The Myth of Finding a Church like me

“I’m looking for a church that is just like me.”

Few people would say it quite so crassly, but the sentiment is commonplace. When visitors come to Mentone, and when people join the church and when others leave, too often the issue has to do with finding a church that has the right fit. By which people mean, it’s just like me. I need a church that provides the ministries I am looking for and with people I can identify with and where the style reflects my personal preferences.

Both as a pastor of a church and as a church member, I’m aware that finding a church that mirrors my own cultural and personality preferences isn’t an easy task. There are not many churches in Melbourne where I can find fellow opera listening, cricket watching, Carlton supporting, history loving, fine food eating, Rothko admiring, Christians. It’s not that I’m a cultural snob as such, but that everyone else is a philistine (don’t be offended, that’s a joke…sort of!).

 

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There are good reasons for joining and leaving a church, and not so good reasons. There are sad reasons and sinful reasons. But among the most common that I hear relates to what I’m calling a spiritualised version of natural selection.

I’ve given up trying to recall all the times’ someone has said to me, ‘Murray, there are not enough young families at ‘your’ church’. Or, there are too many children. Or. the youth group is too small. Or, there are not enough people my age. Or, where are all the elderly people? Or, the Church is too large….too small. The music is too new….too traditional. No doubt, you’ve also heard all these reasons, and perhaps you’ve used them yourself. The problem is, these categories don’t come to us from the Scriptures, but from the world around us.

Why do we place so much value on finding people our own age or people who share our social preferences? On one level, it is natural for us to congregate with people like ourselves. Uni students are naturally drawn toward other uni students. Families with children find it easy to mix with other families who have children. None of this is wrong as such, but the Gospel brings together people not on the basis of natural and intuitive networks but on the basis of a supernatural work of God’s Spirit in the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

If we dig a little deeper into the psyche behind natural selection, we discover that there is something rather insidious about choosing a church based on natural selection rather than criteria set by the Gospel of reconciliation.

The Bible reveals a vision for God’s church that is better and is the perfect counterpoint to the monotonous song that remain no.1 on the Aussie charts. One of God’s goals through the Gospel is to bring together people who have nothing in common and yet in Christ share everything.

At the time when Paul wrote to the Church in Ephesus, the great cultural divide was between Jews and Gentiles. Paul reminded them of who it is that brought them together,

“remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.”

To the Galatians the Apostle said,

“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:18)

God didn’t choose us according to the rules of natural selection, but according to supernatural grace. When we judge our church according to the whim of natural selection we are cutting against the very means by which a church is formed and grows.

In contrast, the early churches consisted of an array of people from different cultures and classes. The fact that rich and poor, men and women, Jew and Gentile, alike were members of churches, serving one another in love, was one of the realities that made the church attractive to surrounding people. Here was a place where status didn’t matter, and where otherwise unlike people found the deepest and most stable bond that can be had in this world.

There are of course some criteria that do matter when it comes to joining a church and remaining in that Church. For example, theology. There needs to be sufficient theological alignment, otherwise, you’ve already set the trajectory for an unhappy ending. Language is another important factor. It’s difficult to talk and listen and build relationships when you don’t share the same tongue. And we mustn’t neglect location. If you’re travelling 40 minutes each way to Church on a Sunday, how involved can you be in the life and health of that Church? Are you prepared to drive that distance every week, on Sundays and for a midweek Bible study? Are your neighbours and friends (who presumably live near your home and whom you’re inviting to church) also prepared to travel that distance? Perhaps you should find a local church or be prepared to move closer to the church that you have covenanted to join.

When we allow the Bible’s vision of Church to inform and transform our own agendas and expectations, the gains are immeasurable. We begin building a church on grace, not on personal gain. We prove to the world that Christ is true and that he is enough. We demonstrate the breadth and beauty of Gospel reconciliation.

So long as we live by the insatiable individualism that is eating away at our culture, we will diminish the beauty of the church, we will deny the power of the gospel, and we hamstring Gospel centred grace and growth. To be blunt, we will walk away from brothers and sisters for the simple reason, they are not quite like us

When Susan and I were living in London we joined a small group made up of members from the church we were attending. At 23 years of age, I was the youngest in the group. The eldest was well over 80. Each week we met in someone’s living room, 12 people from very different walks of life: students, workers, retirees, singles and married, children and no children. The fact that we had little in common with other members of the group didn’t detract from the group. The opposite was true. Together we had Christ and this unity in Christ was enough Jesus. Around Christ, we learned to love and encourage one another. That’s what the Gospel does. It brings people together who in other spheres of life would never connect let alone build friendship.

