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a prayer for those within empire

Last weekend I ran an event for TEAR Australia called “Come Out, My People!”: Learning to Journey Out of Empire. It featured, among others, my friends Wes Howard-Brook and Sue Ferguson Johnson speaking about the reality of empire in the Bible and in the world. They spoke about the need to discern God’s call to come out of empire and embody an alternative way of life.

This is a prayer I composed for the evening. It is a prayer for those of us living in the midst of empire who are trying to follow God’s call out of it. All present prayed it together, and I thought it may help others who are trying to live in God’s shalom amid the brutality of empire.

MCA

———-

Brueghel Tower of BabelCreator and Sustainer God,
we cry out to you from Babylon,
from empire built upon the land of people both like us and different to us,
from empire made possible by the murders and injustices of past and present.

We recognize that you have called us out of empire.
Out of a spirituality of domination and oppression.
Out of a story of exclusion and competition that leads to violence.
Out of the worship of false gods that demand our praise and obedience.

You have called us to be part of a radical alternative to empire.
Called to a spirituality of shalom and justice.
Called to the biblical story of embrace and welcome that leads to peace.
Called to the worship of the God that raised Jesus Christ from the dead.

And you have sent us into empire, in the world.
To witness to another way of justice, mercy and faithfulness.
To transform the slave economy that violates the bodies of both rich and poor and the earth itself.
To take the time necessary in a speed-addicted world to be friends, lovers, parents, carers, gardeners, advocates and peacemakers.

Creator God, our refuge and strength,
we confess we are complicit in the evils of our age.
Breathe on us as we commit ourselves to the way of Christ individually and as a community
to live in your story for the world;
to take up the heavy cross that we cannot bear alone;
to struggle for peace and justice;
to seek fullness of life for all creation;
to pray for your kingdom come.

Amen.

Matt Anslow, July 2013
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q&r: genesis and evolution?

What is your opinion on evolutionary theory vs. creation theory?

I have been apart of a discussion where both sides were argued, the evolutionary theory being that God instigated or created the cellular/atomic structure that began evolution, and that Adam and Eve are the result of the human evolution from cells to animals to primates to people, and the garden of Eden only begins after all the evolving is finished. I had not really heard this theory before, and find it somewhat uncomfortable, as I was a pure creationist at the time, but given that believing either theory doesn’t really change anything in the course of Jesus coming here and dying, I really don’t know what to think.

I’m not sure that anyone really knows what to think. Knowledge is a clumsy beast, though humans seem to think they can completely tame it.

Evolution is far from proven, but according to the majority of biologists it is the best theory (or theories) we have right now. Might it be developed in the future? Yes. Will it be changed? Yes. Will it be disproven? Maybe. Would that “prove” creationism? No – disproving evolution does not prove creationism.

There is a lot I could talk about here, including the false paradigm of debating faith and science, and also issues in modern scientific philosophy. What is my personal opinion? At this point I believe in evolution, inasmuch as it is the best option out there that I know of. Many people will disagree, and that’s fine.

But that is a moot point, since I am no biologist. What is important for me as an exegete is how we read the Bible. The pertinent question is, does the Bible have anything to say about the prehistory of the world and humanity? Read the rest of this entry

sickness and healing (part 2): death as healing?

Note: I recommend you read Part 1 of this series to understand the context of these questions.

My last post was inspired, by a sermon I heard (and a number of subsequent conversations), to ask whether sickness could be caused by sin.

In this post I want to address another related question that I mentioned last time, namely whether dying and “going to be with Jesus” is a form of healing.

In the course of the sermon discussions described in the last post it was suggested by one participant that when a sick person does not receive healing and dies as a result of their sickness then this could be seen as a form of healing since the person goes to heaven to be with Jesus.

Someone then asked whether being cured by medicine could be seen “healing” in a biblical sense.

In response I asked my group a question – “Are we saying that miraculous healing is “healing”, and so is being cured by medicine, and also dying? If yes, does that mean that everything is healing? Even not being healed is healing. What isn’t healing?”

