Hey! Let’s change Australia Day!

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You can set your watch to it. It’s not rating season for the tele, Parliament isn’t sitting and it’s just that bit too early to be outraged that Coles and Wollworths are selling hot cross buns. So what does ‘the media’ predictably turn it’s mind to just after the new years day hangover? That’s right – changing the date of Australia Day.

For the  uninitiated, Australia Day is the commemoration of Lieutenant Cook (as he was then known) colonising Australia in the name of the British crown. We celebrate this on January 26.  With a rag-tag bunch of ships, a handful of convicts and not enough food to last, they hooked a left at what we now call Port Botany, rowed ashore and popped up a flag.

Here’s where the problems start though.

Since that flag went up, for our original owners, it was the beginning of the end. The beginning of the end of traditional ways of life, land, customs, law. It was the beginning of European disease. Grog. Livestock. It was the beginning of harsh, harsh laws. Missions. It was the beginning of dispossession. Incarceration. White mans responsibilities without white mans rights. Stolen wages. Stolen children. Forced labour. The list goes on. And on.

Here’s what that British flag also brought (and most definitely not for our Aboriginal brothers and sisters for way too long). Participative democracy. The Westminster system. Voting rights. That British flag saw the birth of a nation that prides itself in being peaceful, tolerant and welcoming. That British flag brought with it amazing growth and development for this country.

200 years ago, there wasn’t much of this globe left to explore by England and Europe. Africa had been colonised by a kalidescope of European countries. America was well and truly established. Central and south americas were claimed by the Spanish and Portuguese. Asian countries hadn’t made any real territorial advances and the Middle East was still stuck, for want of a better term, in the dark ages. The Dutch and French sailed past the west coast of Australia decades before the British, but decided not to stop.

What I’m trying to say is, it was inevitable that ‘someone’ would colonise Australia. There was still a host of European countries looking to build empires and suck the wealth out of their newly invaded lands. Just turn your mind however on countries that were colonised by France, Belgium, Spain or Portugal. Look at the legacies that those countries have left, in terms of peace and stability. The Congo will be suffering for decades because of Belgium’s rule. Central and south America still struggle with unstable governments and corruption. Compare that with, for example, India, also taken over by the British. Look at the stable democracy, progress and development occurring there.

I’m the first to acknowledge the horrible, horrible things done to our first Australians. Things done with the worst intentions and even worse outcomes. Things done with the best intentions and bad outcomes. Horrible, unmentionable things. I understand that the notion of celebrating (for want of a better word) is offensive and upsetting to our first Australians, considering all the atrocities done to them.

I’m very aware that this could sound like ‘it could have been lots worse so shut up and be thankful that your genocide wasn’t even worse’. That’s absolutely not what I’m saying. What I am saying is British colonisation, on the whole, has brought so many positives. It’s been the nucleus that now magnitises people from all over the globe here. Because of British colonisation, we have a stable, orderly system of government. All we need is stable, orderly polititians to go with our great system ūüėČ . We have a robust bureaucracy. We all (now) have the vote. We can associate with whom we want, worship or not worship the God, gods or entities we want, or not want. We can wear what we want, generally say what we want, join an organisation, political party, religious group – even a line-dancing club, without the fear of persecution.

To change the date of Australia Day to me is focusing on the worst of British colonialisation. The absolute worst. It focuses on pain – terrible, very real pain, but it ignores all the fruit that has come not from the circumstances, but the system colonialisation brought.

If we start changing dates because it represents hurt (and real hurt, pain and terror was the result of British colonialisation), we forget the rich blessings that this same system has brought for all Australians. If we start changing dates because of hurt or offence, one of two things will happen:
1. We forget who we are. Australia day can both be a celebration, a remembrance, a time for saying sorry and a time for forgiveness. It’s a key moment in Australian history. We will never find a date or say that both is significant and means something without running the risk of offending someone
2. We open the door to changing other significant days to minimise hurt and pain. Anzac day, for example, is a day dear to our hearts but for many Australians of Middle Eastern background, represents a time of the end of the last Caliph, the Ottoman Empire. Easter is the most important celebration and time of rememberance to Christians. Australia is no longer a Christian country, and I can only imagine the hurt that Easter causes to our Jewish brothers and sisters when they are called ‘Christ killers’.

