1 Kings 8:1, 6, 10-11, 22-30, 41-43; John 6: 56-59

There’s a famous episode in the TV series Yes, Prime Minister, when Jim Hacker is complaining to his private secretary, Bernard Woolley, about an economic crisis that has forced the government to make drastic spending cuts.  Why, Hacker demands, has the Cabinet secretary, the infamous Sir Humphrey Appleby, not warned him about the pending crisis.  To which Bernard replies that Sir Humphrey doesn’t understand how the economy works because he studied classics at university.  Then what about the Treasury secretary, Hacker insists; surely he should have warned the government.  Bernard, however, replies that the Treasury secretary understands even less about the economy – he, afterall, studied economics at university. Continue reading “1 Kings 8:1, 6, 10-11, 22-30, 41-43; John 6: 56-59”

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Matthew 18: 1-5; 25:31-45

I’d like to share with you two photographs that floated across my computer screen this week.

The first photo was taken at the exact moment the Federal Parliament in Canberra voted to reinstate mandatory offshore processing of asylum seekers, including their detention in Nauru and on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea.   On the left of the picture you see all the members of the Federal Government and the Opposition, as well as a couple of independent MPs, voting in favour of the measure.  On the right you have only two MPs – the Member for Melbourne and an independent MP from Tasmania – voting against the measure.

I show you this picture not because I am about to deliver a party-political on the issue of asylum seekers.  I don’t know what your views are, and frankly, I’m not about to tell you mine.  I do note, however, the well-documented fact that when offshore processing was last instituted by the Federal Government, those who were subjected to this regime routinely suffered from severely adverse outcomes, including the deterioration of their mental health and the infliction of physical self-harm.  So the effect of the parliamentary vote this week is to return asylum seekers – some of the most vulnerable and victimised people on the planet – to a regime where they are at severe risk of psychological and physical damage. Continue reading “Matthew 18: 1-5; 25:31-45”

John 6: 35, 41-51

I don’t know if you’ve seen it or not, but this photograph has been much in the news this week.  Taken by American photographer Hannah Stonehouse Hudson, it depicts her friend John Unger and his dog, Schoep, taking a summer’s afternoon dip in Lake Superior.  But this is more than a picture of a man and his dog: if you look carefully, you’ll see that Schoep is asleep, and that Unger is keeping him afloat.What’s going on here? According to Hudson, Schoep, who is 19, suffers from painful arthritis, the discomfort from which makes it extremely difficult for the dog to sleep.  So every evening in the Summer months, Unger takes him out into the waters of Lake Superior; the warmth of the water, combined with its buoyancy, relieves Schoep’s pain to the extent that he is able to sleep[1].

It’s a beautiful and moving photo, and not simply because it captures a moment in time: rather, it reveals something of the nature of the relationship between Unger and Schoep.  As Hudson herself has stated in respect of this photograph, it shows that two elements are present: the love which Unger has for Schoep, and which motivates him to relieve the animal’s pain; and the trust which Schoep displays toward Unger, being prepared to go to sleep in his arms in water, despite what must be powerful instinctual urges to remain awake[2]. Continue reading “John 6: 35, 41-51”

2 Samuel 11:26-12:15

I don’t know if you saw this in the news or not, but earlier this week the BBC’s editorial standards board determined that Jeremy Paxman, presenter of the popular BBC television program Newsnight, had made offensive comments about religion[1].  The comments came during an interview between Paxman and well-known atheist Richard Dawkins, in which Paxman had referred to “religious hogwash” and “stupid people who believed the Old Testament”.  The BBC ruled that while Paxman had not deliberately intended to be offensive, his remarks were offensive because they lacked a clear editorial point.  The BBC subsequently issued an apology for any offence caused. Continue reading “2 Samuel 11:26-12:15”