Sunday, November 04, 2007

Our Vitality Lies in Movement

Recent mentions in various media of the Camino de Santiago (Way of St James) in northern Spain has me longing to participate in that spiritual practice known as pilgrimage. It is in a book whose author is both an ordained Mennonite minister and a Benedictine oblate that I found the following quote.

"[God] is a God of the Way. His sanctuary is the Mobile Ark, His house is a tent, His Altar a cairn of rough stones... He leads [the Israelites] out of Egypt... There He gives them their Solemn Feast, the Passover: a feast of roasted lamb and bitter herbs , of bread baked not in an oven but on a hot stone. And he commands them to eat "in haste," with shodden feet and sticks in hand, to remind them, forever that their vitality lies in movement." 
- Bruce Chatwin The Songlines (New York, N.Y.: Penguin, 1987) pp 194-195 in Arthur Paul Boers The Way is Made by Walking: a pilgrimage along the Camino de Santiago (Downers Grove, Il.: InterVarsity Press, 2007) 39.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

No Accountability

The ABC reports that courts in Italy and the US have halted separate cases that involved allegations about illegal rendition and torture.

The US Supreme Court upholds the dismissal of a German citizen's case because of 'state secrets'. The executive branch has declared itself not accountable, and the judicial branch has refused to hold the executive accountable for this declaration.

This decision reminds me of the ridiculous situation under Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen in which the list of books banned in Queensland was itself banned. 

Friday, October 05, 2007

Dead Man Walking

Sister Helen Prejan, author of the book which was adapted into a play, then a movie and now an opera, spoke recently with Andrew Denton and Rachel Kohn. Much of what she had to say - always in a lively, entertaining, and world-wise way - to both interviewers made me think of recent discussions of incarnational ministry. 

Two particular things really stood out:
Firstly, the readiness with which the death row inmates accepted Sr Helen's coming alongside them. Initially she didn't seek out the prisoners or the families of their victims, but now actively does - and while embrace may be too strong a word to describe the average reaction, it sounds as though it's far from a rebuff.
Secondly, the seriousness with which Sr Helen believes - and actually accordingly lives - basic Christian doctrines. She does see the image of God in people, she does demonstrate grace to both the unloved and the unloving, she does speak the truth in a way that sets people free. Her story is an inherently - one could say exclusively - Christian story, yet it is so filled with faith, love, and hope that not only do many want to hear it, but also many want to tell it. And with each telling and hearing and retelling - whether in a play, book, film, opera, interview, or even (I hope) blog post - echoes of Jesus' story, the gospel, are heard.

Here is a model of ministry worthy of imitation! Now I must see this film (not really into opera), and of course hear the soundtrack with Tom Waits among other fine artists.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Liberalism and Communism

The Communist Party of China, not content to prohibit senior Tibetan Lamas from reincarnating without permission, has also taken to writing 'Christian' theology. Stephen Crittendon, presenter of the Religion Report on ABC Radio National mentioned in passing that as part of their increasing interest in religion, state-sponsored texts require patriotic Christians to not beleive in salvation by faith or the resurrection.

Our Man in Pyongyang

Having read Seymour Hirsch's latest in the New Yorker about the US's war plans for Iran, I was struck by the Greene-esque title of this article. And indeed, Egan is an antihero worthy of Greene. Had he not missed the draft, gone bankrupt roofing and started a hotdog joint-cum-steakhouse he may have just as easily ended up selling vacuum cleaners or running a hotel. The entertaining feature is fantastic read, though not always for the right reasons.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Don't Risk Howard (& Costello)?

Even though it's yet to be called, everyone knows that the federal election is not far away. It's clear that campaigning is now fully underway, as not only have policies (to a greater or lesser extent) been released, so the mud is being slung.

While the behaviour of a number of politicians right across the spectrum has been particularly abysmal lately, I had to have a chuckle at the Nationals' 'Don't Risk Rudd' campaign. Not because of what they're trying to say, but the way they're trying to say it. 

The assumption that change=risk (so that one can minimise or even eliminate risk by minimising or eliminating change) seems to be behind this fallacious slogan. Even leaving aside that great rewards are hardly ever won without great risk, there are times that small change (or even none) is more risky than great change. Of course, whether not that is now the case is the subject of many and varied opinions. 

Though change may seem risky, not changing (or at least attempting not to change) may actually be more so. Just ask the coalition front bench.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

You Must Be Bourne Again


I saw The Bourne Ultimatum, the third Bourne movie. Though I left wanting more, on reflection I hope that it is the last of the series, as it wraps up the earlier movies very neatly. As could be expected, such a great movie deals with great themes, and I personally would have be more likely to read "The Gospel According to Jason Bourne" than most other pop culture meets theology books that I have seen. 

Of foremost significance for me is the theme of memory and Bourne's amnesia is finally remedied in TBU in a way that explores the full significance of memory for identity. His complicity in his own predicament suggests a kind of original sin, yet at a significant juncture chooses the path of redemptive non-violence. The film is full of violence, yet seems to take it more seriously than most other films, certainly beyond cheering for the 'goodies'. That most of the deaths are of characters important to the plot personalises the brutality and senselessness that rightly left me feeling squeamish. Certainly, one of the must timely themes of the entire Bourne series, but especially in TBU is a mistrust of authority. As enemy of the state, Bourne goes well beyond Bond as the likeable rogue with tacit support of the authorities. TBU demonstrates the inherent tendency of cold and calculating officials (elected and appointed) to misuse government authority and prerogative. It brings into question not only the individuals that exploit the system, but the kind of system that refuses to limit deceit and violence through transparency and accountability.

Certainly this is a parable for our time.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Barry McMurtrie in Brisbane

Well, that all depends whether you count the Gold Coast as part of greater Brisbane.  Barry McMurtrie is the keynote speaker of Team Fest, being held at Marina Quays International Resort on Hope Island from the 6th to the 8th of November.  Barry McMurtie was senior pastor at Crossroads Church in California from 1993.  

From the brochure (not available online as far as I could tell):
Team Fest is an opportunity for team leaders and team members to acquire the necessary skills to develop effective teams for ministry in larger congregations.
For More information call Ted Keating (0407 461 679) or Juliette Keating (0411 428 038).