Nils von Kalm

My take on faith, life and how it all might fit together

Category: Empire

Paul, Apostle of Christ

Paul, Apostle of Christ | Now Playing In Theaters

Paul, who goes from the most infamous persecutor of Christians to Christ’s most influential apostle, spends his last days awaiting execution by Emperor Nero in Rome.

I went and saw the movie, “Paul, Apostle of Christ” recently. I thought it was excellent. The friend I was with said it gave inspiration to want to go back to read the Book of Acts. It did for me too.

What grabbed me most about it was the absolute faithfulness of the early Christians in the face of death every day. No wonder they changed their world, despite their flaws and the mistakes they made.

The movie followed closely to what we know of early Christian history, both from the New Testament and from other historical sources of the time. These Christians constantly thought of others even though their own life situations were fraught with peril. They were steadfastly selfless. They took in the poor and the sick just out of obedience to Christ. They were healthily obsessed with following their Master come what may. Nothing else mattered.

I need movies like this to remind me that my own struggles, though real, can be used to lead me to care for others and not worry or fear for myself. There is a scene towards the end of the movie where one of the Christians exhorts a younger Christian to not be afraid. We hear that phrase, “do not be afraid”, right through Scripture. We see it so much that we can lose its impact. But to these people who faced death every day in the face of a brutal Roman Empire that literally used them as human torch lights, burning them alive for the entertainment of others, and threw them to wild animals for the crowds, the words “do not be afraid” had meaning that went straight to the heart. They had unbelievable courage, they stood tall, unflinching, considering it a joy to suffer and die for their Lord. Wow! Could I do that?

Movies like this make me lament how comfortable I am, that too often I am way too concerned for my own petty self-protection than I am for following Christ in full surrender and submission. We get sucked into the mantra of looking after ourselves first and foremost, and in the process we lose what it is to live for Christ.

This movie showed that the early Christians were determined that literally nothing would stop them from preaching Christ. And that included taking in the stranger and the discarded that the rest of society considered worthless. They weren’t just preachers and they weren’t just on about social justice. They were all about Jesus. It was all one. It was their love for God, lived out in love for neighbour and enemy, that set them apart and eventually brought the collapse of the greatest empire ever known. Who would have thought it?

The lives of courageous love, commitment to non-violence and refusal to submit to any other king was the making of the Christian movement. This movie inspired me.

In a time when the church talks so much BS about “believing for success” and blessing theology, where it’s all about us, this movie showed that following Christ is done in suffering and brings suffering. It’s in the fire that genuine Christlikeness is forged.

There are not many Christian movies I have seen which are not cringe-worthy, but this one showed me the Spirit that filled Paul and those early Christians. I want that Spirit too.

Mixed feelings on Anzac Day

I always have mixed feelings on Anzac Day. I get emotional at the enormous courage and sacrifice of people who gave their lives, but they were innocent victims of powerful people who sent them to a slaughter.

Not just the massacre of Gallipoli where the Anzacs fought, but the Battle of Stalingrad where soldiers were given one rifle between them, so when the first soldier was killed the second picked up his rifle and went as far as he could until he was shot.

I also find it largely ironic that at every Anzac memorial we see the words of Jesus: greater love has no one but to lay down their life for their friends. The Anzacs did this, and it was an example of Jesus’ sacrifice, absorbing and exposing the evil of the world, including the evil of war. Within the unspeakable horror of war, the Christlike attributes of courage and suffering love are made all the clearer. Love often stands out more in the middle of evil.

When I talk about justice they call me a leftie

The Art of Moral Alternatives

Protest makes a difference, but on its own it is never enough. We need to hear a better story…

Neoliberalism – the ideology at the root of all our problems

George Monbiot has written another insightful article, this one on the problem of neoliberalism, and the fact that most people in our neoliberal society don’t know what the term means.

Neoliberalism – the ideology at the root of all our problems

Imagine if the people of the Soviet Union had never heard of communism. The ideology that dominates our lives has, for most of us, no name. Mention it in conversation and you’ll be rewarded with a shrug. Even if your listeners have heard the term before, they will struggle to define it.

Here are my thoughts on some of the points Monbiot makes:

  • “Neoliberalism sees competition as the defining characteristic of human relations. It redefines citizens as consumers, whose democratic choices are best exercised by buying and selling, a process that rewards merit and punishes inefficiency. It maintains that “the market” delivers benefits that could never be achieved by planning.”

Just like communism reduced people to cogs in a machine, neoliberalism, or market capitalism, does the same. We become consumers whose value lies in how much we contribute to the ongoing efficiency of the economic machine. We are not seen as having inherent dignity in ourselves.

  • “When political debate no longer speaks to us, people become responsive instead to slogans, symbols and sensation.” Think Tony Abbott and ‘stop the boats’ in Australia.

The rise of Bernie Sanders is as much a response to the current climate as is the rise of Donald Trump. The failure of the Left has been seen by them and is responding in the rise of Sanders.

“Like communism, neoliberalism is the God that failed”. I remember when communism fell over in the late 1980s, Jim Wallis said the same would happen to capitalism one day. It might take another generation, but we are seeing it happening now before our eyes.

  • “it’s not enough to oppose a broken system. A coherent alternative has to be proposed.” Perhaps one option (and there may be others along the lines of what people like Bernie Sanders are putting forward) is Tim Jackson’s Prosperity Without Growth.

The problem with unfettered market capitalism is that it is an amoral system. It doesn’t take into account human nature, the fact that humans are ultimately committed to their own self-interest. That’s why it needs people in poverty to survive.

Donald Trump as a reflection of an adolescent culture

Before people like me judge Donald Trump for his bombastic statements, let’s remember that he is a reflection of the adolescent culture we all live in.

Here is an article of mine on the Trump phenomenon, published here in Ethos…

Donald Trump as a reflection of an adolescent culture

Monday, 4 April 2016 | Nils von Kalm I find myself fascinated by the Donald Trump phenomenon. Why is it that a man who blatantly lies, advocates war crimes, promotes xenophobia and can’t decide whether or not to condemn the support of a KKK leader, is set to become the Republican nominee for the leadership of the most powerful nation in the world?

Why the Resurrection still matters in the 21st century

Behold-the-Man-Antonio_Ciseri-e1330966503449Another Easter has come and gone. As we reflect on what it means 2,000 years after the event, I am reminded that the circumstances in which the world finds itself in today, early in the 21st century, are similar to that in which the first Christians found themselves 2,000 years ago.

On that first Easter day, a handful of Jesus’ disciples became convinced that a new King had been enthroned, a new Lord. They became convinced that the teacher from Nazareth who they had been following around for three years was alive again, was the saviour of the world, and was the world’s rightful Lord. He actually was who he said he was, and now they finally understood.

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