October 17 2018

“Why are you pro-life?” – An online discussion

“Why are you pro-life?” – An online discussion

This year I attended the March for the Babies and had the opportunity to have some interesting discussions with some pro-choice advocates who were attending the counter-rally. Some were aggressive and didn’t want to engage, some were thoughtful and wonderful and were saddened by the aggression of others on their side.

The following is an online conversation with one lady who wanted to ask me to defend my pro-life position. At times she is pretty aggressive, but I am not posting our discussion here to critique her, and if you are offended on my behalf at any point I ask you to let it pass. I think she asked me some interesting and valid questions that all pro-life advocates should be able to answer.

So I have posted below our conversation in full. I have made some slight editing to the grammar to make it easier to read, but I have not edited the content. This is so you can see how I engage in these discussions “in real time”.

I don’t think I handled every question or accusation perfectly, but I do hope reading this will be an encouragement to you and maybe give you some tips for your online discussions in the future.

 


NOTE: To make this conversation easier to read, I will format the pro-choice person in Italics and my comments will be in Bold.

I was wondering if I could ask you why you’re pro-life? As in, pro-life of a clump of cells, not pro-life of all the women who’ve died because of anti-abortion laws. do you feel like you have blood on your hands? or do you just ignore that part of it

I’d also be happy to discuss my position on this issue. But do you want it to be productive or are you just wanting to vent?

As a staunch pro-choicer and also (believe it or not) devout Christian, I would like to know where your beliefs come from. I can only imagine it to be misinformation and brainwashing. I genuinely want to know why.

As a devout Christian then, I encourage you to start from a more generous position. Presuming my ignorance or brainwashing or starting with an attack is not the best way to invite someone into open respectful dialogue.

I’m not attacking you, the criminalisation of abortion directly causes gruesome deaths of women and I wasn’t sure you had made that connection yet.

I’m sure you know I could throw the same accusation on the pro-choice side. I’m not really interested in lobbing hand grenades at each other though.

I can’t logically find a reason why someone would hold your beliefs unless they were misinformed, ignorant, or hated women. if you have a fourth option, please let me know. i haven’t had one person give me a good reason to be pro-life. I invite you to do so. I don’t think I’m being rude or aggressive at all.

It is a very valid concern to worry about the women who may try to harm themselves and their child if they find themselves with an unwanted pregnancy and feel that abortion is their only option. I do care deeply about women in that situation.

I think any legal prevention of abortion HAS to be accompanied by a huge increase of financial, emotional and practical for women in that situation. I have personally donated thousands to crisis pregnancy programs and I would do more.

Anyone who wants to simply ban abortion and do nothing to support women in need, I think is a hypocrite.

It is a hypocritical standpoint to have, to completely disregard the lives of living human beings. But I would like to know why you think abortion should be illegal in the first place.

Well, I think there are two angles to this issue – the principle and the practical.

The principle is about whether abortion is right or wrong. Should it happen in any situation?

The practical is about whether should be legal or not and whether there should be any limitations or restrictions.

They are two different issues.

You are asking about the second issue, the practical.

I think that is a trickier issue to work out how best the law should relate to abortion.

But my premise for all my thoughts on the practical side is based on the principle side.

Does that make sense?

Ok so if you want me to ask more specific questions… Why do you think abortion is wrong?

And secondly, why do you think your belief is important enough to literally take away legal autonomy over someone’s body.

Thirdly, have you heard of a man called Michel Foucault?

Philosopher right? I’ve heard the name but couldn’t tell you anything about him

French philosopher. He has written a lot about what we call biopower, the power a government has over it’s citizens bodies.

And regardless of your opinion on abortion, I think fundamentally, to take away the right to autonomy over my body through law is very VERY wrong.

And I think that not only do you have to argue why abortion is wrong, and then why your opinion on why its wrong is so important that it should be made law, but you also have to argue that governments should have power and control over people’s bodies.

I do understand that. I actually believe in the general principle of bodily autonomy, though I think it has to have limitations when it comes to how it affects others.

If you’re busy you don’t have to reply right now. But I think it’s fair to ask you to answer all of that.

They are great and fair questions to ask a pro-life person.

Having an abortion does not affect anyone other than the person having an abortion.

Well, this may be our big point of difference, but I also believe that it effects the one being aborted and that is an important factor.

And here is why I hold the belief that anti-abortion protestors such as yourself have beliefs rooted in misinformation.

Have you had a look at the REAL science behind an abortion and the stages of pregnancy? because the anti-abortion and “pro-life” movement are renowned for using falsified statistics and factoids.

Happy to look at any scientific evidence you may have that you think I am ignorant of.

I’d also like to pitch to you a hypothetical scenario to see how you answer it.

It isn’t to catch you out or trick you or anything like that. Just a thought experiment.

I’m happy with thought experiments, though you’ve asked several questions and I haven’t really had too much opportunity to answer them.

Maybe we’ll stick with one question at a time. Happy for you to pick which.

Ok if you’d like more time to answer your questions, I can sit back until you let me know you’re completely finished, and then I’ll read through it all and let you know how I feel.

Well, how bout I just start with my basic premise.

Four years ago, my wife and I attended the March for the Babies. This is us on that day.

That very morning we had just learnt from our doctor that my wife was pregnant with our daughter, who we would later name Dorothy.

Last Saturday, all three of us were back at the March with our daughter Dorothy.

I believe that my daughter has the right to be free from violence, free from harm and free to live out her bodily autonomy.

Where we differ is that I believe that was just as true of my daughter four years ago as it is today.

Is that all?

That is the basic premise.

I believe all women should be free from violence and harm.

I believe all human beings, no matter what race, age, gender, sexual orientation, social status, location or stage of development, have the right to life and to be free from violence.

My opposition to abortion is due to the fact that the human is harmed in the process of ending the pregnancy. If there was any way of not harming the human in the womb in order to end the pregnancy before the time of gestation is naturally complete, then I would be very supportive of that. I do not wish to force women to carry the baby to term and would support any alternative to that.

Do you think an embryo is a human?

Can I ask what you mean by “human”? Are you meaning scientifically is an embryo a member of the species homo sapien, or do you mean something more philosophical, like is an embryo a person with rights?

Ok let me pose a scenario to you and you’ll understand what I mean.

Sure.

You’re in a fertility clinic. Why isn’t important. The fire alarm goes off. You run for the exit. As you run down this hallway, you hear a child screaming from behind a door. You throw open the door and find a five-year-old child crying for help. They’re in one corner of the room. In the other corner, you spot a frozen container labelled “1000 Viable Human Embryos”. The smoke is rising. You start to choke. You know you can grab one or the other, but not both before you succumb to smoke inhalation and die, saving no one.

Do you A) save the child, or B) save the thousand embryos? There is no “C.” “C” means you all die.

