Tag Archives: Eureka St

Children of God (Easter 3, Year B, 22 April 2012)

Readings
1 John 3.12-19
Luke 24.36b-48 

I saw a poem in Eureka St magazine during the week called The problem with being an atheist. It was written by an Anglican priest in NSW called Jorie Ryan, and it begins in this way:

The problem with being an atheist
is the lack
of imagination.
no one to talk with
when we were first begun
to share the pain
of dying
the joy of living
to delight in our first words
our singing notes
our pictures on the walls.
The problem with being an atheist
is the lack of gratitude
having no one to thank for being here
nothing to join hands with
and dance the dance of life.

It stands in stark contrast to the way our reading from 1 John 3 starts today:

See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is.

Jorie Ryan contends that atheism involves a lack of an ultimate reference for our joys and sorrows, a cosmic home to belong to; John proclaims that we have that ultimate reference and cosmic home, who is the Father who calls us children of God. The Father delights in the words we speak to tell our praise, the songs we sing as we serve others, the pictures we paint with our lives.

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Eureka Street comes of age – Eureka Street

A thoughtful reflection from Andy Hamilton of Eureka St about the ways online publishing influence public conversation.

Eureka Street comes of age – Eureka Street.

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A moment (just!) of ubuntu

I preached a few weeks ago about how the way of ubuntu is starting to speak to me, particularly through the writings and life of Desmond Tutu. Eureka St has a story today about how a young man with no money for a ticket was ‘voted’ onto a bus.

The story is called Vote 1 bus ‘bludger’. I’d like to think of it as a moment of ubuntu, of a fair go.

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Fourth Sunday of Easter (Easter 4) / Anzac Day

The Lamb who was slaughtered

Readings
Revelation 7.9-17
John 10.22-30

Every few years, this happens. Anzac Day falls on a Sunday. And I have a task that I sometimes think is pretty well beyond me—that task is to say a word about Jesus Christ and his resurrection life, whilst remembering those who have died in our nation’s wars.

Let me confess. I turned twenty in 1973; some of you will immediately realise what this means. The young men of my generation were being chosen by ballot to be conscripted into the Armed Forces and fight in an unpopular war in Vietnam.

I have rarely been so relieved than when Gough Whitlam came to power on 2 December 1972 and abolished conscription the very next day.

Those who returned from Vietnam often returned to find people didn’t want to know. They were not honoured for being part of our nation’s wars. There may have been all sorts of reasons, including massive popular opposition to sending troops to Vietnam. Many returning soldiers developed post-traumatic stress disorders as a result of the treatment they received on returning to Australia. They were let down by our society.

During the week, I read of a man none of us will have heard of. A man called Harry Hogan. His story is in Eureka St, an online magazine produced by a members of a Jesuit community—in fact, I stay with this community when I’m in Melbourne. Read it! But for now, listen to Harry Hogan’s story:

Harry was 18, a knockabout bush larrikin ready to give just about anything a try. He joined the Second Machine Gun Battalion on 10 February 1915, trained for four months…and set foot on the beach at Gallipoli on 16 August, a few days after the start of the doomed August offensive that was the Allies’ last throw of the dice before their retreat from the peninsula.

For the next four months Harry Hogan, like so many of his fellow soldiers, had an undistinguished, brutalising time, memories of which would stay with him forever. If, in his happy-go-lucky, thoughtless way, he had imagined performing daring, perhaps dramatic deeds, it took no time at all for such notions to founder amid the chaos, the blood, the wounds, the deaths.

Never shirking but always scared stiff, Harry staggered through the months until serious head wounds were added to his more or less constant and worsening state of shock, and he was taken to hospital in Alexandria on 23 December…

Harry recovered after treatment but, still not 19 years of age, he had seen gruesome sights, experienced indescribable horrors and confronted his own crippling fears. He was scarred beyond any treatment that the hospital in Alexandria could give him or even knew about. And this was only the beginning.

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Can we be good without God?

Or, better put, can we live ethical lives without a faith in God? Lots of people do, so the answer is ‘Yes’.

Andy Hamilton looks at the issue in his usual insightful way in today’s Eureka St. The emphases are mine:

Christopher Hitchens does get you thinking. In today’s contributions toEureka Street, my colleague Herman Roborgh wrestles with the relevance of his argument for Islam. Here I would like to take up one of the issues which he often raises: whether ethical thinking needs to include God.

Before discussing the reasons for this assertion, I would like to despatch arguments that are untenable. It has long been argued that if people do not believe in a God who will judge and sentence them to hell for bad actions, they will feel free to act outrageously. The large number of people who believe neither in God nor in hell but act ethically argue against this claim.

