Old religion opt in, new one compulsory

January 14, 2020

The government is planning to make religious instruction in schools opt-in:

Parents will be required to give explicit permission in writing for their children to receive religious instruction at state schools under a planned law change.

It may be the beginning of the end of primary schools offering religious instruction.

Education Minister Chris Hikpkins told the Herald he believes in secular education and does not believe schools should be offering religious instruction.

“But we need a bit more of a national conversation about that before we get into that,” he said. . . 

Although the religion isn’t specified, in most schools it’s Christian, the one which has shaped our laws and ethics.

Meanwhile, the new religion will be part of the compulsory curriculum:

The Government’s new climate change educational material for year 7 and 8 students skirts close to taxpayer-funded propaganda, says the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union.

Taxpayers’ Union spokesman Louis Houlbrooke says, “The new taxpayer-funded curriculum promotes the campaigns of Greta Thunberg, School Strike for Climate, and even Greenpeace. Students are encouraged to reduce their feelings of climate guilt by participating in this kind of political activism.”
 
“Left-wing campaign groups would be spewing if the national curriculum ever promoted the Taxpayers’ Union vision of a prosperous low-tax New Zealand. The national curriculum should not be used to promote particular political groups or agendas.”
 
“A sensible climate change policy would focus on the science and policy options. But even on these points, the course is weak: it promotes a tax on carbon while failing to mention that we already have an Emissions Trading Scheme.”
 
“A major portion of the material is fluffy, condescending rubbish. Students will have to sit through five different sessions focused on their feelings about climate change, with activities including a ‘feelings splash’ and a ‘feelings thermometer’.”

The teacher resources even include a 15-page ‘wellbeing guide’ for teachers and parents, which warns: Children may respond to the climate change scientific material in a number of ways. They may experience a whole host of difficult emotions, including fear, helplessness, frustration, anger, guilt, grief, and confusion. When discussing the material, teachers may encounter students who cope through avoidance, denial, diversionary tactics, wishful thinking and a range of other coping mechanisms.
 
“This isn’t teaching kids how to think – it’s telling them how to feel.”

I don’t have strong feelings on the change to opt-in for religious instruction although there is a place for teaching ethics and also the knowledge of Christianity, and other religions, that is required to understand our culture, history and literature.

I do have strong feelings about this evangelical approach to climate change which has a lot less to do with science and reason and more to do with indoctrination and belief.

Schools should be teaching not preaching. Any instruction on climate change should be about science, not religious fervour and emotion.


Sowell says

December 27, 2019


The reason for the season

December 24, 2019

Jim Hopkins remembers Christmases past:

. . . Christmas always stirs strong feelings and vivid memories for me.

I grew up south of the tracks in Christchurch when coal was king and fired the steam trains that thundered through. Dad was the vicar at St Mary’s Addington and, for him, Christmas was one of the most important times of the year.

Which should come as no surprise, though it may do now.

A birth in Bethlehem is, after all, the reason we actually have a Christmas holiday. And that birth used to be an integral part of the celebration.

Recognised in school nativity plays, on the wireless, in newspapers, its story touched most people’s lives.

Mary and Joseph and the Three Wise Men shared the limelight with Mr Claus and his elves.

Needless to say, the vicar’s offspring took their place in the pews – along with the rest of the community. Service first, pud and presents later. That was the drill.

I can still see the interior of that old church, dark timber beams, dust motes drifting in the light filtered through stained glass windows. I can hear the carols. I can smell the Christmas lillies. These memories return every year, as time grows longer, becoming ever stronger.

But the Christmas I remember is a faded thing. As the churches have lost (or surrendered) their influence, so faith has left the festive season.

Christmas today is a strictly secular affair with scant public recognition of its religious roots. The establishment avoids them and the media simply ignores them.

Bad for business or just old hat, anything biblical is off the agenda. Those who run the fourth estate may argue that’s because fewer people say they’re Christian, to which the reply might be, maybe that’s because you’ve spent decades dismissing their beliefs.

Whatever the reasons, it saddens me that the spiritual dimension of Christmas has withered as it has. Because the nativity story literally marks the beginning of a faith which, whatever the woke folk may say, is a core piece of our heritage and the foundation of our morals, manners and laws. For that reason alone, it has a place on Christmas day. . .

A few days ago I read a media release from a government entity (which I now can’t find) explaining how it’s sensitive to employees who don’t celebrate Christmas.

Fair enough, but sensitivity shouldn’t mean pretending it’s something else, especially when it’s not applied to celebrations for other religions.

No-one pretends that Diwali isn’t a Hindu festival, we’re not asked to skirt round, we shouldn’t be offended if someone wishes us happy Hanukkah so why the pussy-footing around Christmas?

You don’t have to be a Christian to understand and acknowledge the reason for the season.

You don’t have to believe what Christians do.

And Christian or not, we’d all be better off with more reflection on the real message of hope, joy, peace and love.


Easter’s late

April 19, 2019

It’s Good Friday, one of the holiest of days in the Christian calendar, though probably just another holiday for many in an increasingly secular country.

But why is it so late this year?

