Early Father’s Day Present


I ducked into the study for some work last night, just after 8pm. About an hour and a half later I came back out to the lounge and caught Tress sleeping with her new partner again. There they were on the couch and the Simon and Garfunkel tune broke out in my mind… “Oh Theresa, you’re breaking my heart…” Anyway she was curled up on the couch under a blanket and Scruffy the little black jedi, our cute ebony black 1-year old schnoodle was lying next to her, head dangling over the edge of the couch. They’ve been sleeping together recently – in that fashion. That little black twerp looked satisfied beyond belief.

I crept up, sat next to them and turned the tele on. The Footy Show was on so I watched Sam Newman rant on about Ben Cousins for a little while. Warnie was a guest too so that’s always worth a viewing. A few minutes later kiddo came out of her room – she was doing some studying too, I think – and started busying herself in the kitchen.

“What’re you doing?” I asked. “Making lunch” she said. I was delirious with that response. She usually buys lunch on Fridays so obviously something was going on. “Making what?” It turned out she was pressing on with her austerity drive in order to boost a little kitty she has started. She had embarked on a project to save Europe from its economic woes – a project for which every cent counts. She was going to save her Friday lunch money – along with other sources of income – and augment that fund.

As icing on the cake, she asked if I wanted lunch made too. I wasn’t going to let that pass so I said yes please. The sight of her packing lunch in the kitchen close to 10pm was not to be passed up without reaching for a ubiquitous mobile phone camera. No, I wont put that picture up but it’s there on my phone now – kiddo packing lunch for herself and … for me! That is certainly a fantastic early Father’s Day present for yours truly.

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Election 2010: The WOK Factor


The WOK factor now brings up news headlines everyday. Windsor (Tony), Oakeshott (Rob) and Katter (Bob) are the independent but probable members of parliament to whom the nation temporarily turns to ascertain if we’re going to blow another $170million and go to the polls again. I hope not but even if a deal can be struck soon, pundits are saying it is likely that such a government will be unstable and there is a high chance of a very early election. Democracy can be a bit of a pain at times, not to mention costly!

So What Does He Want for ICC? How do we know?


This was a response to a query on whether voting in a local church works…

Ascertaining the will of God

Ascertaining the will of God is an area many have wrestled with for a long time. Shelves (or is it megabytes these days) have been filled with such material. Sometimes it doesn’t look like we are any wiser.

I believe the texts you have cited have more to do with guidance and the will of God in terms of what we must do to lead godly lives – lives where God reigns as Lord and King – ie God wants us to have salvation – be His children. See for example verse 1 (blessed because transgression forgiven), verse 2 (blessed when God doesn’t hold us for our sins), verse 5 (acknowledgement of sin and God forgave) and verse 11 (we are righteous as a result and should rejoice). The context of Psalm 32 is therefore God’s instruction for salvation is promised.

I have copied the whole of Psalms 32 below to provide context.

Similarly Matthew 7 deals with the same subject matter. It’s part of the beatitudes which speak of being blessed in the sense which implies more than mere happiness but in a state of reconciliation with God. You will be glad I have not copied Matt 5 – 7, I’m sure it is accessible with just a few clicks of the mouse.

Therein I guess, lies the trickiness of seeking God’s will – the Bible is a book provided to instruct on God’s plan for salvation. The theme therefore is the Kingdom of God and our reconciliation with God in that Kingdom. How then do we seek instructions from a book like the Bible for decisions we have to make here on earth?

We all know God guides and He does so in all things, not just the “big” things. But how does He guide? Sometimes He speaks to us directly but for many of us that is a rarity in terms of what we are waiting to hear. He has spoken for example about how He will save us, how He will establish His Kingdom and how He wants us to be part of that Kingdom. But when I am contemplating between say, taking a job in Company A or Company B, how does He guide us? Does He still “speak” in the sense we often wish He does? How many of us wait till God “speaks” (in that sense) before we act?

This is not to say we don’t let God guide us. He does, and does so in all things.

I believe God guides us in many ways. When we use for example our minds to process information and analyse situations or circumstances is this not letting God guide us? Or are we uncomfortable with being logical and methodical and will only be comfortable that He guides only if the unnatural or illogical or abnormal or weird things happen? Are we not comfortable and secure that God has transformed our minds and hearts and souls so that when we think, feel and act according to our minds and circumstances we are still letting God guide us all the same? If I spend each day praying and reading His word and meditating on God’s word, does that not mean we are positioning ourselves in a way which will let us be guided by God even if we use our minds to process information and circumstances? Must a “voice” be audibly heard and logical thoughts and process be excluded before we can be certain we are being lead by God?

I am also confident that the way God had allowed me to say, spend my childhood in Malaysia, go to Uni in Sydney, work as a lawyer and have a wonderful family, in fact all facets of my life are God’s leading, designed for me to continue to make decisions which reflect God’s guidance. Every one of us have been lead by God in similar fashion and can safely make decisions knowing God leads even if we don’t audibly hear. It may be boringly logical and rationale but it is still being lead by God none the less.

