Tag Archives: christianity

“White is a metaphor for power” James Baldwin

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I just watched the movie I am not your Negro on the suggestion of my Literature teacher.It is an amazing movie which highlights the struggle that negro people, and other have had at the hands of white people for over 400 years.

Negro people did not ask to come to America. They were brought to America to serve white people.  They were slaves to the white man until 1865, but still considered inferior to white man until very recently… well some white people still consider anyone different from themselves as inferior. Negroes were not able to go to school with white children until 1957 following the civil rights protest at Little Rock High School.Image result for negro protests

Although the 15th Amendment of the Constitution allowed black men to vote from 1896, many states discouraged negro men from voting by including clauses which stated that black men had to be literate to be allowed to vote, and some states also put a tax on voting for negro men. It wasn’t until the 24th amendment in 1965 that Lyndon B Johnson removed all barriers to allow negro men AND WOMEN, the right to vote, thereby treating them as equal citizens.

Black people were shown in advertising from the 1890’s but the images were generally shown in subservient roles, such as Rastus and Aunt Jemima. It wasn’t until the Civil Rights movement that black people appeared as equals in advertising. It seems then that the nation was starting to come around.

Progressively the nation has included many different skin tones and racial diversions in all walks of life. In 1968 Robert Kennedy announced that America could even have a black president in 40 years. That proved to be true with the inauguration of Barack Obama 40 years later.

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The movie showed the rise and fall of such civil rights leaders as Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jnr and Medgar Evers. These three leaders were strong voices in the civil rights movement which dared to say that blacks were equal to whites. Malcolm X was a black Muslim leader who thought that peaceful protest was useless. Martin Luther King Jnr was a leader who was a Christian who believed in peaceful protests through negotiation. Medgar Evans was a leader who was promoting desegregation primarily in the public school system. Because these men dared to buck the system, they were all assassinated. The idea was ‘to keep the blacks in their place’.

Its not only in America where white people think they are superior to other races. We look at Apartheid in South Africa. We can look at the colonisation of various countries including Australia and India to name but 2. The treatment of native peoples at colonisation or invasion is appalling. White America does not have  a good record here either. The treatment of Native Americans, including Indian nations and Inuits still continues today.

The line that stood out for me in the movie was “White is a metaphor for power”. This is true the whole world over. James Baldwin equates it with Chase Manhattan bank. That is to say that White man considers themselves far superior to any other race on Earth,

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I saw a sign held up in a protest in the movie that said “Don’t you wish you were white?” No. I am ashamed of my skin colour and what it stands for. I don’t look at skin colour as a difference between people. However, I can see how other people, in suppressed minorities might look at me, as a white man, and be scared, even hate what I represent.

James Baldwin says in his movie that he doesn’t want to be a Christian, as he believes that in America at least, the Christians haven’t yet learnt the golden rule “Love One Another”.

All I can say is, I am sorry.

 

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Do you see what I see?

As part of the inside out CAPA competitions at Uni, I wrote the following poem with the hope that it would shed some light on what asylum seekers, including children have come through to reach our country. Then what do we do, but shove them in detention, without any possible hope for a good future in out country.

I hope that when you look at asylum seekers, you would look with compassion, and understand  what they see.

Dave.

Do you see what I see

Do you want to see what I see.

The mud the blood

Broken bodies on the ground

My family is not to be found

Death and fire all around

 

Do you hear what I hear

Do you want to hear what I hear

The guns the bombs

Echo in the night

And fill me with terror and fright

They give me nightmares each night

 

Do you smell what I smell

Do you want to smell what I smell

The chemicals the flesh

Smoke rising in the sky

Sometimes causes me to cry

And makes me wonder why

 

Do you feel what I feel

Do you want to feel what I feel.

I’m scared alone

In detention on my own

My future is unknown

When will kindness finally be shown

 

Do you see what I see

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Patrick White and Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

Ok, I am going to be a bit cheeky here and include this post under both Reading Australia, and American Literature. Why? Because I feel it belongs in both. I believe we can see Emerson, Thoreau and other transcendentalists in Patrick White’s writings. Patrick White was a man who was obsessed with the need for spiritual connection. It is evident in his books and in his life. Is my lecturer going to allow my marrying the two subjects? Paraphrasing Thoreau and Emerson… I am doing it because I believe its the right thing to do, therefore I have confidence in myself and will go on a path that is not often traveled.

