Category Archives: Social Justice

Living the Truth in an Age of Lies

The Patheos blog posted an excellent article on gaslighting and how to deal with it. “Gaslighting” is a particular strategy of liars, who try and get you to question yourself and the truth. This article references Donald Trump, but I am also experiencing a lot of this in South Africa, with apartheid revisionists. These are people trying to get us to change our view of apartheid and say it wasn’t so bad – they’re doing this so as to not deal with racism’s legacy or acknowledge white guilt.

The full article is available here, or an excerpt below:

Gaslighting in the Age of Trump: 6 Tips for Survival

by Leah D. Schade, on July 30, 2018.

When the president’s lies destroy the very concept of truth and reality for a nation, we must resist the gaslighting and practice radical integrity.

It’s been 556 days since Donald Trump put his hand on a Bible and promised that he would “faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, [to] preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” Since then, that oath has been broken and the 8th Commandment violated. From the beginning, he asserted outright lies as truth, along with his press secretary and surrogates. For example, when the world could see in real-time the size of the crowd gathered for the inauguration and contrast that to pictures of a much larger crowd for Obama’s inauguration, we could obviously tell the difference. Yet they disputed reality right in front of our eyes, asserting “alternative facts.”

Since then, the Washington Post has counted over 3000 false or misleading claims made by the president as of May 2018, averaging 6 – 9 per day.

COMMENT FROM GRAEME: For the first time since taking office, the Washington Post fact checker has called one of Trump’s “falsehoods” a lie. They have not wanted to do this before because they define a lie as requiring “intent to deceive”. But now that Michael Cohen has said that he paid off porn stars to keep quiet at Trump’s request, The Washington Post can definitely say that Trump’s denials of this are lies. Read more here.

Most recently, Trump’s tactics seemed to come straight from George Orwell’s 1984 when he stated in a speech on July 24, 2018: “What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.” Esquire’s Jack Holmes explains the dangerous turn with this pernicious statement: “Lies that are not merely lies, but instead serve to destroy the very concept of truth, are a cornerstone of any authoritarian playbook.”

What is going on here?

In a word: gaslighting.

Gaslighting is the attempt of one person to overwrite another person’s reality. It is a tactic used for gaining power and control. The term gets its name from a 1938 play and 1944 film Gaslight starring Ingrid Bergman in which her husband would secretly dim the gaslight, but when she commented on it, he insisted she must be crazy. And he convinced others she was insane as well. Thus, gaslighting is a form of manipulation through persistent denial, misdirection, contradiction, and lying in an attempt to destabilize and delegitimize a person or group of people.

Continue reading Living the Truth in an Age of Lies

Christmas Eve Reflection: Seeing Mary’s Christmas

It might be because as the only male in my household I am surrounded by “women’s stuff” all day everyday and am privileged to be forced to see the world through a distinctly feminine (and deliberately feminist) lens, that on Christmas Eve each year, my thoughts often turn to Mary and what she must have been thinking and feeling at this time that very first Christmas so long ago.

She’d have been tired from a long, unnecessary journey, and a nine month pregnancy. She’d have been scared, just a teenager about to give birth for the first time surrounded by strangers. She’d have been concerned for her future, not yet in love with kind Joseph to whom she had been promised in marriage, and overwhelmed by all that had happened to her already in her short life.

On that night, she was an oppressed minority forcibly relocated to some ancestral town she knew nothing of by a dictatorial government who saw her and her kind as a problem. On that night, she was homeless. She would soon become a refugee, and witness to a massacre of children. And she would live to see her first born child killed savagely.

I don’t think Mary had “a silent, holy night” in mind.

And, yet, we know that she knew. This child that was to be born was no ordinary child. Her child would not live an ordinary life. He would change the world, and history, forever. That night, she knew – before anyone else did – that the Saviour was coming.

I have a love-hate relationship with Christmas. I have grown to love it more as I have witnessed it through the excitement of my own children. But I’m not convinced that the message of that first Christmas is being adequately embodied in our world today – especially to those people who are precisely like Mary: pregnant teenagers, scared women, brown-skinned poor people, refugees, those in countries that oppress their citizens or have been invaded by a hostile force, the homeless and those who wonder where their next meal will come from. What does it mean to them that the Saviour has come?

Mary’s story is as important as Jesus’ at Christmas. Christmas Eve is my moment to see the greatest story ever told through the eyes of Mary, the Mother of God.

Richard Rohr’s reflection on White Privilege

I receive Richard Rohr’s daily meditations by email. A month ago, he posted one that was remarkable in its insights and writing. Read it at his site, or an extract below.

