Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Individual and the Internet The Quest for Community (Church Colson)

From Colson's BreakPoint commentary. Excellent piece - no need for me to comment further

The Individual and the Internet
The Quest for Community
November 28, 2011

Man was made to live in community. In Genesis 2, we're told it's not good for man to be alone. And in a classical world the worst punishment was to be banished from society, because you had no meaning once you were.

Our founders in America created a country that respected individual rights and liberties, but always in the context of the people. And the people united in communities and associations, which secured individual rights from an otherwise all-powerful government.
So you had a balance. And in the context of those communities, we prospered like no other nation on earth. Tocqeuville when he came to America praised the civic virtue of Americans -- their collective self-reliance in building hospitals, schools, churches, etc. But in recent times, not only in America but throughout the Western World, "individual autonomy," the code word of modern liberalism, has become ascendant outside the context of community. And not surprisingly, as radical individualism grew, the power of government grew as well, especially in the 20th Century.

Here's why.

Robert Nisbet argued in his 1953 book, The Quest for Community, that radical individualism caused communities to break down. Family, church, clubs, groups, associations, that came between the individual and the state, all weakened in the face of this desire for individual autonomy. So it's no wonder we've witnessed an explosive growth in government over the last fifty years. But as face-to-face communities decline, people are flocking to virtual, online communities. Many see these as "communities for a new generation."

A recent conference revisited Nisbet's ideas in light of online communities. The results were not encouraging.

Christine Rosen, senior editor of The New Atlantis, noted that in a face-to-face community, I come as I am. In virtual communities I come as the image I want to project. The resulting interaction is too tame to be called community. Instead, as Wheaton College professor Read Schuchardt added, we end up with narcissistic groups of false selves.

Rosen acknowledged that in the online world we may have more friends than we could have in face-to-face community. But the quality of those friendships is so poor that sociologists have coined the phrase “migratory friendships” to describe digital friends who have lots of information about each other, but don’t actually know each other.

The hard work of genuine community has been outsourced, she said, to technology -- so we become the product of our technology, shaping our image to meet the demands of the market.
Well, what are we to make of this? Virtual communities cannot replace real, face-to-face communities. They can't perform the function of providing meaning and fellowship in the same way. And they certainly can't serve as intermediate structures between the individual and an all-powerful government. Virtual community is really no substitute for the real thing.

For the sake of our well being and freedom as men and women created not to be alone, it is so vital now that the church be a catalyst for rebuilding real communities in a very real way.

Copyright (c) 2011 BreakPoint


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

What else is unconstitutional in Malaysia? (RPK)

Ok, my quota of time for Malaysian politics has been reached :-)

