Yesterday: interim post updated

24 Dec

South Sydney Uniting Church was interesting today, given recent activities in Camden. What happened was that I raised the matter of Fred Nile and Camden during the intercessionary prayer part of the service in terms not dissimilar to Christmas poem #4: “The Place Where We Are Right” — dedicated to Fred Nile and his like… I have to admit to being a bit hesitant about that, but I need not have worried as I encountered total agreement.*

I commend God in a World of Christians and Muslims, a sermon (September 30 2001) by the Reverend Dr Martin Forward; I alluded to it and to his excellent book Jesus: a short biography in October 2005.

Islam is not, however, entirely or even mostly a violent religion. The largest Muslim-population country in the world is Indonesia. There, most people were converted to Islam by traders from abroad, traders who preferred mysticism to market-forces and bartering to battering. Even when Islam has countenanced and practiced violence, its scholars have, for the most part, emphasized defensive struggle rather than aggressive and offensive wars.

Of course, Muslims fear Christian militarism, too. The crusades are but one example, when violent, oversexed, landless and fanatical soldiers of faith set off to rescue the Christian Holy Land from infidel Muslims, and killed lots of Jews and different sorts of Christians before ever they reached the Middle East and saw a Muslim. That’s one sort of Christianity, but let’s not go there, for God’s sake.

For the sake of God: not, let me underline, for the sake of religion. Contrary to much popular opinion, religions, the one or the many, are not God. They are human creations, attempting to map out as best they can, in mortal life, the ways of the immortal God among his creatures. At their best: religions are porous to the divine presence, they provide us with homes within which the human spirit can flourish, and help us grow in holiness. At their worst: well, think of the Aztecs who, for all their remarkable accomplishments, raided other nations for youngsters to kill as human sacrifices. They would hold up the still beating heart of their victim as an offering to God.

The prophet Muhammad made choices from his religious past. He rejected polytheism, the worship of many gods, and, building on the belief in one God that a few Arabs followed, he brought Islam to people. Islam means submitting to the one God and, in submitting, finding peace and meaning. Jesus also made choices from his religious past. He said: ‘You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy”. But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you’.

Muhammad and Jesus made choices from the religion of their day, rejecting some things and accepting others. So, also, like all people, whether we admit it or not, like it or hate it, we have to choose elements from our religious heritage upon which to construct our life. On what basis do we make our choices? No doubt, personal factors come into play, but I reckon it’s best done on the basis of what the majority of the evidence seems to suggest. Remarkably, most religions argue, suggest or just assume that Transcendent reality presses down upon us, beckons us, allures us into hearing and following what he has to say. In other words, God reveals himself to us: not always with the clarity we would like; but I guess that’s a deliberate attempt to get us thinking about and engaging with what she desires for our good.

When some idiot sub-Christian tells us that September 11 was God’s wake-up call to America, commanding us to get rid of gays, new agers, Muslims, feminists or whomever, I remind myself that it’s more important to attempt to hear God’s word than the damnable drivel of one of his self-appointed spokespersons who, instead of listening to God, project onto him all their unpleasant stuff. That fascinating conversation between Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson told me more about them and their hang-ups than about God; far more about them, indeed, than I ever wanted to know.

Compass is also something I hope many of us, Fred Nile perhaps especially, watch on Christmas night, though I suspect it won’t penetrate his prejudices:

Did you know that Muslims celebrate the birth of Jesus at Christmas? In this made for Christmas special episode Compass explores what followers of the three Abrahamic faiths: Christianity, Judaism and Islam, do during the festive season. We follow a Catholic family rehearsing a nativity play; a Jewish family celebrating Hanukkah, or the Festival of Lights; and, an Islamic family which doesn’t celebrate Christmas but honours Jesus as a prophet too.

Speaking after church about Fred to a couple of my fellow-parishioners, we agreed that he has his good points. As a parliamentarian for many years he has been conspicuously honest and hard-working. He has been an asset when it comes to dealing with matters like corruption. However, when certain of his buttons are pushed he becomes a terrifying automaton quite oblivious to the damage he in fact does.

To read: Changing Contexts, Shifting Perspectives: Adventures in Christian-Muslim Encounters since 1910 (2005) –PDF

SEE ALSO: Joy to the world of non-Middle Eastern appearance by Irfan Yusuf.


Foreign un-Australian ragger from Lakemba nurses the wounds of her son after he got smashed by patriotic Aussies acting on the orders of Hon Rev Fred Nile MLC.

Now I’m off to have lunch with Sirdan and Simon H.

Very pleasant it was too, but led to a degree of overindulgence that I regret a little…

* from the other humans present. 😉

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2 responses to “Yesterday: interim post updated

  1. marcellous

    December 24, 2007 at 11:29 am

    You say that in the intercessory prayers you “encountered total agreement.”

    Does this mean that you received a sign?

    Happy Xmas, in any event.

  2. ninglun

    December 24, 2007 at 11:49 am

    You too, Marcel. And I have added a footnote, thanks to your quick eye…

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