Sunday, June 26, 2016

Brexit: Well Done the UK

Congratulations to the UK for the Brexit vote. Having seen the outcome, and having considered the discussion, I am convinced they made the right decision. My reasons are this. 

First, sovereignty. Decisions like who can come into your country must be in the hands of the citizens of the country involved not in some non-democratic government across the water. The UK has a parliament and they have to have sovereignty to preserve the best interests of that nation. If Europe is for real, and nations like the UK are to be involved, then there needs to a full elected government from the President down and a disempowering of national governments. However, as the UK is only one country among many, they put themselves in the position of being dominated by others who have a different agenda. So, the decision gives the UK sovereignty again. They can now take control of who is coming and going from their country with points systems like Australia and England. They can now work to make the society they have work, with all its diversity. This is what we have in NZ, and it is great. That will not be easy, but they can decide their own destiny.

Second, the challenge to Empire. I am delighted to see the breakdown of the impulse toward Empire that is arising in the world. Europe is a quasi-empire. Sure, it is not one formed through violent force as in many instances in history, but Europe’s union is in effect the formation of another imperial power that could easily morph into something hideous. This is especially so with the rise of right wing movements through Europe. While this can be seen as right wing, the UK’s exit actually disempowers the power of Europe and reduces the danger. It also means that if something hideous occurs in Europe, the UK can stand against it and is not swept up in it. All Empires are dangerous. We live in a world in which they are on the rise – Europe, China, Russia; not to mention the US. It is a dangerous world with forces on the rise which are threatening. I do hope more nations break from Europe for the same reason. For these reasons, I think Scotland and Northern Ireland would be wrong to opt for Europe over the UK. 

Thirdly, while there will be acrimony because of this decision, there is no reason that the UK cannot remain a strong trading partner with Europe while negotiating its own relationship with other nations like the US, Asian nations, other Commonwealth countries and more. There is no shortage of economic opportunity for a nation with as much wealth and skill as the UK. The UK might struggle for a year of five, but they can now negotiate their own relationship with the world.

While this looks like xenophobia, nationalism, or almost racism, and there are some among the Brexit vote who are tending toward this impulse, it is not necessarily this for many. One can believe in diversity, celebrate it, desire an egalitarian society rich in cultural difference, and not be racist. One can recognise a common culture that a nation holds dear, want to retain it, still celebrate diversity and welcome people who are different, and not be racist. I am not hearing Brexit proponents now saying that the UK should expel people who are different. I am not saying they want to suppress difference. Indeed, the UK is very diverse. However, surely a country should have sovereignty over its borders and be able to work toward a common culture with values that uphold decency and unity. They can be more secure, and no less prosperous. If I had been there, I would have voted to leave. They are now in a position like NZ, and this is a good position. 

Monday, April 25, 2016

ANZAC 2016, I Will Remember

Lots of my Christian friends struggle with ANZAC. They do so for good reason. The Christian message is one of non-violence. Jesus preached ‘love your enemies’ and ‘turn the other cheek. Despite claiming he could in an instant call on legions of angels to demolish the Romans, he did not do so. Rather, he went to the cross without using violent force in his defence. The closest we get to the use of violent force is Jesus in the Temple, making a whip, throwing over tables and driving animals and people out. However, these passages are carefully written to remove any insinuation that Jesus struck the people. Assuming the veracity of the biblical accounts, he was imbued with immense power, but never used his force to impress others, in answer to their requests for signs, in defence, or in compelling people to believe in him. In a ruthless world not unlike the Seven Kingdoms of the Game of Thrones, He taught and embodied non-violence.

Knowing this, many Christians are simply quiet at ANZAC. Although they respect greatly those (including family members) who gave their lives for the causes in the wars of the late 18th–21st centuries, particularly the world wars. They don’t go to the Dawn Services. They recognise the importance of what was done, they are grateful to live in a world which is ‘free,’ in the sense that it is democratic with ideals of compassion and egalitarianism. However, they are simply uncomfortable with the whole thing. The event that lies at the heart of ANZAC day, the attack on the Turks in Gallipoli, is more a reflection of the failure of humanity to test the limits of non-violence. It was a disaster, where the allies were resisted, an attack on Turkish sovereignty. It may have been justified in terms of the horrors of the Ottoman Empire, but it is still more a reflection of human failure than something to celebrate.

