Dunedin, New Zealand, my city - my people

Sunday, January 18, 2015

I disagree with the Pope! and other stuff.

I guess I am gathering together a sound off about a number of issues.
Boko Haram 
It is an intriguing situation. 17 people are killed in Muslim terrorist attacks in France. The world is rightly appalled and world leaders gather and march arm in arm in protest. The newspapers are full of news and comment about it. In North East Nigeria there are hundreds, perhaps thousands killed (depending on who you believe) and it is a little article stuck somewhere in the middle of the Newspaper.  Somehow "It doesn't matter as much - they have been fighting each other for centuries." One firefighter said to me, "They do not value each others' lives, why should we worry about them?"  It is like the lives of Africans are of much less value than western lives. The truth is as one article  pointed out,  "Brutal raids, massacres, suicide bomb attacks and kidnappings by Boko Haram have claimed at least 13,000 lives and driven an estimated 1.5 million people from their homes, mainly in northeastern Nigeria." We need to feel for every brother or sister killed. When will we truly learn that we are ALL on this journey of life together and learn how to work together to stop such aberrations.
Indonesian Capital punishment. 
Six people, five of them foreigners were shot by firing squad this weekend in Indonesia. All of them were for drug offenses. There are others, including two Australians awaiting execution. Now I have seen enough damage by people peddling drugs to say that I have very little sympathy and empathy for drug runners. They are the scum of the earth in my book, causing untold misery to vulnerable people and families. They ought to be punished and any society has a right to show its extreme disapproval of such behaviour. But I do not condone the death penalty.  I look at the photos of these young people (40's is young to me) and think how sad that this life is cut short and has no opportunity to change and redeem itself. Indonesia (and other places that have this death penalty), your punishment ultimately cheapens the value of human life, just like the drug runners you are killing do.  As my mother used to say, "Two wrongs do not make a right!" Grow up and think more creatively about appropriate punishment. (A Kiwi was recently arrested and now awaits his consequences. I do not understand why any thinking person would risk getting involved with drugs in Indonesia? Is it greed? Sad and silly. )
Aussie Sportsmanship...
I have just watched a clip of an Australian/ India cricket match. The Indians took a legitimate run on overthrows but the Aussie players took offense and started mouthing off as they are want to do.  I see and hear the sledging that goes on in this "game".  We live in a world where there is too much violence. Violence in our homes, on the streets, in the schools and in pubs. These national cricketers are role models for young people. Whether they like it or not they are heros, on a pedestal as leaders in their community.  Their behaviour and attitudes are noticed and followed by kids, teens and adults. It is seen as "the norm". Such displays of bad temper in a non-contact sport like cricket is, in my view, an extremely bad example by people who ought to know better.  Sport, often held up as something good and beneficial in our communities, can be the very opposite, reinforcing bad attitudes and undesirable behaviour.
The Pope said...
The Pope in talking about freedom of expression, said there were limits on it. He said, "You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot poke fun at the faith of others." In the speech I think he unwisely used an illustration about punching his friend if he insults his mother. That has led to outcries or the suggestion that he supports such violence. I am sure he in no way supports the violence and other statements make that clear. But... What is it about religious faith that means I must not insult it or ridicule it? I like Pope Francis, he has been a breath of fresh air in the Vatican, but on this I disagree. Religious people ought to be prepared to have their faith critiqued , challenged, insulted and railed against. I was talking to my friend who trains racehorses. He pointed out that some horse racing fans get so wrapped up in the sport that you would think it was the beginning and end of everything. "It is their life", he said. Now religions are like that. They can become a subculture which blocks out everything else. They can be the window through which we see the world and we can put blinkers on so that we do not see any other view point. Religions need the challenges and view points of people on the outside! They need to listen to how they are perceived. They need the corrective of objective thinkers and people opposed to them so that they can keep and gain perspective.  I think the French magazine was perhaps unwisely provocative, but they have a right, a place and indeed a duty to challenge bad religion. Bad religion needs challenged just like any other aspect of life. It ought not to be off limits and we religious people, of all people, should be big enough to handle it. Sorry Pope Francis, I disagree with you on this one.
Throwing out rubbish.
I have been sorting and throwing out rubbish. I have had heaps of old papers stored in boxes from years of religious committee meetings and activities. I had forgotten, but I was once on a "Doctrine Committee" for our denomination in NZ. (Thankfully - we did not do much! ) Over the years I have been involved in lots of religious meetings, conferences and conflabs. For some reason I had kept records and papers. I threw them out yesterday. I once heard about the middle ages when Church Bishops argued over how many angels fitted on to a pinhead. I have laughed at such behaviour. From the perspective of experience, personal change and growth, I looked back on these papers and thought, "we argued about angels on pinheads too." What seemed important was not really important. In some cases we were re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic. Others were just going around in circles, with the mistaken perspective that the Church was an end in itself, and all important. I think I felt uncomfortable back then, but more so now. I threw out real rubbish.
Next Sunday I am back on a Church platform preaching. (I refuse to go into the pulpit - they have a pulpit with a fence and little gate???) It will be an interesting exercise. 

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