Expanding our Banners
A brief explanation of the themes of the banner
God is Good –
There are many references saying God is Good in the scriptures like this one:
Psalm 107: 1 “Give thanks to the Lord, because he is good; his love is eternal!”
We usually use the word ‘good’ very loosely. “’How was your day?’ ‘Good’.” “‘Does this look good on me?’” “‘Sit, Bonnie!’ ‘Good doggy!’” When we do this we mean something that’s to our liking, our ease or pleasure.
Islam proclaims ‘God is great!’ To me, in that statement ‘great’ has a sense of powerfulness about it. I think in Christian faith when we say ‘God is good’ it’s not about power, or about our liking, but ‘good’ as a moral character. God’s goodness and love belong together like in the quote from Psalm 107.
Goodness, like love, intends, looks for and acts for the deeper and long-term benefit of others. God’s love is generous and vulnerable. A love that is patient yet determined. A love that wants to see blessing for all people, but has to rely on people to respond with love themselves. And as Jesus showed in his death and resurrection- a love prepared to go to the cross in pain and doubt; but is not conquered and rises again to never end.
Yes there is much suffering in the world, and the question that raises needs a long answer. But before we can start to answer that, we have to come from a position of God’s goodness- the very gift of life itself is good!
Black Lives Matter-
#Black lives matter is a campaign begun in 2013 that’s gone worldwide, especially since the killing of George Floyd in Minnesota USA in May last year. It has broadened out to be a call to end personal and institutional racism world-wide.
In Australia it has been taken up as well- highlighting that over 450 Australian First Nations people have died in police custody or prisons even since the Royal Commission into Deaths in Custody in 1991. First Nations’ prison rates in some states and the Northern Territory are some of the highest in the world per head of population. This is a fault with the system. It is not just a fault with the individual First Nations people concerned.
But people will say ‘All lives matter’. Of course they do! But the point of #Black Lives Matter is that among all lives, black lives are treated as if they matter less. Racism is not just a personal vice held by individual people, but is entrenched in the way societies operate. #Black Lives Matter is about ensuring they are treated equally.
All lives do matter, but I believe God calls us to support and advocate for those who are treated badly.
Women are owed equity
I remember back being shocked to find out that women were paid less than men for the same work into the 1970s. How could that have been? Now, in Australia, officially women do have equal rights as men, but in practice there is still a significant differential between women’s income and men’s. Three reasons I suggest are that 1 there is a ‘glass ceiling’ when it comes to women’s promotion in their careers; 2 when women take time out for child-bearing and child-rearing they fall behind; and 3 the pay rates in work where women predominate are low- with Child Care and Aged Care very clear examples. Apart from work rights, there is still a culture of misogyny, and double standards.
We had a long debate about the wording of this. Women deserve equality? But it wasn’t about deserving- it is about rights. They are owed. And we settled on equity- equality is being treated the same; equity is being treated according to your needs.
No human is illegal
‘No Human Is Illegal’ is about policies and terms used to describe Refugees and Asylum Seekers. Certain Refugees and Asylum Seekers get branded as ‘Illegals’ wrongly. According to the United Nations Convention on Refugees to which Australia is a signatory, it is a human right to seek asylum in another country when you fear persecution in your own. The Australian Press Council has said that calling asylum seekers ‘illegal immigrants’ is a breach of the Council’s Standards of Practice.
We’ve just passed 20 years since the Tampa episode that began cruel policies for political gain.
It seems to me there are four ways to argue for generous support for refugees and asylum seekers and that in Australia we could do much better:
The legal one of human rights, 2 a moral argument about our responsibilities as fortunate people, 3 a utilitarian one that it will ultimately makes us happier, and 4 a spiritual one that it reflects the character of God.
Of course just how generous is debatable and in the realm of politics, and in a democracy I think we have the responsibility to use that blessing to advocate for Christlike policies.
