The UCA dares to be different
I beg to differ on Ted Carrow’s criticism in the last issue of Crosslight of the Uniting Church for failing to fall into line with most other mainstream churches on the issue of marriage equality.
What excites me about the Uniting Church is its openness to explore and engage the social issues of the times, rather than to submit to those who feel they have a monopoly on understanding. On progressive social issues, history suggests that mainstream religions are rarely at the forefront of social reform and indeed have often opposed important social reform. For example, it was the ostracised Quakers who took the lead in campaigning for the abolition of slavery, the union-aligned Chartists showed the way on universal suffrage while even on environmental issues, notably climate change, many mainstream churches have been at best ambivalent.
In a world coloured by dogmatism and self-interest, we need churches like ours that objectively focus on the big picture rather than lay down the law to those who feel misunderstood and marginalised.
Peace on Earth?
Many Christmas messages include a greeting of peace. What can that mean when our daily news is filled with reports of ‘terror’ and ‘fear’? The latest reason for this is the detonations of young people in France. We hear these words almost without flinching, even as our leaders speak of the ‘work of the devil’, and the necessity of rooting out evil. We are a long way from Remembrance Day and declarations that the slaughter had brought us to the war to end all wars!
This year many dignified words and ceremonies have revisited the trauma of war at Gallipoli, the Somme, Kokoda and, concluding the Second World War, the atomic destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The 20th century was been the most bloody, as observed by Neil Astley in his book, The Hundred Years’ War: Modern War Poems, (Bloodaxe Books, 2014).
In 2003 many Melburnians saw the sign ‘No War’ on the side of St Paul’s Cathedral. People joined vigil with millions around the globe to declare that war on Iraq was not in our name.
We know the result. Syria is the latest community to be torn apart. Allied leaders discuss the merits of bombing in contrast to ‘boots’ on the ground. Suicide bombers retaliate.
These conflicts are being generated in the region of the so-called Holy Land; the region where the gospel of peace appeared. Therefore I ask quite specifically, aren’t Christians called to take the call to peace utterly seriously? Jesus, whose human birth and death confronted the violence in us, called followers to a different way.
The debate about war and Christian involvement is centuries old. The dominant voice has been the ‘realist’ approach that supports Christian involvement in war.
But there has been an alternative calling. It sprang from Jesus himself, the ‘Prince of Peace’. It has generated Christian communities founded on the practice of non-violence. Usually those who attempt to practise non-violence are accused of being irresponsible; as citizens they should take up arms as necessary. But who, in the light of increasing, unceasing violence, can be convinced by this attitude?
There is an alternative, taken up by the first Christians (and present in minority Christian communities ever since): allegiance to Jesus and the refusal to be violent. Wouldn’t such a practice be a joyous gift to the world? Costly, certainly. But no more costly than the sacrifice asked of our youth when they join the military and bear its cost.
And certainly no more costly than the way of Jesus himself.
Let us oppose another world war
In October 2014 Pope Francis warned that a ‘piecemeal’ World War III may have already begun with war crimes, massacres and destruction in the Middle East led by the US and its allies (BBC news, 13/10/14). The US and its allies comprised five Christian nations vis., Britain, France, Canada and Australia. So far, no nations engaged in the war on terror in the Middle East have taken notice of his warning.
Professor Robert Manne’s commentary in The Age (‘Iraq scandal a threat to democracy’ 16/6/2003) gives a background to the invasion of Iraq by the US and its allies that was based on lies and half-truths concocted by a lobby group known as the Project for the New American Century (PNAC). PNAC represented almost all powerful figures associated with the defence and foreign policy wings of American administration. The US dropped 500,000 thousand tonnes of bombs on Iraq, killed more than 1.3 million people, and created 5 million refugees. The Iraq war was only the beginning. In 2011, the US and its allies invaded Libya on the pretext of democratising the country and completely destroyed Libyan civil society. In 2011, the US commenced the destabilisation of Syria by arming and funding rebel groups and triggered a civil war which is raging to this day.