I want to again truly, and deeply acknowledge the pain and suffering British colonisation has done to our Aboriginal brothers and sisters. The terrible things done to them, and I do not want to minimise the pain inflicted on them by white mans policies. Like many others, I am deeply sorry for the things done to our first Australians, and look forward to a future where we walk together in improving the outcomes for all Australians. What I do not want though is to throw away a day of such significance, a day that has brought so much good to this land. A day that saw the dawning of a beautiful country becoming a great country.

 

 

 

If you’re ever in the neighbourhood

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If you’re ever in the neighbourhood, pop in. If you’re ever in town, pop in. Pop in for a chat.

If you’re ever in the neighbourhood, tell me and I’ll put the kettle on. Let me show you my home, let me show you my garden.

If you’re ever around, please, pop in. I want to introduce you to my kids. I want you to see yourself in them. I want you to hug them, and hold them, and love them. I want you to wrestle with them, laugh with them, simply enjoy the joys they are.

If you find yourself in the area, please, don’t be a stranger.

If you’re ever in the neighbourhood, please, come over for a chat.

Let me tell you about my life, let me tell you about my family. Let me tell you about our family.

If you’re ever in the neighbourhood, please, come on over. Let me fill in the parts you missed, tell me the things I’ve forgotten.

Please, if you’re ever in the neighbourhood, come and sit for a while. Correct me, discipline me, restore me, tell me the things that I can only hear from you.

If you’re planning a trip here, let me know. Let me know so I can clear my calendar. Let me know, even if it’s just for the briefest of brief moments, let me know, pop on over, don’t delay.

If you’re ever in the neighbourhood, my door is open, and open widely for you. It’s been too long. Let me tell you about my brothers, let me tell you about their kids. Let me tell you about the outstanding young men they are. Let me tell you how proud I am of all of them.

So dad, if you’re ever in the neighborhood dad, let me know. Let me know. Let me know.

Image from http://elikatira.com/modifications-for-front-porch-designs/small-porch-designs/

2017 Resolution: Don’t be so polite

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Lose weight. Work less. Be kinder to my family. Listen more. Take time to smell the roses. Enjoy sunrises. Read more. Exercise.

If 2016 has taught me anything, it’s that freedom of speech is more important than ever. It’s taught me that there’s people from both sides of the political spectrum that prefer to use insults and smear to respond to things that cross their sensibilities (or insensibilities!). I’ve learned that there’s a huge movement against free thinking. There seems to be people, ideologies and movements that want to police your very thoughts and closely held beliefs.

2016 has taught me that there are people that are very well prepared to label uncomfortable facts as an ‘ism’ or a ‘phobia’. 2016 has taught me that there are some people who’s default response to my beliefs, thoughts or ideology is to call me all manner of things, without actually asking, engaging or seeking to find out the why of these beliefs.

I’ve found that there’s a large swathe of people, like myself, who for too long have been polite. Perfectly rational, normal people who for too long have bitten their tongue, either publically or privately. People that have literally been too scared to voice conservative or libertarian viewpoints. Kind, hard working, compassionate people who have been scared to speak out on important issues because any dissenting view gets dubbed as racist, intolerant, bigoted, nationalist, unkind or uncaring.

2016 has taught me that there are people who passionately argue ‘against the rich’, but never say how much of their own personal income or assets¬†should be ‘redistributed’.

2016 has taught me that there are Christians who worship a Jesus who’s big on acceptance but silent on all that horrible sin stuff, mute on repentance and uncomfortable with a Sovereign Lord.

2016 has taught me that there’s a stack of people who resent being told what to do. That there seems to be a class of people who make decisions based on good intentions, rather that good outcomes. It’s taught me that even within a so called Liberal party, there are people who want to placate and pander to illiberal policies and outcomes.

