Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Religion and Politics

Its interesting watching the US primaries as the parties select their candidates for President. Religion plays a big part for people. So, with Obama polling well in South Carolina midst a black population who some said wouldn't turn out for him, where exactly does he stand on issues of faith?


Its true, Obama's father was a Muslim from Kenya. And yup his middle name is Hussein! Really it is. He was born in Hawaii though so he really is American. But he spent 4 years in Indonesia, that hot bed of Islam, when he was young.

His father however died in 1982 and Obama only saw him once after age 2 when his parents separated. But he wasn't raised in a religious household.

But here's what he said recently to Christianity Today:

I am a Christian, and I am a devout Christian. I believe in the redemptive death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I believe that that faith gives me a path to be cleansed of sin and have eternal life. But most importantly, I believe in the example that Jesus set by feeding the hungry and healing the sick and always prioritizing the least of these over the powerful. I didn't 'fall out in church' as they say, but there was a very strong awakening in me of the importance of these issues in my life. I didn't want to walk alone on this journey. Accepting Jesus Christ in my life has been a powerful guide for my conduct and my values and my ideals.

Makes for fascinating reading, especially in light of the Muslim rumours and email campaigns...

Wouldn't mind that kind of choice here in NZ...

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The People Speak

So the Anti-Anti-Smacking petition is now up to 280,000 signatures. Just 20,000 short of initiating a referendum. And they'll get there for sure - they've gathered 30,000 since it was reported on January 3 that they had 250,000. This over the holiday period in politically apathetic NZ. That's already 8% of the population over 16 years.

There have been only a handful of citizen's initiated referenda since the legislation was passed in 1993. And because they are non binding they have rarely got anywhere. You can be sure this referendum won't happen this year as the government gets to dictate timing.

What annoys me is the (once again) stupid commentary from Sue Bradford:

"Family First is increasingly out of step with public opinion and in fact some of the people who signed this petition for the referendum back before my bill went through may have even changed their minds in the intervening period,"

Um Sue - Family First is supportive of this initiative because they don't see responsible parental smacking as child abuse, but its not their petition. And further, its not out of step with at least 280,000 Kiwis who you don't see as having the requisite intellectual quality to make a clear decision on something like this. I encourage you to continue work on your (Sue likes to make sure we know these are HER bills) "Parental Licensing Bill" that will require a certain IQ and genetic profile before a parental license will be issued.

Then we have Helen Clark's highly manipulative and condescending comment:

"It's really a question for Kiwis - do we keep trying to make our homes a safer place for children or do we abandon the effort? I'm not for abandoning the effort."

Once again, Helen marginalises NZer's who differ from her view of the civic society. If you're for the petition then you're against making our homes a safer place for Kiwis. Well Helen, 280,000 Kiwis already disagree with you.

Fortunately, there is a different kind of referendum happening this year. Its called a general election. This time it will be binding. And it will see the end of Helen Clark. She's due for some time out...

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Holiday Highlights

Just one more day of holiday left and then its down to business with the Aussie Conference. Its been a good time with many highlights:

1. The Snow! Lots of snow and one particularly memorable afternoon of sledding! Couple of injuries to remember it by...

2. Great Mexican food. I'm not sure Michigan is known as the cuisine capital of the world, but there's a great Mexican restaurant here in De Witt - Fiesta Charra...mmmmm - Shrimp Diablo and the Hot and Spicy Burrito both made a lasting impression...

3. Meeting up with Rob and DaNae Reynolds and sharing with the Berkley Hills congregation. Hadn't seen Rob for 2 years and only briefly met DaNae in 2004. Exciting to think they'll be with us in NZ real soon. A very warm response from BH and excitement at what we're doing and trying to do. All in the aftermath of a triple dedication of three "Hinterman" grandchildren (including Raegan).

3. Checking out Impact's new facility and sharing in 3 services there. Good times catching up with Phil S, Natasha and Jim, Cindy W, Jason H and Dave ("the go-to guy"). Also great time checking in with the "kids": Ed Love @ Epic and Jim Bowen @ Encounter.

4. Finally tracking down the elusive Brent Dongell! Good time sharing with bro' Brandon and Chris on NZ opportunities. Best coffee this trip @ the local "Beaners". Apart from the local brewing at chez Hinterman of course...

5. Watermark reunion with the 2 Steves and Nate at the abovementioned Fiesta Charra. Just like old times. Nate had overdosed on his cynicism meds, Thompson needed a haircut and Deur was just as deurty as always...