Part of me agrees with this point of view, I feel more sadness on this day, not just for the many lives lost on both sides of these wars, but for the whole spectre of war. It repulses me. It is horrific. I thought of that today as I rode my bike and saw the road kill that as always, litters the country roads of NZ. These men and women were ‘road kill’ in the hands of politicians seeking power. A visit to Gallipoli in 2010 hammered that home, as I reflected on graves engraved with biblical verses and the names and ages of young men in their late teens and twenties. Then down the road is the Turkish memorial, with Islamic texts and similarly aged deceased men. It is tragic.

But then again, it seems in a fallen world, even with Jesus’ ideals ringing in our ears, and his example vivid in our imaginations, there is a time for war. There are times when horrific regimes must be stopped for the sake of the living. It seems that while love usually cries out non-violence, at times love cries out ‘you must act for the defenceless.’ In times like the Holocaust in particular, how can good people merely protest or simply stand back praying? So, with deep reluctance, I acknowledge the simple truth of Ecclesiastes 3:8: ‘there is a time for war.’ There is a time where people must fight for the innocent and defenceless. That is why we should be thankful for the police, and even militaries where they are holding back evil.

So, while torn between a theology of pacifism and just war, I find myself giving thanks for those who heeded the call to fight to hold back the forces of evil. Yes, some of the wars and causes were less noble than others. Yes, many of our young men died because of stupid decisions. Yes, they were pawns in the game of thrones we are all swept up in, where powerful men (and the odd woman) decide their fate. However, they still gave their lives. I live in a nation that is while imperfect as are all nations, is blessedly free, which seeks to live out of ideals of goodness, love, charity, compassion, egalitarianism, and justice. I do so in no small part because of the courage of those who gave their lives on battlefields across the world. So I will remember them. I give thanks for them and to them.

But I will also be further spurred on to live out of Jesus’ teaching and example as best I can, renouncing violent malicious thoughts and actions toward others. I will do my best to uphold his call to the world to ‘love your enemies.’ And I will also remember our past as a people whereby we crossed the seas on wakas and through somewhat dubious means and power, we took possession of a land that was peopled by the Maori. My European forebears fought them. While we have come to place of some reconciliation, I will seek to live honouring the indigenous peoples of this nation. I will seek to embody and preach that the way ahead is the way of the cross—forgiveness, reconciliation, and mercy. I will remember.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Why I am Voting for the Old Flag

It seems likely that NZ will vote to retain its flag in the referendum which is on at the moment. I suspect that even if a lot of NZers might be keen to have a new flag, there is no reason at present to make the shift. It seems to me this is the sort of thing you do when and if you become a republic. As there is no reason, many people are miffed at the whole thing and the money spent. The process was poorly conceived and destined to fail from the beginning. I say this quite liking the new flag myself, but hey, many people liked the Wallabies before last year’s RWC, but they were never going to win.

On Sunday at church we were singing ‘We want to see Jesus lifted high, a banner that flies across this land,’ and we started pondering what it would be like to have a flag with Jesus on it.

After the service I thought more about it and realised that in a roundabout way we do have Jesus on the flag, four times. The Union Jack sits in the left corner. It is made up of three crosses, the cross of St Andrew, the Cross of Saint Patrick, and the Cross of St George.

Current NZ Flag  

Cross of St Patrick Ireland

Cross of St Andrew Scotland 

Cross of St George England and Wales 

Saint Andrew takes us back into the Scriptures to the brother of Simon Peter who, according to the Gospels, was a fisherman with his brother, James, and John (Mark 1). He was one of the first disciples to follow Jesus from the beginning of his ministry. Andrew in the Gospels is the one who finds the food for the feeding of the 5000 and tells Jesus that some Greeks in Jerusalem at Pentecost want to meet with him (John 6; 12). His prominence in John’s Gospel likely indicates he was known in the Asia Minor region later on—it being Ephesus where the Gospel likely originated. Andrew is associated with Scotland because legends say he helped them win some wars—dodgy stuff this may be, but his origins are less so.  

