Tragic Numbers

Written by Anthony Douglas on Saturday, 10 August 2019.

Legislative CouncilIt was a sad week in the NSW parliament. Others have commented that it is a demonstration of exceedingly poor taste and insensitivity that many of our MPs cheered and clapped when the legislation to decriminalise abortion passed the lower house. The resolution of ethical questions is not a football match, to be won or lost. Bills might pass with a simple majority, but the goal of ethics is for a whole society to come to a common mind over what is right.

  • 20,000 or more - the estimated number of abortions each year in NSW already performed legally.
  • 304 - following the passage of a similar bill in Victoria, the number of babies born alive between 2009 and 2016 that were intended to be aborted, and therefore left to die on the operating table.
  • 1 - the number of medical doctors in the NSW lower house. Dr McGirr voted against the bill.
  • 41 - the number of MPs who voted against an amendment to require that a woman be given the right of informed consent to an abortion.

That last one is telling. The usual way these debates are framed is pro-life vs pro-choice, and yet here, the ‘pro-choice’ side actually voted against giving a woman her choice.  

There remain deep problems with the bill, even beyond its legitimation of murder. Please keep praying as it goes now to the upper house for consideration that our MPs will take the time to look for the dangers.

The Hue Mountains

Written by Anthony Douglas on Sunday, 04 August 2019.

Rainbow MountainsIn northwestern China, there is a mountain range in Gansu province that is known, for self-evident reasons, as the Rainbow Mountains. Sedimentary rock has been twisted and eroded, leaving different layers of markedly varied colours. At the right time of year, with the right amounts of heat and moisture, it’s hard to believe the colours aren’t painted on. UNESCO has named it a World Heritage Site in 2009.

Just in time too. Only a few years later, Peru popped up with its own Rainbow Mountain. Nobody knew about the mountain’s colouring until 2015, because until then it had been covered in Andean permafrost. As the world warmed, the snows retreated and a new tourist attraction was born.

Our God does love beauty, doesn’t he? Whether it’s the stars above or earth below, the largest creature or the smallest, he has never been content with ordinary. Better still, he loves to share his beauty with us, even to the extent of keeping it wrapped up under snow until we should be able to see it.

Yet these are only the tip of the iceberg. The greatest beauty is the Son he sent to us, all those years ago: a gift prepared long in advance, only to be revealed at the right time. But Jesus must never be merely a tourist attraction, to be visited, admired, and then left behind.

If we do that, we miss the fulness of the gift. For those who turn to Christ will find themselves turned into the image of Christ, made beautiful ourselves, a people of every colour, a rainbow of fulfilled promises, a sight truly worth seeing!

The Messed Laid Plans

Written by Anthony Douglas on Saturday, 27 July 2019.

Today is the last day of competitive cycling’s marquee event, the Tour de France. For some of the riders, the last three weeks have been the focus of the last twelve months, as they have carefully managed diet, training, warm-up events and patient study in order to be ideally prepared for the race. It simply dominates their lives. They will have studied the route laid out for the race for months, working out which days follow a course that will suit their individual strengths. They know which days are about playing it safe, and which days are their chance for glory.
On Friday night, France was sweltering. The hottest day on record in Paris. And in the Alps, it was a big day for cyclists, likely to be the critical determinant of who would win the whole Tour. The race was gripping, with everything at stake ... and then it was cancelled. Because of snow. Snow, in the peak of summer, on the hottest day ever.
Summer SnowThis year’s Tour de France will end up being decided by an utterly unforeseeable fluke of nature. All those plans come to nothing.
It strikes me that life is predictably unpredictable. We can never plan everything out completely. Yet we know one more thing - that God is never taken by surprise. Psalm 33 reflects on the plans of God, laid since the world was made, and how they are secure while those that are merely human can fall by the wayside. The conclusion says it all: ‘We wait in hope for the LORD; he is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice...’

To The Heavens

Written by Anthony Douglas on Saturday, 20 July 2019.

MoonwalkFifty years ago, human beings left a few things on the surface of the moon. A plaque, recording the fact of the first moon landing. Another sign, bearing messages from various world leaders. An Apollo 1 patch, in memory of the three astronauts killed by a fire. A flag, carefully supported to display it fully in the absence of air. Even medals to honour a pair of pioneering Soviet cosmonauts.

Buzz Aldrin brought a few more things too. A little zip-lock bag with some bread in it. A lightweight silver cup. A small flask of wine. And before he and Armstrong left the lunar module to walk on the moon, he read a verse from the Bible and then had communion.

It’s all quite remarkable - that NASA was able to engineer such a journey within the limits of available technology, and that Aldrin was allowed to carry out such a ceremony. Human ingenuity and respect combined.

And yet... he ate and drank alone. Armstrong watched quietly, not especially holding any religious belief. There, in a situation where things were at their starkest and simplest, we can see the alienation of human beings from each other. Where the comfort of human connection would have been most appreciated, we get ... polite silence.

It could be a cause for despair, until we remember - amongst all those things taken to the heavens, God was not forgotten. They remain on the lunar surface, but God was not left behind!

Uncovering the Truth...

Written by Anthony Douglas on Saturday, 13 July 2019.

WitchIn 1963, to mark the centenary of the death of Jacob Grimm, a man named Georg Ossegg published The Truth about Hansel and Gretel. It traced his dedicated investigation into the famous story, and how he had established that the two sweet young children were in fact murderers who had killed a woman for her recipe for lebkuchen, a German gingerbread treat, and burned her in her own oven to cover up the crime. The book sold - pun intended - like hot cakes.

The evidence was laid out neatly - archaeological discoveries, carbon dating, and even a faded recipe for lebkuchen that had been miraculously preserved in a biscuit tin. Except for the unfortunate fact that Georg was a fiction, made up by Hans Traxler for a prank, it was all very believable.

Meanwhile this week, the leader of a dig in Israel announced that they have found evidence to suggest that their site is Ziklag, the town that David was based in during his sojourn amongst the Philistines. They’ve got pottery, and the evidence of a fire from the Amalekite raid. They could well be right.

We can’t swallow everything that is found; archaeologists are human and make mistakes. And sometimes, overstate their conclusions in the quest for more funding. Over time, however, as evidence mounts from different quarters, we can have confidence in what is found. It doesn’t prove the Bible’s account, of course, but it does sometimes help us to interpret what the Bible says.

Our faith is not founded on what is, er, found under the dirt. Instead, we believe because we hear truth in God’s word. That’s where we dig for buried treasure.

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