Will you be making a New Year’s resolution this year? According to researchers at the University of Sydney, half of all Australians will. We’re a pretty predictable bunch when it comes to resolutions.
No doubt this year our resolutions will include avoiding the 18th series of Masterchef, deciding to ignore cryptic, attention-seeking Facebook updates from friends who never supply the second sentence (“Couldn’t have imagined a worse day ever :-(“), spending less time working, and more time with the family (or vice versa).
Or maybe making no more resolutions.
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In singer Paul Kelly’s 1996 hit How to Make Gravy, Joe calls Dan from prison just before Christmas and, imagining the family preparing to gather over the traditional roast in summer heat without him, he passes on his expert advice on how to get the gravy just right.
I know someone who went through that very experience, so I feel the pathos of the song every time I hear it. “Tell ‘em all I’m sorry, I really screwed up this time,” says Joe.
In his latest book, Unapologetic: Why, Despite Everything, Christianity Can Still Make Surprising Emotional Sense, British writer Francis Spufford says what we celebrate each Christmas - the birth of Christ - is all about the divine response to what he bluntly describes as “the human propensity to F#%k things up” or HPtFtU as he subsequently calls it throughout the book.
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Around this time of year I usually like to write a column about the magic of Christmas. Possibly because around this time of year it usually is Christmas.
For many people, Christmas is the most joyous day of the year, which says a lot about our society. I don’t think it’s prejudiced to say that only Western European-based culture is civilised enough to celebrate the birth of a doomed baby by cutting down a tree and eating a dead animal.
Indeed, the prospect of Jesus being born just so He can be nailed to a tree in the prime of his life because the rest of us didn’t want to stop sinning makes us incredibly happy for some reason, the most likely one being that we are sadists. This would also explain Christmas shopping.
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Many of us these days prefer to take our Christmas without the Christ or the Mas(s). It’s convenient to keep the name, though – the world’s not quite ready for Sockandjockmas or Drinkingwhitewineinthesunmas.
The hijacking of this pagan/Christian celebration by the irreligious is of concern to many – particularly when the predictable stories start to circulate about childhood institutions ‘banning’ Christmas in favour of the bland and Americanised ‘Happy Holidays’.
Last week Tracey Spicer revealed that a Sydney class had torturously removed all references to Christ from end-of-year Christmas carols. Utterly ridiculous, of course, an unnecessary and probably unrequested bending over.
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So the world’s going to end again today. Panic! Or maybe wait a day. It’s never clear how the International Date Line comes into play with these things.
According to fruity American doomsday prophet Harold Camping, God forgot to carry the two, or screwed the equation some other which way, and the apocalypse predicted for May 21 is in fact now due today.
While it’s tempting to bang on in gloriously pisstaking tones about Camping and other prophets of doom – and don’t worry, I will – the serious side to all this is the gross distortion of the message of Jesus Christ, a man who had plenty of sensible advice for the world.
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End-of-the-world-is-nigher Harold Camping now says May 21 was the ‘invisible Judgement Day’, and that the Earth will in fact be obliterated in October. Here, Rachel Corbett talks us through the comedown.
According to the false prophet Harold Camping, we were all supposed to be stepping over fire and brimstone on our way to work this week, but instead we’ve been left oscillating somewhere between confusion and disappointment.
To be honest, when I didn’t wake on Sunday morning to discover my backyard engulfed in the flames of hell, I was mildly upset. I’d really been looking forward to catching a ride to work with one of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse but instead I had to go back to killing the planet slowly with my mindless consumption of fossil fuels, and take the car. How boring.
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This Easter the world seems full of believers. Religious and Royal.
Tomorrow, billions will celebrate the resurrection of their King, Jesus Christ. But this year, there’s another King-to-be who’s stealing the limelight.
Unless you’ve been hiding in a cave over the past few days (no offence, Jesus. Thank God for Mary Magdalene), you’d be well aware the wedding of the century is six sleeps away.
And with this wedding many hope there’ll be a resurrection of a different kind. The resurrection of the monarchy. There will be no heavy cross to carry. No rags. No bare feet. No beard. Quite the opposite. There will be carriages, horses with plaits, the Beckhams, trumpets and the world’s most celebrated modern couple – Prince William and Kate Middleton.
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It’s Maundy Thursday, the holy day that one Punch staffer thought for years was “Monday Thursday”; some weird hybrid day.
For many, Maundy (or ‘Holy’) Thursday is the start of a very sacred few days. For most, it’s the last day of work before we gorge, binge, and maybe later repent.
