Archives For January 2017

Broken Love

January 30, 2017 — 2 Comments

rembrandt

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As a father he didn’t hate you,
.             he was kept from seeing you.

Pushed so far away that any attempt,
.             and its awkwardness,
was considered tyranny.

His name became like mud, ‘
.   though his only crime was acting on his insecurities;
.   left alone to filter his own anxieties.

He never wanted to leave you,
.                         tried his best to keep you,
 .             but fell on his knees because of his own weaknesses.

His past was never even,
.     because of that he struggled to be someone you could believe in.

That made knowing him difficult,
.     and boundaries hard to fault.

He failed to write, to speak, even sigh with you
.    because for most of his life,
.                                  his father had failed him too.

He hardly knew his mother,
.    became an outlaw in his late teens.
.    spoke little of either,
.              and kept his grief even closer.

He wasn’t perfect, masked his tears with pride,
.     the evidence of which is still not far from our eyes.
.           He let his brokenness break others,
yet, his torn behaviour never watered-down his broken love for you.


(©RL2017)

Artwork: Rembrandt, 1665, ‘Prodigal Son

wedge-taled-eagle-aus-flagThe birth date for Australia as a nation is officially Federation Day, where on January 1st, 1901, the states and territories came together as one.

The 26th, “Australia Day”, marks the landing in Botany Bay of the first fleet, which arrived in 1788, filled with British convicts, their wardens and a few settlers. One year before the French Revolution. 14 years after the American war of independence.

They arrived not to fight an organised army or take siege of cities. When they arrived, they saw bushland that went on as far as the horizon. To this enlightenment age people, this land, although sparsely occupied by clans of indigenous Australians, was mostly empty.  Hostility fuelled by misunderstandings and racism, between Europeans and indigenous people came much later on and with it a history that is not as black and white as white vs. black.

There has been an official “sorry” given for wrongs committed towards indigenous Australians, plus a TON of aid and support in both education and other social programs to empower awareness and positive change within indigenous communities.

Today, Australia Day represents the ownership of those wrongs and the long effort to factually acknowledge and correct them. Australia Day also represents the celebration of freedom, God’s blessings, our rich heritage, the land, new citizenship for immigrants and the importance of  indigenous Australians to our nation’s future.img_0948

It’s also a day that reminds us, we are a people still need of THE saviour.

For reconciliation to mature beyond words and gestures, forgiveness must follow that genuine apology. This won’t happen, though, for as long as Leftist elites and their sycophantic allies are allowed to control a skewed narrative and direct the hearts of people through their often biased politics.

Yes, Australia Day does remind us of the negative side to our nation’s history. However, that’s not something to run from, it’s something to be acknowledged; something that leads to Australia Day bringing not just patriotism, but humility; something that should rightly trigger solidarity of suffering, respect and reconciliation.

We aren’t beyond being mature enough, as a people, to hold the right and the wrong in both hands, being able to learn from both, being humbled by its mistakes and using them to empower our future.

To move the date to, May, or make it ”Wattle Day” is to jettison all the benefits that can come from redeeming the past for the present and the future. Effectively taking the negative aspects of this nation’s history and burying it does nothing for progress, unity or reconciliation.

Moving the date or renaming the day will only unnecessarily divide us, ripping from our hands and hearts, the potential to fuse together and be fused together by a solidarity that the Australia Day, as an event, brings and can bring.

We aren’t beyond redeeming the day or the date, because we still stand under the God who redeems, has redeemed, and will redeem.

If you think the day is offensive, don’t reject it. Aim to redeem it.

 ‘…Transgression. Redemption. One island’ – Midnight Oil, One Country.

Happy Australia Day.


Notes:

Artwork credit: Artist TBC, otherwise unknown.

Image: Australian Governor-General, Sir Peter Cosgrove, Australia Day, 2017: “A great privilege to be welcomed as part of a traditional smoking ceremony at the National Flag Raising and Citizenship Ceremony” (source: Official FB page)

Review: Captain Fantastic

January 20, 2017 — 3 Comments

captain_fantastic_posterThe plot of Viggo Mortensen’s latest film, Captain Fantastic, revolves around the character development of off-the-grid homeschoolers. It is a film full of extremes and contradictions.

Mortensen’s character, Ben Cash, along with his wife, Leslie, live in a well established forest dwelling with six of their kids of varying ages. It takes about ten minutes, but the audience soon finds out that Ben’s wife is absent. Leslie suffers from severe depression and has been away receiving treatment for it.