The Bible doesn’t spell out the exact date that Easter occurs on, but it does say that Jesus was crucified during the Jewish holiday of Passover. According to the Catholic magazine America: The Jesuit Review, in the year 325, the Council of Nicaea decided to celebrate Easter “at the very time of Jesus’ Passion,” the Christian term for the final days of Jesus’ life before his death and resurrection. The Jewish calendar is calculated based on lunar months, so to link Easter with Passover, the Council of Nicaea decided that Easter would be observed “on the first Sunday after the first full moon on or after the vernal equinox.” Basically, because the moon affects when Passover falls, the moon also affects when Easter falls.

But this year the northern hemisphere equinox and the full moon we’re on March 20th. So why wasn’t Easter last month?

Back in 1582, Pope Gregory XIII made some additional rules about calculating Easter’s date when introducing the Gregorian calendar. According to Space.com, these rules said that Easter would always fall between March 22 and April 25 — and that the Catholic Church would always mark the vernal equinox on March 21, even though the astronomical vernal equinox can be anywhere from March 19 to March 21. This year, the first full moon after March 21 was on April 19, which is a Friday — meaning that this Easter will be on the following Sunday, April 21. . . 

That’s this weekend.

Whether or not you are Christian, May your Easter be a blessed one.


Faith first for Folau

April 16, 2019

Rugby Australia has issued a breach notice to Israel Folau:

Folau sparked outrage after posting to his Instagram account last Wednesday night that “hell awaits drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolators” — adding they should “repent”. . . 

What he said is not just a tenet of fundamental Christianity, Muslim and Jewish religions would also regard these as sins.

At its core, this is an issue of the responsibilities an employee owes to their employer and the commitments they make to their employer to abide by their employer’s policies and procedures and adhere to their employer’s values,” Rugby Australia said in a statement.

Freedom of expression, outside work, obviously isn’t one of those values.

“Following the events of last year, Israel was warned formally and repeatedly about the expectations of him as player for the Wallabies and NSW Waratahs with regards to social media use and he has failed to meet those obligations. It was made clear to him that any social media posts or commentary that is in any way disrespectful to people because of their sexuality will result in disciplinary action. . .

This is an employment issue. Folau had been warned and ignored the warning. But was what was required of him fair?

In doing ignoring the warning, he’s chosen to put his faith before football:

Israel Folau is sticking to his guns no matter what it costs the embattled Wallabies superstar.

And he is continuing to place his faith in his religion, despite the storm airing his beliefs on social media has caused within both the Australian rugby and society in general. . . 

It’s obviously a decision that’s in the process right now but I believe in a God that’s in control of all things,” Folau told the Sydney Morning Herald.

“Whatever His will is, whether that’s to continue playing or not, I’m more than happy to do what He wants me to do.”

Folau said he would not mind one bit if his rugby career was done as long as he got to do The Lord’s work.

“First and foremost, I live for God now. Whatever He wants me to do, I believe His plans for me are better than whatever I can think. If that’s not to continue on playing, so be it.

“In saying that, obviously I love playing footy and if it goes down that path I’ll definitely miss it. But my faith in Jesus Christ is what comes first.” . . 

It’s not that long ago that not doing anything against which Folau is warning, would have been a code of conduct that was generally accepted as the right one and the condemnation of people who didn’t follow it would not have been remarkable.

Even now, while some have used social media to confess to being guilty on several of these counts, how can speaking out against any of them that hurt others be wrong?

But of course it’s not Folau’s condemnation of drunkenness, adultery, lying or thieving that’s caused the furor, it’s the inclusion of homosexuality.

Bob Jones points out:

First, these remarks are totally consistent with the Bible (and the Koran) so why the uproar?

Second, why did the critics, including the Prime Minister, solely complain about the reference to homosexuals? What about us drunks and fornicators? Doesn’t she care about our pain? We know the answer to that, namely unlike fairydom we’re not fashionable at the moment.

I can understand journalists concentration on homosexuals as few are whereas make no mistake, the vast majority I’ve known are drunks, adulterers, liars and fornicators to various degrees, so too heaps of MP’s.  A double-standard here methinks.

My contact with journalists and MPs hasn’t involved drunkenness, lying and fornicating but I don’t move in Sir Bob’s circles.

This whole episode is a classic pack-hunting media contrivance. I have difficulty believing a single drunk, fornicator, homosexual, adulterer or liar reading Israel’s remarks gave a damn. He’s entitled to express his religious beliefs as much as I for example am, to continue pursuing my life-long mockery of religion. . . 

An employment breach is between Rugby Australia and Folau but how many would have known about it if the media hadn’t picked up the post?

Only those who follow his account, at least some of whom no doubt agree with him, and others would be following him because of his footy fame and not be troubled by his faith.

But the mainstream media, as happens too often, picked up the post and broadcast it to the world. They then reported the outrage they’d stirred up and also the concern about people who might be upset by it who probably would have been oblivious had the media not generated the publicity.

The offenderati reacted predictably by condemning him and wanting to silence him.

