Fighting for the right to discriminate

As the law currently stands in Victoria, there is an exemption in the equal opportunity act to allow faith-based institutions to discriminate on who they employ based on religious values. At the moment there’s a bill in motion in the Victorian Parliament to remove that exemption for faith based charities, schools, etc. As far as I’m aware this change won’t apply to churches, mosques etc themselves.

The current review by the Victorian Parliament’s Scrutiny of Acts & Regulations Committee (SARC) into the Exceptions in the Equal opportunity Act 1995 has the potential to be even more of a threat to religious freedom than the infamous Racial & Religious Tolerance Act (RRTA). Faith-based charities, schools and organisations could have their activities severely constrained by the inquiry’s suggestions that religious bodies lose the right to employ staff who share their values.


So here’s the thing. I’m very interested in a discussion about the Church being considerably outraged at this proposed amendment. I’ve heard a number of the arguments as to why this is a terrible thing: my mother and my father-in-law both work for a Christian school who has come out strongly against the proposal. So I want to frame the discussion in a different way.

As a society we’ve decided that discriminating between people on the basis of their gender, race, age, height, sexuality or religious affiliation is unacceptable for any employers, or indeed for any interaction between members of society. So what I would love for you to do is to imagine that you have no affiliation with the church, that you are not a Christian, and give me a good reason why, for someone like that, they should support the church’s push to be allowed an exemption for organisations like faith-based charities or church schools. Your impassioned pleas are hereby sought.

Outlook not so bad for God after all?

Fascinating interview from Lateline’s Tony Jones with secular economist John Micklethwait, author of “God is Back” (Hat Tip to Steve Addison).

One reason is the Government has cleverly hit on the one formula to make religion grow. It’s something the ancient Romans did to Christianity, and it was a brilliant way inadvertently to cause religion to grow. The Chinese have set a limit on the number of people that can meet in a place, basically 25. Once you reach 25 people meeting in one of these house churches, which take place in somebody’s home, once it’s at that level the church has to split and start again. Automatically it’s almost a formula for amoeba-like growth.

What’s interesting though is as Christianity spreads throughout China, really incredibly quickly. I think China will certainly become the world’s biggest Christian country and probably become the world’s biggest Muslim country. It’s already more Muslims there than there are in Saudi Arabia.

via Lateline – 30/06/2009: John Micklethwait discusses global faith revival.

It’s interesting to see a fairly neutral observer professing the same theories that Hirsch and Frost have been putting out there for some time – in terms of the “amoeba-like growth” of the church in China. This is a fascinating interview, and you should read it all, but I wanted to highlight one more quote:

Our guess, which is against the experience of the 20th century, is that Islam will have a tougher 21st century than Christianity, and one reason why is that we think evangelical Christianity, and Christianity in general, have had more the acids of modernity, if you want to call it that, it’s been tempered by that, it’s easier to get on with it. And Islam faces some limitations in terms of being able to spread around the world, not least the fact that you can’t translate the Koran in the same way that you can translate the Bible, and it doesn’t have the same degree of flexibility. Obviously it’s dangerous to predict anything about religion, but it would seem from our perspective at least that Christianity is the one which is forging ahead.

That’s a fascinating thought: that the process of Christianity being able to “get on with” modernity means that it is ideally placed to push forward in the 21st century. I’m not sure how much I agree with that: in one sense I feel that it is often the ways in which Christianity has allowed gospel to become compromised by the modernist culture that has seen our decline, but equally I think that there is an element to which the contextualisation of Christian theology in the past leaves us in a good position to continue to contextualise the message of Jesus into the next century and beyond.

As I say – fascinating interview and you should read (or watch) all of it.

A Healthy Dose of Atheism

One of the central points that Peter Rollins makes in “How (Not) To Speak Of God” is that part of believing in a God who is “beyond understanding” necessitates a degree of atheism in our theism. As we embrace a God who is, by  nature, transcendent, we are forced to recognize that in order to maintain faith in an unfathomable God we must disbelieve in our concepts of God, to a certain extent.

I know that no matter how carefully, or even “biblically” (there’s that word again) I try to connect my theology, it is inevitable that there will be things I believe about God that are wrong. Is that a slight on the authority of the Bible as the primary revelation of the story and the character of God? Not at all. But this does represent a humility in how I understand my authority to speak for God, and a recognition that my ability to accurately interpret a text written in a foreign language, in a different era and drastically cultural setting is deeply limited.