What else is unconstitutional in Malaysia? 
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom said it is unconstitutional for a person to be homosexual in Malaysia. “In reality, in the country’s constitution it is not allowed, including sections 377(a), (b), (c) and (d) which prohibit sexual relations between two men,” said Jamil, who is in charge of Islamic affairs and head of the Malaysian Department of Islamic Development (Jakim).
Raja Petra Kamarudin
Actually, if the minister really wants to follow the Federal Constitution of Malaysia, there are many more things that are unconstitutional, and being a homosexual is certainly not one of them although he can argue that it is against the law.
But then, being against the law (meaning: it constitutes a crime) does not make it unconstitutional. For example, raping your own mother or sodomising your own father is also a crime. But that does not make them unconstitutional. So is robbing a bank, murdering your wife, cheating on your income tax, taking bribes, misusing public funds to pay for your wife’s lavish shopping, etc. They are all crimes but can’t quite be called unconstitutional.
The minister, being not that intelligent and downright ignorant, as most Malaysian ministers are, does not appear to know the difference between what is unconstitutional and what is a crime.
Anyway, if you refer to some of the Articles in the Constitution below, you can see that there are many practices and policies in Malaysia that are unconstitutional (and at times opposed to Islam as well). Maybe my learned minister would like to talk about these as well.
Detaining someone without due process of the law is unconstitutional as per Article 5. And to use ‘emergency laws’ that waive the need for due process is unconstitutional when Malaysia is not facing any emergency and whatever emergency it did face in the past (such as The Emergency, May 13, Konfrontasi, etc.) have now ended (which means the emergency laws no longer apply). This is like still using WW1 or WW2 emergency laws when WW1 and WW2 have ended a long time ago.
Discrimination, quotas, preferences, etc., based on race or religion is unconstitutional as per Article 8. You can argue that the New Economic Policy (NEP) overrides the Constitution but Article 4 does not allow this. Anyway, the NEP was not a law passed by Parliament and that is why it is called ‘the aspirations (hasrat) of the NEP’. It is merely an aspiration and not a law. Hence, to force Malaysians to comply with the NEP violates the Constitution.
Asking for the citizenship of any Malaysian to be withdrawn is unconstitutional as per Article 9. So Umno should stop asking for the citizenship of Ambiga and others to be withdrawn.
Malaysians have the liberty to express their opinion as per Article 10 even if they wish to opine that religion is bullshit, God does not exist, or that the monarchy is outdated and corrupt and should be abolished in favour of a Republic of Malaysia. Opinions are allowed and expressing them is not a crime.
Malaysians have the liberty to believe in any religion they want to or to reject religion totally under Article 11. Even if they wish to reject all forms of religion and become atheists, that is their constitutional right. The only thing the Constitution forbids is to propagate these beliefs to Muslims. However, if that person has declared that he/she no longer believes in God, then that would make him/her an apostate and, technically, that person would no longer be a Muslim. Therefore, propagating to ex-Muslims would not constitute a crime since they have on their own freewill become apostates.
Setting up institutions of learning exclusive to any one race is unconstitutional according to Article 12.Therefore, UiTM, according to the constitution, must open its doors to all races (but whether they would want to enter UiTM is another matter altogether).
Yes, if you want to talk about what is unconstitutional then let us talk about what is unconstitutional. And being gay is not one of them. The above, however, are. But does the minister understand this? Most likely not! Or else he would not have been made a minister. Instead, he would have become a Blogger like me.
Article number: 4
• (1) This Constitution is the supreme law of the Federation and any law passed after Merdeka Day which is inconsistent with this Constitution shall, to the extent of the inconsistency, be void.
• (2) The validity of any law shall not be questioned on the ground that -
        • (a) it imposes restrictions on the right mentioned in Article 9 (2) but does not relate to the matters mentioned therein; or
        • (b) it imposes such restrictions as are mentioned in Article 10 (2) but those restrictions were not deemed necessary or expedient by Parliament for the purposes mentioned in that Article.
• (3) The validity of any law made by Parliament or the Legislature of any State shall not be questioned on the ground that it makes provision with respect to any matter with respect to which Parliament or, as the case may be, the Legislature of the State has no power to make laws, except in proceedings for a declaration that the law is invalid on that ground or -
       • (a) if the law was made by Parliament, in proceedings between the Federation and one or more States;
       • (b) if the law was made by Legislature of a State, in proceedings between the Federation and that State.
• (4) Proceedings for a declaration that a law is invalid on the ground mentioned in Clause (3) (not being proceedings falling within paragraph (a) or (b) of the Clause) shall not be commenced without the leave of a judge of the Supreme Court; and the Federation shall be entitled to be a party to any such proceedings, and so shall any State that would or might be a party to proceedings brought for the same purpose under paragraph (a) or (b) of the Clause.

Article number: 5
• (1) No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty save in accordance with law.
• (2) Where complaint is made to a High court or any judge thereof that a person is being unlawfully detained the court shall inquire into the complaint and, unless satisfied that the detention is lawful, shall order him to be produced before the court and release him.
• (3) Where a person is arrested he shall be informed as soon as may be of the grounds of his arrest and shall be allowed to consult and be defended by a legal practitioner of his choice.
• (4) Where a person is arrested and not released he shall without unreasonable delay, and in any case within twenty-four hours (excluding the time of any necessary journey) be produced before a magistrate and shall not be further detained in custody without the magistrate's authority:
Provided that this Clause shall not apply to the arrest or detention of any person under the existing law relating to restricted residence, and all the provisions of this Clause shall be deemed to have been an integral part of this Article as from Merdeka Day.
• (5) Clauses (3) and (4) do not apply to an enemy alien.

Article number: 8
• (1) All persons are equal before the law and entitled to the equal protection of the law.
• (2) Except as expressly authorized by this Constitution, there shall be no discrimination against citizens on the ground only of religion, race, descent or place of birth in any law relating to the acquisition, holding or disposition of property or the establishing or carrying on of any trade, business, profession, vocation or employment.
• (3) There shall be no discrimination in favour of any person on the ground that he is a subject of the Ruler of the State.
• (4) No public authority shall discriminate against any person on the ground that he is resident or carrying on business in any part of the Federation outside the jurisdiction of the authority.
• (5) This Article does not invalidate or prohibit -
        • (a) any provision regulating personal law;
        • (b) any provision or practice restricting office or employment connected with the affairs of any religion, or of an institution managed by a group professing any religion, to persons professing that religion;
        • (c) any provision for the protection, wellbeing or advancement of the aboriginal peoples of the Malay Peninsula (including the reservation of land) or the reservation to aborigines of a reasonable proportion of suitable positions in the public service;
        • (d) any provision prescribing residence in a State or part of a State as a qualification for election or appointment to any authority having jurisdiction only in that State or part, or for voting in such an election;
        • (e) any provision of a Constitution of a State, being or corresponding to a provision in force immediately before Merdeka Day;
        • (f) any provision restricting enlistment in the Malay Regiment to Malays.