Originally a slave, Saint Patrick was a fifth century missionary to Ireland where he was known as the ‘Apostle of Ireland,’ became bishop, and is Ireland’s patron saint. The day remembering him, March 17, is a day of great festivity in Ireland and among the Irish abroad.

St George (AD 280-303) was a Roman soldier ultimately ordered to death for refusing to deny his Christian faith. In Catholic tradition, he is a key military saint. He is the patron saint of a number of nations.

So the Union Jack is three blended crosses all pointing to the one who hung on a cross to save a world and show the world the extent of ‘love your enemies.’ If only we would listen.
In addition, the NZ flag has the Southern Cross on it. 

The Southern Cross

While a natural astral phenomenon, the choice of the Southern Cross to be placed on the flag is not merely because it looks cool—it is shaped like a cross—for the Christian NZ founders, invoking again the basis of their faith, Christ crucified and risen.

The early NZ founders were almost all Christians, albeit imperfect and from a range of denominations and commitments ranging from token (nominal) to full-on faith. The Southern Cross flew on the first United Tribes Flag commissioned in 1835 and which still flies in Waitangi. Notably, it sits in the corner of a flag carrying the cross of St George (above).

The Flag of the United Tribes of NZ

After the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, the Union Jack was NZ’s flag. After this a variety of flags were developed, the current NZ flag was adopted.

So, the current NZ flag is embedded with Jesus Christ with four crosses, one a natural phenomenon from the southern sky, one linking our story to Jesus calling the first fishermen, and two linked into the religious and political history of the UK.

As I have researched and written this brief blog I have realised that whereas I was intending to vote for the new flag, I will not—not because of the politics (untimely waste of time and money), nor because of the design (the new one I like), but because it invokes in me my faith and our story which is founded indisputably on the blend of the Maori story and our European (especially British) Christian story—albeit a very marred version of the Christian narrative.

It reminds us as Kiwis that we have a history based on the Christian story. We can deny this as much as we like, blaming the worlds wars on religion, denying the bible as a lot of myth, calling the Christ of faith a fable built on a Jesus of history who may not even have existed, preferring faith in a flying spaghetti monster, or whatever—the problem with Christianity is not the Christ on whom it is founded, it is his followers (me included). His ideals rock! If only we would live them.

What can’t be denied is that we live in one of the greatest nations in the world, and one of the prime reasons for this is that it has been built to a large extent on the Judeo-Christian ethic, which at its core is compassion, love, mercy, honesty, decency, tolerance, moral goodness, justice, and egalitarianism and the like. Our systems of government, education, justice, welfare, and more, were carved out by people seeking to bring practical Christianity into being.

As a person whose life was seriously on the skids in my late teens and early twenties, my experiences of Jesus are undeniably real and he has transformed me from a drunken narcissistic arrogant twat into someone who, while still tending in all those directions at times, has become a decent person (I think). I am certain that there is no one who knew me from ages 13-23 who would believe that I would be a NT scholar and a Christian leader. I laugh myself remembering that lost soul. I also give thanks, because he saved my life.

So, tempted though I was to vote for the new flag, I am going to vote for the old one—‘cause I want to see Jesus lifted higher. Not the Jesus who is used as a pawn in political fights and wars—when he renounced such things. Not the Jesus who is used to justify bigotry and marginalization—when he hung out at the margins with the sinners and demonized. Not the Jesus who is just a nice teacher—when he is the power that transforms individual lives, communities, nations, and a world. But the Jesus I read of in the New Testament of the Bible—the embodiment of God, the lover of the lost, the healer of the sick, the transformer of the world, the compassionate and merciful Christ and Son of God who changed me and is changing a world. 

Friday, January 22, 2016

Sixty–Two People, Half the World, What a Stunning Statistic!

I first heard the statistics concerning wealth distribution released by Oxfam the other day with horror. According to their study, the richest 62 people in the world have the same combined wealth as the poorest 50% of people in our world ($1.76 trillion USD)—that is 1,760,000,000,000,000,000, or 1.76 million million million dollars! In percentage terms, only 8.382375298816469e-7% (0.000000083%) of the people of the world hold the same as ‘the other’ 50%.

