Life & Faith

Not in Polite Company

Nothing is off limits when it comes to social media - not even religion and politics.

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"On social media, you get a mix of baby pictures, sentimental quotes, and Instagram photos. So it can be kind of jarring to see someone who has a very impassioned point of view that you vehemently disagree with."

They say you shouldn’t talk about politics or religion in polite company. But with social media, the rules of polite society tend to get thrown out the window.

In this episode, Sarah Pulliam Bailey from The Washington Post, and Barney Zwartz, formerly of The Age, share their wisdom on how to have good - or at least civil - conversations on social media.

Barney says: "We all have a view of what a flourishing society looks like, and those who disagree with me vehemently on politics generally start from a good motive - that’s what I have to recognise for the conversation to be fruitful."

Sarah says: "The more people listen on social media, the more thoughtful conversations we can have."

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Sarah Pulliam Bailey is a Religion Reporter for The Washington Post and Editor of the Post’s Acts of Faith blog, which you can read here: http://wapo.st/2oGXBfy

READ MORE from Barney Zwartz: http://bit.ly/2oT37Oa

SUBSCRIBE to the ‘Life & Faith’ podcast on iTunes: http://bit.ly/lifeandfaithonitunes 

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The Cost of Sacrifice

To sacrifice for Queen and country is one thing, but would you lay down your life for an enemy?

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"Australian service men and women serve for their Queen, their country and their comrades. They do that willingly, and they do that well. But Christ laid down his life for his enemies, which is just an incredible thing to do when I think about it."

As a member of the Australian Defence Force, and a Christian, Colonel Craig Bickell is all too familiar with the reality – and cost – of sacrifice.

In this episode, we asked him about Easter and Anzac Day, what Christian faith has to offer the profession of arms, and how he remains hopeful even in the face of the darker side of humanity. Also, he shares his own journey of faith involving a girl, warrior’s guilt, and a stained glass window.

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A History of Non-violence

It’s often said that religion is a cause of war - but can it also be a cause of peace?

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"Part of what makes religion such a powerful motivator in support for peace, is also what makes it a powerful motivator in support for violence."

An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.

This principle of retaliation, that a person who has injured another should be penalized in a similar way, and to a similar degree, forms the basis for many codes of justice around the world. But Jesus had a radically different approach.

Turn the other cheek, and go the extra mile.

In this episode, we dive into the world of peace building with Dr Maria J Stephan and Susan Hayward from the US Institute of Peace. Discover whether non-violent movements actually work, and explore the role that religious faith plays in making and maintaining peace.

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These interviews were for our forthcoming documentary, For the Love of God: How the church is better and worse than you ever imagined. Sign up for the Director’s Pass for a look behind the scenes: www.fortheloveofgodproject.com

You can buy Why Civil Resistance Works by Maria Stephan and Erica Chenoweth here: bit.ly/2o964ra

SUBSCRIBE to our ‘Life & Faith’ podcast on iTunes: bit.ly/lifeandfaithonitunes

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A Public Book

Why the Bible is more than a religious text - it’s a book that gives meaning and unites people.

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"The Bible can be a place of unity between Christians and Muslims, Christians of different hues, Christians and non-Christians … it’s a public book around which we can unite."

In the face of scepticism and ignorance in the West, and religious conflict elsewhere in the world, the Bible remains the best-selling non-fiction book in the world. According to The Economist, more than 100 million Bibles are sold or given away every year.

In this episode, Chief Executive of the British and Foreign Bible Society, Paul Williams, explores the enduring impact of the Bible on Western society and culture, and explains renewed interest in the Bible in a “post-secular” Britain. Also, Paul tells how he returned to his Christian faith after his atheistic beliefs were challenged by the trials of life.

"Things did go wrong for me in ways that really provoked me as to whether the beliefs that I was holding to were adequate for when life became difficult."

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Son of a Communist

As Mongolia turned from communism to democratic rule, this man turned from atheism to faith.

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"In Communism, you’re basically living under fear. But whatever I read from the Bible, it gave me this sense of freedom from fear."

