Saturday, February 26, 2011

Shaken AND Stirred!

This last week has been full of the horrors of the earthquake which devastated Christchurch, television has been near a continuous wall-to-wall coverage, while the newspapers have constant updates and galleries of searing images.
It has been frightening, on several levels, not least that we live in the Wellington region which is itself astride a very active fault system.
Needless to say it has prompted (certainly well-overdue) reviews of our emergency preparedness - largely theoretical I'm sorry to have to concede. Of course, Desiree has therefore swung into action, and we now are developing a cache of clothing, blankets, cooking & heating supplies, food, water, etc. in an accessible place. All we need now is to know that the emergency will strike while we're at home!
And then I received a lovely email from a cousin in Canada, with a lovely 'update' photo of their family. In it I was asked if there was any connection between the faultlines near us and those which caused the destruction in Christchurch. Which got me thinking: how to explain our position to someone on the other side of the world?
So have a look at these:

New Zealand lies across the margin of two major tectonic plates - the Indo-Australian (to our west) and the Pacific (to our east). The consequence is that the country is riddled by faultlines, in particular the Alpine Fault, which runs along the 'spine' of the South Island, forming the Southern Alps. It then bends and splinters in a number of smaller faults which cross what we call Cook Strait, to re-emerge in the southern North Island as a series faultlines, which stretch north and become the Volcanic Triangle around the central Plateau and Bay of Plenty.
In our part of the North Island, the major faults look like this:

And how far away are we? Wellington to Christchurch by road is a distance of 414 km (257 miles) and takes about 5 hours, after a ferry crossing of 3 hours. By air it is a 45-55 flight, or there is a scenic train trip which takes about 6 hours, after the ferry trip.
I was reminded that I had mentioned a nearby faultline, which I had shown Erin while she was visiting with us. Again, is it close? Well have a look at this map, and click on the place indicated.

There is a rise in the road, as it goes up to the Hutt Road (look at the path beside the building on the right). That is the fault scarp left after the last major movement on the Wellington Fault, in the 1850s. We used to live with 100 metres of this, although we are now several kilometres away.
There is nothing heroic about it - we just live with it, and hope that when "the big one" strikes, we'll be OK.
Oh, and we visited Christchurch for a few days last March, and had a lovely time in a lovely city. It is saddening to see the same places we remember with affection now rubble and dust.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Where are the Christian churches when they're needed?

I was struck recently by the response to a news item headlined "Muslims protest at blasphemy trial". Why was I struck by the response? Because there wasn't any.

The story was this: In Indonesia a Catholic man was tried and convicted for distributing blasphemous material. The judgement sentenced him to 5 years imprisonment for 'spreading hatred of Islam'.

As a result, about 1,500 militant Muslims "rampaged through the town of Temanggung in Central Java." They believed that the sentence was too light and that he should be executed (or handed over to the crowd, who, presumably, would have killed him anyway!).

The Irish Times ran the story under the headline: "Churches attacked in Indonesia".

What I want to know is this: Where were the mass protests in so-called Christian countries at this outrageous behaviour?

Any perceived slight to Islam in a nominally Christian country, or even a westernised secular country, and mobs hit the streets in at least some Islamic countries. Carefully orchestrated the demonstrations may be, and designed to serve internal political ends they almost certainly usually are, but: they garner news coverage around the world.

And that coverage helps build the impression of the 'West' being under constant attack by a militant Islamic world, and offering only a fractured, feeble response at best. Too often, mass media report the events and then as quickly move on to stories about celebrities. The Dompost ran, immediately below the story about the Muslim Protest at Blasphemy Trail, a second story, with more text, headlined "Warne prepares for Hurley with new mattress"! And this in the International News section!

Now, let me be clear: I have no truck with 'missionaries' of any ilk (Christain or Islamic), but my experience of the proseltysing Christian missionaries engage in is that it is seldom negative these days; it is more usually focussed on the positives of it's own message and faith. So claims in Indonesia that the Catholic priest was guilty of spreading "hatred of Islam" I find difficult to believe.

And so the reaction is also, in my view, unlikely, unless it is being manufactured to some 'ulterior end'.

This instance also highlights one of the fundamental dilemmas of modern 'westernised', democratic and nominally liberal societies: how to balance toleration for the intolerant. Are we busy allowing a 'viper' to not only enter our society, but to also grow large enough to force us to fundamentally alter the character of our society?

If we're uneasy about this or unwilling to face this kind of bullying behaviour we need to stand up to it.

So where are the Christian churches expressing their outrage, and summoning their adherents onto the streets of Sydney, Auckland, Wellington, Washington, London, Berlin, etc?

Like too many other things, they're never about when you need them!

Another step towards unreality for the Catholic Church

Already deep in denial over the abuse of children by undetermined numbers of it's clergy foot-soldiers, the Catholic Church continues it relentless march towards unreality.

It is now apparently embracing the 'virtual world' and the 21st century by giving it's approval to a new iPhone app - "Confession: A Roman Catholic App".

It is apparently "designed to help users understand their earthly sins and offers a personal conscience profile based on their age, sex, job and marital status."

It is "aimed at those who've not confessed to a priest in a while and hopes to prepare them to once again enter the box again."

According to this article, The Church's approval is part of the Pope's drive for Catholics to "make good use of their presence in the digital world" and to help people "make a good confession."

No reference there to changing and improving their behaviour! Just to 'make a better confession'!

The app allows users to choose from a list of sins or to add their own, and to choose from 7 different acts of contrition.

Imagine it: 'Think I'll just make a quick confession while I sit on the bus on my way work. Now, what sin will I choose this time - gluttony?, adultery? Too heavy. I know, impure thoughts covers a multitude of things. That'll do this time.'

And you begin to wonder if the efficiency experts will now begin to argue that the efficiency gains from the app means not so many priests will be needed, or that they need to spend less time cramped into those little boxes waiting for the witless and gullible.

And how long before someone in the Church realises that the phones can provide vast amounts of information - not only GPS tracking but access to text message records.

'Your phone rings. "Hello, this is Martin." "Hello Martin, this is your virtual priest, Father Watcher. I see you have been making lewd suggestion by text to your girlfriend. I think it is time you made another confession, don't you? After this call, just turn on the 'Confession' app. It'll only take a moment you know, and you'll feel much better for it."

Yeah, right!