Alice Springs Violence: Who Has the Answers?

We are living in an era where social breakdown and moral decay are drawing heavily on the state’s resources and collective wisdom. The elucidative bankruptcy of the state’s ‘wise men’ is being exposed, as surely as it was in the ancient empires of Egypt and Babylon.

The next morning Pharaoh was very disturbed by the dreams. So he called for all the magicians and wise men of Egypt. When Pharaoh told them his dreams, not one of them could tell him what they meant. ~ Genesis 41:8 

The Chaldeans answered the king and said, “There is not a man on earth who can meet the king’s demand, for no great and powerful king has asked such a thing of any magician or enchanter or Chaldean.” ~ Daniel 2:10

Take the very broken town of Alice Springs, for example. Overnight reports of an axe attack on a teenager by three indigenous youth is just one violent incident among countless attacks occurring every day in Alice Springs. Our governments appear at a complete loss as to what to do. The ‘wise men’ have no answers.

Generational Trauma

Years ago, I closely followed the violence that erupted in Aurukun, Queensland when teachers were twice evacuated after children threatened the principal with knives and machetes. Seven years on, Aurukun still resembles a war zone. Recent reports reveal dwindling attendance at the school, the closure of essential services, a council without a CEO, and residents walking the streets with metal fence pickets and crossbows. Many locals are reluctant to leave their homes.

Many of the insights I gained, as I studied Aurukun’s widely discussed demise in 2016, apply to the collapse into chaos of Alice Springs. There is talk of rugby league identities coming to Alice Springs to help in some way. This reminds me of the goodwill demonstrated in 2016 by Australian rugby league player, Johnathan Thurston, when he used a post-State-of-Origin interview to encourage children in the embattled community of Aurukun. “There’s obviously been a lot of trouble up there,” he said, “so to all the students there, I just want you to believe in yourselves and keep turning up to school.” The following day, an Aurukun teacher reported that the children cheered when they heard Thurston reaching out to them.

And yet for all such gestures of goodwill by celebrities like Thurston, and for all the strategising by government agencies, I don’t think all the king’s horses and all the king’s men can put Alice Spring back together again, anymore than they could put Aurukun back together again. A certain wisdom is needed that transcends the most brilliant intellect of fallen men.

Exploitation and Alcoholism

Common to both the demise of Aurukun and the ruin of Alice Springs is the sidelining of the church and the introduction of alcohol. For Aurukun, the decade following the introduction of alcohol was the darkest decade in the history of the community. Herbert Yunkaporta, a pastor born and raised in Aurukun, laments, “I’ll tell you this: the community is asleep. When did they go to sleep? In the mid-eighties. This is a deep crisis. Aurukun needs help.” There must have been a cry of lament in Alice Springs by many Aboriginal elders when alcohol restrictions were removed six months ago.

Insights from the demise of Aurukun can help in understanding the lawlessness on display in Alice Springs. Aurukun’s history is a tragic story that begins with broken promises and broken dreams. It is a story of Goliath-like state and corporate interests outmuscling local and cultural leadership in a greedy grab for Aurukun’s vast bauxite reserves. It was Aurukun’s buried treasure that attracted mining leases and state administrators in the 1970s, followed by the imposition of a wet canteen in the 1980s. In the face of vehement objection by community elders, trucks laden with beer rolled into the town in 1985 and Aurukun took a nosedive.

Faith and Prosperity

It’s hard to imagine that, as recently as 1970, there was no hint of the misery that would engulf Aurukun. Professor Sutton describes his experience of Aurukun in the early 1970s:

Suicide was unknown. People who survived the rigours of infancy and early childhood had a good chance of living to their seventies…

Local men mustered cattle and ran the local butcher shop, logged and sawed the timber for house building, built the housing and other constructions, welded and fixed vehicles in the workshop, and worked in the vegetable gardens, under a minimal set of mission supervisors.

Women not wholly engaged in child-rearing worked in the general store, clothing store, school, hospital and post office.

(The Politics of Suffering, Melbourne University Press, 2010, p. 40)

This somewhat idyllic life, as described by Sutton, was the peaceful and industrious heritage left by the Presbyterian Church and the Archer River Mission Station. Despite being poorly funded, and notwithstanding its shortcomings, the mission station founded in 1904 is remembered for being supportive of Aboriginal rights and self-determination.

Aurukun sawmill circa 1950

Aurukun sawmill, circa 1950. State Library of Queensland.

Natasha Robinson reports that in 1975, the “progressive [Presbyterian] church was advocating land rights, bilingual education and a return to outstation life.” A Queensland Government report describes the mission superintendents from 1924 to 1965, Rev. Bill Mackenzie and his wife, as being “unusually liberal in their support for their continuation of Bora traditions, traditional hunting and the use of Wik languages.”

Without a doubt, the church played an essential role in laying the platform for the 1970s optimism and social cohesion that existed in Aurukun. There was hope and resourcefulness in the community, a healthy work ethic, a trustworthy moral compass, and emerging cultural leadership.

Secularism and Moral Decay

While it’s not popular to say these days, the church led the Aboriginal community well and was the chief supporter of Aurukun’s journey to self-determination. Tragically, the church would be sidelined as the lucre and liquor interests exploited Aurukun and sabotaged its promising future. This tragedy in Aurukun is not dissimilar to that facing Alice Springs.

There is a direct correlation between social breakdown and moral decay and the sidelining of the church. This is evident in Aurukun, Alice Springs, and indeed in towns and cities across Australia. The church is irreplaceable as both preserving agent and physician. Where the church is maligned and neutralised (as in the case of Joseph in Egypt and Daniel in Babylon), the state finds itself ill-equipped to halt moral decay or heal society’s wounds.

Both ancient and modern history teach us that the silencing and imprisoning of the church is never in the interest of society. Hitler scorched Germany’s soul with his murderous agenda — something he could only achieve with the church rendered dormant. With the exception of lone prophetic voices, like Lutheran pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, there was little moral resistance to Hitler. The removal of the church and its prophetic voice left Germany in great darkness.

Greg Sheridan describes the rise of a “new religion of aggressive secularism” that is filling a void in Australia that used to be occupied by the church. While this aggressive secularism is “more self-confident and fundamentalist than ever,” he astutely observes that the western church is nowhere to be seen or heard because, “widespread, prolonged affluence has been more effective than oppression ever was in killing religious belief and practice.”

I know where Sheridan is coming from. While we have not really known tribulation and persecution, the cares of life and the deceitfulness of riches have been effective in choking out the potent Word of God and rendering the western church unfruitful.

Losing Our Savour

Jesus warned about the church losing relevance. He warned that if the salt loses its saltiness, and its preservation qualities are squandered; it is good for nothing except road base (Matthew 5:13). He taught that lamps that no longer provide light must be removed (Revelation 2:5). The western church would do well to heed these warnings and strengthen the things that remain.

In many ways, we have failed in our responsibility to be salt and light in the world. Many young people in the western church have been short-changed. Rather than energising them and capturing their hearts with a truly noble cause to die for, church leaders have fed them entertainment and the merits of upward social mobility.

The church always thrives when it believes and embraces its true mission statement, as taught by Christ himself. “If any man would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.” Self-denial, humility, and servanthood may have never been attractive, worldly ideals but these qualities underpin a satisfying and meaningful life and they give the church relevance.

The church, when true to form, has the power to provide young people with vision and intrinsic motivation for living a purposeful and selfless life. This is what Aurukun had, I believe. And this is what Aurukun and Alice Springs and Australia need today. This is what worked for David Wilkerson, founder of Teen Challenge, when he spent himself for New York’s bloodthirsty gangs in the late 1950s.

