Tuesday, March 20, 2007

International Cricket Council have a culture of elitism

Ireland celebrate their victory over Pakistan on St Patrick's day.

I love the game of cricket. It has to be said though that people in North America have always thought of cricket as a posh English game. As an Aussie I know this is not true, but there is still some truth in this accusation. The English once had a great empire. In this once great empire they spread their notions of class division around the world. England and Australia were the only test playing nations in cricket for a long time.

The first test match was played between England and Australia on March 15, 1877. South Africa played their first test in 1889. West Indies did not play a test until 1928 and New Zealand not until 1930. Even in the early days of international cricket it was an elitist club. Until the 1980s there were only 7 test playing nations and only three more have been added in the last 30 years.

A lot of credit must be given to the ICC for their efforts to develop the game among "associate nations" in the last ten years. There are now two international competitions for Associate nations, both in the one day and four day versions of the game. These two competitions are carefully supervised by the ICC and games are given One Day International status or first class status for the four day games. The top six associate nations Kenya, Scotland, Ireland, Canada, Bermuda and Netherlands competed in the 2006-07 Intercontinental Cup (four day first class games). But only games played within this Intercontinental Cup are given first class status. Then at the end of 2007 these countries will lose their first class status again and have to requalify in 2008. The winner of the 2006-07 Intercontinental Cup will not be given test status. At least there is a system to qualify as a temporary first class country, but the ICC reserves the right to confer test status, when they see fit. They have set no guidelines in place. They have promised Kenya that they will receive test status in the near future, but not even given a date when this will happen.

Many of the old boys of the World Cricket Club have said that the new boys should not be playing in the World Cup. But teams such as Kenya, Bangladesh, Canada and Ireland have all beaten the heavy weights at the top level. Surely it is clear that all these teams need is more exposure to professional level cricket and they will improve in leaps and bounds. Yet the only opportunity they have is once every four years. It will take a long time for them to improve at this rate.

FIFA have been known for their own snobbery at times, making it hard for Australia to qualify for the world cup of soccer; also allocating a lot more places to European nations and far fewer to African and Asian nations. But at least FIFA does not discriminate between the status of teams. If Solomon Islands play Bhutan in an international game it has the same status as when Germany play Brazil.

The ICC need to accept that it is time to remove barriers to the development of cricket. Countries such as Ireland or Canada may have to wait many years before they can achieve test status. In the mean time they could lose many potential players to other more popular sports. If a young player does not have the opportunity to play their sport at the highest level they may quickly choose another sport instead. John Davison, the current captain of Canada had said that Canada needs to be playing "professional" cricket. He has not been specific about this to avoid controversy, but it is clear that what he says is true, they should not be shut out of the elite Test club any longer.

Ireland is the success story of the World Cup so far. They have drawn with Zimbabwe (a test nation) and knocked Pakistan out of the world cup. They claim that they intend to beat West Indies in their final group game. Ireland is a country that, given the opportunity and exposure could be winning test matches against the heavy weights within ten years. But as things stand they have no guarantee that they will even have test status within ten years.

The comments of some cricket leaders, including Australia's captain Ricky Ponting, that the "minnows" should not be at the world cup is unhelpful. It is ironic that some one of the likes of Ricky Ponting- a working class Australian should be making such comments. But this is a result of the ICC's culture of elitism, that he subconsciously fell into. It is because of this culture of elitism that Bob Woolmer felt such shame when his Pakistan side lost to Ireland. It is true that he had been under a lot of stress anyway, and I am sure that the pressure from Pakistan was a big part of this. But it does not help that, due to the fact that Ireland are only an "Associate" nation, that the shame was greater. This was a contributing factor to his death, likely a heart attack, although this has not been confirmed.

The six Associate nations who have qualified for the world cup should all be given test status. This does not mean that the heavy weights have to play them very often at all, but there needs to be a freedom for countries to invite who they choose, to play on their own soil. Otherwise, what incentive do these countries have but to play a handful of world class games, another 4 years from now?

