Mormons, Muslims and Lazy Christians

Posted: 10 April 2016

Bored, overweight man sits on the sofa

Australia’s mostly widely read weekend newspaper recently carried a front page story in which we were informed that a popular Rugby League player would no longer play or train on Sundays so that he could attend his weekly church service. Canterbury Bulldogs star Will Hopoate negotiated the clause into his contract due to what the newspaper called his “staunch devotion to his Mormon faith”. The article went on to quote the 23-year-old who spoke about his desire that Sunday be maintained as a day set apart for rest, worship and charitable work.­ The coverage not only spoke about Hopoate, but carried positive information about the Mormon religion and other high profile Mormon Athletes.

I have no problem with the young man wanting to have a sacrosanct day in his week dedicated to prayer and refection. The world would be a far better place if each one of us, religious or otherwise, also took a day each week to stop and reflect. What I found most interesting in the article though was the obvious novelty seen in what Hopoate was doing. Actually perhaps ‘interesting’ is the wrong word, maybe I should have chosen ‘disappointing’, and for two reasons. First, only two generations ago a newspaper article would have been more likely commenting on the novelty of professional sport actually taking place on a Sunday. Second, it’s disappointing because mainstream Christianity has basically sold out on what were once its core values and that has been left to be picked up by groups such as the Mormons. How many Catholics, Anglicans or Orthodox do you notice standing up for the value of Sunday? How many are instead spending Sunday worshipping at the Cathedral of Saint Westfield or singing the joyful praises of Macy’s?

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Does Contraception have a place in Christian Relief Work?

Posted: 17 November 2014

mother and childI was recently invited to tour a new medical ship run by the international Christian relief organisation Youth With a Mission (YWAM). This particular ship, destined for work in Papua New Guinea (PNG), is larger and newer than their current vessel, and it will allow YWAM to increase their medical assistance by 500%, offering healthcare immunisations and training to 1.3 million people, a quarter of the nation’s population. The ship will offer basic but vital services which many of the poorest people of PNG would have little hope of accessing otherwise, such as optical and dental treatment, pregnancy assistance, as well as medications to fight malaria and tuberculosis. There was no doubt in the presentation and ensuing discussion that the work being undertaken was of immense value, truly taking up the most basic Christian tenant to offer help to those in need.

The ship is currently moving up and down the east coast of Australia raising awareness and seeking young people as medical and general volunteers. The reason I was invited aboard was to help them create an awareness of the work amongst young Catholics, especially those who might look to give a few months to volunteering. As the discussions developed I knew there was one question that needed to be asked, and that was their policy on abortion and contraception. While I was relieved to learn that as a Christian organisation they did not carry out abortions, they did distribute the contraceptive pill and the Depo-Provera injection which is designed to prevent pregnancy for three months at a time. Their reasoning for distributing contraceptives was because they operate within the medical policy of the nation in which they serve and contraceptives are part of the ‘health’ strategy of PNG. Their response was not a real surprise and they are certainly not the only Christian relief agency travelling this path (even World Vision is the same). Contraceptives now form a large part of the medical response in developing nations and that is often because it is tied to much needed relief dollars from wealthier nations such as Australia and the USA. Read the rest of this entry »

Street Preachers – Giving Christianity a Bad Name

Posted: 28 April 2014

Street preachersEvery major city has its street preachers. Standing near train stations and bus stops, in parks and public squares, they hold up signs, handout leaflets and proclaim messages about sin, death, heaven and hell. ‘Sinners deserve hell’; ‘Judgement is coming…seek Jesus now’; ‘God hates the wicked’. Whether purposeful or not, these preachers often come across as angry with a threatening message: repent or burn in hell. Every city may have them, but that does mean they are a positive addition to the tapestry.

I am convinced about one thing in regards this style of evangelist, they give Christianity (and religion in general) a bad name and create an even wider gulf between the non-believer and faith. In fact it’s not only non-believers who are their target; Hindus, Muslims and an assortment of Christians (Catholics, Pentecostals, Mormons) are informed in no uncertain terms that their faith is of the devil. Then of course there are the ‘standard sinners’ under attack as described via their placards; ‘fornicators, thieves, abortionists, liars, drunks, adulterers and sodomites’.

Open-air preaching is certainly nothing new. The great philosophers and sages of the ancient world discussed some of the noblest ideas in the public forum. Jesus of Nazareth spent three years in public ministry with much of that preaching to huge crowds on hillsides and in the market place. The mendicant friars of the middle ages such as the Franciscans and Dominicans were renowned as the wandering preachers of Western Europe. The Protestant Reformation has spurred numerous passionate preachers, with Billy Graham, affectionately known as ‘America’s Pastor’, topping that list. Lastly, one shouldn’t forget Bishop Fulton J. Sheen whose weekly television shows in the 1950s and 60s drew up to 30 million viewers per week earning him the title from Time Magazine as the first ‘televangelist’. Read the rest of this entry »

Catholic or Protestant…Does it Matter?

