Another Spectrum

Personal ramblings and rants of a somewhat twisted mind


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Eleven out of twenty years

Over the last two decades, a woman has held the top political role in Aotearoa New Zealand for eleven of those 20 years. It would be nice to think that we have gender equality, but although it’s getting closer, we are by no means there yet.

Earlier this year, the UN Women National Committee Aotearoa brought together Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and former Prime Minister Helen Clark for a recorded discussion on a number of feminist issues. This is part of their #Trailblazing125 series of advice from prominent Kiwi women in recognition of 125 years of women’s suffrage in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Helen (yes, we refer to our leaders by their first name) has had a big influence on the mindset of many people irrespective of whether or not you agreed with her politics. It was because of her, that people like Jacinda grew up not considering that gender might be a barrier to the top political job in this country.

It seems to me that what is holding women back (in the NZ context) is not the barriers imposed on them by others, but a lack of confidence in their own ability. There is still something in the way women are conditioned by society whereby they are less likely to put themselves forward for a role than is the case for men. Hopefully that attitude is no longer encouraged.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and former Prime Minister Helen Clark talk gender equality
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Māori Action songs

Way back in the 1950s, learning, and participating in aspects of Māori culture and history was part of the curriculum of the primary school I attended. At that time, this was not so common, so I feel blessed that from an early age I understood that Māori culture was a rich part of the cultural heritage of Aotearoa New Zealand instead of something belonging to a pre-European stone age people that no longer had any relevance.

Unfortunately, even today, we find some Kiwis of non-Māori descent who see no value in the indigenous culture of this land, and object to Te Reo (the Māori language) being part of the education curriculum, and Māori culture as something outside what they consider “New Zealand culture”. In other words it has no place in a modern society. I hope I am correct in observing a decline in this type of thinking.

As some 95% of my reader are not from Aotearoa New Zealand, I want to occasionally blog about the indigenous culture that makes this country special, and is having an increasing influence within our society. I have posted a few articles relating to aspects of Māori culture and values in the past, particularly where they have some influence on myself or the wider population, including:
I am a mono-linguist (12 September 2018)
A Creation Myth (17 March 2018)
River gains personhood (24 July, 2017)
Treaty of Waitangi 101 (20 October 2015)
Animism is the established religion of Aotearoa New Zealand. Really? (15 October, 2015)
Our new flag? (1 September 2015)
Farewell Haka (6 August 2015)
Songs that move me (20 March 2015)

Until a back injury forced a early retirement, my father was a physical education adviser for what was then the Department of Education. One of his roles was “on the job” physical education training for primary school teachers, which meant we often saw him only on weekends. He was very passionate about developing a love for activity that challenged both the mind and body. With this in mind, he encouraged both folk dancing and Māori action songs alongside team sports, swimming, athletics and playground games that did not require direct adult supervision.

Māori action songs were traditionally an art form and used to improve various skills. For example, poi action songs improved strength and suppleness of the wrists. For women, this improved skills in weaving and basket making, while for men, it improved their skills in wielding weapons used in hand to hand combat. Rākau games and action songs improved hand/eye coordination.

Rākau are wooden sticks, typically between 40 cm and 60 cm in length ( approximately1.5 ft to 2 ft), while a poi is a weight attached to a string that is then swung in rhythmic patterns. Traditionally poi were made from harakeke (flax) and raupō (bulrush), but today can be made of almost any material.

As a performing art today, both poi and rākau are performed mostly by women. In play, many schools encourage rākau games for both genders and for both Māori and Pākehā alike. To a large extent, my father was responsible for their popularity in the Taranaki and Whanganui regions during the second half of the 20th century.

As a child, I had less coordination than most of my peers, probably related to my undiagnosed autism, and while I found the poi and rākau challenging, I found them enjoyable. I’m convinced that I am not as clumsy as I would have been had it not been for these and similar activities.

Although the video clip below is relatively recent, the chaos is similar to how I remember the activity as a child. Notice the use of rolled up magazines instead of wooden sticks. When learning, they are less painful ! The second video clip illustrates a somewhat more polished performance, followed by the poi.