So I’ll be taking a healthy dose of atheism with my beliefs. I want to understand how people who have a different interpretation of the bible came to believe what they believe. Because I know that I’m wrong. Often. Just not as often as you are.

(For more of my thoughts on this sort of thing, you might want to read “Biblical is a Stupid Word“)

Update: It seems similar themes are going on at Backyard Missionary

How do you respond?

When a spate of attacks on Indian students in Melbourne (and then later in other parts of the country), patient there were a heap of reactions. Some people fobbed it off as being coincidence that the students were all from the same nation, ed others were outraged at the apparent racist element in the community, still others protested that there was not enough of a police presence around public transport, etc.

But there is something fantastically Christ-like about the response of the Salvation Army:

“The Couch” – International Student Centre aims to provide a safe and free space at night time for international students studying in Melbourne to socialise, relax, rest, study, and seek information and assistance. “The Couch” will be open on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 5pm-10pm. The project will be specifically tailored to meet the needs of international students, such as language barriers, cultural beliefs, and specific needs.

via Armybarmy REMIX: International Student Centre in Melbourne.

Donald Miller on Leadership and Admitting Mistakes

Loved this quote from Donald Miller (aka the Blue like Jazz guy).

I won’t follow anybody who can’t admit a mistake. I led a college group at a church once, and as part of a series I created I asked all the pastors at the church to address the college group regarding mistakes they made when they were the age of my students. The pastors agreed, save one, who, as humbly as he could, explained he hadn’t made any mistakes. As the years went on, I noticed something about this pastor, I noticed he never admitted he was wrong, about anything, and I also noticed a trail of bodies behind him. He literally fired or marginalized anybody who did not agree with him.”

“Christian leaders who can’t admit their mistakes place a wall between their congregation and God, rather than a window. They paint an image of Christ on themselves, as they feel this is their job. People like the painting of Jesus they see on the wall, but in the end, the painting isn’t the real thing, and so Jesus just gets distorted.”
Don Miller Blog – Lessons in Leadership, Robert McNamara teaches the most important lesson

One of the things I’m loving about the church communities we’re a part of at the moment is that by taking a much more collaborative approach to how church works together, it becomes a lot harder for the wall between the congregation and the leadership to get built up. But regardless of whether you’re a mega-church leader or just hanging out with a small group of friends to try to get something started: there’s something vitally important about being upfront when you mess up.


“PM”, the ABC’s regular weeknight current affairs radio program has just turned 40, and so host Mark Colvin posted some thoughts on the “Off Air” blog I linked to the other day. Couldn’t help but laugh a little to myself at the parallels in this quote:

“We no longer have authority automatically, by right of being the only game in town.”

After 40 years of the ABC’s PM, does radio current affairs have a future?

The issue of authority is central to the struggle of church and Christianity to adapt to the shifts in western culture in the last couple of decades (wow, what a pretentious sentence). But it’s an interesting correlation: as radio has moved from being the only game in town, to something of a relic of an earlier age; the only way that it can maintain authority is to be reliable and consistent.

Do have a read of the post – I’ll leave you to make any conclusions about what the implications might be for church.

Shine before all men

Those who know me at all would realise that it would be fairly unlikely that I’d be willing to voluntarily link to the Collingwood website. But this piece by Collingwood defender Harry O’Brien is a beautiful piece of personal reflection, and a genuine witness to the way in which scripture has helped him deal with trouble in his path.

You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.   In the same way, let your light shine before men

These are my favourite bible verses from the book of Matthew 5:14-16. These words hold great meaning to me and my desire is to live my life in this way.

via “You are the light of the world – Official AFL website of the Collingwood Football Club”

O’Brien shares his family dealing with the suicide of his father. Don’t want to say any more, but I recommend you read it.

(If you can’t handle having to visit the Collingwood site to read it, it has been re-posted on the Age website). Found via Jessica Halloran’s twitter.