Personally I don’t think dying is a form of healing at all. To suggest so is, to me, a misunderstanding of the biblical view of healing and death. Allow me to explain. 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

oh the idolatry: humanity, injustice & climate change

Even if the deniers were right – which is impossible to credit on rational grounds – the core argument of [A Moral Climate] is that the fossil-fuelled global economy is dangerous to planet earth and to human life, not just because it is warming the climate of the earth but because it is deeply destructive of the diversity and welfare of the ecosystems and human communities from which surplus value is extracted and traded across highways, oceans and jetstreams. The rituals encouraged by the recognition of global warming – turning off lights, turning down the heater, cycling or walking instead of driving, holidaying nearer to home, buying local food, shopping less and conversing more, addressing the causes of fuel poverty locally and internationally –  are good because they are intrinsically right, not just because they have the consequence of reducing carbon emissions. Such actions correct modern thoughtlessness. They sustain the moral claim that it is wrong to live in a civilisation that depends upon the systematic enslavement of peoples and ecosystems to the high resource requirements of a corporately-governed consumer economy. …

… Actions which will have the effect of mitigating climate change are also actions which reaffirm the embodied relationship between inner desire and the outer world of what Christians call Creation. For this reason such actions are intrinsically good, and will promote flourishing even if, as a minority of dissenters suggest, greenhouse gases are not the primary driver of global warming.

– Michael Northcott, A Moral Climate: The Ethics of Global Warming, 273-274. Read the rest of this entry

creation domination?

And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” 29And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. 30And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. 31 And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.
– Genesis 1:28-31a

In my experience there is a lot of confusion about the meaning of the above passage from Genesis, not least in relation to the concept of “dominion”.

What is “dominion” anyway?

Some have seen it as God’s designing the world in such a way as to allow humans to rule over it and to do to it as they see fit. Such ruling is often seen as not excluding the abuse of the natural world in the name of human freedom, prosperity and comfort.

(As much as I wish this were a strawman argument, it is not…)

But this raises some logical problems in the Genesis narrative of which I will outline two. Read the rest of this entry

true “creationism” and the earth machine

Perhaps a major reason why climate change action is seen as so unnecessary by so many people is our view of our place in the world.

Indeed, the Industrial Revolution was built on the philosophy that the world works like a machine, and that it can be controlled by those who effectively see themselves as somehow separate to or greater than the great earth engine.

Such a mechanical view of the planet can be traced back to (among others) Isaac Newton and his mechanical laws of physics. Such laws reduced the world down to predictable rules.

But the world of science has changed, blown apart by Einsteinian relativity. The world and beyond is not the machine humans thought it was, and indeed it cannot be mastered the way humans thought could be done (though some will continue to say “Yes, we can!”).

The truth is that the earth is a living thing! It forms a bio-web of life which embraces millions of creatures.

Read the rest of this entry

top of the flops: a problem with christian art

So I got thinking about this post’s content when someone I heard preaching used the recording of a song from a fairly popular Christian artist as an illustration.

The song was terrible.

I thought to myself; why is it that many Christians feel it necessary to listen to such abhorrent music simply because it expressly identifies itself as “Christian” or “worship” or some such thing?

I can’t answer from any perspective but my own. When I was a teenage Christian I was convinced that it was best to mainly listen to Christian music because it was somehow spiritually uplifting. These days I find it the exact opposite is more often the case. Keep Reading…

environmental as anything

Today I participated in the People’s Blockade Of The World’s Biggest Coal Port in Newcastle (New South Wales, Australia). Here’s something the organisation that organised and ran it (Rising Tide Australia) had to say;

Now, more than ever, we need to be turning up the heat on the coal industry, and their friends in government. The export coal industry is Australia’s single biggest, and fastest growing contribution to the global climate crisis.

Newcastle, already the world’s biggest coal port, is opening a major new coal export terminal over the course of this year, bringing the export capacity of the Hunter Valley coal chain to an incredible 178 million tonnes of coal per annum. That’s the climate change equivalent of 30 Bayswater Power Stations.  Within ten years, the coal corporations plan on exporting more than 300 million tonnes of coal per annum – a tripling of current export capacity.

Tripling coal exports means tripling coal mining. As Newcastle coal exports boom, more precious bushland will be razed, more waterways polluted, more communities ripped apart as the transnational coal companies carve their way westwards into the Liverpool Plains. The profits will be exported, but the devastation will stay here in the Hunter. The catastrophic effects of climate change will hurt all around the world.

This madness has to stop. The climate crisis is deepening, and time is fast running out. Politicians are failing to take action against the rampant coal companies, so we have to do it ourselves.

We had a great day paddling canoes around Newcastle Harbour in protest. But I was disappointed. Keep Reading…

creation/destruction?

Creation/Destruction
Why do the people who so passionately uphold a literal view of creation often pair this perspective with the view that God is going to destroy creation at the Parousia?

Am I the only one that sees a problem with this mixture?

MCA

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