I opened the envelope and sat down at my desk to cast my opinion (because it isn’t a vote – its an ‘opinion poll’), but as I was about to tick a box I hesitated. Because ‘Yes’ doesn’t say all of what I want it to say… and then ‘No’ doesn’t tell the full story either. I came back 4 days later and ticked a box but it wasn’t without some frustration.

The problem for me was that I only get to choose ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and unfortunately then I get to be defined by my choice (It seems to have become a defining issue) but I can see both sides of this argument and depending on the day and the conversation I am in, I can lean either way.

Its not that I don’t have strong convictions – I do – but rather that it is a complex issue and ‘yes’ or ‘no’ just doesn’t do it justice.

If I go with my Christian convictions based on how I read the teachings of the Bible in regards to human relationships then I will vote ‘no’. (I believe its God’ original intent for men and women to be together.) The fallout from this is that some will see me as bound to the teachings of a book that carries no authority for them and that has no relevance to a 21st C secular society. At best I may be perceived as lacking in my ability to think – perhaps a product of a religious system that prevents me from free thought. Or at worst I may just be cast as a homophobe and a bigot – and no one wants to be that… a modern day leper.

Then if I take a step back and look at what it means to live in a secular society where everyone has a right to their say and where we cannot assume any priority based on Christian heritage I can see a case for the ‘yes’ vote and a number of Christians have argued this case quite articulately and convincingly. It means equal rights for all and people get to choose their path – wherever that leads. If I take this tack then some of my Christian tribe will see me as a sellout – as having a ‘low’ view of the Bible – of caving in to cultural trends. At best I will be seen as out of step with the rest of the church community, or at worst I will be a false teacher and a heretic – one to be disregarded in future conversations around issues of this nature – the guy who lost the plot on the gay marriage issue…

You see ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ just doesn’t allow for any nuance whatsoever. When I say ‘yes’ I do so meaning ‘XYZ’, but I am concerned about ‘ABC’, or when I say ‘no’ I do with similar caveats and concerns, and if you are a Christian and can’t say that I’d suggest then maybe you haven’t grappled with the issue sufficiently.

I don’t expect my friends who aren’t Christians to share my wrestle – there is no need to consider faith issues when you don’t hold the Bible in high regard. That said, I do expect respect and to be taken seriously. I’m happy to offer my thoughts and reflections on the subject and to explain the challenge that this subject is for many people of faith. I’m even happy to have a good spirited argument about the issue – but I’m not happy to either use propaganda to demonise others or be defined myself by propaganda. The plebiscite was always going to be problematic, because campaigns call for propaganda and propaganda requires an enemy to fight against. So far the propaganda machine is doing its job well and managing to create ‘us’ and ‘them’ (whichever side you are on)

Likewise I would hope that my Christian friends would see the bigger picture of what it means if one group (the Christians) get to dictate the tone for society. Our own God allows us to choose our path – whether that is in line with him or not. Christians are as entitled to their say on this issue as much as any other group in society, but not more than any other group.

Increasingly I have felt the pressure increase to ‘get with the program’, ‘wake up’ or ‘see the light’ – and that’s from both sides. When you treat me like a moron and try to win me over with crass arguments, fear or manipulation then you insult me and I find your campaign weak. Unfortunately this is what it has come down to so often.

I expect most of my friends who aren’t God botherers will vote ‘yes’. (I’m not sure why you wouldn’t as it is the way our society is heading). But for my Christian friends who may vote either way, my great hope is not that you will ‘get it right’, but rather that whatever you do it will be done in a spirit of love and respect. Whether you are perceived as ‘progressive’ or ‘regressive’ the call from Jesus to love those who disagree with us and seek to live at peace with everyone is stronger and more powerful than the call to get the right answer to a vexed question.

I’m not going to tell you which box I ticked in the end but you’re welcome to have a guess…

Under His Eye






I haven’t had a heap of work lately so I did a binge watch of the Handmaids Tale over the last few days, a novel I had never got around to reading, but a very good mini series and chilling in its implications.

If you haven’t read / seen then it’s the story of a dystopian future where the vast majority of women are infertile and those who are able to bear children get rounded up against their will, to be ‘handmaids’ to the elite class, so that the species will survive.

How could this happen?