Ah, Patrick S. Tomlinson’s famous argument from October last year.

That’s not an answer.

I think you’re trying to find a way to theoretically work your way out of this problem instead of admitting that an embryo isn’t a person. And a zygote is not a person either. Between a literal clump of cells, and an actual human being, the human being is more important. every time.

I don’t think, every time.

Can I tweak the analogy a little?

No you can’t.

I’d like you to answer the question as I posed it, please. I think the scenario isn’t hiding any missing nuance. it is very straight forward in comparing the human-status of a child and an embryo.

Firstly, I am happy to acknowledge that most people’s moral instinct in the midst of the fire is to save the screaming 5 year old whose face they can see, rather than the embryos that they only see the label of. That doesn’t really prove anything. Our moral instincts are not always correct.

If you will allow me to present another thought experiment, I will explain how.

So you would choose the 1000 embryos over the 5 year old child.

I don’t really know what I would do in the midst of a fire if I didn’t know what was going to happen. If you’re asking me to choose between the two now, in a cold calculated way, you are basically presenting a version of the old “trolley” moral dilemma.

1. Would you choose to save the life of one person or one thousand people, if you could only save one option, otherwise everyone died?

2. Would you choose to save the life of a 5 year old child or one thousand embryos in the same circumstances?

My wife and I are dealing at the moment with infertility. If for example, there was a random 5 year old child and only say, two embryos on the table, but they were my wife and my children, then my moral instinct would probably be to save the embryos.

When you are given an ultimatum and you only can save one of two choices. Just because you choose one over the other does not in any way prove that the other is not a human.

For example, if my 3 year old daughter was in one room and 1,000 adults were in another, you can be sure I’ll probably be saving my daughter. That doesn’t mean the 1,000 men are not human to me.

That’s why I think Tomlinson’s thought experiment is clever, but it doesn’t prove what he claims it proves.

Thank you for proving to me that my original premise was correct.

Anti-abortion and pro-lifers beliefs are entirely rooted in either misinformation or hatred of women.

You don’t seem like you hate women.

Thank you.

But you are very misinformed and have a skewed view of what constitutes as a human being.

Great topic. So how do you constitute a human being?

The normal way. With science and logic. A living breathing fully formed human being.

I do actually think there’s a point of pregnancy where a fetus is fully formed, and in that case abortion, if it causes pain to the fetus, should only happen in cases where the mother’s life is in danger, or if the baby isn’t going to make it to full term anyway.

But this whole argument about ‘late stage abortion’ is utter crap because it literally doesn’t happen other than when the woman’s life is at risk, or the baby isn’t going to make it to full term.

What would you do if your wife found out that if she didn’t get an abortion, she would die giving birth?

Sorry, I want to understand you clearly. I agree science and logic is very important.

You said “a living breathing fully formed human being”.

Does that mean that it needs to be breathing?

And fully formed.

If you could c-section the fetus prematurely, and it could live outside of the womb on its own or with a bit of medical assistance.

Well, that’s lots of different things to constitute a human being.

No it’s not.

Can we list them so I am clear on your position?

Living, breathing, fully formed.

Do you consider a child in the womb to be breathing at any point?

I define “fully formed” as able to live outside the womb on its own. But again, that’s just me. I don’t think that should be part of legislation.

Ok, so in your definition fully formed means fully formed to a specific goal (ie, to be able to survive out of the womb).

No.

It means fully formed.

Simple as that, not that complicated.

Because you know, the skull isn’t fully formed when they are born. Human brains aren’t fully formed til they are in their 20’s. 

You know pro-lifers brains never fully form.

Come on.

C’mon. Was asking for it.

Happy to end the conversation if that’s the road you wish to engage on.

You can’t say that wasn’t a good one.

Fine. I have a thick enough skin. I just am not interested in patronising each other.

So instead of patronising me, you can just admit that my definition of ‘fully formed’ is fine.

And that all you’re doing is trying to poke holes where there are none.

Well, I disagree. 

I think your definition of “fully formed” is only defined around one purpose.

There are lots about a newborn that is not fully formed.

Instead of countering my argument, you are countering language.

And if you’re going to start picking apart the English language, you may as well admit that you have nothing to say about my actual argument

Don’t patronise ME when you know exactly what I mean

Otherwise I’m not interested in continuing this discussion either.

I feel sorry for your daughter. I hope you never have another daughter, I truly truly hope you never have another daughter. and I hope your daughter now finds someone to guide her, properly, when she’s old enough to understand these things.

Good night.

My position is that all humans are equal and equally deserving of a right to life. I think the quality that makes all humans equal can not be a sliding scale such as viability outside of the womb.

Consider this, if one child is removed from the womb and is healthy and so is able to survive, you would define them as human. But if another child is removed at the same age, but is too sick to survive or has some abnormality that means it can’t survive, by your definition that child is not human.

You are defining humanity by one’s ability (to survive).

I’m sure you don’t do that with humans at any other age.


(THE NEXT DAY)

 

I am sorry you believed you were being patronised during our discussion and felt you had to end it.

I definitely wasn’t patronising you and if you feel I wasn’t addressing your actual argument then I’d be happy if you wanted me to try.

I also understand if you aren’t interested in that.

Facebook conversations, even when not done publicly, are ripe for misunderstandings and offence unless both sides approach it with a lot of generosity of spirit.

Peace.


I must give acknowledgement to Josh Brahm, a brilliant pro-life apologist and educator from the Equal Rights Institute in the US. I listened to THIS TALK a day or so before having this conversation and it definitely helped me engage in a more thoughtful and level-headed way. 

 

 

 

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September 2 2018

This is Father’s Day

This is Father’s Day

Waking up at 5:45
To the whimpers of your 3 year old
Crackling through the baby monitor
Finding your slippers in the dark
Because you forgot to plug in your phone
So now you have no light to guide you
Shuffling through the cold house
Sneaking into her room
Trying not to wake her
Seeing that her kid feet
Are tangled in her sheets
And her bunny is out of her reach
You peel back her doona
Untangle her feet
The brief moment of cold
Causing her to stir
You quickly tuck her in snug as a bug
And place her lost bunny
Into her empty arms
She hugs it close
Snuggles into her doona
And in the dark you hear
The sweetest sound
“Thank you daddy”
You shuffle back through the cold house
With those three words warming you
Better than slippers ever could

This is Father’s Day

 

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June 18 2018

The cross that turns life upside-down

 

When you see that shining, bright red cross in Hobart, you can’t help but notice that it is the wrong way up. Sure, you can see it is as a direct insult to Christianity. Or you can be inspired by what the stark image compels you to do. The black pole prevents the cross from being turned around and so to make the image seem right in our minds, it’s us that has to turn. We have to flip the image. We have to stand on our heads. We have to turn upside-down.