When Batjargal Tuvshintsengel was nine years old, he was recruited to read Communist propaganda on Mongolian state radio. Then, in the early 90s, as Mongolia was becoming a democracy and opening up to the rest of the world, Batjargal discovered the Bible and found it so compelling that he turned from atheism to Christianity. Now, he’s running a Christian radio station that aims to spread hope, good values and a sense of belonging throughout Mongolia.

In this episode, Batjargal talks about significant shifts in Mongolia’s cultural, political and religious landscape - and how his own life changed as a result.

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Two Years to Live

Phil Camden has Motor Neurone Disease but hope lights his path in the shadow of death.

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"It’s strange because for the first little while you’re thinking: at least we found out what it is, we can work on it. But then they tell you there’s no known cause or cure – and you’ll probably be dead within 27 months."

When Phil Camden was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease, he was told that he would gradually lose the use of his limbs, he would lose the ability to speak and swallow, and there was no known cure or treatment for the disease. Also, he only had two more years to live.

Since then, Phil has outlived the two-year timeline. He still lives with MND, but he also has hope.

In this episode, Phil takes us through the deep valleys of what it means to live with a terminal illness, and how he seeks to bring hope, light and freedom into the MND community – a world that is familiar with despair and fear.

"The process of death freaks me out. I don’t know what I’m going to be like when I can’t roll over in bed, scratch my nose, shower myself, or go to the toilet myself, feed myself … but death itself has lost its sting. It’s lost its power over my life because I truly believe in heaven and eternity. So death, for me, is just entering into another realm of existence and life which is far better than what we could experience here."

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READ Phil’s blog: www.fridayswithphil.com.

SUBSCRIBE to our podcast on iTunes: http://bit.ly/lifeandfaithonitunes

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Street Pastors

Showing love to the vulnerable, drunk and disorderly on the streets of Melbourne.

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“I was never good around drunks. I’d rather just walk the other way, dodge around them and have nothing to do with them. Since I’ve started doing the Street Pastor walks, I’ve grown. I’ve learnt that they’re just ordinary people who have either made a mistake or have gone too far and they need help – and we’re in a position to be able to give them that help.”

Doug’s a Street Pastor in Melbourne. Most Saturday nights, he heads out with a team of volunteers to patrol Melbourne’s nightclub scene and, basically, help people who need help. They hand out bottles of water to sober people up, give thongs to those with sore feet from high heels, give blankets to the cold, help people get home safely, comfort the distraught, defuse potentially difficult situations, and protect the vulnerable.

In this episode, walk with the Street Pastors along one of Melbourne’s busiest entertainment districts, Brunswick Street, and hear more from Street Pastors coordinator Andrew Satterley, as well as the Yarra Police Inspector, about the difference the Street Pastors are making in the local community.

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FIND OUT MORE about Street Pastors in Australia: www.streetpastors.org.au.

SUBSCRIBE to our podcast: http://bit.ly/lifeandfaithonitunes

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The Long Shadow of Slavery

A confronting - and deeply personal - look at the roots of racial division in the US.

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"We still live under the long shadow of the plantation. Indeed, freedoms have been spread to a larger group of people over time, but that spread has been at the cost of ongoing oppression of black people in ways that have become very apparent thanks to video cams and cell phones that betray the brutality of the police state that we sometimes live in as black people.”

Trayvon Martin. Michael Brown. Alton Sterling. These are names familiar across the world: the names of African-American men – three of many – who died after being shot by white men. Those who shot them have all been acquitted of their deaths, sparking national outrage and re-igniting the old debate on racial profiling and civil rights.

In this episode of Life & Faith, we asked Professor Alfred J Raboteau from Princeton University, an expert in the African-American religious experience, to walk us through the history of race relations in the US, and the deep roots of racial division – from the plantations to the Black Lives Matter movement today.

