Thursday, 17 January 2013

Thunder and lightning very very frightening me

A Public Prayer Meeting for rain was held last Sunday. And lo, results were delivered. The Lord did what He had in mind. The thunder and the lightening in the sky as well as the storm rain falling on the roof were all reminders that He is the Lord Almighty and has His plans and will perform them. Hopefully His plan is to continue to bless the area with on-going moisture. More meetings are planned to ensure the Lord does just that, apparently. And we will just ignore the disconcerting fact that the Bureau of Meteorology had actually predicted Sunday’s rain two days before.

I admit that I have real trouble with the fundamentalist notion of prayer. The idea that we can ask God for anything that ails us, and get an answer has worried me for some years. In my student days, I was blessed to live next door to a very Pentecostal type, who laid hands on his car when it wouldn’t go, on the drain pipe when it was blocked, and on my thumb when it was stung by a bee and I was looking for tweezers.

I can’t get past the notion that God will happily unblock the drain of a wealthy (comparatively speaking) first world white person but let many small black children die of dehydration, starvation and various nasty diseases, even as their mothers cry out for mercy.

I also can’t get my head around the idea that climate change is bunk and that the Lord has the climate completely under control (except of course, for the times he forgets and we have to pray to get it Him—capital H, thanks very much—to change it) and that there is nothing we can, indeed should, be doing to modify our lifestyles and standard of living to reduce the emissions that are causing the problem. We can pray, because that is what Christians who believe everything is foreordained by the Lord, do.

You might well be asking at this time why bother praying for something the Lord has already ordained. Good question. I haven’t worked out the answer yet, but I am sure my Calvinistic friends would have some piece of cognitive dissonance to offer me. Apparently the dry weather has been caused by human sinfulness, and if people repent, things will no doubt change. Amazing how this sinfulness has coincided with the rise of CO2 in the atmosphere. Maybe it is a symbolic representation of it. Certainly it is caused by sinfulness of a sort, though not the kind our Calvinistic friend is talking about.

I notice that prayer is getting a similar sort of publicity in America at the moment. In the light of President Obama’s announcement about gun control, the Texan Governor, Rick Perry, has revealed he has his own plan for combating America's gun violence problem. Where President Obama has suggested banning certain automatic weapons and controlling sales of guns etc, the Texan governor announced that what was needed was not tougher gun control legislation, but prayer. Yep, Americans should simply pray for protection against being shot. If this was a successful strategy, I suggest that the casualty lists in both world wars would have been considerably smaller, peace in the Middle East would now be a reality, and in Northern Ireland the Orange marches would have disappeared into the realm of past history.

Like my friend the evangelical, Gov. Perry believes that there is a cause other than our own actions. Instead of sin, he talked about an "evil prowling" in the world that has found its way into vulnerable minds. I would suggest the evil is thinking that guns are the answer to violence, but then I am not a gun owner wedded to a constitutional amendment.

I think relying on prayer for protection against gun violence might prove difficult, as nearly 14,000 people die each year in the USA as a result of being shot. It is a sobering statistic. Australia, on the other hand, was far more pragmatic when faced with a gun massacre 14 years ago. In the aftermath of the Port Arthur massacre in 1999, the then Australian Prime Minister, John Howard, banned semi-automatic and automatic weapons. There was a gun buy-back, and such weapons were handed in. Australia hasn’t had a gun massacre since this time.

John Howard is a conservative politician and a deeply religious Christian man. Yet he saw the light and the light was direct action. This doesn’t mean we can’t pray, of course, but surely prayer is meant not so much to manipulate God into doing stuff, but to also change us, and change us to change how we do things.

In the lectionary this year we are reading the Gospel of Luke. Luke’s Jesus makes it clear that prayer is to be backed up with action. This action entails giving our possessions to the poor, not extorting money from them, releasing them from debt and freeing the oppressed from the bonds of poverty and political oppression. It is sharing our coats and our homes and our hearts. Luke’s gospel is about enacting justice, and not praying the poor of the world out of sight and out of mind by asking God to fix the poverty that we created in the first place.

