Tears, Authenticity and Authority in Prayer

So you remember that I have been thinking about what it mans to live before the face of God. Now one of the ways that this happens is during prayer times at morning ad evening. Sometimes during prayer I am moved to tears (like this morning). I was recalling before God a situation that is a particular burden at the moment. Thinking about all hose involved, and the difficulty of not knowing exactly what to do, I was crying, and saying, “God, this is serious. I hope that what we have decided to do will work!!!” One of my definitions of prayer is ‘to come into contact with my deepest self in the company of God.’ So these tears were certainly a way of coming into contact with a significant part of my self, and so I think that this prayer was an authentic prayer for me.

This is especially so when I think about praying in the light of the book ‘The Drama of the Gifted Child’. This book describes how we are taught to lose contact with our true selves, because we need to be fed, and we need to please others in order to get fed. So we gradually forget how to come into contact with our deepest self, or any ‘true’ self at all.

I remember as a young child saying very adult sounding prayers that impressed everyone else, but which were too precocious for a four year old!So the years of spiritual direction that I had taught me to cry again, and to come into contact with my true self.

But I remember some times when tears have not been as welcome. One friend of mine says that when she is in meetings where important decisions and strategy is discussed, she does not want to cry, because at those times it is important to stay focussed, and not to distract from the debate or conversation be injecting tearful emotion into the debate. It is true that this person was ‘in touch’ with something, but is it true that all forms of being ‘in touch’ need to be expressed in tears? She thought not.

There was also a time when our prime minister was speaking about drugs policy. His own daughter had been addicted to heroine, and so his speech went, ‘You don’t cease to be a father [when making these policy decisions]. He began to cry.

Now the media thought that this was a stunt. That is, that he was using his ability to cry as a tool to get his own way politically. This happens sometimes I guess, but I am prepared to own that my and other people’s tears are signs of being genuinely ‘in touch’, and that this is a sign of the authenticity of the thoughts that go with the tears.

It is also true that after the tears it is important to have a look at the ideas that accompany them, and to put some plans into action as a result. Tears by themselves are like other emotional states. They accompany thoughts, and give added power to our thinking. But it is what happens after that is equally important.

Sometimes I have been told that it is the very act of praying about a thing, which validates the decision that has been announced.

I have been wanting something from a particular person for a long time. They have refused my request. One of the things that they said to me, as a justification for their refusal, was ‘I have prayed about this matter.’

My response is “Well so have I, and I have come to a different conclusion to you. Just because you have prayed about a thing, does not necessarily make your decision right.”

Saying “I have prayed about this’ is a rhetorical move which is designed to establish the superior authority of the speaker, over the one who is spoken to. It is designed to close down a disagreement by saying, “Well because I have prayed about this, that should be the end of the matter because I have access to a better source of advice about our disagreement than you do: God! What is more, I can rely on the genuineness and rightness of my decision because I have prayed about it”

I think that just as tears tell me something about the authenticity of my ‘in-touch-ness’ but need then to be set aside as a discussion about what to do happens, so prayer about a matter is an indication of the seriousness with which a person takes something, but it does not automatically make them right.

This is the same as people saying, “You should accept my point of view because I have made a big study of this matter.” Just having made a study of a matter gets me the right to a respectful hearing, but it may not make me right. If I have made a study of a matter, then I can make the case! But I cannot rely on the silencing of my opponents simply on the basis of saving ‘made a study of a thing’.

So having learned to be inauthentic in prayer, I am glad to be able to be authentic again, via my prayerful tears. I am happy to ‘flow’ in this way in the company of God.

But there is a moral dimension to being ‘authentic’. Praying or study alone are not guarantees of being right, and I do not think that either should be used as a way of justifying my actions, in the face of another’s claim. I should be able to ‘make my case’, no matter how I have arrived at it.

 

 

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What “Pale Rider” Told Me About Violence, Non-Violence and Trusting God

The other week I happened to see the Clint Eastwood movie “Pale Rider”.

