Sunday, December 30, 2007

Three things I want

I brought up the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman today for discussion. Along with other members of our Sunday afternoon group we read this story and tried to look at it from a fresh perspective. One thing that stood out to us was that Jesus did not go into the town of Sychar and preach to the masses. Instead, he waited by the well to speak with an outcast woman. He waited to speak to someone who was desperate to believe.
One of the the quotes that stuck out for me in "the Organic Church" was that the people who make the best soil for the gospel are the people with the most crap in their lives. The Samaritan woman from Sychar had a lot of crap in her life (go have a read of the story), and it was because of this that she had a dramatic conversion to follow Jesus, "He told me everything I ever did."
This woman of Sychar was a key to reaching the rest of her community. They all took notice when she believed and then many more also believed. Even before they came out to hear Jesus, at her invitation (not his), Jesus told his disciples to look up and see the harvest, presumably because a mass of them were walking toward them at that very moment.
There is a harvest in front of us, whether that is here on the Eurasian continent or in North America or Australia. We often look in the wrong places, and often take the gospel to people who do not want to hear. We need to plant the seed in good soil (that is fertilised with lots of crap), and there will be much fruit.
There were three things that stood out to me: I want Jesus' living water; I want to worship him in Spirit and Truth (not bound by Mt Gerazim, Jerusalem or Crossway Mega church on Springvale Rd as a location); and I want to see a great Harvest. I am crying out to God for these three things, and my cries are becoming deeper.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Bourne Ultimatum

We just finished watching the Bourne Ultimatum. (Yeah, I know, seriously behind the times here in Siberia.) This has been a magnificent series of movies. Most times sequels are very disappointing, but not in the case of this intrigue. The action and suspense are non stop. I was left still wanting more at the end. It appeared to me that this is the end of the series, but in the movie the conspirators said "If it goes south we'll hang it on Landy and just start again." So will Webb fight them another day? 4.5 stars.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Censored again

I often read or to keep up with news and events in Australia and around the world. Many of the articles on allow comments to be added, and from time to time I have done this. Not every comment of mine has included a reference to faith, but some of them have. Invariably, every time that faith in God is mentioned, my comment is either not posted at all or censored.

The latest example was in respose to this article about aliens. The article refers to a split in the SETI research community. In recent years signals have been beamed into deep space to try to contact aliens. Some scientists feel that this could pose a potential risk, that if aliens receive the message and they are evil, then earth is put at risk.

Anyway, I followed this up with a comment. This is the comment that was included:

In my opinion the search for extra-terrestrial life, is based upon a subconscious desire that there is something or someone "out there." It is based in a fear of us being all alone as the human race.

However, my comment went further. "We are not alone though. There is a loving God who is both "out there" and "right here". I am not even saying anything about the characteristics of this God. You can find this out for yourself."

This was a very tame comment. I was not pushing religious beliefs on others, rather throwing a different opinion into the debate. Obviously were somehow put off by my mention of God. To me it is quite clear that they are not interested in free debate. Yet they still allow comments about religion being the cause of problems etc. Is this the future of Australian society, strong censorship against religious free speech?

Friday, December 14, 2007

Musical chairs in the Australian Football League

Like any good Aussie, I like my vegemite, Aussie rules footy and a cold beer. I reacted in shock when I heard back in June from a visiting Australian that crowds of 50 000 have been know to attend soccer league matches in Melbourne. That would certainly make for some culture shock upon my return to Melbourne. If you can see that I don't like the idea of one language dominating the whole world, you can also guess that I don't like the idea of one sport dominating the whole world. Soccer is so mundane and uncreative. I lament the fact the ice hockey is greatly decreasing in popularity in Russia and that young guys can be seen running around playing soccer in the snow. Why are we giving into this world deception in Australia too. Anyway, I take solace in the fact that the A-League only have 7 teams in Australia, and they are too afraid to play in winter because they know they would not get crowds during footy season.

So for now footy is still strong, and the AFL is working hard to keep it that way. The AFL are on a new expansion drive. They can see that Aussie rules is growing in popularity at that the market on the Gold Coast and in Sydney is ready for new teams. I am excited to hear this, and would love to see the AFL keep growing.

It is a tough question to know how many teams can really flourish (not just survive) in the AFL. If Adelaide is taken as an example, it may provide a rough mathematical formula for how many teams a population can support. Adelaide has a population of roughly 1 million people and comfortable supports two AFL teams. But could they support more? The Adelaide Crows have 47 000 members, but have had to cap membership there because Football Park in Adelaide can not hold more than 47 000 people. If there was a larger ground, Adelaide could surely have more members. If there was a third team, they could surely attract members can not get a membership with the Crows. So Adelaide could potentially support 3 or more teams. They do however easily support 2 teams. This is a ratio of roughly 500 000 people to one AFL team. The ratio is similar in Perth. Perth has two AFL teams and a population of roughly 1 million.