Voting

I’ll quickly say that the law requires an organisation such as ICC to undertake a voting process. We need to demonstrate to the authorities that the decision has been put to the members to be voted on, before the integration can take place.

The law aside, is voting prohibited in the Scriptures?

There are absolute truths which must not be subject to voting. Personally for example, I believe the issue of homosexual clergy was wrongly voted by the Anglican church. It wasn’t an issue which should be subject to vote. This is an area where the majority doesn’t get to say what is right – God’s word does. If you look at the tenets of faith of major denominations (including orthodox streams other than evangelicals) you’d find many basic principles which must never ever be subject to vote. These are areas where dogmas count and God’s ways must prevail.

There will be issues and matters flowing directly from these basic principles which I further believe must also not be subject to vote as either the Scriptures have clearly taught on the issue or they are important to safeguard the basic principles.

There are nevertheless, processes and decisions which affect other areas of church life and in my mind, can be subject to vote. Imagine you have a congregation of 500 persons and the church is contemplating buying a property to (say) establish an evangelism hub/outpost. How does the church decide whether to buy or not to buy?

Revelation? Of course – one assumes church leadership already has that. The issue is simply whether to buy the property or to rent (say) or whether to buy property A or property B.

The church leadership thinks it is a good idea to buy and it should opt for Property A. What next? The constitution and the law says since the property will cost in excess of x% of the annual income or net assets of the church the general members must approve the purchase. What does the church do then? Pray, of course. What next? Pray till all 500 are convinced it is the right decision? No seller will wait for you. The church will never buy that property and if we think that means it was God’s will that it does not buy the property, we are not being truthful because it is a case where to require all 500 to be comfortable is to load the decision and tilt it one way from the word “go”. It may well be all 500 can come to the same agreement very quickly but what do you think is the more likely outcome?

Voting can be a valid mechanism to ascertain the will of God – there is no scripture to say we must not vote. Surely we don’t say for example democracy is not godly because it relies on voting. I know this is a church we are talking about and I have already made the point that in a church only where absolute truths are at stake that we must not contemplate voting as a basis for deciding. Other than that I cannot find any scripture verses which say this is not biblical.

Countless other evangelical churches (both here and in other parts of the world) make a whole range of decisions based on votes. Who are we to say they are less godly (or more worldly) because of this?

Body of Christ

No one will argue against harmony, coordination and love. That is something all churches strive for. However, why can’t we achieve harmony, coordination and love by way of submission to each other’s wills and wishes? Which harmonious family achieves harmony without someone agreeing (submitting) to the common will or common good despite not agreeing to that course of action himself/herself?

It is a sign of a matured organisation that even when some disagree, they fall in line because it is what everyone else wants and the organisation as a whole is what matters, not individual preferences. If I may be so bold (I may be well off the mark theologically speaking), can I also say that Jesus appeared not to want to go ahead with the plan for salvation? In the Garden of Gethsemane the spectre of death on the cross borne by the Son of God and King of kings must have been so grotesque that we are told our Lord perspired as though he bled. His submission to the will of the Father however, ensured the salvation plan proceeded. This submission to the will of the collective is something I must learn more of. It is demonised by western culture which is so individualistic but it is so very scriptural.

I will be very candid and say I am at peace in that whatever the outcome, I am happy to go along. If the members decide not to proceed then so be it. We simply have to go back to the drawing board and seek God again. But please note I would have voted yes and yet be at harmony with everyone else as far as this decision is concerned. I only ask everyone to likewise keep an open mind. What I want counts but what the church as a whole wants, counts even more.

Yes we want to see harmony, coordination and love but that can only be achieved with submission by those whose wills are in the minority. Unity necessarily means some of us will have to bend our wills. Jesus did. I am prepared (indeed happy to) if that is what members want come voting time. We have to of course then consider charting the next phase all over again but that discussion is for another day.

Leadership

Let me be very candid again and say part of the reason why communication and process for the integration has been short of ideal has to do with how much the leaders wrestled over the proposal when the idea was first floated. The leaders went through a long drawn process before it found itself ready to be accountable to members and recommend a course of action.

The Board has agreed to explore integration and has taken steps to facilitate this. The numerous meetings, meals, games etc have all been designed as part of the integration process.

At this stage, as a Board member, it is my recommendation that we proceed. That however is only my personal position. The choice is still with every individual member. It is again, a requirement of the law that each member of the church has the opportunity to make his or her voice heard.

I am also reminded of Joshua in his old days. Having asked the Israelites to remain faithful and serve God, he also asked that they choose whom they will serve (see Joshua 24:15). Was Joshua transferring responsibility – sort of handballing it off – to the Israelites? Individuals have always been accorded choice – we see this in many instances in the Bible.

Providing individuals with a vote – a choice – isn’t abdicating responsibility. It is recognition that you can only lead meaningfully if the wards follow submissively but willingly (I do not believe the two are mutually exclusive).

