Apologetics, and making disciples.

A reply to a comment that I made several years ago on UnkleE’s blog popped up in my email the other day, concerning a debate about the existence of God and the argument that rejecting god is an act of faith in itself. I wrote;

“… I was always exaspected (sic) by the argument that the position I was taking was one of faith or belief in itself. Someone had invented an imaginary idea and I thought that they were delusional. If I came to visit you in Sydney and said ‘look, I’ve brought my gold and sparky unicorn with me, here she is’, You would say ‘Eva, there is no unicorn there but would you like a coffee and a scone?’ And we would have a nice afternoon. Your denial of my pet would not constitute a whole belief system on your part- it would just be a simple ‘no it’s not’.

Now I felt this before I officially identified as a Christian, and I still firmly believe it. I don’t think that not believing in God is a belief system. Not believing in something is just that… the absence of something.

But I guess this essentially sums up my feeling for most apologetics arguments. I just don’t find them very persuasive. Has anyone ever been argued into faith? Maybe this suits some personality types. Not me though. For me faith was and is a matter of personal experience. It’s not about logic, or reason, it’s a heart movement; both unpredictable and god-led.

So, where does this leave me in regards to the Great Commission? Making disciples of all nations?

Well, it leaves me in a pretty ordinary position, really, if it actually means arguing with people until they see your point of view. Because that always works so well, doesn’t it? People love being told that you don’t agree with them, and that you should take on their world view.

Maybe though it’s not about debate and countering arguments. Maybe it’s about putting our faith into action. How we live rather than what we say.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’There is no commandment greater than these.

And I think that one of the best places to practice loving your neighbor as yourself is in a high school. My GOD teenagers test you. And now, just to add some interest to my year, we have…holocaust deniers.

I actually can’t think of another world view that I find more reprehensible that holocaust denial. As my readers would know, I’m particularly passionate about teaching teenagers about the holocaust. I avoided the topic for years myself, refusing to even read the details about what happened, in an effort to shield my own heart. But eventually I realised that I needed to fully interact with the stories and the evidence of the holocaust in order to be able to teach it in a way that comes even close to doing it justice.

So I got into the topic deeply. Too deeply, I guess. It’s often one of the things that keeps me awake at night. And I feel the pressure of really, really making 15-16 year old understand it; how poisonous the beliefs were behind it, how eagerly a people took on its tenants and how utterly and totally the world must be alert to the mindsets that caused it to grow in the first place.

And I always teach holocaust denial as part of the unit, because those people are so fucking clever, with their seemingly rational arguments and their flash websites. I can see why a kid with a chip on his shoulder and an internet connection could believe all the toxicity.

This year, for the first time, I teach students who profess to be holocaust deniers.

And I have to love them. Because they are confused kids who need someone to hate because their lives aren’t that great. And after one told me that the Jews have exaggerated it all to get attention, was I temped to tell him that his name is pretty much as Jewish as you can get? Yes I was but I didn’t. And when the 16 year old who is taller than me and often under the influence of drugs yelled out in my class while I was teaching that 6 million Jews didn’t die, that it was a holohoax and that he was a fascist, I treated him calmly and with respect because first. that is my job and secondly, if I had made fun of him or sent him out of the class then what would he have remembered? And what would the class have remembered?

(What I actually did was offer him the floor to state his arguments. As I said, I teach the deniers arguments anyway so I asked him  if he would like to present them rather than me. He declined, but the offer was genuine. I would have rebutted them thoroughly mind you)

Last week one of my students sat down to have a chat with me. There are a lot of kids with a lot of different issues at my school, and it’s not uncommon to make someone breakfast because they have slept in their car, or that someone will come to school stoned after pulling 6 cones to start the day. And if that’s what your life is like? Well you’re not going to arrive at 9 am with a sharpened pencil and a mind ready to study the Schlieffen Plan. So sometimes a chat to start the day is the way to go. And this was one of those occasions.

Anyway, we were talking and he asked me what else I would do if I wasn’t a teacher. I said that I’d probably like to be a chaplain. And of course we ended up on the familiar ‘you don’t seem like a Christian’ page, so I gave a little 30 second version of things. And he asked about a street preacher that spouts fire and brimstone in town, and whether I thought he (the student) was going to hell , and what did I think about and drugs and gays and all that complex stuff and why did I believe?? And I told him that I don’t have any choice but to believe, because that is how my heart is calibrated now. And it makes me happy. And it’s just all about loving people.

