Archives For May 2015

Chesterton is almost always good Winter reading:

Sometimes the best business of an age is to resist some alien invasion; sometimes to preach practical self-control in a world too self-indulgent and diffused; sometimes to prevent the growth in the State of great new private enterprises that would poison or oppress it. Above all it may sometimes happen that the highest task of a thinking citizen may be do the exact opposite of the work which the Radicals had to do. It may be his highest duty to cling on to every scrap of the past that he can find, if he feels that the ground is giving way beneath him and sinking into mere savagery and forgetfulness of all human culture.’ [i]
– (G.K Chesterton, 1911 Charles Dickens: Appreciations and Criticisms )

Simplicity

 


Source:

[i] Chesterton, G. K. 1911 Charles Dickens: Appreciations and Criticisms: Child’s History of England Waxkeep Publishing Kindle Ed.

 

Header African Childrens Chior

If you’ve never had the chance to see the African Children’s Choir perform, the next time that they’re in town, chase down the venue.

Not only will you be supporting the children, you’ll also be supporting a Christian charity. A charity that is seeing solid outcomes in the work it is doing among young children from Uganda up to South Sudan.

The African Children’s Choir began in 1984 and it’s been going ever since. By providing education, the ACC seeks to deliver as much opportunity as possible for those unable to provide for themselves.

As we heard from those men and women who have been empowered by it, ACC is a testimony to the warmth of God’s smile and the grasp of His loving and just, grace. Over against tragedy, loss and oppression.

They are a much-needed, humbling reminder to the West, about the power of prayer, God’s emancipating “Yes”, the importance of faith and the significance of gratitude.

The event was held in an upmarket theatre which included testimonies, worship, dance and song.

We weren’t completely sure what to expect, yet, we felt welcomed and left ultimately hopeful for Africa, and our own land. Which is a far cry from the way we’re left feeling when we hear narratives based on popular beliefs about Africa, or when we are sold politicised images that masks the hope behind its Peoples potential.

Overall,  the most striking thing about the African Children’s Choir and their chaperones, was their authenticity, and joy. Clearly expressed, even after sharing stories which illustrated so much sorrow.

As the children told us about their dreams to build on what little, if anything, was left to them, we were amazed by their joy. Warmed by their smiles, and strengthened by their courage.We walked away with a feeling of hope.

This was more than just entertainment. It was intimate and dignified; Holy ground. Where between the Holiness of God and the brokenness of humanity, we were led to an encounter with the totality of His joy in Jesus Christ, through smile, song and drum.

Because it was an event we had planned for home school, as part of a follow-up to it, I asked our home schoolers for a review.

They responded and together we concluded the following:

“Energetic…couldn’t get enough”
– T.

ACC_Drums 28th May 2015 Port Macquarie

“Visually stunning!”
– C.

ACC_25th May 2015 Port Macq 2

“An exciting performance”
– J

African Childrens Choir_May 27th 2015 Port Macq

“Happy time for all…!”
– D

ACC3 27th May 2015 Port Macq

 “Boogie fever…Ugandan style!”
– A

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ACC4 27th May 2015 Port Macq

 


* For the evening photographs were permitted, film wasn’t. 

Post Scriptum

May 26, 2015 — Leave a comment

Tree on a rock 2I think I’m asking this for posterity?

Maybe, deep down, I’m just doing it for me?

Does where you come from really inform how you’re accepted?

If so, then it’s exactly as they planned it,

I’ve inherited a, “no chance in hell.”

What then becomes of me?

If I stand before the altar,

and sink down into the waters,

then rise, changed and free.

If I beat my chest with joy, tears and screams,

and cry out, “Son of David, thank you for having mercy on me!”

Why is that zeal rejected;

or my faith written off as fantasy?

Like the careful offer of prayer for a friend;

insidiously rejected;thrown aside as ignorant.

Like the One who, in His freedom, answers it.

If my boundaries are hateful and intolerant,

Why should a break wall still hold back the sea?

Should a “no,” no longer be considered loving,

it would only teach those men-to-be,

to ignore the loving “no” of a woman,

who tells her future husband,

“not today, let’s wait and see.”

If totalitarianism were to take the gavel, and then outlaw me,

What happens to the rhetoric of “absolute” tolerance and total “equality?”