The responsibility of leaders is to identify a course of action or a path and say this is where we as leaders think we should all go. Its role is to provide that course/path and facilitate the choice. Leaders can counsel members to take a given course of action but as Joshua did, members have to be told that it is their choice. In this instance I happen to agree the law got it right in requiring members to make that choice. I don’t think it is leaders asking the flock where to go next, it is a case of leaders saying this is where we should go and according members the choice to follow.

Psalm 32:
1 Blessed is he
whose transgressions are forgiven,
whose sins are covered.

2 Blessed is the man
whose sin the LORD does not count against him
and in whose spirit is no deceit.

3 When I kept silent,
my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.

4 For day and night
your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was sapped
as in the heat of summer.
Selah

5 Then I acknowledged my sin to you
and did not cover up my iniquity.
I said, “I will confess
my transgressions to the LORD “—
and you forgave
the guilt of my sin.
Selah

6 Therefore let everyone who is godly pray to you
while you may be found;
surely when the mighty waters rise,
they will not reach him.

7 You are my hiding place;
you will protect me from trouble
and surround me with songs of deliverance.
Selah

8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you and watch over you.

9 Do not be like the horse or the mule,
which have no understanding
but must be controlled by bit and bridle
or they will not come to you.

10 Many are the woes of the wicked,
but the LORD’s unfailing love
surrounds the man who trusts in him.

11 Rejoice in the LORD and be glad, you righteous;
sing, all you who are upright in heart!

Football and FDI – Malaysian Malaise


Tengku Razaleigh talked about relegation of Malaysian football and FDI (amongst other things) and called recent government and its business cahoots thieves (of a very grand scale).

Now let’s have a discussion — Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah

July 31, 2010

JULY 31. Thank you for inviting me to speak with you. I am truly honoured. I have played some small role in the life of this nation, but having been on the wrong side of one or two political fights with the powers that be, I am not as close to the young people of this country as I would hope to be. History, and the 8 o’clock news, is written by the victors. In recent years the government’s monopoly of the media has been destroyed by the technology revolution.

You could say I was also a member of the UKEC. Well I was, except that belonged to the predecessor of the UKEC by more than fifty years, The Malayan Students Union of the UK and Eire. I led this organisation in 1958/59. I was then a student of Queen’s University at Belfast, in a rather cooler climate than Kota Bharu’s.

Your invitation to participate in the MSLS was prefaced by an essay which calls for an intellectually informed activism. I congratulate you on this. The Youth of today, you note, “will chart the future of Malaysia.” You say you “no longer want to be ignored and leave the future of our Malaysia at the hands of the current generation.” You “want to grab the bull by the horns… and have a say in where we go as a society and as a nation. “I feel the same, actually. A lot of Malaysians feel the same. They are tired of being ignored and talked down to by swaggering mediocrities.

You are right. The present generation in power has let Malaysia down.

But also you cite two things as testimony of the importance of youth and of student activism to this country, the election results of 2008 and “the Prime Minister’s acknowledgement of the role of youth in the development of the country.”

So perhaps you are a little way yet from thinking for yourselves. The first step in “grabbing the bull by the horns” is not to required the endorsement of the Prime Minister, or any Minister, for your activism.

Politicians are not your parents. They are your servants. You don’t need a government slogan coined by a foreign PR agency to wrap your project in. You just go ahead and do it.

When I was a student our newly formed country was already a leader in the postcolonial world. We were sought out as a leader in the Afro-Asian Conference which inaugurated the Non-Aligned Movement and the G-77. The Afro-Asian movement was led by such luminaries as Zhou En-lai, Nehru, Kwame Nkrumah, Soekarno. Malaysians were seen as moderate leaders capable of mediating between these more radical leaders and the West. We were known for our moderation, good sense and reliability.

We were a leader in the Islamic world as ourselves and as we were, without our leaders having to put up false displays of piety. His memory has been scrubbed out quite systematically from our national consciousness, so you might not know this or much else about him, but it was Tengku Abdul Rahman established our leadership in the Islamic world by coming up with the idea of the OIC and making it happen.

Under his leadership Malaysia led the way in taking up the anti-apartheid cause in the Commonwealth and in the United Nations, resulting in South Africa’s expulsion from these bodies.

Here was a man at ease with himself, made it a policy goal that Malaysia be “a happy country”. He loved sport and encouraged sporting achievement among Malaysians. He was owner of many a fine race horse.

He called a press conference and had a beer with his stewards when his horse won at the Melbourne Cup. He had nothing to hide because his great integrity in service was clear to all. Now we have religious and moral hypocrites who cheat, lie and steal in office but never have a drink, who propagate an ideologically shackled education system for all Malaysians while they send their own kids to elite academies in the West.

Speaking of football. You’re too young to have experienced the Merdeka Cup, which Tunku started. We had a respectable side in the sixties and seventies. Teams from across Asia would come to play in Kuala Lumpur. Teams such as South Korea and Japan, whom we defeated routinely. We were one of the better sides in Asia. We won the Bronze medal at the Asian games in 1974 and qualified for the Moscow Olympics in 1980. Today our FIFA ranking is 157 out of 203 countries. That puts us in the lowest quartile, below Maldives (149), the smallest country in Asia, with just 400,000 people living about 1.5 metres above sea level who have to worry that their country may soon be swallowed up by climate change. Here in ASEAN we are behind Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, whom we used to dominate, and our one spot above basketball-playing Philippines.