The church is the remedy to society’s ills. It is the preserving agent against moral decay and social breakdown. It is the steward of the Balm of Gilead that alone can heal the most broken lives. I remain a believer in the power of the Gospel message and what it can achieve when lived out. However, the western church has dropped the ball and we have work to do. And it is in our current, seemingly ‘irrelevant’ condition that we must once again prove our worth.

Ironically, the church is facing a fight for its existence at a time when our nation needs us the most. As a pastor and man of God, Herbert Yunkaporta knows the answer for Aurukun and troubled communities like Alice Springs.

“Aurukun needs to be awakened. When we throw a rock in the water, where does the ripple effect begin? From the inside out. We want to make a ripple effect in each and every individual man and young man, by helping them to restore what was lost.”

The hope for mankind and for our communities truly is a change in the human heart; a transformation of the human condition. And only the living organism, that is the church, can offer that miraculous remedy.

It is through the power of the Gospel that broken men and women receive true cleansing, a new heart, and the energising presence of the Creator Himself. It is in the God-breathed Scriptures that we find the blueprint for peaceful and productive societies. Australia boasts natural resources and underground treasure that are the envy of the world.

And yet it will be the rediscovery of the treasure in our people that will lead to the freedom and triumph of troubled towns like Aurukun and Alice Springs. Exploration companies and mining interests cannot help here. The state must ask for the church’s help. The church alone is the steward of the Gospel, wherein is the power to transform men and women “from the inside out.”

Reginald Arthur, Joseph interpreting Pharaoh's dream (1893-1894)

Reginald Arthur, Joseph interpreting Pharaoh’s dream (1893-1894)

And Pharaoh said to his servants,
“Can we find a man like this, in whom is the Spirit of God?”
Then Pharaoh said to Joseph,
“Since God has shown you all this,
there is none so discerning and wise as you are.”
~ Genesis 41:38-39

___

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto.

Thank the Source

The Hand of God — A Testimony of Faith

When I was looking in the wrong place for enlightenment and peace, God gently guided me to Himself and granted me the gift of faith.

I was born in Melbourne, the only sister to my three brothers. My father was a farmer from Cowra, New South Wales, and later moved to Shepparton after being a reconnaissance pilot in World War II. My mother was born in Durban; they met and married in Rhodesia. She came to Australia as a war bride.

Non-Christian Family

No one ever mentioned God in our family, though there was nothing said against Him either. Since I was the only daughter, I was sent to an Anglican church, St Hilary’s, when I was 9 years old and continued attending until I was 15 years old.

I was baptised and confirmed there, but didn’t understand what that really meant. However, during those years, I came to sense a peace when I was at church. I also used to gaze at the mural showing the Risen Christ and angels ascending to God.

At school, we were taught scripture once a week; through studying lessons, I came to understand Jesus walked this earth, gathered disciples, healed the sick, and later died on the cross and rose from the dead. I didn’t actually have a personal faith at that time, just a quiet acceptance of Jesus as the Son of God.

And even though the Anglican Church was giving a clear message of salvation, I somehow missed the fact that I could ask Jesus to forgive me personally, or that I could know Him and talk to Him at any time. Overall, I adopted the values of loving and caring for others and knew God wanted me to be unselfish.

Losing Sight of God: The Radical Monash Years

I completed Year 12 and attended Monash University in the radical days of the late ’60s, where I studied literature and Australian, French and Russian history. By the time I left university, I was really drifting into atheism, as I had read so many books on existentialism by post-World War II writers who believed that life had no meaning.

I also read books about Communism and heard speakers who believed the world would be a better place if we shared all possessions and got rid of materialistic values. Two of my lecturers in Australian History taught these values with great passion.

After four years at university, I ceased to think of God as being alive, and instead attended a play by Samuel Beckett, proclaiming Nietzsche‘s ‘God is dead’, and read Camus’ and Satre’s books on nihilism. (Wikipedia: ‘Most commonly, nihilism is presented in the form of existential nihilism, which argues that life is without objective meaning, purpose, or intrinsic value.)

I didn’t really think of God again until I was 22 years old. Instead, I took up yoga at a St Kilda Ashram and followed Eastern thought, which two of my brothers and my mother followed. This meant we ‘looked within’ for peace and answers to life while ‘emptying our minds.’ No one questioned this technique and none of us knew it could allow dark forces into the vacuum it left.

A life-threatening event made me question, ‘Does God exist?’ (December 1971)

In December 1969 I left university and taught in Melbourne. In 1971, I travelled to the Northern Territory to work with children in a Reform school. I then moved to teach preschool at Yirrkala. The SIL workers and church began to pray for me there as I attended the Aboriginal church meetings, but I continued yoga and meditation as well.

After a year in the NT, I hitched a ride home with another teacher as far as Sydney. She then flew to New Zealand and I hitched a lift to Melbourne with a driver who was a businessman, who said he was on the way to see his wife. An hour after I accepted a lift, the driver gave me some coffee which he said his daughter had made… but I soon realised he had drugged the coffee as I began to lose consciousness and had a very parched throat.

Just before I slipped into unconsciousness, I prayed, ‘If there is a God, please spare me,’ as I knew this man could kill me. My life flashed before me and I blacked out. I woke approximately 16 hours later in a dazed state and was back in Sydney. My first thoughts were: ‘My life has been spared. There must be a God.’

I then travelled home to Melbourne feeling extremely depressed but grateful to be alive. My trust in people had been broken. Since I nearly died, I felt I needed to find peace in life and answers to what lay beyond this life. I thank God I was saved from the hands of a possible murderer, as these were the early days of Ivan Milat and the backpacker murders.

Seeking to Serve God in Calcutta to No Avail

I was so restless and broken inside, I decided to fly to India a month later and offer to work with Mother Teresa so my life would have meaning and I could care for others. I had to read the book Something Beautiful for God about her life starting Homes for the Dying in Calcutta.

I travelled there just before Christmas with high hopes of dedicating my life to God. However, these hopes were dashed as Mother Teresa didn’t have room for another trainee, so I travelled on to the ‘holy’ city of Varanasi to see her other home for the dying, but there was no need for trainees there either, so I went on to find peace and truth as a quest.

I attended a Buddhist temple for ten days with 200 Westerners. We meditated in the belief we could learn the rare method of meditation called ‘Anapana’ taught by Goenkaji, the only Buddhist monk who knew that method. I fasted for a further ten days alone in my cell, hoping to reach enlightenment.

Reading the Bible and a Spiritual Awakening: India (1971)

During the last ten days there, I went out to buy a chai tea and was on my way back to the temple when I met an Indian evangelist, Brother John, who ran an orphanage called Pilgrims Mission. I stopped to ask for directions back to the temple.

He in turn asked, ‘Why have you come to India?’ I replied, ‘To find truth,’ and told him I was reading the Dharma, Gita, the Koran and other Eastern books on yoga, and books by Krishnamurti on mysticism. He asked, ‘Have you read the Bible?’ I replied, ‘No,’  and he gave me a Bible to read.

Brother John shared his own life story of how he was born a Hindu and turned to God after falling 10 floors from the place where he worked, as he leant out of a window to save a 100 rupee note he had dropped. He became injured for life, but knew God had spared his life. He read the verse John 3:3, ‘Unless you are born again, you cannot enter the kingdom of God.’

I went away thinking, “What does he mean?” I understand reincarnation, which can ostensibly take millions of years, but asked myself, “What does it mean to be born again?