 

This movie follows the pattern of all Westerns. A small group of people is oppressed by big business. Along comes a ‘stranger’ who saves them.

 

Sometimes there is a variation on the theme, which is also present in Pale Rider. The hero is, in the beginning, committed to ‘non violence’. In Pale Rider, Clint Eastwood is a king of travelling preacher, who then goes to his safe deposit box, takes off is collar and gets out his guns.

 

These movies are a replay of the Myth of Redemptive violence, which, sad to say and despite rhetoric and coins to the contrary, is the main mythology of the United States.

 

An interesting feature of the movie is its use of scripture. In the beginning, the young woman who falls in love with Clint Eastwood, is praying. The baddies have just ‘shot up’ their settlement, and have killed her dog in the process. She brings these issues to God in prayer. She is praying psalm 23 as she buries the dog. She says ‘The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want…..but I do want! Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil…but I am afraid. We need a miracle. I will l dwell in the house of the Lord forever…but I want more of this life first. If you don’t help us we are all going to die.

 

Everyone has asked these questions of God at some stage. At times when I have felt most alone, I have asked, “If the lord is my shepherd, and there is nothing I can lack, then why do I feel so needy?”

 

The young girl gets her miracle in the form of Clint Eastwood, the Pale Rider (preacher). Here is another Biblical reference. It comes from the book of Revelation,(6:8) and the ‘Pale Rider’ is one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse’: death, followed by Hell.

Here is the miracle that the girl was asking for. The pale rider does indeed kill all the baddies.

 

So what can I make of this. Is it so that what the movie suggests is true? Do we in the end need to depend on violence to establish peace?

 

This question is again pressing upon me because of the way that living before the face of God has become a big theme for me recently.

 

You know, it is possible to pray, and to do church, and not really think that God is real.

 

It’d like the old adage ‘Say your prayers and keep your powder dry’. This is a bind. Everyone knows hat the meaning of the ting is: If one has dry powder, one does not need prayer. If one needs payer, one does not need powder.

But the message of the martyrs is clear. They were not prepared to exercise violence. But they were prepared to endure, even to the point of their own death, because they believed that God would bring about the end of Time, and God’s rule without the intervention of a Pale Rider, or a Lone Ranger on earth.

 

They really believed in God’s power to do what God promised, in his own time. “It may just be” says the martyr, “that I will be killed beforehand.”

 

So for me the question that arises from the movie Pale Rider is then not so much about violence or non-violence as such, because I have not yet had to face this question in a very sharp way. But for me, the question highlights another one: would I be prepared to suffer violence because I believed in God, and God’s justice in a way that allowed me to trust God more than I do now? This issue highlights for me how it is possible to be a priest, and theological thinker, but be lacking in the ‘simple faith’ that says, “Just follow me.”

 

I think that this issue comes to a head in the context of being retired, and so not really responsible any more for the future of the Church in the place where I am priest.

 

When this responsibility is lifted, then the questions that take up the space are no longer the ones about how is the congregation going to survive financially, or who has got their knickers in a not over something I have said or done, or not done.

 

Instead the questions become more personal again. They are the ones like the one I have been asking about violence and non-violence. “So I really trust in God’s future. Can I put my life into God’s hands and not worry about what retirement will look like?

 

I would love this to become true for me in a way that is not the case just yet. Perhaps the fact that this question is coming to consciousness, and that I can say something about it means that this is in fact the direction in which life is going. I hope so.

 

I know that the proper answer to he young girl in the movie is this: The psalm goes “BECAUSE the Lord is my shepherd, I an lack nothing.” The Shepherd-hood and love of God for us is the starting point, not the consequence of something of which I am the judge. That is the kind of simple faith that I would like to have come true in me.

 

 

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Do you remember that the Oxford English Dictionary announced that for 2106, the word of the year was ‘Post-Truth’? Since then with the rise of ‘alternative facts’ and ‘fake news’ something is happening!