So if 2016 has taught me anything, it’s that my opinion is worth just as much as anyone elses. It’s taught me that I’ve still got a voice, and I’m still going to use it. It’s reminded me that freedom of speech, freedom of thought and liberty are more important than ever. It’s reminded me that I will not be told what to think, or say, and I’m not going to be silent.

So my resolution for 2017 is to remove the shackles of politeness and timid silence. I don’t expect to ruffle any feathers or change anyone’s opinion. I’m not looking to cause a stir or be unkind. I’m just resolving in 2017 to exercise my voice. It’s probably the only exercise I’ll do!

 

 

12 Reasons Millennials Are OVER Church?

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Editors note: If you’re not into preachy, Christian blogs, this one isn’t for you.

An associate posted a thought provoking post the other day dubbed ‘12 Reasons Millennials are OVER Church‘. Have a squiz at it. I read it. I read it again. And again.

My first, second and third impressions is that the author thinks way too highly of himself, is waayyyy to happy to signal his virtues and seems more than happy to blame others.

I read his bio and about him, and my personal opinions of him softened, just a little.

The article ’12 Reasons Millennials are OVER Church’ is, for the most part, is a list that says ‘wa wa wa wa me me me me’. Read it for yourself.

The author though, is onto something – I suspect though he doesn’t know what it is.

He’s rallying against something, in hope for something, but is looking in the wrong spots.

His heart naturally is in the right place, but he’s asking the wrong questions.

Now, I try to avoid preachy things on this blog. Actually, I like to avoid preachy things like the plague, because no one likes preachy things. I don’t even like preachy things. But I’m going to get preachy, because the author is striking a match against every surface, hoping it would light, when only flint will cause the spark.

So lets get down to business.

‘The Church’ has failed Millennials. Big time.

It’s not because ‘the Church’ hasn’t been inclusive

It’s not because ‘the Church’ isn’t giving to the poor

It’s not because ‘the Church’ isn’t accountable for it’s finances

It’s not because ‘the Church’ isn’t mentoring it’s young (although there is a yawning gap here)

The Church has failed Millennials because for the last umpteen years, all that’s been served up is what could be best described as a wishy-washy ‘Jesus is my boyfriend’ gospel. The Church has failed miserably to teach basic, fundamental truths.
The Church has absolutely abdicated it’s responsibility on key matters such as repentance, the Sovereignty of the Lord, ¬†the authority of the Scriptures.
The Church has really, really made a mess of any type of systematic teaching.

Think about strong cultures. I’ve written about culture before, but just think about it. What makes a culture strong? Systematic teaching. Living the culture. Breathing the culture. Being deliberate in teaching the young the culture. Imparting. Mentoring. Teaching lore and law. Wrestling with it. Wrestling with your place in it.

When was the last time you actually heard a Church talk about it’s doctrinal statements? Explored – and I mean really explored what it means to be a Christian? The author seems to critisise Christians who explore the truth, who delve into their faith, who explore the beautiful Scriptures. Reasons 7 & 9 talk about how Millennials don’t want to be preached at, but want to hear about the controversial issues. I whole heartedly agree that mentorship is lacking in the church, however, preaching – and I mean real systematic preaching and teaching is a wonderful, effective and authoritative way of delivering truth.

It’s telling, that the author seldom talks about¬†biblical truth. About teaching even the very basic fundamentals of faith.¬†There’s no real talk of ‘hey, teach us the truth and let us go and make disciples of Jesus’. There’s no real talk of ‘how can we really be set apart in righteousness’. There’s scant talk of biblical basics such as sin, repentance and forgiveness.

The truth is, the Church has failed Millennials. It’s failed Millennials by not giving them even the most basic tools for understanding biblical authority. For having the confidence to stand of the word of the Lord. For imparting discernment. In a time when the Uniting Church of Australia is scared to mention the name of Jesus in it’s advertising material, I tell you – the Church has failed Millennials.