Later on, he came back in and asked if he could write down a song that he wanted me to listen to, because it was about what we had been discussing, and he thought about it a lot. And then he asked if he could google it for me. And then it turned into him wanting to listen to it with me. He really wanted me to hear it. And I’m so glad that I did.

(Language warning. Seriously)


Read the lyrics here.

So I sat there, with a young man who uses too many drugs, who is trying to make sense of the world. And there’s me who is also just trying to make sense of the world and not always doing a great job, watching this amazing song that brought tears to my eyes because this hip-hop artist is rapping a lament that could be a psalm, and is about hope and disappointment and pleading for some certainty or just something to hang on to. And haven’t we all been there, crying out for help or just something to save us from a hopeless choice or the idea that we are going to end up abandoning not just God but life itself as well.

After we had watched it, he turned to me and asked ‘I know what he is talking about. I want to believe in god but I just don’t know and I don’t see any proof but I think that there is something.  I bet you feel like that sometimes too?’ and I replied ‘Absolutely. The Bible is full of questions and searching. I think God would totally be on board with that song’.

As he left the classroom, he said ‘Don’t worry too much about (his close friend who is one of the deniers). I don’t think he really understands what he’s talking about and how bad it is. I think he just wants to shock people. He likes you though’.

So, me and making disciples? Not so much. Making people feel that they are important and valuable people and that they are listened to? Trying to emulate a loving God who manifests unconditional acceptance and will show up day after day no matter how unlikable we are? Trying to take a grain of that, and make it happen in my own life?

That I can try to do. I can’t make disciples in the sense of using apologetics as a tool for winning a debate. But I can try to love people that my ego doesn’t always want to love and I can just keep coming back, realizing that I may not always know what’s going on, but sometimes my actions may be just a little stitch in a big tapestry that one day, I might be able to understand.

Spot the Douglas Adams quote (or ‘I find it really difficult to come up with post titles’).

For some reason, this post from February 2014 has been getting a lot of hits lately. No idea why it’s being read again, but I thought I’d repost it anyway.

I had a conversation with someone the other day in which I was completely wrong.

Which is, and I realise that I run the risk of sounding like a bit of a wanker here, quite unusual. That’s not because I am wise and all knowing and a total pantomath but more because I very very rarely argue fervently on position unless I am totally certain that I’m right.

The conversation was about faith*, in a general sense and I swore absolutely blind that atheists don’t just think that there are no God/ gods but are actually materialists too, and that being an atheist means that you have no truck with the soul/ghosts/NDEs or any of that woo-woo type stuff.

The person I was speaking to apparently found this very illuminating and, convinced by my earnest explanation, decided that I must be totally right. So imagine my surprise and embarrassment when later in the day I picked up a book and discovered that atheism and materialism are not synonymous.

I know that when I decided that there wasn’t a god and became an atheist, I absolutely became a materialist as well. I realised that if I was going to reject the fantasy of God then I was also going to also abandon the belief in all the accouterments that I felt went along with it; souls, ghosts, ESP, reincarnation and the like. From what I remember I thought it was bloody obvious that the rejection of one would involve the rejection, domino like, of all the rest.

In fact I clearly remember thinking ‘Well if God doesn’t exist then neither do ghosts! Now I can go to graveyards at night!’. I can see why I made that assumption. It makes sense to me that if you are going to reject God due to claims of rationality and a lack of scientific proof then surely it does make more sense for all atheists to be materialists. But hey, I’m no poster child for rationality, I’ve just decided that the weight of evidence falls in favour of reincarnation.

So I’m a little surprised now to realise that I was actually wrong and that an atheist can still believe in say, reincarnation. Actually it turns out that a close friends of mine does take this position- she believes in reincarnation and the power of prayer but not God. So technically she is an atheist. But she believes in the soul.


So anyway I had to ring my friend and admit that I’d been totally wrong and he said that he’d been re-thinking reality in light of my very convinced sounding claims and I thanked him for thinking so highly of my apocryphal, or at least wildly inaccurate claims and there was laughter all round.


Of course when it all boils down, it doesn’t matter what you believe or how you label yourself. Just that^.

*(not my faith of course because that’s something that I just don’t discuss with people because a) no ones interested and… no, that’s it. I don’t know anyone in real life who likes to talk about faith. Hence; blog

Can you help Manus guys contact their families?