I am sure my friend will continue to pray for rain. For my part, I will be praying for the strength to challenge the industries and interests and governments that continue to pollute our lovely earth, and whose actions are right on track to render it uninhabitable. I will be praying that God will give me the courage to champion what is right, and to keep hope alive that somehow, the inhabitants of this earth will find a way to work together and move forward into a future of hope.

Friday, 11 January 2013

Agenda 21 and how the science of climate change was influenced by a talking snake

I am really looking forward to 2013. Especially since I learnt that Lord Monckton, that well-known climate change denier, will be heading down under to remind us Aussies that there is no such thing as Global Warming. Lord Monckton, that wall of the West, the redoubt of reason, the sentinel of science, the fortress of freedom, and the defender of democracy, will be here in person.

His three month speaking tour of Australia and NZ is entitled “Carbon tax, climate scam, Agenda 21: can democracy survive all three? Lord Monckton does due diligence”.
This is serious stuff. Our very way of life is clearly under threat in a way never imagined before. Never mind about wars, plagues and natural disasters- Agenda 21 (a cunningly disguised form of communism) is the real threat to civilization.

For those of you unfamiliar with Agenda 21, it was an item during the Copenhagen meeting on climate change. Those of right wing bent believe that a treaty was going to be signed, rubber stamped by left wing loonies, that was designed to transfer all the wealth of the west to poor third world countries, and in doing so, create a world government run by bureaucrats. All those communists who crashed through the Berlin wall joined the environment movement, took over Greenpeace, and plotted to impose a communist world government on the world.

Yes, times are tough. We groan under the weight of carbon taxes and climate scams.
But things will be OK, because Lord Monckton is doing due diligence for us. What is this “due diligence” I hear you ask?

Definition of DUE DILIGENCE
1: the care that a reasonable person exercises to avoid harm to other persons or their property
2: research and analysis of a company or organization done in preparation for a business transaction (as a corporate merger or purchase of securities)

As I assume that the good peer will not be preparing a business transaction, I am guessing he is here to exercise care in regard to persons and property. How this is precisely to happen is anyone’s guess. Perhaps by telling us we have all imagined the soaring temperatures of the last week – remember the earth has not warmed in 16 years. Those record temperatures are a but a blip in the weather. He has clearly not seen our weather charts.

The deep purple in the middle of this red weather chart represents 129.2° F or 54 °C. Our Australian bureau of meteorology was forced to find new colours for its heat index because the country is under a dome of heat. “The scale has just been increased today and I would anticipate it is because the forecast coming from the bureau’s model is showing temperatures in excess of 50 degrees,” David Jones, head of the bureau’s climate monitoring and prediction unit, told The Sydney Morning Herald. The previous record high was 50.7°C (123°F), recorded in 1960 at Oodnadatta Airport. We have now had seven consecutive days above 39°C. That’s a record too.

Australia’s vile heat wave has set homes and property burning from bushfires, but I doubt if Lord Monckton’s due diligence will be of much help.

The good peer is apparently untroubled by such annoying facts as fires and tumbling records. Well, it is summer, isn’t it? As self-proclaimed head and intellectual leader of the global warming denial movement, he has set sights on different things. He is now expanding his influence from aging National Party members and Alan Jones’ listeners to the conservative Christian Church here in Australia.

Lord Monckton is being sponsored by his good friend Pastor Daniel Nalliah, leader of Catch the Fire ministry and president of the nearly formed political party Rise Up Australia. Pastor Daniel has some particularly interesting views on matters of science, the climate, abortion and multiculturalism.
Apparently Lord Monckton will be the man to give the keynote speech at the official launch of his Rise Up Australia political party.

So why Lord Monckton? According to deSmogBlog (, he and Pastor Danny are old friends. In January 2012, Nalliah and his Christian evangelical Catch the Fire ministry hosted Lord Monckton for a lecture as part of his nationwide speaking tour that year – one which was prefaced by a scandal surrounding Monckton’s use of Nazi swastikas.