The Enlightenment Project elevated Reason to a very high place in human affairs, and so we have, since then, been committed to finding out the ‘Truth’ by means of ‘facts’ and the application of reason.

The scientific method, by relying solely on what our senses can perceive and on what can be measured has given us a means to discovering reliable (true?) formation for a narrow band of human experience.

But as the phenomenon of climate change denial shows, no matter what the science says, there are many people who prefer to believe something else.

Mostly, the research tells us, we have a ‘gut feeling’ about something that needs decision, and then go looking for the facts that support our view.

The phenomenon of being ‘in denial’ is one, which the psychiatrists tell us is alive and well, and is a defence against harsh truths!

No matter what the ‘truth is’ however, we are all compelled into making a commitment to something or other. Even the phrase ‘not to decide is to decide not to’ shows that no one can avoid commitment, even if they do not want to make up their minds.

So I think that rather than speak about the ‘truth’ in a way which implies that simply to know the truth will be enough, I think it is more productive to have a think about what leads to commitment.

Here I am in good company with the ancient Greeks and Romans. In those days, a young man’s* education was designed to prepare him to take his place in the councils of the city. He was being educated in order to speak convincingly, in order to persuade his hearers that he was right, and that their commitment was best placed on his side. To do this, the main subject that they learned was rhetoric, being the art of persuasion.

These days the means of persuasion have multiplied, but the aim is the same: wherever the truth may lie, the persuaders want us to commit ourselves and what ever we have at our disposal, to their cause.

Lawyers do it in court, advertisers do it on Television, Tele-evangelists do it, Presidents and Prime Ministers do it.

The art of persuasion is to enlist our commitment while bypassing as much as possible our capacity to make judgements about what is being said.

Listen to the catch-phrases. Brexit had ‘Take back control’. No matter what else Brexit would mean, for those who felt as though their lives were ‘out of control’ in some way, the thought of ‘taking back control’ was attractive.

For those who felt ‘not great’ about being an American, the call to ‘Make America Great Again’ was persuasive, if not true.

The great playwright, Bertolt Brecht understood the power of theatre to persuade his audiences before they had a chance to think about an issue. In order to make his audiences aware of this process, he deliberately introduced into his plays a device that he called ‘alienation’. [Verfremdungseffekt] These devices, like directly addressing the audience, had the effect of By “disclosing and making obvious the manipulative contrivances and “fictive” qualities of the medium, the actors alienate the viewer from any passive acceptance and enjoyment of the play as mere “entertainment”. Instead, the viewer is forced into a critical, analytical frame of mind that serves to disabuse him or her of the notion that what he is watching is necessarily an inviolable, self-contained narrative.” **

So the attempt by a theatre piece to elicit my commitment by bypassing my critical faculties is to some extent thwarted.

This is exactly the advantage of being a Christian. When we read last week “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you might know the will of God” (Romans 12:2) is advice to do the very same thing that Brecht was trying to do.

Christians have a different ‘take’ on the world from other people. We are not just ‘society at prayer’ but an alternative version of what society looks like. We do not play the same game as others, so that we are able to see and be aware of those places where we are being hoodwinked, or where the persuaders are trying to get at us before we know it. We know we are loved, so we do not have to respond to the advertising that makes us feel something ‘less’ if we do not but this product. We know that nations are temporary, and that our allegiance is to the Reign of God, which transcends national boundaries. This is a very powerful set of tools to have in our Christian tool-box.

I am not decrying emotion. Having committed ourselves to the Christian way, then let us gather up everything we can muster to let this Way come to expression with our whole being. But let us stay awake, so that our commitments are not manipulated by those whose purposes are not in accord with the God who is Father of Jesus.

*Women were not educated then.

** <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Distancing_effect&gt;

Your companion ‘on the Way ‘

 

Paul Dalzell.

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The Vestiges of Gladiatorial Combat and the Eucharist

While I was in Brisbane, I went to the ‘Gladiator’ exhibition at the museum.

