Another Spectrum

Personal ramblings and rants of a somewhat twisted mind


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What is Christianity?

At the  SoF (Sea of Faith) conference in 2000, Lloyd Geering gave a presentation titled “Christianity Minus Theism”. In it he asks what is Christianity:

  • Does [the term ‘Christianity] refer to ‘the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints’? (Jude 3)
  • Do we mean, for example, the belief system expressed in the creeds and confessions of the church? (including the doctrine of the Trinity?)
  • Does Christianity consist of living a sacramental life within the authoritative institutional structure called Mother Church?
  • Is the essence of Christianity to be found in accepting Jesus Christ as ones’ personal Lord and Saviour?
  • Does Christianity mean accepting uncritically a set of ancient scriptures as the written record of what is ultimately true?
  • Or does Christianity consist simply of a set of moral values by which to live?

He follows up by stating: “Various groups at one time or another have promoted one or more of these definitions, as the essence or sine qua non of Christianity”. As an example, the religious tradition with which I am associated, would, in general, consider that none of the definitions (with perhaps a modified version of the last one) are necessary. On the other hand, the church to which my son belongs believe that the fourth and fifth definitions (accepting Christ as Saviour and the Bible is true) are absolutely essential – one cannot be a Christian otherwise.

Geering elaborates by stating “Modern historical research has made it very clear, however, that there has never been a time when all who confessed to be Christians (or followers of Jesus) shared exactly all the same beliefs. The New Testament phrase ‘the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints’ was itself part of the developing Christian myth, that faith consists of embracing a set of beliefs which are permanent and unchangeable. Christian beliefs have changed and diversified through the centuries. Today, more than ever before, Christianity has no definable and eternal essence on which all Christians at all times, or even at any one time, agree. It is misleading, therefore, to use the term Christianity in a way which implies that it names some objective and unchangeable essence or thing, such as the theistic belief in God.”

I agree entirely, which might explain my irritation when I see bloggers claim Christians believe X, or Christians oppose Y or Christians do Z. Such statements are grossly inaccurate. If one wants to make a statement about a group of Christians, identify the group instead making a generalised and inaccurate claim.

Lloyd Geering suggests we look at Christianity not as a unified whole, which clearly it isn’t, but with this metaphor: “I suggest we think of Christianity as a stream of living culture flowing through the plains of time. Sometimes, like a river, it divides into substreams and sometimes it is joined by other streams. As it flows onward it gathers new material from the banks it passes through. Sometimes the fluid material in it crystalizes into more rigid objects. Sometimes it drops these objects and other forms of sediment it is carrying along. There is a tendency for people to regard the visible objects in this cultural stream, such as the priesthood, episcopal government, creeds and even the Bible, as being of the essence of the stream. In fact they have less permanence that the stream which carries them along.”

He then finds it timely to be critical of those who oppose changes in Christian thought: “Through church history people have attempted to reform the church. Their critics have warned that they are throwing out the baby with the bathwater. That is a misleading metaphor. Christianity has no permanent and absolute essence. There is no ‘baby’; there is only the bath water, or what is preferably called the on-going cultural stream, broadly known as Judeo-Christian.”

I do like his use of the baby and bathwater metaphor. There is no baby! This where I feel both Christian Fundamentalists and New Atheists make the same mistake. They both see a non-existent baby and then draw polar opposite conclusions.

The full transcript of Lloyd Geering’s presentation can be found here.