If I raise my own flag in disagreement, am I accepted where I stand?

Or does the rainbow mask the serpent,

like the one who spills the blood of Christians upon the sand?

Does where you come from really inform how you’re accepted?

If so, then it’s exactly as they’ve planned it,

I’ve been fire branded:

“no chance in hell.”

What then becomes of me?


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Image: Mine

Since senior high school I’ve been interested surrealism.

Here are three experiments, using some new tech for graphic art that we acquired for our homeschoolers.

I tried two separate approaches. The first and third are simple black and white images, whilst the second uses colour and complexity to illustrate the underlying point expressed in it’s title.

As for the titles, I’ve tried to reflect the theological framework that informs them, although, for now, they remain tentative.

They’re not perfect, but at least it’s a start.

Urban Forest Dwellers: Entertaining Angels

RL2015_Forest Dwellers

The Zeitgeist Juxtaposition: Scroll, Like, Ignore, Repeat

The Zeitgeist Apocolypse

The Zacchaeus Tree

Dragon Flower

 


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Stern and Sifton Bonhoeffer and Dohnanyi No Ordinary MenElisabeth Sifton and Fritz Stern’s, 2013 publication, ‘No Ordinary Men: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Hans von Dohnanyi,’ is, to loosely apply the cliché, an appeal to the sublime.

Their primary goal is to raise awareness of Hans von Dohnanyi, a lawyer in the Abwehr (German Army Intelligence), who played an important role in the German anti-Nazi movement.

Sifton and Stern do an outstanding job of briefly paralleling the stories of Dohnanyi with that of Bonhoeffer’s, showing that a nexus did exist between the narratives of both men.

For instance there is some discussion about whether or not, Dohnanyi, in attempting to save Bonhoeffer’s life, actually only ended up unintentonally instigating his eventual death at the hands of the S.S. [i]

Two chief reasons for this exist,

Firstly, it was Dohnanyi who stopped the authorities from conscripting Bonhoeffer into the army, like they did to a large amount of Confessing Church theologians. It was Dohnanyi who ‘decisively turned Bonhoeffer from church opposition to state resistance.’[ii]

Secondly, it was Dohnanyi who helped to set ‘Operation Valkyrie in motion’[iii], bravely compiled the damning dossier of Nazi atrocities, (The ‘Zossen Files’), and it was Dohnanyi who was regarded by the Gestapo as being the ‘‘Spiritual head of the conspiracy to eliminate Hitler”[iv], not Bonhoeffer; making Dohnanyi a vital player, right at the heart of the resistance movement.

One fair criticism raised by Sifton and Stern is that Bonhoeffer’s biographers (Ebherhard Bethge, Ferdinand Schlingensiepen and the much derided Eric Metaxas) tend to not make a clear enough distinction between the roles both men played in the small, but considerable German Anti-Nazi resistance movement.

These facts lead Sifton and Stern to claim that Bonhoeffer’s biographers have ignorantly overlooked and as a result, overshadowed Dohnanyi, by over-emphasising Bonhoeffer’s role in the German anti-Nazi resistance movement.

They argue that it is ‘historically wrong and morally unjust to Dohnanyi, to play down his role in the resistance movement.’[v] This is because the ‘Third Reich had no greater, more courageous and more admirable enemies than they; both men’s lives offer lasting moral instruction[vi], therefore, Dohnanyi and Bonhoeffer deserve to be remembered together.’[vii]

From another angle, ‘No Ordinary Men’ is also a counter balance to rhetoric which attaches itself to the icon[viii] that Sifton and Stern think Bonhoeffer has become.

‘After the war, many German pastors wanted to emphasize his church work and disassociate their fallen colleague  from any tyrannicidal activity, of which they strongly disapproved; others were happy to do the opposite, emphasising his participation in the anti-Hitler plots and averting their eyes from the sorry record of their churches’ collusion with the dictator. It was convenient to simply transform Bonhoeffer into an icon of heroic German Protestantism; that one could call him a martyr made it even better.’[ix]

Unfortunately, the brilliance of ‘No Ordinary Men’ is itself dwarfed by some of its more jarring conclusions.

Ambiguity and generalisations exist within Sifton and Stern’s criticisms. Each is found in a list of concerns they voice about the qualifications and agenda of Bonhoeffer’s key biographers[x].

