Monthly Archives: April 2012

anzac day: what does a myth do?

As ANZAC Day comes upon us again many Australians find themselves, for a variety of reasons, in an especially reflective mood.

Last year I reflected on the myth of violence inherent in ANZAC Day, and I don’t think it necessary to tread that ground again this year. What I am thinking about in 2012 is the function that the ANZAC myth plays in Australia (not by any means a unique thought).

There has been a reasonable amount of commentary floating around that suggests ANZAC Day was and is a reinforcement of common identity in Australia. In Eureka Street on Sunday, Benedict Coleridge wrote:

By paying tribute to the Anzacs, Australians reinforce their sense of common identity: in doing so the Australian nation is imagined as a sovereign and limited community defined by certain ideals.

Arguably this focus on ideals is what makes Anzac Day so popular. Day to day political affairs and cultural and social debate is often antagonistic — democracy as a process of public argument rather than public reasoning. And in the realm of morality, modern life is defined by a plurality of moral perspectives so that it is difficult to form a moral consensus on a wide variety of issues. Anzac Day, by contrast, is an occasion for public concord and consensus — it is marked by displays of solidarity.

I can’t agree more. My recent post on political disillusionment in Australia made similar points – nihilism has so pervaded our collective life that there is no foundation on which to build a common future.

In comes ANZAC Day, a commemoration that has the potential to bind us together under a common history of struggle and sacrifice for freedom. The only problem is that this is a historically problematic conclusion. Read the rest of this entry

cover the night: #kony2012 and the challenge of activism

Disclaimer: The views expressed on this blog are my own and do not reflect the opinions or policies of any group or organisation, including my employers, unless otherwise stated.

As with my original post about #Kony2012, I write this post with a fair amount of trepidation since I learned from that episode just how emotional this topic can be. My aim here is merely to reflect on what we can learn from the ‘Cover the Night‘ event, not to criticise it, and I will attempt to be as sensitive as I can. For this reason I will not be commenting on the content of the Kony campaign; in any case I have done that previously.

The first thing to note is that the Cover the Night event was highly successful, at least in relation to Invisible Children’s initial expectations prior to the release of Kony 2012.

These expectations included that half a million people would watch Kony 2012. However given that the video became the most successful social media campaign to date, with over 100 million views, the results embodied in Cover the Night were quite disappointing. In my hometown of Sydney 19,000 people clicked on ‘attending’ for the Cover the Night Facebook event, though one report claims only 25 or so people were present at Martin Place, the event’s main centre.

That is not to say it’s all over. The campaign has not ended just because IC’s main event has passed by; there is still the opportunity for further advocacy. However judging by the take-up rate of Cover the Night this seems unlikely.

This is not a reflection of Invisible Children so much as the current state of popular activism; Invisible Children is merely the most publicised instance of the difficulty in translating social media popularity to on-the-ground work. Indeed, many I know who shared the Kony video and criticised those offering a critique stayed home on Saturday night… This is not a problem with IC, but the state of young generations (of which I am part).

So what have we learned from this episode?

Read the rest of this entry

when the coyote catches the roadrunner: peter rollins on achievement

Today on Facebook I posted a light-hearted update about why the fictitious ACME company, made famous in Roadrunner cartoons, hasn’t gone out of business owing to their flimsy products that always seem to backfire on the Coyote.

A friend then posted a link in response. It seems that someone has taken Coyote-related questions seriously.

Peter Rollins, in a fantastic post entitled What happens when you get what you want?, discusses the hypothetical: What would happen to the Coyote if he ever caught the Roadrunner? The below clip illustrates a possible outcome (warning: this clip includes profanity).

On its surface the question may seem trivial, even meaningless. However Rollins uncovers a significant question about human experience, particularly in our fast-paced contemporary world: when we are highly driven to achieve, what happens to us when we get what we have longed for?

