10% to churches, yes, but is the timing right?
My dear brother, Sam Gawi Rake

No meek, no rich: The gospel according to Phil

“Blessed are those with dirt under their fingernails and no bank account, for they shall inherit the earth” (Phil 1:1)


TUMBY BAY - Among its multitudinous and often conflicting predictions, adages, sayings and slogans the bible includes the curious assertion that “blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5).

In typical chauvinistic fashion it defines meekness as a solely human attribute, preferably confined to the male gender. In the ‘good book’, women and girls, as well as dogs and cats, don’t get a guernsey when it comes to leadership.

Among the elements of meekness Christians include these attributes: righteousness, humility, teachability, compliance, patience, selflessness and willingness to follow the gospel’s teachings.

There’s lots of room in there to include rapacious capitalists, rabid evangelists, wowsers, hypocrites, climate change deniers and the odd prime minister and president.

Just what these so-called meek people might inherit is not made clear. I don’t think the bible mentions climate change, nuclear winters or scorched earth style resource development.

Whether the earth will actually be worth inheriting by the meek is a bridge too far for me to contemplate.

That aside, there is a contrary view that I suspect the aforementioned capitalist, evangelists, wowsers, hypocrites, climate change deniers, prime ministers and presidents secretly believe to be a more potent belief.

Peter Salmon, who runs the Ex-Kiap website sums it up nicely when he says, “He who has the gold does make the rules and that Darwinian selfish gene will ensure that the meek will not inherit the earth.”

This is a widely held view that is deliberately not articulated widely. In essence it means, “Who gives a stuff about what we do to the earth, as long as we’ve got plenty of money we can buy our comfort and survival.”

Clearly the meek inheriting the earth is an idea that needs a bit of work. Among other things it needs decoupling from wealth, gender and species.

The recent global financial crisis of 2007–2008 is instructive in this respect. Not so much because of the financial trauma it created but because of the people who didn’t even notice it.

Who were these lucky people you might ask?

They were, of course, those who lived outside the global and domestic economies and maintained a sustainable lifestyle not dependent upon money. In short, the good old bush kanakas tending their kaukau patches out in the sticks.

This fact has been pointed out a number of times by various commentators, including those who subscribe to PNG Attitude. A few learned papers have also been written about it.

Ralph Regenvanu, anthropologist, artist and Vanuatu’s foreign affairs minister, was one of the first to comment on the resilience of subsistence farmers during said crisis.

Fitz - Ron Cobb CartoonShould a larger catastrophe descend on the world, leaving financial systems mortally wounded and the environment badly degraded, it will not be the meek who survive but those people who can adapt and independently look after themselves.

Those people are most likely to be subsistence farmers living in places like rural Melanesia and plus the odd hippy dwelling in a cave.

So perhaps we need to abandon the biblical decree and update it a bit.

“Blessed are those with dirt under their fingernails and no bank account, for they shall inherit the earth” (Phil 1:1).

In whatever condition of earth the rapacious capitalists, rabid evangelists, wowsers, hypocrites, climate change deniers, prime ministers and presidents leave behind, of course.


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Philip Fitzpatrick

Essentially what Gareth Wearne is saying is that the bible is a hodge-podge collection of different texts written at different times for different purposes.

It follows that when reading a particular part of the bible one must be very much aware of its context, that is, why it was written.

As a text the bible desperately needs some serious editing. Some of those old parables are pretty obscure and for just about every assertion you can generally find several contrary assertions.

Despite this, many people take what is in the bible literally. Our Pentecostal prime minister in Australia is one of them.

Others even think that the bible is actually the word of God when it was, in fact written, by a variety of writers who were decidedly human.

Despite this there is some good stuff in there, particularly as it relates to ethics. Unfortunately you have to wade through a hell of a lot of crap to get to it.

Lindsay F Bond

Somewhat aside of alleged virtue in being meek, but reaching as if to bathymetry for depth of persuasion, consider "Why it's important to keep diversity in mind when reading the Bible", a topic today by Dr Gareth Wearne, on ABC radio program 'RN'.