There are two forms of the poi: the long and the short. The string on the long poi is the distance from finger tip to shoulder, and for the short poi it’s the distance from finger tip to wrist. They are both just as difficult to master, and I never did get the hang of twirling contra-rotating long poi in one hand. The next clips illustrate the short and long forms respectively. Enjoy


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Just a little shake

45 minutes ago we experienced a mild earthquake (magnitude 6.2). It was enough to disturb the dog and cause ornaments to rattle and hung picture frames to bang against the wall, but this time only a single item fell over – a top heavy vase holding orchids. It’s funny how different people react. I find them exciting, whereas the wife finds them disturbing.

This one lasted around 45 seconds and came in two distinct waves. The first was a series of vigorous shakes, the second was more of a rolling motion.

Earthquakes are quite common here (around 14,000 each year), although only some 300 are noticeable. NZ lies on the collision zone between the Indo-Australian and Pacific tectonic plates. Visitors to the country often comment on the number of wooden buildings found here. The reason is simple. Wooden framed buildings suffer less damage than masonry and brick structures and are less likely to cause death or serious injury in an earthquake.


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Curmudgeon day

Today I’m “officially” a curmudgeon. Opinions expressed here today may not necessarily be held by me tomorrow.

He’s no husband

I’ve watched a number of video clips from American current affairs programs and talk shows related to our Prime Minister’s visit to the United States. I’m surprised that Clark Gayford was frequently referred to as her husband (and occasionally spouse). Only recently has it occurred to me that this occurred during daytime shows, while late shows referred to him as Prime Minister Ardern’s partner.

Just to make it clear America, Jacinda Ardern and Clark Gayford are not married, have never been married, nor are they in a civil union. And yes they have a daughter. Why haven’t they got married? Because they haven’t got round to discussing that. Will they get married? It’s nobody’s business but their own.

I’m sure such relationships are not that unusual in the USA these days, although perhaps not as common as here in Aotearoa New Zealand. Is there some unwritten rule, some remnant of nineteenth century religious fundamentalist morality that says that such arrangements are socially unacceptable for political leaders and cannot be openly mentioned in case it corrupts delicate minds, hence the need to refer to Clark as “husband”? I kid you not, that is how it appears from this distance.

And while we’re on the subject, Jacinda’s family name is Ardern, not Adern or Arden, or as in one case, Aden.  I saw all those forms in online publication that should have known better. Yes, I’ll acknowledge that New Zealand English in non-rhotic, but that simply means we don’t pronounce the letter R at the ends of words or within words unless it’s followed by a vowel. It doesn’t mean we drop the R when writing.

Oh, and when spoken, the stress is on the second syllable of Ardern, not the first. It’s not supposed to rhyme with harden. And ease up on the formality will you! When addressing her directly, especially on talk shows, it’s Jacinda, just as with previous Prime Ministers it was Bill, John, and Helen. The job title is attached rarely and only if really necessary (or if you don’t like the person or their policies).


Literal idiots

Anyone who reads the Bible as a literal work or thinks that is how it should be read is an idiot. This applies to both the religious on one side and the agnostic and atheist on the other. There is a much sense in attempting to prove the Bible is true by constructing implausible explanations as to why obvious inconsistencies are not inconsistent as there is in attempting to prove it false by finding its many inconsistencies – and let’s face it, there are many.

The Bible is no more than a collection of works by multiple authors, some dating back to when culture was preserved through oral history. It’s value today lies in the fact that it gives us a glimpse into the evolution of a very anthropomorphic tribal god of war into a perfect, all powerful, all knowing, all seeing deity. It consists of allegory, metaphors, oral history, lessons in morality, essays on the human condition, even erotica. It displays prejudice, bigotry, hatred, kindness, generosity, ignorance and wisdom. In fact it tells us a lot about ourselves as human beings, about the human experience. What it doesn’t do is tell us how to apply what we can learn from it (and the many other works from the many traditions that modern society has access to) to how we live today. That’s up to us, individually and collectively.


Work and play

The fourth Monday in October is celebrated as Labour Day here in Aotearoa New Zealand. This year, it fell on Monday the 22nd. Legend has it that a carpenter by the name of Samuel Parnell fought for, and gained, the right of an eight hour working day way back in 1840. It became an official public holiday in 1900.

Essentially it recognises the right to have a healthy work/life balance. In light of modern technology, work can now intrude on one’s own life 24/7 and can seriously impact one’s life and health, is it time to re-evaluate what Labour Day represents?