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Silverchair are back!

I was at the iTunes Australia website and noticed that one of my favourite Aussie bands have made a comeback. Silverchair. I have always been a Silverchair fan, ever since their "Tomorrow" hit back in 1994. Back then they were accused of being "Nirvana in pyjamas" as they were only 16 and people thought they had an unoriginal sound. I took no notice and said they would be big. Today, they are commonly recognised as the biggest band in Australia. There has however been a long hiatus since their last album "Diorama" back in 2002. Daniel Johns went off ona side project tangent called the "Dissociatives."
His two high school mates and band members may not have seen this as a snub, and probably enjoyed the opportunity to take in some extra Newcastle surf. The question remained however that there was no guarantee that Daniel Johns was coming back. Without Daniel Johns there could be no Silverchair. So I must say that I am glad he has not snubbed his mates and has gotten back together with them.
Mateship being one of my core values, I didn't even give the Dissociatives a look in. But I am excited about the new Silverchair release "Young Modern" due out on April 5th.
For now, give their new single "Straight Lines" a listen. Daniel Johns lyrics have always been unsettled and disturbed, such as in his 1999 song "Ana's song" :

"And you're my obsession
I love you to the bones
And Ana wrecks your life
Like an Anorexia life"

It is well known that Daniel Johns has struggled with Anorexia and the like in his battle with self esteem. Daniel Johns has at times been the subject of prayer in my life. That is why his latest lyrics peak my curiosity:

"Wake me up strong in the morning
Walking in a straight line
Lately I’m a desperate believer
I’m walking in straight line"

Could this be the start of Daniel Jonns' journey toward Jesus? I pray so. Maybe you will too.

The song has received great acclaim and is currently #1 on the radio charts and iTunes. I rather enjoy the music. Tune into Triple J and have a listen.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

What people think of Aussies

I just read an article on News.com.au. I had to laugh at the in your face rhetoric of the author who was counter arguing against the criticisms of an English journalist. Persoanally I don't care what the world thinks of Australia. Every country is misunderstood until some one takes the time to live there. The greater the cultural gap, the longer it takes to understand a new culture.

Anyway have a read:

We're not like Neighbours, By Anita Quigley
March 14, 2007 12:00am

THERE is a well-known newspaper term used to describe where unwanted stories go - they are spiked.

A story is spiked when it is deemed not newsworthy, badly written and researched, or if there is simply not one spare column centimetre left in the paper to run it.

This week I discovered another spiked which, according to its mission statement, is "an independent online phenomenon dedicated to raising the horizons of humanity by waging a culture war of words against misanthropy, priggishness, prejudice, luddism, illiberalism and irrationalism in all their ancient and modern forms".

All it needed to say is that it is a website at times dedicated to publishing rubbish written by British social commentator Patrick West.

His latest drivel Life in Oz: Nothing like Neighbours is most certainly worthy of being spiked.

West pontificates: "Answer me this - if things are so great Down Under, why do so many Aussies leave?"

He then attempts to answer his question: "It's because Australia is not the paradise it is portrayed to be on Neighbours. One of my Aussie colleagues is often asked why she chose to live in miserable, rainy Britain ... her answer was simply: Australia is nothing like Neighbours. It's more like Kath and Kim."

West continues: "She went on to explain that the land Down Under is not populated by the hearty, the gregarious and the welcoming, but by white trash ... Australians are some of the most coarse, racist people on earth, as Kath and Kim rightly portrays.

"For example, an American girl who seeks courtship will tentatively ask you for a meal and weeks of getting to know you; an Australian girl will come up to you at the Walkabout bar in London's densely Aussie-populated Shepherds Bush and inquire, 'Would you like a f...?"'

Quite frankly, I'm relieved Australia is nothing like Neighbours, with the likes of busybody Harold popping in and out of your home all day.

Give me Kath and Kim (who are not racists, by the way) any day.