A conversation between three of the senior leaders explains it. Just use biblical justification (Rachel and Leah) and while the women (and wives even) might not like it, once the Bible is involved who can argue?

So ‘handmaids’ are assigned to various homes and the ‘ceremony’ is performed after the reading of a passage of scripture which allows these (apparently) deeply religious people find a way to reconcile their own inner desires with what they know to be wrong and evil.

I’m reminded of that other movie, The Book of Eli, where Denzel Washington protects an unknown book with his life. Eventually the nature of the book is revealed – a KJV Bible – because whoever gets the book gets the power. More correctly would be whoever gets to interpret the book gets the power.

Thankfully that will never happen in real life…

As if…

I’m no fan of 60 Minutes as quality journalism, but Sunday night’s show exposing the sexual abuse within a particular independent Baptist Church, (thankfully it was mentioned several times that this is not our mob) was a contemporary example of the Bible being used to justify a man’s own sexual desires and subsequent evil actions. The abuse suffered by the wife was tolerated for so long because she was caught in a system of belief that validated her husband’s evil behaviour. ‘It was in the Bible’ that she needed to submit and obey so she really had no choice… So she felt.

The recent ABC studies released on domestic violence in Christian families seems to have touched a nerve in two ways. Some of those suffering have finally been given a hearing and an opportunity to break free of ‘biblically justified abuse’ (an oxymoron) while others within the church have gone on the defensive, hitting back at the research methodology and the clarity of the findings. This is completely disingenuous at a time when we need to repent rather than justify. If all that is heard by those willing to tell their stories is that they are ‘invalid on a technicality’ then we have simply become modern day Pharisees.

The Handmaids Tale is no far fetched sci-fi fable. It is an all too real possibility if we continue to allow men to get away with using the Bible / or any other religious text – as a justification for evil behaviour.

To be clear, I’m talking about using the Bible to manipulate your wife into doing something she does not want to do, or using the Bible to justify behaviour that would otherwise be considered wrong and liable to prosecution, even using the Bible to justify any self centred, self serving actions that hurt another. Of course you can step back from the line of ‘abuse’ and still be emotionally abusive and psychologically destructive, which is just as much of a problem.

As men the cards are usually stacked in our favour and the dominant readings of scripture for many years, giving men control and power, have allowed for the possibility of destructive outworkings of those interpretations.

I don’t think its as simple as ‘complementarians are bad and egalitarians are good’. It’s possible to be an egalitarian arsehole and a complementarian gentleman.

Its more to do with how we see Jesus and submit to him in our own lives. Because he isn’t cool with this stuff.


How to Vote

On Saturday Australia votes and (broadly speaking) as a result we will get the government we deserve. Vote like a donkey (i.e. do not fill in the forms) and expect to be governed by donkeys. Vote thoughtfully and you at least have a chance of being governed by people who care about where we are headed as a country.

The image below reflects some of what happened in the UK over the weekend. It seems a bunch of people didn’t do their homework and simply cast a vote without realising what they were doing. So on Sunday morning Google trends shows ‘What is the EU?’ and ‘What does it mean to leave the EU?’ as the two most significant search trends for UK citizens after the vote…

euThe problem is that after the vote its too late to do your homework.

And we need to learn from that, so come Sunday morning we don’t set google trends humming with ‘who is the Pirate Party?’

Unlikely that will actually happen I realise, but you get the point. An uninformed vote is irresponsible and a waste of the privilege we have in this country. That said an informed vote is complex and laden with tension because no one party ‘ticks all the boxes’ on everything. I voted last week as we will be on holidays on Saturday and as I left the voting booth I felt dirty – compromised – because I couldn’t endorse everything about the mob I voted for. But I would have felt that no matter who I cast my vote for.

So how do we form a vote as Christians?

There are a few helpful articles here:

I spoke to this issue yesterday at church and offered my own ‘how to vote’ proposal. The topic is intended to be provocative and evoke a bit of a ‘who do you think you are to tell me how to vote!’ response, but its actually different to telling you who to vote for. Deciding ‘how to vote’ is on one hand very simple, but on the other requires thought, interaction and careful reflection.