While it may be counter-intuitive, by joining a church where you are perhaps one of only a handful of under 25s  or the only family, you may well become that new branch whom God uses to bring more young adults or more families into the church. Instead of try and walk out, why not trust and commit?

Finding a church filled with people like me is a myth that we need to dispell. As an individual who has his own social preferences, I understand the pull to find people with whom we have many things in common. These patterns of socialising can be a good from God and therefore to be enjoyed, but they ought not to be the criteria upon which we join or leave a church.

Instead of looking for a church that is like me (or like you), let’s join and serve churches that look like Jesus and want to become more like Him.

Meditating before the KAWS

Melbourne may think of herself as a secular city but she remains very religious.

This Saturday the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) is being turned into a spiritual centre, with hundreds of people paying to gather around a KAWS sculpture for meditation.

The NGV’s newest major exhibition consists of works by the Brooklyn based pop-artist, Brian Donnelly. The exhibition includes a series of really tall cartoon-like sculptures made of bronze. I can’t make up my mind if they’re re-imaging Elmo, Mickey Mouse, Krusty the Clown, or a synthesis of several different stuffed puppets. They are a fascinating combination of cute and sad, of adorable and melancholy. These sculptures are impressive and thoughtful.

 

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photo from NGV

Sitting around the largest of the sculptures, titled, Gone, will be 350 paying guests who are hoping to lose their minds and find themselves. The two forlorn figures represent the emotions that accompany loss. I am not quite sure what role Gone will perform during the meditation. Perhaps it is a symbol for the exercise, to lose ourselves or to excise the losses we experience in life.

The event is a collaboration with Manoj Dias of A-Space, a yoga and meditation teacher based here in Melbourne.

In an interview for Broadsheet, Dias shares his journey into meditation:

“Manoj Dias had a career in the advertising industry. He worked 70 hours a week. He drank four cups a day. And then Manoj Dias had a panic attack.

His doctor prescribed anxiety medication, but that didn’t sit right with him. So a friend recommended a yoga class with a Buddhist monk. Though Dias grew up in a Buddhist household in Sri Lanka, he’d lost touch with the traditions when his family immigrated to Australia. Despite his distance from meditation practice, he struck up an immediate connection with his new teacher. “I practised with him every day for five years and he’s still my guru today,” says Dias.

Dias and Lynch created A-Space with two intentions in mind: help people connect with their own thoughts, and therefore connect with others. It’s a space to slow down, be introspective and “genuinely feel connected to the person next to you”, says Dias.

“Meditation has given me a moment to genuinely feel something – that what I’m doing right now is really meaningful.”

 

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The NGV is advertising the event with this befitting tagline by Friedrich Nietzsche,

‘Invisible threads are the strongest ties.’

It is apt because, like Nietzsche who was a nihilist, meditation is often an expression of nihilism. The aim is to disconnect yourself from the material and from life’s desires. You overcome by avoidance. You find yourself by disengaging. Peace is experienced by removing all the distractions and troubles and responsibilities that usually absorb our attention.

Buddhism and Nihilism share a common thread, and that is life is ultimately a sardonic joke, an illusion to either escape or will eventually consume us. This NGV event will no doubt be popular because it pulls on peoples’ desires for inner peace. True peace isn’t found by disengaging with the world or by introspection but looking to the one who was crucified and who raised to life. If Gone is the end of the story we are indeed lost and a few moments of quiet introspection won’t offer lasting consolation.

Ironically, according to the NGV’s description of Gone, the work is reminiscent of Michelangelo’s, Pietà. This sculpture by Michelangelo depicts the lifeless body of Jesus Christ, cradled by Mary.

If only we would grab hold of that reference point and meditate beyond ourselves and look to that crucified one, not via a sculptured image but in the words that reveal God to us. My contention is that the crucified Christ offers a more substantive and satisfying answer for those who are searching for peace and hope.

Glen Scrivener puts it this way,

“The answer to suffering is not detachment but attachment”

Instead of disconnecting from the pressures, sufferings of this life, Jesus came to us and experienced them for us. The God who exists didn’t ignore or wish away the depths of human despair and depravity, but he bore the sins of the world on that cross.

