Life & Faith

Are we victims?

Michael Ramsden on how we respond to injustice: as nations, groups, and individuals.

---

“There’s a very interesting phrase in the Old Testament where it says you’ve turned justice into bitterness. In a more poetical translation it says you’ve turned justice into bitterness, so your righteous acts taste like poisoned fruit. In other words, if your motivation for justice is bitterness, even if you get that which is right, it can taste like poison to everybody else.”

Michael Ramsden has been thinking about our culture’s struggles with injustice and disagreement a lot lately. In this conversation with Natasha Moore, he talks about what it means to live in a “victim culture” - according to definitions from history and psychology, rather than the opinion pages that rail against “snowflake” millennials! - and our options for responding to past trauma. 

From the Balkans to the Holocaust, Superman movies to very personal stories of trauma and forgiveness, Michael helps us interrogate how we construct our identities, and what kind of society we want to be. 

“The problem is, when we hold onto our bitterness, we end up paying twice for all of the injustice we’ve suffered. We pay once when it happens and then we pay again on every remembrance of it.” 

--- 

This is the second part of Natasha’s conversation with Michael Ramsden, International Director of RZIM and one of the founders of the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics. To hear more about Michael’s personal story, listen to the first part. 

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

OR on Spotify: http://cpx.video/spotify

FIND US on Facebook: www.facebook.com/publicchristianity

FOLLOW US on Twitter: www.twitter.com/cpx_tweet

VISIT our website: www.publicchristianity.org 

Are we commitment-phobes?

Michael Ramsden talks to everyone from politicians to terrorists about culture, faith, and Jesus.

“I just thought if I became a Christian my life would become worse … I was 100% sure that I was sacrificing on the altar of truth my only chance for happiness in this world.”

Michael Ramsden was a very unlikely convert to Christianity - and that’s the least unlikely of the stories he has to tell in this two-part interview. From talking to Australian MPs on the day of a leadership spill to being invited to spend time with terrorist groups, he has a lot of interesting conversations with interesting people. 

In this episode of Life & Faith, Michael offers a window onto the various worlds he’s part of, and some cultural observations that we may find more skewering than is comfortable. 

“[We] struggle with the sense of commitment that’s required, all the time forgetting that all relationship relies on commitment. Whatever you’re slightly committed to is going to feel shallow by comparison. So although some commitments may seem huge, when you understand how the nature of all relationship works - which is the more you’re committed to it and the more you’re giving to it, the more enthralling and deep it is - then that equation begins to change.”

---

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

OR on Spotify: http://cpx.video/spotify

FIND US on Facebook: www.facebook.com/publicchristianity

FOLLOW US on Twitter: www.twitter.com/cpx_tweet

VISIT our website: www.publicchristianity.org  

 

Rebroadcast: Extravagance

Life & Faith tackles a series of moral dilemmas around poverty and luxury, beauty and utility. 

---

How can we act ethically in a world that contains so much suffering? 

One of our Facebook followers articulated the moral dilemma involved in devoting money to “non-essential” things when they commented on a Life & Faith episode about the Museum of the Bible, a $400-million project being built in Washington DC. They posted: 

“Surely it is better to spend the time, money and energy required for this project on putting what Jesus said into practice. What about feeding the homeless on the streets of DC.” 

It’s a fair point - but it’s also a slippery slope. 

If we’re truly paying attention to the poverty in our local communities and around the world, how can we ever spend money on a pair of nice shoes, an expensive holiday, or even our morning coffee?

For that matter, how can we justify art and culture? Is it frivolous to spend money on beautiful things, or to spend time making or enjoying art, rather than on feeding the hungry or curing someone of a preventable disease? 

John Dickson and Simon Smart join Natasha Moore for a discussion about luxury and poverty, beauty and utility, with reference to Peter Singer, effective altruism, the Met Gala, and the woman who poured perfume on Jesus’ feet. 

This episode was first broadcast over two weeks in August 2016. 

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

OR on Spotify: http://cpx.video/spotify

FIND US on Facebook: www.facebook.com/publicchristianity

FOLLOW US on Twitter: www.twitter.com/cpx_tweet

VISIT our website: www.publicchristianity.org  

The Philosopher’s Faith

John Haldane on virtue, happiness, narcissism, and the possibility of God.

---

“Philosophy from its origins has always had its focus on the idea that we investigate thought and the world and so on in order to answer the question: how ought I to live?”