The following week, I returned to the Buddhist temple but read the Bible. I had a dream from the book of Revelation. It was a terrifying war scene of horses and men fighting in the battle of Revelation 19, with God as victor. This nightmare was so vivid, I was alarmed. It was a revelation of the chapter I had just read. I realised that if God had a plan to end this world, then I needed to be ready for the next world and to make a choice about what I believed and who I believed in.

Reincarnation or Resurrection?

I realised I simply could not wait hundreds or thousands of years while meditating and seeking peace, for if there was to be a judgement day, I was not ready. I knew I had to decide whether reincarnation existed, or the resurrection of Jesus Christ. I discussed this with the Buddhist priests, but of course, they did not believe in Jesus Christ and His resurrection, since Buddha was their ‘saviour’.

In the end, I left the Buddhist temple, as I knew deep in my heart I believed Jesus was the Son of God and He had walked this earth, was crucified and rose from the dead. I left behind the temple sanctuary where 200 other Westerners had taken Buddha as their refuge, as a commitment. (I had refrained from making vows.)

Christ, the Son of God, Knocks at the Door of Our Heart

Before I left Varanasi, I went to see Brother John and his wife to ask him about an Indian doctor who had been a Hindu and then become a Christian. He told me that Dr Sheela Gupta worked at Mukti Mission, south of Bombay.

As a result of reading her inspirational testimony, I travelled for two days by train across India to meet her. I arrived at the mission, nervously wondering if I would be accepted there, since it was an orphanage for disadvantaged Indian children and not a place for Westerners seeking truth.

Dr Sheela Gupta graciously welcomed me and arranged that I stay at the mission. She told me how she had been raised as a Hindu, but trained at Vellore Christian Hospital. She heard about Jesus being the Son of God, but didn’t know what it meant.

Then one night, she heard a loud knock on her door. She went to open it, but no one was there. This happened two more times on the following nights. Dr Sheela realised it was Jesus Himself asking to come into her life, and she knelt down to worship Him and ask him into her heart and life.

As she told me this story, she pointed to the William Holman Hunt painting of Christ, standing with a lantern knocking at the door of a home. Revelation 3:20 — ‘Behold I stand at the door and knock; if any man hears My voice, I will come in and sup with him and he with Me.’ Dr Sheela said, ‘Jesus is a gentleman. He waits for us to invite Him into our life.’

faith in Jesus - The Light of the World

Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness but have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

At that point, I was grappling with the reality of Dr Gupta’s strange encounter with Christ, but I believed her testimony. It was a total surprise for me to hear that Jesus Christ might want to reach out to individuals on earth.

She had received Jesus Christ into her life and left Hinduism. I could see that she had surrendered her life to God and was now serving as a medical doctor in an orphanage for single mothers, babies and orphans.

I continued to read the Bible day and night and spoke to missionaries who shared Bible verses with me. These verses convicted me. I wrestled with the verse ‘I am the way, the truth and the life, none come unto the Father but by me’ and ‘The way is narrow and few find it…’ Above all, it was the love of God in the mission which spoke very loudly, as they ministered to young women, orphans and myself, even though I was a stranger.

The Light of the World Versus Darkness

I knew I had to accept that Jesus was the only way to God as He said (John 14:6)  and let go of the other possible ways to be enlightened. This demanded a radical shift in my thinking. I believed He was a way to God, but now it was a revelation to understand that reincarnation was the opposite of the resurrection.

I realised that the reincarnation belief was founded on man’s false belief of having God within and goodness within, for the Bible said, ‘We all have sinned and come short of the glory of God’ and that only Jesus can cleanse and forgive us and give His peace that passes all understanding.

I realised that true peace was achieved at the cross when Jesus overcome sin and death, but now belief in the cross and resurrection meant God would come into my life from outside of myself. It was just as the Holman Hunt painting revealed, saying, ‘I am the Light of the world’. Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness, but will have the Light of the word.’ (John 8:12)

I was convicted of pride. I suddenly saw myself as needing to trust God implicitly by faith and to let go of the Eastern religious doctrines about Buddha, Hinduism (the Kali goddess), yoga and New Age beliefs suggesting mankind can be enlightened by trying to meditate and find peace within. Once I deduced that Eastern religion was the opposite of Christian beliefs, I suddenly saw that mankind is sinful and had been since the fall of Adam and Eve.

Surrendering to God

I surrendered my life to God in prayer, saying, “God, if You are there and if Jesus did die on the cross for me, then I want to be forgiven and cleansed and to  become Your child.’ I read Genesis and suddenly understood that He had made the universe, created the earth and Heaven, as well as marriage between man and woman, and that He longed to save us like a Shepherd longs to find every sheep He owns.

I knew at that point I was forgiven, and I was ‘born again’ as the Holy Spirit entered my life and I was cleansed by His blood shed on the cross. I received the ‘peace that passeth understanding’ and the gift of eternal life. I felt as though Jesus had taken away the heavy weight of my sin, even though I didn’t know the word ‘sin’ — I knew I was in need of God’s forgiveness.

He also took away any sense of confusion and touched my mind, which was infiltrated by the darkness and Eastern beliefs that led to more darkness. I renounced yoga, Buddhism and the mysticism I had practised, and destroyed any books to do with these beliefs, as I realised they belonged to darkness and evil.

I was overjoyed to have found this answer of truth and peace. I wrote to friends in Australia and my family to tell them, and was surprised no one really wanted to know about the gift of eternal life and to learn God was really there in Heaven and yet reaching out to us. I could not believe it when they showed no excitement or interest, but I now know that the ‘god of this world has blinded their eyes.

I thank God my younger brother received the Lord Jesus into His life soon after. He followed Christ for four years, but then went back to Buddhism and yoga, and sadly forsook the way of truth. I pray one day he comes back to God.

I travelled with a missionary around Delhi and Kashmir for two months, and for the rest of the year, I attended Bible school in Bangalore, South India, and visited people in the villages during our outreach time.

It was only several months after my conversion that I realised there was a devil and a spirit world. That came to light when I met several demon-possessed Westerners in India who seemingly had lost their mind and were out of touch with reality. I realised it could have been my story. Thankfully, both those young men later came to Christ and were able to return home to the West. Meanwhile, I was so thirsty for the word of God that I could not stop reading it.

I returned to Australia in April 1973 with the hope of preparing to go to India as a missionary. I attended the Melbourne Bible Institute for two years. I wrestled with the implications of my new life in Christ and asked that He would help me stay faithful even though the devil would tempt me more in my home country.

I lost contact with most friends as they knew I was no longer the same, and my family did not understand the change in me. I  had to bear the cost of being different and having most friends show no interest in God or the Bible. It made me sad, but I knew it was part of what Jesus warned: ‘You will be hated as I was hated.’ (For me, the reaction was to silence the mention of God in any way in my family.)

I withstood that hurt of being rejected by some of my family, as I knew my name was written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, and I now belonged to Jesus and not to this world. I was safe in His hands. God gave me many new friends at Bible college and at church, and over the years softened the hearts of some in our family. I was comforted knowing that I was part of the wider family of Christ, but I also understood the pain of the persecuted saints.

Uganda (1979)

In 1979, I went to Uganda to work in a school with Africa Inland Mission. I had only been there for four weeks when we were taken out to be shot by rebel soldiers. I prayed, ‘Lord, let it be quick or deliver us.’ By God’s grace and a miracle, the soldiers didn’t shoot us.

I escaped along with two elderly missionaries who had translated the Bible into Idi Amin’s language  — Lugbara. We found out later others were praying for us knowing we were in danger. I tried to return to Uganda, but we were evacuated a second time the following year.