Unsophisticated, perhaps, to Londoners -but racist? How? When?

Strangely, West makes no mention of English soccer fans banned from Europe because of their racism and violence over the years.

Ever heard of an Australian sports supporter being banned overseas?

We all know Kath and Kims. Every city has them - New York's live in Queens, London's reside in Essex and ours in Melbourne's Fountaingate.

Yet however they may dress or speak, most Kath and Kims would be the first to support their neighbours and complete strangers - more so than the sophisticated inner-city slickers (like West) that look down their nose at them.

It is also a gross over-generalisation to say Australia is full of white trash.

But West's argument collapses when he says all the "clever" Australians flee to Britain.

"Because despite all of their protestations against Barry Humphries' character Sir Les Patterson, Oz's own farting, swearing reprobate cultural attache, Australia remains a philistine country," he writes.

"Think about it. Who do the Americans celebrate as national heroes? George Washington, George Gershwin, Ernest Hemingway, Franklin D. Roosevelt and so on.

"We Brits revere Chaucer, Shakespeare, Elgar, Nelson and Churchill. And who do the Australians put on their postal stamps? Ned Kelly, a murderous bandit who famously put a metal dustbin on his head and tried to kill coppers."

And to think all this time I thought modern Britain worshipped Posh and Becks, reality TV stars such as Big Brother's resident racist Jade Goody, and the articulate Gallagher brothers.

But West, who is also the author of Conspicuous Compassion - which was reviewed in Britain's The Times (by one of his own countrymen) as "utterly devoid of insight ... nonsense ... pandering to the fashionable pull your socks up, preachy attitude" - continues with more gibberish.

"This is why all the most cerebral Australians, such as Clive James, Germaine Greer, John Pilger and Peter Singer, have lived for so long either in the UK or the USA. They all wanted to get away from the land of Kath and Kim," he adds.

How does he explain then how England got Pete Andre and Jason Donovan? What West should have said is not necessarily the smartest Aussies flee to Britain, perhaps just the most opportunistic.

And what he doesn't acknowledge is that your Clives and Greers are caught in a time warp. They think Australia is still the Australia they left decades ago, ensuring most of what they say is irrelevant.

As for Singer? The US can keep the academic who in 2001 stated that "mutually satisfying activities" of a sexual nature may sometimes occur between humans and animals.

The immigration department granted 28,821 working holiday visas for Brits in 2005-06. In the same period a further 32,152 UK residents gained permanent residency here.

For "the most coarse, racist people on earth"' we've sure got something going for us that Poms love.

Maybe West could come and investigate in person. I know some welcoming B&Bs in Fountaingate where he could stay.

* Anita Quigley is joint Australian/British passport holder who lived in London for six years.

Monday, March 12, 2007

I'm a born again ANZAC

In continuing with my little personal revelation- I'm excited! I'm excited that God loves me and loves my nation. I'm excited that at the birth of my people group that he planted a sign to himself. I'm excited that the Easter Story is hiding inside of the ANZAC story. I'm comforted to know that even if my people forget who God is, that he has not forgotten them, and that the answer is right in front of them if they will only look. It has been said that ANZAC is becoming the new religion of Australians; this was something I realised myself, but others have noted this too.

Imagine- An ocker bloke telling the stories of our God in Aussie language, in the pub with his mates, around the barbie, over the campfire.

Imagine- A half hour tv show of Australian stories (from our legends) with redemptive analogies. Imagine that this same tv show told stories from the Bible, but set in a very distinctively Australian way, with Australian actors in an Australian context and in Australian language.

Imagine- Theatre companies telling these same stories on stage with actors.

Imagine- Radio sketches of these same stories.

Look for creative ways to communicate the gospel with authentically Australian methods. God has always loved Australia, every single Aboriginal, every single convict, every single free settler.