In The Tree of Man, Stan Parker is in essence a Christian with ties to a conservative kind of church. He grew up believing in God and the institution of the church, he baptises his kids into the church, he prays and seems to be the spiritual rock of the family; even though he is a man of few words, his conviction is strong. At the end of his life in the book, he has a revelation. He has been striving his whole life for a connection with God, in church, praying and at times cursing a silent God. All that time, God was revealing himself through nature. He is the God in the storm and on the gentle breeze. He is there in good times and bad, even if we cant see it at the time.

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Patrick White had an epiphany, or a revelation when feeding his dogs one night, and slipping in the mud, that God is everywhere. Before this point, he was searching for a church that was uncompromising in its message, but liberal in its acceptance of people. He was seeking a church that was fervent in sticking to points of scripture that White considered important, while relaxing on the things that didn’t really matter.

I just had an epiphany myself. I have been doing the same thing. As a Gay man, I felt totally rejected by the Christian Church when I came out. Before coming out, I was denying who I was, while in church. I have been striving ever since to find a church that will compromise on the issue of homosexuality, or being accepting of gay people but conservative on other areas of teaching. I can stop searching. I will never find a perfect church, because while it may be perfect for me, it will be imperfect for others, or visa versa.

I believe in the Kingdom Come
Then all the colours will bleed into one
Bleed into one.
But yes, I’m still running.

You broke the bonds
And you loosed the chains
Carried the cross of my shame
Oh my shame, you know I believe it.

But I still haven’t found
What I’m looking for.
But I still haven’t found
What I’m looking for.

 

In the words of U2, I still haven’t found what I am looking for. But you know what, it doesn’t matter. I don’t need a church to justify my belief in God. The church says “follow the leader, follow the rules of those who have gone before. Thoreau says to travel the road less worn, to make your own way. Emerson says to be self – reliant, trusting your gut instinct, your intuition.

For those who are getting caught up in Gay Marriage debates around the world, I say, do not listen to the voices or politics to sway you into voting one way or another. Rely on your gut, and vote your own way no matter how the crowd is swayed. ( sorry to get political).

I hope this post has been informative, and insightful to you, Please leave a comment.

Dave

Each man must walk his own journey. One must not look merely at the teachings of the elders of before but be a leader of our own spiritual journey.

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Rome Photos

In November 2016, I had the privilege of being included in the first National ACU choir to tour Rome. I had a wonderful time. Here are some of the photos I took of my time there.

Dave

I have questioned the opulence of the Catholic Church in Rome, but I figure, someone has to own it. If it were sold and the money given to feed the poor etc, then a private person would own them, and we would then castigate that person for owning such opulence. The Catholic Church, by owning and displaying all these masterpieces, can put them on public display for the world to see. They can create a continual revenue that can be used to feed the poor for as long as there is poor.

I loved spending time in Rome, and I have tossed my coin in the Trevi Fountain, so I do plan to return someday.

Dave

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Purity : Patrick White and Brett Whiteley.

In the Interview on the Life and Faith of Patrick White, David Marr makes the point that Patrick had left conservative religion and went on his own search. His exploration took him on a journey through some Christian Mysticism, Carl Jung,

White lived a life of Simplicity. He portrayed simple people as very wise and spiritual people in a number of his books, including the one we studied. Riders in the Chariot portrays Miss Hare as one with great faith, but simple of mind.

The 1979 Billy Graham Crusade was a turning point for Patrick White. He decided that he couldn’t be a Christian any longer, as he didn’t wish to be associated with a religion which was more like a performance…”religion as opera”.

But it is Marr’s comments about the Patrick white book, The Twyborn Affair which perked my interest in purity and Patrick White. Patrick White writes in that book that “What life is about is the pursuit of Purity”. It was important for Patrick. A purity which incorporated moral purity, purity of life, of work and of spirit.

Patrick wanted to be a good man and defined good as being pure.

Brett Whiteley painted Alchemy as an Autobiographical painting in which if one reads it from right to left, finishes with gold, the pure product of the alchemist, and White, the colour of purity.

Brett Whiteley was inspired by Patrick White to the extent that he included a depiction of him in the work Alchemy.Brett Whiteley also left conventional Christianity and  went on a spiritual journey that took him through the world of drugs, and eastern religions. He also looked at Blake at one stage, depicting Blake’s “Grain of Sand” on the same panel as his exploration depictions.

By depicting purity at the end of his life, I believe Brett Whiteley was seeking purity. I also believed he shared the views of White when White expressed contempt at one who was talented but not working on that talent as contemptible. But he saw in the writer Yukio Mishima one who sought to perfect his art, and one who sacrificed all for it as a pure soul; having achieved purity. Mishima had completed his journey and so decided to end it. I believe Whiteley  was in awe of Mishima, and painted his portrait as a dedication to the writer.