The same evidence tells against the claim that individuals will not act or think ethically unless they believe in God. Most theists have friends with no religious belief whose delicacy of conscience and integrity we can only admire. Furthermore, the seriousness with which organisations and people from different backgrounds reflect on the ethical dimensions of research and governance argue that worthwhile ethical reflection does not depend on belief in God.

It would also be unjust to dismiss as worthless any ethical system that does not include reference to God. The slogans used to summarise the central claims of most ethical systems offer a good guide to behaviour. If we regularly sought the greatest good of the greatest number, weighed the consequences of different courses of action, did our duty and asked what would make us truly happy, we would be following substantially reliable ethical guides. The question at issue is how well-grounded are the ethical systems that underlie such good ethical advice.

The argument that ethical thinking needs to include God has partly to do with the need for a firm logical grounding of ethics, and partly comes from reflection on culture. It picks up Nietzche’s insights into the climactic character of the death of God in Western society. He saw the disappearance of God from culture as a given, but he associated it with terror and not equanimity. His world without God was a world for heroes, not for the complacent.

The difference made by including God in ethical thinking can best be seen reflecting on the claim that other people and the world make on me. We can answer that question in two broad ways. One is to say that when we respond to others and to our world, we respond to values that are already given in them. We recognise their value and respond to what we recognise. For theists who see things in this way, God is the source of value in our world, and so gives space for the ethical quest. God also gives continuity in our own human journeys. We have a history of response to value, and not simply a series of disconnected actions.

Without God it is difficult to find space for values that precede our judgment. It is more reasonable to say that individuals choose their own values, and that we make ourselves by the choices we make. We decide to give value to people and the world. This is the second way of dealing with the claim that other people make on me. To an outsider, it has some difficulties. It is hard to see why we should prefer other values when they conflict with our own self interest. It also seems difficult to establish common values except by majority opinion and to impose them except by legislation. Finally, the freedom that is given by the emphasis on individual choice will tend to become a burden if we have no sense of a significant human journey that can give meaning to our choices.

The God whom this argument claims is needed in ethics is not another character within our world. God is seen as the condition of the space necessary for an ethical life to have significance.

What are we to make of this argument? Its strength lies in its description of the character of Christian morality, and its commendation of the space that it offers for depth in recognising value, in finding common moral ground with others, and in allowing a dramatic sense of human life as a moral journey.

But the argument is not conclusive in dismissing the value of ethical frameworks that make no mention of God. It is the first step in a conversation that invites other large views of the ethical life to describe in their own terms how they find the deep human qualities that Christians preserve by grounding ethics in God.

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Budget: still waiting for social inclusion

Yesterday, I drew attention to Eureka St’s take on the Budget, with three principles for it to be good news for the poor. It looks to be a disappointment.

Frank Quinlan, Director of Catholic Social Services Australia, was allowed into the ‘lock-up’ for journos (where no doubt he saw David Koch salivating over his papers). He writes that he looked through the 30 cm-thick papers and the:

…in the ‘Budget Overview’ document, I found the section on social inclusion and my heart sank. I quote it directly:

‘Downturn or not, there will always be people in our society who suffer disadvantage. Through National Partnerships, the government is working to improve the social inclusion of the disadvantaged on a range of fronts, including homelessness, disability services, low socio economic status schools and Indigenous outcomes.’

Later, the detailed document indicated that the government has ‘sought further advice’ from the Social Inclusion Board.

After all that we have heard about the social inclusion agenda, after all we have heard about a new way of working with the community sector, after all the evidence we have presented that the community services sector will face unprecedented demand over the next two years … No comprehensive strategies to lift people out their immediate poverty. No coherent strategy to strengthen and support the community services sector.

While the government is prepared to spend only cautiously on a politically acceptable selection of the people that use our services, and while government is prepared to pump hundreds of millions of dollars into industries as globally uncompetitive as the car industry or as patently unproductive as the banking and finance ‘industry’ or on ventures as speculative and risky as carbon sequestration, we have not been able to convince government to invest directly and strategically in an industry as essential and as effective as the community service sector.

I wrote in response to the first Rudd Labor Budget that we may have turned a corner, towards a fairer Australia and a more sustainable community sector, but that only time would tell. After all the scripted theatre of pre-budget leaks, secure lock-ups and dazzling announcements are stripped away, the 2009–10 Budget seems to indicate that we may well be waiting for a long time yet.

Read the rest here, weep, pray & act.

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Budget day

The federal Budget comes down today, and it’ll be a toughy.

Eureka St’s John Warhurst has a great article in the final hours before the budget is delievered, which has these three principles from a Catholic (and I would say, simply Christian) viewpoint:

  • Catering for the needs and aspirations of all members of the community (the ‘common good’);
  • Ensuring any economic burdens imposed are proportionate to the person’s capacity to pay (distributive justice);
  • Always giving priority to enhancing the lives of the most disadvantaged (preferential option for the poor).

It will be good to see how the Budget stacks up.

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