Hamo’s ‘how to vote’ guide is simply this:

  1. View all parties policies thru the lens of the kingdom of God and the teaching of Jesus. Use the sermon on the mount, use the Gospels, but try and see who lines up best with the stuff Jesus was on about. That’s both simple and complex, because no one is a perfect fit.
  2. Pray, read, discuss and repeat… I’m sure many of pray and read, but the ‘discuss’ element often gets tetchy and we shy away from letting people know who we will vote for or how we are going in our thinking. What this second stage does is tests our concerns against the way other Christians read the Bible and read the policies. God put us in community right?… Well part of that is because we are able to think better together than on our own. Alone, we are limited in our thinking, but when we start to interact with other Christians we have to explain our positions or accept that maybe we need to re-think. Threatening? It doesn’t have to be… That’s why the third part matters.
  3. Agree to live in harmony no matter what. I don’t intend to malign anyone for voting in a different way to me because they have made the best call they can with the info they have and the issues they see as core to the kingdom. So if we know that there is a commitment to one another that goes beyond our political preferences then we can love one another whether we vote Liberal or Green.

My belief is that for all of us there are some issues that matter more than others and they will give strongest shape to our final decision. Some of us will see religious freedom as the biggest issue, while others will fight to the death for the barrier reef.

For me the ‘clincher issue’ was asylum seekers and our inhumane treatment of those in detention. I didn’t want to go see ‘Chasing Asylum’ last week, but as I went I prayed ‘help me to see something worthwhile in this… help me to know what I am doing here…’ The outcome was that I left having decided not to vote for anyone who could endorse this form of suffering and to cast my vote for those who would seek to end it and treat people more compassionately.

Its slim pickings when you choose to make that a ‘filter’… and in making that choice I inevitably voted for some people who hold different perspectives to me on other issues. But I know what I’ve done and I’m prepared to live with the consequences of that – both good and bad.

So, that’s Hamo’s How to Vote guide for yet another election…

Have fun voting as we will be somewhere between Geraldton and Carnarvon on that day 🙂






To Weep With Those Who Weep

asylum web








‘Want to go see ‘Chasing Asylum’ with me?’ Danelle asked a few weeks back.

‘Dunno…’ I replied.

‘Why dunno?’

‘Because I already know the story and I’ll probably just end up pissed off, frustrated and feeling powerless at what’s happening… not sure I can stomach it. I hate being told there is a huge problem – oh and by the way – you can’t do anything to fix it.’

I still hadn’t decided at 5.00 tonight and the movie began at 6.30. In the end I agreed to go. I prayed as we drove… what do I need to see in this tonight?

And I did end up feeling pissed off and powerless, but perhaps that’s beside the point. The story wasn’t new – much of it I had heard before – the movie didn’t go anywhere surprising and while it was quite well made and gave some insights into the lives of those in detention, it also told the tragic tale of Australia’s resolute refusal to even contemplate sharing our country with anyone coming by boat.

So its no surprise that I’m in favour of doing more – much more. If we can spend $500000.00 annually to keep people in tents on an island then I imagine we can surely use that money to help them become valuable members of our society. The amount of money spent is the exact value we place on not having ‘those people’ in our society.

That said, I’m not an idealist. The movie didn’t address the question of ‘what if everyone came?’ How would we cope with the load? How would we need to change to accomodate the challenges that would go with that? Maybe that’s because those questions are so far removed from the Australian psyche that we can’t even contemplate them. Right now the best we can hope for is a fair(er) go for those poor people locked up indefinitely offshore.

The movie included stories from asylum seekers, stories from Aussies who had worked in detention centres and who could stomach it no longer. It told stories of the families who had seen loved ones head off in search of a better life only to die in the process.

Video of Tehran made me think again of my friend, Stephen, who came from there and was unable to settle in Australia, despite 4 years on a temporary visa, despite getting a job and finding his feet. Along the way he ‘accidentally’ found faith and his life was transformed. Unfortunately this was interpreted as him ‘conveniently’ finding God, while the truth was anything but that. His new faith made his possibility of settlement much harder. About 18 months ago he was arrested, sent back to Villawood and then Darwin, before he eventually gave in and agreed to go back to Iran. We haven’t heard from him since, but we hope he is still alive.