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Unilateralism versus Multilateralism

It’s interesting to compare Trump’s “America First” stance to the Aotearoa New Zealand global stance as presented to the United Nations by our Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. To quote from a 1 News report:

In direct opposition to the isolationist and protectionist policies of the US President, Ms Ardern used her address to encourage global leaders to look outward and beyond themselves, to commit to “kindness and collectivism” and to rebuild multilateralism.
The Prime Minister also stated the importance of global leaders re-committing to gender equality and a global effort to combat climate change, describing “any undermining of climate related targets and agreements” as “catastrophic”.

Below is a transcript of her UN statement. In it she emphasises the importance of kindness and collectivism, fairness and inclusiveness. She points out that #MeToo needs to be become #WeToo. If you prefer to hear her speech rather than read it, I’ve included a Youtube clip under the transcript (22m 47s).


Madam President, Mr Secretary-General, friends in the global community.

My opening remarks were in te reo Māori, the language of the indigenous people of Aotearoa New Zealand. As is tradition, I acknowledged those who are here, why we are here, and the importance of our work.

It seems a fitting place to start.

I’m struck as a leader attending my first United Nations General Assembly by the power and potential that resides here.

But in New Zealand, we have always been acutely aware of that.

We are a remote nation at the bottom of the South Pacific. Our nearest neighbours take 3 hours to reach by plane, and anywhere that takes less than 12 hours is considered close. I have no doubt though, that our geographic isolation has contributed to our values.

We are a self-deprecating people. We’re not ones for status. We’ll celebrate the local person who volunteers at their sports club as much as we will the successful entrepreneur. Our empathy and strong sense of justice is matched only by our pragmatism. We are, after all, a country made up of two main islands – one simply named North and the other, South.

For all of that, our isolation has not made us insular.

In fact, our engagement with the world has helped shape who we are.

I am a child of the ’80s. A period in New Zealand’s history where we didn’t just observe international events, we challenged them. Whether it was apartheid in South Africa, or nuclear testing in the Pacific, I grew up learning about my country and who we were, by the way that we reacted to international events. Whether it was taking to the streets or changing our laws, we have seen ourselves as members of a community, and one that we have a duty to use our voice within.

I am an incredibly proud New Zealander, but much of that pride has come from being a strong and active member of our international community, not in spite of it.

And at the heart of that international community, has been this place.

Emerging from a catastrophic war, we have collectively established through convention, charters and rules a set of international norms and human rights. All of these are an acknowledgement that we are not isolated, governments do have obligations to their people and each other, and that our actions have a global effect.

In 1945, New Zealand Prime Minister Peter Fraser said that the UN Charter offered perhaps a last opportunity to work in unison to realise the hope in the hearts of all of us, for a peace that would be real, lasting, and worthy of human dignity.

But none of these founding principles should be consigned to the history books. In fact, given the challenges we face today, and how truly global they are in their nature and impact, the need for collective action and multilateralism has never been clearer.

And yet, for all of that, the debate and dialogue we hear globally is not centred on the relevance and importance of our international institutions. Instead, we find ourselves having to defend their very existence.

That surely leaves us all with the question, how did we get here, and how do we get out?

If anything unites us politically in this place right now it is this – globalisation has had a massive impact on our nations and the people we serve.

While that impact has been positive for many, for others it has not. The transitions our economies have made have often been jarring, and the consequences harsh. And so amongst unprecedented global economic growth, we have still seen a growing sense of isolation, dislocation, and a sense of insecurity and the erosion of hope.
As politicians and governments, we all have choices in how we respond to these challenges.

We can use the environment to blame nameless, faceless ‘other’, to feed the sense of insecurity, to retreat into greater levels of isolationism. Or we can acknowledge the problems we have and seek to fix them.

Generational change

In New Zealand, going it alone is not an option.

Aside from our history, we are also a trading nation.  And proudly so. But even without those founding principles, there are not just questions of nationhood to consider. There are generational demands upon us too.

It should hardly come as a surprise that we have seen a global trend of young people showing dissatisfaction with our political systems, and calling on us to do things differently – why wouldn’t they when they themselves have had to adapt so rapidly to a changing world.

Within a few short decades we now have a generation who will grow up more connected than ever before.  Digital transformation will determine whether the jobs they are training for will even exist in two decades.  In education or the job market, they won’t just compete with their neighbour, but their neighbouring country.