When the Apostle Paul entered the great city of Athens, he noted the culture’s obsession with spirituality. In order to cover all the bases, the Athenians had built a statue to ‘the unknown god’. Paul announced and reasoned with the city’s population, evidencing that God has made himself known and that He is greater and better than our imaginings.

 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’

29 “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill. 30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.” (Acts 17:24-31)

This news may have fallen out of favour in parts of Melbourne today, but surely it is worth revisiting. Melbournians are searching.

Christianity doesn’t dismiss the idea of meditation altogether. The Bible speaks of a form of meditation that has value. This meditation does not look inward, but outward. It doesn’t involve emptying the mind but filling the mind with God who has made himself known. Christian meditation involves communing with God by remembering, reading and understanding his words, promises, and works, and through this, we truly find ourselves and the peace and hope that each of us longs for.

“I gave an account of my ways and you answered me;

    teach me your decrees.

Cause me to understand the way of your precepts,

    that I may meditate on your wonderful deeds. 

My soul is weary with sorrow;

    strengthen me according to your word.” (Psalm 119:26-28)

“Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.” (Joshua 1:8)

The KAWS exhibition in Melbourne is a timely reminder of humanity’s sense of lostness and of that craving to find peace, love, and hope. The answer is not in ourselves and to accept the black hole that is nihilism but to discover the God who made us with design and good purpose, and who entered this world and embraced suffering and death that we might come to know him.

A Funeral for 2411 foetuses. Why are we shocked?

Dr. Ulrich Klopfer died in September last year when, in his Chicago garage and car boot, thousands of human remains were discovered. The abortion doctor who worked in Indiana had kept the remains of 2,411 foetuses, storing them on his property in plastic medical bags filled with formalin.

A mass funeral was held today with a ceremony laying these young ones to rest.

 

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South Bend Indiana was one of the cities where Dr Klopfer practised.  It is a name that has become associated with the 2020 Presidential race. Ironically (or perhaps sadistically), the former Mayor of that city, Pete Buttigieg, who is running to be President of the United States,  recently reaffirmed his commitment to allow abortions up until the moment of birth. Today, a cemetery in South Bend has become the final resting place for these thousands of babies. Mr Buttigieg said that this was “extremely disturbing”, but also hopes it “doesn’t get caught up in politics at a time when women need access to health care.”

The question I am keen to ask is this, why are we so shocked? Why is this story so appalling that the media couldn’t ignore it?

If unborn babies are just a clump of cells, as we are often told, why is there, dare I say, a natural and righteous anger? Why are we appalled, and convinced that we ought to be appalled by Dr Klopfer?

Should we not put Dr. Ulrich Klopfer’s behaviour down to oddity or inappropriateness? Perhaps he should have asked for permission from the parents before taking their foetuses, but is that the only issue we have? It’s not as though he was collecting human limbs that had been amputated by, you know, actual people. A clump of cells is more akin to having a weird thing for human waste products or storing up human skin and hair that had fallen off patients. Or it could be that reality ultimately betrays the veneer of myth-making that we use to justify killing the unborn.

Kopfer’s medical license was suspended in 2016 for “shoddy record-keeping and substandard patient monitoring”. Most people would agree that storing the remains of aborted foetuses extends well beyond those charges. But even that doesn’t do justice to the instinctive sickness we feel upon hearing these revelations.

Why does storing thousands of clumps of cells in a Doctor’s home cause us to gasp and gag and to ask, how can this be?

Is it because a foetus is not merely a clump of cells, but a human being. A foetus is a life who has inherent worth and dignity. We may resist and try to suppress this reality in order to sustain a way of life or for political gain, but eventually what is true forces our attention. 2411 human beings were stored in plastic medical bags, like a morbid exhibition at a museum or like an insect collection in a child’s bedroom. We are rightly disgusted because these were babies, people like us.

Illinois Attorney General Curtis Hill was one of more than one hundred people who gathered for the funerals. He said, “The shocking discovery” of the remains “was horrifying to anyone with normal sensibilities”… Regrettably, there is no shortage of depravity in our world today, including due regard for the most vulnerable among us.”


The Bible declares,

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. (Psalm 139:14).

We know the Psalmist is right, otherwise, we would not celebrate and rejoice in the wonder and miracle of new life.

Ulrich Klopfer has now met his maker and has been required to give an account for thousands of lives he has taken. Will we accept reality and learn from the sins of the recent past? By starring evil in the face, we are given a choice.