Friday, March 09, 2007

The gospel in my heart language

I have studied the Bible in a tertiary institution. I have taken exegesis classes. This helps me understand a complicated and ancient text, so that I can attempt to apply it to my own life. It also helps me attempt to explain the Bible in terms that others will understand.

The Bible that many of us read is hard to understand. A big reason for this, is that many of us are not reading it in our "heart language." Eugene Peterson went a long way to putting the text of the Bible into modern language that we can all understand. This indeed is powerful, but is still lacking in something for this Aussie.

In Bible college I also took many classes in the discipline of "Intercultural Studies." I have much to thank my old prof Les Henson for as he challenged us to understand culture from the inside (an emic perspective). Les and his wife spent many years in West Papua among the Momina people. He grappled with the issues of communicating the gospel in culturally relevant ways. Today Les continues to grapple with these issues as he lives in 21st century Australia.

Now that I live in Siberia, I am grappling with these issues too. I have realised for a long time that I would need to understand the stories of the people I want to reach before I could begin to tell them the stories of the Bible. As I learnt their stories, I would begin to understand their forms and then be able to tell Bible stories in the same form. But I had always thought of this some how through a literate world view. A literate worldview is the one I adhere to. I am a literate person. I have two tertiary qualifications to my name. This puts me in the "highly literate" category of society.

Many people in western society do not fit into the "highly literate" category. They learnt to read in school and perhaps even went on to university, but they no longer prefer to pick up a book. They will possibly read a magazine or newspaper. I recently watched Andrew Denton's interview with Steve Irwin (shown on ABC's Enough Rope in September 2006 after Steve Irwin passed away). Steve Irwin, joked that he hated plane trips because he hated the idea of reading for 14 hours. He joked that he would pick up a surf-mag but only for 20 minutes. Steve Irwin, great Australian that he was, was most likely a "semi-literate" individual. He was able to read, but really did not enjoy it. There are a suprisingly high number of semi-literate people in western society, who even though they can read, prefer not to.

Let me take this one step further. I am a highly literate person (in English, but I have such a long way to go in Russian), and I do enjoy reading a good book or an intelligent National Geographic article, but I still enjoy watching movies or listening to the radio. I enjoy "orality." "Orality" is a world view that many in the world hold. They need to hear stories presented in an oral form for them to make any sense at all. Now I can understand a literate story and I can also understand an oral story. But I really enjoy the oral format.

There is a post-literate world developing in the West. There is now so much available in multi-media formats. People can carry their 80 gig iPods around and watch any snippet of video and show these to their friends any time they want. The need to communicate things in writing is decreasing as video technology increases and becomes easier to utilise.

Recently I have been reading about Oral story telling theories. A paper was put together at the 2004 Lausanne conference for World Evangelization. It has been published as a book: Making disciples of oral learners. I have appreciated the book, but there were a couple things in it that annoyed me. They insist on using the term "storying" as if they have come up with a new concept. Storytelling is an ancient concept. If we already have a word, why try to invent a new one? I could quite confidently say that Les found ways to tell stories to the Momina people, and he didn't need an official mission term coined to be able to do this. The paper has prompted a lot of thinking for me and the ideas have been churning around inside.

Following the reading of this book we were able to make a trip down to Khakassia where some Germans are ministering to a Siberian people called the Khakas. Our German friends are keen to take the Khakas people they know through the stories of the Bible- Creation, Spirit world etcetera, to challenge their world view. I agree with this concept in principle. The methods used were highly formal for my liking though. The material being used was the chronological bible teaching material from New Tribes. I sat in on one of the sessions. One of the people present read some verses from Genesis, but I could tell that this was uncomfortable for her. Even though she could read, I would have to say that she was "semi-literate." The formal nature of the course was not entirely helpful for these Khakas people. One of the questions put forward to the them was "What did God create the world from?" The desired answer is "nothing." God created the universe out of nothing. This concept was outside of the world view of these Khakas people. One guy kept saying that God created the world "from earth"; i.e from the soil, from the dirt. The concept of "from nothing" was outside of his world view. But the formal nature of the New Tribes course would not allow this man to really grapple with this concept. Two minutes later, my German friend was giving the answer "from nothing." But I was not convinced that this concept stuck in for our Khakas friend.

