I confess that I find myself conflicted about the Voice to Parliament and not for the reasons you may think. My primary conflict is that I, a white migrant from England, get to vote on something that affects a minority group I am not part of. By the end of this decade, it’s estimated that over one million indigenous people will account for just under 4% of Australia’s population. You and I get a say in the future for people who are not us. Let that sink in.

I hope this blog will remove some of the confusion surrounding the Voice and aid you in making a decision that aligns with your conscience, the Scriptures, and the character of Jesus.

As a Christian leader, I don’t tell people how they should vote. Our unity is in Jesus Christ, and we respect a diversity of opinions. Of course, that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t engage in respectful discussions on issues. We certainly should, hence this blog.

What the heck is it?

The Australian Constitution contains statements of intent or goodwill without specific details. The government’s task is to draft bills debated by parliament and decide whether they will pass them into law. For example, our Constitution allows the Commonwealth to raise an army and navy. Air forces did not exist in 1901, but the term “military defence” in the Constitution has been considered broad enough to include an air force (and nuclear submarines). The details are left to the government to work out. It’s the same for the Voice.

When you vote in this referendum, you’ll answer this question:

“A Proposed Law: to alter the Constitution to recognise the First Peoples of Australia by establishing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice.

Do you approve this proposed alteration?”

If approved at the referendum, several lines would be inserted into the Constitution in Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples. Constitutional expert and Voice adviser Anne Twomey says, “The government would be empowered to specify the legal effect of the Voice’s representations.”

Members of the Voice would be selected by Indigenous communities, not chosen by the government, and serve for fixed periods. If formed, the Voice would be an advisory body to give Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people around the country a say in government policy and programs that affect the lives of Indigenous peoples. It would not deliver services, manage government funding, or mediate between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations.


While political parties have divided over the Voice, that has not always happened. On 16 October 2007, Prime Minister John Howard promised to hold a referendum on constitutional recognition, and Labor leader Kevin Rudd gave bipartisan support. On 8 November 2010, Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced plans for a referendum on the issue. In 2015, Tony Abbott promised to do the same.

In 2017, the Uluru Statement from the Heart asked for an indigenous voice as the first step: “We call for the establishment of a First Nations Voice enshrined in the Constitution.” These Indigenous leaders asked for something both sides of politics had long promised to do.

But, Indigenous people don’t all agree

Yes, that’s correct. Australia’s indigenous people are not a homogenous group any more than Christians are. Christians disagree on all sorts of things and have done since the time of Jesus.

Indigenous people are diverse, and not all agree with the proposed Voice. But the majority do. While it’s difficult to achieve a representative sample of the Indigenous population, the polls that have been conducted show overwhelming support for the Voice by Indigenous people.

Racist and divisive?

A major criticism of the Voice is that it divides Australians based on race. But is this accurate? Unfortunately, people on both sides of this campaign have acted unkindly and used the “race” card to attack others.

Race” is about physical characteristics such as skin colour and hair type. The Voice is concerned with indigeneity. Australia is home to many ethnic groups but has only one Indigenous people. They were here first; hence, they are called First Nations. An Indigenous Voice would not be racist; it would simply recognise the original inhabitants of Australia in the Constitution.

Informed by Faith

Christians have a higher ethic with which to form opinions and inform decisions. We must resist being primarily influenced by our politics or personality. When it comes to decision-making, we ask how our Christian faith informs our conclusion. I invite you to sit with that question.

Also, how does our understanding of God, Jesus, and Scripture aid us in deciding? To be like Jesus, Christians count others as more significant than themselves. “Let each of you look not only to his own interests but also to the interests of others.” That’s what Jesus did for us, so that is how we will respond to others (Philippians 2:3-4).

Regarding the Indigenous Voice, I encourage you to be informed by your faith. Jesus said the most important law was to love God and ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.” In other words, put yourself in others’ shoes and see what life is like for them (empathy). If I were part of a minority group that faired far worse than the general population, would a direct channel (Voice) to the government help me in my plight?

I also encourage you to think beyond “If you don’t know, just vote no.” We Christians want to see others experience God’s love and grace in Jesus. We never tell people if they don’t know Jesus, then say no to him. We encourage people to dig deep, read, pray, and investigate. It’s the same with the Voice. If you don’t know, FIND OUT.

Refute false info

Christians are to be people of truth. We follow a person who described himself as The Truth. And so, all we do in life must reflect the truth. False narratives and conspiracies have no place in the Christian story. They are contradictions of all that it means to follow Jesus. So, however you vote in the Referendum, make sure it’s according to truth, not lies and fear. Here are some of the false narratives I’ve come across:

“You won’t lose your backyard, but you will have to pay the rent.”

The Voice will only offer advice. Parliament and the government will decide the law.

“The Voice will lead to reparations.” The Voice has no power to legislate on anything. It cannot force compensation.

“The Voice is a smokescreen to set up an Aboriginal state within the nation.” There is no evidence this is the case.

“The Voice will lead to a one-world government.” A narrative pushed by Christians who embrace a futurist, conspiratorial view of so-called “end times” prophecy. They say the Voice is part of a push by the United Nations to bring Australia under its control. The Voice is an advisory committee to be enshrined in the Australian Constitution. It has nothing to do with international affairs.

“The Referendum will include a sneaky extra question designed to change Australia’s system of government and abolish private land ownership.” No, it won’t.

“The Uluru Statement from the Heart is a 26-page document.”

Wrong. The Statement is one page of 439 words. The so-called “other pages” are part of the 2017 Final Report of the Referendum Council. Within that report is a history of Indigenous Australians titled “Our Story,” which is not part of the Referendum. The report has been readily available since 2017 and has not been “exposed” by any journalist.

“The No campaign used AI in its ads?” No, it didn’t. An unofficial site did that. One that is not linked to or supported by the No campaign.

