Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Fight For Good

Marisol Valles Garcia is just 20 years old, the mother of a baby son and still a student studying criminology. But she is also the newest Chief of Police in a drug-plagued region of northern Mexico. There are two reasons why Ms. Valles Garcia is now the new Police Chief of Praxedis Mexico: the first reason is that she wanted the job and the second reason was that no one else wanted it. After the death of the previous Mayor and numerous police officers, it sounds like the script of a bad old wild west movie. The only difference is that this is not a movie and the story highlights the terrifying reality of a society where evil wins and everyone loses.

We forget so easily that the peace, the stability, the order, the rule of law, the freedom and the prosperity we enjoy in a place like Australia, is at best fragile and always under threat. In popular culture we glamorize the taking of drugs, we entertain ourselves with TV shows about underworld crime, and we drool over the lives of the rich and famous, even those whose colourful antics are clearly on the wrong side of the law. We take for granted that our police will always be there to protect us, anticipating like some cheap Hollywood cop show that the bad guy will always get caught and the good guys will always win.

What we fail to see is that society's battle with evil is the same battle that goes on in every soul. We expect good to prevail over evil in society but often convince ourselves that we can personally dance with the devil, even for a little while. We watch a society that had no intention of ever surrendering to evil, somehow unable to fight back when the dark forces have literally become insurmountable. Tragically the same battle can be lost personally when conviction makes way for compromise, compromise leads to carelessness, carelessness surrenders to criminality, and before long we are consumed.

The famous writer, CS Lewis, once said that his conversion to Christianity came with an unexpected gift. He learned through faith that good was indeed good. He was not made perfect. He still battled the things we all battle. But faith in God as Creator and the knowledge that he was a sinner who needed a Saviour, somehow revealed to Lewis that the battle between good and evil needed to be led with a conviction that good is good and evil’s consequences are hell.

Marisol Valles Garcia deserves our prayers, for she will surely need them.

The fight for good needs many more brave volunteers.

Proverbs 11: 23 The desire of the righteous ends only in good, but the hope of the wicked only in wrath

Monday, October 18, 2010

Good News And Bad News

The little Aussie battler, also known as the Australian dollar, reached parity last week with the greenback, the American dollar. For so long tourists and Aussies who purchased anything in US dollars have been used to paying the best part of $2 for every US dollar. Now it's one for one and who knows, with the shape of things in the USA, we soon might find ourselves in an even better situation. If you are traveling, if you are purchasing goods online, or if you are thinking about buying imported goods from the USA, things have rarely been better.

Of course there is always another side to the story. If you are a tourist operator in Australia, if you run a university or college with many overseas students, if you are a farmer who exports his crop, if you actually make things in Australia for export, and even if you are a mining company being paid in American dollars, then things are not so rosy. Many of these businesses are facing huge pressures that will seriously affect their profits and maybe even impact the viability of businesses and industries here in Australia.

But in places like the USA the reverse is just as true. Traveling to a whole lot of countries now seems outrageously expensive and imports also look rather unattractive. However the sleeping giant of American manufacturing may find that once again they can compete in international markets and farmers may experience the rare joy of actually making a return for their labour.

Like many things in life, the good news often has a corresponding negative impact. The joys of engagement and marriage are haunted by the very real flip-side of the loss of independence and freedom. The blessing and incredible joy of having children carries a cost and burden never fully appreciated until you drive home from hospital with a newborn. The pleasure of a pay rise at work often comes with the sting of added responsibility, workload and expectations. The freedoms of retirement come with the pain of aging bones. The glory of success on any field carries the insecurity of victory and the knowledge that today’s peacock is tomorrow's feather duster.

It is hardly surprising then, that contentment is a key to determining our reaction to events that are often beyond our control. The Bible does have its share of bleak prophecy and gloom brought about by human weakness and sin. But the Bible's climax is dominated by a picture of crucifixion that is defeated by the hope of resurrection. The sunshine of resurrection is our hope when the economic, social, political and relational clouds can fill us with despair.

Believing in God, trusting in His plan, accepting His will and refusing to despair are central to surviving good times and bad.