The opening scene shows the eldest son covered in mud, jumping out of the foliage to catch a deer. The scene then shows him slicing its throat. This is quickly followed by an informal introduction to the Cash family, as each child emerges from behind trees and shrubs. It’s soon established that this hunt was part of a rite of passage. Having successfully completed the hunt, Cash “christens” his eldest son a man.

Cash runs a regimented homeschool routine. Each child participates in the equivalent of rigorous military grade “training’’. In one scene Cash is shown abseiling a steep cliff with all six kids in tow. When one of the older boys slips and slams his right hand against the rock wall, Cash forces him to keep climbing. Once at the top all children are shown shivering and exhausted.

Though Cash is himself well-educated and fair, his homeschooling technique and lifestyle combine to create a unique homeschool situation.

When Cash receives news that his wife has committed suicide, Cash, due to threats from his father-in-law, decides not to attend her funeral. It isn’t until his kids remind him of what they stand for as a family; of what he has taught them, that Cash decides to “stick-it-to-the-man.”

This triggers a road trip that reveals the conflicted attitudes wider society has towards homeschooling. Despite Cash’s eldest son gaining entry into every top Ivy League university in the United States, his sister challenges the benefits of home education, particularly when you don’t really have a house to call a home. His father-in-law, though a loving grandfather, struggles to hide his deep contempt for Cash’s homeschooling, which is only complicated further by grief over the death of his daughter.

Through encounters on the road trip, the family discovers social gaps in their learning. This leads to a deep introspective reflection by Cash on how much their decisions might have contributed to his wife’s depression and ultimate end. Cash is slowly awakened to the fact that his and his wife’s extreme lifestyle, and the homeschooling that accompanied it, while successful, isn’t as perfect as he had come to believe.

Captain Fantastic doesn’t hide its ideological influences or its contradictions. In one scene, after visiting a bank, we witness the family discussing their rule that, ‘’we don’t fun make of anyone. Not even fat people, only Christians’’.

In another scene, we’re shown Cash receiving money for homemade products that he had been sold on consignment at a local store. Yet, in another we’re shown Cash ridiculing capitalism to his kids. There is an inescapable irony when a man with the last name Cash, decries the evils of capitalism, having himself just benefited from capitalism.

This is only heightened by further extremes. Cash fakes a heart attack in a supermarket to distract staff so his children can carry out, what was called “operation free-the-food”. Then at a nearby park, Cash rewards the kids and dedicates the spoils to his leftist idol, and modern liberal, Noam Chomsky. Something Cash later justifies, when his father-in-law calls him out on it, as ‘’training’’.

For me, the contradictions and intenseness of the story make it profound, not loveable. There is a pretentiousness that permeates the selective tolerance encountered from certain groups and individuals in Western society. The point being that Cash, while pointing to the extremism he claims to see in others, fails to see his own.

One area where this is highlighted is in how well-read the children are. Yet, there is no real mention of them ever having engaged the Bible let alone picked up, or had their father assign to them a book on 2000 plus years of Judeo-Christian theology.

There is also the unchallenged promotion of Buddhism as being a superior “philosophy” because it “is not an organised religion” (Quote/unquote).

We’re expected to feel sorry for Cash and applaud him, as he and his kids burst into the colourless Catholic Church service in brightly coloured clothes. Then we’re encouraged to empathise with Cash as he interrupts the service. In protest against what he sees as an injustice carried out by ‘’the-man”, he reads his wife’s will out loud to the congregation stating that she was a Buddhist, and would not want to be farewelled under this superstitious, extremist religious ‘’oppression.’’

The audience is blinded by the dysfunction on display, long enough to keep them from sighing with those at the end of Cash’s verbal whip lashing. There is no tolerance shown to other grieving relatives, including Leslie’s parents. There is no compassion for dialogue or serving others. The closest we come to this is Leslie’s, ‘’obedient’’ mother, who is made to look aloof, as someone oppressed under the thumb of patriarchy.

The supposed Christian extremism is placed against Cash’s own extremist lifestyle; one that leads Cash and his kids to dig up their mother’s body, and then travel back to the wilderness where they cremate her and dance around the pyre performing the Guns ‘N Roses, song ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’.

While some aspects of Captain Fantastic resonate fairly with the homeschool journey, its extremes are not what homeschooling actually looks like.