John Haldane is that rare breed, a public intellectual. He’s an academic philosopher who also works hard to introduce philosophical concepts to the rest of us in ways that connect with our lives.

“Anybody who is seriously interested in living their own life well is going to be somebody who is looking for answers to questions and they’re going to talk to others and so on. They’re not going to think that they can just generate that out of themselves - or they ought not to think that.”

Simon Smart grills John on unhappiness and virtue, self-love, what higher education is really for, optimism and pessimism, and whether arguments for the existence of God have any traction. He also asks: what personal reasons do you have for being a Christian? How do you arrive at belief?

“These are different areas or elements within one’s broader view of the world … There is the scientific over here, there’s the philosophical there, there’s the experiential there and so on, and it’s more a matter of kind of going on the Grand Tour, and revisiting and coming to these, and then experiencing them and reflecting on them in the light of what one has previously experienced and reflected upon, and then moving, and then coming back - and so on. So it’s a kind of to-ing and fro-ing between these different areas."

---

John Haldane is Professor of Philosophy at the University of St Andrews. He was in Sydney as a guest of the Scots College, to deliver their annual Clark Lecture.

---

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

OR on Spotify: http://cpx.video/spotify

FIND US on Facebook: www.facebook.com/publicchristianity

FOLLOW US on Twitter: www.twitter.com/cpx_tweet

VISIT our website: www.publicchristianity.org  

Sister Act

Life & Faith hears from two young women who’ve made some very counter-cultural choices.

---

“Sometimes we’ve been mistaken for many other things. We have a convent in New York City, and one night our Sisters were walking on the streets, back to one of our convents. A group approached them and said, ‘Hey Sisters, what’s the show on Broadway tonight?’ I mean, you see a lot of things in New York, and we’re just part of it. Then we were in Sydney too, a little girl boarded a bus one day when there were a few of us on, and said, ‘Look Mum, all these women are getting married today.’ You know, so it’s a sight unseen.” 

Sister Jean Marie and Sister Mary Grace are Sisters of Life. They’ve taken vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience – the vows that nuns have taken for centuries – as well as an extra vow, to protect and enhance the sacredness of every human life.

Their order is often described as “pro-life”, but Sister Mary Grace says she likes to think of their work as radically “pro-woman”, supporting mothers and pregnant women who feel that their choices are limited by offering them practical help, and unconditional love.

In this episode of Life & Faith, we hear from two young women who’ve made very counter-cultural choices: opting for commitment in an age of keeping your options open; celibacy in an age obsessed with sex and romance; communal living in an age of atomisation and loneliness; a life of prayer in an age that pursues productivity and efficiency. What could lead someone to make that kind of choice?

“Ultimately, what I've discovered in joining the Sisters of Life is that love desires to commit. Just last August I professed my first vows, and that day was like a wedding day for me. It was really an experience of freedom. I think love ultimately desires to give itself away to the beloved, to the other person that is loved.

---

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

OR on Spotify: http://cpx.video/spotify

FIND US on Facebook: www.facebook.com/publicchristianity

FOLLOW US on Twitter: www.twitter.com/cpx_tweet

VISIT our website: www.publicchristianity.org  

What we talk about when we talk about movies

A conversation with film critic CJ Johnson, for anyone who’s ever loved a film.

---

CJ Johnson was an only child who grew up watching Bill Collins present the best of Hollywood every Friday and Saturday night on Channel 10, and who calls film his “first real friend”. These days, he’s a film critic, lecturer, and playwright who watches and thinks about movies for a living and reviews them for the ABC, among other places. 

That’s how he met Simon Smart - the two appeared together on an episode of ABC Radio’s Nightlife program one Easter to talk about some of the myriad cinematic versions of the Jesus story. 

"I came to respect that that story, in the New Testament, is a bloody good story - just an outrageously brilliant story. For the first time, I got properly an understanding of why that story is beloved by a certain sizeable chunk of the planet. And it was seeing it told cinematically that got me to that place.” 

In this conversation, CJ and Simon try to get to the bottom of their love of film; touch on classics from Casablanca to Jaws as well as the Marvel phenomenon and 2018’s Mary Magdalene; and talk about how to recognise a good movie when you see one. CJ also tackles the eternal question of whether you have to read the book before watching the film - as well as which kinds of books make the best movies. 