“There’s no proof Australia’s Indigenous people inhabited this land for 60,000 years, as the Uluru Statement from the Heart stated.” Yes, there is. Several archaeological sites are over 50,000 years old; one is dated 65,000 years old (Madjedbebe site in Arnhem land).

“The Federal Government paid John Farnham 30 million taxpayer dollars for use of his song, You’re the Voice.” Wrong. The government is prohibited by law from spending money to promote either side of the referendum case.

Other countries

If the Voice is passed, Australia won’t be alone in having a representative expression for Indigenous people. New Zealand and Taiwan have outstanding examples.

Norway, Sweden and Finland all have representation for the Sami people. Every model is flawed and not without their challenges. They do not always please all parties, but they provide a stronger voice for the Sami, and clearly, the sky has not fallen on any of these Scandinavian countries.

Canada formally recognised its indigenous peoples in its Constitution in 1982. Bolivia has recognised its majority indigenous population since its Referendum in 2009.

I do not doubt that this Referendum could have been managed better, starting with dialogue and bipartisan support. Referenda rarely succeed without it. But this is where we find ourselves now, so make an informed decision and cast your vote on or before 14 October.

Why was Jesus born at THAT time? It’s a great question. Of all the times God could have entered the world, why did he choose 4 B.C.? That’s right, Jesus wasn’t born in the year zero. The calendar creators got it wrong.

Different calendars

According to the Hebrew Calendar, based on a Lunar year of 360 days, Jesus was born in 3758.  2023 is the year 5783 until the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah (15-17 September 2023). Rosh Hashanah is the anniversary of the creation of Adam and Eve.

At the time of Jesus, the gentile world used the Julian Calendar Julius Caesar instituted. In 45 B.C., he ordered a calendar of twelve months based on a solar year. This calendar employed a cycle of three years of 365 days, followed by a year of 366 days, a leap year.

The Julian Calendar was widely used until the 16th century when the Gregorian Calendar was introduced on 24 February 1582. The date was advanced by ten days that year (4 October was followed by 15 October). The ten days were skipped to make up for the extra days accrued under the Julian calendar and established a more accurate accounting for leap years to avoid the accrual of additional days in the future.

The terms B.C. and A.D. were introduced into the Julian calendar by Dionysius Exiguous in 525 but were widely used from the 9th century. A.D. stands for Anno Domini, “in the year of the Lord.” B.C. means “Before Christ.” In 2007, these were changed to BCE (before the Common Era) and C.E. (Common Era).

Back to Jesus

With that history in mind, why was Jesus born in 4 B.C.? Why that time and not some other time? Paul wrote, when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. The Amplified Bible says, But when [in God’s plan] the proper time had fully come, God sent His Son.

The Greek language here was applied to ships in the first century. Ships were filled with freight and merchandise, sailors, rowers, soldiers, and rigging until they were ready to set sail for their purpose. The same word is used regarding filling Noah’s Ark with animals until it was ready to float on the flood waters.

And so, Jesus was born at the right time when everything was ready for God’s salvation plan to be accomplished. There are six reasons why this was the right moment:

  • Jewish expectation for the Messiah.

Roman rule made the Jews keen for a Saviour like Moses who would set them free from oppression. In that regard, Jesus disappointed many in Israel because his purpose was to free humanity from sin, satan, and death, not from Rome. God’s plan came through the Jews but was not limited to them.

  • Universal peace and unity.

Rome had conquered and unified much of the world under its government. The Empire was also relatively peaceful. Jesus was born during the Pax Romana, the Roman peace from 27 B.C. to 180 AD.

The Pax Romana was a time of unprecedented peace and economic prosperity throughout the Empire, bordered by England in the north, Morocco in the south, and Iraq in the east. These areas were the first to receive the gospel for unmistakable reasons. Christian Roman soldiers were the first to bring the gospel to Britain.

  • Ease of travel.

Peace and unity allowed for ease of travel, allowing the first Christians to spread the gospel. Such freedom would have been impossible at other times. Pompey had rid the Mediterranean of pirates, and Roman soldiers kept the peace on the roads. Roman roads, some of which still exist in their original form, were sturdy and straight and covered over 400,000 km of the Empire.

  • Universal language

While the Romans conquered militarily, the Greeks dominated culturally. Following the Greek conquests under Alexander the Great, a common form of the Greek language (koine Greek) was spoken throughout the Empire, making it possible to communicate the gospel to many different people groups through one common language. Greek in the first century was like the English language today.

  • A spiritual void.

The first-century world was religiously dominated by multiple idols, gods, and goddesses. But these deities had failed to give victory over the Roman conquerors. People felt let down and abandoned by their worship of those idols.

At the same time, Greek philosophy and science had left others spiritually empty, like modern atheism or secular governments. People sought to fill the resulting spiritual void, and the gospel offered the simplicity of one God and one faith as opposed to the multiple gods and rituals of polytheistic religion.

  • Greek and Roman mystery religions.

Many ancient religions consisted of the offering of blood sacrifices to a saviour god. Contrast that with the Christian gospel, a Saviour God who became the victim to end blood sacrifice forever.

The Greeks believed in the immortality of the soul, not of the body, but the gospel promises eternal life in a body that is imperishable, glorious, dynamic, and spiritual.

And so, that’s why Jesus was born at THAT time? All of these things, and probably some others, lined up to present the best time for God to enter the human family and bring the good news of his love for all people by the birth of Jesus Christ.



In psychology, it’s known as the illusory truth effect: If you repeat a statement often enough, it will seem more likely to be true.

There are statements we Christians make that are not in the Bible, but because they’ve been repeated so often, they are believed to be accurate. So, I thought it would be interesting to explore some statements we regularly hear from Christians that have become believed to be true, although they’re not.

“God helps those who help themselves.”

The origins of this phrase go back to ancient Greece. The English version was first penned by Algernon Sydney, an English politician, in the 1600s. The idea in this statement is that if you want God’s help, you first have to show initiative. But the assertion falls over at the first hurdle.

