Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Labour Uses Whips in Smacking Debate

So the Labourites are using the parlimentary version of corporal punishment by bringing out the party Whips to enforce the toeing of the party line on smacking. A few weeks ago we had Sue Bradford unjustifiably linking smacking to child abuse. Now we have Helen Clarke slandering opponents to the bill:

  • First, she's suggesting that opponents to the bill are child abusers:

"Prime Minister Helen Clark yesterday said some bill opponents were "demanding the right to be able to thrash and beat children" (NZ Herald, 28 March 2007)

That's not what the debate is about - I find it hard to understand where that statement and truth meet...

  • Second she's falling back into her old habits in blaming it on the fundies:

"Helen Clark retaliated by attacking "extreme-right-wing fundamentalist groups" that she said were some of the bill's most vocal critics.

"New Zealand has it on its conscience that our rate of child death and injury from violence, including in the home, is appalling," she said.

"It is a stain on our international reputation, and I cannot see how those who are demanding the right to be able to thrash and beat children can possibly then turn around and confess concern about what is happening to our children."

Child death and injury from violence are not what opponents to the bill are seeking. To suggest otherwise is political posturing of the worst sort.

She confirms her consistent anti-Christian bias by labeling Christian opponents as fundamentalists. Its always a good idea to demonise the opposition (especially when they catch you out with previous inconsistent quotes).

Still the so-called fundamentalists are in good company in opposing the bill - 83% of New Zealanders if you believe the latest Colmar Brunton poll.

It's hysteria of the worst sort - lets hope Michael Cullen is right when he says:

"...hysteria would pass once people understood the bill properly"

Let's hope Helen was listening...

Helen Clarke exploring other forms of parental discipline

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Fresh Elvis Sighting

Local newspapers are reporting a fresh sighting of Elvis in New Zealand. Recent sightings have been on the decrease and it had been feared that Elvis really was dead. However, there is new hope for the faithful - Elvis is alive and well in New Zealand. Internal Affairs spokeperson Dick Warr commented, "Its not clear whether "Elvis" has been here in New Zealand for a lengthy period of time or whether this is a flying visit. It is possible that he has assumed another identity and been in a longterm deepcover scenario."

Elvis is reported to be a little older and a little greyer but with the same trademark sweptback hairstyle and tumescent sideburns. Local residents are shocked. "I don't know what to think anymore", said one. Another remarked on a strange coincidence: Elvis Presley and National Superintendent Richard Waugh have never been seen together in the same room.

When asked for a comment, National Secretary of the WMCNZ Brett Jones said, "We're caught in a trap. Its a case of suspicious minds."

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The 2 Year Old

Rhys turned 2 on the weekend. We had a small family party with a Curious George theme. He loves Curious George, although just lately the Wiggles seem to have moved up the pecking order. Its quite a laugh hearing him run through all the characters at high speed with his 2 year old "accent"! "Wagsadog, enryapuss (Henry the Octopus), dothyasaur (Dorothy the Dinosaur) etc

He is an adorable child - here are the official things I love about my boy age 2:

  • He is SMART - he is creative and logical in his interaction and play

  • He is FUNNY - a great sense of hunour and a real show-off

  • He is LOVING - lots of nice hugs and kisses

  • He is ADVENTUROUS - fearless in bodyslamming Daddy and climbing anything

  • He is ARTISTIC - loves drawing, painting, dancing and playing music

  • He is an early PRAY-ER - the things he thanks God for are hilarious - last week it was an elephant he saw at the zoo - he most often prays for Isabella and Hannah - and for the new baby

  • He loves to READ - can't get enough of them books!

  • He is a great CONVERSATIONALIST - sometimes I have no idea what he's talking about but we have these wonderfully animated conversations

  • He is STROPPY - his timeout corner is wearing thin on the carpet - but it shows an independent spirit ;)

I could go on - I already have...