"Making disciples of oral learners" argues that a story needs to be told in the form that a culture uses to tell stories, for a world view to be truly challenged. I could see quite plainly that this was not happening. The stories were not being told in the Khakas form and not in the Khakas language.

I have some friends who are planning to develop stories for the Altai culture. They desire to see an Altai person telling the stories of the Bible in an Altai context in the Altai language. It is thought that these stories will then challenge the Altai world view to make room for their Creator and Saviour.

Let me bring these ideas back to home for a bit. I contend that Christianity in Australia, is not very Australian. Christianity first came to Australia in the context of the Anglican and then Catholic churches. These are very institutionalised forms of religion. It is no secret that Australians do not enjoy insitutions and do not enjoy authority. The gospel has not been contextualised (very minimally at best) into Australian culture. Modern day Christianity in Australia borrows much from American culture. The most successful church, numbers wise in Australia is Hillsong in Sydney. Many of their doctrines are based upon the dangerous concepts of the Benny Hinn mob (this can be traced back through Kenneth Copeland, Kenneth Hagin and E.W. Kenyon right back to the New Thought movement of the late 1800s; Kenyon was a contemporary and borrowed many ideas from Phineas Quimby and from the more popular metaphysicist and founder of Christian Science- Mary Baker Eddy). But I contend that this is a passing fad and that the true gospel has yet to be communicated to the Australian people. The gospel that Hillsong preach is known as the "health and wealth" gospel. It is a gospel that says that God wants us to be rich. This is not what the Bible teaches and it is a tempting trap to fall into, both for the preacher and the listener.

I sit here today with some excitement inside of me. I just completed an online transaction for the second installment of The Aussie Bible. When I first read the Aussie Bible, my heart was warmed and the Bible came alive to me in a way it never has before, despite all of the exegesis I did at Bible college. Kel Richards has found a way to put the stories of the Bible into my "heart language." And he has done this using some wonderful storytelling (the Aussie in me rejects the "storying" term) skills. Wycliffe and the like spend enormous resources on translating the Bible into the "heart language" of a people group. It occurred to me when I first read the Aussie Bible, that this had never before been done in the Australian language. I am so excited that Kel Richards has gone on to tell some of the stories in Genesis. This gives me hope that there will be many more installments.

My family and I are off to Turkey in April for a conference. We will have two weeks holiday before the conference and a car to drive around in. It occurred to me that Gallipoli is in Turkey. For those who are not Australians, Gallipoli is a site near the Dardanelles where soldiers from Australia and and New Zealand (and incidentally Newfoundland too) fought in World War 1. They fought on their own without troops from the mother country. They fought in a battle that they had no hope of winning. Yet the diggers ("digger" is Aussie for a solider, due to the fact that soldiers dug trenches in World War 1), fought with everything they had. The battle is thought to have helped turn the tide in World War 1. For Australians, this was a very significant moment in our history. World War 1 was the first war that Australians went to as citizens of an independent Australia. (The legal birth of Australia was January 1, 1901). Gallipoli became a powerful symbol for Australians. Today the battle of Gallipoli is remembered every year on ANZAC day, April 25th. (ANZAC- Australian and New Zealand Army Corps.) Gallipoli was the spiritual birth place of the Australian nation. Every year many Australians make a pilgrimage to Gallipoli in Turkey for the ANZAC dawn service that is held there.

The ANZAC spirit is a fascinating phenomenon in Australian culture. For many years the diggers would march to remember their fallen mates. The central theme of ANZAC services became "Greater love has no man than he lay down his life for his friends." This is a direct quote from Jesus in John 15:13 told shortly before his crucifixion. The original diggers would have known where this reference came from. But many Australians today do not know. Instead many Australians would see this as an ANZAC quote.