“I see art as something that those of us who don’t go to church have - going to the cinema is my church. … No one can survive on nothing, and art feeds the soul.” 

---

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

OR on Spotify: http://cpx.video/spotify

FIND US on Facebook: www.facebook.com/publicchristianity

FOLLOW US on Twitter: www.twitter.com/cpx_tweet

VISIT our website: www.publicchristianity.org  

Missionary Doctor

What could make someone give up everything to serve some of the world’s poorest women?

---

"As a junior doctor I went to Ethiopia to work with my aunt in the desert area, and we were just wandering around the desert with camels, treating people under trees and shrubs and things in 50-degree heat … You’d have to sleep with a guard with a gun because the hyenas get quite close, so every now and then you’d get woken up with a gunshot and this hyena yelping off in the distance. And then a bit later that night a camel was bellowing just a few metres away from my head and gives birth, and I get splattered with all this amniotic fluid."

Andrew Browning has spent more than 17 years in Africa as a missionary doctor. As a medical student, he spent time working with Rwandan refugees fleeing the genocide; as a junior doctor, he joined Catherine Hamlin at the Fistula Hospital in Ethiopia, dedicating his life to helping women who are suffering from debilitating childbirth injuries. 

In this episode of Life & Faith, Andrew explains how he could give up a lucrative, comfortable life as a doctor at home in Australia to help thousands of women halfway round the world. He explains the risks of childbirth in rural places, what a fistula is, and his hope for a future where women don’t have to face this kind of suffering. 

He also talks about the difference between being a missionary doctor or a secular healthcare worker somewhere like Africa - as well as how African and Western people respond differently to illness, suffering, and death. 

"I remember telling people in Australia they’ve got cancer, or 'You’ve got a life-threatening condition’, and the immediate reaction was 'No, no, you’re wrong' or 'Give me a second opinion; that can’t be true’, or they’re angry. Whereas if you do that in Africa it’s much more 'Oh, okay, sure. My time is up.' I mean they’re much more attuned to death and accepting of suffering as part of life, they see it every day … The poor in Africa, the physically poor, people say that they’re spiritually rich, and the materially rich are often spiritually poor - at least in my experience."

---

Content warning: This episode contains explicit medical details, as well as descriptions of violence, that you may find distressing and that probably aren’t appropriate for kids. 

Find out more about Andrew's ongoing work to end obstetric fistula globally through the Barbara May Foundation

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

OR on Spotify: http://cpx.video/spotify

FIND US on Facebook: www.facebook.com/publicchristianity

FOLLOW US on Twitter: www.twitter.com/cpx_tweet

VISIT our website: www.publicchristianity.org  

This Side of the Wall

Checkpoints, borders, normalcy, and hope: a sketch of daily life in the West Bank. 

---

Areej Masoud lives in Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus. In terms of physical distance, it’s very close to Jerusalem. In terms of social reality, it’s a world away. 

“If I want to go to Jerusalem, I need to get a permit. It’s not like I want to go, and I just start my car and leave. I would have to go through the pedestrian walk, and to do that I need to get a permit. The permit is not like a visa with clear criteria why you get it, why you don’t get it. I would need to go to a military base to request that, and you most probably won’t get it. But if you do, you need to go and wait at the checkpoint … it’s very humiliating.” 

Areej is a Palestinian Christian, which means she belongs to a people who once made up 30 per cent of the population. These days, they make up less than 1 per cent of those living on the West Bank. 

"I always felt jealous of other Christians, where their worst enemy could be their neighbour, or their ex-best friend. I do have an enemy, and that enemy is causing the persecution of myself and my people. Loving my enemy does have a different meaning, and that’s only when I was able to live both of my identities together. When you are not able to live that, like loving your enemy, you can’t consider yourself a Christian.” 

The Arab-Israeli situation is among the world’s most intractable conflicts. It’s enormously complicated, and a minefield of a political issue. 

In this episode of Life & Faith, Simon talks to someone who lives those tensions every day, and tries to navigate them using Jesus’ words about peacemaking and love of enemies as a compass. Areej shares stories of what life is like for her people: Can you be sure water is going to come out of the tap? How do you hold down a job? How do you travel when you’re not allowed near your country’s airport? And why would someone actively choose to live under these kinds of pressures? 