In the Christian tradition, today commemorates the Last Supper; so feasting – particularly if it involves bread and wine - is pretty much encouraged.
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Filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici is using and misusing a fuzzy sort of ‘proof’ – the “cluster of evidence” – to claim he may have found the crucifixion nails.
Indiana Jones-style he has fearlessly pieced together the clues and dug out two 2000-year-old nails from a burial cave, which he says could be those that pinned Jesus’ hands to the cross.
Only the truly cynical would point out that the revelations come a) Just in time for Easter and b) Just as Jacobovici releases his documentary The Nails of the Cross.
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Growing up, I thought of Pantera as a heavy metal band. That was before I read the Greek philosopher, Celsus whose anti-Christian writings are recorded by the Christian writer, Origen. Around a century after the composition of the biblical Gospels, Celsus wrote various works opposing Christian doctrine.
One writer describes Celsus as “the first Nietzschean”, such was his vehement objection to the traditional (and historical) teaching that Jesus of Nazareth was born of a virgin, taught and ministered around Galilee to much acclaim, and was then crucified by Roman prefect, Pontius Pilate, and seen alive again three days after his death.
Among Celsus’s claims about the fallacies of Christian history is the report that Jesus was fathered by a Roman soldier called Pantera (Origen, Contra Celsum, I:32, 34). This is the first known mention of this view, so we can’t know how prevalent it was (it was later picked up in some Jewish writings). However, it is attractive to those who would like to ‘domesticate’ the Christmas story.
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So, the Polish have beaten the Brazilians for the biggest Jesus yet. Yep, they’ve toppled the Christ the Redeemer statue, producing their own 36 metre high statue, and knocking off the famous one by adding a three metre high gold crown. Rumour is that Brazil is going to add an even taller Pope’s mitre in response…
I always thought the ‘Big Thing’ was a bit of an Aussie phenomenon. Our particular kitsch aesthetic means that anything that should be small (a prawn, a banana, a merino) is made into a tourist destination by being big.
But apparently it’s a global phenomenon: there are big things everywhere—there’s a big axe in New Brunswick and a big thermometer somewhere in California. I guess the concept of being ‘monumental’ rests on the idea that size matters. I can’t think of many small monuments.
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The latest in the endless string of novels about Jesus has just been published in the UK (due out here in May). It comes from the pen of Philip Pullman, the author of the fantasy series His Dark Materials (a film was made of the first novel in the series, The Golden Compass, starring Nicole Kidman alongside a polar bear).
Pullman has already stated that it’s a novel, and needs to be kept in the category of imaginative retelling. But I recall that Dan Brown said the same thing about The Da Vinci Code, and it didn’t stop millions of people revising their view of Christian history as a result of its wildly entertaining (and historically ridiculous) reconstructions of the life of Jesus.
I feel it is fair to speculate that Pullman likely hopes people will revise their view of Jesus as a result of reading his novel.
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It’s the time of year to make the claim that Jesus is gay. It seems to happen semi-annually. A few years back, a Queensland academic made the claim that Jesus had sex with his male disciples and a special relationship with ‘the beloved’ disciple, John.
This year it was the turn of another John, Elton John, to raise the topic of Jesus’ sexuality, adding the new element that Jesus was a “super-intelligent” gay man.
The famous singer’s admiration of Jesus extends beyond his claim that Jesus was gay and smart: Elton admires Jesus’ compassion, naming the forgiveness of sins that Christ achieved on the cross as a key element of the Christian message, and something worthy of emulation.
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If Green Day sang that the Jesus of American suburbia is a lie, Chris O’Doherty (aka Reg Mombassa) offers a surreal Aussie equivalent: the Jesus of our suburbia is a regular guy, eating a pie, wearing a tie, with a third eye.
Mombassa was a member of iconic Australian rock band Mental As Anything before becoming one of Australia’s most recognisable visual artists and helping to establish the fame and fortune of the Mambo surfwear brand.
The release of Murray Waldren’s beautifully-produced biography of Mombassa, The Mind and Times of Reg Mombassa, highlights just how prominent Christian, or ‘neo-Christian’, themes are in his artwork.
Lauded as a pop culture artist, Mombassa self-identifies in a more religious fashion: “It’s like being a priest. To some extent, it’s a calling”, he tells Waldren. His “Self portrait with beard and plastic ring”, painted last year, is an obvious Christ-figure, with the ring as a halo.
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