For example, they are more forgiving to Bethge and even Ferdinand Schlingensiepen in their short critique, than they are towards Eric Metaxas, who they charge as

‘trying to capture Bonhoeffer for the cause of fundamentalist evangelicalism, consequently blurring’ Bonhoeffer’s story.’[xi]

That Metaxas or even Bethge overreach in rhetoric at times, for the sake of readability, is not in dispute.

What is questionable though is Sifton and Stern’s own conclusions about Metaxas.

I have Schlingensiepen’s German edition and am finding my way slowly through Bethge’s monumental work on Bonhoeffer. I’ve also read the unabridged version of Metaxas’ work, and find myself in disagreement with Sifton and Stern.

For this reason, whether they want to or not, Sifton and Stern, appear to propagate a war-like suspicion. One that assumes the “right” is actively employing a conspiracy against the “left.”[xii]

Moreover, their final criticisms make them appear petty; it’s as if they only unveil an appeal to a ‘fundamentalist cause’ of their own.

From an Australian perspective, this only serves to be yet another example of the burgeoning, dangerous and conceited cold civil war between left and right American academia. An ideological, theological and cultural war that is continuing to cripple respectful debate, academic impartiality, and respect for diversity of thought.

Sifton and Stern appear unable to understand that Metaxas has made the historical context, details of Bonhoeffer’s life, and the life of those around him, including Hans von Dohnanyi, more accessible to the less-than privileged majority. Bonhoeffer’s story is available and affordable reading for those who will never have a tenured chance to read Bethge’s monumental and costly version; or who neither have the time nor the privilege of patronage that will enable them to study the primary documents at the highest level of empirical accuracy.

One begins to wonder, whether, if at some point, a form of hypocrisy exists in their appeal to popular criticisms of Metaxas. This raises questions about whether or not these popular criticisms hand out the message that no one knows, or can know, write or speak about Bonhoeffer unless they align to a particular theological position or a particular political, intellectual class?

The tentative conclusion is that Sifton and Stern are guilty of tu quoque, implying that Bonhoeffer’s biographers have created some sort of hagiography, then inferring that those biographers have defiled some sort of saintly subject.

In the end, however, the reader is still left with a positive impression. The Church must not forget that Bonhoeffer did not act alone.‘No Ordinary Men’ is not so much about calling for a total re-reading of the historical Bonheoffer as it is a call to rescue the historical Dohnanyi from the fog of history.

It brings the life of Dohnanyi into focus. By setting Dohnanyi alongside the life of Bonheoffer and the long history of the German anti-Nazi movement, Sifton and Stern, bring Hans von Dohnanyi’s brave efforts against Nazism further into the light.

Despite some let-downs, ‘No Ordinary Men’ is worth taking the time to read. It’s an informative, well-written, honest attempt to raise Hans von Dohnanyi up to his rightful place in history.

Sifton and Stern do this and, for the most part, they do it well.


Sources:

[i] Sifton and Stern point out that Dohnanyi wrestled with this as well.

[ii] Sifton, E. & Stern, F. 2013 No Ordinary Men: Resisters Against Hitler in Church & State New York Review of Books,  (p.141)

[iii] Ibid, p.118

[iv] Ibid, p.126

[v]  Ibid, p.141

[vi] Ibid, p.141 & 142

[vii] Ibid, p.142

[viii] ‘the elevation of Bonhoeffer to iconic martyrdom occluded the larger, more significant German historical drama in which he played such an important part’ (ibid, p.141)

[ix] Ibid, p.140

[x] This is laid out in the appendix

[xi] Ibid, p.147

[xii] Which is interesting, because hasn’t this group, themselves, laid quiet claim to Bonhoeffer over the years?

[The title of this post is borrowed from page 141 of Sifton and Stern’s ‘No Ordinary Men’]

My Callused Muse

May 19, 2015 — 2 Comments

Dancing fingers.

My stringed horse.

My callused muse.

Stringed Horse Callused Muse Haiku GVL


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It’s almost Winter in Oz. So, our home schoolers are bogged-down in schoolwork for the duration (With a two week break in between). But, that means doing more cool activities like art with their talented Olmatje (Grandma)

Here is a collection of recent compositions made with charcoal on paper.

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