Faith and science in unison.
Tin cans in motion.
‘I have noticed that many who do not believe in God, believe in everything else’
– (Jules Verne, ‘A Floating City’ 1871, p.26)
With a little help from Jules Verne and a Netflix documentary [ii], our homeschoolers researched, drew then wrote about engineer, and visionary, Isombard Brunel’s, passenger liner, ‘The Great Eastern.’ The first ship made mostly of Iron.
This massive ship was built between 1852 and 1858. Deemed a commercial disaster, due to low demand, it was utilised to lay the transatlantic cable, being the only ship afloat that could carry the load. The Great Eastern was later refit to once again carry passengers.
In 1867, Jules Verne travelled on board the boat from Liverpool to New York [ii]. Documenting his travel and noting almost every detail of the ship, inside and out, he wrote,
‘this steamship is indeed a masterpiece of naval construction; more than a vessel, it is a floating city.’ [iii]
In 1889, The Great Eastern’s days were over. The ship was scrapped and its material recycled.
In addition to discussing this monumental building and design project, we examined both the human and environmental costs of iron shipbuilding, coal and steam-powered engines.
Of course, on paper, all of this sounds complex. Even, over the top. It wasn’t.
Throughout this our homeschoolers were able to point out three things: the mistreatment of people, and the pollution produced in making and running the ship. This added a whole new element to the discussion.
Consequently, we were able to briefly look at the lack of workplace safety considerations and the lack of workers rights in that age. Included in this was the issue of child labour and the ever relevant concept that challenges even the most compassionate of capitalists: the constant challenge to balance cost, profit and vision, with the safety and rights of the people involved.
[i] BBC, 2011 ‘Seven Wonders of the Industrial World’
[ii] University Of Bristol, 2006 ‘Brunel’s Great Eastern: A Floating City’
[iii] Verne, J. 1871, ‘A Floating City’, Kindle Ed. (p.2)
Orchestrated by socio-political heavy weights such as Lord Kitchener, and younger politicians like Winston Churchill. Commonwealth soldiers landed in the beach assault on Gallipoli and other areas of the peninsula, in April, 1915. These included soldiers from Britain, India, Australia and New Zealand.
Though debate still continues, The Dardanelles Strait campaign ended in more of a stalemate than defeat.
It was ultimately deemed a failure, due, according to Lloyd George, ‘not so much [the younger] Winston Churchill’s haste as to Lord Kitchener’s and [the then British Prime Minister] Herbert Asquith’s procrastination.’ [i]
Among other things, the joint Australian and New Zealand commemoration of ANZAC day provides an opportunity to reflect on the cost of war, freedom and the importance of our gratitude; that our collective “thank you” is collectively acknowledged; lived and breathed, not just superficially spoken.
Just as importantly, the day also provides an opportunity to talk about the violent persecution of the Armenians; a persecution carried out by some of the louder political factions within the politically unstable Ottoman Empire during this period.
The Armenians were Christians. They were considered more Westernised than their Muslim neighbours and as a result were looked upon with suspicion by the hostile factions.
The Armenian people looked for independence from Turkey, but were yet to be represented by any organised governmental body.
This was unlike Turkey, Australia and New Zealand, who, being represented as a nation in the battle for the Gallipoli Peninsula, had been considered to have come of age .
Alan Moorehead rightly noted that the success of the Turkish Army had become a political success.
‘They saw themselves as standing for the Turk, and for Islam. So, in elation, they set about hunting down their racial and political opponents (which was nothing new in the East or everywhere else for that matter). Success against the allied assault had expedited the persecution and slaughter of Armenians. It would be absurd, however, to argue that the Allies’ failure in the Dardanelles was the only cause of this, since the root instinct to destroy the unprotected, Christian, Armenian minority was always there. Before March there were about two million Armenians in Turkey, and it was the young Turks’ intention to exterminate or deport them all. This task, however, was never completed; barely three-quarters of a million were dead or dying by the time the frantic rage of their tormentors had exhausted itself.’
The point of ANZAC day is first found in an ode near to its heart:
‘…At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.’
(The Ode, from For The Fallen, Robert Laurence Binyon, 1869-1943 )
We are in need of ANZAC day. Though body and memory fade, the act of being remembered transcends time. Placing us in the humble position of being reminded that ‘we are not God. That we aren’t even good idols.’ [iii]
Because of the gravity of it, our corporate, individual and collective arrogance is challenged; And we are met face to face with the enormity of the task before us. A task of vigilance that requires us to make every effort to protect and seek, peace and good will, among societies and nations.
Standing with those who care to uphold it, and are willing to share in bearing both its burdens and its blessings.
Standing in responsible disagreement against those who would seek to do the opposite.
Perhaps at the core of how important ANZAC day is, is that we as a society, are ourselves, confronted with the brutal fact, that a history too easily forgotten is a history too easily repeated.
[i] Moorehead, A. 1956, The Classic Account of Gallipoli, Aurum Press LTD. (p.171)
[ii] ibid, pp.98-101
[iii] Niebuhr, R. 1945 ‘Today, Tomorrow & The Eternal’ in Discerning the Signs of the Times :Sermon Essays
The image in the photo above is of some knitted, red, poppy flowers. They mark the 100th anniversary of the ANZAC landings and were on display at a local show a few weeks back.