I returned to Australia and spent the next five years nursing and reaching out to patients and staff. I visited refugees from Vietnam and many cultures to share my faith, and attended any prayer meetings I could for outreach, and to support the persecuted church and missionaries.

Zimbabwe (1983-1984)

I went to Africa again by faith, and spent a year in Zimbabwe teaching Luke and the Book of Acts to high school students in an all-African village school. Many came to know Christ, but I found out the witch doctors wanted me to leave.

I went home for the holidays but developed Hepatitis A, and then my father died suddenly. I thank God my father came to Christ before he died, and I could see the hand of God in bringing me home in time to see him. I was weakened by Hepatitis A and didn’t recover for some years. I then moved to Darwin.

A Missionary at Home: Darwin (1985-2014)

Instead of being an overseas missionary, I became an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher in the Northern Territory after 1986, teaching in primary and secondary government schools. I always remembered my Heavenly Employer was God and that He was the One Who watched over me.

I worked amongst multicultural children for 15 years and later taught for 12 years in Distance Education, visiting remote communities and teenagers who dropped out of school. So instead of being an overseas missionary, I learnt to understand many cultures and our own indigenous people. I prayed for them and witnessed when I could.

God always gave opportunities and more so if I prayed for His leading in the day-to-day work. My greatest challenge was to work for and with God in a way that would win others to Him and to love the staff and students.

I also sought God as to how I could best use my time in His vineyard outside of school, and He showed me that distributing the Challenge Christian newspaper was one of the relevant ways to reach people in Darwin with life stories. These went to cafes, prisons and shopping centres. One main pastor, Peter Ezzy, made sure he covered every opening in Darwin with them.

Prayer Meetings: Darwin Intercessors

I was privileged to lead three prayer groups in Darwin for ten years from 2002 onwards, and to experience wonderful friendship with other faithful and loving intercessors as we prayed for the persecuted church (those suffering in jail for their faith), Darwin and Nation and a Darwin prayer group for Israel.

However, in 2008, I was struck down with Lyme disease and by 2012, I could no longer be a leader as I was far too weak and was losing my memory and speech capacity. I prayed God would help me find a doctor, and I thank Him I did find a doctor in Melbourne who was on the leading edge of treating Lyme. After 4.5 years of herbal treatment and antibiotics, I recovered enough to be functional again, but I knew I could not work full-time and my life would have to change pace.

At that time, my husband was needing me at home more often due to his PTSD (post RAAF years of service), and so I learnt to take on a  quieter role as a Christian wife who could work behind the scenes, and yet still find ways to be spread the word and pray in our community. The verse, ‘In my weakness, His strength is made perfect’ was claimed as God helped mould me during my new phase in life.

Seven Years’ Chaplaincy at Townsville Hospital (2014-2021)

My husband and I moved from Darwin to Townsville in 2014. After praying for some years about a desire to do hospital pastoral care, I trained as a chaplain and took up voluntary chaplaincy work during 2014–2021.

I found that ministry a wonderful way to show God’s love and care to others, to pray for them and to share in the sufferings of those who suffer, but also to rejoice with those who are healed or saved or brought back into a relationship with God.

It was a great privilege to share in the journey of life with others, and I consider that a very sacred role. The senior chaplain who trained me said, ‘You’ll only last the distance in chaplaincy if you sense this is a call of God for you.’ How true those words became.

The Canberra Declaration (2021)

Towards the end of 2021, when seeking God’s will for the next phase of my life, I discovered the Canberra Declaration prayer ministry with Warwick Marsh and his team.

I thank God I could join in the nights of prayer three times a week on Zoom and during special months of prayer for our nation, government, schools, hospitals, families, churches and outreach in these years of chaos and change.

This has been a wonderful discovery, a vital way to join with other intercessors, pastors, brothers and sisters and to hear speakers who stand for righteousness, truth and the infallible word of God across our nation.

He who seeks me shall find Me. We are saved by grace and not by works.

Looking back on my life, I can testify that God found me at a time when I was seeking truth, though I was unaware He truly existed. It was clearly God’s hand that guided me all the way through India and then home to Australia safely, and guided me into work and ministries that I would not have ventured into earlier. Instead, I would have been meditating and waiting for enlightenment, in India — a lost soul.

May God use this story to encourage others to pray for those lost in New Age practices, and to help them find Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour. To God be the glory for sending His Son to die in our place on the cross and for raising Him from the dead.

As John wrote in Revelation, we can look forward to Jesus’ second return to earth and the rapture. One day, we will be united with all who believe in Christ’s sacrifice for us, and be singing His praises in heaven around the Throne of grace: ‘Even so, come Lord Jesus. Come.’ Amen.

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Photo by Oleksandr Pidvalnyi.

Thank the Source

Urgent Cry from the Heart Amid Impasse in Alice Springs

The Northern Territory’s Labor Chief Minister says she will not back any “race-based” intervention in besieged Alice Springs, despite the town’s two Aboriginal MPs demanding alcohol bans to curb out-of-control violence and calling the crisis a bigger priority than the Voice referendum.

After weeks of rising crime and children wandering the town’s streets at night, the Albanese government stood firm on its refusal to intervene, and Chief Minister Natasha Fyles visited Alice Springs to consult with locals.

Voice Not a Priority

The crime wave in Alice Springs is threatening to derail the national campaign for a Voice to parliament, with two federal MPs making heartfelt pleas for action and a pause in the constitutional debate. Labor MP for Lingiari Marion Scrymgour broke from her party to say discussion of the Voice referendum in her seat, which has the nation’s largest Indigenous population, was challenging for people who were frustrated and felt unsafe in their beds.

“Absolutely I support the Voice, but I think that we can’t have these conversations if there are all these issues that are impacting on communities like Alice Springs,” Ms Scrymgour said on 3AW. “How do we get Aboriginal people to have faith and to vote in this referendum if they don’t believe government’s listening to them?”

Later, Ms Scrymgour said the national discussion on the Voice should continue, but it was not currently a focus in her region. Country Liberal senator Jacinta Price, an Alice Springs local, said a Voice to parliament wouldn’t “change anything on the ground”, and will this year seek to introduce a bill to reinstate a federal alcohol ban. “The point is that the constitutional Voice is not a priority for those who have an immediate crisis,” she said. Opposition leader Peter Dutton said “there would be outrage” if a similar crisis were occurring in one of Australia’s capital cities.

Public Policy

Alice Springs’ crime rate has soared in recent months, with more than a 40 per cent increase in assaults over the past year and more than 300 arrests in the past seven weeks alone. Sources close to the Chief Minister said Ms Fyles would not be making any concrete announcements during her visit but would speak to town leaders and investigate the situation.

Ms Fyles said she would never back a wider “race-based” intervention with the kind of alcohol bans that lapsed in the NT last year after being in place for more than a decade. “The federal intervention was tried in 2007, it did not work then, and it will not work now,” Ms Fyles said. “It targeted and disempowered Aboriginal Territorians and entrenched disadvantage, rather than improve it. “Peter Dutton was part of the Coalition government which chose not to extend the race-based Stronger Futures legislation and chose to let the restrictions lapse.”

The Stronger Futures legislation was put in place by Labor in 2012 to replace the “national emergency response act” legislated by the Howard government in 2007 to address alcohol-related harm. Under the Stronger Futures laws, part of a broader 10-year package to improve the lives of people in the NT, the commonwealth enforced alcohol restrictions that included penalties for the sale and possession of alcohol.

The Opposition Leader said such laws were needed, which was in line with “the advice from the women and the grandparents I’ve met with on the ground”. “If the level of violence, of crime, of sexual assault and domestic and family violence was occurring in Brisbane or in Melbourne or in Hobart, there would be outrage,” Mr Dutton said. “It was clear to me when we went up to Alice Springs, that this issue was beyond the resources of the Northern Territory government.”