This generation is a borderless one – at least in a virtual sense. One that increasingly see themselves as global citizens. And as their reality changes, they expect ours to as well – that we’ll see and understand our collective impact, and that we’ll change the way we use our power.

And if we’re looking for an example of where the next generation is calling on us to make that change, we need look no further than climate change.
World leaders queue to meet Jacinda Ardern after her speech. Photo credit: Office of the Prime Minister

Global challenges

Two weeks ago, Pacific Island leaders gathered together at the Pacific Islands Forum.

It was at this meeting, on the small island nation of Nauru, that climate change was declared the single biggest threat to the security of the Pacific. Please, just think about this for a moment.

Of all of the challenges we debate and discuss, rising sea levels present the single biggest threat to our region.

For those who live in the South Pacific, the impacts of climate change are not academic, or even arguable.  They are watching the sea levels rise, the extreme weather events increase, and the impact on their water supply and food crops. We can talk all we like about the science and what it means, what temperature rises we need to limit in order to survive, but there is a grinding reality in hearing someone from a Pacific island talk about where the sea was when they were a child, and potential loss of their entire village as an adult.

Our action in the wake of this global challenge remains optional. But the impact of inaction does not.  Nations like Tuvalu, the Marshall Islands, or Kiribati – small countries who’ve contributed the least to global climate change – are and will suffer the full force of a warming planet.

If my Pacific neighbours do not have the option of opting out of the effects of climate change, why should we be able to opt out of taking action to stop it?

Any disintegration of multilateralism – any undermining of climate related targets and agreements – aren’t interesting footnotes in geopolitical history. They are catastrophic.

In New Zealand we are determined to play our part.  We will not issue any further offshore oil and gas exploration permits.  We have set a goal of 100 percent renewable energy generation by 2035, established a green infrastructure fund to encourage innovation, and rolled out an initiative to plant one billion trees over the next 10 years.

These plans are unashamedly ambitious.  The threat climate change poses demands it.

But we only represent less than 0.2 percent of global emissions.

That’s why, as a global community, not since the inception of the United Nations has there been a greater example of the importance of collective action and multilateralism, than climate change. It should be a rallying cry to all of us.

And yet there is a hesitance we can ill afford.  A calculation of personal cost, of self-interest. But this is not the only challenge where domestic self-interest is the first response, and where an international or collective approach has been diluted at best, or rejected at worst.

Rebuilding multilateralism

But it would be both unfair and naive to argue that retreating to our own borders and interests has meant turning our backs on a perfect system. The international institutions we have committed ourselves to have not been perfect.

But they can be fixed.

And that is why the challenge I wish to issue today is this – together, we must rebuild and recommit to multilateralism.

We must redouble our efforts to work as a global community.

We must rediscover our shared belief in the value, rather than the harm, of connectedness.

We must demonstrate that collective international action not only works, but that it is in all of our best interests.

We must show the next generation that we are listening, and that we have heard them.

Connectedness

But if we’re truly going to take on a reform agenda, we need to acknowledge the failings that led us to this cross road.

International trade for instance, has helped bring millions of people out of poverty around the world.  But some have felt their standard of living slide.  In New Zealand, we ourselves have seen the hesitancy around trade agreements amongst our own population.

The correct response to this is not to repeat mistakes of the past and be seduced by the false promises of protectionism.  Rather, we must all work to ensure that the benefits of trade are distributed fairly across our societies.

We can’t rely on international institutions to do this, in the same way as we cannot blame them if they haven’t delivered these benefits. It is incumbent on us to build productive, sustainable, inclusive economies, and demonstrate to our peoples that when done right, international economic integration can make us all better off.

And if we want to ensure anyone is better off, surely it should be the most vulnerable.

In New Zealand we have set ourselves an ambitious goal. We want to be the best place in the world to be a child. It’s hardly the stuff of hard and fast measures – after all, how do you measure play, a feeling of security, happiness?

But we can measure material deprivation, and we can measure poverty, and so we will. And not only that, we are making it law that we report on those numbers every single year alongside our budgets. What better way to hold ourselves to account, and what better group to do that for than children.

But if we are focused on nurturing that next generation, we have to equally worry about what it is we are handing down to them too – including our environment.