Article number: 9
• (1) No citizen shall be banished or excluded from the Federation.
• (2) Subject to Clause (3) and to any law relating to the security of the Federation or any part thereof, public order, public health, or the punishment of offenders, every citizen has the right to move freely throughout the Federation and to reside in any part thereof.
• (3) So long as under this Constitution any other State is in a special position as compared with the States of Malaya, Parliament may by law impose restrictions, as between that State and other States, on the rights conferred by Clause (2) in respect of movement and residence.

Article number: 10
• (1) Subject to Clauses (2), (3) and (4) -
      • (a) every citizen has the right to freedom of speech and expression;
      • (b) all citizens have the right to assemble peaceably and without arms;
      • (c) all citizens have the right to form associations.
• (2) Parliament may by law impose -
      • (a) on the rights conferred by paragraph (a) of Clause (1),such restrictions as it deems necessary or expedient in the interest of the security of the Federation or any part thereof, friendly relations with other countries, public order or morality and restrictions designed to protect the privileges of Parliament or of any Legislative Assembly or to provide against contempt of court, defamation, or incitement to any offence;
      • (b) on the right conferred by paragraph (b) of Clause (1), such restrictions as it deems necessary or expedient in the interest of the security of the Federation or any part thereof, or public order;
      • (c) on the right conferred by paragraph (c) of Clause (1), such restrictions as it deems necessary or expedient in the interest of the security of the Federation or any part thereof, public order or morality.
• (3) Restrictions on the right to form associations conferred by paragraph (c) of Clause (1) may also be imposed by any law relating to labour or education.
• (4) In imposing restrictions in the interest of the security of the Federation or any part thereof or public order under Clause (2) (a), Parliament may pass law prohibiting the questioning of any matter, right, status, position, privilege, sovereignty or prerogative established or protected by the provisions of Part III, article 152, 153 or 181 otherwise than in relation to the implementation thereof as may be specified in such law.

Article number: 11
• (1) Every person has the right to profess and practice his religion and, subject to Clause (4), to propagate it.
• (2) No person shall be compelled to pay any tax the proceeds of which are specially allocated in whole or in part for the purposes of a religion other than his own.
• (3) Every religious group has the right -
        • (a) to manage its own religious affairs;
        • (b) to establish and maintain institutions for religious or charitable purposes; and
        • (c) to acquire and own property and hold and administer it in accordance with law.
• (4) State law and in respect of the Federal Territories of Kuala Lumpur and Lubuan, federal law may control or restrict the propagation of any religious doctrine or belief among persons professing the religion of Islam.
• (5) This Article does not authorize any act contrary to any general law relating to public order, public health or morality.

Article number: 12
• (1) Without prejudice to the generality of Article 8, there shall be no discrimination against any citizen on the grounds only of religion, race, descent or place of birth -
      • (a) in the administration of any educational institution maintained by a public authority, and, in particular, the admission of pupils or students or the payment of fees; or
      • (b) in providing out of the funds of a public authority financial aid for the maintenance or education of pupils or students in any educational institution (whether or not maintained by a public authority and whether within or outside the Federation).
• (2) Every religious group has the right to establish and maintain institutions for the education of children in its own religion, and there shall be no discrimination on the ground only of religion in any law relating to such institutions or in the administration of any such law; but it shall be lawful for the Federation or a State to establish or maintain or assist in establishing or maintaining Islamic institutions or provide or assist in providing instruction in the religion of Islam and incur such expenditure as may be necessary for the purpose.
• (3) No person shall be required to receive instruction in or take part in any ceremony or act of worship of a religion other than his own.
• (4) For the purposes of Clause (3) the religion of a person under the age of eighteen years shall be decided by his parent or guardian.

Random photos but mostly of my little garden

Took these photos a couple of weeks ago. Got a few spare moments so uploading them.