Aside from statistics related to problems of death through violence (genocide, abortion, war, the Holocaust, etc), I can’t think of a statistic that has shaken me more. It is horrific. How has this come to pass?

I did a bit of digging on the 62 and some—like Charles and David Koch from Koch Industries, the Waltons of Wal-Mart, the Mars who make Candy (mars bars, yummy)—are from the same families, so it is a little worse; it is actually 57 people or groups who hold this wealth (see Most are from the USA (30) and Europe (16), with ten from Asia, and the others from South or Latin America (3), Russia (1), and the Middle East (1). So, the vast majority of this wealth is held by 46 people in the western world. Unsurprisingly, 54 are men—it’s a man’s world, or should I say, a ‘rich man’s world.’ Many are in the computer technology and media world, some in beauty, fashion, clothes and accessories, some in supermarkets, some in industry, and a number in investment and real estate.

This is a deterioration of an already bad state of affairs disparity; in 2010, the 388 richest people owned the same wealth as the poorest 50%. Then, by 2014 this had dropped to 80, and now 62. What will the next five years bring? The richest few are buying up the world, and the world is being enslaved to their wealth accumulation. The wealth is not trickling down far enough, only to those who serve the uber-rich. Between 2010 and 2050, the wealth of the poorest 50% dropped by 41%, while the richest 62 gained $500 billion—nice.

Now, as I said in my last blog, I have just been thinking about Jesus feeding the 5000 (John 6). In truth, the 5000 fed was more like 10 to 20,000, as there were women and children present (like the boy with the fish), who were not counted (ancient patriarchy, sigh).

When this occurred, those present were poor and desperate, under severe economic oppression and wealth disparity. The nation, indeed the whole Mediterranean, was held captive to Rome. In Rome, life was good for the elite—with the Empire and most of the population serving them (half were slaves). In Israel, Rome had its lackeys; the Herodians, who were big on building projects and an excessive lavish lifestyle, the chief priests and others who made up the Sanhedrin (council of seventy–one), some other priests, and Rome’s tax-collectors who also took their own cut (e.g. Zacchaeus). There was also the problem of land acquisition, with the wealthy buying up land into huge holdings, while the people of land worked the land on a basic wage at best with the money going into the coffers of the rich (sound familiar). There was no real middle class with the rest of society poor struggling to varying degrees, from the wealthier artisans through to the slaves, peasants, and those who languished in squalor—the lepers, beggars, blind, lame, mentally ill, and physical disabled (such were the people at the feeding). If Oxfam are right, then our world is not that different.

We see the heart of Jesus in the feeding. He heals the sick. He feeds the poor. He welcomes sinners. He doesn’t hang out with the wealthy and elite, he avoids them. In fact, there is no record of him going to the seats of Galilean power, Tiberius, Sepphoris, or Hippos. In fact, he performs this miracle, and most of his work, in the wilderness, with the poor coming in crowds to him. He repudiated the rich, challenging one rich fool to stop building up his huge assets more and more but to be generous to God and the poor. He told a story of a rich man in hell, while the poor beggar he ignored is in heaven—a complete reversal of popular theology. He urged another to sell everything, give to the poor, and follow him. He urged his followers to follow that same pattern—live light and give generously. When Zacchaeus the reformed tax-collector gave half he had to the poor, and refunded fourfold those he had ripped off as a tax-collector, Jesus cried out that salvation had come to him and his household. Jesus venerated a poor widow who gave everything she had to the Temple Treasury. He honoured Mary who poured perfume over his feet, despite the protestations of Judas, who himself was a thief. He repudiated the Pharisees who were obsessed with wealth acquisition. Jesus would not be impressed with this statistic I am sure.