 

Part of the description of the life of a gladiator was a description of how a day at the coliseum might go. First came the fighting with wild beasts, then came the execution of criminals before lunch, then gladiatorial combat in the afternoon.

 

I started to think, “What has happened to these practices? Do we still fight wild beasts? Well yes! All you have to do is to go to the modern day ‘circus’ (not the olden day one, in Rome), to see ‘lion taming’ and elephants doing very tame things and sometimes dancing bears.

 

We are still fascinated by the relationship of power between humans and beasts, but nowadays, instead of killing them we ‘tame them’ with whips and chairs.

 

In our ‘circus’ we have the vestigial remains of what was once a blood sport.

 

Once you have ‘seen’ how this works, then you can also see how this kind of ‘left over’ activity is present everywhere.

 

In mediaeval times, the knights used to ride toward each other on horseback, with a lance, in mock battle. Of courser the ladies could not participate, but they wanted to be a part of the show, so they made wooden horses for them to ride, going round and round. All you have to do is to go to any fun park to see what is left: the ‘merry-go-round’.

 

It is easier to see the gladiatorial origins of boxing and most team sports.

 

So in some ways, society has become more genteel in its sensibilities, as a result we allow certain parts of our selves a ‘run’ from time to time, but in an attenuated fashion.

 

Now the Eucharist shares with these activities the fact that it is also a vestigial something. It is a vestigial meal. No one is going to be physically sated with the amount of bread and wine available on a Sunday morning.

 

Just as it is hard to get the idea of a fight with a wild beast from a lion tamer, so some people have thought that it is hard to ‘get’ the idea of Jesus’ last supper from the Eucharist, as we currently do it. So they have made attempts to have more and ‘real’ bread instead of wafers and so on.

 

But for my money, the power of the Eucharist is that it depends for its power, not on whether there is ‘real’ bread and wine, but on whether or not the movements of the soul that are embodied in the Eucharist in a concentrated form, actually give rise to the same movements of the soul in a less concentrated form, after the liturgy is over.

 

I am thinking for example of the story in John’s Gospel, chapter 21 where Jesus meets Peter on the shores of the sea of Galilee. Peter has been unfaithful to his Lord three times, when he meets Jesus, he is given the opportunity to re-do this unfaithfulness with his statements of ‘Of course, you know everything Lord, you know that I love you’. The laying bare of the truth of Peter’s life, the three-fold forgiveness, followed by a task is a classic example of Eucharistic living. And so it is not surprising that it happens in the context of a meal.

 

What is important that we know how to confess our sins and that we know how to be vulnerable to one another. This is how the Eucharist tells us to live.

 

The same is true of Clopas and his companion of the road to Emmaus. It was the breaking open of the Scriptures that opened their eyes to the presence of Jesus, and made their hearts burn within them. It as the breaking of the bread that made them recognise him. So the processes of hearing the Word of God and sharing in the breaking of the bread (the movements in the Eucharist) are here shown to us as the way in which, during the normal course of life we come to recognise the presence of God among us.

 

This is the value of the older custom in the Anglican Church where the priest would announce that on the following week the Eucharist would be celebrated, and that the members of the congregation should use this time to do in in their everyday lives what they were about to embody in their liturgical lives. The words of invitation then went “All you who earnestly repent you of our sins and are in love and charity with your neighbours and intend to lead a new life following the commandment of God…draw near with faith and take this holy sacrament to your comfort.’ The implication is ‘everyone else, go home!’

 

These days, I think that the way that this can happen is that if Christians meet, not only on Sundays, but on other days of the week as well (at least once) so that there is a chance that this kind of mutual accountability can happen.

 

At other times (like a weekday Eucharist) there is a more informal atmosphere, and so there, the concerns of members of the congregation for the prayers of the people can be expressed. It is also possible that in this kind of a celebration, a more informal ‘breaking open of the Word’ may be a part of the Eucharist.

 

 

 

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Reflections On The Death Of My Mum

It has been a nearly a month now since mum died. I’ve been able to think about the process a bit, which I share with you now.

