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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Trustee of the truth

Bishop Nicholas Holtam’s comment in the news item above "sometimes Christians have had to rethink the priorities of the Gospel in the light of experience" and “the Biblical texts have not changed; our interpretation has" are very interesting comments. No doubt the Bishop was talking about the Anglican Church but it could easily apply to the Catholic Church or even to Islam.
NO HOLDS BARRED
Raja Petra Kamarudin
Gay Marriage Opponents 'Like Christians Who Used The Bible To Support Slavery'
(The Huffington Post UK, 30 May 2013) - A senior bishop has likened opponents of gay marriage to Christians who used the Bible to support slavery.
The Anglican Bishop of Salisbury, the Rt Rev Nicholas Holtam, suggested it was time to 'rethink' attitudes towards allowing same-sex couples to marry, as Christians did with slavery and apartheid.
In a letter to the Telegraph he argued that attitudes towards homosexuality have changed "considerably" over the last fifty years and that the development of gay marriage would be a "very strong endorsement of the institution of marriage".
"Sometimes Christians have had to rethink the priorities of the Gospel in the light of experience," he wrote.
"Before Wilberforce, Christians saw slavery as Biblical and part of the God-given ordering of creation. Similarly in South Africa the Dutch Reformed Church supported apartheid because it was Biblical and part of the God-given order of creation.
"No one now supports either slavery or apartheid. The Biblical texts have not changed; our interpretation has."
Legalisation of gay marriage was approved by MPs last week after surviving a Tory backbench bid to derail it.
The Bill will have to overcome more resistance when it comes before the House of Lords next week.
Bishop Holtam, who was appointed to the role in 2011, is the first clergyman married to a divorcee to be made a bishop.
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Around 1,500 people witnessed the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln at 10.15pm on Good Friday of 14th April 1865. By midnight, just two hours after Lincoln was shot and even as he still lay dying and had not quite died yet, the authorities began recording the statements of more than 200 witnesses.
What was surprising was not the speed in which the authorities responded in taking the statement of these witnesses -- which was done in the next room to Lincoln’s deathbed -- but the fact that not one of the more than 200 witnesses gave the same story.
In spite of everyone having witnessed the same incident and the fact that their statement was being taken just two hours later when the event would still be fresh in their minds, no one could corroborate what the other person said.
In short, 250 people related 250 varying stories just two hours after they witnessed what happened.
A professor once did an experiment. He got 10 students to sit in a line and he whispered a story into the ear of the first student. The first student then repeated the story to the second student and so on until the story reached the end of the line. The last student was then asked to repeat the story and the story this student related varied from the story the professor had whispered into the ear of the first student.
From these two ‘case studies’ it is apparent that stories change over time. Two hours later, 250 people who witnessed the same thing cannot agree on what they saw. Ten students who passed the story down the line could not keep the story consistent even within mere minutes of the story being related. Can you imagine what would happen if the story was thousands of years old and was recorded, say, more than 100 years to 300 years after the event and was passed down by mere word of mouth over six or ten generations?
Then we have the problem of the interpretation of the story. What was said is one thing -- which itself has changed over time -- the meaning and implications of what was said would be subject to your perception of things.
And this, basically, is what has happened to religion. Religion is based on what happened thousands of years ago and is based on stories handed down over many generations through word of mouth and eventually recorded hundreds of years later by those who are recipients of drastically modified stories and who interpret these stories based on how they perceive things. The value system, standards, customs, traditions, norms, prejudices, preferences, and so on, of that later time would heavily influence the thinking of those interpreting those events and who never witnessed those events and are basing their opinions on how they perceive things and based also on what they heard. 
Bishop Nicholas Holtam’s comment in the news item above "sometimes Christians have had to rethink the priorities of the Gospel in the light of experience" and “the Biblical texts have not changed; our interpretation has" are very interesting comments. No doubt the Bishop was talking about the Anglican Church but it could easily apply to the Catholic Church or even to Islam.
I know that Catholics and Muslims are what I would describe as ‘people resistant to change’ and they believe that what was ‘revealed’ 2,000 years or 1,400 years ago is ‘complete’ and is absolutely 100% accurate without an iota of distortion. But time has proven that most of what was done back in time was based on interpretation at that point of time and, looking at it from this day and age, were absolutely wrong and not in the least correct.
France and England have just passed new laws legalising same-sex marriages. This, of course, is being opposed by the ‘fundamentalists’ and the resistance is because the holy books say it is wrong. But there are many things that are right which the holy books say is wrong and things that are wrong which the holy books say is right.
For example, if based on the holy books, then slavery and marriages between 11-year-old or 13-year-old children is also right -- plus many other things which society would today frown upon.
The question is: what is right and what is wrong? And who are these trustees of the truth who decide on what is right and what is wrong?
I mean you do not have to go back thousands of years. Just go back 56 years to the time of Merdeka and the drawing of the Merdeka Agreeement and the Federal Constitution of Malaysia. If we cannot question what was decided 2,000 or 1,400 years ago, can we, therefore, question what was decided 56 years ago?
Look at the next item below. The EU is taking Britain to court over immigrants' entitlement to benefits because it is convinced that Britain is breaking EU rules by not allowing nationals from member states the same access to benefits as UK citizens.
Can you see that Britain is going to be sued for not allowing the ‘pendatang’ the same benefits as British-born people? What would happen if, say, British-born Pakistanis, Indians, Chinese, etc., were treated as ‘second-class citizens’? All hell would break loose. 
This is something we need to discuss and discuss openly in Malaysia. Yes, the Federal Constitution of Malaysia may say this, that and the other. But that does not mean we can’t talk about it in a mature and civilised manner. Even the Bible, which is considered more ‘binding’ than a man-made Constitution, is being questioned. So why can’t we sit down and discuss other documents that in the fist place never ‘came’ from God? 
I feel in the post-GE13 era this must be the thrust of those from the civil society. The politicians are too distracted ‘playing politics’. We can’t depend on them to engage in mature and civilised discourses. They are too busy to worry about that. We need to take matters into our own hands and resolve these nagging issues that have been around since the 1940s and until today do not appear to see any light at the end of the tunnel.
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(The Huffington Post UK, 30 May 2013) - The EU is taking Britain to court over immigrants' entitlement to benefits.
The European Commission is convinced Britain is breaking EU rules by not allowing nationals from member states the same access to benefits as UK citizens.
Through applying an extra 'right-to-reside' test it is alleged that Britain could have prevented migrants working and living in the UK from claiming some benefits.
The Commission believes thousands of migrants could have missed out on benefits such as child tax credit through the allegedly discriminatory test.
A British official told the BBC the test was a vital and fair tool to assess benefits were apportioned fairly.
Details of the legal action will be announced later on Thursday.

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