Quite apart from these somewhat alarming Fascist tendencies, Pastor Danny is what is euphemistically called a ‘young earther’. These ‘young earthers’ are Christians that believe the earth is no more than 6,000 years old. In old terms, they are biblical literalists, creationists and fundamentalists that think Genesis is a factual scientific account, complete with that well-established scientific fact, the talking snake. Further, such people are very keen on sin. Sin is responsible for most of our ills (well, the ones you can’t blame on the talking snake and womankind generally). Sin is punished swiftly by God in this world view, thus Pastor Danny also interpreted the 2009 Victorian bushfires as God's punishment for Victoria's abortion laws. (here he is at odds with another fundamentalist who spammed the Uniting Church, and who blamed the fires on the Uniting Church’s acceptance of homosexuality). Pastor Danny is also Islamophobic, with at least half of his website dedicated to denigrating Moslems. To describe him as a fundamentalist is probably an understatement.

His views on climate change aren’t any better. The rising trend in global temperatures, identified by climate scientists to be caused by the emission of greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels and other human activities, is neither here nor there. Pastor Danny believes God is in charge of climate…therefore we cannot change the climate. His website states that climate change science is “a quasi-religious hypothesis unproven by objective scientific facts.” Beautifully simple, and explains why the planet hasn’t warmed in 16 years. God didn’t want it to, of course.

All of this stuff is terribly scientific. Is this the bar and the rigorous testing that Monckton and his ilk would have us measure climate science with? Young earths of 6,000 years old, talking snakes and a God that capriciously punishes people by burning them and their property? No due diligence there, Lord Monckton. No scientific rigor either. Are these two serial pests seriously thinking this ‘science’ is convincing? And that we should extrapolate this rigorous scientific belief to their skeptical climate science claims? Surely they are kidding us!

I can’t wait to see if Prof. Ian Plimer, one time geologist, climate skeptic (we won’t talk about his interests in the coal industry) and absolute atheist (he took creationists to court and wrote a book called ‘Telling Lies for God: Reason vs Creationism’ for goodness sake), turns up to fete Monckton on his tour. Will he be invited to the launch of Pastor Danny's new political party?

Will our friends the National Party, chockers with climate skeptics, see a 6,000 year old young earth and intelligent design as perfectly reasonable scientific hypotheses, and a perfectly reasonable measure of whether climate science is reputable?

Will the Opposition leader, well known for his skeptical views on climate change and his less than skeptical views on limiting abortion, line up to shake the hand of them both?

Both Lord Monckton and Pastor Danny should thank the lord there's no need to mention any factual and demonstrable science when they are discussing climate science to all those skeptics out there.

The rest of us should probably pray, and hope someone is listening.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Praying for rain?

(Note: this blog is not meant to smear all evangelical Christians, as I know there are many socially and environmentally aware evangelical Christians out there. It is meant to highlight a particular sort of evangelical Christian, a sort that is rather prolific up here in rural reverend land)

I admit I find the local evangelical Protestants hard to understand. Some of the ideas and beliefs that particularly male evangelical Christians subscribe to are difficult to fathom, and they seem to live in a very small world dominated by a stern and humorless deity. They tend to be conservative politically, and feel women’s place is in the home. They could enter the TV set of Madmen and just be themselves, and no one would think they were out of place.

This week an email arrived in my inbox that announced that one of our evangelical colleagues had decided to call a Public Prayer meeting to pray for rain in our local area.

While public prayer meetings aren’t quite our style of ministry, we were happy to support it, and thought it might be an opportunity to also acknowledge that we should be concerned about where our planet is heading. Such a meeting could encourage people to also think about the causes of these current extreme weather events, and to consider the impact of changes in the climate on the earth, and think about taking some action themselves.

The other ministerial inhabitant of the house replied to the email, and suggested that we could perhaps also offer prayers that took into account the multiple effects that climate change was having on millions of people worldwide. He also provided some prayer sites that looked at the impact of climate change on human societies in many places around the globe, such as Tuvalu. You can find them here:!/climateprayer

This seemed harmless enough to us, and quite topical in the light of the fact that half of Australia appears to be on fire, and those places not on fire are suffering from 40 plus centigrade temperatures. Scientists were already equating our extreme weather with climate change – see

The reply we got was therefore somewhat surprising. I doubt we will be praying for that, said our friend. Some people attending will be climate change – or maybe that is global warming - skeptics. Anyway, they are not true believers. And we will be looking to pray, not fight. I myself, as a tin pot scientist, have real questions about the supposed settled science. So my agenda, and not yours or anyone else’s will prevail. Unless of course, they agree with me.