The current pace of the human race reduces our capacity to experience, by touch, sight and sound, the presence of art in the contexts that we are immersed in.
Such missed opportunities are reminders of how Thomas was engaged by the actual and determined reach of the scarred, but living, Jesus Christ.
For a list of possible reasons, Thomas, rightly appears to have struggled with accepting what the other disciples were pointing out.
Of course, Peter had his own issues. Denying three times, at the cry of one rooster, that he even knew Jesus, only later running to confirm that the tomb of Jesus was in fact empty, as Mary’s reports had said.
All in all, the disciples were no stranger to this confused mix of moribund hope and cautious curiosity. A mix fuelled so intensely by quiet ponderings of the “…what if?”
For Thomas (and this points towards an intellectual and technologically focused age such as ours), if it wasn’t for the actual and determined reach of Jesus, Thomas may never have to come to confirm what he was hearing with what he was about to experience.
Thomas does not represent us. We are not Thomas. We are, though, in all sizes and societies, bound to the same confused mix of moribund hope and cautious curiosity that was fuelled so intensely by whispers of the “…what if?”
All that we need to do is slow down, look, listen and receive. Allowing ourselves to be engaged by what is and what has been done by God, for us, in Christ.
To be moved gently through our “…what ifs,” towards celebrating, living, and cheering on the “what is and what will be!” because of all that God is and has done.
Not human triumphalism, but an acknowledgement of God’s triumph.
Jesus said to him, “Thomas. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.
– (John 20:29, ESV)
Image: Literally, turned cleaning into an art form. In this case, I used some baking soda, water, a stove and then applied an inverted filter.
Granted, some dads fail so miserably that applying such a prefix would render the term meaningless.
As much as it is appropriate and has been necessary for ‘working [super] mums’ to be recognised as such, it is rare to hear those seemingly necessary titles applied to men.
It would be capitulating to the intellectually absurd if we denied that there is an imbalance when it comes to good publicity, or lack thereof, for dads that do their absolute best. Dads who, despite their circumstances or how they themselves may have been let down by their own fathers, refuse to use abuse as an excuse.
These dads, by God’s grace, are able to step up and step in to the void of their own brokenness. To confront themselves and allow themselves to be confronted in order to move forward.
They are not ignorant or arrogant about the failures of men towards women or why it is important to be on guard against misogyny. Nor are they ignorant about the negative side effects of it. Such as, misandry, the very Marxist paradox of creating inequality in order to achieve equality; or the grotesque abuse applied to anyone who does not placate, hypocritically oppressive forms of contemporary tolerance, by using the ”correct” label in order to avoid offending others.
It’s overlooked, but, in a similar way to a lot of mums, some dads soldier on in spite of their pain. They breathe, pray, think, act carefully and hope for the best. They stand on sacred ground. Applying what they have learnt about life from their pain, experience and healing.
I think one would be hard pressed to find a dad who actually feared not being labelled with the correct badge. One that measured his achievements with the principles of identity politics. The kind that sees people forced to meet the need for affirmation and legitimacy in others, even if they disagree on reasonable grounds.
As a side note, this is something that can be linked back to some in the politico-academic aristocracy. (That ironic institutional group of anachronistic, reject-anything-Christian, Marxists who are stuck in the early 1900s and 1960s – I refer to Camus’ ‘The Rebel’, et.al and Elshtain’s discussions in ‘Public Man, Private Woman, et.al’ on both these)
The great thing is, for most of those dads, none of the branding matters.These dads are not worried about the lack of politically sensitive labelling.
Their homes matter. In the right order, their families and friends matter. Their wives matter. Life matters. Faith matters. Providing for their families and creating a healthy home, matters.
Taking this into consideration we can see why God chose to be identified in the language of the biblical texts as being a dad who loves, firmly guides and protects. Although, ‘God is'[i] in His being more than a father (because ‘he is not creature’ [ii]), the retelling in Luke of Jesus’ parable of the prodigal speaks profoundly about how much God is for us, even when we are at or worst.
This is a genuinely revolutionary ethic. It teaches us, by example, that by God’s own standard, established in covenant and fulfilled in Jesus Christ, that a dad is not to be viewed as a means to an end; a ‘mechanism or a naked ape who is imprisoned by hidden motives and controlled by what the intelligentsia so often call hang-ups, such as: altruism and values'[iii]; i.e.: social constructs.
It will only reflect the sad state of a society when one day it becomes necessary to loudly protest and point out, that dads are far from, Matt Groening’s satirical, bumbling, ‘Homer Simpson.’ To one day, have to loudly protest that what it means to be a dad is not doing what is popular or comfortable, but doing what is right.
[i] Barth, K. 1957 CD. II/1 The Doctrine of God: The Being of God in Freedom, Hendrickson Publishers (p.283)
[ii] ibid, (p.313 & p.323)
[iii] Frankl,V.1978, The Unheard Cry of Meaning: Psychotherapy & Humanism, Touchstone, Simon and Schuster (p.55-57) [paraphrased]
Photo: Introducing my youngest son to dodgem cars a few weeks ago (bumper cars)