Monday, September 28, 2020

Common Good and Civil War

It is difficult being a concerned citizen of the world, looking on from afar, as the United States of America bit by bit becomes the Divided States of America, excruciatingly travelling day by day towards destiny's deadline in November.

Spoiler Alert: no one knows what will happen!

One analysis I heard the other day (can't recall the source) is that the USA is in a "Cold Civil War." This comment by Robert Reich, Amid Talk of Civil War, America is Already Split , highlights how divisive Trump has been and continues to be, though Reich seems to see the civil war as coming rather than already arrived, albeit "Cold."

Andrew Sullivan, in Yes, This is the Face of a Tyrant , makes the fascinating point that when most view Trump as incompetent, he has in fact been supremely competent ... at destruction. The associated, brilliant point, is that Trump stands in the tradition of Shakespeare's Richard III.

Bonus: read on further in Sullivan's column to see what he says about certain "woke" leaders in the USA. They are as frightening as Trump!

Postscript: yes, like you, I have been reading about Amy Coney Barrett, the nomination to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court. Whatever the situation re the Court thereby becoming unreasonably stacked 6-3 conservatively, I am aghast as a Christian that Barrett is being attacked (1) for her faith (2) on the grounds that she has adopted two children from Haiti (apparently this is some kind of white supremacy colonization ... and the more scurrilous attackers also want to check that the adoption was perfectly legal). Will the day ever return to the States when prospective judges are assessed on their jurisprudential competence?

Meanwhile, in the Blessed Isles Down Under, our election is a pleasant picnic in a lush green meadow by comparison with the States' democratic meltdown.

We have a chief contender party, Labour, which has led a coalition government since the last election in such a manner that polls suggest we think Labour's competency means it should govern alone and, by contrast, that the coalition partner party, NZ First, should be executed and dispatched summarily from the political landscape. 

Then we have a chief opposition party, National, which until recently was more popular than Labour in the polls, but which has harmed itself by changing leader twice this year and then recently, while campaigning on the strength of historic reputation as good economy managers, has stuffed up key figures within its alternative budget. It is now in "more than a miracle" territory if it were to somehow rise up to lead a coalition government.

So, no "dirty politics" needed here to explain either Labour's strength or National's weakness, though we can say that the Pandemic has been very good for Labour and very bad for National (and NZ First).

How then should Kiwi Christians vote in our General Election?

Liam Hehir, a right of centre commentator and openly Catholic Christian, made a good point the other day when he posted on Twitter a thread emphasising the "common good" and how we view it being enhanced by Party X or Y or Z:

(Unfortunately, for reasons unknown to me, this thread has been deleted but you can get the gist of how you might think about (e.g.) the Greens, ACT, NZ First contributing to the common good and whether that would incline your vote for them or not.)

I realise the "common good" is a concept which I know nothing about in a technical and academic sense, but I understand Liam to (at least) be prompting voters to think about what will yield the greatest benefits for the most citizens over a lengthy period of time.

I don't think I have ever quite thought of voting with that concept in mind but I see it as a better concept (from the perspective of Loving my neighbour) than "which party will put into or leave in my wallet the most dollars"!

Nevertheless in Aotearoa NZ, the notion of the "common good" needs some careful teasing out. And Anglicans may be in a good position to do that because of our experience of Three Tikanga which heightens recognition that "common good" is not just what is good for most of us over the long haul (because "most of us" are Pakeha). The common good in ACANZP is what is good for Maori and Pakeha and Pasefika.

Last Tuesday night Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Leader of the Opposition Judith Collins debated on TV One. One observation made afterwards was that neither leader mentioned Maori and the issues Maori face. Was that (classic) Pakeha forgetfulness of Maori? Was that political strategem? 

(For those readers out of NZ, it is all too often politically strategic to (at best) not mention "Maori issues" and (at worst) deliberately mention "Maori issues" as a political dog whistle seeking to round up Pakeha voters who feel (e.g.) that Maori "get more than their fair share" of resources or that we are/should be "one nation".)