The Invisible Character of White Privilege

by Fr. Richard Rohr, 17 Nov 2017

If we are going to talk about God as me, we must also talk about God as thee too! For a long time, I naively hoped that racism was a thing of the past. Those of us who are white have a very hard time seeing that we constantly receive special treatment just because of the color of our skin. This “white privilege” makes it harder for us to recognize the experiences of people of color as valid and real when they speak of racial profiling, police brutality, discrimination in the workplace, continued segregation in schools, lack of access to housing, and on and on. This is not the experience of most white people, so how can it be true?

Continue reading Richard Rohr’s reflection on White Privilege

Before you sign the Nashville Statement on Sexuality… just two small things

To all my dear Conservative, Evangelical Christian friends,

Before you sign the recently released Nashville Statement on Sexuality, please consider just two things.

Firstly, please consider that the very first sentence of this Statement is going to cause deep hurt and harm in your congregation: “God has created marriage to be a covenantal, sexual, procreative, lifelong union…”. I know you and I don’t agree – I am in favour of covenant, lifelong, monogamous, faithful same sex marriage, and you are not. But leave that disagreement aside for now. I am sure that we are both in agreement that (1) marriage is not a necessary institution (in other words, people can choose to marry or not and it does not impact their “God-image-bearing” nor their status in the church), and (2) procreation is not a necessary condition of marriage (in other words, people who can choose to have children or not can choose not to have children if they want to, without impacting on the value or fullness of their marriage nor their status in the church).

Continue reading Before you sign the Nashville Statement on Sexuality… just two small things

Seven evils of (White) Evangelical Christianity

The term “Evangelical” has been hijacked by white Americans. It’s a dangerous stereotype, but they’re mainly Trump supporters and would sacrifice almost anything to ensure they ban abortion in America. They’re nationalistic, racist and homophobic.

This isn’t the textbook theological definition, of course. Evangelicals are supposed to be defined as people who take the Bible seriously (the more Reformed amongst them would insist we take it literally and that it is inerrant), who are evangelist in their worldview (they are intent on spreading the Gospel), and believe that personal salvation is available through Jesus’ redeeming death on the Cross.

I grew up as an Evangelical. And, in as much as I believe that Jesus is the promised Messiah and that the Bible is a true witness to Him, I would like to continue to think of myself as an Evangelical. But I can no longer remain silent about the dangers of Evangelicalism. In fact, I agree with an article written by Chris Kratzer this past week, in response to evangelical Christians continuing to support Donald Trump after he failed to condemn neo-Nazis in Charlottesville – he called Evangelicalism evil. Well, at least seven of the things White Evangelical Americans believe.

You can read his full article, with details on each, at his blog. I highly recommend you do. Here’s the summary of the seven evils:
Continue reading Seven evils of (White) Evangelical Christianity

Thoughts on Eugene Peterson’s change of change of mind

On 6 July, Jonathan Merritt, a journalist at Religion News Service had a 33 minute telephone interview with Eugene Peterson, pastor, theologian and author of many best-selling books including a translation of the Bible, “The Message”. The interview was about a number of topics, including Peterson’s views on megachurches and Donald Trump, his ministry, why he is leaving public life and whether he is scare of death. The interview resulted in a three part series published at RNS (see here, here and here).

The final article of the series covered two questions that were asked at the end of the interview. In Merritt’s own words, here is what was said:

Continue reading Thoughts on Eugene Peterson’s change of change of mind

We’ve prayed for our country. Now what?

On 22 April, on a dusty farm outside the central city of Bloemfontein in South Africa, hundreds of thousands of Christians gathered for a prayer service led by Angus Buchan. Concerned about the state of the country, this group gathered together in response to the promise in Scripture found in 2 Chronicles 7:14, “…if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

I won’t go into the many ways this passage has been abused in the past, including pointing out that it is the second half of a sentence, and that it comes in the middle of a consecration of a Temple with many other instructions attached to it. Let’s just focus on what these words themselves say. We are not just called to prayer. We called to sort our lives out, to humble ourselves, to seek God and to turn from wickedness.

I strongly support the desire Christians had to pray for our country. And I strongly support any group of people gathering together to commit themselves to good and to God. But the big question, 48 hours later, is “now what?” What happens next.