The captain of our illustrious 1970’s side was Soh Chin Aun. Arumugam, Isa Bakar, Santokh Singh, James Wong and Mokhtar Dahari were heroes whose names rolled off the tongues of our schoolchildren as they copied them on the school field. It wasn’t about being the best in the world, but about being passionate and united and devoted to the game.

It was the same in Badminton, except at one time we were the best in the world. I remember Wong Peng Soon, the first Asian to win the All-England Championship, and then just dominated it throughout the 1950. Back home every kid who played badminton in every little kampong wanted to call himself Wong Peng Soon. There was no tinge of anybody identifying themselves exclusively as Chinese, Malays, Indian. Peng Soon was a Malaysian hero. Just like each of our football heroes. Now we do not have an iota of that feeling. Where has it all gone?

I don’t think it’s mere nostalgia that that makes us think there was a time when the sun shone more brightly upon Malaysia. I bring up sport because it has been a mirror of our more general performance as nation. When we were at ease with who we were and didn’t need slogans to do our best together, we did well. When race and money entered our game, we declined. The same applies to our political and economic life

Soon after independence we were already a highly successful developing country. We had begun the infrastructure building and diversification of our economy that would be the foundation for further growth. We carried out an import-substitution programme that stimulated local productive capacity. From there we started an infrastructure buildup which enabled a diversification of the economy leading to rapid industrialisation. We carried out effective programmes to raise rural income and help with landless with programmes such as FELDA. Our achievements in achieving growth with equity were recognised around the world. We were ahead of Our peer group in economic development were South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan, and we led the pack. I remember we used to send technical consultants to advise the South Koreans.

By the lates nineties, however, we had fallen far behind this group and were competing with Thailand and Indonesia. Today, according to the latest World Investment Report, FDI into Malaysia is at about a twenty year low. We are entering the peer group of Cambodia, Myanmar and the Philippines as an investment destination. Thailand, despite a month long siege of the capital, attracted more FDI than we did last year. Indonesia and Vietnam far outperform us, not as a statistical blip but consistently. Soon we shall have difficulty keeping up with The Philippines. This, I believe, is called relegation. If we take into account FDI outflow, the picture is even more interesting. Last year we received US$1.38 billion (RM4.40 billion) in investments but US$ 8.04 billion flowed out. We are the only country in Southeast Asia which has suffered nett FDI outflow. I am not against outward investment. It can be a good thing for the country. But an imbalance on this scale indicates capital flight, not mere investment overseas.

Without a doubt, Malaysia is slipping. Billions have been looted from this country, and billions more are being siphoned out as our entire political structure crumbles. Yet we are gathered here in comfort, in a country that still seems to ‘work.’ Most of the time. This is due less to good management than to the extraordinary wealth of this country. You were born into a country of immense resources both natural and cultural and social. We have been wearing down this advantage with mismanagement and corruption. With lies, tall tales and theft. We have a political class unwilling or unable to address the central issue of the day because they have grown fat and comfortable with a system built on lies and theft. It is easy to fall into the lull caused by the combination of whatever wealth has not been plundered and removed and political class that lives in a bubble of sycophancy.

I urge you not to fall into that complacency. It is time to wake up. That waking up can begin here, right here, at this conference. Not tomorrow or the day after but today. So let me, as I have the honour of opening this conference, suggest the following:

Overcome the urge to have our hopes for the future endorsed by the Prime Minister. He will have retired, and I’ll be long gone when your future arrives. The shape of your future is being determined now.

Resist the temptation to say “in line with” when we do something. Your projects, believe it or not, don’t have to be in line with any government campaign for them to be meaningful. You don’t need to polish anyone’s apple. Just get on with what you plan to do.

Do not put a lid on certain issues as “sensitive” because someone said they are. Or it is against the Social Contract. Or it is “politicisation”. You don’t need to have your conversation delimited by the hyper-sensitive among us. Sensitivity is often a club people use to hit each other with. Reasoned discussion of contentious issues builds understanding and trust. Test this idea.

It’s not “uber-liberal” to ask for an end to having politics, economic policy, education policy and everything and the kitchen sink determined by race. It’s called growing up. Go look up “liberal” in a dictionary.

Please resist the temptation to say Salam 1 malaysia, or Salam Vision 2020 or Salam Malaysia Boleh, or anything like that. Not even when you are reading the news. It’s embarrassing. I think it’s OK to say plain old salam the way the Holy Prophet did, wishing peace unto all humanity. You say you want to “promote intellectual discourse.” I take that to mean you want to have reasonable, thought-through and critical discussions, and slogans are the enemy of thought. Banish them.

Don’t let the politicians you have invited here talk down to you.