 

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God is not real

In her book The history of God, Karen Armstrong, a former nun writes:

When I began to research this history of the idea and experience of God in the three related monotheistic faiths of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, I expected to find that God had simply been a projection of human needs and desires. I thought that ‘he’ would mirror the fears and yearnings of society at each stage of its development. My predictions were not entirely unjustified but I have been extremely surprised by some of my findings and I wish that I had learned all this thirty years ago, when I was starting out in the religious life. It would have saved me a great deal of anxiety to hear – from eminent monotheists in all three faiths – that instead of waiting for God to descend from on high, I should deliberately create a sense of him for myself. Other Rabbis, priests and Sufis would have taken me to task for assuming that God was – in any sense – a reality ‘out there’; they would have warned me not to expect to experience him as an objective fact that could be discovered by the ordinary rational process. They would have told me that in an important sense God was a product of the creative imagination, like the poetry and music that I found so inspiring. A few highly respected monotheists would have told me quietly and firmly that God did not really exist – and yet that ‘he’ was the most important reality in the world.

Professor Sir Lloyd Geering, noted New Zealand theologian and writer, would concur with the claim that “God did not really exist – and yet that ‘he’ was the most important reality in the world“. To him, God is the embodiment of our highest ideals, and not some supernatural being. Of course, Sir Lloyd would say that most Christians aren’t monotheists at all, but Trinitarianists, but that’s for another post (perhaps).


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What’s happening?


Before reading any further, what was your first impression of Serene Branson’s performance? High on drugs? Intoxicated? Brain damage due to previous abuse of drugs? Being possessed? Having a stroke? How would you have reacted if you had been there in person?

I ask, because it’s something I encounter regularly in my everyday life. It happens to me. While, in the case of Serene and myself, it’s none of the above circumstances, the symptoms displayed could potentially be life threatening. Most people with any medical training will tell you the likelihood that the victim is having a stroke is high and no time should be wasted in getting the victim to an emergency medical facility.

So what happened to Serene? She was experiencing a migraine aura – in this case one that affected the area of the brain that controls speech. Auras typically occur shortly before the headache phase of a migraine attack. The most common forms of aura are related to vision – blind spots, zigzag patterns, flashing lights, vision loss, seeing things that aren’t really there, but all the senses can be affected. I frequently think I hear the telephone ring or my wife calling me.

I sometimes fail to accurately estimate distance and tend to crash into objects, or miss door openings, both of which can be very painful. My senses can become heightened so that light, sound, taste, smell and touch become unpleasant or even painful. My sense of balance can fail, giving me the appearance of being drunk, and the right side of my body becomes weak or partially paralysed. In the worst cases I loose all sense of self, and have no clue of where I am and no understanding of time.

Any symptom that can present during a stroke can also present during a migraine attack. I wear a MedicAlert bracelet 24/7, as during a severe attack I am unable to communicate at all. On my doctor’s advice it does not include any of the symptoms I might present except for that fact that I can become confused and disorientated during an attack. At first I was against this, as invariably I’d end up in the emergency department at a hospital if I happened to have an attack while away from family.

I can assure you that the noise, bustle and bright lights in the emergency section of a hospital make it the last place I want to be at such a time. My thinking was that if the symptoms were listed, then I’d more likely be delivered home where I can be left in peace and quiet to recover. However, as the doctor explained, the symptoms of a stroke and severe migraine are similar, so there’s always the chance that I might be sent home when in fact I’m having a stroke. And the odds of it being a stroke increase as I get older.

Unlike a migraine, where even the worst of the symptoms are transient, strokes tend to cause permanent damage, and the sooner one receives appropriate treatment, the better the chances of recovery. So if you happen to come across an elderly, bearded, grey haired gentleman, staggering about colliding with all and sundry, and uttering pure nonsense, don’t write him off as an intoxicated social outcast, It might be me in the throws of a migraine attack. But in the off chance of it being a stroke, I would appreciate some assistance in getting to the nearest medical emergency centre. Thank you.


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I am a mono-linguist

I’m not proud of the fact that I can speak only one language. I live in a multicultural society, and yet I can converse only in English. My wife can converse in two languages. My daughter can converse in three languages and can get by in several more.

I’ll concede that in my formative years, and through much of my adult life, the general consensus among New Zealanders, including many Māori, was that as English was “the international language” there was no need to learn any other.