"Hope is something not to be taken for granted: we have to have it each morning. Hope is when you know what your mission is and where you’re heading to and who you are, and what is your community and what they mean to you, and what you mean to them.

It’s like waking up in the morning knowing you are going to have a bad day, but then deciding you are going to have hope, create hope. And if you don't have it that day, you know someone else found it for you and with you, and they will share that with you.” 

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

OR on Spotify: http://cpx.video/spotify

FIND US on Facebook: www.facebook.com/publicchristianity

FOLLOW US on Twitter: www.twitter.com/cpx_tweet

VISIT our website: www.publicchristianity.org  

Discomfort Zone: Os Guinness

Os Guinness talks freedom, human rights, and why the 1960s counterculture was the best moment to come of age.

---

“In Europe, you could go to any crossroads - we lived in Switzerland then - and there’d be six hitchhikers. One would be reading Nietzsche, one would be reading Siddhartha, one would be reading Robert Heinlein, and one would reading C. S. Lewis, and they’d say ‘hey man, you should read this’, or ‘you should go there’. People were really thinking.” 

Os Guinness is an author and speaker with a keen eye for how culture works. He was born in China during World War II, survived a famine and the Cultural Revolution, and came of age in the midst of the counterculture of the 1960s. “I’m so glad that I’m a child of the 60s”, he tells Simon Smart. “It was wild, but I’m glad it forced me to think through my faith, and to relate my faith to all that was going on.” 

In this episode of Life & Faith, Guinness talks about some of his influences - and most outlandish experiences! - from that time, and the importance of going out beyond your comfort zone. He considers the many meanings of freedom, as well as why free societies are rare - and rarely last. He talks religious freedom and weighs the options: the sacred public square, the naked public square, or the civil public square. 

And in case that’s not enough big ideas packed into a short time, he also canvases the last 3000 years of Western history and tackles the question: are we now living in a post-truth and post-human-rights world? 

“A worldview is like a lens through which we see reality, and we will not only see certain things if the worldview is clear and accurate, there will be things, if it’s not, that we don’t see. Take a simple example: you see a mountain. The Greeks might well have worshipped the mountain. A South African engineer will look at the mountain: can I mine it and make a lot of money out of it? The 19th-century Englishman would have wanted to climb the mountain, because it’s there. … So, you see certain things and you simply don’t see others. Contrast is the mother of clarity.” 

---

Os Guinness’ latest book is Last Call for Liberty: How America’s Genius for Freedom Has Become Its Greatest Threat.

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

OR on Spotify: http://cpx.video/spotify

FIND US on Facebook: www.facebook.com/publicchristianity

FOLLOW US on Twitter: www.twitter.com/cpx_tweet

Homo Divinus

Denis Alexander on whether there’s purpose in biology - and in life.

---

“You stand back and look at the narrative as a whole, that to me doesn’t look necessarily without purpose … it’s like a drama - it looks like it’s going somewhere."

Denis Alexander is a molecular biologist, cancer researcher, and one-time Director of the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion at Cambridge. He’s been writing about science and religion for close to half a century. His latest book is called Is There Purpose In Biology?

"As a matter of fact, most evolutionary biologists I think would deny - to a certain degree, at least - the idea that evolution is a theory of chance. … If you live in a planet of light and darkness and so on, you need eyes, so you’ll get them; just wait long enough and they’ll come along. And if you go and live in a cave you’ll lose your eyes and they decay away. ... The whole process is predicated on the ability to adapt to a particular environment, particular ‘ecological niche' as we say in biology."

In this episode of Life & Faith, Denis explains what young earth creationists and the New Atheists agree on, and how the story of evolution maps onto the biblical account of where humans come from and where we’re going. He also covers Adam and Eve, heaven, life on other planets, and where cancer and natural disasters fit into the story.

"Clearly life and death go together; you can’t have life without deathEndFragment … it looks to me like what we have is a sort of package deal - so that all the good stuff and all the 'bad stuff’, stuff we don’t like, just go together. If you have carbon-based life you’re going to get carbon-based death; that’s the way it’s going to go."

---

Denis Alexander was in Sydney to deliver the 2018 New College Lectures on the topic “Genetics, God, and the Future of Humanity”. Listen to the full lectures here.

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

OR on Spotify: http://cpx.video/spotify

FIND US on Facebook: www.facebook.com/publicchristianity

FOLLOW US on Twitter: www.twitter.com/cpx_tweet