One of the architects of the Voice, Tom Calma, said constitutional recognition and addressing the crisis in Alice Springs could “run together”. “There will always be natural disasters and other issues around that are going to take our attention, but we should stay committed to the Voice,” Professor Calma said.

Professor Calma compared the situation in Alice Springs to that of Bourke, New South Wales, which in 2013 was considered one of the most dangerous places in the country, but has since reduced its crime rate significantly. “A bipartisan approach to addressing the issues in Alice Springs is something we should call for,” he said.

Wunan Foundation executive chair Ian Trust said the situation in communities such as Alice Springs showed why the Voice was needed. “I see the Voice as being part of the solution to this. If the Voice is set up in the right way, it can give priority to places like Alice Springs and do something about it, along with Kununurra, Broome, Derby and so on.”

The Prime Minister said the Voice was “the means” to making a practical difference in the lives of Indigenous people across the country. “We have tried a lot of things, people in Canberra or the state capitals deciding what was best for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people — how can we actually give them voice?” Mr Albanese said on Seven’s Sunrise.

The comments followed Alice Springs mayor Matt Paterson meeting Ms Scrymgour, Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus and Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney to ask for immediate commonwealth intervention in the crisis and the deployment of federal police into the town. Mr Dreyfus continued to stare down such pleas and referred back to his previous comments that stressed policing was strictly a Northern Territory matter.

Greens First Nations spokeswoman Lidia Thorpe, who has previously been critical of the Voice, said the situation in Alice Springs was “a humanitarian crisis” and called for the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in custody to be adopted to improve justice outcomes. “Implementing the recommendations will save people’s lives before any referendum,” Senator Thorpe said.

The Greens will formally decide on their position on the Voice in coming weeks at a party room meeting where the Blak Greens, who oppose a Voice coming before truth and treaty processes, will also be present. While stressing he was not against a Voice to parliament, Mr Paterson said he “endorsed” Ms Scrymgour’s comments that addressing the immediate crisis in Alice Springs needed to take priority. “We really need to have a conversation with the kids herein about if it’s safer being on the streets than it is being at home, that’s a key piece we need to get to,” Mr Paterson said.

Turn to Prayer

Meanwhile, an Intercessor on the ground in Alice Springs has written to give prayer points to encourage others to pray for the situation in Alice Springs. She wrote:

“Dear Praying Friends, Alice Springs has hit the headlines this last week due to escalating crime rates. Many of you are wondering if it is really true and just what is happening. There has been a dramatic spike in crime in the town in the past six months. There have been house break-ins and vandalism, vehicles stolen and used for ram raids and chasing police vehicles.

Most of these crimes have been committed by Indigenous children, many of primary school age. A couple of weeks ago they broke into the town library and caused $20,000 worth of damage. The police were so overworked, they took seven hours to attend. Many people are leaving town, businesses are closing, and some people are frightened to go out at night.

There are many reasons for what is happening: family violence in the home (often fuelled by alcohol), boredom, lack of longer-term funding for NGOs attempting to tackle the problem, and recently a tendency to film exploits and post them on Tiktok. The situation has been exacerbated by the greater access to alcohol in the last six months.

However, as has been said, it is not an issue just about alcohol, it is about overcrowded housing, lack of access to services, and lack of opportunity for young people. This situation is not restricted to Alice Springs. It is happening all over regional Australia: Katherine, Darwin, Halls Creek, Kununurra, the Pilbara, Mt Isa, Townsville and other places in Queensland and NSW. Very severe alcohol restrictions (to act as a circuit breaker) have been introduced in Alice Springs which are set to last for three months. Please pray for Alice Springs. Here are some possible prayer points you can use to guide you.

  • For God to give the young people a purpose in life.
  • For wisdom for all those making decisions.
  • For consultations to include Indigenous People and Organisations.
  • That what has been happening will not result in the hardening of racist attitudes, especially within the police force.
  • For long-term funding for NGOs that operate diversionary Programs
  • For Christians to commit to long-term praying.
  • For Christians to be sensitive to the prompting of the Spirit as to what He wants them to do.
  • For Government commitment to provide more housing.
  • For organisations to provide learning opportunities for people who have missed out on school.
  • For a spirit of peace to reign in the towns at night.”

___

Originally published by the Australian Prayer Network. Photo by Natalia Olivera.

Thank the Source

Keeping, or Losing, Our Faith in Climate Change

Does climate change? If so, why? Is there really a climate crisis? If there isn’t, then why do so many believe there is? Is climate change a religion?

In drafting this essay, I have drawn heavily on my own training and experience as a teacher of meteorology and my own research in the 1960s and 1970s, when the scientific community was seen to seek the truth without the bias of pushing specific agendas. With my background in these things, I offer you what I believe to be a balanced and factual argument that the concept of climate change, previously known as global warming, has become a religion.

Today, there is so much commentary on climate change, so much so that I think that the majority of us accept that climate change is an inconvenient truth, and trust that those in power are getting on with fixing it. Is that it? Surely, if that’s true, we don’t need another essay!

But I think we do! In this essay, I would like to shine a light on some corners of the subject usually glossed over.

Does climate change? If so, why?

I believe that climate does change over time. (Remember, we are talking about climate now, not weather.) Climate is a description of the average atmospheric conditions in a specific region, taken over at least 30 years. Weather simply changes every day. In the case of Melbourne, Australia, it is said that you can experience all four seasons in one day!

A century ago, Serbian scientist Milutin Milankovitch hypothesised that the long-term, collective effects of changes in Earth’s position relative to the Sun are a strong driver of Earth’s long-term climate, and are responsible for triggering the beginning and ending of ice ages. Let me discuss his three cycles.

  1. Eccentricity of the Earth’s Orbit

Earth’s orbit around the Sun isn’t a perfect circle. Over time, the gravitational pull from the two largest planets, Jupiter and Saturn, cause the shape of Earth’s orbit to vary from nearly circular to slightly elliptical. Currently, Earth’s eccentricity is near its least elliptical (most circular) and is very slowly decreasing, in a cycle that spans about 100,000 years.

The total change in global annual insolation (energy received from the sun) due to the eccentricity cycle is very small and some will argue, insignificant; but before I go on, consider this.

The Earth’s atmospheric system is extremely complex and extraordinarily difficult to model. There are so many variables to consider. Let’s just consider one here.

The amount of ice on the Earth, on land or on oceans, correlates with the amount of insolation reflected back to space, known as the Earth’s albedo.

During ice ages, much of the Earth’s surface was covered with ice. This large coverage of white meant that the Earth’s albedo was high, with much of the incoming solar radiation received by Earth being reflected back into space without appreciably warming the atmosphere.

But if a change in the Earth’s orbit brings about a minute change in the insolation received — for example, just a little bit more heat, barely enough to measure — it could be enough to melt an ice cap or two just a little bit, barely enough to measure. The Earth’s albedo decreases, just a little bit. Then, more of the incoming insolation is retained as heating, melting a bit more ice, and before you know it, a positive feedback loop is set up and the ice age melts away.

As a result, a steady increase of real measurable temperatures; sea level rises from the melting ice; and plants and animals once again begin to colonise what had been the frozen rocky waste that underlay the ice.

  1. Obliquity of the Earth’s Spin

The angle of the Earth’s axis of rotation is tilted as it orbits around the Sun is known as obliquity and thus explains our seasons. Each hemisphere facing the sun has its summer and the hemisphere tilted away has its winter. As the year progresses, when the sun is directly over the equator, each hemisphere has its autumn and spring respectively.