To quote the X-Files, the truth is out there. Where’s the best place to start? Pick up your Bible. Start reading. Read it with fresh eyes. Ask the Lord to reveal himself to you. Ask him ‘why’. Find him in the story of creation. Find him in the exodus. Find him in the Passover. Find him in beautiful detail in the law. Find his promises in the prophets. Find his fulfilment in his Son. Explore the Gospels. Read, and re-read the letters. Read it for yourself.

There are some great podcasts out there. Don’t find ones that cover the hot topics. Find ones that explore the truth. Find ones that will help you understand the Scriptures as they were intended to be explored. Find ones that will give you the tools to both understand what the Scriptures ment when they were written, and what they mean for you now.

We are living in a time were globally, Christianity is under persecution. I read just earlier this week a church in Cairo was bombed with worshipers inside. ISIS is doing dreadful things to Christians, as well as other Muslims and minorities. Countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia actively make it difficult for Christians. Churches in the Philippians and Malaysia are being burnt down. In ‘the West’, churches aren’t being burned down, but hold up a bible and preach the gospel in a university, and tell me about the warm reception you get.

The things the author desires are good things- charity, mentorship, accountability. These are good things, but they don’t nourish the soul. The sooth, but don’t heal. They wipe tears, but they don’t reconcile the ledger of sin.

The Church has failed Millennials. It’s time now for Millennials to grow up, take responsibility of their own faith and start grappling with their own faith, and not by having a wa wa fest over the ills of the Church.

Why I’m secretly happy Trump won

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It’s not because I like him. In fact, I think he’s a loud, shoot from the hip bore.
It’s not because I think he subscribes to any religion, save perhaps for the mighty dollar.
It’s not because I think he’s a particular moral man.
It’s not because I really understand his policy platform.

I’m not secretly happy because I dislike the Clinton clan. Truth be told, I think that family reeks of corruption and power for powers sake. Their numerous FBI investigations speak for themselves.

It’s not because of my own political ideology, my rightish libertarian leanings or my worldview.

It’s not because I think Trump is necessarily be a good or bad candidate.

It’s not because I’m a racist, a bigot, a something-ophobe, a Klan member or a fascist.

The reason why I’m secretly happy about Trump winning is because of this:

I’m secretly happy, because for too long, I’ve personally felt that there’s a group of people who loudly and proudly proclaim they are better than me.

I’m secretly happy because for too long, I’ve personally felt that I’ve been making tolerance after tolerance, and I wonder if it’s to the detriment of a pluralistic, classically liberal society. I wonder why our betters keep putting¬†Western civilisation down and we dare not be proud of what has come from Western civilisation.

I’m secretly happy because for too long, loud and proud groups have proclaimed that some deeply held values of mine are both inappropriate, and deeply held values should be excluded from the public debate.

I’m secretly happy because the ‘media’ and a large swathe of the supposed enlightened end of town made a blood sport of demonising anyone with a contrary view to them. I’m secretly happy, because for me, this vote represents a big ‘up yours’ to anyone who’s ever said my views are something-phobic, or something-ist.

I’m secretly happy, because up until 24 or so hours ago, ‘the media’ had promised the world that Clinton would be president, and Trump would have absolutely no hope. I think it’s comical that mountains of sneer were heaped on people who dared vote Trump. I think it’s comical that they were called a raft of -isms and -phobics, but those ‘deplorables’ (to quote Clinton) gave a rats enough to care about the country they live in, work in and love to get out there and vote. It’s like those voters gave the middle finger salute to all those who were holier than thou.

I’m secretly happy, because by all respects, Trump was never meant to win. He’s the outsider even in his own party. He’s the outsider of ‘the establishment’. He’s a brawler, he’s rude, he’s brash. He’s got a truckload of mongrel in him.

I expect some friends and associates will bring up Trump’s stellar record with women and all the horrible things he’s said about Mexicans/Muslims/Gays/Blacks (and I’m waiting for the out-of context quotes here), and they’d be right. Like I said at the start, I’m under no illusion he’s some bastion of morality.

I’m secretly happy, because a swathe of polite, kind, community minded people I know darn’t speak their mind politically, in fear of being shut down, shut out or branded an -ist or a -phobic. To me, Trump winning is like that secret wink in your eye, when you know there’s others who think the same as you, and it’s okay to have a different opinion from our elites.