Consider the very essence of the Christian gospel, which emphasises people’s inadequacy to “save” themselves by human effort. The law was powerless to save anyone because no one could obey the law all the time. And so, God took the initiative by working in Christ to reconcile the world to himself (2 Cor. 5:19).

People can do nothing to help themselves out of sin and its consequences. It took a divine act of unconditional love to achieve salvation, restoration, and forgiveness for all humanity. God didn’t help those who helped themselves because no one could. God helps those who realise they can’t help themselves.

The church has not done a great job of conveying this wonderful truth. Instead, the communication that rings out loud and clear is invariably a moralising message. We’ve told others what’s wrong with them and what they should not do. So much so that many people reason they’ll have to get themselves right first before they come to God (or church). This is the very antithesis of the Christian message.

The statement, God helps those who help themselves, makes us the source of help and strength. God is secondary and will surely appreciate our efforts, and then he will help us. But the Christian is to live a life of reliance on the grace of God and the Holy Spirit as our advocate.

The flip side is that God’s help doesn’t remove our responsibility. Praying and asking for God’s support doesn’t mean you sit on your blessed assurance staring into the heavens. Relying on grace and being empowered by the Holy Spirit, we use our initiative and God-given wisdom. For example, if you need employment, pray about it BUT THEN go out and look for work, knock on doors. God’s help does not remove our responsibility.

“We are sinners saved by grace.”

I heard this statement again today on a new worship album from a megachurch. “Lord, we’re just sinners saved by grace.” Nowhere in the Bible are Christians referred to as sinners, let alone as sinners saved by grace.

Someone may say, “well, the apostle Paul viewed himself as a sinner…” and they’ll quote 1 Timothy 1:15, “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.” But if you read on, you’ll discover that Paul was referring to his life before he became a Christian.

Paul wrote something similar to the Corinthian church: “For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.” In the next verse, the apostle proclaims, “But by the grace of God I am what I am.” That is, by God’s grace Paul was no longer a sinner; he was now a saint. He did not deny that he was a sinner (past tense), but he lived in the reality of what Christ had made him (a saint). And this is what we’re called to do.

We could rewrite this phrase more accurately: “We were sinners, but we were saved by grace, and so are sinners no longer.” That doesn’t mean we’re perfect; far from it. But the New Testament Scriptures declare followers of Jesus to be saints and not sinners. A saint is a person who has been born into God’s family and is “set apart” as belonging to God. They then live a life befitting a person who belongs to God.

Christ-followers are to see themselves in the light of this truth because how we live our lives is determined by how we see ourselves. As Neil Anderson rightly asserts, “No one can consistently behave in a way that is inconsistent with how he perceives himself.” If I view myself as having the righteousness of God in Christ, I am more likely to behave righteously.

Jesus came to change sinners into saints.

“Love the sinner and hate the sin.”

Christians quote this as if it were a Bible verse right next to “cleanliness is next to godliness,” a well-known saying by John Wesley. But neither statements are in the Bible.

Each part of “love the sinner and hate the sin” is valid – God loves sinners and hates sin. But as a collective statement, it’s not correct.

The problem with “love the sinner and hate the sin” is that it is rarely meant. It is just a Christian-sounding platitude aimed at people whose behaviour we struggle with, whose sin we hate, and people we don’t love if we are brutally honest. This statement salves our conscience and makes us feel like we’re being Christian when we display unchristian attitudes towards others.

Of course, we can only know if we love the sinner by spending time with them and helping them when they’re in need. How do we feel about the drug addict with needle scars and missing teeth? What is our attitude towards homeless people who haven’t bathed or changed their clothes for weeks? Do we love the gay man or woman at work (or in our family), or do we merely tolerate them? Do we pretend to love people but then say derogatory things about them behind their backs? We only know the true nature of our hearts when confronted by someone with whom we struggle. And let’s be honest about our struggles rather than hide behind clichés like “love the sinner and hate the sin.”

Another reason this saying is so wrong is that the sinner and the sin are often inseparable. In other words, someone’s behaviour often defines them as a person, so when we say we “hate the sin”, the person hears “I hate you.” The Bible talks about loving people, period.

The statement “Love your neighbour as yourself” is found nine times in the Scripture – divine emphasis for a purpose. In Galatians 5:14, the apostle Paul says that this truth sums up the entire law. In James 2:8, this command is called “The Royal Law,” the preeminent truth that reigns over all truth.

Jesus illustrated how we are to love our neighbour as ourselves by telling the story of The Good Samaritan. Samaritans were hated and despised by Jews in Jesus’ day. The Samaritans were mixed-race Jews because they had intermarried with Gentiles and were considered worse than gentiles – the lowest of the low, the greatest of sinners. Jesus could not have found a more powerful illustration to prove His point. He didn’t teach “Love the sinner and hate the sin.” He taught, “Love the person like they were you.” May this challenge us to the core of our faith!

Maybe you can think of other statements quoted regularly by Christians but not found in the Bible. Feel free to add those in the comments section.





Woke is a word that has enjoyed a revival in recent times, along with a significant change of meaning. It’s a word I’ve used for years to mean the progression of arising from sleep, as in, “I woke up.” But these days, it’s become an insult that is particularly popular with conservatives, including conservative Christians. So, let’s explore the meaning of woke and find out if I really am a woke bloke.

How it started

Woke was first used by Blues singer Lead Belly in 1938. Lead Belly’s “stay woke” encouraged black people to be vigilant to physical danger. The word was then adopted into Black slang from the 1940s onwards.

The expression “stay woke” became popular on Twitter about a decade ago as a hashtag encouraging people to stand up for those on the margins of society, especially the victims of systemic racism. Woke was also adopted by white people who wanted to stand with their black brothers and sisters in their fight for justice.

Woke gets hijacked

But at the same time, woke was being co-opted by other white people as a derogatory replacement for political correctness. And that’s the way woke is mainly used and understood nowadays. I’ve had this sneer thrown at me a few times when I’ve stood up for marginalised people.