In the Māori language there is a word that captures the importance of that role – Kaitiakitanga. It means guardianship. The idea that we have been entrusted with our environment, and we have a duty of care. For us, that has meant taking action to address degradation, like setting standards to make our rivers swimmable, reducing waste and phasing out single-use plastic bags, right through to eradicating predators and protecting our biodiversity.

The race to grow our economies and increase wealth makes us all the poorer if it comes at the cost of our environment. In New Zealand, we are determined to prove that it doesn’t have to be this way.

But these are all actions and initiatives that we can take domestically that ease the blame and pressure on our international institutions. That doesn’t mean they don’t need fixing.

Reforming the UN

As the heart of the multilateral system, the United Nations must lead the way.

We strongly support the Secretary-General’s reform efforts to make the UN more responsive and effective, modernised so that it is capable of dealing with today’s challenges.  We encourage him to be ambitious. And we stand with him in that ambition.

But ultimately it is up to us – the Member States – to drive change at the UN.

This includes reforming the Security Council. If we want the Council to fulfil its purpose of maintaining international peace and security, its practices need to be updated so it is not hamstrung by the use of the veto.

New thinking will also be needed if we are to achieve the vision encapsulated in the Sustainable Development Goals. In New Zealand, we have sought to embed the principles behind the SDGs in a new living standards framework that is guiding policy making, and the management of our resources. And we remain committed to supporting the roll out of the SDGs alongside international partners through a significant increase in our Official Development Assistance budget.

Universal values

But revitalising our international rules-based system isn’t just about the mechanics of how we work together. It also means renewing our commitment to our values.

The UN Charter recalls that the Organisation was formed to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which through two World Wars had brought untold sorrow to humanity.  If we forget this history and the principles which drove the creation of the UN we will be doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past.

In an increasingly uncertain world it is more important than ever that we remember the core values on which the UN was built.

That all people are equal.

That everyone is entitled to have their dignity and human rights respected.

That we must strive to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom.

And we must consistently hold ourselves to account on each.

Amongst renewing this commitment though, we have to acknowledge where accountability must continue – and that is especially the case when it comes to equality.

So many gains have been made, each worthy of celebration.  In New Zealand we have just marked the 125th year since women were granted the right to vote. We were the first in the world to do so. As a girl I never ever grew up believing that my gender would stand in the way of me achieving whatever I wanted to in life. I am, after all, not the first, but the third female Prime Minister of New Zealand.

But for all of that, we still have a gender pay gap, an over representation of women in low paid work, and domestic violence. And we are not alone.

It seems surprising that in this modern age we have to recommit ourselves to gender equality, but we do. And I for one will never celebrate the gains we have made for women domestically, while internationally other women and girls experience a lack of the most basic of opportunity and dignity.

Me Too must become We Too.

We are all in this together.

Conclusion

I accept that the list of demands on all of us is long. Be it domestic, or international, we are operating in challenging times. We face what we call in New Zealand ‘wicked problems’. Ones that are intertwined and interrelated.

Perhaps then it is time to step back from the chaos and ask what we want. It is in that space that we’ll find simplicity. The simplicity of peace, of prosperity, of fairness. If I could distil it down into one concept that we are pursuing in New Zealand it is simple and it is this.  Kindness.

In the face of isolationism, protectionism, racism – the simple concept of looking outwardly and beyond ourselves, of kindness and collectivism, might just be as good a starting point as any. So let’s start here with the institutions that have served us well in times of need, and will do so again.

In the meantime, I can assure all of you, New Zealand remains committed to continue to do our part to building and sustaining international peace and security. To promoting and defending an open, inclusive, and rules-based international order based on universal values.

To being pragmatic, empathetic, strong and kind.

The next generation after all, deserves no less.

Tena koutou, tena koutou, tena tatou katoa.


 


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The Last Western Heretic (Part 5)

Previous parts of The Last Western Heretic can be found:

Part 1  |  Part 2  |  Part 3  |  Part 4

In this segment, Lloyd Geering argues that the Resurrection is symbolic and not real.


Transcript:

The Christian faith has always focused on the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, but the crucifixion by which Jesus died nailed to a cross is an event open to historical investigation in a way the resurrection has never been.

When the Apostles first claimed that Jesus had been raised from the dead, they meant that God had raised him from the Underworld of the Dead to the Overworld of Heaven. That’s mythical or symbolic language. He belongs to the way people then saw the world. What was historical was the impact that Jesus had made on them. It convinced them that neither he nor his teaching could ever really die.