Captain Fantastic portrays homeschooling in all its positive tension. Cash has taught his kids well. They’re disciplined, free thinkers who are intelligent and healthy. However, Captain Fantastic also plays into the abuse of extremes.  Its plot quietly rides the anti-socialization myth about homeschooled children and because of this there is a sense that the kids are deliberately portrayed as being socially awkward.

The context of the children’s homeschooling makes this forgivable, but in the end, it doesn’t completely cover up the subtle support this lends to anti-homeschool advocates.

Yet, Captain Fantastic isn’t as iconoclastic as it first appears to be. What is on the surface isn’t necessarily what is underneath.

Here Hollywood is displaying the dysfunction and dissonance in those who advocate an alternative society; who vomit slurs and contempt at the very society they benefit from, without really acknowledging that the same society they ridicule, also protects and allows them the freedom to ridicule it.

In this way, Captain Fantastic exemplifies G.K Chesterton’s statement,

“Christianity is the only frame for pagan freedom”. (Orthodoxy, 1901)

and Michael Horton’s view that,

‘Without a serious recognition of original sin, we can easily become passive pawns in the game of dictators and democrats alike. It is the doctrine of human perfectibility that has brought tyrants to the world stage with the worshipful applause of the masses, but the biblical teaching awakens us from our moralistic slumbers, identifying God as the only reliable object of our faith’[i]

[Disclosure: no payment or other incentives were received for writing this review]


Sources:

[i] Horton, M. 2008 Christless Christianity, Baker Books

Captain Fantastic is a Matt Ross film, 2016 Bleeker Street Productions

 

Soliloquy & Symphony

January 19, 2017 — 1 Comment

reconciliation_barth-cd-2_2-rl2017

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My working theory grinds out notes only the grateful find.

It’s the imprints on paper uncovered by shading;

.        The treasure once buried, now delivered up by a storm

Just as a surgeon who in order to heal, opens old wounds.

Here in their significance, the pain that mining pans couldn’t sift,

God has moved.

.

Like a solitary lamp.

It’s light wavering to and fro,

 as it’s carried carefree over a dark chasm by its jovial lamp-keeper.

.       There is little elegance,

.       Just complete confidence.

.               Even in his apparent clumsiness

.               He shows no sway in his perseverance.

.

Thus I’m told we’re firmly embraced

.       Our acts answered by God’s act of grace;

.       The costly charitas of Christus;

.       The rousing rise of His magnum opus.

.

The dangerous unsealed road between then and now,

.   is a delay between a hurting and mended heart;

.   between a bewildered knowing, renewed mind and fresh start.

.

Why sell a soliloquy of sorrow for cheap sympathy,

.   when its rightful place is deep within the joy of a costly symphony?


(©RL2017)

‘The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.’

(Psalm 34:18-19, ESV)

artist-unknown-4_modified by RL2017Inner & outer peace is connected to the overcoming of evil with good. That fight for peace; for transformation of the heart and the renewing of the mind, begins with God and is the outworking of His dealings with us.

The strength and ability to fight that fight; to respond by taking in our hands the responsibility that is, even in our limited capacity, given to us, through His costly invitation, which grants us permission to participate, comes from the grace of God.

It is true, that He acts in His capacity as Master and true Lord over us, however, He is no master of puppets, nor does He will to be so [i]. In putting on ‘the armour of light’, (Rm.13:12-14)

Christians, through Jesus Christ, become what they, even in their own brokenness are: ambassadors of light.

‘According to Romans 12, there is a possibility of doing what the man torn by his inner distress cannot do […] This possibility is certainly not one which they can have of themselves […] Those who are in a state of inner disquiet can and must be peacemakers.’ (Karl Barth, CD 2/2:731) [ii]

To be Christian, doesn’t mean that we resign ourselves to ignorance, tyranny, blind compassion, or an oppressive ideological hegemony.

It means a realignment towards the One, who, on our behalf chose and chooses to correct, and challenge all ideological prisons that seek to nail distortions, disorder, and dysfunction, into the flesh of our entire existence.

Christian love, therefore, is knowing how, why and when to say “no”; as much as when, why and how to say “yes”. Christ did not preach or uphold an absolute ‘ethic of universal niceness.’

God is no master of puppets, nor does He will to be so.