I sensed the most poignant moment was the footage of Vietnamese refugees coming to Australia and being welcomed and settled. I guess we could say that all turned out ok?… We didn’t finish up being overrun, or losing our identity, our jobs, our livelihoods to these new migrants…

At times as I watched I was hoping the movie would end. Some of it was boredom. I have heard it all before. Some of it was simply not wanting to hear more information about a situation I feel helpless to change. I don’t like feeling powerless, or living in a democracy where the current choice is for either party A who will enforce the status quo or party B who will do the same.

But in the end I sensed that maybe I was just there to weep with those who weep. Perhaps the point of tonight wasn’t to spark me to build an extension to take in a new family or to up stumps and work somewhere else among these people.

Perhaps it was just to share in their pain and feel a smidge of their helplessness and to pray for the wisdom to know where that leads.

‘Doing a Tony Abbott’













‘Doing a Tony Abbott’…

I wonder if a phrase of this ilk is going to enter our Christian parlance?

This week Abbott spoke at the annual Margaret Thatcher lecture and announced that the Bible and the ‘golden rule’ was good and all that, but not to be taken too seriously – certainly not to be adhered to if you are likely to put yourself or your country in danger. It makes good sense except when it doesn’t work to your advantage…

His exact words were:

“Implicitly or explicitly, the imperative to ‘love your neighbour as you love yourself’ is at the heart of every western polity. It expresses itself in laws protecting workers, in strong social security safety nets, and in the readiness to take in refugees. It’s what makes us decent and humane countries, as well as prosperous ones.

“But right now, this wholesome instinct is leading much of Europe into catastrophic error,”

“Our moral obligation is to receive people fleeing for their lives. It’s not to provide permanent residency to anyone and everyone who would rather live in a prosperous western country than their own.

“It will require some force, it will require massive logistics and expense, [and] it will gnaw at our consciences. Yet it is the only way to prevent a tide of humanity surging through Europe, and quite possible changing it forever,”

There’s no doubting his simple take on this is, ‘The Bible says X – X is good – really good even – and it has ‘worked’ – but if X means your life is affected negatively then X is bad’

I’m no Abbott fan and I disagree with him on this policy, but I think we need to exercise a bit of care with our critique because as Christians we’ve done exactly this for years. When we get to a place where we can finish the equation above with ‘but if X means your life is affected negatively then X is still good’ then we will have got the log out.

But while we read the Bible and consciously, knowingly say ‘what the hell – I’ll do what I like anyway’ then we can’t be taken seriously.

If we’re honest we are pretty good at ‘pulling a Tony Abbott’ … but then that honesty doesn’t always come easily…

Just a thought…




Worth a Fight?









Recently my old mate Scott posted this image on his Facebook page and took some heat for it. We had coffee that afternoon and he mentioned to me that he hadn’t seen the words at the top of the image, just the sentiment on the bottom. Maybe he did lose some friends over it. Certainly the comments on his post suggested his views weren’t welcome and a pastor he should know better.








Then just last week another friend posted a link on Facebook to this article with the accompanying disclaimer ‘No I’m not a bigot’. It takes the other point of view and she also copped heat from people who declared her narrow minded.

It seems that whichever side of the debate around gay marriage you sit on, you risk losing friends. You have to face the reality that your point of view on this one issue is going to bring conflict and possibly even the end of a relationship.

What an unbelievably stupid response…

I want to say ‘Really?… Seriously?… You would dismiss me as a friend because on a non essential issue I read the Bible differently to you?’

This is another in a long line of boundary marker issues that seem to be used to decide who is ‘in’ and who is ‘out’. In times gone by it was inerrancy, as certain people were demonised and harangued for refusing to subscribe to one particular view of scripture, or perhaps you encountered the same shunning over your views on creation, or women…

These are all issues that can still generate a little heat here in Oz, but let me change your perspective for a minute.

My aunt visited from Ireland a couple of years back and I asked her what was the pressing issue for the church in that part of the world. Do you know what she said?


Yep – hats… HATS!

People are fighting one another over whether they keep their heads covered in church… I was speechless, but managed to utter some completely insincere words of concern.

People are losing friends over hats… 

You probably find that sad and absurd. Bizarre even, but in another part of the world that is still more ‘christianised’ than Australia, this is a serious issue.

In 20 years time when the heat has gone out of this debate around gay marriage you will probably view it like you do creation, or inerrancy or gender. Its not that its a storm in a teacup. Its a real question that needs a thoughtful response. We do need to grapple with these issues as Christians, but we don’t need to lose friendships over them.