If this same formula is applied to Melbourne, how many teams can Melbourne support? Melbourne has a population of 3.7 million people. There are currently 9 AFL teams in Melbourne. At least two of these teams are severely struggling to survive. Melbourne used to have 11 teams. (I am not counting Geelong which has a separate geographical supporter base.) These 11 teams were supported by a then smaller population. As the competition has gone national (the best players from SA and WA always came to Vicotoria in the past) Melbourne has been less capable of supporting so many teams due to a diluted player base. It is my hypothesis that Melbourne can currently only comfortably support 7 teams, at an average of roughly 500 000 people per team. According to these crude calculations, two teams need to leave Melbourne.

The AFL have indicated that they would like to add teams in Sydney and the Gold Coast by 2010 or 2011. They have financially propped up teams in Melbourne for a while now. It would seem logical that the two weakest clubs in Melbourne, (Footscray) Western Bulldogs and (North Melbourne) Kangaroos, should be the teams to relocate. Both clubs dropped their suburb name some time back to broaden their supporter appeal and even to prepare in advance for a possible relocation. They could easily have been the Gold Coast Kangaroos and the Western Bulldogs (but in Sydney instead of Melbourne).

But the Kangaroos recently rejected a $100 million proposal to relocate by 2010 to the Gold Coast. They asked the AFL for an extra 12 months grace in making their decision. But the truth is that (North Melbourne) have been deliberating over a decision to relocate for years. They have flirter with Canberra, Sydney and the Gold Coast. The AFL have seen that the Gold Coast market is ripe and wanted to strike while the iron is hot. But the parochialism in the North Melbourne tribe has got in the way of common sense. They rejected the AFL proposal, and instead now intend to change their name back to North Melbourne again, putting to death any plans to relocate.

Fitzroy were smart to get out while they did. Especially as they avoided a take over (merge) by North Melbourne that would have ended in eventual death of the new merger anyway. In relocating to Brisbane the Fitzroy Lions kept much of their identity. Melbourne based Lions supporters enjoyed three successive premierships in this decade, and will be sure to see more success in the future. They can relax knowing their club will never die. In the game of musical chairs, Fitzroy and South Melbourne are the winners. They got the best pickings for future growth markets in the AFL. They both have steady memberships and large attendances at their games.

In the continued game of musical chairs there are still some potential markets to be filled, but they will never be quite as good as first cab off the rank in Sydney or Brisbane. North Melbourne have missed their chair. I think it is safe to say that North Melbourne's life expectancy is now limited. Their future is either a permanent relegation to the VFL or extinction altogether. Since their members have shown that survival of the North Melbourne name is more important than anything else, they should probably take the opportunity to drop down to the VFL before they do go bankrupt. When a 17th team from the Gold Coast does enter the AFL, they days will be numbered to less than 10 years. (They could go back to being the North Melbourne Shinboners and give up the Kangaroos name for an AFL club.)

Will the Western Bulldogs be stupid enough to miss their opportunity in Sydney. This is yet to be seen. But if they let their hearts rule over their minds, then they too will sink.

I still think that Tasmania and Canberra can host teams in the future. Tasmania has a population of 500 000. If games were split between Hobart and Launceston then most of that population would have the chance to see 5 games a year. But the AFL must first expand further in the bigger cities. This will increase their overall market share. The AFL will become a stronger brand name than the NRL or Rugby Super 14 or the A-League in soccer. When the AFL is clearly the strongest brand in Australia (it is not far from this now) then some of the smaller markets will also be able to support a team.

I am looking forward to an 18 team competition. I don't see how a two conference system could work well though. It would seem illogical to split the Victorian teams into different conferences. But this is a topic for another day.

North Melbourne have been foolish to give up their chance of relocation. The clock is now ticking on their existence. Footscray should not make the same mistake when their chance comes. If the bell comes tolling for St Kilda or Richmond, then neither should they.

Tower of Babel and linguistics

The topic of the tower of Babel came up in comments so I wanted to comment on it further. There are some references in chapter 10 that speak of multiple languages, before the story of the tower of Babel.

Descendants of Japheth
Genesis 10:5 From these the maritime peoples spread out into their territories by their clans within their own nations, each with its own language.

Descendants of Ham
Genesis 10:20 These are the sons of Ham by their clans and languages, in their territories and nations.