Obliquity varies between 22.1 and 24.5 degrees with respect to Earth’s orbit. The greater the obliquity, the more extreme our seasons, as the hemisphere facing the sun receives more insolation during its summer, and less during winter when it is tilted away. It is believed that periods of greater obliquity can trigger deglaciation after an ice age, as the Earth’s albedo is reduced.

Obliquity is currently tilted at 23.4 degrees, or about halfway between its extremes, with a cycle that spans about 41,000 years. It was last at its maximum tilt about 10,700 years ago and will reach its minimum tilt about 9,800 years from now.

  1. Precession of the Earth’s axial wobble

As Earth rotates about its axis, it wobbles slightly, much like an off-centred spinning top before it falls over. This wobble is believed to be due to tidal forces caused by the gravitational influences of the Sun and Moon that cause Earth to bulge at the equator, affecting its rotation. The cycle of precession spans about 25,770 years.

The passage of precession makes the seasons more extreme in one hemisphere and less extreme in the other. Currently, this makes Southern Hemisphere summers hotter and moderates Northern Hemisphere seasons. But in about 13,000 years, precession will cause these conditions to flip.

Other climate change drivers

So far in this essay, I have not mentioned the effects of volcanic ash from eruptions, that can be carried right around the globe by high-level jet streams. These clouds of ash reflect insolation and can have a cooling effect on our climates for many years.

[A word of caution here. If you are not aware, or perhaps have forgotten, the internet is far from ‘balanced’ in the articles and websites fed to you on a search. I have noticed (and it getting worse and worse in my view) that generally government websites (whatever the country), NASA, Wikipedia and National Geographic, to name but a few, all point their readers to the doctrine that climate change is an inconvenient truth. They have no room for discussion of alternative views.]

Another contributor to climate change is the sunspot cycle of 11 years. The comings and goings of sunspots have been shown to parallel changes in the Earth’s climates, and the occurrence of the Little Ice Age, which lasted from about 1450 to 1820.

Then there is the theory that the burning of fossil fuels, coal, oil and natural gas is creating climate change. Usually, this is described as anthropogenic warming, as it is a direct effect of man’s activity. It is focussed on the extra production of carbon dioxide (CO2), which is one of the greenhouse gases that trap insolation in our atmosphere as the radiation bounces off these molecules on their way back out to space, but as a result, are returned to Earth, creating the heating effect.

One thing to remember about the theory of anthropogenic warming due to CO2 is that CO2 only makes up an extremely small proportion of our atmosphere and this is not changing significantly due to our anthropogenic activity. Our atmosphere is 78 per cent nitrogen, 21 per cent oxygen, 0.9 per cent argon, and 0.1 per cent other gases (including CO2).

However, CO2 is the most important gas for plant growth, being the only source of carbon available to them. As Jordan B. Peterson has eloquently pointed out, the globe’s food production from plants has increased thanks to the extra CO2 produced by man and the deserts have begun to shrink! Great news for mankind!

There are still more climate change drivers. For example, the distribution of continental masses around the globe resulting from plate tectonics. Their distribution influences the Earth’s albedo, as land and oceans have different coefficients of reflectivity with respect to insolation.

Other examples are gaseous and particulate pollution, cutting insolation and stimulating rainfall, to say nothing of poisoning our environment. Deforestation has a devastating impact on soil quality, to say nothing of the reduction in water vapour in the atmosphere (a great contribution to the greenhouse effect). And the impact of commercial agriculture on the atmosphere.

Our atmosphere, the weather and the climate we experience are influenced by arguably the most complex, interconnected array of variables known to man. To simplify it to anthropogenic warming and to the excess of CO2, does a gross injustice to the science.

Is there really a climate crisis?

Most media commentary, most governments’ policies and most corporations, particularly the global ones, believe that there is. Anyone who is not a believer is ridiculed, sidelined, or ignored. But does that mean that there really is a climate crisis? Or does it demonstrate something completely different?

In the second half of this essay, I am leaning heavily on a one-and-a-quarter-hour-long discussion between Amir Tsarfati and Professor Yonatan Dubi published in November 2022 — Climate Change: A New World Religion? Amir is a Jew converted to Christianity, and Yonatan describes himself as a Jew by birth but now part atheist, part agnostic.

Yonatan is a physicist who specialises in mathematical modelling. He points out that the world’s average temperature has risen by 1.1o C over the last 100 years and that sea levels have risen by 30 cm in the last 100 years. This is an interesting observation, as we would expect sea levels to rise following the Little Ice Age of 1450 to 1820, and they have. Nothing unusual here!

Globally, sea level rise is extremely variable depending on local tectonic forces. For example, the sea level on Israel’s coastline has risen 7 cm over the last 100 years. Do these rates constitute a crisis? I don’t think so.

As Yonatan points out, rates like these will give man ample time to adjust to make any necessary changes to save himself and his livelihood. For Yonatan, this is not a crisis. He also points out that the IPCC’s (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) own data shows that there has been no rise in catastrophic weather events over the last 100 years either. As we know, the mainstream media love to use each hurricane, flood, fire, or drought as evidence of climate change. They are simply stoking the fire of alarmism and fuelling the fears of climate change believers.

Is climate change a religion?

What is a religion? Extremely hard to define, I am sure you will agree, but for me, there are some core components. Belief is central, a belief in something that requires faith, without the evidence of fact. The second element for me is that the belief engenders, or creates, a unity within a community of believers. Those who don’t believe are outcasts, excluded from the community.

According to a classical sociologist, religion is a “unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things, that is to say things set apart and forbidden — beliefs and practices which unite into one single moral community called a Church, all those who adhere to them.” (Durkheim, 1915)

Amir and Yonatan build their argument that climate change is a religion. They recognise the emergence of the ‘environmental movement’ in the 1960s with the publication of the classic work Silent Spring (Rachel Carson, 1962). The core of this book targeted the use of DDT against the curse of malaria in Africa. Afterward, the banning of DDT led to the excess deaths of millions from malaria, until the Africans started using DDT again!

Amir identified the Club of Rome’s Limits to Growth, 1972, as planting the seeds of the current preoccupation with limiting economic growth as a worthy environmental response to the climate crisis. Yonatan also identified the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 as the moment that saw increasing numbers flocking to the Greenpeace movement.

At the heart of all these initiatives was the underlying belief in the planet and in the fact that the planet needed saving. The enemy that needed to be fought against was mankind. Man was no longer the pinnacle of God’s creation, but rather a curse, responsible for so much pain, misery and degradation of the planet.

So, parallel with the demise of the Judeo-Christian heritage, starting in the liberated 1960s and continuing with the destruction of Communism, culminating in the breakup of the USSR and the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the people needed a new cause around which to unite. The environment, the planet, became their new god.

So, God said, in effect, “If that’s what you want, that’s what you get.” It wasn’t long before they were living in a pigpen, smeared with filth, filthy inside and out. And all this because they traded the true God for a fake god, and worshiped the god they made instead of the God who made them — the God we bless, the God who blesses us. Oh, yes!
~ Romans 1:25 (MSG)

It seems to me that climate change has all the hallmarks of a religion. For me, the most concerning aspect of this is that their adherents have ‘set aside’ their rational, enquiring, eager-to-learn minds, that naturally question and debate; for blind belief, faith, in what their leaders tell them. Their singular target is simply our individual carbon footprint, that is, the amount of CO2 that can be attributed to each one of us. So, believers simply must make the sacrifices necessary to bring this impact down. The more we save, individually, the more pious we are and the higher up the religious hierarchy we go!

Do not be deceived!