As the diggers from World War 1 have all died out now, the ANZAC day services have taken on a new level. Some thought that as the diggers died out and stopped marching that ANZAC day would wane in significance. It was especially their day after all. But something interesting happened. The children and granchildren of the original ANZACs began to march in their place, even wearing their old medals. A legend had been born. The ANZAC legend had sunk deeply into the Australian psyche. It represents the spiritual birth of our nation.

For me it is fascinating to realise that God was present at the spiritual birth of a new nation. As missiologists have studied cultures they have looked for redemptive analogies to explain the gospel. Don Richardson has explained these concepts in his books "The Peace Child" and "Eternity in their hearts." The central theme to the event marking Australia's spiritual birth is mateship and "Greater love has no man than he lay down his life for his friends." This is exactly what Jesus has done for us. As Australia begins to reject institutionalised Christianity, Christmas and Easter are becoming less important to Australians. But interestingly ANZAC day is becoming more and more important and significant to Australian culture. A national religion is being born in the ANZAC spirit. Is this national religion a bad thing? Doesn't it take the focus away from Jesus? I would argue, no it doesn't. Australians are forgetting who God is, but we are not giving up this important shrine in our culture. In many ways ANZAC shrines are the same as the shrine to the "Unknown god" that Paul discovered in Athens in the book of Acts. The ANZAC story is Australia's redemptive analogy. God loved the Australian nation enough to make sure that even at the very birth of the Australian nation there would be signs that point to him. This is mind boggling stuff to me.

I am convinced that the gospel has not really been told in the Australian language or through Australian stories. Australians don't need some big show to hear the gospel. We need to be told it in fair dinkum language over a barbie with a tinny in our hands. We need to be told that Jesus is the true mate who laid his life down for us. The gospel needs to be contextualised into Australian culture. This needs to be done in the form of stories that Australians understand, such as Banjo Patterson used to do in "Clancy of the overflow."

Kel Richards has begun to do this, and the secular public loves his work. There are some knockers from within the church. Sadly I think that they have missed the ball altogether. Their faith is stuck within the insitutions of the old world. But I am excited that some keys are coming together to communicate the gospel properly in Australia. I am convinced that when Australians hear and understand the gospel in their heart language that millions will respond. Up until now preachers have been entering the house through the window. If we stop and take the time we can enter the hearts of Australians through the door. The secular press has written about the Aussie Bible and it has received the thumbs up. Check out these articles:

Aussie Bible? No worries, mate
'Strine' slang Bible a hit in secular Australia

These thoughts are still fresh in my mind. I will learn more over the coming years as I begin to try these ideas in Siberia. But as I learn I will be encouraging people I know in Australia to try the same ideas in our 21st century Australian culture. I am also hopeful that I will make it to Gallipoli, even if it is not on ANZAC day when I am in Turkey, and somehow understand my own people group better.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

God is in the cardboard box

There are many Bono bashers out there, but I am not one of them. I am an unabashed fan of U2 and an unabashed fan of Bono the man. Bono is spending his celebrity currency wisely to influence Americans (especially- but Europeans too) of the plight of African nations and their peoples. There are many who feel that Bono does not give enough to charity. These critics are wrong, Bono does give to charity, but simply does not boast of these acts. But more imporantly Bono knows that it is not enough to just throw money at the problems in Africa. To quote Bono in his latest speech "this is not a charity issue, as many in this room know charity, this is a justice issue..."
Bono gave a speech when he accepted the Chairman's award at the NAACP in Los Angeles recently. Bono's speech is characteristic of his passion for African nations suffering the plight of AIDS, Debt and unfair Trade restrictions. Bono highlights for us the true nature of God. I especially appreciated his exhortation, "this is not a burden, this is an adventure..." Bono is not seeking to condemn people for not being involved in the fight to end extreme poverty, he is seeking to enlist people to be involved in a very serious yet, positive cause. I appreciate his positive approach.

You can view his speech here.