Don’t let them tell you how bright and “exuberant” you are, that you are the future of the nation, etc. If you close your eyes and flow with their flattery you have safely joined the caravan, a caravan taking the nation down a sink hole. If they tell you the future is in your hands kindly request that they hand that future over first. Ask them how come the youngest member of our cabinet is 45 and is full of discredited hacks? Our Merdeka cabinet had an average age below thirty. You’re not the first generation to be bright. Mine wasn’t too stupid. But you could be the first generation of students and young graduates in fifty years to push this nation through a major transformation. And it is a transformation we need desperately.

You will be told that much is expected of you, much has been given to you, and so forth. This is all true. Actually much has also been stolen from you. Over the last twenty five years, much of the immense wealth generated by our productive people and our vast resources has been looted. This was supposed to have been your patrimony. The uncomplicated sense of belonging fully, wholeheartedly, unreservedly, to this country, in all it diversity, that has been taken from you.

Our sense of ourselves as Malaysians, a free and united people, has been replaced by a tale of racial strife and resentment that continues to haunt us. The thing is, this tale is false.

The most precious thing you have been deprived of has been your history. Someone of my generation finds it hard to describe what must seem like a completely different country to you now. Malaysia was not born in strife but in unity. Our independence was achieved through a demonstration of unity by the people in supporting a multiracial government led by Tengku Abdul Rahman. That show of unity, demonstrated first through the municipal elections of 1952 and then through the Alliance’s landslide victory in the elections of 1955, showed that the people of Malaya were united in wanting their freedom.

We surprised the British, who thought we could not do this.

Today we are no longer as united as we were then. We are also less free. I don’t think this is a coincidence. It takes free people to have the psychological strength to overcome the confines of a racialised worldview. It takes free people to overcome those politicians bent on hanging on to power gained by racialising every feature of our life including our football teams.

Hence while you are at this conference, let me argue, that as an absolute minimum, we should call for the repeal of unjust and much abused Acts which are reversals of freedoms that we won at Merdeka.

I ask you in joining me in calling for the repeal of the ISA and the OSA. These draconian laws have been used, more often than not, as political tools rather than instruments of national security. They create a climate of fear. These days there is a trend among right wing nationalist groups to identify the ISA with the defence of Malay rights. This is a self-inflicted insult on Malay rights. As if our Constitutional protections needed draconian laws to enforce them. I wish they were as zealous in defending our right not to be robbed by a corrupt ruling elite. We don’t seem to be applying the law of the land there, let alone the ISA.

I ask you to join me in calling for the repeal of the Printing and Publications Act, and above all, the Universities and Colleges Act. I don’t see how you can pursue your student activism with such freedom and support in the UK and Eire while forgetting that your brethren at home are deprived of their basic rights of association and expression by the UCA. The UCA has done immense harm in dumbing down our universities.

We must have freedom as guaranteed under our Constitution. Freedom to assemble, associate, speak, write, move. This is basic. Even on matters of race and even on religious matters we should be able to speak freely, and we shall educate each other.

It is time to realise the dream of Dato’ Onn and the spirit of the Alliance, of Tunku Abdul Rahman. That dream was one of unity and a single Malaysian people. They went as far as they could with it in their time. Instead of taking on the torch we have reversed course. The next step for us as a country is to move beyond the infancy of race-based parties to a non-racial party system. Our race-based party system is the key political reason why we are a sick country, declining before our own eyes, with money fleeing and people telling their children not to come home after their studies.

So let us try to take 1 Malaysia seriously. Millions have been spent putting up billboards and adding the term to every conceivable thing. We even have cuti-cuti 1 Malaysia. Can’t take a normal holiday anymore.

This is all fine. Now let us see if it means anything. Let us see the Government of the day lead by example. 1 Malaysia is empty because it is propagated by a Government that promotes the racially-based party system that is the chief cause of our inability to grow up in our race relations. Our inability to grow up in our race relations is the chief reason why investors, and we ourselves, no longer have confidence in our economy. The reasons why we are behind Maldives in football, and behind the Philippines in FDI, are linked.

So let us take 1 Malaysia seriously, and convert Barisan Nasional into a party open to all citizens. Let it be a multiracial party open to direct membership. PR will be forced to do the same or be left behind the times. Then we shall have the vehicles for a two party, non-race-based system.

If Umno, MIC or MCA are afraid of losing supporters, let them get their members to join this new multiracial party. PR should do the same. Nobody need feel left out. Umno members can join en masse. The Hainanese Kopitiam Association can join whichever party they want, or both parties en masse if they like. We can maintain our cherished civil associations, however we choose to associate. But we drop all communalism when we compete for the ballot. When our candidates stand for Elections, let them ever after stand only as Malaysians, better or worse.

Now let’s have a discussion.

* Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah’s speech at the UKEC’s Fourth Malaysian Students Leadership Seminar in Kuala Lumpur on July 31, 2010.

Julia Who?


We know Julia even less than we did Rudd. And yet, this was what I thought how much we knew Rudd almost 3 years ago, just before the last election. That entry is reproduced below

Blog entry on eve of last election (Nov 2007)

After midnight on 21/11, no electronic election campaign advertisements would be permitted. I don’t know if there is a similar blackout from the print media. On television and radio however, we would not hear anymore election campaign advertisements after tonight. Well, for the next 3 years anyway.