There is wonderful and true forgiveness when we turn around. The God who made us has also provided true and loving forgiveness through the Lord Jesus Christ: “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2). But also, as Jesus said, “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.” I wonder, how will our societies respond to the funeral of 2411 babies?

Rain, the ABC, and the heresy of mentioning prayer

The ABC has been caught out in the rain and subjected to a torrent of tweets demanding a retraction. They ran a story about the rain that is falling in NSW with the blasphemous headline, “Prayers answered as NSW rainfall extinguishes 74-day Currowan bushfire”.

Thousands of comments have poured down over Twitter and Facebook, expressing anger at the ABC for daring to use the word, prayer. 

“Prayers have no place in journalism. #ThisisNotJournalism”

ABC news… prayers had nothing to do with it. Please delete this offensive tweet. #FreedomFromReligion

“Prayers answered” ???

Seriously  @abcnews get this religious propaganda out of your lexicon. The rain came because science. Nothing more nothing less.  Sure as shootin’ not because someone asked nicely for it.”

I suspect the choice of wording had nothing to do with actual belief in God, as though the editor was personally thanking God or encouraging readers to do so. Like millions of Australians every day, we borrow words and ideas from Christianity to express our own thoughts. In this case, someone at the ABC probably thought they were being cute.  It’s a rather innocuous and generic way of noting thankfulness that the bushfires have been extinguished.

But in Australia today, this cannot be tolerated. References to God cannot be permitted unless it is in the pursuit of mocking religion. Religion (and specifically, Christianity) is to be ridiculed by the media in the most celebratory and obnoxious ways, but no one is to dilute the purity of worship to secularism. Introducing the word prayer is sacrilege. It might encourage someone to, you know, actually pray to God. Worse still, maybe there’s a religious person working for the ABC and they’re trying to brainwash the country with subtle suggestions of Divine power.

Our friendly neighbourhood secularists have reminded us, even an irreligious use of a religious word must be opposed. I couldn’t help but turn a little smile as I noted that some of the people yelling at the ABC today were, only weeks earlier, defending the ABC for its evenhandedness and balanced reporting.  But now, they are demanding to know the name of the editor who approved the headline; no doubt to shame them and call for their immediate dismissal.

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Wait till the outrage mob realise that there are Christians working at the Bureau of Meteorology and that some of our country’s Climate Change scientists are also Christian! Yes, that’s right, scientists who also pray. Scientists who believe in God and in the Bible!

The ABC has now repented of their grievous sin. The headline has been replaced, but our moral judges are not yet satisfied. What guarantees will be put in place so that this never happens again?

In contrast to this irrational and over the top reaction to the ABC, I think prayer is great.  We should thank God for the rain, for the rain has put out dreadful fires. We should also ask God for safety for those who may experience flooding, just as we have done so with the recent fires.

 

Screen Shot 2020-02-09 at 4.58.14 pmA friend of mine who lives in the Blue Mountains faced the threat of bushfire only a month ago. This weekend he called the SES for sandbags to help protect his home from floodwaters. Fire and flood remind us that the world, as wonderful as it is, is not the safe and secure environment that we long for. As we have been reminded in recent weeks, humanity has done much to harm the world; it is, to use a biblical word, cursed. It is both a place of extraordinary beauty and terror. In the current cultural climate, we mostly focus on the things we don’t like. Australian society is filled with perennial complaining and whinging, and in that, we often forget the tremendous blessings that we enjoy and the good that we can see and hold.

Many Australian have been praying for rain, both to put out a terrible season of bushfire and also to break the drought has gripped so much of the country. Has God answered those prayers?

Sometimes our words carry more truth in them than we realise. The angry mob who have bullied the ABC this afternoon will probably not thank God for the rain. They may well be grateful, but to whom?  Thankful for the meaningless weather patterns that have combined to create the splashes of water on our gardens and in our rivers? Without God, surely the weather is just nature’s mechanics at work without reason and meaning? The clouds did not form for our benefit, to help us in any way. There is no ethic or design; it’s just water. That’s all it is. The very notion of thankfulness for rain is an illusion, an evolutionary mistake in the human consciousness that causes us to pray and thank a God who does not exist.

Or maybe, as the Apostle Paul once told a crowd in the city of Iconium,

“In the past, God let all nations go their own way. Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.” (Acts 14:16-17).

Serving up more Spin

We have moved beyond peering through the looking glass. We’ve entered a crazy new world where left is right and wrong is good and the impossible is normal. Sky is grass and the ocean is space. Nothing is what it seems to be, and questioning the new morality is the only heresy.