What happens to us the day after? And the day after that? Read the rest of this entry

sabbath economics in the smh

In case you didn’t catch it yesterday Ross Gittins had a great article in the Sydney Morning Herald entitled What Jesus said about capitalism.

This article is particularly interesting in that it summarises some of the work of theologian Ched Myers. I have quoted or alluded to Ched’s work a number of times on this blog, and you can view those articles here.

In the past I have also written on “Sabbath Economics”, influenced by the work of Ched Myers – https://liferemixed.net/2011/01/24/thirdwayeconomics/.

The work of Ched Myers, launched by his commentary on Mark (Binding the Strong Man) back in 1988, was ahead of its time, and the academic world is, in my view, only catching up in the last few years. That commentary on Mark is, as far as I have read, the best and most important Western commentary on any biblical book in the last five decades. Ched’s little book, Sabbath Economics, which Gittins wrote about in the above article, is well worth a read, and is perhaps a good introduction to his work.

It is interesting that Gittins, writing in several major newspapers, concludes his article by saying:

This doesn’t mean Christ accepted poverty as an inevitable characteristic of the economy, or part of the divine plan. Rather, he says, the divine vision is that poverty be abolished, but as long as it persists, God and God’s people must always take the side of the poor – and be among them.

It seems that if they keep quiet the paper and ink will cry out!

If the Gittins article strikes a chord with you, make sure to get your hands on some of Ched’s work!

Lastly, Ross Gittins recently gave a talk at a TEAR Australia event about whether we have “Enough” in our economy, and what the future could look like. It is available for download here.

MCA

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

easter 2012: things you should read

Easter has come to us once again, and we set our minds and hearts on the death and resurrection of Christ.

I am going to refrain from writing a new post for the event, since there are so many good resources out there. Here are a few of them:

MCA

could donating your stuff to the poor do more harm than good?

Disclaimer: The views expressed on this blog are my own and do not reflect the opinions or policies of any group or organisation, including my employers, unless otherwise stated.

In the last few days my Facebook Wall has been filled with links to a certain organisation which promises to match every pair of shoes bought with a pair delivered to a poor child overseas.

No doubt those beautiful people who post these links have the best of intentions, and really want to do what they can to help out those who are less fortunate.

Nonetheless we need to think clearly and critically about what kind of initiatives we support, lest we do more harm than good.

The organisation described above by no means marks a new phenomenon – lots of organisations and campaigns provide ways for people to donate goods, both new and used, to less fortunate people in situations of poverty. No doubt a child with shoes is better off than a child without them. Same goes for a shirt or school supplies. It can’t be denied that enterprises which facilitate these donations do good things.

But is the good outweighed by harmful side effects?

Sticking with the example of shoes, there are numerous issues. Perhaps the most crucial is Read the rest of this entry

show me the tribute money: a perspective on “render unto caesar”

Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to entangle him in his words. And they senttheir disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone’s opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said, “Caesar’s.” Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” When they heard it, they marveled. And they left him and went away. (Matthew 22:15-22)

Recently I posted about the above passage, asking people to contribute their thoughts. From that attempt I gather that people are more comfortable responding to a positive contribution than to an open-ended invitation; in this post I will attempt to oblige this preference.

As I said in my original post, the way we interpret the above passage and its parallels says a lot about our methods of reading the Bible and our understanding of the connection between the Church and civil powers, or alternatively between discipleship and citizenship.

The standard way Evangelicals read this passage, at least in my experience, is that Jesus is teaching people to pay taxes to Caesar, and thus to submit to authorities, but give themselves to God. Implicit in this reading is an assumption about the distinction between civil life and religion. This reading, very often taken for granted with no further exploration, is often backed up with a reference to Romans 13.

I have written on Romans 13 previously, and I don’t intend to explore it here. I do however intend to go beyond mere assumption in our reading of Matthew 22:15-22 (and parallels) and explore what the text might actually be saying, rather than what our ideological commitments might require. Read the rest of this entry

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