Life & Faith

A White Man’s World

There’s sadness and hope on the long road towards Aboriginal recognition and reconciliation.


"He said to me, 'never forget you’re an Aboriginal, but do the best you can in a white man's world'. So that’s what I’ve tried to do. With the help of the Lord Jesus."

Every year, National Reconciliation Week celebrates the relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians. The theme for 2017 is: “Let’s take the next steps”. It seems pretty fitting because while there have been some important, and long overdue, moves towards reconciliation, there’s no doubt that many more steps still need to be taken.

In this episode, stories from Cummeragunja, a significant place when it comes to Aboriginal rights, recognition - and Christianity.

Hear from Uncle Denis Atkinson who explains his problem with the word "reconciliation", and says there’s only "one good thing" to come from white settlement in Australia for Aboriginal people.

Also, Aunty Maureen shares her powerful story about growing up on Umeewarra Mission as part of the Stolen Generation.

"We weren’t allowed to be inside at all, we had to play outside all day. But there were times when I needed to get away and there was one little room. That’s where I’d mourn my family. I’d sit there and rock backwards and forwards, just missing them so much."

Plus, we speak with Uncle Boydie in front of the new Reconciliation Week mural in Shepparton. It features the faces of his grandfather, William Cooper, and his friend, Pastor Doug – both men were iconic Aboriginal leaders who spent their entire lives fighting for their people.

"I think these two men would be very pleased if they could look forward to today and know what happened because of the work they did in their time."

Keep listening at the end of this episode for a very special thank you to a few people who made this Reconciliation Week episode possible – including a beautiful song by Uncle Denis and Aunty Maureen.


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No Angel

An ex-con’s journey from prison, to a stint in the Army, to holding High Anglican Mass in London.


"I was never an angel, that’s for sure. I started to steal … but I wasn’t very good at it. I constantly got caught."

At just 15 years of age, Reverend Paul Cowley found himself in prison - and after his short stint, just under 12 months, Paul knew he never wanted to return. So, when he was released, he joined the Army.

"[The Army] fed me, it watered me, it clothed me, it enabled me to travel - and it developed me as a man. Taught me about leadership and character, taught me about responsibility and discipline."

But there was yet another unexpected change to come in his life. Paul ended up at a church and hearing about Jesus - and he liked what he heard.

"Whether you believe he’s the Son of God or not is another question, but I found the character really fascinating. I found out that he was a strong man. I found out that he worked with the poor, the lost, the marginalized, the broken. And I really liked him for what he was doing."

In this episode, Reverend Paul Cowley walks us through the colourful history of his life, and why he believes that anyone can change - if they want to.


FIND OUT MORE about the William Wilberforce Foundation in Australia:

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How Grand to Be A Toucan

The illustrious life of Dorothy L. Sayers - novelist, woman of letters, and public Christian.


"… a woman is just as much an ordinary human being as a man, with the same individual preferences, and with just as much right to the tastes and preferences of an individual. What is repugnant to every human being is to be reckoned always as a member of a class and not as an individual person."

Words written by Dorothy L. Sayers in her essay "Are Women Human?" – but don’t call her a feminist. She didn’t consider herself part of the women’s rights movement, Sayers scholar Amy Orr-Ewing explains, because "we’re not a special class of human - we’re actually human".

In this episode, we take a look at the life and career of the inimitable Dorothy L. Sayers – a celebrated copywriter who wrote jingles for the iconic Guinness "zoo" campaign, a novelist and contemporary of Agatha Christie, a "woman of letters", and a public Christian.

"Art and literature point us towards that instinct for beauty, which is itself explained by who we are - creatures made in the image of God to create."


This is Part II of our conversations with Amy Orr-Ewing. Listen to Part I, ‘The Ring of Truth’ here:

Amy Orr-Ewing delivered the 2017 Richard Johnson Lecture in Sydney, ‘Is Christianity Bad News for Women?’ Listen here: 


The Ring of Truth

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


"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."


Amy Orr-Ewing delivered the 2017 Richard Johnson Lecture in Sydney, ‘Is Christianity Bad News for Women?’ Listen here:

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


An Empty Plate

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


"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.


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:

You can find out more about the work Henry and Jane Corbett are doing in Everton here: 

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The Missing Theology of Art

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


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."


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:

View the work of Sister Mary Corita Kent:

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Not in Polite Company

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


"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."


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:

READ MORE from Barney Zwartz:

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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?


"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?


"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.


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:

You can buy Why Civil Resistance Works by Maria Stephan and Erica Chenoweth here:

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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.


"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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