Thursday, April 29, 2010

New Blog Host

I've decided to change my blog host from blogger to wordpress. If you want to know why head over to and if you have my blog in a reader, you'll need to change the feed.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

All at Sea - Our thinking about 'boat people'

I've been meaning to put together a few thoughts on the subject of boat people - or more correctly asylum seekers for some time, and I was prompted to get into action by an excellent editorial in the Australian Newspaper. It seems to me that our thinking about assylum seekers who arrive by boat really is all at sea, and based far more on myth than reality. Here's a few of what I consider to be the worst myths.

1. We are being overun by 'illegal immigrants'. No - 4500 boat arrivals is not overun! if they are assessed to be genuine refugees and are allowed to stay they are subtracted from our existing refugee quota anyway - so we take no more refugees than we otherwise would. In any case this is only about 2% of our annual population growth, and only about 0.02% of our total population.

2. Boat people are well off people looking for an easy way to get around our immigration system or terrorists trying to sneak into the country. No - I think I read somewhere that over 90% of boat arrivals are assessed to be genuine refugees - a far higher percentage than those who arrive illegally by plane. Also, just because the assylum seekers arrive by boat doesn't mean they aren't subject to the same kind of background checks as any other refugee applicant.

3. Boat people are queue jumpers. Anyone who has ever been anywhere near a refugee camp will know that the idea of a queue is just ludicrous. In most places where people apply for refugee status corruption is rife and there is really no 'fair' process for who gets here and who doesn't. As the Australian editorial helpfully points out, if we are so worried about queue jumping, why not just stop including the boat people in our refugee quota - then they won't be taking anyone's spots.

4. We should stop the boats because it is dangerous for the people involved. This again is the kind of comment that could only be made from the comfort of a middle class Australian lounge chair. Being a refugee is dangerous by definition, and living in a refugee camp is also dangerous. If I had the choice of a slow death for me and my family from cholera, dysentry, malaria etc, or a choice of a leaky boat trip that might get me out of the situation I know which I'd be choosing.

I think the kind of scare mongering that some of our politicians go on with about assylum seekers, and the lack of compassionate leadership is just shameful. Yes there are a few issues that need to be dealt with - people smugglers being one. But we should be able to do much better in being merciful to those who arrive in our country from terrible and traumatic situations.

This is a particular issue for Christians. I read somewhere that Christians differ on the approach we should take to Boat people, but I think this is a cop out. Sure we might differ on some of the fine details. But there's no way we should be differing on our primary approach to asylum seekers. The Australian editorial makes a telling point about our political leaders in this regard.

I find it disappointingly inconsistent that both of our political leaders, Rudd and Tony Abbott, wear their religion on their sleeves, yet neither of them practises the compassion that Christianity extols when it comes to boatpeople.
I heartily agree, and I think that Christians should be at the forefront of ensuring that all refugees, including 'boat people' receive a warm and generous welcome. After all, in the Old Testament God  wanted the people of Israel to remember that they had been refugees at one stage and welcome those who came among them, and at easter we remember that we have a God who welcomed us as his people - even when we didn't deserve it and we should show this kind of welcome to others.   

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Sunday Night at Scots

While I'm on a roll, this is a new poster for Sunday Night at Scots, our evening service. We've recently moved the service from our church hall back into our church building, and are also trying to include a couple of more traditional elements in the service.

A Hedghog concept for Churches

There's an interesting article on the Sydney Anglicans website at the moment about the idea of 'hedgehog concepts' for churches. The hedgehog concept is a term coined by management guru Jim Collins to describe the thing that is most important to an organisation and that you need to stay focussed on with relentless discipline. He suggests that for non-profit organisations the hedgehog concept should be something you are deeply passionate about, something you can be the best in the world at, and something that drives your resource engine.

What was particularly interesting about Raj Gupta's article at Sydney Anglicans was not so much the idea of the hedgehog concept itself, but rather the particular concept he was thinking about for his church. In a brave move he didn't choose the most obvious answers of 'Gospel' or good 'Bible teaching' . He suggested 'the welcoming and integrating of new people.' You can read his article to see why. But it's certainly go me thinking.

Texting World Record

Apparently there is a new world record for texting on a touchscreen phone, and it was acheived using the 'swype' keyboard I've mentioned before. Franklin Page managed to type the following text in 35.54 seconds.

“The razor-toothed piranhas of the genera Serrasalmus and Pygocentrus are the most ferocious freshwater fish in the world. In reality they seldom attack a human”

After a lot of practice, and with the long words in the dictionary of my phone I managed to get it out in 1:10 on my swype keyboard and about 2:00 on a normal keyboard. Can anyone beat that?

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Atheist faith

There's a good article in the Online Opinion journal comparing the charitable and transforming impulse of Christianity with the lack of anything similar for atheism. I understand this is not a complete argument for God, and I also want to acknowledge that the history of Christianity is not all rosy. But I think in the gave of the "Christianity poisons everything" line of attack, it's important to give some balance.

Predictably there were immediately a million angry coments on the article which all seem to assume that simply by using the ,word "nonsense" and the phrase "spaghetti monster", you have conclusively dismissed the idea of God.

The greatest irony though, was the howls ,of protest about the idea that atheism was in any way an organized, identifiable group like a religion. I was wondering of any of these comments were posted from the atheist convention in Melbourne where 2500 atheist have gathered to encourage one another i n their faith and congratulate themselves on their superior intelligence. According to the Smh, it sounds like the atmosphere has rivaled anything Hillsong puts together.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Why does Paul go to Jerusalem?

I'm preaching on Acts 21-23 this week, where the apostle Paul travels for Jerusalem despite many prophecies warning him that he will face suffering and imprisonment when he gets there. The big question I have is 'why is he so determined to go?'

One possible answer is that he wants to deliver the gift that he has been collecting among the gentile churches. This makes sense historically, and I suspect is part of the reason. The problem though, in the context of Acts, is that Luke never mentions the gift. I assume therefore that there is something else significant in his mind about the trip to Jerusalem.

The second answer for the Jerusalem trip is that Paul wants to immitate Jesus (and perhaps other prophets) who went to Jerusalem to die. Luke certainly seems to highlight some similarities between Jesus and Paul in this section of Acts - The prophecies of trouble in Jerusalem, the crowd calling for his execution and the trial before the Sanhedrin all echo Jesus' experience. However these similarities seem to flow FROM Paul's trip to Jerusalem rather than be motivation for his trip.

I wonder if Paul went to Jerusalem for one last desperate attempt to win the Jews for the Gospel. This would explain his willingness to go along with the cleansing ritual, and also the detailed testimony he gave to the crowd where he tried to explain why he became a follower of Jesus. Sadly of course he is emphatically rejected by the Jews in Jerusalem, and the visit to Jerusalem becomes the Launchpad for him into the heart of Rome itself.

Anyone else got any thoughts on this part of Acts?