What is the common good in Aotearoa NZ as we seek good for everyone, Maori and Pakeha and Pasefika and recent migrants from other nations?

On the one hand, that is not an easy question to answer in one sentence or less!

On the other hand, we who have a vote, should use it, and must make a choice and thus we will (whether we think about the common good, or what will be good for our wallet, or not) be voting for what will be good for our nation and the peoples within it!

Monday, September 21, 2020

Encouragements and Challenges

 Briefly, as travelling a bit through these days.

One way to sum up an interesting week of meetings, conversations and a number of church services, not only on the last two Sundays, is "encouragements and challenges."

I am grateful to God, you will be also, for encouragements - for those signs that God is at work among us.

I acknowledge to God, you will also, that challenges are opportunities - primarily for faith, for trusting that God knows best, over the long term, and is, according to the Word, working out all things for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28).

And today may be a larger encouragement: our Government will announce whether most of NZ (including our Diocesan area) goes to Level 1 ... or not.

Hopefully more depth and detail re being Anglican Down Under next week.

Monday, September 14, 2020

Strange Times?

So, in good news in Level 2, we held our Zoom Synod business sessions on Friday, 9am to 5.20 pm (with breaks) and everything went along very well, including passing some needed legislation and making some helpful-going-forward resolutions.

I imagine many Synod members enjoyed a Saturday break (diaries otherwise having committed us to being at the physical Synod had it gone ahead) and it is always a good day in the garden when at the end of it tomatoes have been planted in our glasshouse, fingers crossed that some fruit might appear in time for Christmas. (Potatoes having already been planted!)

Meanwhile, NZ continues (with much of the world) to grapple with Covid-19, and as I write we remain in Level 2 (or Level 2.5 up in Auckland), waiting to see what the Government will announce today re a possible change in levels.

Along the way of this national and global saga, we have had an interesting ecclesiastical-national saga: a church in Auckland, the Mt Roskill Evangelical Fellowship, has been the centre of an Auckland "sub-cluster" with - it appears, according to news reports - some initial hesitations re submitting to tests and some careless practice re not socially isolating due to (in my words) not accepting the scientific basis for authorities requesting tests and requiring isolation as the first members of the church were diagnosed with the virus. 

For a couple of commentaries on the situation, from a source I do not think I have ever cited before, The Daily Blog (one of NZ's premiere political commentary blogs, albeit "leftist"), here is Curwen Ares Rolinson and there is Chris Trotter.

We are seeing, it would seem, some unfortunate fruit of a development in evangelical Christianity which has affected to disdain the reliability of science - a development which may well have at its foundation a scepticism about evolution.

Incidentally, after initial reluctance it appears that everyone connected to this church is on board with the need to be tested and to socially isolated until this transmission hotspot has cooled down.

But some damage has been done. As Christians around me are observing: the impact of the story of this one church is that all churches are tarred by their brush, whether or not we claim to have kosher scientific credentials. 

On the one hand, we might recognise that no church is "independent" of other churches. We all represent Christianity, we are all ambassadors for Christ and witnesses to the gospel. When one church - even an independent church such as this one - hits the headlines for reasons not praiseworthy, all of NZ Christianity suffers.

On the other hand, we might also recognise - in line with comments worth pondering made to the post below this - the importance of continually understanding what the gospel actually is? What did Christ do and what did he teach? What is God's purpose for us and meaning for our lives according to God's purposes in Christ?

These are "strange times" but the church always lives in strange times and it has always needed to work out what the gospel is and how it should be communicated in strange times.

Monday, September 7, 2020

Not a Post

 A bit too much happening this week to post.

It is our Synod, Thursday evening and Friday.

And it is by Zoom.

Which has its challenges for a large event.

And a few other things going on by way of deadlines looming.

Next Monday should be fine :).