My workplace is "outside the rectangle" - different in the way we work. We focus on addressing alcohol and other drug problems in the indigenous and mainstream community through counselling and community networks. We have found that there are usually so many issues behind what you see on the surface. So we work on treating people with the respect they deserve, healing their often broken spirits and working with a systems and SEWB framework. To read more about it, have a look at the Marrin Weejali website.
My church is "outside the rectangle" in the sense that our people focus on living out the grace of God. There is not a lot of the not so unusual focus on "politics", money and numbers. We just love God and eachother. Of course in God's eyes that is very inside his rectangle. Funny that our church is different that way. If you live around here, come and visit some time to have a chance to meet up with God and nice people and discover eternal life if you haven't had the opportunity to do so before. For the details, check here.
My synagogue is "outside the rectangle". It is the only synagogue in the very large part of the city where I live. The Rabbi and Rebbetzin are warm and welcoming people. For me as a Christian it is also "outside the rectangle" to go to the synagogue every Shabbat, but I love the love for God, the Bible and God's people I experience there and quite a different angle to the understanding of the scriptures and the expression of their faith than what I experience at church. I get blessed every time I go and seek to also be a blessing to my friends there.
My family and I are "outside the rectangle" as well, but I'm not going to talk about that...
Websites with a difference:
»Bible Gateway is the site to find an online Bible of your liking with great search facilities.
»Mechon Mamre is where you find the Hebrew and Hebrew/English Tenach/Bible and the Rabbinic Oral Torah.
»The Canberra Declaration is a statement about the importance of freedom of religion, marriage as the exclusive union between a man and a woman and the right to life for the unborn, the disabled and others. Click here to sign the declaration.
»Avaaz - Want to have a powerful voice in international human rights issues? Sign up and you'll never need to be a silent bystander again. Note however that they are pro Palestinian in an anti Semitic way so don't sign those petitions.
»Mosaic page - A collection of articles and other things I like.
Politics, what to do about it? Who can you believe? The conservative parties feel safe, making lots of promises, feeling orderly and structured, feeling 'Christian', but look at what they do in practice. They seem to be so narrowly focused on economy -- at times stuffing their own pockets and those of the big businesses -- and a punitive approach to keeping order. Keeping up an air of godliness, but under the surface anything could happen, including plenty of broken promises, little social concern, immorality, do I need to say more?
At least the left wing parties are a bit more honest where they stand spiritually: Nowhere (though there are some committed Christians in all major parties, including the Greens). They just focus on what they're there for: governing the country, without mixing religion into it too much. But sometimes they push religion out too hard as well. Sadly, more recently they are becoming more anti-Christian and anti-Semitic with very little factual objectivity or wisdom about the real issues re the Palestinians and realistic opportunities for solutions.
Abortion is an important issue to me. I believe a foetus is a living being. I believe the spirit and soul of a baby come into existence at conception and with that consciousness, even though their brains are not yet developed. We have all heard the stories of people in coma who have had out of body experiences. That is not the brain in action because they are in coma, but the soul/spirit. So that puts abortion in the realm of murder... Hmmm, really? ... Yes, I really think so. Eeek!
There is of course the case where in some circumstances the lives of both mother and foetus would be endangered if medical intervention didn't occur. In that case I would say that there is ground for saving the mother's life at the expense of that of the foetus if no other options are available.
So what responsibility does government have there? I feel that the issue of abortion is first and foremost a personal repsonsibility, just like it is in the case of murder. However government also has a responsibility to protect life, as in the case of murder, and to protect especially the lives of those who can't fend for themselves - eg. foetuses and unborn babies. More on Abortion.
I think it is shocking that there is still so much racism in Australia, particularly towards the Aboriginal population. The Northern Territory Intervention was introduced as a reaction (indeed it was much more a knee jerk reaction than a well (-- or at all) thought through intervention) when child abuse statistics hit the media after having been ignored for years. The intervention is racially discriminatory and takes away from the Aboriginal people's power to do something about the problem. Things have got worse since the intervention rather than better. Read here why many Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory feel betrayed [cached].
The intervention is also racially discriminatory -- and hypocritical -- because child abuse is so rampant among the anglo white population too (latest statistics show one out of every four girls and one out of every six boys have been sexually abused as children - shame, shame, shame, shame!). We might as well have a similar blanket intervention here in Sydney. See how that would work. Wake up guys, what's good for the goose is good for the gander!
Let's start thinking about what's at the bottom of all this. Could it be gross disrespect for other human beings and God?
Next question: "What shall you and I do about it, starting with #1?"
Environment. I'm pretty strong on our role in protecting the environment. We have been given this Earth by God to look after it and respect it, not abuse it and turn it into a rubbish dump or disaster zone. Both the Liberal party and the ALP have been talking about reducing climate change, but not been delivering much. I recently created a little pamphlet to illustrate this point.
