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the truth will set you free (after it hurts like hell)

They say the truth will set you free.

But not before first causing much in the way of pain.

Truth is a mirror. We are faced with a vision of how things really are, and we must respond.

We can choose to turn away: “I don’t want to see.” We can choose apathy: “I don’t care.”

We can also choose to stare deeply into the mirror, accepting how ugly things really are: “This is not how I want to be…”

By facing up to the way things are we will be liberated, but not before experiencing all the pain that comes with this confrontation.

Like an AA participant, I must acknowledge what I really am, and what I really am not, before I can be set free. Read the rest of this entry

commodifying the radical

Consumer Jesus by Banksy

The Olympics draw near to us, and on Australian television screens we are confronted with an advertisement for the Games featuring a truly horrifying rendition of the classic Australian ballad “Waltzing Matilda”.

The gruesome transplantation of Waltzing Matilda into a corny, overblown, adult contemporary pop song is an affront to Banjo Paterson’s work – the narration of an itinerant worker setting up bush camp by a billabong, thieving a stray sheep for food, being confronted by the police and the sheep’s ostensible owner, committing suicide and haunting said billabong.

Whatever we make of the story of this swagman, we should surely conclude that the version currently on rotation is a world away from its more radical intent.* And this is not even to mention the commercialisation of the Olympic Games…

These are merely examples of a more widespread phenomenon – the commodification of the radical. Read the rest of this entry

jesus the gardener: an easter sunday reflection

Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples went back to their homes.

But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them,‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalenewent and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her.

John 20:1-18

It is far too easy for us to overlook seemingly minor details in the biblical text. Perhaps this happens because we have become overfamiliar with the stories and no longer read them carefully, or because we have not been trained to pick up on subtlety.

Whatever the case, in John’s account of the Resurrection story such subtlety is apparent, though we must pay careful attention to perceive it.

Recounting the day of the Resurrection John opens his story, “Now on the first day of the week.”

Of what does that remind you in earlier biblical tradition? Read the rest of this entry

q&r: “no one comes to the father but through me” in john 14:6?

G’day Matt

I am enjoying reading your blogs on life remixed, especially the most recent on non violence and the debate that it is raising, brilliant, well done.

As you are one of the few who like to challenge the orthodox and traditional Christian beliefs there are a couple of bible verses that Christian Fundamentalists quote incessantly to justify that Christianity is the only way to salvation and therefor all other faiths / religions are false. One of these verses is John 14:6 which seems extremely exclusive and supports the Fundamentalists teachings. This teaching is to the detriment of billions of people all over the world who are not Christians due to the simple fact of where they were born and the culture and beliefs of their parents.

Your thoughts?

Cheers

A popular understanding of John 14:6

Thanks so much for the great question. I think it is a really important issue in the context of our pluralistic culture. In regards to John 14:6: there is perhaps no verse that has been interpreted with greater arrogance. 99% of the time I have, like you, heard it used as proof that other religions are false and that to enter heaven one must believe in Jesus. It has been used for so long by some groups for the purpose of asserting faith in Jesus as the sole way of salvation that we have stopped asking what the verse might actually mean in its context! Read the rest of this entry

exploring violence & peace: an interview with nonviolence trainer simon moyle (part 2)

Welcome to Part 2 of this interview with nonviolence trainer Simon Moyle. If you haven’t already it might be worth reading Part 1.

If you are new to the life.remixed blog you might want to subscribe to receive articles like this regularly. You can sign up via RSS Feed, or by using the email subscribe function in the column to the right, near the top.

People often cite Hitler as an example of a historical case where violence was necessary to end greater suffering. Is this true; was violence necessary to stop a person like Hitler? Could there have been another way?

Hitler is too convenient a scapegoat I reckon. Now certainly, Hitler had some truly horrific ideas and did some terrible things. But Hitler was just one person. Average height, average weight, normal intelligence (some would say abnormal, but you know what I mean, he wasn’t a supergenius). How is it that one man carries the weight for an entire regime, and the evil it unleashed?

