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.

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!

Why Australia? The Stolen Generation

I don’t know yet how this will fully come together but as Ryan and I move closer to Australia, I would like to share with you some of the reasons why we’re moving there.  This will most likely be a hodgepodge of different things but hopefully it will give you a bigger picture of our hearts for this country and the people.

NeverForget

The Stolen Generation- It’s exactly what it says.  A whole generation of people who were taken forcefully from their families by government policy under the guise of protection and help.  Although this is no longer an Australian policy, the wounds and scars from this are still very present in Australian society.  Some of the people who we will be working with had family members taken from their homes or were taken themselves.

Back in 2012, I posted about a movie that shows one families heartbreaking story, Rabbit-Proof Fence.  This movie gives some reality and weight to what otherwise could be pushed away and forgotten as history.  Although the graphic above doesn’t constitute all white Australian sentiments, it does represent a painful reality.  This is by no means something that is going to be easily resolved but it’s a part of the Australian history (recent history) that continues to impact people’s lives, often in very direct ways.  Many children who were taken were never able to go back to their communities and lost their families as well as their cultural identity.  If this sounds familiar, there are many parallels to the experiences of the Aboriginal community and the Native American community in the US.

Last week Yahoo news even had a small segment on The Stolen Generation.  You can read the article and watch the video here: Yahoo News- The Stolen Generation.

Ryan and I will not be in Australia to make amends, remedy or even advocate for either side.  Instead this is just one of the cultural realities we will be stepping into.  We will seek to listen to and hear the stories.  We will seek to keep our eyes open and understand this as one of the many events that has woven itself into Australia’s fabric.  And among other things we will pray for continued communication and awareness, forgiveness and reconciliation.

Comparing PNG and Australia

I’ve done a lot of thinking about the similarities and differences between Australia and Papua New Guinea.  These countries are close together and both have a special place in my heart.  Australia and PNG are, of course, very different countries but they have many similarities.  They share some of the same unique animals; cassowaries, tree kangaroos, wallabies and other marsupials.  They are also both common wealth countries.  Papua New Guinea was under Australian control until 1975 when Australia freely gave PNG it’s independence.  This is another reason for some similarities in certain laws and governmental practices.  But there are also many differences, starting with size.

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Papua New Guinea may be much smaller but it has significantly more languages being spoken.  Australia has some aboriginal and immigrant languages spoken in addition to English but Papua New Guinea is the country with the most languages spoken in the world.  There are over 800 languages spoken in PNG in addition to English, Tok Pisin and Hiri Motu which are the three official languages.

I did a quick search for other similarities and differences and found some really interesting information.  Papua New Guineans make 93% less money and they are also not high energy consumers using almost 88% less oil and almost 95% less electricity than Australians.  In our world of very high consumerism, Papua New Guinea is doing pretty well for our planet.  This is consistent with my experience while living there.  I was less of a consumer, bought most of my clothing second hand, relied more often on my own feet for transportation, ate more locally and organically and much more.

Each country I have lived in is very different.  I look forward to discovering more about Australia once we are living there:-)

Meanwhile in Australia…

Every once in awhile I take a look through the Australian news.  I’m sure this practice will become more common as we get closer to moving but for now I just scan the headlines every few weeks.  Today an article caught my attention and as I read through it, I couldn’t help but think back on the training we received last week coupled with other cross-cultural experiences.

Aboriginal Input

The headline Australian PM knocks back Indigenous constitution plan was interesting in and of itself.  But reading the article it became more apparent that there were certain cultural norms and expectations at work.  And these cultural differences could easily be what is holding the Australian government and the Aboriginal leaders back from coming to an agreeable decision for both sides.

The article is regarding changes to the Australian constitution that would recognize Indigenous Australians and remove some race-based provisions. It cites the following as the proposed changes:

  • Recognising that the continent and its islands now known as Australia were first occupied by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
  • Acknowledging the continuing relationship of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples with their traditional lands and waters
  • Respecting the continuing cultures, languages and heritage of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples

Repealing the two so-called “race provisions”:

  • section 25 that recognises that the states can disqualify people on the basis of their race from voting
  • section 51(26) that allows laws to be made based upon a person’s race.

Reading through this article multiple times, on the surface it seems like both sides have valid points but I think that somehow their cultural values and worldview are coloring their vision and making it more difficult to see the point the other side is trying to make.  The Aboriginal community wants to have their own talks and come to a consensus separately regarding the constitutional changes and amendments.  The amendments directly impact their lives.  However, the Prime Minister has “anxiety about a separate Indigenous process is that it jars with the notion of finally substituting ‘we’ for ‘them and us'”.  Not being Aboriginal, I actually relate to the PMs point more but I really wonder what cultural norms are behind the Aboriginal wishes and if they could just be allowed their own process, if that wouldn’t make the final decision easier and more unifying in the long run.  It will be interesting to see how this plays out and how long it will take for an agreement to be reached.

Note: I’m not an Australian expert.  I’m not an Aboriginal expert.  I’m not a political expert or even well read in this particular political instance.  I’m simply commenting on what I see as glaring cultural and historical differences that are keeping these two sides at odds with each other.