Life & Faith

The Ring of Truth

An atheist, a Taliban leader, and a teenager fighting cancer respond to the Bible.

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"At the heart of one of the most violent regimes the world has known, there was someone who was wanting to read the Bible but had never had the opportunity."

The Bible first made its mark on Amy Orr-Ewing’s life through her then-atheist father. He was told that the only reason he should become a Christian is because it’s true. "But my dad thought religion is about superstition and wish fulfilment - truth and God are opposite categories." He eventually came to change his mind, but he taught Amy that she would have to make up her own.

"Growing up in Britain as a Christian, I was always the only churchgoer in my class at school," Amy says, "there was a tremendous amount of peer pressure to disbelieve."

At 15 years of age, Amy was diagnosed with cancer - an experience that clarified some of her questions about faith, Jesus, and the Bible.

"Here was an opportunity to vocalize what I was feeling. Frustration with God, questions, fear - and then to experience God meeting me in that place", she says. "The God that I was questioning and had an intellectual path to, that overlapped and intersected my own experience … God met me in the pain and suffering of this world."

She would go on to dedicate her life to promoting and defending the Christian faith as an apologist, in some of the most dangerous places on earth. In 1996, for example, she came face to face with a Taliban leader, and handed him a Bible - he took it and said, "I know exactly what this book is. I’ve been praying to God for years that I could read it. Thank you for bringing me this book; I’ll read it every day."

In this episode, Amy Orr-Ewing graciously defends the Christian faith as one of joy, compassion, and hope. Because for her, the Bible is truth for everyone - her atheist father, herself as a teenager fighting cancer, and even for a leader of the Taliban.

"The Bible describes the real world, as we know it, it has this ring of truth. It’s not this religious, mythical bubble that we need to jump into that only makes sense internally if we just close our minds to the real world that we experience."

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Amy Orr-Ewing delivered the 2017 Richard Johnson Lecture in Sydney, ‘Is Christianity Bad News for Women?’ Listen here: http://bit.ly/2nN1UFz

Next week, the second part of our conversation with Amy. Don’t miss it – SUBSCRIBE to Life & Faith on Apple Podcasts: http://bit.ly/cpxpodcast 

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An Empty Plate

The Corbetts arrived in Everton ready to fight losing battles - but they’re winning some too.

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"Listen to me. You’re grown-ups. This is bad. You are being bad unless you do something about it."

The words of a seven-year-old kid living in Everton, Liverpool. He had just drawn a picture of an empty plate, with the outline of Africa and Liverpool over the top of it.

"Because I’ve heard kids in Africa are hungry too," he explained.

In a UK survey called the Index of Multiple Deprivation, Everton is described as the lowest ranking ward in the most disadvantaged local authority in England. Educational attainment is in the bottom 11 per cent of England, income deprivation is in the bottom 9 per cent of England, and then there’s health - it’s better than zero per cent of England.

But, these are just numbers.

For Henry and Jane Corbett, and this seven-year-old kid, Everton is home.

"Our little community, on paper, you’ll see stats and you’ll think ‘oh my goodness’," Jane says. "There’s difficult times, it’s not perfect … but it’s heaven on earth."

In this episode, the Corbetts share their passion for the Everton community - including all of the highs, and all of the lows.

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This interview was 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 find out more about the work Henry and Jane Corbett are doing in Everton here: http://www.shrewsburyhouse.org.uk 

SUBSCRIBE to Life & Faith on Apple Podcasts: http://bit.ly/cpxpodcast 

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The Missing Theology of Art

How a plain white tablecloth and a dingy tavern scene can point to the divine.

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The very idea of making a painting of something had a very deep Christian purpose - at the beginning. Though at a certain juncture, it became very important for that to be set aside, so that art could be viewed through a purely secular lens and for purely secular purposes.”

There’s no denying the influence of Christianity on Western art. From Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam scene on the Sistine Chapel ceiling, to Leonardo Da Vinci’s The Last Supper, to the use of religious symbols like the cross or figures of the Madonna and child – it’s pretty inescapable.

But sometimes, it’s not so obvious.

In this episode, Professor Thomas Crow shows us how artwork that seems devoid of religion – whether it’s a still life of a white tablecloth, or an Andy Warhol-inspired anti-war poster – can point towards something sacred.

"Some of the deepest religious art is not overtly Christian at all. It could be a still life, or a little figure study of just an ordinary person, and you would read these ordinary things for the signs of the presence of the divine."

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Professor Thomas Crow is the author of No Idols: The Missing Theology of Art.

The White Tablecloth by Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin: 

Sainte Famille, dit Le Bénédicite by Charles Le Brun  

The Calling of Saint Matthew by Caravaggio

Take a look inside Rothko Chapel: http://www.markrothko.org/rothko-chapel/

View the work of Sister Mary Corita Kent: http://corita.org

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

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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.

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

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

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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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