Month: March 2010

On The Road #44: Heaven, Hell & New Creation

On The Road: Journal of the Anabaptist Association of Australia and New Zealand #44 has hit the newsstands! For those who came in late, I’m the editor.

Some great articles with a wide range of perspectives on eschatology, and some other good contributions.

Download it here as a pdf: otr_44

To subscribe, send me an email – nathanhobby at gmail.com

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The Office and The Gospel of Matthew: Venting and Truthtelling

Yesterday I watched an episode of The Office where the inept boss, Michael, discovers that all his staff have been complaining about each other to the Human Resources officer. The HR officer takes down some notes and files it away; usually the person goes away feeling listened to and better for having vented. But Michael wrenches the file of complaints off the HR officer and announces to the whole office that they are going to bring all these conflicts out into the open and deal with them properly – face to face. It has disastrous consequences. Instead of breeding a new climate of honesty and understanding, everyone rehashes the small annoying things they can’t stand about each other. And some people discover enemies they didn’t know they had.

It brought to mind my Matthew 18 fixation of a few years ago and left me further mired in doubt about the effectiveness of what I believe. In Matthew 18:15-20, Jesus tells us that if our brother or sister sins, we should go sort it out with them face to face. John Yoder is hardline in his interpretation of this, both in the binding and loosing section of Body Politics and an essay of the same name in another book. He says that it applies to all offences – not just major ones, and not just ones committed against us.

There’s profound truth in the idea that it’s bad to go complaining about people behind their backs, while pretending everything’s okay to their face. It breeds nastiness and bitterness and corrupts us against each other.

Yet ‘venting’ also seems to work. It’s too traumatic being completely honest with each other all the time. You get mired in the minor. (Unless you learn to be more gracious.) Personality differences cause friction. They’re mostly not worth confronting each other about.

I haven’t found a solution. I try to not let things annoy me, and I try not to complain about people to other people. I don’t always live up to it.

Peter Singer

I’m yet to read Peter Singer, but an interview with him in Saturday’s Australian magazine caught my attention. He writes:

Some things that many people consider unknowable I believe we do already understand quite well – for example, that the universe was not created by a divine being, and that there is no survival after death.

It hurts me to read these sentences, and see the world through his eyes for a moment. He doesn’t find such a world at all bleak, but I do. His certainty shocks me; does he really feel there is a consensus around these two things? Or maybe he’s not talking about consensus, but the certainties that people with the right conclusions or assumptions can ‘understand quite well’. (The ‘we’ is all people denuded of their theistic delusions.)

I find it hard to understand why most people in the world don’t have existential dread hanging over their heads in response to these two questions; most people seem to live blithely, with trite answers to both. Yet the whole mode of our living hangs on both answers. As St Paul says, if Christ is not risen we are to be pitied more than anyone.

His interview concludes with the side of Singer I heartily agree with: ‘Try to make a difference to the world. It’s the most fulfilling way to live.’ (Actually, probably living in existential dread is not a good way to make a difference to the world.) I remember when his latest book came out, a review talking about how he lives on a basic amount of money and gives the rest away. I admire him for that.