It is a not very pleasant fact of my life that for one reason or another I left home as soon as I could. After study I want to Melbourne to work, and was ordained there. I was pretty angry.

 

But I remember that for nearly all of the 1970s I hardly spoke to mum and dad. Later things improved a bit, but I would say that relations with most of my family, apart from my older sister could e described as being ‘polite but distant.’

 

The fact that I was ‘away’ did not make things much better. Other members of the family, who stayed in Brisbane, had mote opportunities to grow in their relationship with our parents, and they with us. But I sort of stagnated.

 

So when I received the news that mum was gravely ill, I considered whether or no I should go up to see her.

 

But then I thought, ‘Is there anything that can be achieved now, that has not already been achieved? I know that my relationship with mum is not perfect, it is not as I would wish it to be, but I don’t think that much more can be done now.

 

So in thinking about my relationship with mum, I am aware of some sadness, that the standard of love and intimacy that I might have wanted for me and mum, was not possible while she was alive.

 

This is one relationship I will have to leave in God’s hands.

 

But then, at the funeral, and later on, I heard of a whole range of things that mum had done: how she was continually involved in training herself, starting with aged care. How generous she was to just about everyone, and how her grandchildren have mourned her deeply. I heard how, during some of the more difficult times that all families face, mum (and dad) showed such love, openness and grace that supported those who might otherwise have been left out of the family circle.

 

My admiration grew for the kind of person that mum was. So many other people saw her great qualities of person. I had missed out on seeing this, but I am so glad that I had the chance to look at my relationship with mum through the eyes of those people who had received a blessing, because they had known her.

 

The same was true for the connection between me and dad. During the course of planning mum’s funeral, and over the weekend that we celebrated mum’s life, with the party she would have had for her 90th birthday and the Holy Communion that we celebrated on he following Sunday, I got to know dad in a way that allowed me to offer my priestly skill set to the family, and to see the depth of dad’s devotion and genuine faith, which I had not seen much before, although I knew it was always there.

 

So then I imagined, “What would it have been like had I or they died earlier?” None of the blessings that I received over the course of hearing about mum’s illness and subsequent death would have been available to me. That would have been a great shame.

 

So now a prayer comes to me. It is from the Book of Common Prayer 1662 version. It is from the form of absolution, and goes like this:

 

The almighty and merciful God

grant unto you pardon and remission of all your sins, time for amendment of life, and the comfort of the Holy Spirit.

 

That is what has happened to me. God has granted me time for amendment of life.

 

St Paul in the letter to the Romans addresses the question that might have been put to him “Well why are you just telling us about Jesus now?

Why did not God set up this kind of salvation right from the beginning?

 

St. Paul’s answer is that God was being patient with people, in giving them time, and that this patience should not be presumed upon.

 

I used to think that this was a kind of ‘made up’ argument, but from the other side of mum’s death, I think that I have a better understanding of it now. The weekend was so good, that I am glad that I had time for amendment of life, which in fact happened.

 

The other thing that comes to me in this context is Charles Wesley’s hymn (Number one in the old Methodist Hymn Book) “O For A Thousand Tongues To Sing”

 

It has a line in it, strange to our ears which goes “He breaks the power of cancelled sin” This line refers to the fact that the forgiveness of sin has been made possible by Jesus’ obedience and death. But the power of that sin, forgiven once and for all, but also be broken in us. It is like St. Paul saying ‘If we are driven by the Spirit, then let us walk by the Spirit.“

 

It is another way of talking about the amendment of life that follows upon forgiveness. I am glad that this is coming true for me.

 

Your companion ‘on the Way ‘

 

Paul Dalzell.

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The ‘Phantom of the Opera’, Human Darkness and Christianity

 

I went to see ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ for the first time as little while ago. Clearly, the power of the show lies in the fact that the story draws on the Greek myths, and so the themes that are dealt with are those that resonate with our experience, simply because we are human. What I am interested in is the solutions, which the myths themselves offer to life’s issues raised by the myth.