Descendants of Shem
Genesis 10:31 These are the sons of Shem by their clans and languages, in their territories and nations.

The Genesis writer took the time to explain that the descendants of Noah's sons all had different languages. It is unclear precisely when the story of the tower of Babel is set. Obviously in the same era. But there is nothing indicating that the table of nations in chapter ten comes after the tower of Babel. Genesis up until this point comes in a roughly chronological order (i.e each major story happens after the previous- Creation, Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Noah etc.)

Genesis 11:1 says that the whole world had a common language and speech, however it does not necessarily mean that every individual spoke this tongue- although they may have. We need to escape our monolingual world view, and imagine that the people at the tower of Babel already spoke more than one language. I.e they spoke the common language and they spoke their own clan's language.

My proposed (yet unprovable I know) hypothesis is that the common language was confused at Babel and then people could only use their clan's language after that point. Following this there was far less incentive to have a common capital in the world, and so the clans went their own way.

To me this indicates that multiple languages is a good thing. We often look at the tower of Babel as evidence that many languages is a bad thing. I don't see the result of Babel as a curse. It was discipline but not a curse. In each of the earlier stories involving people in Genesis, God gave out a punishment which was then immediately followed by Grace. So, I see that God was showing grace to the nations by forcing them into a place where they forged their own identity. The tower of Babel was dangerous because it was a clear possibility for outright control by a human being over the human race, which would make it harder for people to reach God. God removed this barrier when he destroyed the tower project.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Are you a monolingualist?

I come from a monolingual culture. People in Australia think that English is all you need. Yet around 25% of the Australian population now have a first language other than English. This attitude of monolingualism dates back to imperialism. The British empire set out to colonise the world. The attitude of imperialism was that the colonising culture was a superior one. The inferior culture would therefore benefit from speaking the language of the imperial force. This was a dominant world view of the age.

This dominant world view was influenced by a dual desire to spread the source culture's dominance but also by a fear of cultures foreign and unknown. Jesuit missionaries seemed to evade this damaging world view, but many other missionaries did not. Protestant missionaries in Australia, Canada, America and Africa held a very imperial world view toward the indigenous peoples of those countries. The indigenous peoples were often told that their language and culture were evil and demonic. To become a Christian meant to leave one's culture and language behind. Whilst at times these may seem like broad generalisations, they were grievous mistakes made none the less.

These mistakes were informed by a dominant world view to be sure, but how much did these missionaries seek to be informed by the Holy Spirit? These are not simple issues by any means. It does scare me though that these same problems exist in 21st century Russia. Russians are monolingual in their world view. Siberian peoples are told that their language and culture do not matter, even by the Russian church. These seem to be the exact same mistakes being repeated again.

Such attitudes often make me angry. It causes me grief to see a people have their language and culture threatened. I know that God loves minority peoples, their cultures and their languages. It is a challenge to modern day Australians and Canadians also to not be monolingual in our approach to society. Monolingualism is damaging in all ways. I truly hope that a change of government (even though I believe the Labor government in Australia will be grossly incompetent on an economic level) may reinvigorate the chance to save Australian Aboriginal languages. I also hope that I may play a part in saving indigenous languages in Siberia.

There is a lot to combat in the imperial mindset, world view is deep seated.

God is in favour of multilingualism. The story of the tower of Babel is testament to this. An interesting piece of trivia is that there were already multiple languages before the tower of Babel. It is just the common language that was confused at that event.

What should be our response to this problem? Respect the rights of indigenous peoples and immigrants to speak languages other than English. There is no reason that people can not be bilingual in their lives. Affirm others in their language and culture. You could even go so far as to learn their language in an effort to love them in a practical way. This will be one of the most powerful ways that you can love a person. Do not be afraid of the unknown. Seek to know and to understand. Do not shy away from the Muslim immigrant, love them, get to know them and their culture. Speak their language and in turn, speak the language of love.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Oh please?!!!

"Calls for death of teddy teacher
HUNDREDS of Sudanese Muslims are demanding death for the British teacher convicted of insulting Islam after her class named a teddy bear Mohammad."

A recent headline from the news. Ok, you skeptics out there who say that "religion"is the biggest cause of hatred. When is the last time you saw a mob of Christians get together and demand someone's execution because they insulted Jesus? I have to admit that I doubt Buddhists would be this extreme also.

Yes there has been violence between various religions at various times. But to me, the constant popular hatred that comes from the Muslim world is overwhelming. When the Pope said that Islam has a history of violence, many Muslims protested by burning down churches, as if to prove his point.

The evidence is overwhelming. Islam is a religion of violence and hatred. It's time for those in denial to just jump ship.