I’m not a fan of either candidate, but I’m glad Trump won.

I’ve got a stack of friends that have wide ranging opinions on both candidates, and I totally get, understand and respect their point of view. I understand where they’re coming from, I understand their fears, their anger and their frustrations. I don’t begrudge them, and I appreciate having their opinions, however much I disagree, in my life.

Just keep this a secret though – if anyone was to find out that I’m secretly happy Trump won, they’d brand me something-ist or phobic-ist.

 

 

Lamenting a culture that never was

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I was privileged to go to a Samoan wedding last night. It was the first Samoan wedding I’ve been to. Actually, it was just the wedding reception, but there was enough Samoan to know it was almost exclusively a Samoan wedding. I’ve been to other cultural weddings in the past. I’ve been to a Macedonian wedding, an Indian wedding and plenty of Aussie weddings. Incidentally, do you know the difference between an Aussie wedding and an Aussie funeral? One less drunk.

Jokes aside, it was a beautiful reception. The groom was a couple of years younger than me, and is currently a professional rugby league player. To be honest, no-one really mentioned the bride, as lovely as she was.

Now, I don’t know how indicative this reception was of Samoan wedding receptions, but there were many things that the MC would preface much of the proceedings by¬†saying ‘in Samoan culture’. For example, he’d say ‘in Samoan culture, we always invite the priest and his wife to eat first’, or ‘in Samoan culture, we share dances and songs at gatherings like this’. Indeed, there was much singing, dancing, prayers and formalities. Most of the reception, save for a few speeches, was done in Samoan. One of the grooms family members was a tribal chief, who gave a very ostentatious speech in Tongan. The women all gave dances, the men gave dances, they all gave dances. At various times during the evening, they broke out into beautiful Samoan songs – many of which I recongnised as old church hymns, except in Samoan. It was truly a beautiful experience, and it gives me goosebumps even now thinking about it. Regardless of your views on faith, there is something totally inspiring about spontaneous hymns in a beautiful language.

Just over a year ago, I was in Fiji. Going there, it weighed heavy on my mind the disparity between my Western wealth and the humble, austere living of the Fijians. Anyone who has been to Fiji will know what I’m talking about. How do I reconcile having a plate of food, served by a beautiful Fijian man or woman, who goes home to a simple home, perhaps without even electricity. It wasn’t until I visited a nearby village and partook in a kava ceremony that it made sense – how the Fijians could live like this – really in what we would describe as poverty.

During this ceremony, the village elders described how they were deliberate in preserving their culture. How they were committed to seeing their culture and their way of life preserved and passed onto their children, and their children’s children. They were describing their love of their culture. So we sat there, on the floor of this wall-less shelter listening to the elders, sipping kava, being mesmerised by this simple way of life. It wasn’t until that moment that I realised that even though there was a huge disparity – and I mean huge – between my shallow wealth and the depth of their culture that I wondered who was missing out.

I can’t help wonder, now, what is my culture. Even as a fairly conservative kinda guy, I don’t have any real rituals, customs or rites. I had no formal initiation into manhood. I have a personal faith, but to say the predominant culture I find myself is in anyway religious would be incorrect. I have no tribe with a chief, I have no songs of my forefathers, even at significant events (weddings, funerals etc), to say there are cultural expectations would be a stretch of the imagination. I have no special language to pass onto my son or daughter, no lore nor rites. I pray I will train them up in the ways of the Lord, and this is one inheritance I am very proud to implore them to find their faith in Him.

So, we – I – have very little in the way of culture. What do we have? I have been searching for the answer. What have we found our new culture? I look back to the social revolutions of the 60’s, where there was a very clear rebellion against the conservative ways of the 50’s. It is very easy to see the difference this rebellion, if you want to call it that, had on our Western society. But even now, if one was to rebel, what culture would they be rebelling against? If I was to tell my culture to ‘stick it’, so to speak, what would I actually be rebelling against, for the cultural rules and expectations placed on me are so minimal.