6. Dinner with "Niccolo" Wood. Reshaping the world in our own image...

7. Hanging with the fam and watching the kids grow in their familiarity with their US family...such a good time for Rhys in particular to make connections he will remember for next time.

8. Reading Pullman's "His Dark Materials" trilogy. I call it research. Will write a review in due course. Major response: what's the problem?

Anyways, its been fun...

Sunday, January 06, 2008

The Emergent Wesley

I was going to blog big today. And then I ended up commenting (again) on Rhett's blog. He's posted some good thoughts recently on the Emergent movement, its recipe for sustainable improvement of the church, longevity and the strange way it engages the consumer culture through massive book and DVD sales (when it seems down on the consumer impulse in other spheres). So if you want to go there and sample the discussion please do!

But it runs in parallel to some other thoughts I've been having that really were heading in the opposite direction. And that is Wesley the Emergent. So much of (original) Wesleyan thought seems to me to run in tandem with the distinctives of the emerging movement. My premise then was along these lines: is this part of what the Wesleyan movement offers to the NZ culture? An ability to engage the culture more intuitively because its not fighting its own roots in doing so?

I went searching for some writing on this idea and found an excellent article by Hal Knight titled John Wesley and the Emerging Church. He makes some great observations about the Emergent movement and draws some compelling comparisons with other reform movements in the past. I noted these particular thoughts which reflect some of the ideas I'd been throwing around on Rhett's blog:

"...the emerging church is driven by an increasing dissatisfaction with the assumptions and practices of churches at home in Western culture, which has largely been governed by the Enlightenment. This is why emerging churches are largely found in North America, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand, where Western culture has long been dominant. Its leaders are deeply committed persons who are creatively envisioning a new postmodern Christianity ...Emerging churches are not responding to a passing fad but to deep, permanent, and pervasive cultural change. Subsequent generations will be shaped to an even greater extent by postmodern culture."

He then outlines 7 features of Emerging churches and comments on their resonance with Wesleyan thought and practice. 2 things occur to me - yeah maybe this is a happy marriage and that Wesleyan thought (the unfrozen kind) is well-positioned to respond to the culture. Secondly, should we be surprised that reform movements bear similar distinctives? After all, humanity tends to remake its mistakes over time and that has certainly been the unswerving practice of the church since it got itself institutionalised!

Keith Drury has put the article in conversation with Wesley himself - this is an interesting and quite amusing effort! Some of the comments are also interesting and maybe even typical which saves me the work of dealing with the wider commentary...

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Joel Osteen: "His Best Heresy Now"

Alright so I'm not endorsing this site - and the commentary is a little cheap shot-ish - but you can't ignore what Joel Osteen says here...

  • Mormons are Christians
  • Details aren't important when it comes to sects
  • Just put me on TV OK?

Oops that was a little cheap shot as well. Can't help but think Osteen is protecting his own ministry here by not getting hung up on the details of theological error. I've blogged on some of his errors here and here. But we should just let it go because he says "Jesus is Lord" (and my sugar Daddy).

See Osteen say it for yourself - "His best heresy now!"

Ken De Peal makes a strong appeal for Osteen to sort himself out. One can only hope he does. When you have a national platform like he does, you need to be more careful right?

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Spending New Years With the CIA

It was New Years Eve, a few minutes to midnight, and I was in a car. I had expected to be with my family but I hadn't counted on the CIA getting involved. The snow was falling as the car sped over the freshly ploughed and salted blacktop. The crisis was over and I would soon be back in the warm embrace of the family home.

It had all started an hour before at the pickup point. Cars gathered with trunks poised to receive their subversive cargos. The others looked like ordinary people - cover stories fitted snuggly like latex undergarments. One plastic tub per car filled to the brim. One look at the contents verified my suspicions - they were serious.

The column of motor vehicles exited the car park and immediately divided into 2 cadres each heading to their own destination. Local hospitals. My driver laughed as he held up a small bag, "This should take care of security". It was an ominous admission.

We arrive. Three units, 3 plastic tubs. Security nowhere to be seen. The mysterious "candy bag" will not be needed after all. We head to our respective targets - codenames for each: Emergency Room, the Lab and Maternity Services. Its party time. The overt ops have begun.

We soon locate our contact at the lab. He seems uncertain. But we are not to be thwarted in our intent. I press the tub into his hands. He looks down at the contents...

"Happy New Year", my fellow operative intones, "We're from Faith church. This is in appreciation of you folks working on a night like tonight. We'll be praying you're not busy." As the lab technician visually catalogued the range of snacks and drinks, he smiled and said, "That's something we can all pray for!"