The secret weapon of the church

Even though it was a decade ago, I’ve always remembered these remarks by Jennie Chancey:

If a woman is called to singlehood (no desire to marry and bear children), she does not have a lesser role in the church or the community. Indeed, she has a vital role. Single women truly should be the “secret weapon” of the church.

While this next reference was for something from 100 years ago—and while it likely involved married as well as single women—it made me think of the secret weapon reference straight away:

These women were motivated by religious conviction. They wrote to editors of newspapers on the issue [a referendum to allow religious instruction and Bible reading in government schools]. Underlining the religious belief that motivated many supporters of the Bible in State Schools League, ‘H. S. W.’ drew on passages from the Bible to urge women to action in 1906.

Women of Queensland, we are fighting for God’s cause. Come to the front, delay is dangerous. Be not among those women who are at ease in Zion (Isaiah xxxii. 11)’ she urged…

[T]he Vice-president of the Women’s League, A. Maria Cole, also drew on the Bible in her letter arguing for the passing of the Referendum. She concluded by a rallying cry. ‘[V]ote “Yes” for the sake of the children of the country we love, and the Master whom we serve,’ she urged readers of The Brisbane Courier [newspaper].

The Women’s League made their views known in a flyer in which they stated emphatically that the Bible was the source of morality. ‘No other teaching than the Bible can make our children grow up pure, loving, truthful and honest’, they stated….

The Brisbane Courier noted that ‘a feature of the referendum on the question of Bible reading in State schools was the large number of devoted ladies who volunteered to assist at the various booths.’

Quote sources

  1. Chancey, J. (2004). “Are Single Women Not Needed at LAF?”. Ladies Against Feminism. Available http://www.ladiesagainstfeminism.com/artman/publish/Comments_and_Letters_23/Are_Single_Women_Not_Needed_at_LAF_12521001252.shtml. Last accessed 25th Apr 2016.
  2. Perkins, Y, (2010). Queensland’s Bible in State Schools Referendum 1910: A Case Study of Democracy. [BA thesis, University of Sydney], pp. 23-24, 51

Church alliances that led to Biblical victory

The campaign to pass the referendum was led by the Bible in State Schools League, a multi-denominational Protestant organisation created in 1890 with the objective of persuading the Queensland government to reintroduce religious instruction in the state’s schools.

In 1911 Catholics formed 24% of Queensland’s population, Anglicans 35%, Presbyterians 12%, Methodists 10% and Lutherans 4% of the population. This level of Christian diversity meant that no group formed a natural majority and needed to form alliances with other groups if they were to effect change. The Bible in State Schools League reflected this demographic imperative….

A decisive result ensued: 56.7% of voters approved of introducing religious instruction and Bible reading in state schools while 43.3% of voters disapproved. The Referendum passed in 43 of the state’s 61 electorates. The lack of organised opposition presenting a clearly articulated case against the proposition would have been a strong factor contributing to the result….

Without the Bible in State Schools League effectively and persistently applying the pressure, the referendum would never have been held, passed and enacted. Rev. [D.J.] Garland as the outspoken organising secretary had been instrumental in marshalling support from the fractious Protestant churches, parliamentary representatives and the people of Queensland.

Quote source

Perkins, Y, (2010). Queensland’s Bible in State Schools Referendum 1910: A Case Study of Democracy. [BA thesis, University of Sydney], pp. 5, 56-57, 90

A critique of Richard Dawkins’ mistaken theology

[Richard] Dawkins speaks scoffingly of a personal God, as though it were entirely obvious exactly what this might mean. He seems to imagine God, if not exactly with a white beard, then at least as some kind of chap, however supersized.

He asks how this chap can speak to billions of people simultaneously, which is rather like wondering why, if Tony Blair is an octopus, he has only two arms. For Judeo-Christianity, God is not a person in the sense that Al Gore arguably is…

He is, rather, the condition of possibility of any entity whatsoever, including ourselves. He is the answer to why there is something rather than nothing. God and the universe do not add up to two, any more than my envy and my left foot constitute a pair of objects…

Quote source

Eagleton, T. (2006). Lunging, Flailing, Mispunching: The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins [book review]. London Review of Books. Available https://www.lrb.co.uk/v28/n20/terry-eagleton/lunging-flailing-mispunching. Last accessed 22nd Apr 2017.

