The Flogging Parson

Facebook reminded me today that I posted a newsletter 3 years ago with some of the history of Christianity in Australia.  3 years ago today, Ryan and I were dating but waiting to see what God would do.  So I just kept moving towards Australia, trusting that this was part of God’s road for us.  Now I want those of you who didn’t get the opportunity then or maybe forgot this information to hear a little about who the flogging parson is and what he has to do with the history of Christianity in Australian.  The original newsletter can still be found here under the About tab on our website but here is a slightly updated version that you hopefully find insightful and interesting:

Let’s compare and contrast Christianity in the US and in Australia. America is often referred to as a Christian nation. We were founded on Christian principles and you can find statistics stating that 75% of Americans identify themselves as Christians. But identifying yourself as a Christian and being a follower of Christ are two very different things.

Australia on the other hand was founded as a penal colony. A good amount of its people brought over as convicts were protestant and catholic. This remnant of history is still a part of the fabric of Australia today. There were missionaries and clergy on the transportation ships as well. And just to be clear, as far as I can tell, the missionaries and clergy were not convicts themselves.Screen Shot 2016-05-25 at 9.27.09 PM.pngIn this collection of clergy one name stands out, Samuel Marsden. He was an English Anglican well known for his pioneering literacy and community development work among the Maori who had come as sailors and visitors to New South Wales. Sounds like a great guy, right? Except, he is more famously hailed as “The Flogging Parson”. His hatred of the Irish Catholics led to his most severe punishments in which those receiving the lashes were flogged so brutally that their “haunches turned to jelly”. He was of course not the only one who ordered beatings as a form of punishment for the early colony, so to have his savageness so clearly recorded in history shows you just how harsh he was. If you were a Maori, you might have loved this man but there was no grace if you happened to be Irish Catholic.

Today, there are statistics that would lead us to believe that Australia became a Christian nation on the heels of the early protestant and catholic convicts. However, the reality is quite different. Christianity is received with skepticism and often outright hostility. More recent statistics for Australia say that only about 7% of its people would claim to be churchgoing Christians.Screen Shot 2016-05-25 at 9.27.21 PMNevertheless, God’s fingerprints are evident and certain places in the city have visible reminders of Christianity. For example, this sculpture of Jesus with the scripture Luke 23:44-46. Even so, there is still a compelling need for the light of the gospel to be proclaimed.

 

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Violence Against Women

My previous post highlighted men’s mental health and suicide rates.  And shortly after I posted, an Aussie friend shared this video via Facebook.  This is an ad recently posted by Marie Claire Australia with the explanation, “One woman is killed every week in Australia because of domestic violence. Will this tv ad – launched around the country this weekend – make a difference?  We hope so.”  While this statistic is for Australia in general, Ryan and I recognize that domestic violence is also very high in the Wheatbelt outside of Perth.

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Please continue to pray.  Pray for us as we continue to work towards moving to Western Australia.  Pray for the women who are victims of domestic violence.  Pray for the men who are the aggressors.  And please pray for the families that are dealing with the effects of domestic violence in their own homes and communities.

Australia Day

It’s Australia Day in Australia, tomorrow in the US (the 26th).  Australia day marks the anniversary of the 1788 arrival of the First Fleet of British Ships at Port Jackson in New South Wales.  It also commemorates the raising of the Flag of Great Britain at Sydney Cove by Governor Arthur Phillip.  Evidently Australians celebrate by eating lamb and watching fireworks, so Ryan will be at a bbq today joining in the celebration, enjoying some delicious meat and beautiful fireworks.

Book Review: The Blood of Lambs

A couple months ago, I received an email addressing a subject that is a common topic today in conversation as well as on social media.  The email got me thinking and I started to read more on the subject as well as to pray more.  The email’s realistic yet compassionate message was inspiring.

In sharing this my goal is not to stir up anger, unhealthy debate, or inspire fear.  Instead my hope is to encourage people to become informed in a way that will lead to conversations and actions that will help to change our world one person at a time.  And especially to anyone who calls themselves a Christian, my hope is that you would pray more, live like Jesus Christ and show the love and light of the triune God to everyone no matter what their background, religion or race.

November 16, 2015

Syrian Refugees: Bring Them On

Recently President Obama proposed bringing 10,000 Syrian refugees into the U.S. This is only a tiny portion of the hundreds of thousands that have fled to Europe, which in turn is a small portion of the millions that have fled just over the borders to Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. But after the attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, many American leaders do not want to bring in any. And a few days ago Donald Trump said he wanted to exclude any Muslim from entering the U.S. until we “figure out what is happening.”

The fear is understandable. Obama promised that the refugees would be “rigorously vetted.” But this is likely to be the same kind of vetting that let Tashfeen Malik (the woman terrorist in San Bernardino) enter the U.S. two years ago on a K-1 (fiancee) visa. Since she came from Pakistan, which is known to harbor extremists, she was even subject to more vetting than others. We now know that she was already “radicalized” by then, and this was not picked up by the supposedly rigorous vetting.

