Been quite a few days in the news! But I will begin with nostalgia, before addressing just one item from the news:
Here is my father’s home town, Shellharbour in 1959, when I turned 16, and here is George Street Sydney a couple of years later:
Those years saw me in deep evangelical mode, as described in posts such as Consider–my world 1952 to 1959. Thoughts on the origins of belief, and Billy Graham dies at 99.
When I finally did go to Sutherland Presbyterian Church, however, even though the minister (Cam Williamson) had been visiting Mum from time to time, it was rather at the invitation of Ross McKay, a Sutherland Primary then Sydney High classmate – and girls were among the attractions. So I joined the Presbyterian Fellowship Association around 1957 or 1958, and around the same time began attending the Inter School Christian Fellowship at Sydney High and reading the Bible via Scripture Union notes obtained there. I had a daggy copy of the Revised Version, a pocket edition that had been Grandpa Christison’s, and I remember being quite sneaky about reading it in bed late at night. My father caught me once and I reacted in such an alarmed way that I now think he thought he had caught me wanking. (That too, of course. I was a pubescent boy after all. But think of the guilt! You have to have lived back then to know about that!) Anyway, he looked almost relieved and told me I could read the Bible if I wanted to.
The climax – no wanking pun intended – was in 1959….
No, I didn’t go forward when the call came. I had already done that at a Fellowship Camp at Otford a month or two earlier. Oh, and in Sydney I was close enough to see the man quite close, comparatively speaking, in at least one of the meetings.
It was all rather amazing. Sydney had never seen such crowds, particularly for a religious gathering. On the last day the overflow filled the stadium next door as well as the SCG itself.
One of my teachers did mutter something about Nuremberg rallies, I recall. We thought that quite out of place at the time.
That was a profoundly emotional experience, that one at Otford. I can see now how I was in a sense set up for it, given the psychology and emotional state I have been indicating, and the fact I was rather a lonely and imaginative child.
And another post:
And my father? Very much impressed by the writings of Colonel Ingersoll, among others. Indeed it was from my father that I first heard the name. But his agnosticism – for such it was – combined with a respect for the ethics of Christianity and for much the churches did, though he, nominally an Anglican, did not really want to have much to do with them. He had seen, it appears, fanaticism in some of his family’s past – though he rarely talked about that or them. He did quote this back at me, though, when after around 1958-9 I became perhaps obnoxiously religious.
Myself when young did eagerly frequent
Doctor and Saint, and heard great argument
About it and about: but evermore
Came out by the same door wherein I went.
With them the seed of wisdom did I sow,
And with mine own hand wrought to make it grow:
And this is all the Harvest that I reap’d —
I came like water, and like water, and like wind I go.
And my Grandfather Christison, though the son of a woman of faith for whom he had enormous love and respect, was also truly an agnostic, at least as far as the institution of the church and the Holy Scriptures were concerned. He loved his Dickens.
“…while I clean my boots keep a eye upon your mother now and then, and if you see any signs of more flopping, give me a call. For, I tell you,” here he addressed his wife once more, “I won’t be gone agin, in this manner. I am as rickety as a hackney-coach, I’m as sleepy as laudanum, my lines is strained to that degree that I shouldn’t know, if it wasn’t for the pain in ’em, which was me and which somebody else, yet I’m none the better for it in pocket; and it’s my suspicion that you’ve been at it from morning to night to prevent me from being the better for it in pocket, and I won’t put up with it, Aggerawayter, and what do you say now!”
Growling, in addition, such phrases as “Ah! yes! You’re religious, too. You wouldn’t put yourself in opposition to the interests of your husband and child, would you? Not you!” and throwing off other sarcastic sparks from the whirling grindstone of his indignation, Mr. Cruncher betook himself to his boot-cleaning and his general preparation for business.
A Tale of Two Cities
On “flopping” he once told me that when you see someone praying you should watch out for the knife in the other hand. He also deconstructed for me, as we might say now, quite a few of the stories in the Bible…
The following is not mine, but there is nothing in it that I would not have heard in Sutherland and in the Sydney University Evangelical Union in the early 1960s:
My response to the question is what I believe God’s plan is for all sinners, according to my understanding of my Bible teachings, specifically 1 Corinthians 6: 9-10:
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor the drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.
I do not know the person who asked the question, but that didn’t matter. I believed he was looking for guidance and I answered him honestly and from the heart. I know a lot of people will find that difficult to understand, but I believe the Bible is the truth and sometimes the truth can be difficult to hear.
I think of it this way: you see someone who is about to walk into a hole and have the chance to save him. He might be determined to maintain his course and doesn’t want to hear what you have to say. But if you don’t tell him the truth, as unpopular as it might be, he is going to fall into that hole. What do you do?
Yes, that is Israel Folau in April 2018. The Tongan-Australian Rugby player has just got himself into much hot water over this:
As in the post I just cited, really he is just quoting St Paul, but…
What do you think? Does he deserve to be sacked? Is it an expression of hate, or something else? Is this contrarian view right? Though I do baulk at the word “totalitarian”.
Update 15 April
Actually, that last cited link is a farrago of cliches, though the questions I raise remain valid to me. Interesting to read this NZ Christian minister: Izzy’s Little List:
While personally I totally reject Mr Folau’s certainty that all unrepentant gays are destined to hell, I suspect Izzy’s main fault was uncritical acceptance of the teaching from a whole series of conservative Church leaders, and further, I suspect he was unaware just how out of step his Church’s teaching is with modern mainstream Christianity.
In short, a majority in the wider community now no longer accept that all ancient Bible verses represent universal and timeless truths that should apply to all people for all time.
I accept Izzy Folau was quite correct that even St Paul in his letter to the Corinthians not only consigns unrepentant gays to hell but also suggests a similar fate for the sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, thieves, drunkards, swindlers and the greedy (and those with haughty eyes!!). But don’t forget that if we accept all other New Testament passages, presumably we might have to question the rather generous pay for sportsmen like …ahem….Folau, which might make Izzy himself rather difficult to squeeze through the eye of a needle along with Bishop Brian Tamaki and most of the TV preachers of the mega Churches even as they echo Folau’s same concern.