How to respond? There is a temptation to think there should be a revolution when we hear things like this. And indeed, there might be—such situations can often lead to outcry and violent overthrows of regimes (take Communism for example). The problem is that these don’t work, inevitably a fresh regime comes in that falls into the same trap—greed and oppression to fulfil the agenda! Jesus advocated something much cleverer and subversive. We see the desire for revolution at the conclusion of feeding account (John 6:14-15). After their great feed, the well-fed 5000 recognised that with the sort of power Jesus had, surely the time was ripe to storm the Romans, Herodians, Sanhedrin and anyone else who got in their way, and bring Shalom (peace). They declared Jesus the long awaited Prophet (Deut 18:15-18), sought to seize him and make him king by violent force, and then no doubt head for the Herodian and Roman bases in Israel and take back their world. Jesus took off—he wasn’t interested in a violent revolution or being that type of king. He knows that this will not work.

The kingdom he advocated is from the bottom up. This is where people recognise that the inequality of the world must be addressed, but now with violent revolution. Rather, it begins with ‘me’ and making a change from greed and consumption to generosity and giving. Such a kingdom is found where people see a person in need and respond by healing, feeding, and caring—like the Good Samaritan who stopped at real expense (money, time, and danger) to tend to a man robbed and left for dead on the side of the road. Jesus himself repeatedly stopped to heal, feed, and care for people as he want about his days. In this story, he healed the sick and fed the crowds. Amazing miracles happen when people get generous.

Surely, what is now needed is for there to be an outcry against the economic oppression of our time. Globalization has enabled the smaller and smaller group of people to control more and more. The response is to become cleverer at avoiding their control. We need to become more generous. We need to redistribute our wealth, responding to need. We need to resist the empire, recognising who these people are and buying in other ways, growing our own stuff, repairing things, sharing things, and resisting. As we go to vote in forthcoming elections, we need to consider what will see the wealth of the world distributed to its workers more evenly. More importantly, we need to live out the politics of the Kingdom—heal the sick, feed the poor, care for the needy, and so on.

There is no easy answer, but it starts with us recognising what the Kingdom is about and letting that affect everything we do. Otherwise, in another five years 30 people will own the world. Then 10. Then 1. That doesn’t bear thinking about.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Jesus, Friend of Sinners (the Feeding of the 5000)

I was working through John’s account of the Feeding of the 5000 in John 6:1–15 yesterday and realised something I hadn’t noticed. The miracle is the only one found in all four Gospels (Mark 6; Matt 14; Luke 9). As in the other accounts, in John, Jesus provides food for the whole crowd, which may have been as large as 20,000, as only the number of men is noted.
John adds cool details. The disciples are there on the mountain with Jesus, so they are fed along with the crowd. He tells us that the loaves are barley-loaves, the bread of the poor, barley being cheaper than wheat. The fish are ‘small fish,’ which are perhaps pickled. A boy who can be anywhere from a little fella to a young man (the Greek is fluid) provides the food; a neat touch, also showing that there are children present. The food is worth around 200 denarii, which is two hundred day’s money for a day labourer. If we assume a NZ minimum wage for an eight-hour day (and they did longer days too!), that is something like $23,600 NZD, a lot of money. It is unlikely Judas has that much in his moneybag. We also see the involvement of Philip and Andrew, who are much more prominent in John than the other Gospels—likely because they were known to John’s readers. We see that Philip is good at finances, an accountant? We learn the time of the event, just before Passover, so probably March. The grass is lush, it is the northern Spring; soon the grass will burn off in the heat of summer. The way the story is presented shows Jesus as a new Moses, or one greater than Moses, who feeds Israel in the wilderness, who is redeeming Israel in a second and ultimate Exodus. The crowd recognise that Jesus is someone special, thinking him the Prophet anticipated in Deuteronomy 18:15–18, they seek to violently seize him and make him king—they believe he is Messiah. Jesus does a runner, he is not interested in being that sort of king, one who takes over the world with violent force. He has another plan—contemporary Christians in a violent world take note!
What struck me is that in John, unlike the other accounts, there is no mention of the disciples distributing the food, Jesus does it (John 6:11). Jesus is thus the ideal host, and the one who serves the crowds. This is Jesus the Servant, who will be seen most clearly in Ch. 13 as he washes the disciples’ feet—a slaves dirty job. Most significantly, this will be revealed as he is glorified on the cross, fulfilling the mission for which he was sent, dying for the world as the Lamb of God.
What really struck me is who he is feeding. He feeds the crowds made up of all sorts, desperate for healing in a world where people died young. In the crowd are interesting people. Cast your eye to the end of John 6 and you will see that by the end of the next day, after hearing Jesus teach that he is the ‘bread of life,’ ‘many of his disciples’ found it a bit much. They grumbled, as they were offended. After a discussion, ‘many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.’ Jesus then challenged the Twelve, asking whether they want out as well. Simon speaks up effectively saying ‘no way, we are here for the long haul, you are the One! Jesus then reminds them that he chose them, and ‘yet one of you is a devil.’ John explains that this is a reference to Judas (John 6:70–71).
Even though these people would desert him and and Judas betray him, Jesus was prepared to provide for them and feed them! Further, he hands them their food himself. They all go home well-fed. There was even leftovers, the disciples gathering twelve baskets afterward. One of these was his betray Judas, ‘a devil!’ This is our God, who provides a world for all people, replete with food and drink; and even for those who hate him and deny him. This event again shows Jesus’ amazing grace toward sinners. He loved to hang out with them, and he delighted in serving their needs. Later, at the Last Supper, he would eat with his betrayer and his denier (Peter). Each Sunday we have Communion, Jesus dines with us, and we too are sinners. We come with differing levels of faith, yet Jesus does not discriminate, all are welcome to the Table. Jesus is truly the friend of sinners. So we must treat the world. I am glad Jesus will eat with sinners, cause I am one. There is yet hope for us all. 