The climate change religion is very deceiving. It is so easy to become unwitting converts, as so much of it is obviously sensible. Let’s consider a few examples. Overfishing the oceans will swell our profits for today, but deplete the harvest for future generations — our children and grandchildren.

Clear-felling and burning our native forests send precious resources up in smoke, destroying the natural habitat for innumerable species of plants, animals and birds, to say nothing of the potential for cooling the planet due to increased smoke cover in the upper atmosphere.

Intensive commercial farming is over-reliant on artificial fertiliser. It degrades the soil, depleting the carbon content, and increases the risk of soil erosion by wind and or flood, not to mention the dangers of salinisation, as salt may be brought to the surface by evaporation, rendering the land unusable by future generations.

3 As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives,
the disciples came to Him privately.
“Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen,
and what will be the sign of Your coming and of the end of the age?”

Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you.
For many will come in My name,
claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many.
You will hear of wars and rumours of wars,
but see to it that you are not alarmed.
Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.
Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.
There will be famines and earthquakes in various places.
All these are the beginning of birth pains.”
~ Matthew 24:3-8 (my underlining).

I believe that the climate change religion can easily deceive us. Stage one, we believe the rhetoric, because we can’t see any alternative narrative as censorship has effectively outlawed alternative perspectives.

Stage two, we subconsciously accommodate the new religion into our current faith and moral practices. Finally, stage three, we can no longer recognise the new religion that has taken up residence within us and makes it normal for us to outcast any, including our family or community, who don’t share our beliefs. We take on the mores that preach the moral virtue of ‘for the greater good’, even though it flies in the face of the fact that each one of us, has been individually, fearfully and wonderfully made by God (Psalm 139:14).

More and more layers of red paint!

Yonatan described a wonderful analogy of more and more layers of red paint. He compares the impact of increasing the parts per million of CO2 in our atmosphere due to the burning of fossil fuels to adding layers of paint to a fence.

When we paint a fence with red paint, the first layer will look pretty anaemic as the original material or colour will be bound to show through. So, we put on another coat of paint, then another and perhaps a fourth.

By now each additional layer simply makes the paint layer thicker; it does not change the colour. Yonatan is saying that reducing the parts per million of CO2, as the climate change religion desires, will have as negligible an effect as taking off one layer of red paint from our fence. The fence will still look red!

So, imagine the destruction of all the economies right across the globe. Imagine the impact on the poorest people. Imagine the wealth gap widening even more as the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. And all for what? An immeasurable impact on the planet’s climates!

I can only see one benefit from all this. The rich elite, who have designed this new religion, do very well, thank you! The rest of us become the new feudal society of serfs, serving our new masters for their every pleasure.

Be nice to your neighbours

Let me conclude on a positive note.

15  Your hands are full of blood!

16 Wash and make yourselves clean.
Take your evil deeds out of My sight;
stop doing wrong.
17 Learn to do right; seek justice.
Defend the oppressed.
Take up the cause of the fatherless;
plead the case of the widow.

18 “Come now, let us settle the matter,”
says the Lord.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,
they shall be like wool.”
~ Isaiah 1:15b-18

I commend the whole of this chapter to you, but what does the writer say here? To recognise that we might have been deceived into thinking and doing wrong. Then to do right, to seek justice, defend the oppressed, and take up the cause of the fatherless and plead the cause of the widow (v17).

I can think of no better analogy than that we should be:

… the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.
~ Matthew 5:13

Let’s be nice to our neighbours. Let’s be responsible to the environment, while remembering that it is our decisions, our responsibility as citizens that counts, not the edicts and demands of external authorities. If there is no clearly argued good reason for doing something, there is no clearly argued good reason for doing something!

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Photo by Markus Spiske.

Thank the Source

Always Was, Always Will Be… Not

Since the 1980s, there’s been an increasingly common slogan. The phrase is synonymous with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander land rights, self-determination, and sovereignty. “Always Was, Always Will Be” has become an expression of grievance and unhappiness.

But does the concept fit within a Biblical framework?

Always Was?

In the creation process, God began with a water-covered Earth. Not a hot molten mass that slowly cooled over millions of years. On the third day, God separated “dry land” from “the waters below the heavens”. Then He created all manner of plant life to grow on the earth (Genesis 1:9-13). Land, and the vegetation that grows on it, was created by God.

The Bible does not tell us the size and shape of the “dry land”. We’re not told of its location on the globe, or whether it was one continental landmass or many smaller landmasses.

But it was certainly not the landmass that today is called Australia. Nor was it Africa or Asia or the Americas.

On the sixth day, God created the first man and the first woman (Genesis 1:26-27). God placed only one restriction on the first humans… not to eat the fruit of one particular tree (Genesis 2:16-17). Disastrously, they disobeyed God’s command, ate that forbidden fruit, and plunged themselves and all of their descendants into a fallen state of sinfulness (Genesis 3:1-19).

Sometime later, God “saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5). God’s response was to destroy humanity (and all land-dwelling air-breathing creatures) with a global flood (Genesis 6:11-13, 17). Only Noah, his wife, their three sons and their wives, and the creatures that God brought to Noah survived.

This means, of course, that every human being is a descendant of Noah and his family. There were no groups of humans living in some remote south land that escaped the Flood. From a Biblical perspective, no group of people can claim to have lived on some land “from the beginning of time”. Only eight human beings in a large ship survived the Flood. So, every single one of us is blood-related, regardless of our ethnic or cultural background.

The Flood did something else… it reshaped the landmasses of the earth. Today, we can observe just how much a local flood can reshape a place. The waters of the global Flood “prevailed more and more upon the earth” (7:19). The land was broken up; tectonic plates rapidly shifted around; and new geographic features were formed.  It was out of the Flood and its aftermath that the continent which today is called Australia was formed.

Never has it been always under the ownership of a particular group of people!

Always Will Be?

It is God who establishes nations. It is God who determines the extent of a nation’s reign, both in a geographic sense and in a temporal sense. Paul declared that God “made from one man every nation of mankind on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation” (Acts 17:26).

One clear example of nations being displaced is the removal of the Canaanite peoples from their lands.  God promised Abraham that his descendants would be instrumental in driving out the Canaanite nations at a time when “their iniquity” would be complete (Genesis 15:16-21). This would occur over four centuries later under the leadership of Joshua.

Therefore, it is simply arrogant for any individual or any nation to claim “always will be”. Our times — both as individuals and as nations — are in God’s hands. Physical things do not last, and if we link our identity to the physical world, we miss the best that God has for us through relationship with Him.

This truth applies as much to Aboriginal people seeking to derive their identity from land and traditions, as to modern Westerners seeking to build their identity in property, possessions, and pleasures.

Nothing “always was” and nothing “always will be”. Except for Jesus Christ!

___

Photo by Lara Jameson.

Thank the Source

‘We Created a Monster’: Djokovic Makes Australian History in the Country That Deported Him

Djokovic’s historic Australian Open win is a reminder that principles matter more than victory, and that adversity can be the best medicine.

Last night Novak Djokovic made Australian history, winning his 10th Australian Open title at an electric Rod Laver Arena, defeating up-and-coming Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece in straight sets (6-3, 7-6, 7-6).

The win, which Djokovic called “the biggest victory” of his life, puts him on equal footing with Rafael Nadal’s 22 Grand Slam men’s single titles and returns him to the world number one spot.

It was an emotional night for the 35-year-old Serbian, who fought a hamstring injury throughout the Open and then saw his father miss last night’s final due to an off-court controversy late last week. On winning, Novak clambered up into the stands with his family and team, where he sobbed uncontrollably for several minutes before the awards ceremony commenced.