Anyways, we put some photos up which you can access from the Jonescam link on the sidebar.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Sin: Questioning the Original

So Pastor Rhett has been blogging like a madman (the technical phrase is "blogging like a fritchie") over at Rhettspect Along the way the question of original sin came up. Its a subject I've had some interest in since I did a Wesleyan holiness paper a few years back.

What struck me then was the way in which the vast majority of popular theology was rooted in a concept of original sin formulated by a depraved, sexual pervert who went by the name Augustine. Alright so I'm exaggerating, but Augustine (who was a pretty heavy hitter in matters theological) basically overlaid a neo-Platonist gloss on the Judeo-Christian understanding of creation - remember Genesis 1:31? Creation wasn't just good (Gen 1:12) it was VERY good. For Plato, evil was a distortion of being and the body an example of that evil, particularly in its sensuality. Its the Greek stuff that taints the deal here with its dualistic approach to life, the universe and everything - spirit is good; creation is evil. Augustine's big idea was that the passion which accompanies sexual intercourse is the continuing source of sinful pride and depravity in our lives. This condition originated with the sin of Adam and Eve and was passed on to all their descendants with the result that we are all now born in a state of moral depravity or corruption. Now, this makes no sense to me unless they ate the fruit of the tree after a particularly exhausting bout of "oneness"!

So we're all corrupt in our deepest nature. Which is why we sin. Its an inherited moral condition. Which is why this concept of original sin is objectionable. The essence of living in a universe characterised by free will is that we get to be corrupted by our own moral choices rather than the choices of others.

On the other side of the equation is Arminius (phrases like Arminian theology or the Wesleyan-Arminian tradition pick up his name). Arminius defined original sin differently - he saw it less as the presence of corruption as the absence of righteousness:

This was the reason why all men, who were to be propagated from them in a natural way, became . . . devoid [vacui] of this gift of the Holy Spirit or original righteousness. This punishment usually receives the appellation of "a privation of the image of God," and "original sin."

I suppose the withdrawal of Adam and Eve from Eden and God's perpetual presence is consistent with this idea of lack of access to the Holy Spirit. So for Arminius you don't need to be corrupt to sin you just need to lack righteousness and the presence of the Holy Spirit.

This is not a moral definition of original sin. Its more relational ie absence of Holy Spirit and maybe ethical - an inability to choose right consistently.

John Wesley (the founder of the faith stream in which I bathe) finds himself in something of a half way house on this issue. He doesn't go for Augustine's corruption view but he doesn't go as far as Arminius either. The idea that I was introduced to at the lecture was Wesley's understanding of original sin as self-love. So this is a more relational understanding of original sin (its also consistent with Wesley's most enduring thoughts on holiness: that it is essentially a mature love for God and others).

The essence of my fallen human nature is fractured relationship with God and a tendency to choose in my own interests rather than God's. Its not that I am this worthless being with an essentially corrupt nature, albeit that my need of Christ is no less acute because of it.

Which makes sense if you think about the conditions in Eden - God creates a sentient being (with an awareness of self) - this is evidenced by Adam's naming of the animals (can you name anything if you don't have self-awareness?) God also creates Adam with a capacity to love - that being most of the point of the exercise - love being the highest exercise of free will. There is also a clear sense that the first humans enjoyed good things, appreciated beauty and possessed intellectual curiousity (Genesis 3:6) So the choice is laid bare: I can choose to love myself ahead of God if I perceive the payoff to be acceptable. And with a less than perfect appreciation of the benefits, sin happens.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Betting on the Beast

With Rhett raising questions about revelation and end time theology, it may just be a coincidence. Or could it be more than that...

Am I the only one who noticed something very sinister in the news this week?

Helen Clarke went to the Auckland Cup this week and picked the winner. No, this is not some tirade against the PM having a gambling addition or modelling an inappropriate form of leisure to those living on the breadline in NZ.

Its darker even than that. Her winnings totalled exactly $66.60. Coincidence or sinister harbinger?

You be the judge.