Erwin McManus on the gospel narrative

Erwin McManus has a fantastic post up at that blog of The Origins Project:

Recently, sickness I was having dinner with one of Hollywood’s gifted cinematographers and directors. In the course of the conversation, he asked me what my newest book, Wide Awake, was about. At first, I simply said it is about finding a dream that fits your life. He looked interested, so I pressed ahead: “You know the narrative known as the Gospel? I think it has been demeaned. It has been reduced to this, ‘Come to Jesus so that your sins will be forgiven and you can go to heaven and not hell.’ For me this is the most narcissistic and self-preserving message I have ever heard. Wide Awake proposes that Jesus lived the ultimately heroic life by giving Himself as a sacrifice for all of humanity and that He now calls us to give ourselves away for the good of the world.”

As soon we left and began walking the streets of Hermosa Beach, he remarked after much thought, “The Gospel has never made sense to me. It is such a narcissistic narrative. But this idea that it is about provoking us to the heroic—this is intriguing to me.” Then he asked me a question I will never forget: “Is it possible that Christianity has rejected this Gospel because it demands too much of us?”

via Living Wide Awake : The Origins Project.

At the risk of sounding all “Bill and Ted”: woah!

This is what NT Wright hits on when he says that we are “saved for good works”. I like it a lot – the post does sound more and more American as it goes, but the heart of the quote above blew me away.

Being lead astray by Rollins

Phyllis Tickle - be very, very afraid
Phyllis Tickle - Are you afraid of this woman?


My apologies readers, unfortunately I’ve been naively exposing you to heresies that will undoubtedly lead you into eternal damnation: likely including gnashing of teeth and rock music. “Apprising ministries“, guardians of all that is holy and true, and warriors against the evils of non-orthodox thinking, managed to find Tuesday’s fanboy post on “The Orthodox Heretic” – Peter Rollins’ book of parables (which you can buy here, here or here) and out of concern for my spiritual well-being posted the following in an article about Rollins:

Here’s a couple of more illustrations beginning with a rapidily ascending philosopher/theologian of the Emerging Church by the name of Peter Rollins. As I am looking into the twisted teachings of Rollins I’m seeing at least a couple of posts a day where people are just now discovering him.

Take for example You Must Read “The Orthodox Heretic” from TheGeoffRe(y)port:


The coherent argument used in the post was that given that Rollins’ was endorsed by such Satan lovers as Rob Bell and the incarnation of Jezebel herself: Phyllis Tickle (pictured), he was obviously preaching an anti-christ message. Any positive effects such as concern for justice or the poor, or even just showing more interest in loving your neighbour after reading Rollins’ books must therefore be purely coincidental. It’s so fortunate that we have moral guardians such as Apprising ministries to keep us safe from any theology that might result in a practical implication in our lives.


You Must Read “The Orthodox Heretic”

The Orthodox Heretic - and other impossible tales by Peter Rollins
The Orthodox Heretic - and other impossible tales by Peter Rollins

It’s not often that you’d write a review for a book before you’ve finished it. In actual fact, I only received “The Orthodox Heretic – and other impossible tales” last night in the mail, and with a basketball game in between, I only managed to read a few of the parables inside, but already this is one of my favourite Christian books. I must admit: I did have a lot of anticipation built up for Peter Rollins’ latest and greatest, but I’ve already had that surpassed.

OK, let’s take a step back and provide some background – before I get too carried away. “The Orthodox Heretic” is a collection of 33 parables, with a brief commentary on each. Rollins’ describes the commentaries as like the reference label at an art gallery: in no way a definitive explanation of the piece but rather an entry point for the uninitiated. In fact, he pulls back from calling these parables: parables cannot affect intellectual belief but rather must change your actions. So he hopes that he’s written parables, but instead only calls them “impossible tales”.

As you read Orthodox Heretic, you can’t help but believe that these are actually stories that should be read out loud rather than in private. To the point that I couldn’t help but read a couple to Bec last night: these stories find meaning as you share them and think about them together. I’m sure that these will get used in our small group, and probably in any preaching gigs I do in the near future. While by day Rollins works as a philosopher and theologian – in reality it seems he’s just using that as an excuse to partake in his true calling: a master story-teller.

Have a listen to Peter Rollins reading one of his own tales, and I defy you to not at least be a little interested in the rest of the book. The man does also have a fantastic Irish accent, which once you know it, is the only voice you can hear these parables being told in as you read.

Note: Paraclete Press and Peter Rollins are running a parable competition where you can win a bunch of books and a beautiful print. Peter Rollins’ blog is here – and you can find more of his parables for free (you cheapskate) in the “parables” category there. You can buy “The Orthodox Heretic” from:


Go do it – I can’t recommend it highly enough.