We all search for something. Searching for purity seems good to me. I feel I have not let Patrick White down. My aim in life is to share beauty with those who cannot see it for themselves. I strive to do that. My motto is Creativity is a gift, given sparingly, to be used wisely. I think Patrick White would approve.

Dave

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Visionary Imagination: Summative Post

In this course, we have looked at the writings of William Blake, Patrick White, and David Malouf. We also looked at the art of Brett Whiteley.

I have discovered a theme which runs through the whole course.

God can mean different things to different people, but it is essential to life to find your spiritual journey and to follow it wherever it may lead.

Do not be discouraged by others on your journey. They may say “You Shalt Not”, but you shall, just not in their church, or on their journey.

When it comes to things spiritual, some find comfort having a set of rules and dogmas to follow, where others like to be free in their worship of God as they know him/her or it.

Do not be scared of people who are different. Blake and Whiteley may have been scarey to those who knew them. Blake with his fervency and passion for religious freedom, and Whiteley with his passion for all kinds of mind altering substances. Whiteley’s mind scares me somewhat. How many things can one think about at once? Whiteley wanted to express all that was inside him in a sort of urgency, that caused things to often looked disconnected and muddled.

White showed in his novel, Riders in the Chariot, that there are people in our own community, in suburbia, whom we consider different; all on their own spiritual journey. it doesn’t mean one is wrong, and we shouldn’t treat them with anything other than the dignity that should be afforded to every human being. This novel exposes the maliciousness of seemingly everyday people when the are exposed to people or ways that they themselves are uncomfortable with. White himself had an epiphany, which eventually saw him leave the church., but it wasnt until he saw Billy Graham in 1979 that he gave up on Christianity. In his final days, it was said he had a new testament by his bedside. He was asked if he was reading it.He said no, but went on to say, “Well, I will soon know”.

Malouf focuses his novel on a man who is different, but the same as those in the society into which he stumbles. We all must seek to try to understand others, before we start to criticise, ostracise and demean. These different people can add to our lives. Gemmy added value and meaning to the people of the community he stumbled into.

Patrick White was a well known homosexual in our community, who lived with his male partner as husband and wife and nobody blinked an eyelid, except the church. David Malouf is also openly gay. He writes about spiritual issues but himself is not religious despite having a staunch Christian as a father and a mother who gave up her Jewish heritage to be with the man she loved.

Whiteley was raised in a Christian home and school, but turned against the traditions to follow his own spiritual path, along a journey that led him into a world of drugs and alcohol. His paintings were sometimes very sexually explicit.

Blake was a man who fervently followed the Christian teachings but who was not one to be restricted by the church concerning matters sexual or anything else.

These men freed themselves from the restrictions that the world would place on them. It gave them freedom to express the visions they had.

Ones visions and imagination are our own to enjoy, but if we wish to express them, they can be restricted by people or the community in which we wish to be a part.

The people that we studied were pioneers, bravely expressing what was on their hearts. I pray that I too might have that courage.

I have been encouraged on my own spiritual journey. I feel that I am closer to God now than I have been for years. I feel closest to God when I sing about Him, about our relationship with him and how good it is to be comforted by Him who walks with us along life’s journey.

This course has challenged me. It challenged my values and my belief structures. In doing so, it made me release some, to throw off the shackles, and embrace and strengthen others. I have enjoyed studying this course.

Dave

 

 

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How Studying William Blake has affected me

I used to be religious. Well, not religious as such, but fervent in my belief of and evangelism of God. Then I got honest with myself and others and disclosed my homosexuality. I felt disengaged with the church as it were. I was excluded from some churches because of my sexuality. The churches that did accept my sexuality, I felt compromised on some vital areas of doctrine.

William Blake was also disillusioned with the church or organised religion, but he had a deep understanding of and relationship with God. This is evidenced by his writings and engravings. When I studied the plates that Blake made for The Book of Job, I got a greater understanding of Job, than I ever had before.

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Studying William Blake, and studying in a Catholic University as well as being part of the University Choir, has developed within me the passion to again live a life that is more in line with the gospels and with the tenets of Christ.

Being part of the University has encouraged me to be socially responsible and aware of human rights abuses both in our country and in the world in general. It has pushed me to be active in my faith and not just talk about it but do something about it. I have increased my volunteering where I could, helping those less fortunate than I.

I use my God-given talent of singing for the glory of God. I use my other talents of art, writing, and photography to promote and advance social justice issues, and to fight against human right injustices.