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Dear World, Some thoughts for 2016

As we launch into another year, 2016, I thought it would be good to make a few suggestions to a few people around the world in the hope that they may listen, that we could have a year of relative peace and prosperity on planet earth.

Dear Abu Bakr al-Bagdadi,
Please can you end this violent desire to take over the world? I admire your zeal, but sometimes zeal is misguided—and this is one of those times! Seeking world domination and the imposition of extreme Islamic ideals by violent force is stupid because you will fail and many will be killed as you try. People generally don’t respond to being told they have to follow a certain religion. Take it from us Christians, we have tried this, and it does not work! So, please give it up? Why not just lay down the weapons and say, ‘enough,’ end the conflict, urge your followers to do the same, and retire?

Dear Donald Trump,
As John McEnroe said, ‘you cannot be serious!’ Please just go back to your business and reality shows and leave global politics to others. You scare the living #@$& out of us all with your rhetoric. I am not sure if there is anyone in NZ that takes you seriously as a President. The things you are saying are ridiculous. So, please give it up now. I used the enjoy the Apprentice, so just have another series. We can handle your hair, but not your politics.

Dear America,
If Abu Bakr al-Bagdadi and Donald Trump don’t heed the above appeals, as I am sure they won’t, please do not vote for Trump. There are other trumpets to blow, none of whom are perfect, but at least seem to be reasonable. Unless you want apocalypse now (the final trump-et), and I know some of you do (please read your bibles carefully!), please vote for someone else as the Republican candidate. The world needs some seriously wise leadership at present. Is Trump really the way?

Dear the American Gun Lobby
Come on! Is it really the answer to arm more and more Americans to stop gun violence? Stop the weird logic and get real. The more people are armed, the more people will get shot. It’s kind of obvious to us in a place like NZ. But hey, that’s your constitutional right I suppose. Or is it a constitutional wrong? Anyway, even if you don’t listen to this, please don’t vote for trump, and don’t shoot cyclists even if we stuff up.

Dear Auckland Council,
Can you just can silly ideas like trains down the centre of Dominion Road? How about monorail running over the top of such roads and the motorways? The roads are ridiculous as they are, without trains added to the carnage. In a city with a ton of volcanoes and a harbour, which is ever expanding with single level dwellings (just go for a drive out west beyond Hobsonville, Riverhead, etc), the roads will soon be a car park (it is most days already). So, buses aren’t really a goer, nor should we go underground. How about something over the top? Just saying. Also, on the matter of single level dwellings ever spreading into the hinterland—can you start building some more apartment blocks around the place? Not leaky ones—been there, done that. But good solid ones? Again, just saying? Ah yes, and perhaps a new mayor? Again, just saying.