When I speak out for refugees or the LGBTIQA+ community (or any other victims of discrimination), I’m woke.

When I wrote blogs to counter some bizarre conspiracies at the height of the recent pandemic, I was denounced as woke. One Christian leader dubbed me “that woke pastor from Melbourne.” The word has become a condescending insult to dismiss anyone perceived as being a politically correct lefty.

But I like Merriam-Webster’s definition the best, that woke people are “aware of and actively attentive to important facts and issues (especially issues of racial and social justice).” That meaning describes my worldview and how I live and should define any genuine Jesus follower. So yes, I truly am a woke bloke!

Whenever there is an election, I am reminded of the little some quarters of the church have learned about how detrimental to the Gospel it is for churches and church leaders to make polarising political statements.

While Christian people have as much right as anyone to engage with politics or stand for political office, the church MUST be above politics, non-partisan, and stick to its central message – the good news about God’s love and forgiveness through Jesus Christ. Anything that clouds that message is an enemy of the Gospel.

Too Political

Several years ago, the Barna Foundation commissioned research amongst young adults (16-29) to discover why they didn’t engage with a church. One of the six reasons was that the church was “too political.”

So, I find it gobsmacking that some Christians and church leaders are still making politically divisive statements and actions even though the evidence is that this harms the cause of Christ.

Christian Values?

A while ago, I saw a post on a pastor’s Facebook page encouraging their followers/congregation to “Let righteousness reign. Put Labor and the Greens last!” I realise this reflects many conservative Christians’ views, but what message does this send to people who may disagree? What about people who do vote Labor or The Greens and still love Jesus? What about people in the broader community who consider Jesus and Church, but are then put off by this statement? Isn’t the Gospel inclusive, or do you have to change how you vote when you become a Christian? Also, why is it “righteous” to vote for a conservative party?

This same leader posted the following chart compiled by the Australian Christian Values Institute.

The Christian Values Checklist informs voters of what each political party stands for on various issues. If you’re a genuine Christian, the report concludes that you’ll vote for Australian Federation, One Nation, or Christian Democrats. If you can’t stomach any of those parties, then United Australia, the Nationals or the Libs would be your choice. But whatever you do, “Let righteousness reign. Put Labor and the Greens last!”

A Closer Look

Let’s examine those Christian values. Predictably they’re what you’d expect from conservative Christianity in Australia, highly influenced by American Evangelicalism. In this tradition, the two main things Christians should focus on are anything to do with abortion or gay people (stop both as much as you can).

While the chart helps you understand what various parties advocate on these issues, I can’t help but notice the missing things. Are not refugees, the homeless, those living with a mental illness, and victims of domestic violence unworthy of the Christian vote? And which party/parties would have the best policies to help those on the margins of society? It also appears that poverty and the environment (points 18 and 19) were tacked on as an afterthought! Maybe I’m wrong, but are they less important than opening parliament with Christian prayer (point 5)? Didn’t Jesus warn people about standing up and repeating rote prayers publicly?

How Should I Vote?

So, with this in mind, here are four things to consider each time you vote:

  • Have the courage to look through fresh eyes. I was born and raised in a conservative British family. My parents voted conservative and Liberal all of their lives. For many years I followed their example. But I dared to look through fresh eyes.  In the famous words of Jim Wallis, sometimes “The Right gets it wrong, and the Left doesn’t get it.” Chat with people who see things differently from you. Ask questions. Listen. Learn. I’m a political moderate (centrist) and a swinging voter these days.
  • Exercise the privilege of a democratic choice. I’ve heard some well-intentioned (but misguided) Christians say that they don’t vote because they believe in leaving the selection of a government up to God Himself. It sounds spiritual but doesn’t consider that God isn’t registered with the Australian Electoral Commission, and neither is Australia a Theocracy! Exercise the privilege of a democratic choice. Express your voice through your vote.
  • Ask, “What is important to me?” But don’t stop there. What is important to us will invariably reflect our passions and life circumstances. But what about others, especially those on the margins, those in Scripture that Jesus showed the most concern?  Paul wrote, “Each of you should look not only to your own interests but also to the interests of others. Being like Jesus means we will be interested in the people he showed interest in ~ people who were homeless, sick, or in prison. The poor, orphans and widows. Those living with a disability or who are the victims of domestic violence.

Our vote must not just reflect selfish concerns of personal comfort but should support those who will show love and care towards the most vulnerable, the least powerful, in our community. Beyond that, Christians believe God created this world and gave it to people to look after. And so, we will consider policies that care for the environment when we vote.

  • You vote for your LOCAL member. We don’t vote for the person who will become Prime Minister or Premier. We vote for our local members.

Finally, be realistic. No ONE political party or candidate will tick every box, so don’t expect them to, or you will be constantly disappointed. Democracy is not a perfect political system, but it is better than some alternatives.



It may surprise you to learn that Christian fundamentalism is a relatively modern branch of the Christian faith. It started in the USA at the turn of the last century.

A Little History

In the early 1900s, a whole lot was going on, all at once. The world had experienced its first world war in which over 40 million soldiers were killed or wounded. In the final year of the war, the Spanish Flu pandemic broke out. The pandemic infected almost a third of the world’s 1.8 billion people. Fifty million died.

Add to this the growing prominence of Darwinian evolution, declining moral values, and well, people were having just too much fun. As the war and pandemic faded, the world bound into the roaring 20s. New forms of music, like jazz, were driving people to dance. Cars were rolling off the assembly lines. Women were ready to claim the vote, and African-Americans were eager to enjoy full citizenship, at long last. People were exploring new ideas and beliefs. Life was magnificently modern. And some Christians saw red!

Fundamentalism Begins

And so, a powerful counterrevolution began in some of America’s largest churches and Bible institutions.