Looks like I'm a Greens supporter? Not necesarily. But they do get a number of things right. Be challenged!
Check out what the Bible says in Rev 11:18: ..."The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding your servants the prophets and your people who revere your name, both great and small — and for destroying those who destroy the earth."
Oh, by the way, don't get hoodwinked by research funded by oil companies etc that claims that climate change is not an issue.
More on Abortion. Meet Melissa. Melissa is a survivor of a failed abortion. She was born prem at 3 lbs and through a miracle and the care of a nurse survived. Click here to read her story [cached].
I was shocked when I read the statistics at the bottom of the story, that for every three live births there is one abortion here in Australia. Clearly, are we not thinking about unwanted pregnancies anymore before they happen? Has abortion become so easy, that it has become an alternative to contraception?
Then there is the awful statistic that more than a quarter of late term abortions result in life births and that these babies are just left to shrivel up and die. Who says that abortion is not about killing life human beings? I stand by what I said in a previous blog, that abortion is murder. Denying that is sticking your head in the sand. So what's the solution? To find more lethal chemicals for abortion to make sure the babies die before they see the light of day? No Way! How long are we going to stay in lala land about this? About time we got some honest debate going on this and change a few laws.
Jesus' political orientation
In the Christian circles where I move, people are usually quite dogmatically right wing and I often hear them foul-mouthing anything left wing. But what would have been Jesus' political orientation? Was he right wing, conservative? He upheld the traditional Jewish law. Or was he left wing, radical? He spoke about radical changes in the way society should operate.
I think he was neither, because radicalism, conservatism, capitalism, communism and socialism are all different shades of the same thing. They are all some form of humanism. They are all a dim reflection of some aspect of how God wants us to live, but without the God aspect in it.
Jesus upheld the right for people to own property and to make profits, but not for them to turn their property or profits into their top priority - their god. Jesus very clearly stated that you can not serve God and (the god of) money at the same time (Matthew 6:24). Let Christians then be very careful not to just get sucked into the idea that the right wing parties do 'the right thing' about abortion, homosexuality, euthanasia and Scripture in school. There are other huge issues at stake. And more recently the conservative parties have started to wobble on traditional "Christian" values anyway.
Likewise Jesus upheld social concern. In fact there is in the Gospel a lot more about social concern than about money. You could say that socialism is an attempt at living the Gospel way, but that they have forgotten to put Jesus in, the One whose Spirit can give people true social concern in their hearts. Socialism also has a god - the social good has become the top priority.
What then about our political orientation? How do we talk about politics. Do we keep operating in a simplistic, black and white way -- right or left wing? Or do we look at the issues one by one? Who do we vote for? Do we vote in a black and white way? Vote right wing and support the worship of the money god, vote left wing and support the worship of the social god? Do we not vote then and stick our heads in the sand?
The way I approach it is to do my homework to find out about the candidates and vote for Christian candidates where I can (eg below the line on the senate paper). And where I can't, I vote for the candidates who uphold Christian values (especially the social ones) the most.
How about working less and enjoying life more with the simple things in life that usually don't cost much. I think that friendships and relationships are the most important thing in life and high demands of work impoverishes them.
I have struggled with this throughout my life. I seek to live a simple lifestyle and my family aren't doing too bad at it either, though not as committed to it as I am. But with the ever increasing prices of rent, food and everything else I still find myself working much more than what would be good for a balanced lifestyle with rich social interaction.
I think one area where things go wrong on a larger scale is that work is supposed to be a contribution to build and support communities. But in the western capitalist model, work contributes to businesses. Of course businesses can also be seen as communities. The problem though is that the owners and share holders don't let everyone equally benefit from the work that has been put in. The focus of business is on capital, not community.
Businesses can also be seen as tribes that trade with other tribes (other businesses or the consumers). They try to get as much as they can from eachother. For example the housing market could be seen as a tribe who have a monopoly on the commodity of housing and who are driving up house and land prices almost indiscriminately and thus enslaving those who need housing. So nowadays we've got to a point where we have to work far too hard, just to survive, especially here in Sydney.
There is a similar issue with government, where the focus is much more on money and power than on community.
One of the answers may be starting Simplicity Social Enterprises which sow all profits back into the community they are part of. Another answer is to vote for progressive socially conscious governments, rather than conservative ones whose main focus is the economy.
A further aspect is that people and countries who respect God (ie. for real, not just "lipservice") will as a matter of course also respect each other more and circumvent the pitfalls mentioned above. On top of that, we can read in the Bible the promises of wellbeing and welfare God has for them (cf Psalm 33:12). [This article is a copy - with minor alterations - of my response to an article on simple living found at http://simplicitycollective.com].