Tuesday 31 July 2007

Christian Writing

106 Christian Writers gathered at New College on Saturday to take part in The Faithful Writer conference. The conference was a joint initiative of CASE and Matthias Media and the driving force behind it was Karen Beilharz who has worked for both of us and is a keen writer. It was a very helpful day that provided practical advice and offered further reason to write. My background is in English education and my research has been focussed on literacy and how we learn and use it for varied purposes. Writing has been a long-term interest for me as a teacher, researcher and writer. One of my current research interests is the intersection of writing with other modes of communication, and the way that new forms of communication are changing what it means to be a writer.

It occurred to me during the conference that all writers need to understand how writing is different to speech, drawing, film and so on. But we also need to understand the way language use is being changed by new forms of communication, and how varied forms of meaning are related to one another. What will be the impact of new forms of communication on the ministry of the word. Is the spoken word losing its primary role as the language form that binds communities together (an interesting diversion could be the growth of internet language forms - new dialects etc?)? What is the implication of change in language and communication for how we share the gospel with others? Do we simply embrace new communication forms at the expense of old ones? Or, do we use them as complements? Are there dangers in seeing the uncontrolled internet as a major vehicle for biblical teaching? What are the possibilities?

So, over the next few posts I want to rave on about a few issues that I see as important for Christian writers. Here are a few that I'm going to write about in 500 words or less:

* How are writing and speech different? And why does it matter?
* Does context matter?
* Do we need to know our audiences? Is it okay to write faithfully for unseen and unknown audiences?
* What do other forms of communication add to the message of the Word?
* What are the risks and possibilities of BLOGS, email, network communities (e.g. Facebook)?

Over the next couple of posts I'm going to discuss a few of the above topics one by one (my first BLOG mini series!).
I'd welcome your suggestion of issues or topics to consider if this lot don't match your interests.

Tuesday 24 July 2007

The Local Church and social issues

CASE is one of a number of organizations dedicated to challenging Christians and non-Christians to consider what the Bible teaches about every part of life. In the truest sense of apologetics we seek to offer a defence of the Scriptures when its claims are challenged or when public policy and action appears to be out of step with what we believe the Bible teaches. As well, we seek to initiate debate and dialogue to promote Christian understanding of intellectual and social issues. We always see ourselves doing this in partnership with other like-minded organizations. And so it’s always encouraging to see local churches taking a stand on issues and encouraging their members to think deeply about social issues in the light of the teaching of the Bible.

One example of a local church that is seeking to do this is The Lakes Evangelical Church on the Central Coast. It has recently had two sermons on issues that have been the concern of CASE associates in the past. The church has challenged its members to consider what the Bible teaches us about "IVF and Stem Cell" research and also "Abortion".

If you are interested in these topics you can download MP3 files and powerpoints of material associated with the sermons.

Tuesday 3 July 2007

Kids and Work

I noticed an article in the Sydney Morning Herald that discusses issues surrounding teenagers, work and Workchoices. The topic of children and work is one that I've reflected on many times over the last 20 years as I have watched the rapid increase in the number of teenagers who work part-time (ABS has reported that 53% of children aged 15-19 work part-time). The herald piece quotes Randall Pearce, from Think: Insight and Advice who frankly I don't know, so I can't comment on the quality of the research. And I don't want to use this post to take a political swipe at Workchoices and the impact of federal industrial relations laws on young workers (but others might want to explore this topic). The article simply raised for me a wide range of issues surrounding children working that have worried me for some time. As a Christian I want to open up discussion about the merits of teenagers working part-time and the impact that this has on their lives, their attitudes and their beliefs. How does the Bible inform our views on the wisdom of our teenage children working long hours and having large amounts of disposable income. It is obvious that children need to grow up to undertstand the importance of work and how the Bible sees work. And many will argue that part-time work teaches teenagers many positiove things. But, I'm still left with lots of questions. Here are some of them:

* What impact does part-time work have on families? If teenagers as young as 15 years are working 10+ hours per week, how does this impact on the ability of families to eat meals together? To spend time together?
* How does part-time work have an impact on teenagers ability to have involvement in activities such as church or sport, with possible impacts on physical and spiritual well being?
* What is the impact of teenagers having large amounts of disposable income to spend on things they want? What do they learn from their experience - both positive and negative?
* As parents, what are the dominant factors that shape our positive (or negative) attitudes to our teenagers working part-time?
* As parents, have we considered the potential impact that part-time work might have on teenagers learning at school? Their ability to sustain friendships with other teenagers? Their ability to be part of varied family activities? Their physical, emotional and spiritual well being?

In a paper presented at the 2005 American Sociological Association conference, Timothy Clydesdale suggested: 1) that most American teens view work as a necessary nuisance, money as a lifestyle essential, and leisure as a purchased commodity, 2) that most American teens are blinded to their conformity to these American patterns of consumption, and 3) that American teens have learned these patterns from their families, their religious communities, and their local communities -- not because these communities send these messages explicitly, but do so implicitly as they pattern their own behaviors along these lines.

I've requested the paper from Tim and will read it with interest. But this quick summary offers a pretty bleak picture from one sociologist. I'm intrigued that he suggests that religion can contribute negatively, as can families and communities. I'd welcome your thoughts, or suggestions about other useful publications in this area, I might just explore it further in a future CASE magazine.