Christ the King Sunday and 2020

In our Zoom worship this morning, our leader talked about the lectionary, how it is structured, how it can be useful in how we approach the Bible and connect with God and each other.

For a variety of reasons I haven’t been blogging much this year, but as we end this Christian year on Sunday 22 November 2020, I thought there was something to write.

2020 has been the year of COVID-19. I am so lucking that I live in Australia, with one of the few countries that have managed this Pandemic well. Interestingly it has been mainly our neighbours in Asia and the South Pacific that have also performed well, and not the “powerhouses” of civilisation, Europe and the USA.

Even in Australia, however, I have noticed a level of selfishness that has caused me concern. The main reason for my limited blogging has been I had a nasty fall, resulting in a significant shoulder injury in March 2020. So far, that injury has led to 3 major operations on the shoulder, two other procedures that required anaesthetics and another non-invasive procedure that ended up with me being in an Intensive Care Unit for two nights. I have at least one more surgery to come, and I will end up with a permanent partial disability with my left arm. So with COVID, it has been a taxing year.

I can’t drive at the moment, and occasionally I have used public transport to travel to large shopping centres to access some services. The selfishness I have seen has been the lack of mask-wearing, even when highly recommended by our State Government. My systems are weak, and it seemed many people were focusing on themselves rather than on others.

But compared to Europe and the United States, I consider myself highly blessed.

Our State Political Leaders have led, and on more than one occasion stared down the Australian Prime Minister who seemed more focused on the economy rather than society and the health of our people and our community.

All this brings me to today’s lectionary, marking the end of the Christian Calendar for 2020.

You can use this link to find the readings.

In the Ezekiel reading, we hear of God who sits in Judgement and determines which people will be in and out of his nation and anointing David as the King. But the King will feed all of his flock.

In the Psalm reading, we are called to worship joyfully. There is no requirement that it being in a physical building that we might now call a Church. In my Christian communities, we have been able to be joyful and worshipful, using Zoom live or YouTube on demand. In this way, we have protected each other and our broader society. I am saddened by so many Christian leaders who demanded their religious right to open their Churches against medical advice, only to have themselves, and many in their communities become infected with COVID. That is not loving, that is arrogance and self-centredness.

Then finally, the Gospel reading, the centre of the Christian faith. Matthew’s telling of Jesus story of the “Sheep and the Goats”.

  • “for I was hungry and you gave me food
  • I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink
  • I was a stranger and you welcomed me,
  • I was naked and you gave me clothing,
  • I was sick and you took care of me,
  • I was in prison and you visited me.”

At least my observation in Australia, we tried to do some of these things better.

Once we got over panic buying, many people did try to ensure that those without food were able to get some as the usual community sources had limitations.

To protect the rest of society, we rounded up the homeless and housed them. I am not convinced that as a society, we will continue that care and compassion when we should.

I am not sure we did so well with strangers, as we closed borders, and here in Australia, many Australian’s of Chinese heritage were verbally assaulted by their neighbours. Probably in part due to racist overtones in our society and some political leaders in Australia and abroad calling out the virus as a China caused problem.

We did focus on the sick, with reasonably an extra effort for those with COVID. I have been fortunate in being able to access a world-leading health system. Whilst not perfect, I never had to wait for treatment, but I didn’t rely on fully the public health system, and if I did, it might have not as great. As a society, are we going to fund our health system so all can have access to timely, safe and supporting medical support without an extensive waiting list? I do want to thank the medical teams that have helped me so amazingly this year.

When prisoners were locked down to protect them from COVID, they didn’t have access to visitors. One side effect was the early release of prisoners who weren’t a risk to society. For me, this raised the political question, that we need to stop the ratcheting up of “law and order” politics with a “lock them up mentality.” This does society no benefit in the longer term.

From Australia, I watched in horror the evangelicals who seek power in the USA at the expense of all these elements Jesus has so plainly laid out.

As we end this Christian year, our New Years Eve for the new Christian year, perhaps it is time to reflect on 2020, and how Christ the King is calling us to be a society in 2021.