It wasn’t long after marrying a native Japanese speaker that I began to recognise how impoverished my life experience was by knowing only one language. So much of what we experience and comprehend is tied up in the culture and language(s) we live within.

Perhaps I’m more fortunate than many in the same situation in that being autistic, I have always lived within a strange culture with a strange language, and different cultures and ways of understanding the world are no more strange to me than the one I live in. In fact some aspects of other cultures make more sense to me than the one I grew up in.

Although my comprehension of other languages is very limited, I fully understand how language directly colours one’s world view. Knowing more than one language broadens one’s horizons at so many levels, and I regret that I have never taken the opportunity to seriously learn to use another language.

Why am I writing this piece? This week is Māori Language week – Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori, and I’m reminded that language and culture are closely intertwined. You cannot fully comprehend one if you do not understand the other.


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125 years

This month, Aotearoa New Zealand is celebrating 125 years of women’s suffrage. After the celebrations die down, we should consider and evaluate what progress has really been made in the last century and a quarter.

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The New Zealand $10 note, depicting Kate Shepard (1847 – 1934), a leading light in the Women’s suffrage movement in Aotearoa New Zealand.


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Celtic Illusion

Last night the wife and I went to see a show in the nearby city of Palmerston North.


I missed most of it.

The problem is that being autistic and a migraineur is incompatible with watching modern shows. Bright lights, strobe effects, pyrotechnics and loud noises are not only very unpleasant for many autistics, including myself, they can also trigger a migraine attack. Over the years I’ve learnt how to minimise some of the ill effects by closing my eyes, blocking my ears and even covering my eyes with my hands to filter out strobe effects when eyelids prove to be inefficient.

So I spent more than half of the show with my eyes closed and hands over eyes, and tried to ignore the fact the my sternum was vibrating unpleasantly due to the volume of the speakers. Consequently I missed most of the illusions incorporated into the act. I also missed the moment when one of the dancers slipped/tripped/fell, although I did see her being assisted off the stage. I hope her injury isn’t serious.

So what did I see? Our tickets were for seats in the front row, although both of us thought we had booked seats a few rows back as we are aware of how modern productions can overload my senses. Being so close, there were opportunities to observe the footwork of the dancers. All I can say is that it is incredible. The speed and precision is something to behold. I wouldn’t be surprised if injuries are very common to the performers.

By keeping my view to floor level, I avoided the worst of the spotlights sweeping over the auditorium, and I tried to convince myself that as it was Irish dancing, the only thing that matters is footwork. But as the show combined dance, illusion, music and song, there was an awful lot that I missed visually.

We saw another Irish dance show a few years back, and I was disappointed when I realised the the sound of the footwork was not coming from the dancers, as occasionally the sound got slightly out of sync with the dancing. With this show however, there was no doubt where the sound of the footwork was coming from, especially when I noticed tiny floor mounted microphones around the stage.

I was exhausted by the time the show ended, but the wife was in her element. She’s the kind of person who loudly and vigorously supports a performance with clapping, frequent standing, shouts of surprise, gasps and anything else that displays her pleasure. As a group of women who were sitting behind us commented afterwards, watching my wife was as enjoyable as watching the show itself.

There was I slinking down in my seat trying hard not to become a nervous wreck and wishing the torment would end soon, while she was practically standing on her seat yelling for more! Talk about contrasts. It’s not the kind of antics one expects from a tiny grey haired 70 year old Japanese woman. If there’s anyone else in the world that can beat her enthusiasm, I’d be very surprised. She’s probably the reason they did four (or was it a hundred?) encores. But I wouldn’t swap her for the world 🙂

As for the show, would I recommend Celtic Illusions? A definite Yes! But if you’re on the spectrum or prone to seizures or migraine attacks, I suggest it might be more sensible to stay away.

Introducing Feilding

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In the four years I’ve been blogging, I don’t think I have introduced readers to my home town of Feilding.