Science is Real
The story behind this is Climate change. 97% of scientists studying and reporting on the climate of our have found 1 The climate is warming. 2 it’s caused by humans burning fossil fuels. 3 It’s already causing trouble with record temperatures, bushfires and extreme weather events, and unless we can limit the global average increase to 1.50C there will be a lot more trouble, but 4 we can stop it by changing to renewable energy sources and other changes to our lifestyles and practices.
The problem is that, despite the clear science, and the possibility of solutions, vested interests are holding up the changes we need to make, and day by day the difficulty of solving the problem of climate change increases, and the likelihood of world catastrophe grows.
There is no necessary clash between Christian faith and science- unless both take an extreme ideological position. In fact they enrich each other.
Christian faith offers:
Love is Love
Love Is Love’ is, of course, a loaded statement that comes out of the marriage equality debate- saying that love between gay people is equally as much true love as love between heterosexual people.
Though it’s been settled in Australian law, it is a still an issue that divides Christians (as well as other people).
The Uniting Church- after many years came to a resolution- to allow individual Church Councils and Ministers to make their own decisions about whether to conduct same-sex marriages or not. We have recognised that people can be for it with good conscience and it be an expression of their Christian faith, and people can be against it with good conscience and it be an expression of their Christian faith, without bigotry.
Love is a word used very loosely- from the most altruistic, selfless, sacrificial, long-term actions; to how you feel about a certain detective show on TV or a particular cake-shop.
God has shown us what true love really is like, in Jesus.
If sexual practices are just using someone else and not part of a loving committed relationship, whether heterosexual or homosexual, they are not right. If a homosexual relationship has all the qualities of love- as much as any of us can- kindness, trust, knowledge of and commitment to each other- then why can’t it have the expression of sexual intimacy as well?
There are a few verses in scripture that condemn homosexual practice. For me, I believe it’s important to read the scriptures in context, and that bible doesn’t claim to have all the answers to all questions for all times, but, rather, it points the way to how respond to new situations and new knowledge? We do now know that people have an inbuilt sexual orientation- it is not a choice.
Marriage is, among other things, society’s recognition of a truly loving relationship. And for Christians it’s a commitment before God and a call on God to bless that relationship. Marriage is an institution to support intimate relationships, so in Christian faith - the way I see it- it should be available to gay as well as heterosexual couples.
Lots more could be said about this, and you may not agree with my understanding. True love allows us to disagree and still be friends; to explain our views and listen to each other, and respect each other’s conclusions. The good news is that we all need, and we all stand in the loving grace of God.
Kindness is everything
Kindness is love in action.
Kindness is the engine that propels us forward, both as individuals and as a society, towards goodness and greatness.
Kindness doesn’t have to come in the form of huge, heroic acts to make an impact: Small acts of kindness that occur every day accumulate over time to create change. One kind act by one kind person can launch a ripple of kindness that moves across the world. No act of kindness is too small to matter.
Kindness is contagious: The more people are kind, the more people will be kind.
The word Kindness is related to the word ‘kin’- extended family. The more we can see all people, and the whole creation as kin, the kinder me may become.
More on the banners
How the banners came to be
Last year I saw a Facebook post that had this banner. It orginated from a handwritten sign taken up by the Wisconsin Women's Health Authority. Each of the sayings were very pithy sayings about social justice issues. We talked about each of these in free_key.com and the Devotions over a couple of months as an aspect of the gospel, and people were saying we could get such a banner for our church. It would be a public statement of our character as a church.
By saying 'In this church we believe' doesn't mean everyone in the church agrees, but many do, and it has the endorsement of the Elders and Church Council. We believe these are issues to be discussed, thought through in the light of the gospel, and then if our opinions differ that's OK, at least they will be well-considered and will be respected.
We looked at the wording- how much can you say in less than 20 letters? We changed the wording about gender equity, and added God is Good as our first statement, because all the others flow from that. A couple from the church- Julie and Stewie Burch- offered to pay to get them made and their son who's a graphic designer worked on them. Martine Dunstan also did a lot of work towards them. Logos Ahead made them.