But he’s not just an expert – Professor Raboteau has lived the reality of racism as well:

"My father was killed by a white man in Mississippi, three months before I was born. The white man who killed him was never tried. He claimed self-defence and he wasn’t indicted even. … When I was 17 and getting ready to go off to college, [my mother and stepfather] sat me down and, for the first time, explained to me what had happened. They said, ‘The reason we didn’t tell you before was we didn’t want you to grow up hating white people’.”

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This interview was recorded for our documentary, For the Love of God: How the church is better and worse than you ever imagined. Sign up for the Director’s Pass for more behind-the-scenes sneak peeks: http://www.fortheloveofgodproject.com.

SUBSCRIBE to Life & Faith on iTunes: http://bit.ly/lifeandfaithonitunes

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Healing After Abortion

Putting aside the politics to talk about the real struggles some men and women face after abortion.

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"It’s usually surrounded with secrecy, it’s not something they talk about casually like they would that they’re going to go get a breast implant and there’s a bad job done or a botched surgery. Because of the shame that a lot of the women do feel, it’s not inherently experienced as an empowering act, it’s something that they just don’t want a lot of people to know."

Abortion is an incredibly politicised issue, and a hotly debated topic. It seems like everyone has something to say about the "right to life" or the "right to choose" - or both.

Often hidden from view are those who have been through abortion, and how some of them - men and women alike - struggle with the decision they have made.

In this episode, we hear from some of these people, and from Dr Theresa Burke, a psychologist who has dedicated her life to helping those who’ve been impacted by abortion. She shares some of her confronting early experiences of being a counselor, and how they led her to start Rachel’s Vineyard, a retreat for women and men who are seeking help for depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, and grief in the wake of abortion.

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If you or someone you know is experiencing trauma or distress after having an abortion, we strongly urge you to seek support. In Australia, the Abortion Grief and Pregnancy Crisis Hotline is 1300 363 550.

Rachel’s Vineyard operates in 84 countries around the world, and 37 languages. For more information about Rachel’s Vineyard, visit: www.rachelsvineyard.org.

SUBSCRIBE to Life & Faith on iTunes: http://bit.ly/lifeandfaithonitunes.

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Silence

A Jesuit priest finds himself in an unexpected role as consultant on a Martin Scorsese film.

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"What would you do for them? Pray? And get what in return? Only more suffering. The suffering only you can end, not God. I prayed too, Rodrigues, it doesn’t help. Go on. Pray. But pray with your eyes open."

These are the words of Father Christavao Ferreira from the film Silence. Based on a novel by Shūsaku Endō, Martin Scorsese has been wanting to tell this harrowing tale of Portuguese Jesuit priests in 17th-century Japan for more than 30 years. Liam Neeson plays Father Ferreira, a Jesuit who recants his faith after facing torture. Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver play two younger Jesuits on a mission to find their mentor and, just like Ferreira, they have to wrestle with the question of whether or not to renounce their faith in order to save their own lives – or the lives of others.

While this story is fictional, it has roots in the very real history of Christianity in Japan, a country where hundreds of thousands of Christians were brutally suppressed for 250 years.

In this episode of Life & Faith, we speak with Father James Martin, a Jesuit priest who acted as a consultant on the film and a spiritual advisor to the actors. Father Jim even led Andrew Garfield through the Spiritual Exercises – a compilation of meditations, prayers, and contemplative practices developed by St Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits – to prepare the actor for his role as Father Rodrigues.

He also tells us why the movie is particularly poignant for him ("It’s about Jesuits that are my heroes, the martyrs of Japan") and why it’s a movie for everyone about real spirituality:

"I think fake spirituality is, 'if you only believe in God, nothing will go wrong', or 'if something goes wrong, all you have to do is believe in God and pray and everything will be fine'. I think real spirituality is, 'you can believe in God and things may go wrong … and then what?' What do you do when you’re a devout person, and things go terribly wrong or you have tragedy? You don’t just say, 'oh everything will be fine, God’s in charge' – I mean that is true, eventually everything will be fine and God is in charge – but where does your faith come in? And that’s really the question that this movie poses: what do you do in these difficult situations as a person of faith?"

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Find more from Father James Martin on Facebook and Twitter.

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