Sister Jane Seeks Asylum

There is an urgent need for phone credit

so the young men can contact their families. Supporters have been working on this for some time but there are 900 men and never enough to go around. Our goal is to get one phone credit top up each to just over 100 people on our initial list of those in need.

If you can help please contact our Manus Lives Matter team working through myself, some of the churches in Canberra and specific Pakistani and Sri Lankan friends on Manus. Our contacts have been known to us for some time and have taken on the responsibility of ensuring our project is fair and meets as many of the most needy as possible. All are needy but there are some who have not received support in their three years in this prison. Our project includes some on Lorengau who are living in real…

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The Examen and Gratitude

This was a short tutorial piece that I wrote last week. Some may find it thought provoking, although I don’t provide a lot of context as I present it as it was submitted, and the lecturer obviously has prior understandings.

St Ignatius was one of the first stops on my faith journey when I was wondering what ‘this God thing’ was all about. I see discernment, and Ignatian prayer as both important, because they are real-life ‘tools’; mechanisms that we can use both for ourselves, and when we are seeking to help others find their own ways through life.

While theoretical underpinnings are vital, it’s important to learn the actual skills we will need in  a possible future ministry career, and while I don’t know what is taught in other units, if its anything like teaching, we often do not learn actual practical skills until we are on the ground, so the speak. This lecture reminded me that I need to revisit St Ignatius as I think that his ideas are very real-world applicable.

‘Gratitude’ is huge amongst my networks at the moment; Instagram, Facebook, and journalling communities, both faith based and secular, have been extolling the virtues of making gratitude a deliberate part of our lives for several years now.

Gratitude is, of course, built into the Examen, the Ignatian prayer.  The second of five steps that asks us to see the day as a gift from God and give thanks for it. But, in a circular fashion, the very act of practising thanks help us see the good; ‘the Examen instils gratitude (1)’ It’s now seen as having a host of mental and physical benefits (2) but the virtues of this concept were being extolled at least 450 years ago.

While the act of practising gratitude seems to be useful and life affirming however it is performed, would extra layers be added if people practised the whole Examen? Looking at what happened through the day. Where we shone, but also where we can do better; where we fell short of the standards that we set for ourselves. Is practising gratitude on its own enough, or is it somehow symptomatic of ‘me’ culture, just looking at what life serves us that we find pleasing. Maybe, when we hear people say that they ‘don’t know how to pray’ (as I hear often), we should be offering the Examen as a first point of call.

[1] Manney, Jim, A simple life changing prayer, Loyola Press, 2011, 36.

[2] http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/expandinggratitude/

What we mean when we think about God

As far as I understand it, the idea of God being an old man with a beard who smites people either because of his own capriciousness or at the request of others, is held by two belief extremes; the atheists who think that all Christian see the Bible as being literally true, and the fundamentalists who actually do see the Bible as being literally true (please see note below). Both of these conceptions are damagingly limited. I know that when I was an atheist, I certainly assumed that any belief in God involved a ‘him’ to start with, with human characteristics. Because of course we would have to label something as transcendent and ephemeral as the life force of the Universe in those terms. We humans are not very good at getting our head around things unless we can label them and put them in a box, are we?

I think that how we each define God probably says a lot about how we see our faith, too. My own view of God has changed hugely over the last decade or so. And now I’m probably most comfortable than I’ve ever been with my conception of God; that of, ‘I don’t really know exactly…’.

There’s a quote which I can’t remember exactly (please let me know if you do) which says something along the line of the people of the old days were smart enough to understand that the Old Testament was allegory and myth and story, but today we seem to have gone backwards and we have groups who believe that it is literally true. Sounds like is could be Spong. Or Rohr. But it’s not how the OT was intended to be read.

I think the reality of God, the he/she/it is too tricky for us to get our head around, so we have to tell stories and invent out own parameters to understand it truly. So using a female pronoun is just as valid as a male pronoun, because it’s all a construction anyway. ‘A force that emits love’ probably isn’t catchy enough to get converts. My favourite phrase is Ruach Elohim which is more the spirit, or the breath, of God. I think it’s beautiful.

But there are probably as many conceptions of the universal life force that is ‘God’ as there are minds on the planet.

What do you think of when you think about God?

Note; In the comment section, Ruth asked an important clarifying question that brought to light a problem with how that sentence could be interpreted. My usage of the word THE (the atheists, the fundamentalists) was meant to imply that not ALL people within those groups think that way. If I’d meant ‘all’, I would have said ‘atheists’ without the qualifying ‘the’. But I can completely see how it could be read in the other way, and thank Ruth for bringing it to my attention.