That’s what the cross of Jesus does… It turns life upside-down.

And that’s what Jesus did too. When the people expected the Messiah to arrive as a king in a palace, he came as a baby in a manger. When they expected him to claim Jerusalem riding into the city on a war-horse he came riding a donkey. When the Pharisees expected him to praise their moral efforts and good works, he condemned them as hypocrites, and when those who knew they were sinners deserving judgment expected to be turned away, Jesus ate and drank with them and offered them forgiveness. When he taught to the crowds that expected that we should only have to love our friends, Jesus flipped this expectation on its head and told them that they must love their enemies. And then, in the great climax of his ministry, he turned all their expectations upside-down.

When they expected the Messiah to crush the pagan Roman Empire and establish God’s kingdom by the death of those who oppose God, Jesus gave himself over to the Romans and let them torture and crucify him. Instead of killing those who opposed God, Jesus died in their place. Instead of pouring God’s judgment out on sinners, he willingly let it be poured out on himself, so that sinners could be set free.

So the message of Christianity is not – Good people go to Heaven and bad people go to Hell. It’s completely the opposite. It turns that false message upside-down. The truth that Jesus taught was that good people go to Hell and bad people go to Heaven. Those who think they’re good enough for God are the ones who will be disappointed in the end and those who acknowledge their need for mercy are the only ones who will find it.

And how do they find it? Well, they do so by heeding Jesus’ call to turn upside-down. Well, he doesn’t say “turn upside-down”. He uses the older word: “repent”. It literally means to “change your mind”. To do a 180. It means to recognise you’ve been treating God with indifference, contempt or outright rebellion and to turn that whole attitude to God upside-down. To come to him in humility and trust in Jesus – the one who turned the judgment of God upside-down and took it for you on the cross.

That’s what I think about when I see those crosses in Hobart.

I reflect on how back when I was only 16, Jesus flipped my expectations of what Christianity was all about and I responded to his call to repent and trust in that cross. And I reflect on how Jesus has continued for the last 24 years, to turn my life upside-down.

 

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March 15 2017

The Banks of the Yarra and the Kindness of God

When people ask what I do for a living, I usually answer, “I’m a Graphic Designer… for a Funeral Company.” It gets a good reaction. I go on to explain that if you go to a funeral and receive a thank you card or an order of service, or watch a photographic tribute on the screen during the service… that’s the sort of stuff I do. The snazzy title for my job is a “Tributes Consultant” and I work for Tobin Brothers Funerals.

I love the job. It not only uses my creative skills, it’s not only a stable full-time income with a good company, but it’s also an industry that really serves people in their time of need and deep grief. I’m very grateful for finding such a great job and now I’ve been doing it for exactly one decade. Yup, ten years ago today, I had my first shift at Tobin Brothers Funerals. So today, on my 10th anniversary, I thought I’d share the wonderful story of how God gave me this job.

God’s Sovereignty and Our Decisions

I say “God gave me this job” not because I think my boss had no part in the decision (I actually rang him today to thank him for employing me 10 years ago), nor because I think I had no part in getting it, but I believe that the decisions that we make are both our responsibility and simultaneously under the sovereign will of God. The bible teaches that God is at work in and through and over our decisions.

In Genesis 50:20, when Joseph confronts his brothers who sold him into slavery and faked his death, he says to them: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” The same event is described as being born of two separate intentions from both the brothers and God.

Likewise, if you read the epistle written by James, Jesus’ brother, you’ll find this instruction:
“Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.'” (James 4:13-15)

So we can make plans, but we should do it with the awareness that God’s will is ultimately the final authority as to what will happen. We are responsible for what part we play, but God is ultimately in control. Now, that idea may seem like a bit of a mystery or even a logical paradox, but when you’re talking about an infinite spiritual Being who created the universe and exists outside of all of its elements and limitations, then I am ok with there being a little bit of mystery in how the whole dynamic fits together.

Back in 2007

Ten years ago, I was in a very, very difficult place in my life. A year earlier (in early 2006), my wife had kicked me out due to my ongoing struggles with pornography. I was in the process of getting help to work through my addiction and grow up as a bloke and as a Christian, but her heart and trust in me was shattered and so after a year we were no closer to reconciliation. I didn’t know at the time that our painful separation would go on for another two and a half years before she would eventually file for divorce. At the time, I was literally spending every day agonizing about how I might win her heart back and prove to her that my repentance was genuine. One of the things I knew I had to do, was hold down a steady job. This was a sign of maturity and a quality important for a godly husband who was supposed to provide for his family.

At the time of the separation, I had just finished a directing job in my role with my Christian theatre company, The Backyard Bard. But once the separation happened, I took a step back from that ministry and so, I became unemployed. I got odd jobs here and there and eventually landed a 100% commission job doing direct marketing sales for a company representing various charities. This was bloody hard work. Some days you would work your butt off and not make one sale. And no sale meant no pay.

Fortunately, I became ok at the job and after 8 months I was still at it. I earnt pretty good money too. It was hard, soul-crushing work where every day I put myself out there and faced rejection after rejection… but that sort of mirrored what was happening in my marriage, so I guess it taught me resilience to some degree!

The problem was, the company I worked for was part of a pretty evil, money-hungry corporation that had a “pyramid scheme” type of hierarchy. I could see they were trying to groom me to step into leadership and develop my own team of sales minions, but I really wasn’t interested in turning into what I saw the managers became. So when the Christmas break of 2006 came (which was only a week), I knew it was time to at least consider looking for other work.

Seek and You Shall Find

I jumped on seek.com and looked at what was being advertised. I had an interest in graphic design, but I had two issues. One, I didn’t have any official qualifications. I didn’t even know how to use Adobe Photoshop at the time! The other problem was that, as a Christian, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to work designing advertising for companies that I might morally object to.

So, I wasn’t all that hopeful, until I stumbled upon an ad from Tobin Brothers Funerals. They wanted someone to join their department called “Memories and Tributes” creating all the stuff I mentioned earlier. They didn’t specifically require graphic design qualification (they have since changed that policy), and so I felt it was perfect! I never dreamed of working in the funeral industry, but hey, why not? I’d be serving people and doing some good in the world, and the work sounded creative and interesting. At least it was worth a shot.

So I filled in the form on seek.com and sent off my resume. Then, a few days later, my sales job resumed. I had gotten a confirmation email saying that Tobin Brothers had received my application, but after a week or two of hearing nothing I decided to show my interest and give them a call. This did not go well. The lady I spoke to abruptly said something like, “Yes, we have your application, and we will get back to you if we are interested.” This was really disheartening. I thought I would show them my enthusiasm and that might win me points, but it had backfired. She seemed more annoyed than anything. (I have since learnt that the person I spoke to gets hundred of phone calls a week from overly keen people wanting to work in the industry and so she just deals with interested people via email, but at the time I had thought I had blown it.) After that, the days went by and I heard nothing, which confirmed my suspicions. The hope of finding other work seemed dashed and so back to the grindstone I went.