 

Take the story of the Phantom himself. Here is a person who has been disfigured from birth and is, by looking at his mask ‘half a man’. He has been ridiculed, and so has become bitter. But at the same time, he is very talented, musically. He teaches the ‘heroine’ Christine, how tossing beautifully by introducing her to ‘the music of the night’. (This is an allusion to the ‘dark side’ of human nature).

 

But not only does the Phantom want to introduce others to the music of the night, he wants some recognition of the place of ‘the dark side’ in normal life, lived in the ‘light’. And when this is refused, he resorts to force and violence to get his way. (“Little pig, little pig, let me in..or I’ll huff and I’ll puff and blow your house in!) In the end, the phantom’s dark side takes him over completely for a while, till Christine draws from him a modicum of compassion with a kiss. He lets the ‘couple of light’ go from his power, but this small amount of compassion is too little, too late in the piece, so he himself must ‘slip away’: he must be removed from the scene.

 

It seems to me, that the ‘children of light’ make the first mistake in this story. The phantom asks for some recognition, some ‘tribute’, but they refuse to pay. Right at the beginning, the ‘dark side’ of our natures is rejected outright.

 

This is unrealistic. The myth on which this story is based is the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. Here, and in ‘The Phantom’, Eurydice feels the attraction of the ‘underworld’ represented by Orpheus. Every girl knows this attraction; otherwise we would not remember the story of ‘Bonny and Clyde’, nor the story of Thelma and Louise. It is the same for young men. There is a saying that ‘Every young man must pluck three hairs from the beard of the devil.’

 

So we know the power of the dark side of our natures, and we know that we cannot be ‘good’ all of the time.

 

But what are we to do about it? The story of Orpheus and Eurydice tells us that she gives Orpheus his due. She spends some time (actually half!) in the underworld with him, which represents the season of winter, but then spends the other six months in the summer: in the light.

 

This solution to the problem of ‘the dark side’ is the very one which the ‘children of light’ in The Phantom do not have at their disposal.

 

It represents a limited acknowledgement of ‘the dark side’. It is interesting that just as Eurydice spends a limited amount of time in the underworld, so with young men, the elders in cultures where this works well, supervise the ‘plucking of three hairs from the beard of the devil’, so that the risk taking of young men does not lead to death or permanent damage. It is limited.

 

We also know this pattern at sporting events, and other places where there is a crowd. Being part of a crowd gives us a chance to ‘go on holiday’ from our ‘proper’ self, in order to vent our dark side on the umpires or players whom we don’t like!

 

The tragic result, which happens when the dark side of life is not given a limited acknowledgement, is that of the phantom. His redemption is not possible, even though signs of it are drawn from him by Christine’s kiss.

 

But now comes the hard part. Does being Christian have anything to say, or to add to our means of coping with our own darkness?

 

Some of the truth is that Christianity has too often Christianity has sided with its complete repression. There is just so much about ‘being children of the light’ in the Bible that it seems as though we have no way of giving our ‘dark side’ its due, and ‘cutting loose’ from tile to time. Is there a way of allowing any legitimate expression of our own ‘dark side’ within Christian faith so that we are not forced into complete repression and hence the violence of ‘the Phantom’?

 

The most powerful image that comes to me is Jesus’ embrace of sinners. It is this willingness to embrace us, which allows us to touch and become aware of our own darkness. Knowing that I am held, and that He will not let go of me, gives me permission to allow all that I am to be acknowledged, no matter how dark it may be. The limit on this embrace is perhaps that we do not act out the ‘darkness’, while at the same time, giving it due recognition. This is the most powerful way of being saved which I know. The psalms too, and some hymns give us the opportunity to touch and yes, even express our darkest thoughts and feelings without acting on them. That was the Phantom’s failure: he could only ‘act out’ the darkness, to his own and others’ harm.

 

But I think that Christians could do better in also allowing ‘cut loose’ time for Christianity. Carnival is one such time, when the ‘meaty’, ‘fleshy’ aspects of humanity are given limited rein, before the fast of Lent. We could make more of that.