Blast from the Past…

I know that the ‘Was she even ever an atheist’ conversation is long behind us and noone wants to waste their time discussing it any more but this week I reconnected with a man that I dated during the 90s. A series of serendipitous circumstances led to his finding me on Facebook ( he saw photos of me and the family in a house for sale and decided to see what I’m up to these days). It was an amicable break up and it was great to chat. During the conversation I thought I should mention my faith, because our joint atheism was something that was important to us back in the day…



Does not compute? I totally understand what he means!

So, he married a Christian, and I’ve become one. Oh how the mighty have fallen 😉

Tidying Up.

I’ve been spring cleaning a bit. I’ve got rid of the ‘Reading Aspirations’ page, because I’d forgotten that it existed (and it was dull), and added a photo to the ‘About Me’. I’m experimenting with adding my Instagram but may decide that was a bad idea quite soon. I’ve also added a comment policy finally (after 2500 comments!) as I’ve realised that I don’t need to make apologies for having certain standards. This, of course, means that I hate free speech and rule with a trigger happy ban hammer, so be warned*. It seems as though we have moved into an internet culture where saying that ‘I will not stand for being called X or Y’ is the new pariah. Those who rail against ‘political correctness’ are also those who seem most affronted that their ‘freedom of speech’ is being curtailed.  Spoiler; that’s not what freedom of speech means.

I’ve read some great articles over the last few weeks; that have made me smile or think or furrow my brow. Presented here, for your consideration but without comment…

The Moral Bucket List

Rob Bell on Life and Faith

The Growth of No Religion

“Re-examining Monica, Marica, Tonya and Anita, the ‘scandalous’ women of the 90s”


*And yes, some people will think I’m being serious. I’ll pray for them 😉 .

Everyday Lucky.

Forgive me some self indulgence, but there’s nothing like spending a few days sick in bed to make you grateful for all the wonderful things that surround you. I get sick very very seldom, and getting hit by a nasty bug last week (Dr- you can’t go to work for a week. Me- Oh my GOD they are going to be crabby with me!. Dr- No they won’t. People find shingles repulsive. They’re not going to want to be around you) made me realise just how much I rely on my good health and my ability to do all the things for all the people, all the time.

But now I’m up and have makeup on for the first time since Saturday I’m just feeling full of love and gratitude (kind of like a drunk guy with all the ‘I love you man’s) and want to take a moment to reflect on all the things that are amazing about my life. This year has been tough with Jasper’s surgery and all, but as we have always said, since the day he was born, it could be so much worse. 

Now there’s none of that #soblessed crap here. Many of these things stem from the pure chance that I was born in a developed country. I’m so happy to be an Australian, with all the freedom that offers. Living in Australia provides medical care and education and welfare for those who need it and so many other things that we take for granted but other countries only aspire too. And of course, the opportunity to vote in two months in an attempt to elect a government that truly cares about the needy and vulnerable in society is a right that we should never over look.

I have an amazing husband. Who is good with money. And who is patient. And who is a great father. And doesn’t criticise whatever plan I’ve just come up with…

Children who are just the most amazing little people I’ve ever met, and who I wake up excited to see every morning (which usually happens immediately as often there is one sleeping nose to nose with me).

A job I adore. Teaching has to be one of the best careers anyone could choose. I’m constantly glad that the ‘oh god, I guess I’d better be a teacher’ decision 20 years ago panned out so well. And the fact that my hours mean that I have a chance to volunteer in the community too- many people just cant do that because there just aren’t enough hours in the day.

Beautiful and supportive extended family. I’m so lucky to have a sister who is my best friend, parents who are still alive and I see most days and even a 95 year old grandmother.

I live in a beautiful part of the world, in a cosy and creative home. I mean, look at what I wake up to every morning…


Enough money to feel and clothe my children. Enough to give to others in need. Enough to mean that for most of the time, I don’t have to spend time thinking about how to make ends meet. So many in the world do not get this luxury.

Good health. Pretty much all of the time. This is something that none of us should take for granted. I should probably eat less sugar but…nah.

Great friends. Who make me smile and who make me think. And who are fucking hilarious.