Death of a Salesman

In the sales company I worked at, you had to always be in a hyper-positive mood. It was one of those “high five everyone in the morning to get pumped” cliche environments. But with my marriage still in tatters and a major lack of job satisfaction, that became harder and harder to do. This took its toll and my sales began to suffer. Big time. I went literally a whole week without making one sale. That was crushing, and my boss wasn’t happy. See, after 9 months at the job, he used me as a trainer and an inspiration for the others in the team. So when I was flat, the others began to go flat as well.

One day, we were set up at Flinders Street Station, trying to get passers-by to stop and consider signing up to support World Wildlife Fund, and I was trying my best to keep my energy up, but it was like walking through treacle. It got worse and worse and eventually my boss, seeing how I was failing in my role as his model salesman, took my name badge and told me to go on a break.

Break I did. My heart was broken from my wife’s rejection and my spirit was broken from my constant failure, and so I broke down in an emotional sobbing mess as I walked away from Flinders Street Station and down by the Yarra River. I sat down on the grass by the water, praying to God, asking him what I should do.

You see, I used to have this principle that you shouldn’t ever leave a job, unless you had another one to go to. This was especially relevant to me at a time in my life when I was trying to woo my estranged wife. She already didn’t want anything to do with me, I didn’t want to also be unemployed.

I wasn’t sure what God wanted me to do. Should I leave the job because I knew I couldn’t stay there long term? Or should I buck up, get my crap together and work harder to get my sales back? Was this the job God willed for me, or did he have another? And how could I know what God’s will was? I definitely didn’t want to be out of step of his will. That would surely lead to more failure and misery. But if I didn’t know which path was God’s will, how would I avoid that disaster? These were the thoughts that were tearing through my heart and mind as I prayed in my own private inner Gethsemane – my soul overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death as I cried to God, “Yet not my will but yours be done!”

The Kindness of the Father

Eventually, I rang a guy who I had become friends with through the support group I was attending to work through my struggles with porn. I told him about my dilemma and my utter terror of living out of step with God’s will. I knew the fate of my marriage was ultimately in God’s hands and so I was afraid of stepping out of line or disobeying his will (even unknowingly). I thought that if I did everything God wanted me to do, then – and only then – would God bless me and my marriage.

After hearing all this, my godly friend said: “Simon! Don’t worry so much! God is your heavenly Father. You’re his child! He loves you no matter which decision you make. Even if he does have a plan and you make a wrong choice, he will use your mistakes. Just try to make the best choice you can and let God look after the rest.”

His words, honestly, were life-changing. They exposed my faulty understanding of God and how his will worked. The revealed to me my “works-based” confusion about who God blesses and why. And most importantly, they reminded me of the kindness of God. If I am in Christ, then God is my Heavenly Father and he is kind. I don’t have to overly stress about seeking his will if it is unclear. I don’t have to fear confusion or doubt or ambiguity. I just have to be his child, trusting him and walking with him as best as I can.

Now that I have a daughter (from my second marriage), I understand that message even more. She just needs to hold my hand and walk with me. If there are unseen dangers, I have her back. If she wanders off, I will look for her and find her. I don’t want her worrying about whether or not she is out of step with my will in order to secure my blessing and love. She is my daughter. I am God’s child. And knowing the Father’s kindness should give us peace. As Jesus said: Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:9-11)

The Leap of Faith

I was comforted by my godly friend’s council, but he hadn’t actually told me what I should do… other than trust in my Heavenly Father. So I walked back to Flinders Street Station, grabbed my name badge and tried to get back into work. My mind was still full though with questions and reflections, so the rest of the afternoon was a write off for sales. As I left for the day, my boss pulled me aside, clearly still disappointed with my lack of performance. “Simon,” he said, “I want you to go home and think about whether this job is really for you.”

All the way home and into the evening, I struggled with what to do. In the end though, I had to answer my boss’s questions honestly. No, the job wasn’t for me. I was happy to keep working at it if that was God’s will, but in the absence of a clear instruction from God, I simply had to make a choice.

I had to give up my principle of never quitting a job if you have nothing to go to. I entrusted my needs to the kindness of my Heavenly Father, grabbed my phone and gave my boss a call…

“Hi. It’s Simon. I’ve been thinking about what you asked me, and I think it’s not fair to you or me if I stay in the job.”

“So, you’re quitting?”

“Yeah I think that’s best.”

“Well, I thought you were better than that Simon. But if you want to just give up, then I agree. You should go.”

His harsh words stung as we ended the conversation, but I knew I had done the right thing. So that was it! I was unemployed! I’d taken the leap of faith trusting that God would provide me my “daily bread” and eventually guide me towards some other work. I also trusted that being unemployed would not railroad whatever God was doing in my marriage. God was my Heavenly Father and I placed my life in his hands.

So what was next? I didn’t know. I didn’t have any prospects or other options. It had been over two months since I had had that disheartening phone conversation with Tobin Brothers and I had not heard a peep since, so I had given up on that and faced an indefinite season of unemployment. How would I survive? Well, I had a little bit of money in the bank and so I thought, I’d have a break for a week or two and then I would get back into looking for a new job. It may take a while, but I knew other Christians facing long-term unemployment, and so I knew God could see me through it as well.

That night I went to bed at peace with my decision, remembering my friend’s words: “Just try to make the best choice you can and let God look after the rest.”

New Every Morning

“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.'”
(Lamentations 3:22-24)

So I woke up the next day, staring into the great unknown. I had my breakfast and began to enjoy my first day of “holidays”.

That was when the phone rang…

“Hi, this is Wendy from Tobin Brothers Funerals. May I speak with Simon Camilleri?”

“Yes, I’m Simon.”

“Hi, Simon. Sorry that it’s taken so long for us to get back to you. You applied for a position a few months ago. Are you still interested?”

“Ah… yes.”

“Great! When would be free to come in for an interview? Do you have any time on Monday?”

“Actually, I have LOTS of time! I just quit my job last night!”

I immediately regretted saying that last bit in case it made me look bad, but I was so blown away I couldn’t help but express it! Literally the morning after I quit my job, I get an offer for a new one! I truly believe that God orchestrated the whole scenario. He could have easily gotten Tobin Brothers to contact me a day or two earlier and if he had, I would never have faced that spiritual dilemma on the banks of the Yarra River. I would have quit my job without ever needing to question whether I truly trusted God. But like a loving Father, God wanted to teach me something important. God let me get to a place where I would see my need and how dependent I was on his provision. God wanted to challenge and refine my trust. God wanted to teach me to rely on him as my Heavenly Father and to find my confidence and security in his kindness rather than in my employment.

