Kangaroo Chow Mein

North Americans celebrate Thanksgiving in honor of the historic dinner that took place in the small colony in October of 1621. Earlier in the year a treaty had been drawn up between the then-small English colony and the Wampanoag people native to that area.

Does it make you curious to know what was happening elsewhere in 1621?

  1. Sir Francis Bacon, scientist and Lord Chancellor of England, is put in prison on 23 counts of corruption.
  2. The Treaty of Khotyn is signed ending the Polish-Ottoman War…both sides claimed victory.
  3. In an unprecedented show of violence from the nation of the light blue flag, the Swedes occupied Riga (present day Latvia).
  4. Hugo de Groot escapes a sentence of “perpetual imprisonment” in the castle of Lovenstein by hiding in a chest supposed to be full of books.
  5. And Galileo invented the telescope.

Some historical theories state that the first outsiders to be welcomed by the Aboriginal Australians were in fact the Chinese. Perhaps a similar scene to the one at Plymouth unfolded in 1621 somewhere in Australia. Kangaroo Chow Mein? Wonton Bogong moths for dessert?



The Man from Snowy River

Some may remember the 1982 film The Man From Snowy River. Did you know the film is 
based on a famous Australian poem? The Man from Snowy River was a poem written by 
Australian poet A.B. "Banjo" Patterson. The poem was first published in 1890 by an 
Australian news magazine called The Bulletin. 

There was movement at the station, for the word had passed around 
That the colt from old Regret had got away, 
And had joined the wild bush horses - he was worth a thousand pound, 
So all the cracks had gathered to the fray. 
All the tried and noted riders from the stations near and far 
Had mustered at the homestead overnight, 
For the bushmen love hard riding where the wild bush horses are, 
And the stockhorse snuffs the battle with delight. 
 There was Harrison, who made his pile when Pardon won the cup, 
The old man with his hair as white as snow; 
But few could ride beside him when his blood was fairly up - 
He would go wherever horse and man could go. 
And Clancy of the Overflow came down to lend a hand, 
No better horseman ever held the reins; 
For never horse could throw him while the saddle girths would stand, 
He learnt to ride while droving on the plains. 
 And one was there, a stripling on a small and weedy beast, 
He was something like a racehorse undersized, 
With a touch of Timor pony - three parts thoroughbred at least - 
And such as are by mountain horsemen prized. 
He was hard and tough and wiry - just the sort that won't say die - 
There was courage in his quick impatient tread; 
And he bore the badge of gameness in his bright and fiery eye, 
And the proud and lofty carriage of his head. 
 But still so slight and weedy, one would doubt his power to stay, 
And the old man said, "That horse will never do 
For a long a tiring gallop - lad, you'd better stop away, 
Those hills are far too rough for such as you." 
So he waited sad and wistful - only Clancy stood his friend - 
"I think we ought to let him come," he said; 
"I warrant he'll be with us when he's wanted at the end, 
For both his horse and he are mountain bred. 
 "He hails from Snowy River, up by Kosciusko's side, 
Where the hills are twice as steep and twice as rough, 
Where a horse's hoofs strike firelight from the flint stones every stride, 
The man that holds his own is good enough. 
And the Snowy River riders on the mountains make their home, 
Where the river runs those giant hills between; 
I have seen full many horsemen since I first commenced to roam, 
But nowhere yet such horsemen have I seen." 
 So he went - they found the horses by the big mimosa clump - 
They raced away towards the mountain's brow, 
And the old man gave his orders, "Boys, go at them from the jump, 
No use to try for fancy riding now. 
And, Clancy, you must wheel them, try and wheel them to the right. 
Ride boldly, lad, and never fear the spills, 
For never yet was rider that could keep the mob in sight, 
If once they gain the shelter of those hills." 
 So Clancy rode to wheel them - he was racing on the wing 
Where the best and boldest riders take their place, 
And he raced his stockhorse past them, and he made the ranges ring 
With the stockwhip, as he met them face to face. 
Then they halted for a moment, while he swung the dreaded lash, 
But they saw their well-loved mountain full in view, 
And they charged beneath the stockwhip with a sharp and sudden dash, 
And off into the mountain scrub they flew. 
 Then fast the horsemen followed, where the gorges deep and black 
Resounded to the thunder of their tread, 
And the stockwhips woke the echoes, and they fiercely answered back 
From cliffs and crags that beetled overhead. 
And upward, ever upward, the wild horses held their way, 
Where mountain ash and kurrajong grew wide; 
And the old man muttered fiercely, "We may bid the mob good day, N
o man can hold them down the other side." 
 When they reached the mountain's summit, even Clancy took a pull, 
It well might make the boldest hold their breath, 
The wild hop scrub grew thickly, and the hidden ground was full 
Of wombat holes, and any slip was death. 
But the man from Snowy River let the pony have his head, 
And he swung his stockwhip round and gave a cheer, 
And he raced him down the mountain like a torrent down its bed, 
While the others stood and watched in very fear. 
 He sent the flint stones flying, but the pony kept his feet, 
He cleared the fallen timber in his stride, 
And the man from Snowy River never shifted in his seat - 
It was grand to see that mountain horseman ride. 
Through the stringybarks and saplings, on the rough and broken ground, 
Down the hillside at a racing pace he went; 
And he never drew the bridle till he landed safe and sound, 
At the bottom of that terrible descent. 
 He was right among the horses as they climbed the further hill, 
And the watchers on the mountain standing mute, 
Saw him ply the stockwhip fiercely, he was right among them still, 
As he raced across the clearing in pursuit. 
Then they lost him for a moment, where two mountain gullies met 
In the ranges, but a final glimpse reveals 
On a dim and distant hillside the wild horses racing yet, 
With the man from Snowy River at their heels. 
 And he ran them single-handed till their sides were white with foam. 
He followed like a bloodhound on their track, 
Till they halted cowed and beaten, then he turned their heads for home, 
And alone and unassisted brought them back. 
But his hardy mountain pony he could scarcely raise a trot, 
He was blood from hip to shoulder from the spur; 
But his pluck was still undaunted, and his courage fiery hot, 
For never yet was mountain horse a cur. 
 And down by Kosciusko, where the pine-clad ridges raise 
Their torn and rugged battlements on high, 
Where the air is clear as crystal, and the white stars fairly blaze 
At midnight in the cold and frosty sky, 
And where around The Overflow the reed beds sweep and sway 
To the breezes, and the rolling plains are wide, 
The man from Snowy River is a household word today, 
And the stockmen tell the story of his ride.

