Jim's political articles that he invites you to read and respond to.
The latest discussions and topics that are being talked about.
Articles about Religion in general or recent religious news.
Check out Jim Reiher's published books.
...and for something a little lighter.
About Jim Reiher
We all know that there are two taboo topics we are not meant to talk about - Religion and Politics. But, they are two of Jim’s most passionate interests. He has been a candidate in various elections between 2004 and 2010, and he was a founding member and the first President of the Casey Multi-faith Network in 2007 (and remains an active member to this day). Jim has a Bachelors of Arts (double major in history) and a Diploma of Education, and also a Masters of Theology (with honors). In recent years he has had a number of journal articles (historical, biblical, and the gender debate) accepted and published after peer review.
‘Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God’ (Jesus, recorded in Matthew 5:9).
‘Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, in order that you may be children of your Father in heaven’ (Jesus, in Matthew 5:44,45).
Peacemaking and loving enemies is not all that in vogue these days. There is a lot of talk about terrorists out there, and evil that needs to be crushed. Some Christians justify torture to extract information from people. Others have no qualms about joining the army or fighting in wars that they are sent to by their government (any war… doing their duty….) Perhaps some or all of that is okay. Perhaps it is missing the point about being a Christian.
A lot of Christians do not reflect the pacifism of Jesus Christ. Some try to argue that he was not a real pacifist at all and that such a view is mistaken. Some teach that defensive war is acceptable, while others go further and even justify aggressive war.
Most Australians, including most Christians, would probably say that war should be the tool that is used when every other tool has been tried and failed. It should come after economic and political and sporting sanctions have been applied. It should come after the UN has done all it can to resolve the problem, and it should be done when the UN agrees that it is necessary. It should come only when the reason is just and compelling.
I wonder if I shocked any readers by implying that pacifism is the Christian ideal? Some would say that pacifism is really only for the individual, and it can never be a policy of governments. If a government tried to be pacifist, other countries would overthrow it, exploit it, dominate it. Surely the Christian position is for individuals to apply to their lives personally, as they seek to live like Christ? But not for nations. Perhaps that is so. And if that is the case, then war tends to be acceptable if it is the last resort, and if the cause is just.
This book is now my best example of how scholars go to the most desperate lengths to promote a view. It typifies how one can manipulate evidence and arguments, to promote a position, and the extremes of dogmatism that can be packaged as if it is even-handed research. The scholars who contributed to this volume know that there are many sound arguments that could have been raised against their material, but they do not tease them out with any genuine attempt to weigh the evidence. No, this book is dogmatic theology at its worst. It has an agenda to promote, and it pretends to be studying all the evidence in so doing. There are so many examples of how this particular book argues poorly, ignores evidence, and pushes a predetermined view that it is hard to decide which specific issue to highlight by way of example. But let me settle for their discussion of Junia(s) – the person mentioned in Romans 16:7. It is a manageable length in their book, allowing us to evaluate it in a relatively short article.
‘There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.’
Gordon Fee rightly sums up the major controversy about this passage when he writes: ‘Is the equity, or the oneness, of the three pairs – Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female – to be limited to the justifying work of Christ alone, or does it include other aspects of life in the believing community as well?’ These two key options are clearly at loggerheads: it is either talking about a wide application including both salvation and social relationships, or it is limited to a narrow theological application that restricts itself to our salvation alone. Every reader has to make a decision which ‘school’ they will choose to belong to.
A lot of good programs have been cut in the recent federal budget. One good program that was not cut, however, is the National Schools Funding for Chaplaincy Program.
Not cut, but definitely controversial.
Perhaps our community has reached a point of needing to talk about the place of religion in society. There are big questions that might be asked. Should governments use money to support religious activity in state schools? Or should it never be allowed? Should society try to make everyone in the community look the same? Should we become a ‘secular’ community with no mention of any faith at all in schools? Or do we want to promote multiculturalism (that acknowledges and celebrates different faith traditions)? If some say, “If parents want some religion for their kids, send them to the private religious schools”, where does that leave poorer families that might want some religious input for their children? Is that attitude discriminatory against the poor? If about 62% of Australians still mark down ‘Christian’ at census time, and about 3% are Muslim, and 2% Buddhist etc, what should we do with such numbers?
Those are huge questions. In the meantime, it is clear that they are not settled. It is also clear that the majority of Australians still claim some kind of allegiance to the Christian tradition. And so it is no surprise that Christianity will be more noticeable and more relevant to most, than any other faith—especially at critical times in the life journey when a person more often thinks of spirituality and faith questions.
That is not to dismiss the good and the valuable in other faiths. But it is currently the situation thatmost Australians—if they turn to any faith tradition in times of stress, or grief and loss—will turn to Christianity.
And right now, for the time being at least, we have a government-funded system in place that supports the presence of chaplains in state schools.
Let me say this loud and clear: chaplains do great work. Chaplains are a wonderful asset in the schools that have them. They run specific programs tailored to the needs of the school (perhaps anti-bullying programs that are targeting children who tend to be the culprits; or resilience programs that focus on the target of the bullies; grief and loss programs that work with children who have gone through recent loss; divorce recovery programs; body image programs; cyber safety programs, etc.). They do one-on-one pastoral care with children, parents and staff as required. They know when to refer on, and do so. They operate under the rules of mandatory reporting just as the teaching staff are required to. They provide care and support, and in times of crisis or grief and loss, they can provide spiritual comfort for those who want it as well. (That final aspect of their work is never pushed on anyone, and it is not the primary focus of their work – but a wonderful support when it is wanted and needed).
Let me clarify how it works, just in case you are unaware.
The popular media has had some huge moments of insanity this year (2014). Can I remind you of just three such moments?
(See if you agree with me calling it "insanity" or not):
1) A few months ago, two stories were reported one after the other on the nightly news. The first story was about the inquiry into child abuse by the Catholic Church. It highlighted how people at the time, refused to listen to the complaints of the victims. How they treated the victims with contempt and saw them as the problem. The church trusted the officials who were entrusted with overseeing children's institutions, etc. It was horrible and tragic. In the same news bulletin, on the same night, the other story was how an asylum seeker claimed he had been burnt by a Australian navy person. He showed his burn scars and explained what happened. Mr Morrison (minister for migration and border security) was interviewed separately and said "I will not speak with him; I prefer to trust the Australian Navy; Do you expect me to believe the word of an illegal immigrant over the respected naval forces?..."
"Never put off helping simply because you can't address every issue and every problem. Never put off helping because you can't help everyone who needs it. If everyone just did something, everything would get done. Do your part without regard for those with idle hands."
- Jim Reiher