So once that lesson had been learned, he could then let Tobin Brothers give me a call. True, I decided of my own will to apply for the job and I decided of my own will to quit my sales job three months later. True, Wendy from Tobin Brothers decided of her own will to give me a call on the next morning. But the fact that my quitting and her calling came only hours apart, was a message of God’s kindness and sovereign provision that I could not miss.

I Didn’t Get the Job

Now, just because God miraculously provides a perfectly timed job interview, is no guarantee that you will get the job. Just remember that if this same thing ever happens to you!

Over the weekend I had seen the Will Smith movie “The Pursuit of Happyness” which tells of a man who does not take his opportunity for employment for granted, and so inspired by this, I did everything I could to prepare for the interview. Not only did I put together a graphic design folio (as best as I could), but I even studied the philosophy of the company and committed to memory their company motto of the 6 C’s: Care, Competency, Contemporary, Creativity, Community and Celebration.

I went in prepped and I was called back for a second interview, giving me even more confidence. Though I didn’t have the graphic designer qualifications, I think I made up for it in my attitude and genuine desire to serve people in their time of need.

Despite this, I didn’t get the job.

It was between me and another girl and she had a bit more experience in graphic design than me, so she got it. Fair enough, I guess. But I was, as you can imagine, disappointed. Tobin Brothers was disappointed too actually, and they said, although they didn’t have a job for me in this department, they’d still like me to join their team as a Funeral Director’s Assistant. This would not be a creative job at all, but I thought, maybe this is how God was getting me to where he wanted me to be. So I said I was interested.

There was just one problem… They didn’t actually have a Funeral Director’s Assistant job available. They just would like to keep me on the books to consider me if one of those roles ever came up (which they did now and then). They understood that I was looking for work and that by the time there was an opening that I may have found another job, but they said, “That would be our loss.” What a nice compliment!

I didn’t help me with my unemployment situation though and I remember my parents quickly encouraging me to not be disheartened, to “get back on the horse” and to look for other work.

But I didn’t.

It wasn’t because I doubted the wisdom of their encouragement. I just sensed that God was doing something with this Tobin Brothers job. I just felt like God was saying, “Just wait Simon. I have something in store for you.”

I didn’t have to wait long. A few days later later Tobin Brothers called me back saying that the lady they hired decided that the job wasn’t for her and they asked if I could start pretty much straight away!

10 Years of Gratitude

So that’s how my job at Tobin Brothers Funerals began. I started my first shift on Wednesday, 14th March 2007, and I can honestly say after 10 years, I am still incredibly grateful to God for his provision.

In the last 10 years I have faced a lot of experiences that have challenged my faith and deepened my trust in my Heavenly Father. The most devastating came around 2 and a half years into my time at Tobin Brothers, when my wife eventually decided to file for divorce. That event raised many more questions for me in terms of the sovereignty of God in the midst of our suffering, but that is for another blog another time. What I can say is that as I went through the divorce, I did remember that moment on the banks of the Yarra and the way God had provided for me with such wise timing.

The wonderful way God had provided my job at Tobin Brothers taught me about his sovereignty, his wisdom, his comfort and his kindness. Lessons that I think God knew I needed to learn before greater trials than unemployment came into my life.


Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?

“Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.

“Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Luke 12:22-34

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June 29 2016

“Ministry in the Dark” Survey

 ministry in the dark

Fill out the survey below, or go to this link:
http://goo.gl/forms/nEqAo3pCTQ3ASnW03

Please feel free to share this survey with anyone you know in Christian ministry.

 

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June 29 2016

10 Problems with “The Burnt Toast” Story

 

What a sweet story with a lovely message… NOT!!

Allow me to have a not-too-serious rant about the 10 big problems with this video.

  1. Firstly, if the mum had had had such a “long and stressful day at work” and she was so exhausted that all she could put together for dinner was jam and burnt toast, why didn’t dad get off his butt and help her out? Presumably they both are working. Why is mum making dinner while dad sits at the table waiting to be fed? In the end, as I will show, his laziness led to guilt, lies and possibly even cancer.
    .
  2. When the toast is brought out to dad, he doesn’t say anything to his wife or acknowledge that clearly she wasn’t coping. The child even says they were waiting to see dad’s reaction, but even the child is surprised that he ignores her completely and simply talks to them about their day.
    .
  3. Prompted by his coldness, or maybe out of fear of his judgment, or maybe just as a cry for help, the mum then apologizes for the toast being burnt. Why is she apologizing? I guess, maybe she is just acknowledging that burnt toast is horrible and she wishes she had more energy to serve him the three course dinner he is obviously accustomed to.
    .
  4. The child “will never forget my dad’s reply”, and I won’t either. He straight up lies to his wife. He says, “Honey, I love burnt toast!” What is that going to do?? Either it will come across as some sort of sarcastic joke, again not really acknowledging her exhaustion, or worse still, it will come across as 100% truth. This will just leave the mum wondering what kind of weirdo has she married that actually loves burnt toast and if she accepts that, she may get the impression that in future she SHOULD burn his toast, as that is his strange preference.
    .
  5. The child clearly sees through his lies and that night they decide to ask their dad if he was telling the truth or lying. Dad unapologetically says that yes he was lying but that he just did it to not hurt mum’s feelings. What sort of lesson is THAT teaching his child? I can see inside their mind, Honesty Island crumbling like in the Pixar movie “Inside Out”! He makes out that lying was his only option, but there were so many things he could have said to his wife. How about, “I forgive you” or “No need to apologize, I understand you’ve had a hard day.” Or even, “I should be the one apologizing. We both worked today and you clearly deserve a rest more than me. How about I order takeout?” But no. He goes with a lie and tells his child that that’s the best way to love people.
    .
  6. Not only does he admit to lying to his wife, he then goes on to lie to his child – or at least tell he says something that is incorrect. He says “Burnt toast doesn’t hurt anyone, but words do.” Wrong dad. Check your facts. A quick Google search would show you that the burnt bits of toast contain an alarming high level of the chemical acrylamide – a cancer-causing toxin. His lies and misinformation does nothing to warn both his wife and child of the carcinogenic dangers of burnt food and may actually lead them to eat more of it! Good one dad!
    .
  7. Also, are words really that bad? They definitely don’t cause cancer, that’s for sure! But even if they can sting some times, do we really want our kids to lie rather than say words that might “hurt” people? Sure we want to teach our kids that hate speech, bullying and cruel mockery is unacceptable, but in this “safe space”, politically-correct, hyper-sensitive culture that our kids are growing up in, do we really want to teach them that any words that might hurt are forbidden and lying to someone’s face is preferable? We used to try to teach our kids resilience to words. Rather than the unscientific theory that “Burnt toast doesn’t hurt anyone, but words do”, maybe dad should have remembered the old saying “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” Words may hurt someone’s feelings sometimes, but they won’t do permanent damage like break your bones or give you cancer!
    .
  8. The video ends with this moral: “To accept your mistakes and appreciate your differences – that is the key for a healthy and long-lasting relationship.” A nice enough message, but is that really the moral of this story? Who accepts their mistakes? Does the dad? No, he is oblivious to his lack of helpfulness, he justifies his lies and he spreads misinformation about cancer. Lotsa mistakes there that don’t get accepted. And even if we conceded that poor mum made a “mistake” by serving the Master of the House toast that was burnt, does she accept it? Well, she tries to with her apology, but her lying husband tells her that it wasn’t a mistake at all because he loves burnt toast. Very unhelpful.
    .
  9. And where does anyone learn to “appreciate your differences”? Who’s differences? The differences between a lazy, dishonest dad and a mum who works hard all day and then has to make dinner for her family? Those are definite differences, but I for one hope the child doesn’t learn to “appreciate” them!
    .
  10. Lastly, I have a problem with the claim that “accepting mistakes and appreciating differences” is actually “the key for a healthy and long-lasting relationship”. As most people know, honest and gracious COMMUNICATION is actually the key -and that is what this story seriously lacks. If the mum can be critiqued for anything, she maybe should have communicated that she needed help, although it seems the dad already knew what sort of day she had had. The dad should have communicated truth rather than lies, to both his wife and his child. And if he was so sacred of communicating hurtful words, he could have just shut his mouth, got off his chair and communicated love by actually making HER dinner!