The last 3 Labour Prime Ministers have all been very flawed characters. By and large however, you knew who they were, before they became Prime Minister.

With Gough you knew his social agenda. It may have been the ideals of that time for state support nearing total state welfare which sounds repugnant to present thinking and his total, take no prisoner attitude as he steams ahead with his agenda may have seemed suicidal. For that he may have seemed irresponsible. He may have been an idealist, but irresponsible. Yet he made no bones about it. Everyone knew what he was on about. He didn’t try to manipulate anything to project a different image.

With Hawke it was the same thing. He was a womaniser and boozer. Yet he did not pretend to be something else. Keating continues to dish out his tongue lashings and continues to speak his mind about anything he has a view on. You always knew he would do that. I liked both Hawke and Keating. It was Keating who made it cool to appreciate antique clocks. If not for him, whenever I stepped into the antique shop of my brother in law (Daniel Ching) I would not have stopped to stare at these clocks.

Rudd however, is a different animal altogether. His public image has been a carefully crafted one. Just over a year ago I read an interview with him where he quoted Dietrich Bonheoffer extensively. He claimed to be devout Christian. I watched him spar with Joe Hockey, then the Minister for Human Services (or some ministry like that) and thought he was such an articulate, sincere and likeable man.

My perception of Rudd has changed. I now see him as someone who is prepared to lie about anything to get what he wants. Integrity is not part of his vocabulary. He’d go to a strip club and claim he’d forgotten (because he was too drunk). When I get drunk I want to sleep or pick a fight, not go to a strip club. Maybe he got drunk in the strip club, who knows? He faked things on television.

Before an audience of mainly Muslims, he would not affirm his belief in Christianity (would not say Jesus is the Son of God). How can someone hold such polarised stance? You cannot say you are a devout Christian and express agreement with Dietrich Bonheoffer’s theological writings and then cannot bring yourself to confess Jesus is the Son of God. He’d say things for years which he would not permit his team to say, if it meant being against the grain of the moment.

He appears to hold no views, sways according to popular opinion and would not tell you the truth. In fact he would lie, if that makes him look good or better. John Howard may appear to be like a grumpy old man at times and his “liberal” (read conservative a la Thatcher) views may not always be agreeable to the average wage earners (like me) but you knew where he stands.

With Rudd, his true colours may only surface if/when he becomes Prime Minister. It may mean 3 disastrous years which would take a long time to fix.

Give Us A King? No, Just A Pastor


Is ICC seeking a pastor comparable to the Israelites seeking a king towards the end of Samuel’s watch (in 1 Sam 8)?

Samuel is one of the most revered characters in the bible. One gets the sense that he was chosen and especially loved by God and God must have held Samuel in a really special place in God’s own heart. Samuel’s story of being the well loved son of Hannah – the promised son – is always a heart warming one and the story of how when Sam was a little boy God called out to him in the middle of the night is a story my ex-boss Mr Chooi often recounted with affection. Eli’s counsel that young Samuel should say “Speak Lord, your servant is listening” is advice I have sometimes heeded and applied in my own life in the middle of some nights.

Samuel was the last of the Judges of the Old Testament. He preceded Saul and kings who came after him. God chose judges such as Gideon, Deborah, Samson etc to be the bearer of God’s message, protect the Israelites and restore (somewhat) the kingdom of God.

Many of the passages which dealt with the exploits of the judges start with the words “Israel had no king” and they are followed by texts which suggested everyone did as they pleased as a result. At these times, the kingdom of God ebbed and flowed and God’s people went through phases of disobedience and suffering interspersed by periods of victory when lead by these judges.

These judges were clearly instructed by God and they obeyed Him (Gideon’s famous woolly wobbles aside). Without these judges the Israelites suffered at the hands of their tormentors (such as the Philistines). The Israelites relied on these judges for salvation and deliverance from God. They knew salvation and deliverance come from God, but they nevertheless looked to these judges to lead them towards such salvation and deliverance. Unfortunately when the Philistines leave them alone they tend to forget God and become unfaithful again, giving their allegiance to other gods (e. g construction of the Asherah poles)

Even Eli who comes across as a long suffering patriarch of some sort, had to wrestle with rebels in the form of his own sons! Samuel suffered the same problem. It reached a stage where the Israelites probably became fed-up that they could no longer rely on these judges to protect them from their tormentors.

It was in such immediate context that the Israelites began asking for a king. It was in such context that the Israelites’ demand for a king was considered rebellious and ungodly. God said to Samuel that their demand for a king was rejection not of Samuel but of God.

One should take note of Deuteronomy 17:14-20 where it says (way before Samuel’s time):

14When you enter the land the LORD your God is giving you and have taken possession of it and settled in it, and you say, "Let us set a king over us like all the nations around us," 15be sure to appoint over you the king the LORD your God chooses. He must be from among your own brothers. Do not place a foreigner over you, one who is not a brother Israelite. 16The king, moreover, must not acquire great numbers of horses for himself or make the people return to Egypt to get more of them, for the LORD has told you, "You are not to go back that way again." 17He must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray. He must not accumulate large amounts of silver and gold.