Posted: 9 July 2013

pope and queenMy wife and I were travelling recently and we found ourselves on a shuttle bus from the airport to the car rental terminal. While sitting in our seat studying the map, a somewhat friendly man decided to spark up a conversation with us. This man, named Doug, was on his way to an evangelical Protestant retreat weekend with several hundred others from across the country. Upon finding out that we were Catholic, Doug shared that he was raised a Catholic and attended Catholic schooling but had some years back found his way into his particular brand of Protestantism. He didn’t seem too concerned by his change in identity. In the few minutes we had left I tried to offer Doug a few reasons to consider again Catholicism and with a smile reminded him that he was still a member of the Catholic family and an empty pew awaited him at any time.

Doug’s story is neither new nor unique, on that trip alone I met another two former Catholics-turned-Protestants. You probably have family or friends in a similar situation, perhaps you are in that situation. A recent US study identified that one in three people raised as Catholic (that is baptised Catholic) no longer identified as such. The figures would not be hugely inaccurate for Australia. Almost half of those who leave the Catholic Church become unaffiliated from any faith and most of the other half become active in a Protestant denomination. Those who leave Catholicism to worship in a Protestant community are by no means lazy Christians; in fact the same study showed that Catholics who became Protestants had a higher weekly church practice rate than those who remained Catholic. Read the rest of this entry »

Lent and the Cross

Posted: 5 April 2013


crossWe are rapidly progressing through the season of Lent and if we have been taking the season seriously, the physical and spiritual efforts we have undertaken are probably being felt. This exercising of the spirit is much like exercising the body.  Initially when we start a fitness regime, maybe running or swimming or a particular group sport it can be tough, we cannot go as far as we would like, but as we keep working at it, little by little, our ability becomes greater, the distractions and bothers fall away.  This is the Church’s hope for us, that by now we are starting to grow stronger in virtue, but we must keep the cross before our eyes to remind us of why we are suffering and of whom we suffer with. Everything done in Lent has to be done for Christ and with Christ. One might live on bread and water for forty days but if that suffering is not united with Christ’s suffering then all that has been achieved is most probably significant weight loss.

Each one of us is called during this Lent to wait on the Lord, for our sufferings are not meaningless, but the very opportunities that God allows to unite us to him. Sure, we were not created to suffer but we live in a fallen world and now the only way to overcome our fallenness and be united with the Trinity is through the cross. There is no other method; no pill, no book, no website, no self-help DVD and not even another person. By allowing himself to be hung nailed to a tree Christ wanted to show us that happiness in this life – and salvation in the next – comes through waiting on God.  The cross is the exact opposite of what happened with our first parents in the garden. Read the rest of this entry »

Pope Benedict XVI and the Papacy

Posted: 26 March 2013

pope-wavingAs the Christian world begins the season of lent in preparation for Easter, there could be no greater surprise than the news that Pope Benedict XVI will step down from the Papacy on 28 February. Even though the reasons of deteriorating health are valid for an 85 year old pontiff, having not seen a Papal abdication since Pope Celestine V in 1296, (and even before then they were rare), the decision has met with expected shock.

Pope Benedict is the 264th successor of the Apostle Peter in a line that has seen empires rise and fall and dynasties come and go. No institution is able to claim a more ancient status than the Catholic Church and the papacy. In modern times the Pope is referred to as the head of the Catholic Church, differentiating him from other Christian Churches and communities, but it is wise to recall that for the first thousand years of Christianity there was no other Church besides the Church led by the Pope. The schism of 1054 between the East (Orthodox) and the West (Catholic) was, and remains, a tragic political blunder which will certainly one day be rectified. The remainder of the Christian world goes by the name of ‘Protestant’ deriving most simply from a protest in the Middle Ages against the authority of the Pope. And so through the peaks and troughs of history, the Papacy has remained a constant. Read the rest of this entry »

Are We All Sexual Perverts?

Posted: 21 October 2012

Recently the Sydney Opera House hosted the Festival of Dangerous Ideas which brings together a host of speakers on a variety of controversial topics. Not one to shy away from controversy I attended a couple of sessions including We are all Sexual Perverts by an American psychologist Jesse Bering, whose basic premise was that each person has within them certain desires that others would find offensive and indeed disgusting. Professing himself to be an active homosexual, Bering believes that while society has become accepting of homosexuality (once called a ‘behaviour’ but now popularly referred to as an ‘orientation’) we should consider why we might be less accepting of the approximately 547 other ‘paraphilias’ ranging from arousal by stuffed animal toys (plushophilia), machines (mechaphilia) or even trees (dendrophilia).

While many of the stranger paraphilias raised laughter amongst the audience, Bering also spent time considering more well known philias such as paedophilia and zoophilia (bestiality), posing the question of how we might respond to someone who had a tendency towards these even though they had never acted upon them. Bering believes that all paraphilias should be accepted and respected because the inclination has nothing to do with whether or not the person has committed some kind of social transgression. Interestingly and correctly Bering did state that without belief in some type of divine creator who had mapped out a design for sexuality who were we to judge a person’s interior sexual desires as more or less worthy than our own. Bering admits that his interest in the whole topic is attributed to his own homosexuality and a childhood lived among “conservative and religious” people which had led him to a sympathy for others who find themselves in minority sexual categories. Read the rest of this entry »