On 25 May 1919, 6,000 ministers, theologians and evangelists came together in Philadelphia for a weeklong series of meetings. The men and women assembled there believed that God had chosen them to call Christians back to the “fundamentals” of the faith and prepare the world for one final revival before Jesus returned to earth. They called their group the World Christian Fundamentals Association.

Their leader? A Baptist pastor, William Bell Riley, said, “The hour has struck for the rise of a new Protestantism.” He described the inauguration of his organisation and the rise of fundamentalism as more significant than Martin Luther’s posting of the 95 Theses on the church door in Wittenberg, Germany, 400 years earlier. No pride there, brother Bill! He was wrong, though.

White Privilege

The men and women at the conference were all white. African-American and Latino Christians were excluded entirely from fundamentalists churches and organisations. They taught that the Holy Spirit would soon turn the world over to the antichrist. This diabolical world leader would preside over an awful holocaust in which those true believers who had not already been raptured to heaven would suffer interminable tribulations.

They were kinda right and kinda wrong. A decade later, the Great Depression began. Ten years after that saw the start of World War 2. A diabolical world leader did arise who directed the wholesale slaughter of 11 million people (Jews, Gypsies, and gay men, amongst others).

Fundamentalism’s Appeal

Their appeal bore out of the fact that they matched up biblical prophecy with world events. Fundamentalists believed that the return of Jews to the Holy Land must precede the second coming of Christ. The British had captured Jerusalem in 1917 and declared Palestine a homeland for Jews. A fact that became a reality in 1948.

This attracted me to Christianity in the late 70s (along with God’s supernatural power). I felt like all of history had waited for Rob Buckingham to “get saved”. The planets would align in 1982, causing cataclysmic events on earth, the rapture, and the Great Tribulation. Antichrist would arise from the Common Market (EU) and take control of the world. Jesus would come back in 1988, a generation (40 years) after Israel became a nation. What happened? Nothing! I’ve reconstructed a much healthier (and more Biblical) approach to eschatology since.

Back to 1919

Fundamentalists associated evolution with last-day atheism, and they made it their mission to purge it from the schoolroom. They criticized how the fight for women’s right to vote was driving women out of the home. Shock horror! They worried that birth control was undermining the family. They were concerned about modern theological ideas.

The fundamentalist message resonated with hundreds of thousands of white Americans. The 1919 meeting in Philadelphia was just the beginning. Soon, fundamentalist magazines, Independent Bible institutes, annual conferences, and church-run radio stations sprung up to spread the Christian faith’s new design (the proper interpretation, of course).

Good qualities of fundamentalism

There are three things I appreciate about Christian fundamentalism:

  1. It presents a relevant and up-to-date faith – the very thing I found attractive in my early 20s. I’m very grateful to God for this and today strive to apply the Bible in a way readily received by people.
  2. It communicates a sense of urgency (the imminence of Christ’s return). The message stirs people out of spiritual lethargy with constant calls for action.
  3. It provides something solid that offers comfort and safety in tumultuous times. To fundamentalists, the Bible is simple, black and white, and straightforward.

The dangers of Christian fundamentalism

Although I was attracted to Jesus initially by the fundamentalist’s message, it also caused much damage in my life. Since my early days as a Christian, I’ve needed to deconstruct the negatives I’ll list below. It’s been a process that continues some four decades later. So, what are its main dangers:

  1. It is too simplistic. Everything doesn’t happen instantly by ‘decreeing and declaring.’ The Bible is not always simplistic (2 Peter 3:16) and easy to understand.
  2. It’s Gnostic (Gk. gnosis, “to know”). You’ll get the message from fundamentalists that “we know something you don’t know.” We see this at present with all the COVID Conspiracies. “Trust the Plan.” “We’re in; you’re out.” I’ve had close Christian friends tell me, in all seriousness, they believe the world is run by a cabal of reptilians. These satanic paedophiles drink blood and scheme to set up a one-world government with the antichrist. One friend talked at me for hours about this, totally unaware that he was boring me to tears. This is all gnostic rubbish!
  3. It’s Exclusionist. A century ago, people of colour were barred from their churches. Today, fundamentalists are opposed to anything to do with LGBTIQ people. It’s the same package with a different label.
  4. It’s always “against”. Christian fundamentalists actively worked against women’s right to vote. They were against alcohol (think the temperance movement of the 1920s). They’ve opposed evolution and some science (like climate change). Christian fundamentalists are against abortion, marriage equality, voluntary assisted dying, “boat people”, you name it. This blog is not a commentary on any of these issues. My point here is there’s a danger in being known only for what you’re against. What about the things Christians are to stand and speak for? Justice, mercy and faith (Matt. 23:23). Christian fundamentalism can obscure pure religion (James 1:27).
  5. It’s too political. Christian fundamentalists fight and lobby to preserve “our rights and freedoms”. While Christians have as much right (in some countries) to speak out like anyone else, we need to be careful that our main message – the gospel – doesn’t get drowned out in the process. In any case, fighting for “our rights and freedoms” is missing the point of the gospel. The Christian’s motivation should be the same as God’s, that of love: “for God so loved …” Love should be our impetus – love for God, one another, neighbour, and enemy. People will know we’re Jesus’ followers by our love, not our lobbying. Christian fundamentalists invariably miss this in their fight to preserve “our rights, our culture, our traditions.” They can appear prideful and self-interested rather than caring “for the interests of others” (Phil. 2:4).
  6. It’s isolationist and nationalistic. Recently, we’ve witnessed this in the USA with Donald Trump and “Make America Great Again (MAGA)”. There’s no doubt that Christian fundamentalists had a massive influence over Trump. 81% of White Evangelicals voted for him in 2016 (75% in 2020). At the expense of other nations and needs, the focus on America created a vacuum that could have led to war as nationalism usually does. But that’s not a problem; Christian fundamentalists don’t mind “a good war”. They also like their guns and gas chambers. But they are pro-life. Don’t forget that!
  7. It’s fixated on the “end times.” They’re preoccupied with current events and live with a newspaper in one hand and Bible in the other. Some of them like to pick dates for the rapture or Christ’s return. They haven’t been right once! In the past 100 years, they’ve predicted the antichrist would arise out of the League of Nations, United Nations, and Common Market (EU). All wrong. Fundamentalists believed that in the end times oppressive governments will clamp down on Christians’ rights and freedoms.
  8. It’s captivated by conspiracies. Consider this quote: “The demand of the State will leave no room for freedom of thought, or independence of action in any direction whatsoever. The circumstances of the war have already furnished the machinery for this. Practically everything and everybody” would soon be under government control. Those words could have been about any bizarre conspiracy doing the rounds due to the COVID Pandemic. It was written by Evangelist W.W. Fereday a century ago. Christian fundamentalists are mesmerised by conspiracies about The Great reset, one-world government, antichrist, QAnon, Illuminati, microchips in the COVID vaccines, 5G, the long, boring list goes on and on.