18 When he takes the throne of his kingdom, he is to write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law, taken from that of the priests, who are Levites. 19 It is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life so that he may learn to revere the LORD his God and follow carefully all the words of this law and these decrees 20 and not consider himself better than his brothers and turn from the law to the right or to the left. Then he and his descendants will reign a long time over his kingdom in Israel.

So it isn’t the act of asking for a king which displeased God – God had already told them this was going to happen. In fact the bible said it was Samuel who was displeased. There are things God said was important when they appoint a king (verses 15ff). The Israelites weren’t disobeying God and doing something which displeased God when they appointed a king, it was when they disobeyed God and rejected Him, choosing instead the gods of the land as their gods, that God is displeased. God’s displeasure was also (maybe) due to the fact that the Israelites had not yet taken possession of the land as witnessed by the constant wars they still had to fight with the likes of the Philistines. So they weren’t ready yet for a king in the manner set out in verse 14 (see above).

In considering this lesson, is ICC really asking for a king?

Of course not – instead of rejecting God and choosing other gods, ICC has been seeking instead to know God better and serve Him better. ICC considers that with a pastor, it will be better able to systematically understand the word of God and apply that knowledge and understanding in better ways and therefore be better placed to be disciples of Jesus and help others to also become disciples of Jesus. By seeking to have a pastor, ICC is in fact seeking to be better equipped to acknowledge Jesus’ kingship and allow God to be truly God and Lord. It may be said therefore that the context between the Israelites asking for a king and ICC seeking a pastor is entirely at opposite ends to each other.

I used the word “pastor” loosely, in the sense of a full time worker amongst a local church, identifying and ministering to the spiritual needs of members. I make no comments or discourse on the imports of Ephesians 4:11ff, and acknowledge the person we conveniently label a “pastor: could well be a servant in other capacity instead. That however is for another day.

If seeking a pastor is to be likened to Israelites seeking a king during Samuel’s watch, does that mean the vast majority of churches – which have pastors – are not obeying God, somehow “doing church” in a manner which displeases God?

When 1 Sam, in Chapter 8, said the Israelites were asking for a king they did so to be “like the other nations”. “The other nations” refer to the likes of the Philistines – ie non-believers, so ICC seeking a pastor is again very unlike the Israelites’ request. One may say ICC seeks to revert to type and seek a model that a vast majority of churches adopt but that in no way can be said to be ICC wanting to be “like the other nations”. The Israelites were wanting to be like other ungodly peoples; ICC is wanting to be closer to God, not like other ungodly people.

I am confident that we are not displeasing God by seeking to have a pastor. It is in no way akin to the Israelites seeking a king in the manner of 1 Sam 8. As always, we need to be clear in our minds when we seek to draw lessons from the Bible. The better approach is to seek the bible as a starting point and not arrive at a position first and then seek biblical support for our position.

Oh Danny Boy


“Pray and act accordingly” alludes to exhortations in the bible for (particularly) the Israelites to repent, turn to God and live godly lives. The many instances of God likening Israel to an unfaithful wife for example, is a call of similar nature ie to turn back to God in repentance and live godly lives. That is the consistent theme running through the bible.

“Pray and act accordingly” is not, never has been and never will be a command by God for us to vote in a particular way in a country’s general election. To use that phrase and disguise one’s own preferences with a biblical call is to mislead and teach wrongly.

Danny Nalliah was wrong in 2007. When I first heard his “prophecy” in late 2007 I was as excited as thousands of Christians in Australia. I wanted John Howard to be returned to office. I have admired John Howard since my student days, when Howard was still trailing in the shadows of Bob Hawke, Paul Keating and even Andrew Peacock. I am also a great admirer of Peter Costello. I often regret and lament his absence from the Liberal and Coalition leadership.

Even though I wondered why Danny Nalliah attached the condition “if the people of God prayed and act wisely” (words to that effect) I sincerely believed his prophecy.

When he turned out to be wrong, I was willing to forget it. I would say Danny Nalliah was not a prophet and he should maybe continue his work as a pastor. He appears to be a good preacher so maybe he would stay within what God appears to have called him to do. I thought he would disappear from providing any leadership in terms of socio-political issues. I had thought well of him during the days when he was prosecuted under the anti vilification laws so I had only good thoughts of him then.

However he began to defend his so called prophecy by blaming Christians and church leaders instead. Apparently it was the fault of Christians and church leaders that the “prophecy” wasn’t fulfilled. Was it truly a prophecy or simply his thoughts which are reflections of his personal preferences for conservative politics? I cannot recall any prophecy in the scriptures where such conditions were attached. Danny Nalliah acted more like a pedestrian lawyer with an exit clause for quick release, than a prophet with a clear message from God. As many have said previously, if we were living in Old Testament days, Danny Nalliah would have been stoned to death for being a false prophet.