The only problem with this new world of topsy-turvey is that it’s given a good shake every 6 months or so, and then once again all the epistemological furniture and our moral certainties are thrown into the air. And it’s not the sanest or smartest who catch the debris and reorder the room but the loudest and most militant.

Case in point, the recent Australian Tennis Open. First of all, what an amazing tournament. Second, in yesterday’s SMH Peter FitzSimons threw a volley at Novak Djokovic for touching the umpire’s foot during the final. If Fitz’s issue was simply that Djokovic committed a foot violation and should be fined for it, that’s fine. But you see, Fitz’s fury doesn’t depend on right and wrong, and rules of any kind, but on whether he supports the activity of the person. Remember, it was only a few days earlier when John McEnroe and Martina Navratilova unfurled a political banner on one of the courts in Melbourne Park. It was a protest against Margaret Court, with Navratilova also attempting to grab the umpire’s microphone in order to speak to the crowd and media. In that case, Peter FitzSimons quickly came out in support of the two former tennis players, who not only broke tournament protocols but brought the game into disrepute.

He tweeted,

“If your last name is McEnroe or Navratilova and you are on a tennis court, you have no need to “hijack” a tournament. You have earned your spot as your sport’s most respected voices.”

Court

In contrast, days earlier Margaret Court was invited to a special evening during the tournament where she was recognised by Tennis Australia for her famous Grand Slam of 1970. On Court, Margaret Court did not use the event to promote her personal beliefs. She said nothing about her views on sexuality which have been denounced in some parts of the community.

The upside roundabout of modern Western thinking isn’t done yet. While Martina Navratilova got away with her anti-Court banner and her online letter was republished or quoted by major media outlets all around Australia and the world, it was only last year that she was sacked by an LGBT group. While serving as an ambassador for Athlete Ally, Navratilova criticised transgender athletes and claimed that men competing as women are cheats and being unfair. Hmmm…so Margaret Court name must be removed because of her views on sexuality, and yet Navratilova, according to the latest definitions of phobia is also a phobe and a bigot. Indeed, how on earth did Tennis Australia miss that one when they ranted about their inclusivity policy?  How can we support and praise the on-court protest by a former player who publicly speaks against transgender women playing tennis at the highest level?

Thankfully, amidst all these double faults being served by our social and sporting commentators,, there was some great tennis played both on and off the court. As journalists tried to grab quotes from players about all kinds of social and moral issues, some players like Novak Djokovic and our very own Ash Barty, saw the spin coming and avoided it with skill and grace; well done.

All this demonstrates these three simple points: One, intersectional politics and cancel culture are intent on smashing their way into every pocket of life. Second, it is an ultimately hypocritical and destructive ethic. Three, our society needs a better way of evaluating moral confusion and for relating to the other.

I remember the words of Jesus,

“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32).

That sounds pretty enticing. Just maybe, there is more wisdom and compassion, more goodness and truth in Jesus Christ than we realise. Of course, Jesus remains no.1 target of the cancel culture, but just perhaps, we could look at the world the right way up and see that he is not an opponent to be beaten but the one who gave his life to be our advocate. Recognising such liberating news requires a doss of humility and sadly, few in this age of rage feel able to accept what Jesus says. My suggestion is this, while the intersectional mob throw balls at each other, step aside and take a few moments to consider the One who offers, ‘truth that sets you free’.

 

 

New Concerns over Victoria’s Proposed Banning of Conversion Practices

As a Victorian, I have a moral obligation to report to authorities personal knowledge of alleged child abuse. As a pastor of a church, I have both a moral and legal duty to report knowledge of or suspicions of child abuse. Mandatory reporting is a social good. Even without the legal requirement, one’s natural concerns for a child’s wellbeing would automate contacting the police.

In Victoria, under new laws being proposed by the Andrews Government, I can be imprisoned for 12-18 months, for speaking up against the psychological and physical trauma inflicted upon children by gender warriors and dangerous medicos who work to change a child’s gender or sex.

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Last year the Victorian Government revealed plans to ban conversion practices. While the original issue was gay conversion therapy, the scope has been broadened to include any and all sexualities, including transgenderism. In November, I exposed the biased and flawed reports upon which the Government is basing its definition. I also noted at the time that the proposed definition of conversion therapy is so broad that it includes normal Church preaching from the Bible where topics of sexuality are mentioned. Indeed, a Christian wedding could also fall foul for Christian Churches define marriage as exclusively between a man and a woman. In what would be an extraordinary attack on Christianity, an Australian State Government is arguing that Classical Christian teaching is harmful and can be banned.