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Studying Blake has helped me to separate the Church from the Word; to follow the Word of God where I find a discrepancy between the two. It made me feel that I am not the only one that is disappointed with organised religion, but seek to follow Christ separate; but also with others in the University choir.

In short, I am more of a Christian now, than before when I was a “Churchy, or God-botherer” as some of my friends described me. I hold true to the teachings of God through Christ but admit I do fail. I don’t beat myself up when I do fail.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths”.

 

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William Blake’s Book of Job Plates.

The plates that Blake made for the Book of Job are very descriptive and fairly true to the word of the Bible. I do like his interpretation in pictures what is written in words.

For this blog entry, I am concentrating on the first and last plates of the book. I intend to point out various aspects of the plates and try to explain just what Blake was trying to get at when he engraved these images.job-1last-job

In Plate 1, the day is ending, and night is coming. If we think that Light is good and dark is bad, you can see that this is a forewarning of the doom to come. Life in Plate 1 is “nice”. Job is content with his life, surrounded by his pious children and his loving wife. the open book, representing the word of God sits on Job’s lap. the family is wealthy. The flocks of sheep are deep around them and beast and man alike are content. In the background we see a church and also a town or community. Does this signify that these things, although present in Job’s life, do not take priority over his flocks and family which are displayed further in the foreground?

We see too, that it is a passive scene. Everybody, and all the beasts are at rest. The musical instruments are hanging in the tree like ornaments. Did Job take his faith for granted? Was he passive in his faith?

The Book of Job in the Bible tells the story of a man of faith. Faith that could not be broken. The Devil then goes to God and says, ” I can cause any man to stop following you, and follow me instead”. (this of course is a Dave’s paraphrase and not a literal translation). God answers Satan saying “You wanna bet? Consider my servant Job. You wont break him”. God gave Satan permission to try Job. He told him he could do anything he liked to Job except not take his life.

The book of Job tells of the trials that Job goes through. He loses all his family and flocks. His friends ridicule him and give him bad advice. They mock him and say “Listen, you follow God, but still all this bad stuff happens to you. Curse God and live!”

Job answers “Go away, what should we expect, that only good should come from God, shouldn’t we also expect some troubles?”

The whole story is depicted in 21 plates engraved by William Blake.

Plate 21 shows us the story after Satan has given up. God has won the bet. Because Job was faithful, God allowed him to live another 140 years and see 4 generations of his family following. His farm prospered and again he was highly regarded amongst his friends.

Look closely at Plate 21 (above). We can see that the night or darkness is ending, and day or good times are coming. The flocks again lay at the feet of the family. But the family itself, Job included, is not passive in their worship of God, or their spiritual life. Where before, in plate 1 the family were all seated and at peace, this new family is active in their worship of God. They are all on their feet, worshiping, playing music to God. Job himself is depicted not only holding a harp, but has his hand raised in worship to God.

Blake was telling the story of Job through the plates, but I also think he was trying to tell the believers who followed not to be passive in your life with God. If you do that, disaster may strike. Are you ready for it? Be fervent in your following of God. “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective”. It is the prayer and worship of God that will help us to overcome the hard times. “Even though  I walk through the valley of the shadow of Death, I fear no evil. The rod and thy staff, they comfort me”. The Rod represents the punishment or correction of God, the staff of a shepherd is used to keep the sheep on the right path.

Blake quotes on the top right corner of Plate 21 ” Just and True are they Ways, O thou King of Saints. Job is telling God that he knows that God was with him through all the trials. God did not desert him and so Job, will not desert the True and Just God.

I loved seeing these plates in person in the Art Gallery of NSW. I would have loved some extra time to study them. Thank God for the internet. I can look into them all I desire.

Sometimes, I think we can all relate to Job. There are times when we think that God may have deserted us. Recently, I had a fall. My health was bad. The bank made a mistake that meant I was without money. My car started to fail. But I held on. I am glad I did. My health improved, the bank issue was sorted in my favour, I bought a new car and sold the old one… I was not expecting to get money for it. I won a national photo competition, I am getting good grades at Uni, and in November, I am going to Rome to sing with my choir. So hang in there, it does get better.

Dave

 

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Marriage of Heaven and Hell

The Marriage of Heaven and Hell is one book by William Blake that has even the most wise of scholars confused and befuddled. I myself can shed little light. What I share here has probably been discussed by scholars on numerous occasions without seeing a true solution to the paradox. What is Good? What is Bad?  Is it true what churches tell us; that Heaven is good and Hell is bad?

