Tag Archive: john eliastam

A few days ago i posted a link to an article titled, ‘Why Jesus wants you to stop spanking your kids’ followed by a link to this article, ‘When Violence hits home: “Sparing the rod”, spanking and peaceful parenting,’ which seemed to give a more cultural explanation of what the rod might be referring to [in the bible passage all the ‘hit your kids’ people rush to use in their defence].

My friend Leanne shared them on her page and the whole thing exploded with a variety of people jumping on with a diversity of strongly-held approaches to the topic of disciplining your child [with half of them advocating why that was okay to do with a stick, belt, spoon…]

Another friend, John Eliastam, agreed to take some time to share some of his thoughts which his did on his greatly named blog, The Dead Pastor’s Society, under the title, ‘More on “the rod”‘, which you can and should read over here, because it was great and super helpful. Not simply on the topic of hitting your kids [although it deals with that] but more largely on the topic of reading and understanding and knowing the bible in a way that is helpful and more true. i am hoping John will write a piece for my blog on that.

But that is not what really sparked for me in that conversation. Rather it was the amount of people responding and the time put into the responses which included a whole bunch of ‘read more’ tabs to click if you wanted to see all the many paragraphs of conversation people had for that topic. This was a topic people really were invested in.

I shared this quote as my status around the same time: ‘The poor don’t need soup or shoes. They need a place at your table for the next 20 years.’ [from my friend Portal Pete]

Two shares, couple of likes and a few comments. Did not need to ‘Read More’ on any of the comments.


In fact, if i was a being from another planet and observing the life and beliefs and attentions of people who call themselves christians, there is a huge chance i would be able to reach the conclusion that being a part of the church was mostly about defending the sanctity of spanking and hating “the gays”, or at least stopping them from committing “their agenda” or taking us over and making us all like them [or something].

And bigger and better church buildings and more expensive music equipment of course.

Is a conversation on how best to discipline your children important and worth having? Absolutely.

Is engagement with the LGBT community and seeking both God’s response [which above all, is ALWAYS going to first and foremost be love by the way] and ours an important and necessary thing? Of course.

But with a bible and christian handbook with less than ten references to disciplining your children and homosexuality and OVER TWO THOUSAND references to how we should be relating to THE POOR, is it possible that we have perhaps missed the point a little by spending so much attention and focus and strong opinion on the things that God seems to be spending less time on? And refusing to absolutely embrace and incorporate into our lifestyles the very things He seems to indicate are the most important.


i remember when i was in Americaland following some of the story of a local pastor here in Cape Town, who launched a whole campaign trying to unite the local church congregations across Cape Town to rally together against ‘the evil of the government’ trying to make it illegal for parents to hit their children. That really made me very sad. Not because it is necessarily a bad thing to get behind your beliefs and do what you can to defend them where necessary.


i’m not sure i have seen the same kind of passion and drive in action when it comes to the poor living among us, to the lines and lines of shacks you drive past on a trip to or from the airport, the homelessness issues we have in and around our city, the huge problem with children who are growing up without families.

Imagine that pastor took all his time and energy and resources and instead of campaigning for the right to hit his children, convinced his congregation to consider adoption as valid a form of parenting as raising a child who is biologically yours? Do those really seem like equal-of-importance things?


“Jesus, what is the greatest commandment?” – Love God [with all your heart, soul, strength, mind] and Love your neighbour as yourself.

“Jesus, who is my neighbour” – responds with the story of the Good Samaritan which is about a man on a journey who comes across a man in great need and helps him to the point of it being of great cost to himself [time, money, resources]

‘If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be that person?’ [1 John 3:17]

‘Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?’ James 2:15-16

‘Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.’ [Isaiah 1:17]

’41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”’ [Matthew 25]

… and about 1996 more or so…

Church, it is long overdue for us to stop majoring in the minors [that doesn’t mean the minor things are not important and should not be focused on – it does mean they might be less important and require less of our time, money and engagement] and to start giving more emphasis to the things Jesus [and the whole bible] seemed to indicate were a bigger deal. Being known by the love we have for one another for starters. Looking after the least of these. Engaging with those who are not like us and who the rest of the world might not be super amped to spend time with.