Earlier in January, retired Judge of the Federal Circuit Court of Australia, Stuart Lindsay, wrote an article where he alerts Victorians to another serious implication of Government’s planned laws. With the apt title, Sound an Alarm: Gender Activism Is About To Silence Us, Judge Lindsay explains how,

“the Victorian government intends to pass a law very soon that may see ordinary citizens imprisoned if they speak up against the chemical, psychological and physical mutilation of confused adolescents.” 

And,

“The discussion paper and the reports it relies on, together with Ms. Hennessey’s public utterances about them, make it clear that Victoria intends to make plain what is latent or ambiguous in Queensland’s proposed legislation. It is not just the individual transsexual or homosexual who needs protection from conversion; no, the criminality can arise outside of any therapeutic context. It is society that needs to be protected so the mere utterance of heterodox views about affirmation of gender or sexual “choice” must be extirpated.”

“This is what is about to happen: talking about or writing about or counselling against or promoting caution about affirmation as the sole medically permitted response to any putative decision by an individual to transition to their non-natal sex, or even discussing the practice of affirmation generally in a non-supportive way, is about to made illegal. It will at the very least be subject to civil penalty proceedings (in which case, see you in the Tribunal, facing up against publicly funded gender radicals).  Much more likely are serious criminal penalties. I mean prison sentences”

The irony is not difficult to see. Indeed, it is not so much ironic as it is moronic and downright dangerous for anyone with a conscience and who still believes in science and commonsense. According to Premier Daniel Andrews and Attorney General Jill Hennessey, praying for individuals who are struggling with their sexuality is immoral, and preaching Biblical sexual ethics is also wrong. But telling a boy that they are really a girl and putting them in a dress, and changing their name, and beginning medical procedures and filling them with drugs to alter their biology and physical appearance is considered a moral imperative. Of course, the issue is becoming more insidious as a growing number of psychologists and doctors express concerns over how children with gender dysphoria are being treated.

I am quickly writing this and putting it into the public space before Parliament sits and I find writing my memoirs from a prison cell.

Judge Lindsay notes the real agenda behind the Government’s move, as I have also noted in the past. It is grievous to say but it has little to do with the wellbeing of children, and much to do with implementing cultural Marxism. Before this is dismissed as one of those tiresome and hyperbolic caricatures,  Roz Ward, (who is the architect of Safe Schools and academic at La Trobe University), has openly admitted that this is the case. 

To close, allow me to repeat what I wrote lastNovember,

As it stands, the Government’s proposal is nothing short of forced conversion. Without significant revisions, this looks like an attempt to control and redefine what religious organisations believe and teach about human sexuality and flourishing.

Victoria is witnessing a fundamental clash of worldviews, one supports a healthy pluralism in our society and the other believes in conforming to a narrow and uncompromising agenda.

The Government’s current position on conversion practice is about pressuring religious groups to change their views on sexuality. If the definitions were limited to those rare, extreme, and dangerous practices that some peoples have been subjected, there is warrant for discussion. What we are seeing thus far from the Government is unnecessary and contravenes those basic distinctions between Church and State.

Christians don’t believe in forced conversions. We believe in persuading others of a message that is good and attractive. Christianity is by definition a conversion religion. No one is born a Christian. People become Christians as they are convinced by the truthfulness and goodness of Christianity’s message, the Gospel of Jesus of Christ.

Christianity posits conversion as a result of personal conviction and choice, whereas the Government’s position seems to be, convert by coercion. Indeed, placing this conversation on conversion under the “Department of Justice and Community Safety” is probably not meant to be prophetic, but the irony is certainly not be missed.

All Victorians should be concerned by the Government’s plan to ban conversion practices. Let me reiterate, the Government is indicating more than simply banning practices that have proven harmful to some individuals, they are proposing to force-convert religious organisations and churches to the theological convictions of the new secular sexual milieu.

In the future, will Churches and religious organisations in Victoria have freedom to preach, teach, and counsel and pray in line with their religious convictions? Without significant revisions to the proposed definition, the answer is probably no

Indeed, as Judge Lindsay has now revealed, a prison term may also be in the offering for those evil Christians and dreadful medical professionals who dare speak out against the new ‘normal’.