My blueberry bush. I bought one a 2.5 years ago but the ground  I planted in  was too harsh for it,
so it died (at least that is my excuse :-)) but someone else who is a good gardener had a similar
problem so I think this is the reason ....
This one is about 1 year old now and I decided to plant it in a pot for better control
and it is already fruiting. Did not expect berries so fast!
Better cover with some netting soon or the birds will eat them all up

I am so happy that my dwarf apple tree is "rebudding"(?) ...
It is almost 2 years old and all the leaves died and fell off before winter!
The leaves were attacked by insects and were rotting and I made a big
error of putting in the wrong fertilizer (same ones I use for my feijoa trees).
I checked with the nursery and they told me that that fertilizer was NOT meant for
trees in pots at it would be too strong.
Leaves fell off and the tree seemed to die.
But I kept it in the pot hoping for a small plant miracle
and a few weeks ago, new buds and leaves started coming out! :-)

This is my dwarf lemon tree (6 months old) as I find that I now use lemons often in my cooking
and thought it would be nice to have a lemon tree.
Wow. Did not expect again to see so many flower buds. A bit confused as it is now summer and
I thought it was a winter fruit.
The pot on the right (half cut off) is my "kaffir lime" tree which i still going strong (a year old I think?)

Luca - a semi-regular visitor to our church. He is a most lovable young boy.
Here he is with a present he won (our church "lucky draw" for registrants of our recent
"Light Party"). Went to visit him with my fellow junior magician Francis to visit and present him
with his prize. He was so cute ... drew me a tank you picture (for the magic show and the present)
and addressed it to "Pass the Paul"

One of my church neighbor's BBQ :-) Four piglets on a spit.
No I did not attend the party - just chatted with them over the fence
and took this photo. 

My two modified planter boxes. In the foreground are some of my chilli plants.
Background is my row of salad leaves.

This was my first batch of 2011 strawberries from my garden. 

This was picked on Sunday and took this photo this morning of the strawberries
which I placed in a large bowl. Different sizes and may not look so great but
different people who have tasted them tell me they are very sweet and not sour :-)
Must be my TLC :-)

2 weeks ago, took a photo of my strawberry plants

My strawberry plants - wider view. I have them growing in front of my house

Some of my other plants in my odd shaped planter box (formerly a sand pit) .
Messy I know .... There's taro, potato, salad, carrots, beans and tomatoes. 

Is email really that essential for contemporary church based ministries?

Is email really that essential for contemporary church based ministries?

Decided to try a personal experiment. Sunday after dinner I decided not to check my emails till Tuesday morning. So pout away my i-touch as well. Usually when at home my it-touch is within easy access so I can just casually check my mail (and FB too) whenever I feel like it.

I figured that after Sunday dinner was a reasonable time (as it is after church service, meeting people, a special meeting and caroling practice) and Monday was after all my day off.

Quick observations:

On my 3 email accounts (all gmail), I had a total of 79 emails meaning some are conversations (emails on the same subject)

From one email address (my low priority email) I had 15 are news items (various lists) of which most are pretty easy to choose to delete (all from one mail address). Basically If I have time I may scan or even read ... (news, ministry lists). Takes a couple of minutes

ONE email I will have to respond to (but at my leisure as it is a video sent to me on a subject I am interested in).

My (generally) middle priority email address:  It's also an email address I use as it is much easier for people to remember. I had 26 emails.
Many are specific ministry based emails - some lists and some actual emails. Half of them I treat the same way as my low priority email address emails and many are advertisements (the kind you get sent when you register a product / purchase online), book clubs etc.

Noted FIVE that required reading or a response:

1.  One from a church member on a personal matter
2. One from "Chalk Illustrated" - latest pdf magazine attached
3. Two from my library letting me know some books are ready for pickup
4. One on a possible local resource that might be worth a closer look

On my usual / primary email address: 39 emails

Of which needs reading and most a response / action: ELEVEN emails that require my attention and response

1. Two different conversations on our building project
2. One on missionary news
3. One from my electricity supplier (managed to get them to give me a $50 credit) :-)
4. One on the Sunday School Christmas drama script
5. One from a ministry email list that has also been forwarded to me by a certain friend (which indicates I need to read it)
6. Two different email conversations on our church worship ministry
7. One on our upcoming church BBQ
8. One on details and needs of a local early childhood centre using our church next month for their graduation (in which I am involved in)
9. One from a former (associate) church member on a personal matter

* There were also two others related to our local church ministry (which I answered before dinner)

Total is SEVENTEEN emails so My unscientific conclusion .... one can't run away from emails! At least not me :-)

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Active Waiting (Henri Nouwen)

Active Waiting

Waiting is essential to the spiritual life.  But waiting as a disciple of Jesus is not an empty waiting.  It is a waiting with a promise in our hearts that makes already present what we are waiting for.  We wait during Advent for the birth of Jesus.  We wait after Easter for the coming of the Spirit, and after the ascension of Jesus we wait for his coming again in glory.  We are always waiting, but it is a waiting in the conviction that we have already seen God's footsteps.