Many political leaders are calling for the resumption of normal. COVID had drawn our attention to many things that were normal but not acceptable, particularly if taken through the eyes of Jesus.

I believe as the people of Jesus, we need help society and our political leaders find a new normal. This sounds like an excellent starting model:

  • “for I was hungry and you gave me food
  • I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink
  • I was a stranger and you welcomed me,
  • I was naked and you gave me clothing,
  • I was sick and you took care of me,
  • I was in prison and you visited me.”

In need of a prophetic voice

Unfortunately, the minister at my parish has been extremely ill, and we are all helping out where we can. Last Sunday was the first time in the five or so years I have been at the Parish that I have preached in the main service. (listen hear

With my busy business and a lack of discipline with my spiritual life, I do find preaching helpful as it forces me to spend time contemplating the Bible. What does the Bible say, what is happening in society, what is God calling me to say in this place at this time?

Chatting to friends afterwards, receiving feedback around my sermon, which was more political than usual for our parish, one friend made an interesting comment along the lines of:

I studied and read history at school and after. I often wondered how the people of Germany let Hitler happen, why didn’t they see it? They are intelligent people. How did they let it happen? I look around and see what is happening in our world currently, and I am getting to understand better how.

This well enunciated what had been traversing my brain for a while.

Around the globe, we have numerous religious political leaders at the moment. Morrison in my own Australia, Trump in the USA, Bolsonaroin Brazil. All are professing faith as leaders, yet seem to operate in the exact opposite direction of the man they claim to follow.

  • These type of men appear to not have the interests of their indigenous people at heart.
  • These type of men don’t appear to be interested in providing for the sick.
  • These type of men don’t appear to want to help or care for the refugees.
  • These type of men appear to be more interested in putting people in prison rather than helping those in prison.
  • These type of men appear to be more interested in the rights of the corporate over the environment.
  • These type of men appear to be more interested in the well being of business rather than the workers who labour within these business.
  • These type of men seem to be more interested in power than in service.
  • These type of men seem to be more interested secrecy than openness and transparency.
  • These type of men seem to be more interested in oppressing minorities than allowing them to flourish as valuable additions to society.
  • These type of men seem to think that sexual orientation is binary and will oppress, erase and harm people rather than recognise the inordinate contribution that being different provides society.

These type of men represent the political elite, power and control.

Then we have the religious communities, what some might call the evangelicals. Unfortunately, those who follow Jesus are called to spread his word, but the “white evangelicals” have destroyed that concept for me and many others.

  • We have religious leaders who are fighting against the protection of children.
  • We have religious leaders who are fighting to ensure women are reduced to second class citizens.
  • We have religious leaders who are fighting to ensure they can exclude people on their own grounds.
  • We have religious leaders who are fighting to ensure that they have extraordinary power and privilege that no other citizens can have.
  • We have religious leaders who are fighting for the right to abuse youth and adults of different sexual orientations, in a process that often lead to suicide or at best severe mental health issues.
  • We have religious leaders who are fighting for the right for health practitioners not to help people based on their own religious views, which will negatively affect the health of women, disabled people, LGBTIQ people, people of different races and faiths.

We have religious leaders who are seeking power to control rather than the free people.

We are now being faced with a number of countries where the political and religious elite are working for their own power, and not for the betterment of all humankind.

Jesus, the person they all say they follow, called for inclusion, healing, for the sick, support for those in prison, acknowledgement and engagement with people of different faiths and ethnicities, bringing in the outcast (often the outcasts are caused by the political and or religious elite), caring for our world and so much more.

The canary in the coal mine is very ill.

Each country that is heading down the pathway of political and religious elitism, exclusion, power and control, needs a new prophetic voice.

In some way, Dietrich Bonhoeffer was the canary of an earlier period. His voice wasn’t listen to and the results were devastating.

Can we wait any longer to find the 21st century Bonhoeffer prophetic voices to rise, to ensure we have civil society tomorrow, next week, next year?

Why do Christians Attack Transgender People? It’s not Love

Conservative Australian Christian blogger Bill Muehlenberg continues his assault on the LGBTIQ community, and is currently focusing on the Transgender Community.