 

 


Note: this is not a personal or political attack on Daniel Andrews. Earlier this month I praised him for his work during the bushfire crisis

The Curious Case of Australia Celebrating Professor John Newnham

As Professor John Newnham was awarded Senior Australian of the Year for 2020, the irony may have missed us at first.

Professor Newnham has dedicated his professional life to saving the lives of babies. He is an obstetrician who has given years to researching preterm birth, with the purpose of finding ways to prevent harmful early birth.

According to the University of Western Australia website, Professor Newnham’s,

“enduring research and clinical passion has been to unravel the mysteries of life before birth, how health and disease throughout our lifespan may result from events while we are a foetus, and how common illnesses and disabilities can be prevented by strategies during pregnancy.

In 1989, Professor Newnham pioneered the Raine Study, which involved recruiting 2900 unborn babies at 18 weeks of pregnancy and then following their health, and that of their family, for life. This was the world’s first pregnancy-focused lifetime cohort study and remains one of the most successful medical research studies to have been conducted in Australia.”

Professor Newnham’s drive to care for Australia’s youngest is laudable and deserving of national attention.

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Here is a quotation from Professor Newnham from the UWA webpage, that summarises his aim,

“As a result of modern obstetric and newborn care, many children now survive preterm birth but for others, there may be lifelong disability. What drives me to complete my work is the desire to see an increase in the number of healthy babies born each day, because life before birth means something.” 

Amen! Yes, it does. “life before birth means something”. Now, I don’t know the man nor what believes about the big questions of life, God and the world, but I admire someone whose career is devoted to giving babies a better chance of life.

By now, I’m sure you will have also noticed the irony. Let the nation celebrate a man who is saving the lives of unborn children! In contrast,  over the same timeframe, Australia has witnessed the ‘progressive’ juggernaut blast through abortion laws in many of the nation’s States. Last year the NSW Parliament legalised abortion. In 2018, QLD gave license for the unborn to be killed. In Victoria, abortion is legal even up to the point of birth. When these legislations were presented to the Parliaments, it’s not as though Australians spoke of this terrible act with reticence and a heavy heart. No, there were loud and happy cries of liberation.

In his speech in Canberra last night, Professor Newnham spoke of a national pre-term birth prevention program,

“The structure of the program has been built. The lead persons in each state and territory are in place.”

“What we need to do now is to provide the support needed for national success. And that includes financial support.

“It is now time for prevention of pre-term birth to become a national priority for Australia.”

That final sentence ought to create a wave of gasps around the country, not because there’s anything wrong with it, but because of its significance should we follow its natural logic. I doubt whether any journalist will note the irreconcilable clash of ideas here. Of course, the Professor isn’t talking about abortion as such. This approach to human life does, however, contradict the attitude and philosophic reasoning toward the unborn upon which abortion activists depend.

A nation that celebrates John Newnham on the one hand and celebrates abortion on the other, is at best confused and unaware of the moral dilemma that this dichotomy presents. At worst, Australians are machiavellian pragmatists, who value human life, not because of its inherent worth but because of the value I give it. Imagine living in a world where a human life only counts because I say so. Imagine living in a society where the young will live or be killed depending on what a parent decides?

Can we really say that the life of one child means less than the life of another? Specifically, Professor Newnham’s work relates to lowering the risks of children suffering illnesses and disabilities as a result of early birth. This approach sits in sharp contrast to what we are seeing in nations like Iceland whose approach is to abort those children who may suffer from a disability (an approach that is also employed in Australia). Does a child’s right to live diminish because they may suffer an illness or disability?

Today, Australians are praising a doctor who is striving to protect the health and life of unborn children. Tomorrow, hundreds of Aussie women will consider aborting their own unborn child.  To them, I say, there is a better path. It may be a difficult road but it is better, and there are organisations and people who are willing to help.

As Professor Newnham says, “life before birth means something”. 

How can Aussies praise the saving of one child in the womb and praise the killing of another child in the womb? It does not make sense, rationally or morally. Sadly, I suspect that for many Aussies, we will put this dilemma in the too hard basket. Instead, we will live with the incongruity and hope our consciences never spring to life.  Let’s throw another snag on the BBQ and pretend she’ll be right. Let’s stand and sing again, “Australians all let us rejoice…Advance Australia Fair.”

Or perhaps the Psalmist was right all along,

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” (Psalm 139:14)