Category Archives: Culture & Art

the mourning in moving: making spaces into places

My wife and I are in the midst of moving home.

It is a predictably arduous undertaking, and we’ll be glad when it’s over and we are settled in our new place.

But on the other hand we feel a sense of mourning over leaving our current unit, even though we rent and do not own it.

This is not necessarily the first time I have felt this way. Any time I have moved homes in the past (only three times or so) I have felt the same way. In fact whenever I am in the geographical area of a past home I often find myself driving there and sitting out the front.

What is it about our attachment to particular places?

Why do people attach so much value to places and spaces?

Why do people, groups and religions enter conflict, even violence, over particular spaces that are deemed special, sacred or holy? Read the rest of this entry

tgif (trash goes into flight): the bastardisation of creativity

Turn on the radio and you’ll find yourself bathing in the cesspool that is popular music.

Whoa, slow down there cowboy! That’s a pretty harsh way to start, you can’t open with that!

Maybe you’re right. I suppose that lots of music on the radio is actually very good. But you have to admit that a good deal of it can hardly be called beautiful.

Yes, yes, you’re right on that one. But on the other hand beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and those songs you’re talking about tend to be very popular, hence why they are on the radio. Somebody must like them!

Of course, I’m not denying their appeal. But I think the problem with these songs goes beyond their appeal.

What do you mean?

Well, I wonder what makes a song beautiful, or creative. Surely much of what appears in the music charts cannot be said to be creative.

That opens up a big set of questions. What does it even mean to be creative? Read the rest of this entry

the perils of hipster-dom: subcultural exclusivity

Today I watched a story on the news about a fellow who set a challenge for himself – he would become a hipster and study his experience.

One definition of a contemporary hipster might be: Read the rest of this entry

let’s talk about sex, baby! (…and consumerism)

Many Christians are very critical of contemporary sexual culture, and rightly so. But what is the worldview behind this culture of so-called sexual liberation? Perhaps, by directly attacking modern ideas about sexuality, Christians are like people trying to scoop water out of their hallway with a teaspoon when it would be much smarter to turn off the flooding bathtub.

In their book Colossians Remixed, Brian Walsh and Sylvia Keesmaat make a very brief and powerful statement about the connection of contemporary sexual culture to our culture of consumption. Speaking about Colossians 3:5 they say:

Sexual sin, greed and idolatry – what is the relation among these? Why end a list of sexual sins with an economic sin? Because sexual sin is fundamentally a matter of covetousness, an insatiable, self-gratifying greed that has the control and consumption of the other person as its ultimate desire. Sexual sin is not sin because it is sexual but because it is invariably covetous. it replaces the pleasure and sexual enjoyment of two people in a loving relationship with a self-centred gratification of sexual longings that can never be fulfilled apart from commitment. Read the rest of this entry

confessions of a “worship” leader

For years I have been involved in playing music to help lead Christians in worship.

Music leader, song leader, worship leader; call it whatever you want. Without wanting to sound in any way conceited (I assure you, about this I am not), I earned a fair amount of praise and encouragement from people who claimed my leading helped them in some way.

In my late teenage years (I have now just turned 26) so-called “worship” and music was central to my faith journey. My identity was largely derived from my music leading, and there was a lot of pressure to conform to the image of other well-known worship leaders. I truly believed that my calling, that my purpose, was to be found in leading people in worship by way of music.

I sang a lot of songs. A lot of words. But eventually something dawned on me – all that music, all that so-called “worship,” wasn’t necessarily changing me or anyone else I was leading. Read the rest of this entry

neither refugee nor refuged: christ, empire & the unsolution

The so-called Malaysian Solution marks a terrible chapter in Australia’s immigration history.

While many people have tried to argue that Julia Gillard lied about the carbon tax, I find this argument to be wilfully ignorant of the events of the last twelve months.