Dear Labour,
NZ needs a strong left and right. At the moment, John Key is having a field day. Nothing against Andrew Little, he seems a decent enough sort of bloke, but is he the best you have got to take on the National machine? They are in their third term and the wheels should be coming off. But for wheels to come off, they need to be under pressure from an articulate, intelligent, leadership, which picks the right issues, and with popular appeal, takes on the government. It feels like I am watching the All Blacks play Namibia, or Georgia, kind of a training run with little opposition. I don’t know who is out there, but please scour the country and find someone who can take on the Key, English, Joyce, Collins and co. And please can you get together with the Greens and put something coherent together rather than bash each other up? A divided opposition cannot win. And it has to make sense to the ‘ordinary NZer,’ whatever that is? Seems like at least Dotcom won’t be a factor, that will help.

Dear NZ Drivers,
Please take care around cyclists this coming year. Us cyclists will do our darndest to stay out of your way, stick to the left, not ride in huge bunches (except in races or maybe early on a Sunday morning). If you do your part as well, that would be great. We will try and do ours (sometimes we do forget, sorry). Give us heaps of room. Be patient with us, even if we suck, cause you have all the power in those beasts you drive. And please don’t drink and drive. Don’t throw bottles out windows and fill up the bike lanes with glass. Then we can drive to the left and not get a puncture. Slow down. Keep left. Be nice. No more road rage. And please don’t join Isis.

Dear Cyclists
Be nice to other vehicle drivers. Keep left. Don’t fill up the road. Don’t run red lights and do things drivers don’t expect. Stay safe.

Dear Christians,
Let’s all devote ourselves to stop moralizing, bemoaning the world around us, and give our guts to serve this nation. Let’s get out and be the volunteers that makes NZ tick. Let’s get involved in our schools and community groups not to impose ‘Christian law’ on the world, but to make this nation the best it can be by relentlessly serving out of love. Let’s be nice to atheists and others we disagree with—the beauty of being human is that we can choose our own path. Let’s give generously with our time and money to the things that really matter—things that bring justice and spread mercy. Let’s move past criticism and disunity, to love. Let’s make Jesus really proud of us and the way we treat each other and others, how we stand up for good and how we care for those in need. And let’s pray heaps. The world needs it bigtime.

Dear All
Let’s eat well this coming year. Let’s exercise heaps. Let’s work hard, but let’s have fun. Let’s laugh. Let’s lighten up, de-stress, and enjoy this awesome world. Let’s work hard toward reducing our carbon footprints. Let’s really contribute to society. Let’s pause and smell the roses, see the sunset, walk the beach, climb the hills, enjoy the wonderful world we live in. Let’s support each other when things are bad. Let’s rejoice when things rock. Let’s watch less TV, drink less booze, eat less junk food, and not waste our lives. Let’s make 2016 a brilliant year.

Whoever you are, have a bloody awesome 2016.

Monday, July 27, 2015

My Claim to Royalty

Last week I learned something interesting about myself. It turns out that my whanau on my mum’s side, is descended from royalty. And some serious royalty. I have a royal whakapapa (genealogy).

It all goes back forty generations to a certain Rollo (Hrólfr, Rou(f)). While his origins are fiercely disputed between Norwegian and Danish historians, he was clearly a Norse Viking, and the first duke of Normandy (c. 846–932).

In the family line he is followed by five dukes of Normandy, William I (Longsword), Richard I, II, III, and Robert I. These reigned Normandy in what is now Northern France from 911 to 1066 when the Duke of Normandy, William, conquered England—the Battle of Hastings. I am thus a descendant of William the Conqueror, otherwise known as “William the Bastard”—not because he was a nasty piece of work, although I am sure he was, but because he was illegitimate. He reigned until 100.

After him in my family line comes Henry I also known as Henry Beaulerc (reigned 1100–1135), Empress Matilda (also Maude) (1102–1167), King Henry II (1154–1189), King John (1166–1216), King Henry III (1216–1272), King Edward I (Edward Longshanks, the Hammer of the Scots) (1272–1307), and King Edward II (1307–1327). He was forced by his son Edward III to relinquish the throne and he reigned (1327–1377) who declared himself king of France and started the One Hundred Years’ War—which of course did not last hundred years, but went from 1337–1453.