The only good communicator in this story is the child, who didn’t sit on their doubts about their dad’s claim to love toast. The child asked for the truth. Those questions may have hurt the dad as they suggested that he was a liar, but like the child in the story of the Emperor’s New Clothes, this child decided to speak up. It is sad that her good communication was answered with bad communication, dodgy justifications, unscientific information and terrible life lessons.

End of rant.

Don’t take it too seriously. 🙂

BURNT FACE

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June 11 2016

Parents, Remember the Lord

remember the lord

 

This is my take on Colin Buchanan’s wonderful kid’s song, “Remember the Lord”.

His words are great, but they’re just targeted to children. I reckon we all need to remember the message of the Chorus.Click here if you want to see the official version if not continue below.

So a week out from Dorothy’s first birthday, here is my version, in honour of all first time parents.

 

PARENTS, REMEMBER THE LORD



When you bring home your baby from the hospital ward,

And you have no idea just what’s in store.

And your heart is filled with hopes and dreams

And all of the sudden they just start to scream.

 

Chorus:

Remember the Lord, oh oh.

Remember that he is in control.

Remember the Lord, oh oh.

He’s watching your children, he cares, oh oh.

Remember the Lord, oh oh. Oh, oh.

 

You’ve read “attachment theories” and “Baby Wise”,

But it don’t take long til you realise,

In those early days if your baby’s alive

Then you’re doin okay. Just try to survive.

Chorus

 

When it’s half past 3 and they’re still not asleep

And you’re so exhausted you’re going to weep.

When they’re pooing and spewing and not doing great

Cos the breast feeding hurts and they’re not gaining weight.

Chorus

 

When you keep comparing your kid to theirs

When one can’t roll and the other climbs stairs

When one is bald and the other has hairs

When one steals toys and the other one shares

When one’s expressive and one just stares

When one’s a dream and the other, nightmare

When you know as a Christian you shouldn’t compare

But you’re trying really hard so it’s hard not to care.

Chorus

 

When you want them to grow in their spiritual life

And you think it’s all up to you and your wife

For modelling gospel faithfulness

But you really need grace cos your life is a mess.

Chorus

 

Now I don’t want you to think that havin kids ain’t fun

But it tests your character from day one

It exposes your pride. It bears your soul.

It reveals who you really think’s in control… So…

Chorus

 

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June 10 2016

The Man in the Moon – a poem

man in the moon

 

The Man in the Moon

a poem by Simon Camilleri

 

Let us pause and consider the Man in the Moon,

For he glows with a light that isn’t his own.

Created to shine in the darkness of night

By reflecting the glory of another’s light.

 

For it’s by the sun’s light that the moon can be known

And it’s by the sun’s light that its beauty is shown.

It’s the sun that now holds all the orbits in place.

If the sun let it go it would be lost in space.

 

Yet the man in the moon wishes he could break free.

He thinks of his orbit as like slavery.

Every lunar eclipse, to the earth’s furthest side,

The moon tries to escape, and like Adam he hides

 

In the shadow of earth where he thinks none can see,

And there in the dark, he declares “Now, I’m free!”

“Now it’s my time to shine. My own light fill the skies!”

So he tries to shine light. Yes he tries and he tries…

 

But he can’t. He’s a moon. Not a sun. Not a star.

And you can’t be enlightened lest you know what you are.

Still as the moon’s orbit from the earth’s shadow slips,

The moon vows to try harder, the next lunar eclipse .

 

The moon is a fool. Just like you. Just like me.

There’s a reason why madness is called “lunacy”.

The moon thinks he’s so big and the sun looks so small.

If he only could see the sun’s not small at all.

 

Even to us on the earth, they both look the same size.

But it’s due to perspective, it’s a trick of the eyes.

You could fit 64 million moons in one sun!

Yet the man in the moon thinks that he’s “Number One”.

 

So later tonight in the moon’s bright reflection,

Do your own reflective introspection.

See the man in the moon. Cos if you can,

You’ll see that the moon is there in the man.

 


 

“I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen:

not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”

– C.S. Lewis

 

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May 24 2016

The Political Party I’d Like To Vote For…

vote

 

I want a political party that:

– gives generously to our needy neighbours,
– cares for the poor in our own country,
– is welcoming to those fleeing oppressive regimes,
– works towards tolerance and social harmony in our communities,
– resources and equips education, health, science and the arts,
– stewards the environment well and tackle pollution,
– protects the innocent and the vulnerable from violence,
– cares for the unborn as well as mothers in crisis,
– values every life no matter whether it is old or young,
– encourages economic stability and jobs growth,
– makes it more possible for people to buy a house,
– inspires and facilitates entrepreneurship,
– helps the unemployed,
– helps those trying to start a business,
– helps big businesses create more jobs,
– makes sure the wealthy are paying their taxes,
– prevents and punishes crime,
– re-educates criminals where possible,
– makes sure our laws are fair and reasonable,
– protects our country from the threats of terrorism and attack,
– gives individuals the freedom to think, live, love and express themselves,
– fosters a society that allows people to disagree on important issues,
– values religion as a social and individual good,
– is open and honest about its use of money,
– manages money well and reduces debt,
– guards itself from giving itself more power than it should,
– does not think its role is to control every aspect of life,
– inspires its citizens to take responsibility for their own contribution,
– is humble before the God that will judge all those in a position of power and influence,
– is not a fantasy.