Over the last one year, the war on Muslim nations in the Middle East and North Africa by the West has intensified. The Paris massacre on Friday, 13th November, has further aggravated the war. Pope Francis’ warning is turning into reality on a daily basis. It is time for all Christians in Australia to raise their voices against these wars and demand that the Turnbull government withdraw our forces from the Middle East. We, as Christians, should do our utmost to prevent another world war.
Dr Bill Mathew
A word in season
May I reply to Valerie Yule’s letter (November Crosslight) with an experience of my own. Recently I paused for a coffee in Highett. I was joined by a mother and her two young adult children. After exchanging smiles and greetings, some questions were asked including inquiring how many children I had. I said that I was elderly, long retired, never married secondary school principal, that I lived by myself and I was sometimes lonely. Immediately all three responded with “But God loves you and is with you all the time.” The mother told me they were Muslims and that their religion teaches that God is the source of love and peace. Into my mind came a verse of one of our hymns: ‘For the love of God is broader/than the measure of our mind;/and the heart of the Eternal/is most wonderfully kind.’
What an unexpected blessing.
Dr Joan Addinsall
Recently our church was offered the service of a trainee minister in order to give our lay preachers a break.
During the meeting we held to discuss the proposal, it was mentioned the trainee minister would be unable to give communion.
This puzzled me.
I would have thought an integral part of their training would have involved conducting communion.
Therefore, dispensation to conduct communion could have been given to the trainee by presbytery considering it is already given to lay preachers.
Am I right in my thinking?
Kevin P McIntosh
Gladstone Park, VIC.
Removing SRI from schools furthers cultural amnesia.
The Victorian Government’s recent decision to remove Special Religious Instruction (SRI) from state schools will make it increasingly difficult for future generations to read and make sense of their cultural foundations.
To be familiar with the 10 Commandments, the 23rd Psalm and the Lord’s Prayer does not require assent to the faith that holds them to be true. But knowing them will give insight into the basic ethical and spiritual grounding that has inspired millions. One does not have to hold the biblical stories to be true. But knowing them means that so many of the great treasures of western civilization can be adequately appreciated.
The figure of Jesus Christ, his life and teachings, has shaped 2000 years of western history. Western culture is the story of response and reaction to him. Ignorance of him is ignorance of our own cultural story.
Failure to know the key Christian stories, beliefs and personalities means the true depth and meaning of so many of our cultural artefacts can only be passed over. We will become strangers in our own land.
Teaching children to be familiar with the particular foundations of our culture is not necessarily about faith or proselytism or indoctrination. But it is about equipping children to understand and appreciate the environment they inhabit. This does not change because the culture we inhabit is multicultural. Indeed, it makes the task more important. It will help equip students to answer the questions: where have we come from? Why are we the way we are?
It is unfortunate that the state government has listened to the cries of loud lobbyists rather than have at heart the genuine concern of school children. The mean-spirited move to have SRI classes offered before and after school and at lunch times may effectively remove this program from our schools altogether and so robbing our children of the chance to read and understand our culture at all.
(With thanks to Rev. Fr. R.Knapp. The Otways.)
The article in the October Crosslight contained a number of questionable statements, the most important being:
- “130 Little Collins Street….will be demolished in 2019 to make way for a new development, pending State Government approvals.” Who is bearing the cost?
- The statement that “selling 130 Little Collins Street in an open market would not generate enough funds to cover the Wesley Upper Lonsdale lease obligations long term.” raises the question: What are these obligations?
- “Their advice was that the joint venture had a lower level of risk than the other two disposal options.” Who gave this advice? What risks did they contemplate with each of the three disposal options?
- What is the basis for the statement that “The Property Board is expecting an announcement relating to planning approval for Wesley Upper Lonsdale in the next few months.”
Robert W. Parry