That is DUMB!

I get the clear sense we would be far more comfortable with a friend suggesting a non-divine Jesus, or many ways to God, than we would be with someone having a divergent view on gay marriage. We could more easily tolerate a compromise to our core convictions than we could someone holding the ‘wrong’ view on a hot topic.

Time to grow up a bit folks.

And – no – I haven’t presented my own view on this issue on here, because I’m not writing for that purpose. I’m more than happy to tell you what I think, but only if you promise not to ‘de-friend’ me…

If that’s too hard it might be time to get a grip of what Jesus said was really important






The Ongoing Crucifixion of Rob Bell










I read once that when it comes to issues of faith some folks are ‘pioneers’ and others are ‘settlers’. Some will venture out into new territory theologically and practically, while others are better equipped to protect what is established and to work within what is known.

Rob Bell seems to be a pioneer and one who finds life in places where others where find fear. So for this he gets crucified.

He wrote a book about Hell. He questioned traditional teachings and while he didn’t appear to come down on any one view conclusively he allowed for the possibility of something other than eternal conscious damnation and perhaps what was more disturbing he encouraged people to think about the issue.


He stopped leading his megachurch without a concrete plan of ‘what next’ and he now doesn’t ‘attend’ church in the regular manner. Plenty of us have been there and know that this does not mean we have ‘ditched church’. We have just changed expressions.

But because he was such a high profile figure his choice to move away from the conventional has repercussions and he should be punished.

Then he came out in favour of same sex marriage and gay relationships… But we all knew he was going to do that because he had jumped onto the slippery slope and this was where it leads.

It was strike three for Bell, and rather than respect his theological judgement on this, while choosing to hold different views, this became a point of agreement for those hoping for his downfall. (And it seems plenty were hoping for it.) There was now definitely a common enemy to rally against.

And now we hear he is doing business with Ophrah…

He has his own show – on TV – talking about God. Oh dear. Its come to this. If he hadn’t lost his way before, then now he has completely sold out. He’s hopped in bed with the goddess of relativity and has lost his bearings completely.

Or… maybe as a pioneer he is strong enough to enter territory where the settlers feel at sea? Maybe he is able to move into uncharted territory without a map but with a north point to hold him? We value missionaries who go to unreached people groups, so why not a  culturally capable and theologically astute missionary who has gone into territory very few Christians would ever get invited into.

From discussions with missionaries to unreached people groups in other cultures I know they use methods to communicate the gospel that they do not disclose when they come home because your average evangelical wouldn’t understand and it wouldn’t be worth the hassle because then we would marginalise them as well. So maybe Rob Bell is just bold enough to do his thing in full view. Maybe he has nothing to hide?… Maybe we can’t understand what we see, so its easier to kick him out of the tribe than to trust that God might work in a different way thru this gifted individual.

Perhaps its just plain jealousy?

As I listen to Bell speak I don’t hear him ditching Jesus, but nor do I hear him towing the party line. He often speaks in metaphors and images so he doesn’t please the gatekeepers who would prefer he use more familiar and definable language. In his language there is room for people to imagine and to think, and possibly think wrong things. But given that many do not want to think on these issues or listen to the voices of most preachers perhaps he is tilling the ground to speak of Jesus in a compelling way – as he can do – at a later point.

Then again maybe he is just a heretic and we should stone him to death for daring to be famous, successful, engaging and then to change tack – to walk away from the tangible expressions of a faith that is clearly working and to undermine the credibility of his own creation. Because that is hard to explain…

I understand that some people who were fans of Bell in his original more familiar incarnation may feel a little ripped off now. He was once the person who could say so well what many of us struggled to communicate. He had a way with words and media and theology that was uncanny… and now he is no longer saying the things we would like him to.

Maybe we can get off this guy’s back and trust that God can work in him and through him in ways that many of us would not be capable of.

Perhaps… just perhaps Bell has lost his way and drifted unconsciously into territory that is clearly incorrect and blatantly in opposition to the call of Christ. But perhaps rather than a good ole evangelical lynching, maybe this is the time to get alongside him and help him find his way back.