What is Good? I believe that the word good can be very subjective. It depends on a persons perspective. This perspective is swayed or biased to how one is raised, in what cultural context, traditions within the home or taste in food. While my partner may enjoy extremely spicy food, I do not. So what is good for him is not so good for me. In Europe, nudity is accepted much more readily whereas in our culture which has its heritage in the prim and proper British way, says that nudity is not so good. Most certainly nudity in middle eastern cultures and certain religions is not accepted at all.

What is Bad? I think most of us would agree that a rotten apple is bad in most cultures, religions and countries, but to a gardener, a rotten apple is full of opportunity. You are able to harvest the seeds to grow another apple tree or you are able to use the apple in your compost bin, to assist in putting nutrients in the soil. Some say that the best Apple sauce is made with apples that are bruised or over ripe. The black sheep is colloquial language of a person that doesn’t match up to the standards of his peers or family. But a black sheep is often just different. A black sheep means you don’t have to dye the wool if you want a black jumper (pullover).

Good people go to heaven, bad people to hell?

Jesus asked a man why he called him good when only God is good. We often called morally upright, heroic, or people with a warm open heart good people. Well again that is subjective. If we compare a person whom we consider good to say, Mother Teresa, they would probably fall short. If we compare a person to Hitler, we would look favourably upon that same person.

Do we have the right to judge whether one is better than another? Is a person defined by his actions, or does he deserve the dignity that comes from being a fellow member of the human race? My thoughts are that a persons actions do not define who he is as a person. A person is able to act in a very poor way in a moment of madness, or in a very grand way in a single moment of heroism. One should not be judged on actions, but be given the dignity deserved by all members of the human race.

So, if we do not have the right to judge who is good and who is bad, how do we know who goes to heaven, and who goes to hell?

It comes down to faith. As a Christian, I believe that Jesus was God manifest as man, who sacrificed himself taking upon himself the punishment of men who accept his gift of righteousness. We are all sinners and fall short of the glory of God. Only God is good. so only those who believe that Jesus sacrificed himself for them, took upon himself their badness so they are made good, can go into heaven.

My explanation of Heaven and Hell is simple. Heaven is where God is. Hell is where God isn’t. God is love. So wherever love is, God is.

I know that when I die, Heaven will be home

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Such a Pity: The Human Abstract

Pity, Mercy and Peace are the 3 Virtues represented in this poem by William Blake.

The poem says that without US making someone poor, there would be no need for pity. WE are the ones who made someone poor, now we look down upon them. They had no strength to fight against us. I am using the We in this stanza, as civilised, organised capitalistic society. While we pity those who are homeless, or poor, some of us see and say, like Malcolm Turnbull, “There but for the grace of God be I”.

We can distribute mercy, in the form of benefits from the government, if the poor jump through the hoops. We, the people, donate to charities, or some of us do, to assist those less fortunate. But how about this… Next time you see a homeless person, don’t judge, just buy him a meal.

I am upset by those who like to do “social experiments” by giving homeless people

something, and putting it on YouTube to show what good people they are for doing this. When you donate, do it anonymously: without thought of what you might get out of it.

When you donate, you should give freely, not out of compulsion. You should not place conditions on your giving, but give to a person to do with it whatever they see fit. Once a dollar leaves your hand, it is no longer yours to govern. You have no right to protest, if your donated dollar is not used the way you think it should be.

 

 

Peace, when is the last time we had worldwide peace? I think that at no time has the whole world been in total peace with one another. Selfish greed is the cause of most wars. We who have want more. Those who have not, get what little they do have taken away. All we are saying, is give peace a chance.

 

Peace in the poem is said to be bought about by mutual fear. That sounds like the peace of The Cold War to me. Both sides knew that each had nuclear bombs but neither were going to use them, for fear that the other would as well. It would be nice if peace came about by mutual respect and care for one another, not fear.

The poem also talks about Selfish Love. This is the type of love that says “What’s in it for me?” It is not a love that is truly self-sacrificing, but one that has ulterior motives. It gets rooted deep but when the right time come, it spreads depression and despair. This type of love also produces emotional blackmail. “If you don’t do this, then I won’t love you”, or “If you do that, I will love you more. It also has its roots in fear. we are afraid what will happen if that love is removed.

The Bible says that perfect love drives out all fear. True love is a sacrificial love. It says, “I will do anything for you”. This type of love is not exclusive to man and woman couples, but can be same sex, it can be a love between a parent and child, even a child and a pet.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” 1 Cor:13. 4-8.

The love mentioned in the Blake poem is not true love, but a selfish one. I think Blake is imploring us to take a look at the love we give and the motives behind our giving. True love comes from God. Let’s love with the love that comes from God above.

Dave

 

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