In 1947, William Bell Riley lay on his deathbed. An aspiring young evangelist sat at his side. The veteran fundamentalist told the rookie preacher that God had destined him to lead the fundamentalist movement forward, to take the mantle from Riley. The young evangelist was Billy Graham. After World War II, Graham and his fundamentalist allies began calling themselves “evangelicals”. Today, some Evangelicals are also fundamentalist, but certainly not all.

I have massive respect for Billy Graham and his clear call to millions who responded to the gospel. But when it comes to fundamentalism, I have grave concerns. Many people have walked away from the church (and Jesus) because of its legalism and condemnation. Others have simply not joined a church or been attracted to its message. Ultimately, fundamentalism is a “different gospel—which is really no gospel at all” (Gal. 1:6-7)

Amongst the various resources I’ve used for this blog, I’d like to particularly acknowledge Matthew Avery Sutton, a professor of history at Washington State University. He has written extensively on this subject.

When I think of this blog’s title, it reminds me of the wicked witch’s words in Judy Garland’s Wizard of Oz. Remember her? She with the green face paint, pointy nose, and high-pitched voice? The scene is found towards the end of the film. The witch attempts to set fire to Scarecrow, and Dorothy gets a bucket of water to extinguish it. The water splashes over the witch at “which” point she starts to disintegrate. “You perfect brat. Look what you’ve done. I’m melting, melting.” Complete with hissing steam and shrieks, the wicked witch decomposes until she is no more. Ding dong …

I’ve felt like that, too, as some aspects of my faith have melted over the years. I’ve experienced the pain of being confronted with some long-held beliefs no longer ringing true. It took a while to realise that I’m not alone in this. Many followers of Jesus have felt the same, and I’m receiving an increasing number of emails from people telling me of their experiences.

Defining the Terms

What is deconstruction? A quick check of synonyms includes analyse, critique, review, and decompose. I love the last one, and it’s true, some of our tightly held beliefs probably do need to decompose and provide much-needed compost for healthy growth.

Blogger Mark Hackett defines deconstruction as “the systematic pulling apart of one’s belief system for examination”. Reconstruction means to rebuild, restore, and renovate. We mustn’t confuse this process with Christian Reconstructionism (an ultra-right-wing fundamentalist view of the Bible and society – like The Handmaid’s Tale).

Deconstruction is nothing new

Although this concept is seen as a current trend, we notice this process in the New Testament Scriptures. Consider how the early followers of Jesus had to deconstruct their attitude towards Gentiles (Acts 10, 11, & 15). God dragged them kicking and screaming away from pride in their nationality and religion and helped them reconstruct a healthier faith that made room for non-Jewish people.

I dare say every generation since has had to deconstruct something. Consider how the church has grappled with slavery, women’s rights, interracial marriage, and divorce and remarriage.

Today’s church needs to deconstruct a faith that excludes people who are “other than heterosexual”. LGBTI+ people have been ostracised and wronged by the church for centuries, but the Holy Spirit is now leading us to say, “enough is enough”. God loves everyone. Jesus lived, died, and rose again for all. Each person, whatever their sexual orientation, should be welcomed into Jesus’ church. It’s time for Christians to reconstruct a healthier, more inclusive faith.

Here are some tips I’ve found helpful during healthy deconstruction and reconstruction:

Don’t try to pull the whole building down in one hit.

Deconstruction is more like a renovation than a demolition. I’ve spoken to some people who’ve become disillusioned with their faith, destroyed the entire thing, and walked away from Church, God, and Jesus. That’s such an unnecessary tragedy. Consider this message I received yesterday, “Got to be honest, there’s a pervasive feeling of absolute devastation and betrayal at the loss of what I used to think and was taught to believe to be true. When I started to remove parts of the altar, started asking questions, started to get really honest and stand for myself and my family, the whole temple crumbled.”

Demolishing your faith will lead to a crisis of faith rather than a healthy process.

View the process as a healthy progression to maturity

Life begins with the simplicity of infancy. As we grow, life naturally becomes more complex. The same is true for Christians. When we first believe, we are encouraged, “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation” (1 Peter 2:2). There’s something wrong if when we’re older, we still only want just milk.

Some of God’s people are like adults in high chairs (Hebrews 5:12 and 1 Corinthians 3:1-3). I encourage you to see the process of deconstruction and reconstruction as a healthy progression to maturity.

Hold fast to the truth that never changes

When you renovate a house, you don’t remove the foundation. It’s the same with your faith. The foundational truth of the Bible needs to remain firmly in place.

The Christian Creeds summarise the great doctrines of Christianity. The first creed was a simple statement written by St. Paul, “Jesus is Lord” (Romans 10:9). That’s a good starting point.

The Nicaean Creed** is a marvellous summary of the basic tenets of the Christian faith.

And remember the things that Jesus called, “Most Important” ~ Love the Lord your God, love your neighbour as yourself, and “in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12). In Jesus’ parable of the wise and foolish builders, the house that “had its foundation on the rock … did not fall” (Matt 7:24-27).