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“Globalisation: Alienation and Accountability and the “Whispering School of Acting”

I became aware of this phenomenon at the beginning of Tom Cruise’s movie about the bomb plot to kill Adolf Hitler. There he was as general von Staufenberg in Africa, speaking to his commanders, and amid the background noise, I could not hear a word he as saying! Recently in shows like “House of Cards” and other locally made shows, and British TV too, everyone is whispering! (I assure you, I am not going deaf!). So where does this come from? It is like there is a global trend in all of the acting schools, and among directors that everyone speaks in whispers, instead of normal voices. Have they all been to the ‘whispering school of acting?’

But then, I began to think. All of a sudden, every time I buy something on line, or ring a call centre, there comes an e.mail, or a text, or something after the on line purchase saying “Will you answer our feedback questionnaire?’ I’m sure this must be automatically generated, but I’m wondering how did this all of a sudden become a thing to do? What do they do with the information? How come they don’t send me the results of their questionnaire?

It’s the same with local councils and church central offices. Have you noticed? All of a sudden, perhaps in the early 2000s, all of the diocesan offices became ‘securitised’. You cant get in there without some one pressing a button o let you into the security door, and then again into the offices of the bishops (with the archbishop all the way down the back, in the most difficult to access spot). Was there a bomb scare that prompted this? Did the insurance companies demand it? Did all of the general managers get together at a conference and decide ‘yes’ this is what we are going to do? No one told me, or explained it. It just happened.

In the first instance, then, I am aware of global movements that are happening by some one’s planning, but not involving me!

This is at one level pretty dangerous.

Recently, while we have been making fun of Donald Trump’s tweets, and the chaos in the White House, he has been emasculating the Environment Protection Agency in the name of ‘de-regulation’ but in reality, helping business to keep on polluting. He has been hiring climate change sceptics to run the very same agency!*

Most of us are pretty naïve I think when it comes to the influence of global movements behind the ‘front end’ of government policy. But more and more I am being made aware of the ‘principalities and powers’ and ‘spiritual wickedness in high places’.

Think about the Murray Darling Basin. There is just so much invested taking water out of this system (especially for Agribusiness and cotton growing) that there is little concern for the environment, and the people of South Australia.

It is these secret ‘powers’ that I think that Christians have to become more aware of in order to be genuine followers of Jesus.

When in John’s Gospel, Jesus calls his disciples ‘Friends’ he does so on the basis that he has told them everything that he has heard from the Father. The salves do not need to know what the master is doing, they are the recipients of orders from the master. But the friends are let in on everything. Thinking about this relationship, I wonder whether we are slaves of the Global powers, or friends.

The other thing that I am talking about accountability. I find myself on the receiving end of global, or at least Australia wide changes that no one has consulted me about.

This is the opposite of living in a small town like Alexandra or Kilmore. Everyone knows everyone else (more or less). Everyone has to be accountable to one another because making one another accountable is easy: just go around there and speak to them. The hardware store has to give refunds all of the time because they know who I am. But I go to our local hardware store because I know the names of all of the staff and call them by name, and they me.

When someone says that they are going to ring me back, and they don’t, then I can easily go around there and ask them why.

Again, knowing one another, and being known and recognised is one of the characteristics of the community life that we learn about by being members of the Church, and as one of Jesus’ sheep, whom he calls out by name. Being accountable to one another, knowing our hurts and fears is a characteristic of Church life that represents a genuine alternative to the alienation of other forms of living together. In this context, I think it is a shame that the Church leaders in some places have gone the way of more remoteness and less accountability.

It is true that the world is ever more globalised. But Christians need ways of being aware of the global ‘behind the scenes’ trends, while at the same time, offering a genuine alternative form of community life where we are called by name.

* Here is the link to this article. <http://www.newyorker.com/news/john-cassidy/the-real-trump-agenda-helping-big-business&gt;

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