Discuss. [but first GYHOOYA].

so i write a weekly email called thort for the week aimed at challenging people to live out what they say they believe and for this week i really felt like John Eliastam’s comments on the Anne Rice note i wrote on Facebook really express well what a lot of Christ followers (and others) could well do with reading:

In fact for this week’s thort let me use my former boss John Eliastam’s response to my note and to someone who replied antagonistically to it because i really think this brings up a lot of important stuff for us to think about [those who know me know that i love the church – i am currently working on a book aimed at people who have ‘walked away from the church’ but still profess to love Jesus – and so just because i understand to some extent where Anne and others may be coming from, i don’t think the solution is to disown church completely, but i do ‘get’ it:

‘I’m hugely sympathetic to Rice. I had a long conversation with an atheist the other day. Most of his objections to the Christian faith were based on his observations of church history from Constantine to TBN. He asked if an impartial observer were to look at Christians, would they find any links (other than spoken words) between their lives and the message of Christ that would make them any different to anyone else. He doesn’t buy the “God sees the heart” thing… said that what’s in your heart is expressed in your priorities/values/actions towards others. I struggled to find words to explain or defend what we call “church” – particularly why there was a need to keep it going exactly the way it was, rather than seek reform and renewal that would give it a “shape” that changed the shape of our lives to be more like Jesus (my thoughts not his). In the end I managed to persuade him that he was really an agnostic rather than an atheist by showing that the arrogant, closed-mindedness of the atheist view as unappealing as his perception of Christians. Next week we’re going to explore the questions of “how we know” more deeply.

Back to Rice though: all over the world the church/institutional christianity/whatever you choose to call it is losing people because they want to follow Jesus more authentically and find “churchianity” an impediment rather than a help. I can’t judge “church”; it’s the way it is because its made up of people like me who are so susceptible to the selfish sinfulness of our hearts and the pulls of our culture. I believe that it’s God’s desire to renew and reform his people, whatever shape they currently find themselves in. My questions to anyone who reads this: are there ways that you can align your life with God’s renewing work rather than with perpetuating the status quo?’

Then later he responds to an antagonistic response to my note:

‘I agree with the “lone ranger” bit completely. We need to be part of a community that isn’t made up of people we choose to be with because we’re comfortable being around them – the miracle of God’s people is that they are old, young, black, white, in-between, rich, poor – all a visible demonstration of God’s reconciling work, especially because in the NT picture, they seem to really share each other’s lives (including possessions), not just a church service. Following Jesus isn’t a solo thing and needs to be done in costly community.

Something I’m exploring is what “church” really means. Most Christians are quite comfortable with the concept of “nominal Christians” – people who would put down “Christian” as their religion on a form…. what about the idea of “nominal churches”? Organisations that call themselves churches, but if they are analysed they bear very little resemblance to the biblical picture of following Jesus. They say all the right things, but in their everyday lives their members lives just like everyone else, with the same priorites and concerns. Jesus himself said that there would be sheep and goats, wheat and tares in the field, that many would claim to be his followers and do great things in his name – even though he says he doesn’t know them. Do we have to surrender unquestioningly to the “authority” of anything that calls itself “church”?

What we call “church” at this point is history has seen things like a clergy/laity split, a whole lot of syncretism with Roman pagan religion, the Enlightenment and the separation of secular/spiritual, a history of splitting whenever we disagree…. Today churches often look a whole lot like a clubs with some kind of loose affiliation to the teachings of Jesus… I long to be part of something deeper….

When the followers of John the Baptist come to Jesus (Matt) and ask if he is the “real deal”, or should they expect something more, Jesus points to some very tangible evidence. The world looks at the church, especially it’s claim to be all about love (I have yet to find someone outside the church who would believe this), and asks, “Are you guys the real deal? Are you really what the whole of creation has been waiting for? Is this as good as it gets?”. What do we point them to to convince them that we are? That we go to services, listen to sermons, sing songs, have a lot of correct information about Jesus in our heads, that we tithe and go to home group? Not sure it’s that convincing for them…’

Really think John is saying some good stuff here and i would say one of the keys is his line:

“He asked if an impartial observer were to look at Christians, would they find any links (other than spoken words) between their lives and the message of Christ that would make them any different to anyone else”

and then his question:

“are there ways that you can align your life with God’s renewing work rather than with perpetuating the status quo?”

Something for us all to ponder on this week perhaps…

God bless you as you live as the church God called us to be
Known by the love we have for each other
Love brett anderson

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