Sources:

[i] ‘…but the sovereignty which was to be confirmed and glorified was the sovereignty of His love, which did not will to exercise mechanical force, to move the immobile from without, to rule over puppets or slaves, but willed rather to triumph in faithful servants and friends, not in their overthrow, but in their obedience, in their own free decision for Him.’ (Barth, The Election of Jesus, CD II/II p.178)

[ii] Barth, K. 1942 The Goodness of the Decision of God, Church Dogmatics, Hendrickson Publishers – It should be noted here that Barth is not advocating a kind of stoic detachment from conflict; he isn’t advocating pacifism. Particularly one that seeks stand over the Prince of Peace, pacifying Him and God’s command. See p.717 of CD: 2:2, ‘…We cannot and should not spare either ourselves or others this conflict.But it can and will be rightly conducted  only as we recognise that in itself the command of God is the command of absolute peace, and that we can engage in strife only for the sake of peace.’

Artwork: Unknown artist. I, however, have edited this from the original.

.

Here my blog post
Swims in a cup of coffee.

Moving,

.       steaming,

.                brewing…

Contemplating what to say,
the words come together,

then simply melt away.
Alas, this post won’t be all that it could be today.

For fog, makes it difficult to write anything clearly.

I’m probably reading far too much,
Which might mean this blog just sits here and rusts.

So instead, I’ll leave you with this picture of a cup
Its coffee within and its steam flowing up.

.

long-version


(©RL2013)

kb-quote-cd-2-2-695-rl2016

 

Since reading the above quote, its been lingering in the back of my mind. So much so, that after posting it as a text on both Twitter and Facebook, I felt it needed more airplay. So, to really make it stand out, I decided make it into a bit of a meme.

My initial goal was to finish reading volume 2/2 at the end of last year. I still made significant progress and am nearing the end, but given other priorities that didn’t happen.

The journey through the text, overall, has coincided with some great opportunities to learn more about John Calvin and engage further in the controversial steps Barth took to place Jesus Christ in the centre of Calvin’s doctrine of election and pre-destination; what theologians call, a more definitive Christocentric view of election. Whereby Barth reforms and in doing so rejects the post-Calvin, hyper-Calvinist baggage attached to Calvin’s original intention and notably myopic [to be generous to Calvin, I lean more towards the word “incomplete”] doctrine of election.

For instance: our election is the election of Jesus Christ. This IS God’s electing. God’s will for us, that we should be with Him and He should be with us. As I’ve summed up this in the past, Jesus Christ, is God’s revolt against the disorder of the world.

Jesus represents all of humanity. There is no elite humanity. There is only grace and its command to follow. For all fall short of the glory of God and are raised to righteousness, and eternal life, in Jesus Christ. The distinction between unbeliever and believer remains. This distinction, though, is exactly as it infers, faith in Christ; those who call upon the name of the Lord – grace poured out upon us to empower us towards grateful obedience even in the midst of our ungrateful disobedience – this is the responsibility of our response to the irreversible election that God Himself has already lovingly decided and acted powerfully upon.

I could go on and probably will in a future post, but this, by itself, makes Church Dogmatics 2/2 one of the most interesting works from Barth.

However, while this part has sharpened of my own theological understanding, it’s the latter part of 2/2 that I’ve taken more of a shine to. What I’ve found interesting its Barth’s discussion on theological ethics; what it is; where it begins, and who it begins with. This is one of those specific areas where Barth’s political theology comes into a more obvious light. To justify that, it would require more room to explain it, than the 500 words I’ve aimed it here.

To fully understand what Barth means in the quote posted above, it’s helpful to look at where in his epic, Church Dogmatics, this falls.

Barth is talking about grace being both invitation and imperative, e.g.: Jesus calls us to follow. He goes on to discuss the responsibility of a human response to the grace of God, on the grounds of the Sermon on the mount and its close, affirming relationship with the Ten Commandments.

Ethics & morality as far as the biblical witness goes is grateful obedience; it is at its heart relational; it is lived out response to grace; to what has been done by the God who chooses to be for us. God commits to us, we are not only given the freedom to follow, but are commanded to do so.

It is not an idea that can be misconstrued by humanity and turned into a universal human principle and as such become a puffed up toxic human achievement empty of God.


Source:

Barth, K. 1942 The Command As The Decision Of God; The Definiteness of the Divine Decision, CD 2/2 The Doctrine of God, Hendrickson Publishers