The Bulletin, 26 April 1890.

‘Big Questions’, a documentary series by Grenville Kent, Update

Used with permission and originally posted on Wesley Institute’s website: http://www.wi.edu.au/news/big-questions-documentary-series-grenville-kent

Dr Grenville Kent, film producer, and lecturer in Old Testament at Wesley Institute, has been involved in an ongoing project over the last few years, creating a 13-episode documentary series titled ‘Big Questions: Does God Exist.’

He recently interviewed Professor Daniel Dennett, leading New Atheist, author of Breaking The Spell: Religion As A Natural Phenomenon, philosopher and neuroscientist. In the personal story below, Grenville reflects on this recent ‘episode’ of his ‘Big Questions’ journey, and the imperativeness of ‘friendly dialogue’ in an often unfriendly debate.

Listening to Atheists

I shouldn’t have told the taxi driver I was going to the Atheist Convention.  ‘So they’ll sit around saying there’s nothing up there, it’s nothing?’, he said in a Middle Eastern  accent, fingering his prayer beads.  ‘These people are mad!’

‘It’s a bit more than that… ‘, I started to say.

‘These people want two men to marry each other, but they can’t have no children, which proves them they’re wrong.  These f***ing people ought to be shot.’  He drove on angrily, making the wooden cross swing faster from his rear view mirror.  Did he remember that the man on it never forced anyone to obey, and was killed by religious intolerance?  I kept quiet.  Some beliefs are more like prejudice, out of reach of reason.