Don’t deconstruct everything before you reconstruct something

You don’t want to be left in a vacuum. I’ve found that deconstructing one thing at a time works well. My first experience of this was as a twenty-something in Bible College. I’d spent my first Christian years in a rather legalistic church. In my first year of Bible College, the Holy Spirit started hammering it out of me. It was painful and frustrating. At times I felt angry. But God is faithful.

Since then, I’ve deconstructed (and reconstructed) my view of the genocide passages in the Bible, hell as eternal conscious torment, and the futurist interpretation of Revelation, to name a few.

The process has required loads of thought and reading*, heaps of study, discussions with people who hold differing views, and wrestling through various (sometimes conflicting) Bible texts. I’m sure this process will continue for the rest of my life as my faith keeps growing.

I’ll finish with an encouraging message I received today on Facebook. It’s from a woman who, along with her husband, was a vibrant part of Bayside Church for years. They relocated to the USA a while ago, but we stay in touch, and they often watch Bayside Church Online and Tuesday Night Live (TNL).

She says of last night’s TNL, “WOW!! Just so much to dive into with this Ps Rob! You mentioned that you started your personal deconstruction a decade ago. My deconstruction started when we first came to Bayside and were under your leadership and teaching … 17+ years ago. I remember the moment sitting in church service thinking, uh-oh, hold on girl it’s about to get real! It was a true deconstruction that made my brain hurt, but, BUT, at the same time the Holy Spirit was speaking to my heart, ‘It’s ok. You can trust him as your pastor and teacher’. And praise God, Ps. Rob, I have never looked back, and the Lord continues to deconstruct and reconstruct. Keep on keeping it real!”

Useful Resources


** The Nicaean Creed

We believe in one God,

the Father almighty,

maker of heaven and earth,

of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ,

the only Son of God,

begotten from the Father before all ages,

God from God,

Light from Light,

true God from true God,

begotten, not made;

of the same essence as the Father.

Through him all things were made.

For us and for our salvation

he came down from heaven;

he became incarnate by the Holy Spirit and the virgin Mary,

and was made human.

He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate;

he suffered and was buried.

The third day he rose again, according to the Scriptures.

He ascended to heaven

and is seated at the right hand of the Father.

He will come again with glory

to judge the living and the dead.

His kingdom will never end.

And we believe in the Holy Spirit,

the Lord, the giver of life.

He proceeds from the Father and the Son,

and with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified.

He spoke through the prophets.

We believe in one holy universal and apostolic church.

We affirm one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.

We look forward to the resurrection of the dead,

and to life in the world to come. Amen.

On Friday evening, Christie received a text letting us know that a Bayside Church member had just collapsed and was being rushed to the hospital. It was Craig weir, husband of Onida Weir (Bayside Church’s children’s ministry leader). By Sunday afternoon Craig had passed away. He was 47.

Over my 35 years in pastoral ministry, I have been with many people when they’ve died. I’ve conducted dozens of funerals, I’ve walked the journey of grief with lots of people. Death is always sad, although the death of a person ripe in years or someone who’s suffered pain from a terminal illness is often merciful. But the passing of one so young seems unfathomable.

I’m writing this blog as my tribute to Craig Lyndon Weir ((13/06/1973 – 14/02/2021). He and I used to joke about our yearly breakfast catch-up. “Hey, Rob,” he’d say in his South African accent. “It must be nearly time for our annual breaky.” Our last one was early March last year, just before the first lockdown. It crossed my mind a week or two ago that we were about due for another catch-up. Sadly, that is not to be.

Craig was a gentle man with a great sense of humour renowned for his dad jokes, much like my own! He loved his wife and kids, his family and friends. And it’s that which I’d like to focus on here. Even in death, he gave the gift of life to others.

In discussion with Christie, Onida and the kids decided on the weekend to donate Craig’s organs. Amid their grief, they decided that Craig would want to be as generous in death as he was in life.

Having said their goodbyes, they left Craig in the caring hands of skilled surgeons and DonateLife Victoria. Over the next couple of days, Craig’s body gave life to a man who would have died if it were not for Craig’s healthy heart being made available to him. I am told that this man and his family are rejoicing.

Two people received his corneas and the gift of improved eyesight and the resulting quality of life. One of his kidneys, as well as his liver, was also donated. His pancreas was given for diabetes research, as were his lungs, some bone marrow, and blood.

Bayside Church’s Vision includes the words, “To courageously love.” To me, the act of generosity displayed by Onida and her family powerfully typify courageous love. Onida shared with me yesterday how she had powerfully experienced the presence of God. And that in grief, she had discovered the truth of these words: “For I will turn their mourning into joy and will comfort them and give them joy for their sorrow” (Jeremiah 31:13).

I’ve been pondering how in life joy and sadness; happiness and grief are often so intertwined. At most funerals, there are things said in a eulogy that make people laugh and cry. A few days ago, a grieving family made decisions that brought great joy to others. And isn’t that a stunning picture of the Christian gospel? The life and death of the man Jesus has brought so much life and joy to millions over two millennia.

A decade ago, I made the decision to become an organ donor. It was around this time of year in the season of Lent. Lent is about giving up something, so others don’t have to. In the past, I’d gone without coffee for 40 days and donated that money to our Forever Home for boys in South Africa. Organ donation is the gift you decide in life so that your death reflects the generosity by which you’ve lived.

In this Lenten season, why not register to become an organ donor? It’s so simple Donate Life today.

Organ donation gives another chance at life to those people who would otherwise die. Jesus taught the Golden Rule, “in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you” (Matthew 7:12). If I – or Christie or our kids – was dying and an organ transplant could save a life, I would be so grateful if a donor was available. If I would want others to do that for me, why wouldn’t I reciprocate? Organ donation is one of the few acts for which people will remember you. We will certainly remember Craig Weir for this and a whole lot more!