A place in my life where I’m really happy. Some people ‘find themselves’ earlier than others, but some people never do, so I’m calling early 40s not a bad time to go ‘I’m happy with who I am’. There is of course room for improvement, but this doesn’t come from a desperate need to ‘find myself’. Spiritually, and in so many other ways, I’ve found my place, and now I can just focus on the fact that  all you need is love (well and food and shelter and an equitable welfare system and clean air…)

There are things that I dislike about the world, of course. Injustice, hatred, just a lack of love and acceptance. But I’ll try and have an impact where I can and trust that other people will do the same. That’s all any of us can do.

I think it’s good to reflect on all the things that we have to be thankful for. For most of us I suspect, this list is a lot longer than our gripes. What else would go on your list?



Rohr and an online test. What’s not to love?

Recently, Richard Rohr’s daily email series has been about Enneagrams. Now I’d always been under the impression  that they were some Scientology type science fiction thing, and had ignored them completely, but discovering that Richard Rohr was a proponent made me think that there might be something more to them than I’d realised. Because as we know I’m a crazy Rohr fangirl and he could sell me Amway. Or Kale. Or Homeopathic remedies…

So, knowing how much I love a good online quiz, I headed over over to Enneagram Test and discovered that I’m a type 9 and OH MY GOD I AM SO MUCH A NINE!!

I’ve been waiting all week with baited breath for this email to come, seriously. I didn’t want to read other peoples take on type 9, I wanted to read his take.

Now I’ll just say that while the Forer Effect is true in some cases, my intensive case study (of me reading all the other types describes in this week’s emails and comparing them to myself) has led me to believe that this is pretty spot on.

I’ll cut and paste, just in case anyone else is a 9 and wants to read up. And be my New Best Friend, clearly.

Let me know what number you get!

And I’ve found this book which obviously I will now buy, even though I pledged to buy no books this year. Although kindle is okay (by my own totally arbitrary rules) so I’ll see if I can find a copy on Amazon.

NINEs once knew that reality was all about love, all connected, operative, and effective. They knew a kind of optimism and motivation that all could be worked out and fixed because God is Love. Love changes everything; love resolves everything. Russ Hudson emphasizes that the core of the NINE is about being itself. The primal knowing of the NINE is that “I am. I am a manifestation of God. . . . I feel that divine Presence and how that divine Presence is producing this life. It’s all some unfathomable huge unity right now. . . . I feel so harmoniously related to everything that exists. We’re all manifesting out of this Oneness, this divine Presence. . . . This is what NINEs are here to teach and remind the rest of us.”
(I’m going to say ‘Yes’ for me but I’m sure everyone else would too).
Hudson explains that the NINE’s passion or root sin–sloth–emerges from the loss of this oneness. The NINE feels, “I don’t exist, I don’t matter, I’m nothing, I’m not real. I’m peripheral. I’m disconnected from everything. I’m a little insignificant nothing. (All egos feel that on some level.)”  Sloth in NINEs is really the lack of focused energy. NINEs don’t put out any energy that lets you get a handle on them. It’s the attitude of checking out, because at the center of the gut triad, NINEs feel life is just too much. NINEs seldom take initiative in relationships or in projects. They need a fire lit under them. They need to connect with an institution or structure or have someone like a spouse or a child depending on them. Otherwise they’ll just float and get pulled in all different directions because they don’t know what their priorities really are.
(Absolutely 100% me)
NINEs are naturally humble. They allow themselves to be overlooked. They like to stay in the background and cultivate the self-image of not being anything special. They consider themselves simple and uncomplicated and present themselves accordingly.
NINEs are peacemakers. They avoid conflicts. Their gift of accepting others without prejudice makes people feel understood and accepted. NINEs can be unbiased arbitrators because they can see and appreciate the positive aspects of both sides. Their sense of fairness may make them committed fighters for peace and justice. They express harsh truths so calmly and matter-of-factly that it’s easy for others to hear these truths. In the presence of a NINE many people find it easy to come to rest themselves. NINEs somehow harmonize the energy in a room.
(Not deliberately, but I certainly have come to take on this role as my life has progressed. I’m essentially the arbitrator is most instances and can count on two hands the number of actual arguments I’ve had in my life. Keeping the peace is usually my number one priority)
The life task of NINEs consists in discovering and developing their feelings of self-worth and their own inner focus and drive. They find their way to real love when they have found their way back to their own center. Then the virtue of the NINE emerges which is, surprisingly, decisive action. At first NINEs waiver and hesitate, putting off everything. But when they reach a decision, it happens in a moment of absolute clarity. They know in a flash what’s involved, and they will do it, often quite well–and look anything but lazy or slothful.
(Well that’s something I can work towards…)