This conviction came to be expressed in all sorts of stories. One of them said that his tomb had been found empty, and the body had gone. When people began to take the story literally, it gave rise to the further story of his Ascension. That said that Jesus rose bodily into heaven and disappeared behind the clouds. And in the fourth century, Christians decided they knew the exact spot where that occurred, and built a church on it. Faithful pilgrims came and marvelled at the indentation on the stone said to be the last footprint Jesus left on earth.

But the stories of the Resurrection and the Ascension, if taken literally, make no sense at all to us in our scientifically shaped view of the universe in which we now live. The heavenly places to which Jesus supposedly rose or ascended have simply disappeared from reality. That’s why the resurrection and the Ascension of Jesus can be adequately understood only in poetical or metaphorical terms, and no one said this better then the Scottish theologian Gregor Smith. He said “until Christians feel free to say that the bones of Jesus may still lie in Palestine they had not really understood the resurrection“.

Now I agree with Gregor Smith, and said so in an article I wrote for the Easter edition in 1966 of the Presbyterian Journal. Inadvertently it sparked off a controversy so widespread that it culminated in the so called heresy trial in which I was charged with doctrinal error and disturbing the peace of the Church. There was a unfortunate misconception about what the debate was really about. The doctrine committee treated it as a question of did Jesus rise from the dead or not. Now that’s not what I was denying. I never said Jesus didn’t rise from the dead. I said what did it really mean to say he rose from the dead. The things got worse the following year because I was asked to preach at the inaugural service of the Victoria University academic year, and in the course of this I questioned whether we humans have immortal souls. And this once again raised the question of what happens to us when we die. Is there such a thing as life after death? And because of what has happened the year before, things exploded immediately. At this stage in 1967, everybody up and down the country, not only in the churches but even in the bars and round [the livingroom] were discussing what happens to you when you die. So it’s a period of great excitement really. Very interesting in many ways. I wished I hadn’t quite been the centre of it, but nevertheless it was good to have such theological talk going on. And that, of course, eventually led to the so called heresy trial at the end of 1967, when two of my critics brought charges of doctrinal error and disturbing the peace of the church against me.

“It is therefore submitted that the assembly should consider these matters and clarify the situation by determining whether the points of doctrine apparently denied by Principal Geering are, or are not, of the substance of the Scriptures, and if professor Goering admits that he cannot affirm such beliefs, or if he will not do so, and does not help to restore in the church the peace and unity which he has disturbed, then this assembly should censure him in an appropriate manner.”

“I would like to suggest that what my accusers have been pleased to call the Peace of the church is more properly called the sleepiness of the church, and we should be thankful to God that it has been disturbed.”

“The faith of Principal Geering: this faith of cultural development and discovery is nothing but an intellectually conceited mockery of the real Christian faith. What we would like to know (and it is important because of the very great influence which he exercises from his official position) is wheher Professor Geering himself believes within the New Testament and the Christian hope that when this universe is no more, Christian believers will continue their personal life in the presence of the Living God?”

“What are we to make of death? We learn the answer to this by turning back to the heart of the Christian faith. It was not the dead Jesus who was acclaimed as risen but the crucified Jesus. Some people seem to think that Jesus went willingly to the cross because he knew that within 36 hours he would rise in glory. That I believe to be a grave travesty of the meaning of the cross Jesus was ready to give himself completely, and he did not give himself completely if he expected shortly to live.”

People in the churches and the pews often had little idea of what was going on theologically. The reason for that is that the church didn’t have any kind of organ within the church to disseminate theological thought. The sermon isn’t the proper place to do it on the whole. The sermon is meant to be inspirational.

“Naturally I hope the assembly will see its way clear to dismiss these charges and express no less than full confidence in the way I have been dealing with the position of responsibility entrusted to me. It has been reported to me that there is a rumour circulating that I intend to resign because I’ve been offered another post. There is no foundation for this. I doubt if any church would want me and at the moment. Even if there were a choice I would prefer to serve the church from which i have received most.”

the General Assembly as is its practice is to act as a kind of judge and jury, listening to the charges and then deciding what to do about them. And they eventually decided that the charges have not been proved, and so they dismissed the case and and I was in effect exonerated. But it didn’t really satisfy, of course, my critics who were a very vociferous kind of group and so the attention went on.


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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.