Last week, I put the following post on my Facebook page:

With the Australian rollout of a Covid-19 vaccine to begin in early March, I want to gauge how people think about this. And so, are you…

  • Going to be rolling up your sleeve and getting the jab ASAP.
  • Still feeling a bit reticent because of the speed of producing the vaccine, but probably going to get it.
  • Very concerned and unlikely to get the jab for a few months until you’re sure it’s safe.
  • Anti-vaccine, so I will never get it.

I then asked people to post a number that reflects them in the thread. I begged people not to post anti-vaccine videos or articles and “don’t turn this into an argument about vaccines or abortion, PLEASE.” Most people posted respectfully. A few people can’t help themselves!

The results were as follows:

Number 1 – 77

Number 2 – 35

Number 3 – 42

Number 4 – 16

While the overwhelming first choice is “I’m going to be rolling up my sleeve and getting the jab ASAP,” over 50% of people are reticent, very concerned, or unlikely to get it.

Where I Sit

I am in the number one camp. I work closely with a lot of people and currently have Christie’s elderly parents living with us. So, my family and I need to keep ourselves and others as safe as possible.

I will attempt to address several statements and questions in the Facebook thread in the rest of this blog. I’ve consulted with a medical professional who has a BSc in Immunology and microbiology from Monash University and they have helped guide my answers.

Why are we using a vaccine that is only 60% effective?

The question infers Australia will roll out an inferior vaccine that is 60% effective rather than the other ones that are 95% effective? I’ve noticed this comment a few times on Twitter recently, and it’s not accurate.

All of the vaccines Australia has signed up for (Oxford/AstraZeneca, Novavax, and Pfizer/BioNTech) are over 90% effective. Some are approximately 70% effective after the first jab and a follow-up one is needed a few weeks later to boost effectiveness to 95%. The vaccines are only 95% effective because some people don’t get an immune response, as is the case with other vaccines (see reference).

Risks and side-effects

Several people expressed concern about adverse reactions to other vaccines. How do we know this won’t happen with the COVID-19 vaccines? What are the risks and side-effects of these vaccines?

Different vaccines contain different things. Some, for instance, may contain egg proteins, yeast, latex (vial stoppers or syringe plungers), and gelatin, which is added to many vaccines as a stabilizer and is either bovine or porcine. If you’re allergic to any of these or think you may be, speak to your GP first to determine if there’s something in the vaccine to which you could be allergic. Nurses and pharmacists who give vaccines can deal with allergic reactions, and such reactions are rare (see reference).

Many vaccines have slight side effects like fever, headache, arm soreness, redness at the injection site, and tiredness. Of note, more people experienced these side effects after the second dose of the COVID-19 vaccines than after the first dose. Such side effects are common for vaccines approved for other diseases and are a good sign because they show your body is developing an immune response. Your body is doing what God created it to do.

Of course, any medical procedure has risks, and these are often highlighted by those who are anti vaccines. Consider Pfizer/BioNTech, who conducted a 41,000-person clinical trial. One hundred seventy of these volunteers contracted COVID-19, 162 had received a placebo. Only eight people who received the vaccine became ill.

During the trial, ten people became severely ill. Nine of those people were in the placebo group, while one severely ill person was in the vaccine group. Among people 65 and older, the vaccine was more than 94 per cent effective. That’s excellent news because vaccines often are not as effective in older people. After all, immune systems tend to weaken with age (see reference).

What about the speed of production?

In my thread, several people expressed concern about the speed at which the vaccines had been produced. Understand that the base of many vaccines is similar. It’s just the protein spike that is different. For example, the Novavax one has a similar base to the yearly flu jab. In other words, it’s the same train, but we’ve just added another passenger! Also, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, a tremendous amount of funding has been released to speed up research.

“The world was able to develop COVID-19 vaccines so quickly because of years of previous research on related viruses and faster ways to manufacture vaccines, enormous funding that allowed firms to run multiple trials in parallel, and regulators moving more quickly than normal” (see reference).

I’ll end this blog with a few brief answers to some other questions:

Does the vaccine alter our DNA?

No, it doesn’t. DNA lives in a cell’s nucleus and is thus protected. The mRNA in the vaccine goes nowhere near the nucleus where the DNA is. (See reference).

Have the mRNA components caused irreversible damage to some trial participants?

No, they haven’t. It’s a conspiracy theory spread by someone in Germany who claimed to be a naturopath.

Who should get vaccinated?

Everyone, as long as you don’t have any underlying health conditions or allergies that prevent you from safely being vaccinated. It’s important to talk with your GP.

Where should people get their information?

The Internet is an incredible and horrible tool. It allows us to communicate better than ever, but it is also a cesspool of false information that can lead people astray. We’ve witnessed this in a whole new way during the pandemic with the spread of ridiculous conspiracy theories. So, get your information from credible sources ~ highly qualified Immunologists (Ph.D.), experts in their field, and peer-reviewed journal articles. Please note, watching a YouTube clip is not research. And check people out to make sure they are qualified.

Mims’ Medical Microbiology and Immunology (6th edition) is the textbook used by Monash University on this subject and can be ordered online.

I’ll get the vaccine if God tells me to!

The likelihood of God telling you to get a COVID-19 vaccine is relatively remote. I’ve found that God usually saves audible utterances for events of some magnitude. He’s a deity of few words! For everything else, God gives “a sound mind” (2 Tim. 1:7). A sound mind = sanctified common sense. Does it make sense amid a global pandemic where millions are getting sick, and almost two million people have died, for people to be vaccinated against said virus? It’s a “yes” from me!

Like the Spanish Flu (H1N1 Influenza Virus) of a century ago, the COVID-19 pandemic will eventually end. But we will need to learn to live with this virus for a long time to come. Vaccination will be one way to bring it to an end and, hopefully, we’ve all learned lessons in hygiene that will stand us in good stead as we continue to live in God’s beautiful yet fallen world. Let us do everything we can to love our neighbour as ourselves as we live through these turbulent times.