I have four suggestions, all flowing from this verse in 2 Chron. 7:14:

1. Choose to humble ourselves

Humility involves thinking of others more highly than ourselves. Humility involves believing the best about others. Humility means I accept that my views, my approaches, my worldview and my way of life are not definitive for others – that other people may have equally valid, but different views, approaches, worldviews and ways of living. Humility means not imposing my beliefs on others. Humility means asking more questions. Humility means seeing the world through other people’s eyes.

How can we truly demonstrate a spirit of humility in South Africa and the world right now?

Continue reading We’ve prayed for our country. Now what?

Only hypocrites would boycott Disney over a gay character in Beauty and the Beast

Disney’s latest real-actor remake of one of their classics has just been released in the USA, and early reviews are effusive in their praise of Beauty and the Beast. Except for a few die-hard conservative, evangelicals – the perennial party-poopers of the modern age. Led, of course, by the increasingly frothy-mouthed Franklin Graham, there has been a loud call for Christians to boycott the movie, and in fact Disney as a whole, because one of the characters in the movie is gay (or, maybe gay).

Conservative Christians have a long tradition of targeting Disney for its stance on LGBTI rights. When Disney pre-empted legislation on gay marriage by extending employee benefits to those in same sex relationships two decades ago, Christians staged a boycott of Disney. But Disney was unmoved, and eventually the pull of Mickey Mouse overcame Christian objections and they went back to Disneyland as they had before. Apparently their children’s need for entertainment overcame their principled objections. More on this theme later.

The concern this week is that in the new Beauty and the Beast movie, Disney made it more obvious than in the original 1991 version that Gaston’s sidekick LeFou may be, as we already suspected, gay. It’s not overt, it’s not sexual and it’s not a theme in the movie at all. In fact, in a 129 minute feature film, this issue takes up slightly less than 30 seconds. Yet, Franklin Graham has said:

They’re trying to push the LGBT agenda into the hearts and minds of your children—watch out! Disney has the right to make their [movies], it’s a free country. But as Christians we also have the right not to support their company. I hope Christians everywhere will say no to Disney.

Of course Disney have the right to make these movies. And, yes, Graham and his accolytes have the right to boycott it. But I also have the right to point out how hypocritical that is. Because that is precisely what it is. Embarrassingly so.

Continue reading Only hypocrites would boycott Disney over a gay character in Beauty and the Beast

A Modern Day Parable for the US Republicans: And Jesus Said Unto Paul of Ryan

When the New York Times starts quoting the Bible at you, you know you’re in real trouble. Or you should do, anyway. That’s what happened to Paul Ryan this past week when op-ed columnist Nicholas Kristof wrote a mashup of some of Jesus’ parables, and directed them at Republican Speaker Paul Ryan, in response to the launch of his Health Care Act.

I agree with the sentiments of this piece. Donald Trump has emboldened the worst parts of the Republican conservatives, who are showing in their budget and especially their health care proposals, that they will put capitalism, profit and self-interest above social care, helping the vulnerable and care of the planet. That may be a reductionist view, but I don’t think it is unfair.

I am not going to give more context for this piece. I am just going to say that Trump and Ryan’s brand of conservativism is going to very quickly show itself for what it is. And it is decidedly un-Christlike.

Read the excellent New York Times piece here, and please subscribe to the NYT like I have to show support for good journalism. I have included an extract below to give you a sense of it, but please support the NYT and other good journalists by going to their site as well.

And Jesus Said Unto Paul of Ryan …

by Nicholas Kristof
New York Times, March 16, 2017

A woman who had been bleeding for 12 years came up behind Jesus and touched his clothes in hope of a cure. Jesus turned to her and said: “Fear not. Because of your faith, you are now healed.”

Continue reading A Modern Day Parable for the US Republicans: And Jesus Said Unto Paul of Ryan

Sermon: Jesus calls us to love the outsiders

I preached this sermon on 22 January 2017, as part of a series called Jesus Encounter. Jesus calls us to love, unconditionally and extravagantly. He specifically calls us to love those who outside our circles.

Jesus calls

AUDIO: http://www.futurechurchnow.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/Sermon-Jesus-calls-lq.mp3

My sermon notes:

Jesus Encounter series start

Jesus Encounter series – until Easter

The stories recorded in the Gospels and Acts are not merely stories of what happened to a few people 2000 years ago – not just historical record. They were carefully selected in order to show us patterns, and help us understand how WE can encounter Jesus even today. As we read the Gospels and Acts we should be alert for those patterns in the stories, and look carefully for clues and instructions on how we can encounter Jesus and live Christ-like lives today.

PRAY

Continue reading Sermon: Jesus calls us to love the outsiders