In the years proceeding 1990, Latvia, along with many other former Soviet republics regained independence after being occupied, bound by the evil yolk of communism. During those oppressive years,  the Communists imposed their might on the Latvians, forbidding the language, the culture, the stories, the lore. In the three decades since independence, Latvia, as well as her sister states Lithuania and Estonia have been deliberate in nurturing their culture, their language and traditions. Jay Nordlinger writes that for many Lativans returning to Latvia after Communism it has been both a physical and spiritual experience. Many Jews similarly express similar sentiments when they return to Israel.

I love capitalism, and firmly believe¬†ethical capitalism (I know some friends will scoff at that term!) does much more benefit than controlled economies. What capitalism can’t do, what it cant buy or produce though is connection, culture and being. I wonder, if, here in ‘the West’, we have traded culture, connection and a sense of being for a never-satisfied need for ‘things’ and ‘stuff’. I wonder.

Culture, in the traditional sense of the word, doesn’t spring up overnight, but something I think needs to be practiced daily. One only needs to look at the Jews to see how, especially for observant Jews, their culture is a daily practice. It’s a culture that’s sustained them through over 3500 of human existence, through being scattered amongst the earth, through Pogroms and Holocausts and ever present promises of destruction.

So I ask – do you come from a strong culture? How do you see culture in terms of identity? Is it a culture you wish to impart into your children? Do you find comfort in the company of ‘your own’?

You may think this blog is somewhat somber, and perhaps it is. I guess I’m just missing this idea of culture, this idea of belonging to something bigger than myself. Something that perhaps compliments my faith, and something bigger to shepherd my children in as I guide them through the wilds to maturity. I’m interested. Tell me your thoughts.

 

Picture credit from http://www.qiane.co.nz/anele-nigel-le-lagoto-resort-savaii-destination-wedding/

Your best self vs your real self

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They say marriage is a lifetime of getting used to someone. Without a doubt, any long term relationship is a rollercoaster. You get the good, the bad, the ugly. Sometimes you can get all of that in the space of an hour!

You’ve probably noticed your slightly (or very!) different, depending on who your with. Some people are quiet and industrious at work, but put them in a grandstand at the football and they are boisterous and uncouth! Some people are relaxed everywhere, except behind the wheel of a car. You probably have variations on who you are, depending on the context of the situation.

Another way of looking at this is do you give your partner what’s right, or what’s left. For example, do you find yourself planning your life on how you can invest in your partner, or, do you find yourself giving them the scraps of your energy after everyone else has had a piece of you?

There’s an interesting dynamic though, in marriage. It’s the dynamic, or tension between being your real self, and being your best self. It’s the tension between doing what’s real to you, and doing what’s best for your relationship. It’s an interesting, and difficult tension.

It’s the tension that you get after you and your partner have had really huge weeks, and you want to sit quietly and they want to talk through the week. Do you be your true self, or your best self for your partner?

It’s the tension in silly things – leaving the toilet seat up because you don’t care what way it goes, and putting it down because your partner likes it down and you want to be your best for them.

It’s the tension between just wanting to go to sleep, because that’s what you want, or choosing to open up physically to your partner because you want to give your best to your partner.

It’s the tension between listening enough to hear the key points, or giving your whole attention to your partner.

I think this tension manifests itself in many things.

So what is the answer? I used the picture above because I’ve met some people who seem to think that love is a licence for bad behavior. They seem to use the ‘if you can’t love me at my worst, you don’t deserve me at my best’ mentality to really just be selfish. Inversely, I’ve met other people who do literally everything they can to support their partner. It might be in the way they put their life on hold to support their partners career, or family, a project or lifestyle.

Is there a point where you give up being your real self, and give your best self, for the sake of the relationship? What about vice versa?

You can only every control yourself, your actions and emotions, so this isn’t about changing your partner. What I’m asking is how have you managed that tension between giving your best self to your partner, and being your real self? Can the two ‘selves’ exist? Can you be real, but still give the best of yourself to your partner? I’m curious, let me know.