So Barry, why not take the opportunity to so now, while it’s in your mind?

Good idea.

Those of you who read this blog via a Web browser at https://anotherspectrum.wordpress.com will see one of four randomly selected banner images at the top of the page. These are crops of a photo taken from a drone hovering approximately 20m/60ft above my house. If you view it via an app or via the WordPress reader, then you may not see them. So for the benefit of those missing out here is the original photo:

drone_view

View from drone 20 metres above house

Our home looks over the township and out towards the Ruahine Range (distant left) and the Tararua Range (distant right). The two ranges are separated by the Manawatu Gorge. What isn’t apparent from the photo is that the skyline is populated by wind turbines. There are three wind farms comprising of a total of 286 turbines capable of generating 300 MW between them. While they are easy to see with the naked eye, they don’t show up in a photograph until zoomed in:

Wind turbines

Just a few of the wind turbines that can be seen from home

The wife and I have decided that the only way we’re giving up our home is when we’re taken away in a wooden box. The view is stunning and varies depending on the room and the weather:

The town is picturesque, having won New Zealand’s annual Most Beautiful Large Town award (yes, a town of 15,000 is considered large in NZ) in 16 out of the last 17 years. The CBD has a distinctly Edwardian feel:

The clock tower standing in the square in the centre of town was built to celebrate the start of the new millennium. It was financed through public donations and the clock mechanism is one that was salvaged from the old post office tower that was built in 1904 and demolished in 1942 after an earthquake made the structure unsafe. Little did anyone realise that the clock would remain in storage for 56 years!

Feilding clock tower

Feilding clock tower in the centre of Manchester Square

I like to walk, and typically that is around the residential streets of Feilding. Our typical streets look like this:

Finally a drone shot of our home. East is to the top of the picture:

our_home.jpg

Yes, the roof needs repainting! Any volunteers?

I don’t pretend to be a photographer and taking any photos at all is a relatively recent phenomenon for me. The two drone shots were taken by my son. The wind turbine shot was taken on my Panasonic Lumix Digital camera. The rest were taken on my Samsung J-1 phone.

This gallery contains 26 photos


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Corruption and the abuse of (media) power

It seems that corruption and abuse of and by the media is on the rise. No doubt, with Trump as a role model, politicians are fighting back ensuring that the public are not deceived by fake news and appalling journalism.

No continent seems to be free of this scourge, and that includes the continent of Zealandia. Here in Aotearoa New Zealand, we have seen two appalling examples of the disclosure of unsavoury information about leading politicians and yet those involved have not fought back with fake news arguments or any criticism of the media at all! This is totally unacceptable and as electors we should expect those we put into office to use whatever means they have available to them to fight any “news” or source that might be harmful to their position.

First, there was Clare Curran who was stood down from her Open Government and Government Digital Services portfolios for failing to disclose a meeting with entrepreneur Derek Handley back in February. Unlike Trump’s staff who learn of happenings via twitter, Curran’s staff were kept totally in the dark. If she had tweeted, then at least her staff would have not been completely ignorant of the late night rendezvous. But no, she didn’t mention the meeting at all. In fact she failed to enter it into her official diary.

This is nothing short of incompetence. If the meeting was supposed to be secret, why disclose the event in answer to a parliamentary question many months later? Her excuse of “I forgot” is totally unacceptable, and as this is the second time that it’s been revealled that she has attended an unrecorded meeting, it’s clear that she is incapable of running her office.

If she had a private meeting, then she should make sure not to mention the event months later. And if she did simply forget, as she claims, she should have laid the blame squarely on the media for reporting the discrepancy, with accusations of fake news and dishonest reporting. At least that way she would not have had to admit responsibility. That’s where she she failed and why she was fired: for accepting responsibility. Can you imagine Trump doing that?