So is Donald Trump right? From the American national security point of view, maybe he is. But from the Christian point of view, he is wrong.

Trump and many other politicians talk about keeping us “safe.” But Jesus never promised that we would be physically safe. In fact, He said “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles” (Matthew 10:16-18). Being flogged is not “safe.” In the time of Jesus, being delivered over to courts, governors and kings often meant death. Of the eleven disciples who remained after Judas, ten were martyred. See 2 Corinthians 11:24-27 for all the unsafe things that the Apostle Paul endured. Only John died a natural death.

As an example of a “worst case scenario,” back in 1981, an Islamic terrorist came to America from Lebanon on a legal visa. His purpose was to develop jihad cells and attack us from within, but God had other plans. He was in a severe car accident, and a Christian doctor took care of him, not knowing who he was – only a foreign man who needed help. After some time in a hospital, the doctor took him into his own home for months of recuperation. This completely exploded the terrorist’s idea of Christianity. When he left the doctor’s home, he could only fall on his knees and pray to God, who revealed Himself to this now ex-terrorist. The doctor practiced radical Christian hospitality and was used by God to bring this very unsafe man into the Kingdom.

So yes, we should be “wise as serpents” and examine the refugees as well as possible, knowing that like in the case of Tashfeen Malik, we will miss some. But for the sake of “bear(ing) witness before…the Gentiles,” I say “Bring them on.” It is very difficult for them to hear the Gospel in Syria and Iraq, but here they can. Our bodies may not be perfectly safe, but our souls are perfectly safe in Christ.

Alexander PierceBloodofLambCoverThe “worst case scenario” described in the above email comes from a book called The Blood of Lambs: A Former Terrorist’s Memoir of Death and Redemption by Kamal Saleem.  This book, written by Kamal, does tell his amazing story of conversion.  However, the book primarily focuses on describing Kamal’s formative years, how Islam shaped his world view and his journey that eventually brought him to the US.  

I was shocked and disturbed by a lot of what was described in somewhat graphic detail.  But it is those details that give the reader the whole picture of the ideology and culture that shaped Kamal and that continues to shape others.

However, one of the most impactful parts of the book for me was the descriptions of how Kamal first felt meeting Christians who lived out their faith.  The light Kamal describes is something that I would hope could be found in any Christian home.  However, it’s also convicting because so often Christians do not live their faith in such a transparent, deliberate way.

This book is worth reading, whether you are a Christian or not, it will be an interesting and informative read.  And once you read The Blood of Lambs, you might be interested in digging a bit deeper, continuing to learn about Islam and how practically to engage Muslims while showing Christ’s love.  For that I would recommend another recent read called Facing Islam, Engaging Muslims written by Alexander Pierce.

Enjoy reading and learning.  May your conversations be inspired and informed.

 

Possum Magic- Book Review

Children’s books are very special to me.  I love re-reading the books that I grew up enjoying but I also love reading new adventures and falling in love with new characters.  A friend recently introduced me to this very fun book, Possum Magic, that highlights some of Australia’s unique animals and food.

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Take a trip around Australia with Hush and Grandma Poss.  These sweet animals will steal your hearts with their curiosity and adventurous spirits.  And this book has the magic of making you hungry too:-)

September- Suicide Prevention Month

Suicide is the number one cause of death in Australia among people ages 15-44.*

There is more than one suicide attempt every 10 minutes in Australia.*

Suicide is a major concern in the communities in which Ryan and I hope to be working.  If you didn’t read it, I wrote about how suicide was pivotal in Ryan’s calling to Australia: Why Australia?  A Trip to the Bathroom.

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If you, or someone you know, is struggling with thoughts of suicide or has attempted suicide in the past, don’t hesitate to reach out.  There are a lot of good resources.  1-800-273-TALK is the US national suicide prevention hotline.

More resources can be found on my previous post: A Conversation about Suicide, which also highlights Ryan’s trip to the bathroom but more importantly, there is information from June this year when Ryan and I attended a helpful seminar at our local church.

Ryan and I continue to pray for those who are struggling with suicidal thoughts and the family members who are impacted by suicide.

*lifeline.org.au   **Post Secret

Please Pray- Drought in Papua New Guinea

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California is facing serious water issues but most of us aren’t seeing any major impact other than dirtier cars, shorter showers, dry yards and some higher priced food items.  Of course it may get more serious but hunger is not an eminent threat for the great majority of us.  However, Papua New Guinea is in a serious drought and for people who rely on gardens for food and life they need rain.

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These pictures are from a few years ago when I was in PNG.  But you can see that the hillsides are covered in gardens.  Main gardens are usually further away from the village but these gardens provide food for a quick snack or an easy meal when needed.  However, drought means that gardens are not growing, water sources are drying up.  This means people are starting to go hungry and if no rain comes, it will get worse.  Here is an article from the UNDP: Frost and drought strikes Papua New Guinea.

Please pray for rain.  Please pray for rain in California and please pray for rain in Papua New Guinea.  Thank you!