Well partly because we like to have a simple scapegoat, because once we begin to unravel the myth of Hitler as the solely responsible evil agent it asks some uncomfortable questions about ourselves. Because let’s face it, Hitler alone could not have been a murderous regime, started a war and killed six million Jews. He needed a whole bunch of people to help him. He also needed a whole bunch of people to stand passively by and do nothing to resist him. Read the rest of this entry

a magnificat christmas: mary & jesus’ birth

As Christmas approaches it would be odd if I did not have at least one post about it on this blog.

Since there are literally thousands of theological articles on the web about Christmas 2011, and since I have basically nothing original to say, I will keep mine short.

What do we say about Christmas? What does it mean for us?

It seems common for Christians to chide society for the reduction of Christmas to a consumeristic holiday, though the irony of simultaneously engaging in said consumerism seems lost on them.

The problem is that merely insisting on the presence of Christ in Christmas is not an articulate expression of the meaning of Christmas.

Some go further, emphasising the birth of Jesus with a view to him eventually dying for our sins—Christmas is really about Easter. This might be caricaturing things a little, but for some the birth of Jesus, and indeed his subsequent life, holds little to no meaning apart from the atonement.

Are these adequate ways of articulating the importance and power of Christmas?

Read the rest of this entry

brief thoughts on suffering and theology

That the central event in the Christian faith is the life, death and resurrection of Jesus should lead to, among many things, reflection on how we approach theological thought about contemporary issues.

Indeed, God came to us in the form of a human named Jesus, and thus he suffered as a human. He probably grazed his knees as a child. He probably gashed his hand as a carpenter. He most definitely mourned the death of loved ones.

And of course he suffered when he was crucified.

It seems that the clearest revelation of God we have explicitly models him suffering with others who are both socially and ontologically inferior. Should this model serve as an example to us of how possibly to approach theology? Read the rest of this entry

Q&R: jesus and violence in the book of revelation

A life.remixed reader writes (in the comments section of my post Who Would Jesus Whip?):

Hey Matt,
Thanks for this post. I’ve really enjoyed reading your blog and appreciate your perspective on a number of issues, particularly this one, as your view is quite different to mine.
My question (not a trick one I should point out) is how you reconcile the image of the non-violent Jesus of the Gospels with the recurrently violent image of Him portrayed in Revelation?
Here is an example of what I’m talking about…

Revelation 19:11
“I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war.” (NIV)

My point is that if Jesus’ character is one of non-violent resistance, must that not consistently be His character throughout the ages? Are you arguing that He is specifically calling us to model His non-violent attitude demonstrated in the Gospels but ignore (or at least disregard for the moment) His violent responses in other parts of the Bible (in a Deuteronomy 32:35 sense)?

This certainly gets back to your point about what constitutes violence. I definitely read a correlation between Jesus’ violence and His perfect justice…an aspect that we certainly lack.
This may be a subject for another post, but would love to know your thoughts. Read the rest of this entry

who would jesus whip? the temple cleansing episode

A recent conversation with a good friend left us in square disagreement about the validity of violence for Christians.

My perspective, which I have frequently made known on this blog, was that violence was out of the question for Christians. Indeed, even if one were to accept that God commanded violence in the Old Testament (most do, I am not so sure…), we must take seriously Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:38-39a:

You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not (violently*) resist the one who is evil.

My friend responded by stating that he thought Jesus was violent; in the story of the cleansing of the temple Jesus seems to act violently when he fashions a whip, which is unique to John’s version: Read the rest of this entry

jesus: fanatic or bourgeois?

Recently I had the pleasure of being referred to as a fanatic. In a negative way. By another Christian.

From a pulpit.

Luckily I (ironically) took it as a complement.

The comment was made by a young pastor in reference to my quasi-activism (I can’t really refer to myself as an activist, it would do a great disservice to those who really do go out life and limb in their activism for causes they believe in.)

This experience got me thinking about the Jesus-es that people follow. For example, which Jesus does this young pastor follow? And indeed, which Jesus do I follow? Read the rest of this entry

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