Danny Nalliah has continued the work of demonizing left politics. He is more an echo of American styled right wing politics than a servant of God. Danny Nalliah questioned if anyone who votes Labor can truly be considered as having a proper relationship with God. If this is not false teaching I would have to truly question every single evangelistic sermon I have ever heard. “Repent and Vote Conservative and you will be saved”, is what the likes of Billy Graham should have probably preached.

Why anyone would choose to give Danny Nalliah anymore time of day (for socio political matters) is really beyond me.

He would not entertain anyone who questions him in any way at all. His website famously would not post any comments which have anything remotely against him or question him and his website contents, no matter how innocuous and factual those questions may be. I suppose his excuse and guise is he does not want to be discouraged from fighting on for the Lord. My guess is he cannot stomach a true discourse of how to engage the world without compromising his beliefs. He simply does not know how to engage the world. He needs to be praying for wisdom, and forget about all the stuff he writes about anything concerning politics or social commentaries. He needs to appreciate facts and truth based on facts, a lot more.

Danny Nalliah is already a notorious target for saying the bushfires of 7 February 2009 is a result of ungodly laws passed by the Victorian parliament. Danny Nalliah is suffering as a social pariah and clown not because of his faith in Jesus but because of his own folly. Danny Nalliah is often incoherent and mixed up in his views and commentaries. Danny Nalliah cannot be trusted to provide leadership when it comes to representing the church or Christians. He cannot distinguish between pure and honest discourse and outright support. In the world of Danny Nalliah, to accord respect to a person and let him or her speak is to support and agree with that person. That is childish and immature and betrays old seated feudalistic baggage. When he goes on to chastise Christian leaders for doing this and implies that congregations of such leaders should throw such leaders out, he betrays a mindset and attitude that is scheming and manipulative and the mala fide nature that needs to be weeded out.

This is not about supporting Julia Gillard, in case Danny needs anymore spelling out. It is about setting out the facts clearly and fairly. It is about understanding the views of Australians who prefer Labor and engaging them from a Christian perspective. Equally, it is about engaging Australians who vote Conservative to see if they too can start to impart elements of compassion and fairness in their policies. These too are tenets of the Judeo Christian legacy and which are too often given the short stick by Conservative policies.

For a start, Danny Nalliah and his fans can maybe avoid what appears to be vitriol and have a look instead at: http://www.markconner.typepad.com

Context Please


It has been said many times, that “text without context is pretext”. At the expense of sounding dismissive and/or patronising, I believe recent prolific references (by individuals in my church) to verses in the bible belong in this category.

One has a thought and looks for verses or even passages to give meaning to that thought. Often this sequence of seeking the Lord ends up in a confusing message, especially if the person concerned has the view that somehow he (or she) is a “spiritual person” so the thoughts he (or she) has had and the bible verses he (or she) has managed to find must be given the fullest attention by those around him.

Often this person cannot articulate what the meaning and application of those thoughts are and will be at pains to draw out the relevance of the bible passages quoted. When asked about the contexts of those passages, they revert to the dogmatic position that those thoughts are “from the Holy Spirit” and must therefore (by implication of course – this is never said outright) be given the fullest attention. The clear disconnect with the bible verses or passages are then left aside.[1]

With respect, this is inching closer to cult practices, where a cult leader would insist what he heard is from God and no one is to question that “voice” no matter how remote or irrelevant it is to the situation at hand.

I do not ordinarily dismiss such tendencies. If one thinks he has heard from God so be it. That however is a personal experience and should be kept within the bounds of a personal journey that person has with God. If the personal experience is to be imposed on the congregation it becomes another matter.

Such imposition must only take place if the church has clearly strayed away from clear biblical truths or teachings. In this regard, if the bible is silent on a given decision, then it is a decision the persons entrusted with the responsibility of leading may make by taking into account all relevant circumstances. Individuals’ personal bends aren’t the determinant of these decision especially if the thoughts or preferences arising from these tendencies are remote and do not bear on the decision to be made and run counter to what the rest of the congregation thinks best.

1. It is like those verses or passages have a character of “funtus officio” and no longer need be considered. It is then conveniently forgotten that those verses did not actually support the thoughts (because they are wrongly used) so those thoughts remain the private thoughts of that person.

Parking on the Westgate


Tress and I tracked up to Point Cook yesterday (Sunday), to see a newborn of her cousin’s. U Jin became a grandfather for the first time about over a week ago. Adam and Faye’s firstborn was named Tian Ming and by all accounts he was a cute little baby.

We took off a bit after 3.30 and when we hit the Westgate we came to a grinding halt. A bad accident had happened just a few minutes earlier but by the time we saw the notice, it was too late. We were stuck. For the next hour, we made our way through the bridge on a crawling pace. I remarked to Tress that we should take the opportunity to take in the view of the Westgate from a stationary point, something we (thankfully) dont get to do too often.

We eventually got to U Jin’s. We shared a bite with them, saw the baby and left just before 7pm. The trek back was a lot smoother and we made our way home in under an hour, even though we cut through the city through Punt and Hoddle instead of using the M1.