The Balfour Declaration: 100 years on
One hundred years ago today, the British Government issued the Balfour Declaration, a statement which supported “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people”. Christadelphians who expected the Jews to be supported by the British in a return to the land of Israel immediately seized on it, particularly since the British were advancing against the Ottoman Empire through Palestine. They have continued to view it as important, though I’m not sure how much effect it had on the formation of the state of Israel.
500 years of reformation
Five hundred years ago today, Martin Luther nailed 95 theses to the door of the Castle Church at Wittenburg, defiantly signalling the beginning of the Protestant Reformation and the end of the Catholic Church’s domination of the Christian world. Forthwith, believers would be free to study the scripture by themselves, and to be reconciled to God by faith without requiring the Church as an intermediary. Now is a time for believers to celebrate the importance of the Reformation and the advancement of the unity of the gospel.
That’s the story, anyway. Like much history, the reality is perhaps a bit more prosaic. Some thought Luther went too far and worked to have him excommunicated, while other reformers thought he didn’t go far enough and retained too many Catholic inventions. My own denomination thought that the Reformation wasn’t far enough back, and that we should return to the teachings of the first century church to better reflect True Christianity. Holy Wars were kindled, and an earnest desire for truth led to division (a story that has played out many times since).
My favourite presentation
Ten years ago today, our third year software engineering team did our final presentation. Since then, I have done many presentations with a variety of visual aids, but that presentation remains my favourite visual aid.
Books for doubters
In my previous post, I talked about the difficulty of being stuck in limbo by doubts that could not be resolved. Here is a list of some of the books that helped me out of that trap. They are the books that I wish I had read earlier (though I’m not sure I would have accepted their message earlier).
Many Christians say that the worst thing you can do when encountering difficulties is to stop attending church and cut yourself off from the community. And there is probably some sense to it: you don’t want to give up at the first hurdle.
But this philosophy kept me bogged in damaging doubts for years. My whole foundation had crumbled, and nothing made sense any more. I was still attending, but my doubts were so strong that no message in the church had the power to move me. Any weak arguments would remind me of the problems I saw and drive me further away.
Eventually it became clear to me that hanging on was useless as it couldn’t return me to faith. A sense of community was no substitute for truth, and I needed to leave to be true to myself.
So you want to see Australian animals in the wild?
In the last year, I have seen a large number of Australian birds and animals in the wild while walking, and have had people ask me how to get that to happen. Unfortunately, I don’t have any magic solutions, but here’s my experience with a little advice, some stories, and lots of photos.
Bringing the tourist spirit home
When I put my “tourist” hat on, I become a different person. Untied by work or family obligations, with personal life largely on hold, I am free to search out the best experiences. For others, a holiday may be relaxing - for me it is a full-time occupation (though sometimes relaxing too!)
When I return home, I resume normal life with its obligations, and also with the laziness that makes it much easier to sit in my house talking to my computer all weekend than getting out and doing something. This frustrates me, because I know there are plenty of fascinating places in Melbourne that I’ve never visited. I’m sure if I were a tourist I would spend more time seeking out those places.
A year ago, I returned from three months spent in the UK and Switzerland - long enough to make me pine for gum trees. When I got back, I made a commitment that I would try to bring a little more of that tourist spirit into my day-to-day life. It’s not the first time I’ve made that particular commitment, but this time I actually took steps to make it happen.
Last weekend, I attended a Harry Potter Day at Federation Square, organised as part of the Melbourne Writers Festival. It celebrated 20 years since the initial publication of the Philosopher’s Stone, and considered how much the series had changed the world. Many of those there were not even born when the books were first published, and yet current evidence suggests they are now ardent fans. There were costumes galore, wands, and a general buzz of excitement.
Fiction changes lives.
Compassion and the sacred texts
Last month I attended an Australian Youth Orchestra concert. It included a performance of the Compassion song cycle by Nigel Westlake and Lior Attar, which is music I would highly recommend (their album won the 2014 ARIA Best Classical Album award).
The song cycle includes Arabic and Hebrew texts on compassion, drawn from the Tanach, the Mishnah, and the Hadith. As a result, some have suggested that it could reach across barriers in the Middle East, and remind Jews and Arabs of their shared values. But that got me thinking: How much can a few brief passages really express the main message of a sacred text?
Tales from the Pennine Way
This time last year I was in the middle of walking the Pennine Way. I’ve already written an overview of the experience, but in this post I want to give a feel of some of the many experiences on a long and varied trail.
This post covers the first half of the walk, from Edale to Middleton-in-Teesdale, where I left the trail for an unscheduled injury break. The second installment can wait until mid-August when I resumed the trail.