed when I hear people say this is not a Muslim issue. This is going too far in one direction. It is a Muslim issue. Yet of equal concern is people who condemn all Muslims and Islam because of these dangerous people and movements. We need to really think deeply of appropriate responses.

One way to start is not to baulk when we see Muslims in our community, but show them welcome, respect and love. I was getting on a plane recently and a woman with a birkha got on and sat in front of me. My first thoughts sadly were concern. Then I gave myself a good kick up the proverbial and acknowledge her warmly. She smiled. As Christians we need to be determined to reach out and love and not fall prey to prejudice and fear. Yet, we should not be afraid to name that this is a Muslim movement; albeit one stream within Islam. Walking this balance is a challenge. Yet we should welcome it. And most importantly we need to guard ourselves from falling prey to a Christian form of Jihadism, which can be cloaked in respectable political military action. We need to heed the word of the Master and love our neighbour, our enemy, and refuse to compromise this, whatever the cost.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

The spirit or the Spirit

I am somewhat perplexed at the way many contemporary Christian writers whose works I am reading who are longer using a capitalised S in their references to the Spirit. One that does this rather surprisingly is N. T. Wright, for example in his recent tome on Paul where he constantly refers to the Spirit as spirit. One of my colleagues at Laidlaw recently published a book and followed the same pattern. Why are these writers doing this? I am intrigued. What does this say about their view of the Trinity? Or am I missing something? Is there a nuance here I have not discerned such as sometimes they capitalize and sometimes they don’t? If there is, it is interesting because when God is mentioned whether it be as Lord, the Almighty, etc, most use the capital. Similarly, when Jesus is mentioned by name or as Christ, or Lord, or even Saviour, most use the capital. I must say I don’t like this new trend, I find it irritating and cuts at the heart of belief in the Trinity. 

Friday, January 16, 2015

Do Not Sit in the Seat of Mockers

Don’t get me wrong as you read this. I deplore the recent terrorism in France (and Australia, Nigeria, etc). It is tragic and unacceptable; it is evil. It is the very thing Jesus came to call humanity away from. My heart goes out to the French nation for what they and the rest of the world are facing.

Yet, I have to admit to being uncomfortable with the whole rhetoric around freedom of speech that seems to lie at the heart of the western narrative of response. Freedom of speech is great, as long as the free are singing your tune. How far does freedom of speech take us when it includes the “right” to mock anyone for their race, gender, sexual orientation, and religion, etc.? We may like freedom of speech, but it haves consequences.

One of the reasons that these terrorists are rising up, whether it be North Korean hackers, or Jihadists in Sydney or France, is the flippantness of the west. Freedom of speech supposedly means you can mock Muhammad (or any other religion and political system) in cartoons. Such “freedom” fails to acknowledge how important Muhammad is to many people in our world. Mocking Muhammad attacks the foundation of the mindset of the devout Muslim. Similarly, Sony Pictures think nothing of ridiculing the leader of another nation and making a movie about a couple of American twats killing him. While I deplore the regime, he is an important person to the North Koreans. Perhaps the west needs to think carefully about its so-called “freedom of speech” perspective realising that yes, one can make such movies and cartoons, but one is deeply offending the other in so doing.

How about someone makes a movie about killing Obama and a couple of clumsy North Koreans set about doing so. Or, they make cartoons mocking gays, women, the gun lobby, African Americans (perhaps using the N word), American supremacy, or Jews. Is that ok? Is the rest of the world free to do this? After all, people lose their jobs in the west for their freedom of speech if it includes mocking some of the above mentioned. This may not lead to Jihadism, but it will certainly offend. We may be free to speak, but they are free to respond.

A couple of biblical themes spring to mind. One is that freedom from a Christian perspective is a freedom that is governed by love (e.g. Rom 14-15; 2 Cor 8). Such a love includes respecting the other and not mocking and ridiculing them, no matter how different or even silly they may seem. The west needs to think about this and show a lot more respect to people of other viewpoints. I don’t like despotic leaders but I have enough respect not to make a stupid movie directly mocking the North Korean leader. Similarly, while I am not a Muslim, I see no need to offend them whether it be in cartoons or whatever. There are other way to change the world.

The second theme is mocking. Psalm 1:1 warns the reader not to “sit in the seat of mockers.” Humour is great, and political correctness drives many of us up the wall. Yet, when we know something is of deep significance to others, we need to think carefully about exercising our so-called freedom. Yes, we should be free to say what we think, but we need to realise that the tongue is powerful and will lead to response. And the world is free to respond even if we don’t like it.

I despise Jihadism and all forms of the use of violent retribution; yet, I am increasingly uncomfortable with western arrogance. I think we need listen to the Psalmist and show a bit more respect to people who are different from us.