 

 

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May 16 2016

Captain America and the Size of Government

captain america

 

I saw “Captain America: Civil War” last night and there’s lots of things I could say about the movie. I loved the action, the performances, the dialogue and especially the new characters that are now in the Marvel Universe. I highly recommend seeing the film as one of the most fun and interesting Marvel films to date. But apart from all that, Civil War has got me thinking lots about one of the big issues central to the film – the pros and cons of big and small government.

Now, I don’t think this is a spoiler as it is revealed in the trailers and all the advertising, but the tension in the film centres on legislation that is proposed to regulate superheroes and their powers. It is called “The Sokovia Accords” with the subtitle of it being a “Framework for the registration and deployment of enhanced individuals”. Basically, the idea is that superheroes are expected to either retire or sign the document and if they sign then they can’t do any superhero work without the permission of an international panel that will monitor them, regulate them, send them out when required and prevent them from going out when deemed necessary.

Now, I was very impressed with how the movie presents the argument that this is a good and necessary thing, showing the destruction and death that many of their past actions have caused. Sure they were trying to save the world, but they ignore laws, international borders and in the end innocent people died due to their actions, and sometimes (like in the case of Ultron) they were saving the world from a threat that they themselves created.

Captain America has some concerns though. He is worried about the restriction of their personal freedom to not only fight evil, but also to make choices for themselves about how to regulate their power. He is also skeptical that a government panel would always make the best choice in how to use and regulate superheroes. As he says, it runs by people with agendas and agendas change… If we sign this, we surrender our right to choose. What if this Panel sends us somewhere we don’t think we should go? What if there’s somewhere we need to go and they don’t let us? We may not be perfect but the safest hands are still our own.”

Now, for a series of movies that are often simply a bit of popcorn entertainment, it was interesting to see one that tackled a debate about political philosophy that is very relevant for our world today. The debate is about the idea of small vs big government.

SMALL vs BIG GOVERNMENT

If you’ve never heard of this debate before, it’s basically asking how much control, influence, involvement or power should be given to the government and how much should be given to individual citizens or private organisations (like businesses, churches, families, private schools etc.).

A small government approach is one where the government has as little involvement as possible in the affairs of its citizens. Small governments may still provide basic, necessary services (military defense, police, fire, water, electricity, sewerage etc.) and they may also provide services like welfare for those that cannot obtain work or health services, but the weight of the power and responsibility rests on individual citizens and organisations.

Big government, as you can probably guess, is the opposite approach. The government has a substantial level of involvement and regulation, and the weight of power and responsibility does not rest on the citizens but the government that presides over them.

Now, each of these approaches or politics philosophies have their pros and cons. Small government focuses on people’s individual libertarian rights to live their own life, raise their own kids and express their own values. Generally, most individual people want small government because they don’t want to be told what to do, especially by a government that may not share your values. Generally, small governments create more prosperous countries as they aim to encourage and empower enterprise and individual creativity. The problem with small government is that people’s individual values can be pretty selfish. Small government allows for the rich to get richer with no concern for the poor if they don’t want to have any. Also, small government creates a society of mixed values and behaviours, which means that tolerance is very important and social harmony can be challenging.

Big government has its own set of challenges. On a positive note, big governments aim to prevent the poor from getting poorer and the rich from getting richer, and through government regulation and oversight aim to create a more equitable society that is free from the individual abuses that small government can bring about. The problem with big government is that it can be just as abusive as individuals. The big government approach assumes responsibilities that, under a smaller government, are distributed to individual citizens. This often involves raising taxes and taking power and freedom away from its citizens, which can kill enterprise and may encourage bigger businesses to take their industries off shore where they can prosper in a country with less restrictions. Also, in an attempt to create social harmony and restrict the values of individuals and businesses that it deems bad for society, a big government will inevitably seek to enforce its own set of values on society and it will have the power to do so. This may be ok if its values are good, but who doesn’t believe that their values are good? As Captain America says in the movie: “it runs by people with agendas and agendas change”.

Basically, both big and small government philosophies are wanting the same goal – they aim to help create a prosperous society where all citizens can flourish and where evil is restricted. They simply represent two opposite ends of the spectrum of how to achieve that goal. Small government primarily gives that responsibility to individuals and free enterprise and aims to make the government have as little power as possible, and big government gives the government the primary responsibility and consequently much more power and influence to achieve that goal.

BIG & SMALL GOVERNMENT IN MY EXPERIENCE

Personally, I believe, as most do, that a balance between the two is necessary. In regard to gun control for example, I am glad that I live in Australia which has taken a big government approach to the issue. Guns are extremely restricted and the only guns I know of anyone owning, are rifles used for shooting pests (like rabbits and roos) out in the country. This means that I also don’t personally know of anyone who has been shot, either deliberately or accidentally, and Australia – with a population of over 23 million – in 2014 experienced only 230 gun-related deaths. The US in contrast, has a population of 316.5 million, which is 14 times the population of Australia, but in 2014, the US had 146 times the amount of gun-related deaths (33,599 deaths).

So when it comes to guns, I am happy that the government restricts my and others personal freedom to own, carry and use guns. The big government approach in this situation has literally helped lives to flourish and has created a better society for all citizens (except arguably for those who wish to own guns of course).

Another area of big government that I have benefited from is Australia’s healthcare system. Although I may not agree with everything my healthcare tax dollars are put towards (abortion for example) I think we have a great system that allows pretty much everyone to receive the care they need. Important medicines (like the diabetes medication I take daily) is majorly subsidized and I can see diabetes educators, nutritionists and other health specialists free of charge because of this soft form of universal healthcare that we have. It’s not without its problems, with the public system overrun and susceptible to overuse, but I am glad we have this semi-big government approach to this vital service.

So, I see the good of big government, but like Captain America, I also see its dangers. Captain America’s concern in the movie “Civil War” is primarily about how a government body may have a different set of values to an individual citizen (or superhero) and how their increased power and influence may be used to serve their own agenda rather than the citizens themselves. Captain America suggests that the big government approach is a form of “surrendering our right to choose” and proposed some theoretical examples where this might be a problem: “What if this Panel sends us somewhere we don’t think we should go? What if there’s somewhere we need to go and they don’t let us? We may not be perfect but the safest hands are still our own.”

As a Christian, I am most concerned about the big government approach in its potential effect to and restriction of religious freedom. In a big government, if the government deems certain beliefs or values to stand in the way their particular view of what makes a “good” society, they may use their increased power and influence to restrict or even criminalize those beliefs. This may seem extreme, but it happens in many countries even today.