After this my family tree moves away from direct line to the English throne but includes princes, earls, countesses, lady’s, sirs, and a few revs.[1] So 24 generations ago, my direct ancestors were kings and queens of England, and 19 to royal blood. Mind you when I put it that way, the royal blood is pretty diluted! Likely half of England can claim the same in one way or another.

Anywhen, I was somewhat shocked when I heard this, having no idea that my forebears were English kings. I have to admit I have mixed feelings. After all, rulers like this were marked by all the usual things that go with ancient royalty—military might, abuse of power, political intrigue, oppression, and so on.

I shared my whakapapa with a Maori friend at Laidlaw. He was taken aback too, and then wondered if it gave license to give me a hiding—colonialism and all that. He told me his whakapapa was full of murderers and worse. I said, “Well we have that in common then.”

I also pondered returning to England to take back what is arguably (very arguably) rightfully mine—England. Or at least, lay claim to some land. Just as William conquered England, it could happen again.

But then I also thought of Jesus’ whakapapa in Matt 1:1–18. His whakapapa is full of kings from David to Jechoniah, and followed by legitimate heirs like Zerubbabel. In fact, he can lay claim to royal blood only 14 generations before he turned up. I then remembered that his whakapapa also has a few interesting characters like the fake prostitute Tamar and the prostitute Rahab. Goodness knows who else is in mine!

Then I thought about how Jesus related to the throne that was (arguably) deservedly his. He didn’t claim it by military power, as indeed everyone expected a Messiah would someday do. Rather, he did so by relentless love, compassion, mercy, non-violence, healing, feeding, and more. Now that is what a king should do.

So, I suppose I won’t gather an army to take England. I am now a bit past it. That would require a good deal of money and forces. No. There’s enough of that sort of thing going on in the Middle East and Africa at present.

Anyway, I am royalty anyway. Having yielded my allegiance to Jesus, Son of David, Son of God, Son of Man, Messiah of Israel, and Lord of the Cosmos, King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Firstborn over all creation, Head of the Church, Emperor of the Universe and all Universes, I am by adoption a son of the king of the universe. I am thus a prince. This is achieved not by physical descent (John 1:13), but by God inviting me to be his heir (along with all humanity), my bending the knee in allegiance, and then he fusing me into his being through his Spirit downloaded into my being. So, I am royalty and I don’t need all that worldly kingship stuff. After all, it is mostly associated with the most despicable of injustice and oppression. Indeed, my whakapapa would give a lot of people good reason to come hunt me out and sort me out! 

So, I will content myself with being a son of God with a glorious inheritance in store. Now, back to the work of the kingdom . . .

[1] To be specific: After Edward III—Prince Lionel of Antwerp (1388–1368) (he tried to take over Ireland, woops!), Philippa Plantaganet 5th Countess of Ulster (1355–1382) (should have been Queen, usurped by Henry precipitated by the War of the Roses), Elizabeth Mortimer (1371-1417), Henry Percy 1st Earl of Northumberland (also Henry Hotspur) (1364–1403)—a very famous knight, Henry Percy 2nd Earl of Northumberland (1393–1455), Lady Margaret Percy (1477–?), Sir William Gascoigne (the “younger”), Sir William Gascoigne, William Gascoigne, Margaret Gascoigne, Margaret Wentworth (d. 1614), Anne Darcy/Henry Savile, William Savile, William Savile/Mary West, Mary Savile/William Maude, Mary Maude/Darcy Preston, Rosamond Preston/Rev George Haggitt (1730–1798), Rev D’Arcy (Percy) Haggitt (1796–1835), D’Arcy Haggitt (1763–1850)/Mary Martin (1782/83–1858), D’Arcy Haggitt (1805–1869)/Mary Ann Walters, D’Arcy Haggitt (1842–1927), Cecil Strange Haggitt (1871–1933), Gordon Gunion Haggitt, Nolarae Haggitt (my mum), moi and my sisters Nina and Jill.