State-endorsed Christianity in government schools

When people think of education in government schools, I think too many people are conditioned by the norms of the American judiciary i.e. an attitude of militant hostility towards Christianity in the classroom.

But in other countries, the situation is rather better. I reckon the average Joe tends not to think much about the British education system, but here’s an extract from Wikipedia:

Religion may have an influence on what goes on in state schools. For example, in the UK the Education Act 1944 introduced the requirement for daily prayers in all state-funded schools, but later acts changed this requirement to a daily “collective act of worship”, the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 being the most recent. This also requires such acts of worship to be “wholly or mainly of a broadly Christian character”. The term “mainly” means that acts related to other faiths can be carried out providing the majority are Christian.

Quote source

Wikipedia (2017). Religion and Children. Available https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_and_children. Last accessed 22nd Apr 2017.

A fierce affront to an actor’s fornication

A while ago, I came across a DVD of the 1970s miniseries called Jesus of Nazareth. I didn’t get around to watching it until last Easter weekend (watching all 6 hours of it in one go).

After the credits rolled, I hopped over to Wikipedia, to learn more about the miniseries. My favourite part from the Wikipedia article was this:

The idea to cast Robert Powell [as Jesus] originated with [producer] Lew Grade’s wife, Kathie Moody, who told her husband the actor had ‘wonderful blue eyes‘ after watching him perform in a BBC television adaptation of Jude the Obscure.

Powell came under severe criticism from religious groups for ‘living in sin’ with his companion, dancer Barbara Lord of Pan’s People, while intending to portray Jesus. The couple married shortly before production began.

And 40 years later, as far as I can tell, they are still married.

Quote source

Wikipedia (2017). Jesus of Nazareth (miniseries). Available https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesus_of_Nazareth_%28miniseries%29. Last accessed 14th Apr 2017.

Lord, make us holy and whole

I had a student who was applying for a Rhodes Scholarship a couple of years ago, and he tried to make a deal with God. He said, “God, you give me the Rhodes Scholarship and I’ll tell everyone I got it because of you.”

I remember saying, “I don’t think that is going to work.” He said, “Why not? What better way to make God look good than to make me a Rhodes scholar?”

Do you ever do something similar and say to God, “Lord, make me successful, make me happy, give me what I want.” That’s what the Palm Sunday crowds were saying, “Lord, do for us what we want and make us happy.”

But Jesus didn’t come to make us happy; He came to make us holy and whole. Now I know that if you’re like me you’re thinking, “Bummer, that’s too bad, I want to be happy.”

But trust me whole is better; it lasts longer, it’s more rewarding, and it’s more productive than happiness, which is fleeting. Jesus came to make us holy and whole—not what we expected.

Quote source

Ortberg, J. (2009). The Meaning of Holy Week. Jesus Central. Available http://jesuscentral.com/ji/historical-jesus/jesus-final_week.php. Last accessed 10th April 2017.

The Resurrection trumps cognitive dissonance

Some time ago, when I was writing my book on resurrection [The Resurrection of the Son of God], a friend came to see me unexpectedly and asked what it was about, and I told him “resurrection.” Straightaway, he said, “Oh, of course I have always taken the view that the idea of resurrection was in the air at the time, and the disciples were so bothered by Jesus’ cataclysmic defeat and death that they more or less reached for that category as a way of coping with their grief.”

That is totally implausible as a historical account of something that happened in the first century.

We know, as I said before, of several other movements where the leader was killed, the one upon whom everyone had pinned their hope; but at no point do we find such movements then suffering from the blessed twentieth-century disease called cognitive dissonance, where they make up stories about something glorious that has happened in order to try to come to terms with their grief. That just doesn’t work as history.

Quote source

Evans, C.A. & Wright, N.T. (2009). Jesus, the Final Days: What Really Happened [ebook]. Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, Location 1072