Where Gillard has lied, however, is on the issue of asylum seekers. She has previously claimed that the Howard Government’s so-called Pacific Solution was, “costly, unsustainable and wrong as a matter of principle.” Read the rest of this entry

asylum seeker stories from villawood

On Saturday some friends and I went to Villawood Immigration Detention Centre to visit some Tamil Sri Lankan asylum seekers and refugees currently housed there.

I am somewhat hesitant to post this story lest it look like I am attempting to portray myself as somehow heroic. Nothing could be further from the truth since a single visit does not make me particularly compassionate or generous.

I am not going to bang on about how bad the conditions were, since visitors are confined to the visitor area and thus I did not see the living quarters etc. In saying this I think that, against my assumptions, Serco was doing a reasonable job at running the facility given that they are simply out to make a profit. My belief is that the Australian Government, with its awful policies, both past and present, is to blame for our shocking treatment of asylum seekers. I have written about this elsewhere, so back to the story.

After spending over two hours with these young men I was struck by the similarities between them and myself. Read the rest of this entry

thoughts on islamophobia and fundamentalism

Anders Behring Breivik

How easy it is for Australians to jump to the conclusion that Islamic extremists are responsible for all forms of terrorism. The latest tragedy in Norway represents a prime example of this.

(In saying this I do not mean to in any way negate the scope of the tragedy, or divert attention from the horrific 91+ deaths of mostly young people; I merely intend to discuss one aspect of the issue from the point of view of this blog’s theme.)

The New York Times claimed that initial reports focused on the possibility of Islamic militants (with, it seems, no credible evidence for this).

The UK’s Guardian suggested that, “The most tempting and immediate conclusion was that it would be a jihadist group,” (again with no credible evidence).

Australia’s Andrew Bolt put his suspicions out in the open Read the rest of this entry

did you know?: earth hour

Did you know that Earth Hour, an annual event that has raised much awareness about climate change issues, began in Sydney in 2007?

Did you know that in March of this year (2011) countries on all seven continents participated?

Sure, Earth Hour makes almost zero difference to global emissions, and does not directly improve the state of the planet. But to argue that this demonstrates the failure of Earth Hour is to completely miss the point – nobody actually believes that turning off electrical items for one hour will make any difference!

The real purpose of Earth Hour is of course to raise awareness about the need to take action on climate change. It also functions to form a sense of solidarity amongst those of the Earth’s population who seek to care for our planet.

I suppose that in a way this goes to show that, despite how small we are on the world stage, Australia has huge potential to make a difference on the global scene, and can indeed influence other countries to make changes.

This article in today’s National Times speaks a little about Earth Hour within the context of our current debates about climate action.

MCA

walter wink on homosexuality & the bible (part 3): conclusions

This post is the third part of a series on Walter Wink’s views on homosexuality and the Bible. It is advisable to read Part 1 on the Old Testament and Part 2 on the New Testament before continuing below.

The very notion of a “sex ethic” reflects the materialism and splitness of modern life, in which we increasingly define our identity sexually. Sexuality cannot be separated off from the rest of life. No sex act is “ethical” in and of itself, without reference to the rest of a person’s life, the patterns of the culture, the special circumstances faced, and the will of God. What we have are simply sexual mores, which change, sometimes with startling rapidity, creating bewildering dilemmas. Just within one lifetime we have witnessed the shift from the ideal of preserving one’s virginity until marriage, to couples living together for several years before getting married. The response of many Christians is merely to long for the hypocrisies of an earlier era.
– Walter Wink

In this final offering on Walter Wink’s views set out in his article Homosexuality and the Bible, I will attempt to gather up the loose ends that have escaped the net spread out in the previous two posts of this series.

For Wink there is nothing more and nothing less at stake in this debate than the way we read Scripture. His view seems to be that literalistic readings will not do, given that the Bible is culturally bound (it was inspired by God through culturally-bound humans), and that our readings/interpretations are necessarily selective and culturally bound: Read the rest of this entry

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