Saturday, May 24, 2008


To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. ... I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. John 8 vv 31-32, 34-36

I was flicking through the channels the other night in the ad breaks of one of my favourite TV shows. No, not a hard-hitting documentary series on climate change, unfortunately. Not a panel of intellectuals discussing world politics, either. Project Runway. :)

Anyway, I was unfortunate enough to run into a show called Moment of Truth on another channel. Has anyone else seen this ghastly attempt to entertain? Basically, the contestant is asked a series of questions in front of their closest friends and family, and if a lie detector confirms they have told the truth, they get closer and closer to winning half a million dollars. It starts off "small"; 'do you still fantasise about people other than your wife?' 'would you break up with your boyfriend if your ex wanted to get back with you?' 'have you ever embezzled money?' Then it gets bigger. 'do you secretly hate your father?' 'have you continued a sexual relationship with someone other than your husband during your marriage?'

Sadly, the answers are often what the show's producers are obviously looking for - shocking.

Aside from the obvious question of why people with big secrets would put themselves into a show like this in the first place, I found myself confused and horrified at the way this show messed with the truth. Yes, what these people were doing was technically being honest - but they were also shaming or breaking the hearts of their loved ones and ruining their own lives in front of millions of people, and then the audience would cheer because they've just won ten grand and their loved ones would hug them with stiff smiles, if things turned out dignified.

To be honest (no pun intended, seriously), I can see why such a show could take off. It's definitely got the voyeurism of successful reality TV, with a nice chunk of moral condemnation thrown in. "My, my," we can say from our living rooms as we salivate in excited horror over someone who has just confessed to some sordid history, "what a disgusting woman. Her poor husband. But at least she's won 100 grand."

Isn't it weird how truth is so unfashionable these days, unless it's in some context like this? And isn't it unavoidable how these "truths" on this TV show have absolutely no power to set a person free? What this show broadcasts as the truth is really a manipulation. There are some secrets that should not be told before an audience of millions, and which should definitely not be told for a nice pay-out of a few thousand dollars. I wonder if the girl who told her husband she would rather be married to her ex is happy now with her twenty-five grand.

People like to quote Jesus' words, "the truth will set you free", in many different contexts. Heck, one of my English lecturers last year wouldn't agree with me that that phrase actually came from the Bible, saying "I don't think Karl Marx would agree with you!" (That's another story, but that was one amusing class.) But at risk of sounding too postmodern, Jesus wasn't talking about just any truth. Yes, there are "truths" outside following Jesus. It's true that I am a sinner and will probably make a whole series of big mistakes throughout my life, most of which I don't want anyone to know about, even for thousands of dollars. However, the truths that are really worth knowing are not sordid confessions of hopeless people, but the truth that Jesus can rise above them, bringing us hope and love and redemption by his blood. That is freedom.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Rand Abdel-Qader

This morning in the local newspaper there was a story about a seventeen-year-old Iraqi girl called Rand Abdel-Qader who was murdered a couple of weeks ago by her father and two brothers for the heinous crime of developing a crush on a British soldier. Apparently, "death was the least she deserved". Her father was arrested but released soon after by police who congratulated him on his actions. Here's the interview with her father that I read this morning.

I know honour killings aren't unusual. But something about this made me so angry. I voiced my opinions loudly to my father who reminded me that I should try to understand that other people have different beliefs. Which is probably a good principle normally...

...but I have absolutely no intention of respecting beliefs that would allow this. Have Rand's beliefs been respected, or her basic rights?

This is where I think postmodernism and relativism are just so useless. If Rand's father's beliefs are just as valuable as mine or hers, where does Rand stand now?

Okay, so if we want Rand's father and people like him to ever change their minds, we obviously can't browbeat them and say we're better than them and that they're just wrong. I know. But that doesn't mean I have to pay them lip service.

I can't help thinking how lucky I am to have grown up in a Christian home. How lucky I am to know Jesus. How superior the teaching of Jesus is to anything I've ever come across before. It sounds so... arrogant of me to say that but when I look at the world I can't help comparing it to Jesus. I'm no expert on ancient society but I would guess it's just as or more harsh on women in iffy situations as Rand's father was on her. And yet Jesus is seen throughout the gospels defending the defenceless, the women caught in adultery, the down-and-outers, the sinners, the victims of repressive societies, protecting them from men who would judge them, stone them, and belittle them. I love him for that and I don't ever want to stop being angry when women like Rand are tormented. But I also want to do something about it. God allows us anger - but he doesn't let us stew in it. How can I do something about the fate of women like Rand? I feel incredibly challenged.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

faith and rationality

I feel like all my recent God is Nice blog posts recently have been titled with word pairs - not opposites - but things that it's hard to figure out the relationship of. Science and Christianity. Foolishness and wisdom. Now, faith and rationality.

Somewhere in my list of Top Five Things I Love About Honours, there is a bullet point reading "New Friends". For the first time, I've made real friends at uni, in my classes. I see the others, and a few people in particular, so much that it would be hard not to. Before, you might sort of get to know people a little over a semester but when the semester finished, you'd go your separate ways quite happily.

Because I'm pretty open about saying things like "Going to church" when people ask me what I'm doing this Sunday, most of the people I see lots have figured out I'm a Christian ("Gary" of "foolishness and wisdom" fame has not yet!). And because the three people I get on best with are very very open people, respectful of my right to hold different beliefs and aware that I won't trash theirs, we've already had quite a few "talks" about God, life, the universe, everything. It's great and I love it!

In doing so, though, something has come up that I haven't had to consider so much in the past. As you'd expect, in an intellectual environment what is really important for my fellow Honourees is being able to explain why I believe what I do. And I agree; there is absolutely no point being a Christian if you can't say why.

However, I realised today - logic is just not enough. I can explain why I think the Bible is historically accurate and I can explain why I think the Christian belief system is reasonable and valid. I think I should do this - intelligent people need to hear it. I can rationalise to my heart's content. But that doesn't explain why I have faith.

I have faith for emotional and experiential reasons. I have faith because I am so, so grateful that Jesus died for me, miserable little scum that I am, because he loves me. I have faith because nothing philosophers could rationalise or scientists could prove has the emotional or imaginative power of the gospel. And (shock horror) I can't prove this.

[Imagine a lightbulb going on in my head] And I don't need to prove it! The power of the gospel is not in logical argument! The people in my class admit themselves that not everything can be explained or rationalised or put in our little boxes, so why must I try and do that? There is a point where rationality loses its power, beyond which it cannot go - does that mean we give up? No! We use imagination, we use emotion, we use experience, to go beyond it.

As always, realising the limit of my capabilities is a relief. The work is done by the Holy Spirit. I only have to testify what I know. And what I know is that Jesus loves me. Hooray!