In 23 out of 49 Islamic countries, it is illegal to convert away from Islam and it is also illegal for non-Muslims to share their faith in such a way that they might encourage a Muslim to convert. In Malaysia, it is illegal to leave Islam in every state other than Negeri Sembilan. In this state you have to apply to the courts if you want to convert and the vast majority get denied. This is what it looks like when the big government approach takes over religious expression in a country.

This is not only a problem if a religious government gains control and establishes a big government. It is also an issue in socialist secular countries as well. In China for example, freedom of religion is majorly restricted to only five government-sanctioned religions. Of this five, there is only one protestant group allowed which the government has called the “Three-Self Patriotic Movement”. It’s teaching, appointment of leaders and ability to meet freely is tightly regulated and defined by the government. Naturally, they do this because, as every government does, they want their country to flourish and be prosperous for all its citizens, and they believe that complete freedom of religion would jeopardize that goal. Politicians of any country’s government may have this concern, but it is only those that have a big government approach, that are afforded the power to be able to enforce it.

Now you may still think that examples like Islamic countries and socialist China are extreme and bear no resemblance to democratic Western countries, but in the last decade the threat to religious freedom has been growing. Generally, Western countries have been influenced by Christianity, which at its heart teaches that faith in Christ is something that must come freely and can not be forced or enforced (although I acknowledge at times in history this has been foolishly attempted by some rulers). Countries influenced by Christianity have therefore encouraged a separation of Church and State and have enshrined a freedom of religious belief and expression into many of its laws.

THE BIG GOVERNMENT TREND IN THE WEST

What we are now seeing, as Western countries peel off the Christian veneer and as more secularist politicians gain power and influence, is that governments are finding their values and the values of many religious people are starting to become more and more in conflict.

In London earlier this month, some Orthodox Jewish schools were investigated by government education inspectors and have now been told by the courts that they must promote “fundamental British values”. Presiding judge Hugh Brayne said that the ruling was to ensure that students at the Jewish school would “be equipped to enter modern British society, which accepts as part of its diversity civil partnerships, gay marriage, families with same-sex parents and acceptance of transgender persons”.

In the States, just last Friday, in a classic big government approach, the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Education issued a decree that told all public schools in the country that they had to provide access to toilet, locker room and shower facilities to students based on the gender they identify with rather than based on their actual sex. It wasn’t a law (as schools are under the legal jurisdiction of the state not the federal government) but they have said they would withhold federal funding for those schools that do not comply.

In Australia, these issues are also very relevant with a similar thing happening with the Victorian Labor government pushing its values about sexuality and gender by enforcing the controversial sexuality education program “Safe Schools” in all public schools, whether or not school staff, parents or even students wish to sign up to the program. Also, an article last week in The Daily Telegraph calling to remove the tax free status of churches unless they meet the criteria of a government review. “What is necessary now is for all religious organisations to submit annual financial reports and for the government and Australian Charities and Not-for-Profit Commission to review their tax-exempt status.” Now, as much as I think it is valid to stamp out any abuses of the tax free status by religious organisations, it is concerning if financial incentives were ever used to influence churches to align with the values of the government.

In regard to the push for reform of the legal definition of marriage in Australia, questions about big vs small government are integral to the debate. On one hand, a small government approach would suggest that individual citizens should have the freedom to marry however and whoever they choose, or to define marriage however they want. Unfortunately, the parties that openly support the change, such as Labor and the Greens, are generally also supportive of the big government approach. This makes many Christians very concerned that once the change becomes enshrined in law, they will not have the freedom of religion to teach what the bible says about marriage, sexuality and gender in Christian schools, Universities, public forums or possibly even churches. Such teaching will be deemed “hate speech” and “offensive” and a big government approach will see it potentially being legislated against in order to enforce conformity to the government’s values.

A similar concern is felt for Christians involved in businesses that provide services for weddings, such as bakers, wedding planners and photographers. In a small government approach, these Christians would have the freedom to conscientiously object to supporting an event that they believed was morally objectionable based on their religious convictions. I’m still thinking through my position on this, but it is clear that under a big government approach, there will be no debate – they will have to conform to the government’s new definition of marriage or they will be fined for discrimination. We have already seen this happening in some Western countries. Possibly the most well known was a little bakery in Oregon run by a Christian couple who informed a lesbian couple that they couldn’t in good conscience make a cake for their wedding, and a court ordered they pay $135,000 to the couple for the emotional damage caused.

LIKE A TREE BESIDE THE RIVER OF TRUTH

If Western countries don’t want to end up like the oppressive governments mentioned earlier, then they need to be wary of the way the big government approach is being used and accepted more and more. As I explained earlier, the big government approach can be at times helpful. It is definitely a powerful strategy which can use its influence for great good, but at the same time it can be used for evil and oppression as well.

That is why I think the movie, Captain America: Civil War is so interesting in today’s climate. It raises a debate that some people don’t realize needs to be debated. It points out the danger of giving the power over many into the hands of a few. It has made me think through where I stand – be it Team Cap or Team Iron Man. It’s actually a hard choice at the start as both sides make their case quite well, but in the end, Captain America’s concerns are shown to be valid.

Now, I may think through these issues and come to my own conclusion, but in the end, I see my own country slowly sliding towards a bigger and bigger government. With a federal election only a couple of months away, this debate could not be more relevant. I only have one vote though, and so my calling is to simply what I think is right. As the government gets bigger and uses its increased power to try to restrict views that it disagrees with, I will try to remember the words in the movie that inspire Captain America as he sat in that solemn church – words that, in the original comic, Captain America spoke himself:

“Doesn’t matter what the press says. Doesn’t matter what the politicians or the mobs say. Doesn’t matter if the whole country decides that something wrong is something right. This nation was founded on one principle above all else: The requirement that we stand up for what we believe, no matter the odds or the consequences. When the mob and the press and the whole world tell you to move, your job is to plant yourself like a tree beside the river of truth, and tell the whole world – ‘No, YOU move.’”

I don’t know what saying “No, YOU move” might look like in my own circumstances, but I guess over time, I’ll find out.  I also don’t know exactly when a big government approach is better than a small government approach, and visa versa. It’s very complex and I hope I haven’t presented the issues in an unfairly simplistic way. I guess, the more I think about it, the more I feel I side with Team Cap and a small government philosophy. At least in a general sense. Small governments can seem cold and harsh to the poor and the weak, but at least they don’t restrict individual citizens and charitable organisations from caring for those in need. It seems to me that a big government that is corrupt can do much more harm than a small government that is cold. But hey, what do I know? I’m no political analyst. I’m just a guy who saw a cool superhero movie. I’m just someone who is thinking through his position on all these issues. I’m just a Christian. I’m just an individual citizen.

you move

 

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