Australia has proven to be a centre of gravity for Djokovic, who won his first Australian Open in 2008, and two decades ago launched his professional career at the same tournament.

An Icon of Free Choice

“This has been one of the most challenging tournaments that I’ve played in my life,” Djokovic told crowds during his Churchill-esque victory speech last night. “Given the circumstances, not playing last year… I want to thank everyone who made me come back and made me welcome.”

It was Djokovic’s subtle reference to the humiliating saga he endured last year, when Australian authorities kicked him out of the country for his personal stance on mandated COVID-19 injections.

Critics and the legacy press variously blamed Djokovic’s deportation on his vaccine-free status and visa application errors. However, as reported by the Daily Declaration, Australian Government representatives made it clear their decision to deport the tennis star was to prevent “an increase in anti-vaccination sentiment” and to keep “an icon of free choice” out of the country.

Ironically, then-Prime Minister Scott Morrison claimed that barring Djokovic from entering Australia somehow protected the country, even as the virus was spreading uncontrolled among the ‘vaccinated’ along Australia’s east coast.

‘We Created a Monster’

Australian Nick Kyrgios, who faced Djokovic in last year’s Wimbledon final, believes the Serb’s deportation only fuelled his desire to take home this summer’s Aussie title. “Haha I told you,” Kyrgios tweeted after Novak’s win. “We created a monster. Well done @DjokerNole.”

Kyrgios was a vocal critic of Australia’s treatment of Djokovic last year. “For the sport, we need him here,” he said at the time. “I just want it to end. I’m feeling for him now, it’s not really humane what’s going on.”

Kyrgios then predicted a principled Novak would channel any feelings of vengeance towards his opponents on court. “He’s going to be very determined to play well and stick it to everyone [because] of what’s going on,” Kyrgios remarked — also warning, “If he’s allowed to play the Australian Open, I don’t want any bar of him.”

‘I Became the Villain of the World’

In spite of how he was treated, Djokovic — who is an Orthodox Christian — has guarded his heart from bitterness. “I don’t hold any grudges. Definitely not against the people of Australia,” he said earlier this month. “I think me being here proves how much I really want to be here and how much I want to play, and how much I like it.”

Nor has Djokovic shied away from discussing what he endured. “All of a sudden, I became the villain of the world which was obviously a terrible position to be in as an athlete and someone who is looking to thrive in its own direction of life and profession,” he said earlier this month. “But that’s something that I had to learn how to handle.”

Novak invested his time off court in further developing the skills that helped him secure his weekend win in Melbourne. “The fact that I wasn’t playing for several months at the beginning of last year allowed me to really get together with my team and work on my body, on my strokes.”

Djokovic’s historic win is a reminder that, even when big sacrifices are required, principles matter more than victory — and victory is still possible in the long run, anyway.

Image via Eurosport.

Thank the Source

“The Chosen” Actor Witnesses to Christ at the March for Life

Jonathan Roumie, who stars as Jesus in the popular crowd-funded television series The Chosen, spoke on Friday 20 January at the annual March for Life in Washington, DC. He proclaimed:

“God is real and He is completely in love with you because you are all here today. History has been made, life has triumphed in an extraordinary way; and the light of the world, who is Jesus Christ, the Author of Life — His light has burned so very brightly within each and every one of you… compelling you forward for one reason or another to stand together today and fight the noblest and worthiest cause possible, which is to allow the unborn the right to enter into the world and defeat those earthly forces that wish to destroy the very evidence of them!

You have chosen to journey to our nation’s capital today not only to mourn the 64 million children lost through abortion over the last fifty years, but also to champion those yet to be born, on the road to their own birth, made in the image of the Creator Himself, and to testify to the miraculous sanctity of life itself, as expressed in the divine poetry of Psalm 139: for You formed my inward parts, You knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are Your works – my soul knows it very well...

He continued:

“Having lived under a grim cloud for the last fifty years, the world has once again been given a glimmer of hope, and I pray that with this recent step in protecting life, despite the grievous nature of what we’ve allowed, that God might still look upon us in His infinite mercy and see the hearts of those of us here in support of life today and say to us, ‘In this hour, it is good.’ And it is good, but it is far from finished.”

Total Surrender

The 48-year-old actor from New York City is a devout Christian. Baptised Greek Orthodox like his Egyptian father, he was raised Catholic like his Irish mother. Just over four years ago, he had a powerful experience of God. Catholic News Agency reports:

“Roumie had been an active member at his parish and participated in several ministries such as being a sponsor in RCIA, a eucharistic minister, and lector, but admits that he was not letting God take part in his career. It wasn’t until he was brought to the brink of poverty that he finally let God take complete control of his life.

Roumie shares that he woke up one day in May 2018 and was overdrawn on his bank account, had $20 in his wallet, had enough food for the day, had rent and bills arriving, and had not worked in three weeks. He got on his knees in front of his crucifix and poured his heart out to God. Roumie expresses that he felt an overwhelming sense of peace that everything was going to be OK. Later that day he received four checks in the mail. It was then that he truly surrendered his career to God.”

CNA adds:

“Roumie will be turning in Jesus’ tunic for bell bottoms and flare-sleeved blouses as he takes on the role of playing hippie-street-preacher Lonnie Frisbee in the new movie ‘Jesus Revolution’.

The true story takes place in Southern California at the height of the hippie counterculture in the early 1970s. The movie shows the national spiritual awakening that took place during this time and how a community of teenage hippies came to encounter Christ. The film will be released on February 24.”

Love and Life

In his March for Life speech, Roumie declared:

“For the majority of believers, God is love, and true love gives way to life, not death.

They say we live in a post-Christian society — I reject that. You can reject that. Change the culture by impacting the culture.

Embrace that which is bigger than you — He Who gave you abundant life and He Who has called you by name.

Do not be afraid, mute the noise of the popular and embrace the counterculture of Christ’s love and the message He offers you. The road is wide, which leads to destruction, and many will enter it.

So enter through the narrow gate, my dear friends. For therein lies the Kingdom of Heaven.”

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Photo: Jonathan Roumie/Instagram

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The Necessity of Private Property Ownership

I came across this fascinating argument from William of Ockham in the deliciously named On The Tyrannical Ascendancy of the Pope (early 1340s):William of Ockham on private ownership

“But after sin, because among men there grew up avarice and the desire to possess and use temporal things wrongly, it was useful and expedient that temporal things should be appropriated and not all be common, to restrain the immoderate appetite of the wicked for possessing temporal things and to drive out neglect of the proper management and administration of temporal things, since common affairs are commonly neglected by bad men.”

The argument (more extensive than this single quote), is that “temporal things” were held in common pre-Fall (i.e., common ownership), which worked because without sin, property was used wisely and according to need. This of course makes common ownership the state of perfection in a pre-Fall world.

Preventing Sin

Interestingly, private ownership (putting this in modern language) arises as a consequence of the Fall, but not because it is intrinsically sinful, but because it is a necessary way of addressing sin lest the common property be misused (by the greedy) and/or neglected (by freeloaders).

Thus, while private ownership was not a part of the good creation, it is a “good”, after a kind, designed to adapt to the emergence of avarice and neglect.

He obtained the neglect argument from Aristotle’s famous critique of Plato’s common property argument (all the way down to wives and children) for the guardian class in The Republic based on the insight that people do not value, and therefore care for, things which they do not own as much as they do for the things they do own (still one of the best arguments for private property ever advanced).

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Originally published on Dr Jonathan Cole’s page.

Subscribe to his podcast, The Political Animals, for more insights.
Photo by Zen Chung.

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