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4: 12-13


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Give Peace A Chance

Following a weekend when the world celebrated what would have been the 70th birthday of singer, songwriter and peace activist, John Lennon, there are rumours that a peace deal is being discussed in Afghanistan between President Karzai and the leaders of the Taliban. Karzai has taken the incredibly radical step of traveling to the south of the country he is supposed to be leading, to discuss peace with the Taliban. The Taliban have indicated that they could not consider such a peace deal until the occupying forces leave, which is ironic because if a peace deal were brokered, in all likelihood the occupying forces would gladly leave.

But you ask, how can the legitimate, democratically elected leaders of Afghanistan have meetings with the Taliban, who we all know are nothing more than terrorists? Well the problem with that logic is that the words 'legitimate' and 'democratic' have to stretch a long way to fit in the same sentence as Karzai. Other words like 'corrupt' and 'exploitative' could easily fit in that sentence. It is true that the Taliban are notorious for their Islamic extremism, their harsh promotion of Sharai law and their oppression of women so there is no use looking for the 'good guys’ to support. Of course the problems predate September 11, 2001, the supposed reason for the US led invasion, now almost nine years ago. They predate the ten-year conflict with the Soviet Union, where the Soviet army battled insurgent forces who were financially and militarily supported by the CIA. The problem's genesis goes back even further to the state's modern existence as a buffer state between Russia and the British Empire. Maybe the descendants of the ancient religions of the Zoroastrians, Hindus and Buddhists might point to invasions by Arabs many centuries before these problems.

While cynics would suggest that peace couldn’t work in such a tribal and problematic place, it is not unreasonable to be reminded that war does not seem to have a very good track record. The British, the Soviets and now the Americans in Afghanistan have found that war is a rather clumsy, expensive, deadly and ineffective tool. Giving peace a chance sounds like a hippy slogan, but the conclusion that war is an abject failure is hard to deny. Diplomacy is a messy compromise where justice and morality rarely win the day. But when war seems such a monumental failure, there seems little alternative than to sit down with your enemies and dare to dream of peace.

Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it. Psalm 34: 14

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Saints Will Have Their Day

Back in 1975 I was a fairly committed Eastern Suburbs Roosters Rugby League fan. Actually my first love was Eastwood Rugby, but when my childhood hero defected to Rugby League to join Easts, my support defected as well. I had a good mate at high school at that time who was a St George Dragons supporter. With the kindness of free tickets won from the radio station 2SM, young Ab and I went to the 1975 Grand Final between Easts and St George. It was a great day for me but a bad one for my mate. The great Dragons full back, Graeme (Changa) Langlands, played his last game as captain coach, relying on pain killing injections and experimenting with white boots. Both were a failure as Changa had a shocker; he did not play well. Easts won 38 to nil and Langlands retired soon after the game. It was a happy day for a Roosters supporter and if I remember correctly, I may have gloated just a little to my mate who supported the Dragons.

Thirty-five years have passed and last weekend the Dragons had their revenge. Their victory in the 2010 NRL Grand Final was 32-8. I really ought to ring up young Ab and congratulate him. If you wait long enough many things turn around. Often the greatest victories and the most arrogant of victors turn out to be only temporary.

Morally in Australia at the moment we seem to be advancing quickly in a particular direction. This year in NSW same sex relationships have begun to be registered with the Department of Births, Death and Marriages and same sex couples can now legally adopt. In November the NSW Parliament will debate the legalization of euthanasia and surrogacy. In the Federal Parliament it seems inevitable that same sex marriage will be debated and possibly approved. This follows the legalization of casinos, the decriminalization of prostitution, the simplifying of divorce and a host of laws that essentially allow for a more libertarian moral code. It appears inevitable that our society seems to have decoupled itself from its Judeo-Christian moral heritage and is on a constant slide towards a more liberal atheistic worldview.

These changes may be inevitable but they may not be permanent. Some of us may not live to see the change, but the basic problem with moving away from a Christian worldview is that it will not necessarily produce a better society. Over the past 2000 years especially, public morality has been consistently cyclical. Moral liberalism has been tried in the past and found extremely wanting. Societies ignored God and his moral laws and then found that like the so called 'laws of nature', opposing them only caused unexpected pain and complications. Societies like the Ancient Roman and Greek civilizations allowed all sorts of moral indulgence, which inevitably led to a breakdown in these civilizations.

I think it is worthwhile for Christians to try and hold back what seems to be a falling moral tide. My fear is that there are many battles left to lose - but one day the tide will turn!

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.”(Eccl. 3:1-8)