We do love a lynching though don’t we?…












Yesterday in church I felt it important to pick up on the current ‘terror alert’ story that is slowly escalating and generating all sorts of disturbing behaviour around the place.

From a muslim woman thrown off a moving train in Melbourne, to a young girl named Isis who now is in a quandry as to ‘who she is’, to a business named ISIS who now advising staff not to come to work with their uniforms on and are considering re-branding. All of these are outcomes of a media voice that is telling us we need to be afraid and that our freedom and way of life is in danger.

The conclusion we get to led to as a result of the fighting in Iraq is that ISIS are Muslims, therefore Muslims are the enemy. For people who don’t think its a simple equation and the problem is that many don’t think…

So despite the messages from our politicians that tell us to remain calm and treat muslims fairly and kindly there is an equally virulent message that calls us to be careful, to be cautious and to look out.

Leunig summed it up well in this cartoon.



All the ingredients are there to create the kind of chaos we now see around us. So how does a church respond? How do we as the people of God respond every day in the regular rhythms of life.

If offered 4 thoughts yesterday:

1. Pray – I get the sense that ‘our battle is not against flesh and blood’ and it won’t be won by killing more people. I’m pragmatic enough to believe we need to take action to stop ISIS forward movement, but minimum force would be the answer rather than blowing them (and innocent bystanders) off the planet. Prayer also focuses our energies on the things God seeks – his kingdom – his righteousness – peace, rather than on the festering fears that perhaps our muslim neighbours might be terrorists undercover. Now is the time to pray for the muslims in our community that they will be safe and not become innocent victims of a fight that is not theirs, and to pray for the folks stranded in Iraq who have nowhere to run to (especially not Australia…)


2. Love – Dave Andrews wrote a piece about this and I think he’s on the money. Now is not the time to be neutral – to stand back – but it is the time to show love and concern and to offer our help to those who must now live in fear of being victimised. For those who are cautious I don’t believe this equates to agreement with the tenets of Islam, nor is it bowing to ISIS. It is believing that we do not overcome evil with evil, but rather we overcome with good. Try it. Speak to a muslim person and show concern. Smile at them… There… not that hard…

3. Think – I suggested yesterday that we treat the news as reality TV – a story being developed with some element of truth, but only enough to keep people watching. Let’s not believe everything we hear. Let’s be sure to check our sources and think before we forward that email speaking of the ‘slaughter of Christians by Muslims’… Consider what message this sends – even inadvertently, especially when it gets sent on another 5000 times. Check snopes before believing any emails and think twice before accepting anything you hear on the news. Just the other day I stumbled on a documentary about SOFEX – the special operation forces expo held in Jordan where the latest and greatest in military hardware is on display to those who will buy it and use it. And with the USA the biggest producer of this stuff it makes you question how viable this massive multi billion dollar industry is if there are now wars in which to use it. It makes you think doesn’t it?…

4. Radicalise – I read an article in the paper on the weekend about the process of radicalisation and how it happens among muslim youth. And as I was reading I began reflecting on that old oxymoron ‘radical Christianity’ (because it implies that there is such a thing as moderate or recreational Christianity). If we can choose to live our own lives surrendered to Jesus and the things that shape the kingdom then we must surely stand apart from our society in the way we love and seek the wellbeing of others. We will be a radicalised, prophetic (and annoying) voice to both the church and the society. Inevitably we will evoke anger, but a genuine expression of faith lived out in society will result in a concern for the other whether they are Muslim, Hindu, Bahai or Presbyterian… I believe one of our key roles as Christian leaders is to keep disturbing our people with the message of the kingdom and to keep questioning our own lives as do that. Authentic Christianity is radical by definition, but we continually need to radicalise ourselves and our churches where we so easily settle for middle class values with a sprinkling of Jesus.

At the end of the day there are significant theological differences between Muslims and Christians and we don’t need to downplay this. We aren’t varieties of the same plant. We are different, and the core difference is in who we believe Jesus to be. But that doesn’t mean they are the enemy… It doesn’t mean we need to be afraid. I liked John Dickson’s recent ‘letter to his church‘ as a way of seeing the issue.

And just while we’re at it, now is not the time to be figuring out the burka issue or to be banging on about Halal. I believe these are valid debates to have and the degree to which Islamic culture is able to permeate our society is a question we need to resolve. If we are genuinely a secular democratic society and Muslims have come to be part of that because their own system sucked, then they are welcome to have a voice and to participate in the process like everyone else. But for now we don’t need to take action that is unnecessarily hostile and provocative.