Right then. No prayers for Tuvalu or Kiribati. Instead we will pray for “a change in the Human heart towards the Lordship of Jesus Christ and God's sovereign action response.” Then it will rain, sinners will be punished and all will be right with the world. The bible says so. Insists, in fact. I am reminded of Deuteronomy 28 and its curses. In case you are not familiar with Deuteronomy, the following is an extract from 28:16-68:

Cursed shall you be in the city, and cursed shall you be in the country. Cursed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. Cursed shall be the fruit of your body and the produce of your land, the increase of your cattle and the offspring of your flocks. Cursed shall you be when you come in, and cursed shall you be when you go out. The LORD will send on you cursing, confusion, and rebuke in all that you set your hand to do, until you are destroyed and until you perish quickly, because of the wickedness of your doings in which you have forsaken Me. The LORD will strike you with consumption, with fever, with inflammation, with severe burning fever, with the sword, with scorching, and with mildew; they shall pursue you until you perish. And your heavens which are over your head shall be bronze, and the earth which is under you shall be iron. The LORD will change the rain of your land to powder and dust; from the heaven it shall come down on you until you are destroyed. Moreover all these curses shall come upon you and pursue and overtake you, until you are destroyed, because you did not obey the voice of the LORD your God, to keep His commandments and His statutes which He commanded you.

You can see the point Deuteronomy is making. So the future is bleak, should you not obey the Lord in very precise ways. And it appears the part of that bleakness is no rain.

If indeed our friend is thinking of Deuteronomy he is patently ignoring the fact that the curses are a result of not keeping the Law, and nothing to do with his concept of individual sin, or indeed with belief in Jesus. Nowhere in the gospels does Jesus ever call down such curses on non-believers or sinners, though he does have a penchant for consigning them to hell in the afterlife, particularly in the gospel of Matthew. The sin however, differs markedly from the sin our evangelical friend is thinking of. Sin in the gospels is not helping the poor and oppressed. It is not sharing the good news with all. It is not recognizing the face of Jesus in your fellow human beings.

The other problem we Protestants have, and particularly evangelical denominations, is the lack of tradition to draw on. Protestant denominations do have a habit of splitting, and forming new denominations. Impoverished by the lack of rich tradition that the Orthodox and Catholics have, evangelical Protestants struggle to justify their ideas and actions.

The reason our friend gave for ignoring global warming (apart from his own and other skepticism) is that prayers for rain have a much, much, much longer history than supposed global warming.

This is all well and good, but what does it mean? Does it go all the way back to rituals of sacrificing virgins? To Apaches doing rain dances in feathered head dresses? To burying bodies in peat bogs? These also have a long and fine tradition of producing rain. Should we try all of these ancient practices in case one of them works better? Adopting the tactic of prayer ‘because it is older’, is bad theology. Saying climate science is wrong ‘because I think so’, is bad research. And voting for the National Party is unthinking politics. (I know that is irrelevant but it seems to be part of the rural evangelical package).

Relying solely on one’s own interpretation of scripture leaves evangelical Protestants at the mercy of their own experience, their own (usually white) culture and conservative politics, and their own prejudices. No tradition means that they can read whatever texts tend to support their own reason, and ignore others that don’t. Throughout history, this means that such Christians have supported institutions such as slavery, have discriminated against women, and are actively anti-homosexual. In modern times, they have also become climate skeptics, and pro-economy-at-the-expense-of-everything-else. Social justice is an irrelevancy, and care for the foreigner and alien is non-existent.

Praying for rain? Or praying that the environmentally expensive and insular way of Western living doesn't change? Are we praying that our eyes be opened, or that they remain shut tight?

It seems to me such praying is designed to make people think they have done something—indeed, done everything that is possible. There is no sense of responsibility here, no sense that by changing our individual and collective behaviour we might just be in time to stop the worst effects of climate change happening. God helps those who help themselves, and our looming environmental disaster is not going to be prevented by divine intervention alone.