Now on to the second event. The Minister of Customs Meka Whaitiri has been stood down over a “staffing matter”. Once again, incompetence. Why hasn’t the Minister come out and publicly criticised the ministerial staff member involved. Surely her position allows her to find or create information that would discredit anything this staffer might say, but it seems she has made no attempt to do so. Nor has she attempted to silence the staff member or colleagues by buying the silence of those involved. Surely the status of a Minister takes priority over the reputation of a staff member?

And now there’s rumours that the “staffing matter” involves an assault by Whaitiri on the staff member. Trump has claimed that he could actually kill someone in broad daylight and get away with it. And here we have a New Zealand Minister who is facing potential police involvement in what amounts to little more than a minor scuffle between two individuals. That fact that the Minister is likely to be considered the offender and not the victim speaks volumes about how ineffective she is, and inappropriate she is for the role. Can you ever imagine Trump being in that position?

I blame Prime Mister,Jacinda Ardern. The problem is she has taken a principled stand whereas truly capable leaders such as Trump would take a pragmatic stand to protect their power base. After all, politics isn’t about doing what is right, but about about what can be done.


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Why we need police

On a recent blog, Makagutu made mention of  supporting the abolition of the police and prisons. While, in principle, I support abolition of the latter, I don’t feel the same about abolishing the former.

The police do much more than just being enforcers of the law. For example, it was the police my wife called when she locked herself out of our home. On the rare occasions when a migraine attack leaves me confused and disorientated, not knowing who or where I am, it is typically the police who help me out by either transporting me home, or if they are concerned about my health, by taking me to the emergency department of the nearest hospital.

Then of course, there are all those friendly tips and life hack that help make life more pleasant. Take opening a jar for example. The modern vacuum sealed jar might be a miracle as far as health safety goes, but they’re an absolute sod when trying to open them. The police, knowing that a large section of the community have a problem opening said jars, and knowing that we can’t all wait until a friendly constable can be summoned to open the jar for us, have issued a Life Hack video to help us out.

Here, courtesy of the NZ Police is their very helpful guide to opening a jar:

But it’s not only do they provide practical tips, they also provide tips in enjoying life to the full. Here’s their guide to getting the most enjoyment out of eating a doughnut:


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Another Aussie PM bites the dust

Unlike the USA, our neighbours across the ditch have no problem with disposing of political leaders when a party decides that keeping the current Prime Minister is not in their (and perhaps the nation’s) best interests. In fact, Australia has just appointed a new Prime Minister – their seventh since the beginning of the millennium. Of the previous six, four were deposed by their own party.

This seems to have become “standard practice” as both major political parties indulge in the deposing of political leaders while in office. Of course, a change of Prime Minister usually results in a major cabinet reshuffle, and frequently sees some change in government direction.

Prime Minister Term ended How
Howard, John 03 Dec 2007 Lost Seat at General Election
Rudd, Kevin 24 Jun 2010 Deposed
Gillard, Julia 27 Jun 2013 Deposed
Rudd, Kevin 18 Sep 2013 Defeated at General Election
Abbott, Anthony 15 Sep 2015 Deposed
Turnbull, Malcolm 24 Aug 2018 Deposed
Morrison, Scott

In a parliamentary style of government such as Aotearoa New Zealand, Australia, the UK, and Canada have, the roles of Head of State and the country’s top political post are held by different people, but I wonder how many Americans envy the ease by which Australia can replace the person holding nation’s top political role, especially in the light of their current leader being Trump.

Should impeachment, death or incapacity be the only means by which a president can be replaced, or would it be better if presidents could be replaced on other grounds? America does have a problem in that presidents are elected for a fixed term, instead of a maximum term, and if the president is removed, then the vice president takes over. This is not an issue with deputy Prime Ministers, as they do not take over as Prime Minister except in a caretaker role while a new Prime Minister is chosen. However I suspect those who would like to see Trump go, would be equally unlikely to want to see Pence take over the presidency.