Fear, Terror and a Bloke With a Pie


Its in the air… everywhere…

And its destructive. Evil even. Seriously…

Last night on our local community Facebook site a woman posted a disturbing message about how the previous evening she had felt like someone was watching her in her home and how she didn’t sleep well. The next day at Woolies a man walked close to her and appeared to be watching her and her children as well. He followed her out to the bakery and stood behind her… At that moment she had an apparition of a dead relative walk down the mall towards her and she took this as a warning that she was in danger from this man…The man bought a pie sat down and ate it, but she ‘knew’ he was watching her…

You don’t come across too many posts quite so paranoid, neurotic and nonsensical as that one, but what was even more disturbing were the responses that followed.

‘We’re not safe anywhere these days…’

‘Oh dear Hun so glad you’re safe…’

‘Take care – our little community isn’t what it used it to be’

‘Report it to the police’

My favourite was from the bloke who commented: ‘Maybe the bloke was doing his grocery shopping, was hungry and felt like a pie.’

Because that is in all likelihood the reality of the situation. A bloke walked around the supermarket on the same day as you, happened to leave at the same time and stood in line at the bakery. That you see his behaviour as suspicious likely communicates much more about you than about him. That you ‘felt’ someone watching you the previous evening and were ‘warned’ by a dead relative doesn’t add to the credibility of your story.

So now its not just the guy giving your kids a push on the swings that we need to be concerned about, but its anyone who happens to be near you on a day when your paranoia is in overdrive?

But this is what we can expect while our media continues to narrate world events in the way it does. Fear and depravity is more likely to draw more viewers than good news and the ‘national security’ story is yet to reach a climax.  Its a great story for drawing a crowd, but the escalation in the current ‘terror alert’ is inevitably going to spin off in all sorts of fear around the place.

When we tell a story of fear we will create a sense of fear. When we tell many stories of fear we can expect to create a culture of fear. So last night’s Facebook post is an expected outcome in this world we now live.

As I listen to the news and the stories that get told I find myself concerned at two levels. The first is for what is happening in the world as Muslim extremists terrorise innocent people. This is a real concern and I fully understand the anger this generates. It is barbaric and nonsensical and needs opposing.

The second is for the authenticity and tone of what is reported. Propaganda is endemic when nations are at war because we need to demonise the enemy (otherwise its harder to kill them). But the narrative around terror seems to be escalating in tone and the language is becoming less peace-focused and much more of the view that we have no alternative, but to fight.

The ‘war on terror’ motif is loud and clear and the need to ‘be vigilant’ is equally loud and clear. But what’s ironic is that if anything were going to spawn even more terrorists then its the kind of rhetoric being generated.

Its also the way to spread fear and legitimise our own innate prejudices.

So don’t be surprised if someone in the shops happens to grab their children, turn and run from you next time you stop and thoughtfully ponder which brand of toothpaste to buy. That moment of contemplation could be the difference between life and death for those standing nearby.

Backyardmissionary is a Driscoll Free Zone

I don’t know Mark Driscoll and have never had anything to do with him, but lately my Facebook news feed has been buzzing with people’s assessments of his failures in ministry and the possible out-workings of it all.

I confess I have read many of these out of curiosity, but honestly I feel pretty dirty afterwards. I think the feeling is a reminder that I have nothing to contribute other than my voyeurism and while it may be entertaining and somewhat smugly satisfying to watch a high profile, heavy hitter take a fall, it is hardly worthy of the time that is currently being spent analysing and critiquing. It could even be wrong…

So while I understand (and support) the arguments for transparency and accountability and how in the absence of social media Driscoll may never have been ‘outed’ and challenged, I am not seeing a campaign to ‘stop the hurt’ and ‘get Driscoll help’, but rather just a whole heap of angry tirades that aren’t helping anyone.

So – you won’t read anything here. Not because I don’t think its a juicy, salacious issue and the demise of a celebrity pastor isn’t interesting to speculate about, but just because it has been making me ill. And I don’t mean the issue so much as the way it has lured so many into unhelpful and destructive criticism.

And I should probably stop there.