Is this what atheists put up with?  If you were parented or taught by a believer like this, atheism might look open-minded and attractive.

Inside, comedians started carpet-bombing religion.  ‘To anyone who has lost a child, let me say: God loves you, so he’ll burn your baby in hell forever and ever and it’s your fault.  You didn’t ask a paedophile priest to hold him and dribble water on his head to wash away the Original Sin of his ancestor Adam, who the church officially says never actually existed.’  First people wince, then there is deafening laughter and applause from the 4000-strong crowd, twice as many as last year.  Yet as I listen, I realise they’re attacking another god, a God of Straw, not the God of the Bible.

Outside, Muslim protesters were chanting that Christopher Hitchens, the atheist writer who recently died, would burn in hell.  I don’t feel qualified to judge.

I notice the T-shirts.  ‘Science flies you to the moon. Religion flies you into buildings.’  (Witty line, but there aren’t many people in either group.)  ‘Forget Jesus.  The stars died so you could be born.’  ‘Smile, there is no hell.’  ‘God is not my drug of choice.’

The conference has the celebrity atheists – Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, P.Z. Myers, Ayaan Hirsi Ali – and is called a ‘Celebration of Reason.’  Reason is worth celebrating, and I want a faith that is reasonable, not blind.  But where did we get reason?  Did mere matter become conscious on its own?  Did the human brain, easily the most complex object we know, assemble from chemicals by chance alone?  Or is it more likely that our reason came from another Mind?  I’m producing a film about this in the Big Questions series.

big questionsI find some atheists want honest dialogue, while others take cheap shots and attack straw man arguments, acting like intolerant fundamentalists – but I’ve heard some Christians do the same.  Is anyone actually listening fairly?  We need respectful dialogue, not tribal warfare.  Atheists have reason and intuition, the ability to love, some innate knowledge of right and wrong, a sense of purpose – because they are created in God’s image, whether they recognise it or not.  Some have never heard good reasons to believe, and have rejected illogical church dogma.  Some have been abused by Christians.  Many are influenced by scientists who act like all the evidence goes one way, and who wallpaper over large gaps in the naturalist account of how we got here.

I know of only one way to reach them: friendly dialogue.

Peter (1 Peter 3:15) tells Christians to do three things.  One, ‘Consecrate yourself to Christ as Lord.’  That is, recognise your own need of a Saviour and spiritual transformation.  That leaves no room for smugness.

Two, ‘Be always ready to give a reason for the hope you have.’  A reason (Greek apologia) means a reasoned defence, a logical case for something.  So, as atheists are becoming a growing segment in Western countries, the church needs to take their view seriously and come up with a response, a logical case that explains why faith makes sense, not just as a private feeling.  I’m encouraged to see Christians reading authors who do this – John Lennox, Lee Strobel, William Lane Craig, Ravi Zaccharias, John Dickson and Alister McGrath.  (You can find their talks on YouTube.) Most times when I talk with an atheist, I realise my ignorance on yet another topic, and go home to dig deeper.

Three, ‘Do this with gentleness and respect.’  I need to respect people who have prayed and felt unanswered, who feel they’re on a mudball hurtling through space, unguided, unparented, trying to make their own meaning and purpose and to live their lives as best they can.  I need to respect their intelligence in how I present Christianity.  Wouldn’t the Creator of the brain value their thoughts and experiences, even as he tries to persuade them towards truth?  Didn’t he welcome the probing questions and fingers of ‘Doubting’ Thomas?  If a loving father is calling them home, how could I possibly represent Him by arrogance or rudeness?  I need to take a different road from my taxi driver.

And so I sneak into the convention centre’s Prayer Room – it’s not like anyone was using it – and ask for love and logic as I interview celebrity atheists. I pray that I’ll really listen, and make films for that will begin to answer their real questions. I hope they will join me in questioning, wondering and enquiring in God’s big universe.  Forever.

*Photo: Dr Grenville Kent (right) with Professor Daniel Dennett (left).