The three monkeys, or the Lion King?

Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil? Ask the Lion King.

On our farm in rural Queensland, my Dad had three brass monkeys on his desk. Hear no evil, see no evil, and speak no evil. It was an apt image for the kind of Christian faith we adhered to, a kind of pietism, focused on avoiding sin.

One day, some visitors questioned my Dad, “Why do you have a Buddhist image in your house?” They told him the three monkeys came from a Japanese story derived from Buddhism. It turns out that avoiding sin is not a uniquely Christian idea. Other faiths encourage us to meditate on the good and avoid ruminating on the evil. It’s one of the goals of religion: to encourage ethical behaviour.

So now I’m wondering, how important is the message of the three monkeys for the Christian faith?

You can certainly find Jesus disputing with the Pharisees about keeping our thoughts pure. This was part of Judaism and Christianity, just as it is part of other faiths. But what did Jesus do? Did he close his eyes and ears to the evil in the world?

One of the catchiest songs in The Lion King is Hakuna Matata. Banished to the wilderness, Simba takes on a carefree lifestyle. “Hakuna Matata” he sings: “no worries, for the rest of your life.” But eventually the lion king realizes he cannot close his eyes and ears to the evil oppressing his people. Like Moses returning to confront Pharaoh, Simba returns to confront Scar.

Continue reading “The three monkeys, or the Lion King?”

Living in the cross-hairs

If the gospel is good news for the whole world, what’s it like to live the gospel? Surely it’s the best life we could possibly have?

That’s true in the long term. Life under Jesus’ kingship is indeed the best life earth could ever know. There will be no more selfishness when the poor inherit the kingdom, no more abuse of power when the meek inherit the earth.

But in the short term, it’s not quite so simple. Can we live selflessly while people take advantage of us? What happens if we live powerlessly in the face of abusive powers? Won’t we get crucified?

Continue reading “Living in the cross-hairs”

Jesus on war: pacifism, or just war?

Jesus was not speaking as a prophet when he said, “You will hear of wars and rumours of wars.” Anyone with a basic understanding of history or politics knows that. Jesus had a point to make: how we respond to news of war.

What response did Jesus expect from his disciples? Christian responses to war have been polarized, as if Jesus said one of these: Continue reading “Jesus on war: pacifism, or just war?”

What kind of society do Aussies want?

Bill Shorten proposed some significant changes, but Aussie voters didn’t buy it:

  • They didn’t want change, if change involved a cost (“grandiose policies”).
  • They didn’t want to lose on investments (franking credits, negative gearing).
  • They didn’t want the environment prioritized over jobs (Adani).

The biggest loser was Tony Abbott, and Christians must consider why. Four years ago, he was Prime Minister. Now he’s knocked out, with a massive 19% swing — greater than in any other seat, and when the national swing was towards his party. Why? Continue reading “What kind of society do Aussies want?”

Don’t expect our politicians to be gods

What makes The Avengers so popular? We love stories of superhuman figures defeating oppressors and restoring justice to the earth.

Stories of mythology have always fascinated us. In Germanic mythology, Thor was the storm god, and thunder was the sound of Thor’s hammer. He was worshipped each week: Thursday is Thor’s Day.

In our movies, Thor is not a god but a superhuman figure. We’ve turned away from gods; we prefer humans with superpowers to save us.

Continue reading “Don’t expect our politicians to be gods”

This six-year-old gets identity

“I don’t know who my parents were. I’m told I was abandoned as a baby. Now I’m six years old, and my identity is in Jesus.”

Moving words from this Ugandan girl, part of the Watoto Children’s Choir. Sure, somebody scripted her lines, but she seemed to understand something about identity that many of us struggle to understand. Continue reading “This six-year-old gets identity”