The latest sortie in the war between Islam and Christendom involves a billboard which in the eyes of its critics is the most offensive bit of advertising since those signs asking us if we want longer lasting sex.
It reads “Jesus: A prophet of Islam” and has been displayed in Sydney and is now heading to Adelaide in a spectacularly muddle-headed gesture by creator Diaa Mohammed to foster greater understanding between the Christian and Muslim religions.
Mohammed has set up an organisation called MyPeace which aims to find common ground between the two faiths. Its thinking stems from the fact that in the Islamic holy book the Koran, while Mohammed is obviously the star of the show, JC also gets a pretty good write-up as a prophet of peace. If you contact the MyPeace website they will send you a free copy of the Koran. Call now, their operators are standing by.
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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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As a small group of Halloween-devotees in Martin Place this week protested that October 31 is not a national public holiday like Christmas, you can be sure that thousands of religious folk around the world are right now making the opposite demand: Halloween is evil and should be banned.
I have been asked many times, both as an Anglican minister and as director of the Centre for Public Christianity: Is Halloween evil? Should Christians oppose it?
My general feeling is that Halloween is no more ‘evil’ than Christmas. In fact, the two festivals have a bit in common.
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The canonization of Mary MacKillop is an event that all Australians can celebrate. Not just Catholics. Men and women of every faith and none can rejoice in the life of this extraordinary Australian.
A canonization is not the religious equivalent of winning an Olympic Gold Medal, although many, including some Catholics, speak as if it is. In an age of individualism, it is perhaps difficult to understand that Mary was motivated by a profound commitment to community and the common good.
Over the past few weeks, many claims have been made on Mary. She was a feminist before her time. She was a rebel against a clerical church. She was a pioneering social worker. She even has been claimed as a model for the independents in the Federal Parliament!
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An old friend once called me a ‘saint’, such was his lack of insight into my character. On another level, I knew what he was saying, because Christian believers are calling each other saints all the time.
Even the worst sinners call each other saints. It isn’t our inability to face reality; rather, it’s the way we interpret that word.
The impending canonisation of Mary MacKillop has brought the concept of sainthood into the contemporary spotlight, and it has to be admitted that it looks kind of strange.
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My faith in atheism is being tested by born-agains. Not of the Christian variety, but the obnoxious, pushy, ram-it-down-your-throat, born-again atheist variety.
This new breed of Godless souls has adopted one of the most irritating features of religion. They have become belligerent evangelists for their non-cause.
The once gentle conviction that there is no God, and that in an ideal world, everyone would stop fighting over the supremacy of their imagined deity, is increasingly becoming the preserve of aggressive loudmouths who are every bit as annoying as those Jehovah’s Witnesses who used to knock on the door at 9am on a Sunday while you were sleeping off a big night.
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From my observation it is never Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, Muslims or even Scientologists who get upset when a nativity scene goes up in a chicken shop at Christmas.
I am not surprised, because as people of faith they understand that their religious freedom is only as safe as it is for those who hold a different belief.
For this reason I have always been perplexed as a professed Christian by objections to Australian women wearing a hijab in public. I recently walked the Kokoda trail with one young Australian woman who wore it the entire way – quite an effort.
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Writing on The Punch yesterday David Gazard bemoaned the left-winged over-righteousness of some parts of the Christian church, who get all hot under the collar about political stuff rather than sticking to the spiritual. This is, I suppose, a change from the attacks on the right-winged over-righteousness of the other parts of the Christian church.
Of course, problems emerge when God and the Church are captured by just one side of politics. The Church may be vulnerable to such temptations in the wildernesses of power, but any God worth his name surely isn’t. It’s a lesson the followers are still learning.
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