I am becoming quite fascinated why the conservative Christian movement seems to almost have its theology built on sexuality and gender (plus the pro-birth movement) and not on Jesus and his calling to Love One Another.

As has been the strategy of the Australian Christian Lobby, using one or two example to justify excluding an entire community, Muehlenberg has built this current article on the dangers of transgender transitioning to their gender and then detransitioning from one or two stories, and in this case a book review, thereby trying to justify the exclusion of potentially 25 millions transgender people around the world.

Getting good data on the number of transgender people in the world is difficult when leaders such as Trump wishes to exclude questions of sexuality and gender from their census. This consequently make it difficult for groups, support services, medical professionals etc to better understand the size of LGBTIQ communities and their locations to optimise service delivery.

I do generously feel compassion for people who have transitioned and ultimately de-transition, that their life has not worked as they had hoped.

However, Muehlenberg’s arguments are not only disingenuous but also dishonest, and add to the poor level of knowledge and information in the broader community and also in the Christian community.

I had responded to Muehlenberg’s blog on his site, and naturally, any commentary that provides an alternative perspective is not published on his blog – again a tendency of the conservative Christian movement, failure to be open to criticism only reenforces the lack of knowledge and insight of that community of people.

Cornell University has undertaken a review of all peer reviewed published articles in English from 1991 to 2017. (Source:

They summarise the following:

“We identified 56 studies that consist of primary research on this topic, of which 52 (93%) found that gender transition improves the overall well-being of transgender people, while 4 (7%) report mixed or null findings. We found no studies concluding that gender transition causes overall harm.”

In their overall research findings, they bring to light the possible causes of detransitioning, that may be at play in Muehlenberg’s example person.

“4. Regrets following gender transition are extremely rare and have become even rarer as both surgical techniques and social support have improved. Pooling data from numerous studies demonstrates a regret rate ranging from .3 percent to 3.8 percent. Regrets are most likely to result from a lack of social support after transition or poor surgical outcomes using older techniques.

5. Factors that are predictive of success in the treatment of gender dysphoria include adequate preparation and mental health support prior to treatment, proper follow-up care from knowledgeable providers, consistent family and social support, and high-quality surgical outcomes (when surgery is involved).”

What Muehlenberg also fails to acknowledge is that any surgery has risks and any surgery can have outcomes that are not desirable for a whole raft of reasons. The Royal Australasian College of Surgeons reported in their press release on 10 October 2017 that in 2016 there were adverse outcomes of surgery in 2.9% of surgical activities, which is a reduction from approximately 6% in 2009. So in relation to the case presented by Muehlenberg we don’t know if there was surgical misadventure, which is a possibility. So if these people transition some years ago, not only was the surgery techniques in earlier stages of development, and the rates of misadventure were statistically higher. (Source

Muehlenberg quotes from the book he is reviewing that “Candidates for sex change surgeries are vulnerable and ill-equipped to grasp the consequences of surgeries on their bodies and the effects on their future. They are easily approved for unnecessary procedures by surgeons willing to accommodate them….”

However he fails to acknowledge the significant work undertaken by the Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne who have published the Australian Standard of Care and Treatment Guidelines for Trans and Gender Diverse Children and Adolescents.

The problem for Muehlenberg, Miranda Devine and others who are attacking transgender kids is that they don’t have surgery when they are 10, and they don’t start medical supervised drug treatment when they are 5 years old. The trouble again with this ilk of people is they refuse to read the literature and report honestly information that doesn’t suit their narratives.

So once again we have a Christian voice mis-using information, and not being open and willing to contemplate evidence that is inconsistent with their narrative of disrespecting a significant group of people in our world population.

I sit back and wonder, why the Christian movement has lost the key message of Jesus, love one another? I set back and look at the Gospels of Jesus time on earth and see that Jesus is disrupting the religious leaders of the time who are destroying lives, and why can’t those doing the same now see that.

I know I have a plank in my own eye, but the LGBTIQ community doesn’t deserve this level of abuse. Being Christian is about love, forgiveness, hope, and that is not that in Muehlenberg’s blog.