Why when, as Michael Redell points out,  few share his beliefs?:

. . . If –  as most New Zealanders and a large proportion of Australians now claim to –  you don’t believe in the existence of God, let alone of eternal separation from God or Hell, it is hard to know why what Folau is saying should bother you.   You surely believe he is simply deluded and wrong, as he will discover (or rather not) when he dies.

If you don’t believe what he says why not ignore it, or counter it with rational argument?

That probably is the view of a fair number of people in New Zealand and Australia today.  But it isn’t the view of those holding the commanding heights –  MPs, leader writers, columnists, business leaders and so on –  who have demanded that it be stopped.  They simply cannot abide the thought that someone of any prominence should openly affirm that sin is sin, and that homosexual acts are among the things labelled as sin.

Here I’m not mainly interested in the Australian Rugby Union. I have a modicum of sympathy for their position, even if (as I noted in an earlier post elsewhere on these issues) the problem was partly one of their own making.   Rugby could just be rugby, but that’s not enough for today bosses.

My interest is more in what it says about our society – New Zealand and, it appears, Australia –  that no prominent person is free to express centuries-old Christian belief (views backed, rightly or wrongly, by the law of the land until only a few decades ago) when it trespasses on the taboos and sacred cows (“homosexuality good”) of today’s “liberal” elite.  And if no prominent person can –  and it is interesting to note that not a single church leader has been willing to stand up openly for Folau, and the Scriptures –  how will those less prominent be positioned.   Folau may lose a multi-million dollar contract, but he’ll already have earned much more than many ordinary working people make in their life.   But what of the ordinary employee of a bank or of one of those right-on government agencies.  It might not even be a personal social media account, or a speaking engagement at the local church.  It might be nothing more than a reluctance to participate in celebrations of what (in their belief, in the tradition of thousands of years) sinful acts.   The issue here isn’t someone proselytising across the counter of the bank, any more than Folau’s “offence” involved activity in the middle of a game, but a totalitarian disregard for any view –  no matter of how longstanding –  that doesn’t fall into line with today’s orthodoxy.

This is what concerns me too.

I don’t share Folau’s fundamental version of faith.

I find a lot of the Bible contradictory and when I do I choose the option that shows love and grace – turn the other cheek rather than an eye for an eye, for example.

But Folau’s are honestly held beliefs. They don’t impact on his playing ability, he wasn’t preaching during a game, why shouldn’t he be allowed to express them?

And there’s also the niggling thought that some religions are more equal than others and if his was another faith rather than Christian, he would he have been given a little more leniency.


Christian privilege?

December 7, 2018

Statistics New Zealand is copping criticism for playing ‘Check Your Privilege Bingo’ at a workshop:

The game had a five-by-five board, with squares including ‘white’, ‘Christian’, ‘able-bodied’, ‘no speech impediment’, ‘male’ and ‘heterosexual’.

“Officials at a Stats NZ technical workshop today spent an hour having participants singing, hand-clapping and playing ‘Check Your Privilege Bingo’,” said National finance spokesperson Amy Adams. . .

According to the event schedule the game only ran for 15 minutes. 

“Yet at the same time New Zealand continues to wait for the 2018 Census results after a shambolic process that resulted in significant data gaps and we’re yet to see anything on the last two years of child poverty statistics.”

I agree that this doesn’t seem to be good use of time and it is particularly galling when the census was a shambles but I was intrigued that being Christian makes you privileged.

When it’s okay to put a condom on a Catholic icon and call it art, when people are killed for mocking the prophet of one religion but Jesus and Christ are used as curses and the politically correct pussy foot round every other creed but Christianity, is it really a marker of privilege?


Power of love

May 20, 2018

Episcopalian bishop, Michael Curry, gave the address at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

He began:

And now in the name of our loving, liberating and life-giving God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

From the Song of Solomon in the Bible: “Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm; for love is as strong as death, passion fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, a raging flame. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it out.”

The late Dr Martin Luther King once said, and I quote: “We must discover the power of love, the redemptive power of love. And when we discover that, we will be able to make of this old world a new world. For love, love is the only way.”

There’s power in love. Don’t underestimate it. Don’t even over-sentimentalize it. There’s power, power in love. . . 

He continued quoting the Bible, Martin Luther King and towards the end quoted French Jesuit Teilhard de Chardin:

. . . he said, as others have, that the discovery or invention or harnessing of fire was one of the great scientific and technological discoveries in all of human history. Fire to a great extent made human civilization possible. Fire made it possible to cook food and provide sanitary ways of eating which reduced the spread of disease in its time. Fire made it possible to heat, warm environments and thereby made human migration around the world a possibility, even into colder climates. Fire made it possible, there was no Bronze Age without fire, no Iron Age without fire, no Industrial Revolution without fire. The advances of science and technology are greatly dependent on the ability and capacity to take fire and use it for human good. . . 

And de Chardin said fire was one of the greatest discoveries in all of human history. And he then went on to say that if humanity ever harnesses the energy of fire again, if humanity ever captures the energy of love, it will be the second time in history that we have discovered fire.

Dr. King was right. “We must discover love the redemptive power of love. And when we do that, we will make of this old world a new world.” . . 

You can read about de Chardin here.

 

 


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