Waiting for God is an active, alert - yes, joyful - waiting.  As we wait we remember him for whom we are waiting, and as we remember him we create a community ready to welcome him when he comes.

Pakistan Telecom Authority bans 'offensive' text messages including the use of 'Jesus Christ'

In my prayers this morning before Sunday worship

Friday, November 18, 2011

Pakistan Telecom Authority bans 'offensive' text messages including the use of 'Jesus Christ'

By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST Ministries
LONDON, UK (ANS) -- A Pakistani Christian leader has attacked The Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) who is reported to have told mobile phone companies to begin blocking text messages containing "obscene" words including "Jesus Christ."
Wilson Chowdhry asks, "How long until we see signs like this on Pakistani highways?"
Mobile phone companies Telenor Pakistan and Ufone confirmed to the BBC that the PTA has sent them a "dictionary" of banned words and expressions.
The PTA has reportedly ordered operators to begin screening text messages by November 21, 2011.
"Ufone say they are now working on how to block the offending words," said a BBC story. "A letter dated November 14, apparently written by Muhammad Talib Doger, an official at the PTA, has been leaked to Pakistani media.
"It states that mobile phone operators should begin screening the words, provided on a list attached to the letter, within seven days."
The BBC went on to quote Anjum Nida Rahman, corporate communications director for Telenor Pakistan, as saying, "We have received both the dictionary and the memo and we're discussing a way forward."
Wilson Chowdhry, Chairman, British Pakistani Christian Association, has told the ASSIST News Service that one of those "offending" words is "Jesus Christ."
In a message sent to ANS, he said that among the words and expressions that have to be blocked are:
* Athlete's foot
* Flatulence
* Jesus Christ
* Monkey crotch
* Back door
* Bewaquf (foolish)
* Bakwaas (nonsense)
* Wuutang (a presumed reference to American rap group the Wu-Tang Clan.)
"The inclusion of the name of Jesus Christ within this list of offensive words is another example of the intense hatred that resonates within Pakistan towards Christians," stated Chowdhry.
Baroness Caroline Cox: Peer for the Queensbury London seat at the House of Lords at a 2009 demonstration in London about religious persecution in Pakistan. Wilson Chowdhry is in the background and Alex Chowdhry, his brother, is nearer the front of the picture
"Such censorship would be received with great animosity in the democratic countries of the West. Moreover such intervention flies in the face of the freedoms of expression that Pakistan's Government has committed the nation too.
"It beggars belief that Jesus Christ could be considered a word offensive to Muslim's as he is written about as a great prophet in the Quran. It would seem that Pakistani Muslim majority hatred for Christians exceeds the love for one of their own prophets. The selection of other words raises further questions. I am baffled at terms such as 'Athletes foot' and 'flatulence' receiving a ban when they are commonly used medical terms."
Pakistan has seen a big increase in mobile phone use in recent years with 100m Pakistanis are now estimated to be mobile phone users.
I wonder how many of them who are Christians will risk using "Jesus Christ" in a text message and, if they so, what the punishment will be?

Dan Wooding, 70, is an award winning British journalist now living in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for 48 years. They have two sons, Andrew and Peter, and six grandchildren who all live in the UK. He is the founder and international director of ASSIST (Aid to Special Saints in Strategic Times) and the ASSIST News Service (ANS) and was, for ten years, a commentator, on the UPI Radio Network in Washington, DC. He now hosts the weekly "Front Page Radio" show on KWVE in Southern California which is also carried throughout the United States. The program is also aired in Great Britain on Calvary Chapel Radio UK and also in Belize and South Africa. Besides this, Wooding is a host for His Channel Live, which is carried via the Internet to some 200 countries and also provides a regular commentary for Worship Life Radio on KWVE. You can follow Dan Wooding on Facebook under his name there or at ASSIST News Service. He is the author of some 44 books. Two of the latest include his aut obiography, "From Tabloid to Truth", which is published by Theatron Books. To order a copy, press this link. Wooding, who was born in Nigeria of British missionary parents, has also recently released his first novel "Red Dagger" which is available this link.

** You may republish this story with proper attribution.