See: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-10-21/understanding-the-diversity-within-the-bible/11593834

Bernard Corden

Here is another interesting link, which explores William Paley's watchmaker analogy:


Philip Fitzpatrick

That's one of the many 'unknowns' that lie between the objective and the subjective that neither science nor religion can adequately explain Arthur.

Stephen Fry is an atheist by the way. See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cv5Xwkxx3Qs

Arguing about the existence of God, or any of the other deities, is a pretty futile endeavour I've found. It's best if people make up their own minds.

Arthur Williams

Thank you Bernard for that excellent link. It's late Sunday night here so I will quote just one I picked from that quite long ‘Faith v Reason Debate’.

"Wittgenstein quite rightly said, 'When we understand every single secret of the universe, there will still be left the eternal mystery of the human heart'.” - Attributed to Stephen Fry quoting Wittgenstein during a Room 101 TV program of March 2001.

Garry Roche

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
- Hamlet (1.5.167-8), Hamlet to Horatio
(William Shakespeare)

Bernard Corden

Here is an interesting site to add some fuel:


Baka Bina

Syncretism - thanks for that big word Mr Williams. What the purripurri man did was hide his bag/bilum basket of charms in the bush outside the fenced-in-church-ground, came into contact with the church, got his white shirt and lavalava, walked out of the church grounds with a beaming smile to the terrified locals.

The locals were fearful of these strange white people and who do they send to meet him. they give him their most feared person, the purripurri mahn.

He meets and is considered to be a good fit, and then he leaves to go home. He then picks his bag/bilum/basket of charms and bingo, now he was the mausmahn in the sios but is still the one with the bag of tricks the locals would not want to offend.

In the book/novel Operesin Kisim Bek Lombo, which is coming out soon - next month, the author struggled with that concept and tried putting a name to it.

Thank you. Seghane ve.

Philip Fitzpatrick

If what you report is true, Arthur, it is entirely depressing.

With respect, anyone irrational or naive enough to believe in a superior being or in some other form of supernatural phenomenon is either simple minded or stupid.

Worse still is someone who cynically manipulates such beliefs to their advantage. Ordinary people are perfectly entitled to be stupid but we do not need leaders who are stupid.

Neither do we need leaders who are prepared to manipulate simple minded people’s beliefs for political advantage.

The carnage and suffering that such leaders have caused in the past should be a salient lesson to everyone to be highly suspicious of leaders and potential leaders who profess to believe in supernatural deities and other forms of magic.

Being religious, openly professed or otherwise, is not a virtue.

Ethical leadership is not dependent upon religious belief. Religious belief is an ethical handicap that constrains effective leadership. The sooner the world realises this the better it will be for everyone.

Making laws that protect so-called religious freedoms, like our Pentecostal prime minister in Australia intends, is retrograde. It takes us backwards into the dark past.

In the 21st century we need to look forward, not backwards.

Michael Dom

The argument here is out of context with the definition of the term meek.

Matthew wrote in Greek.

By the correct application of the quoted verse, Phil and Bernard, you are the meek too.

Lindsay F Bond

Philling folk in, on those who peak and those who peek, for those who pique.

Arthur Williams

‘It’s hard for you to kick against the pricks’- Acts 24 v16.

When I read Phil’s latest tirade against Christianity I thought it must a mid-life crisis but no it can’t be that. Was it possibly an early onset of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) or perhaps could it be similar to the oft heard theory of suppressed latent homosexuality inherent in even every red blooded Alpha male and possibly analogous with respect to religion or spirituality.

Apparently all of us have a God-Gene first described by geneticist Dean Hamer in his 2004 book: ‘The God Gene: How Faith is Hardwired into our Genes.’

I believe Phil has told us that he came from a Christian background and so it may be the ticking of the clock that is forcing him to consider that damned annoying eternal question which every human must consider and so he is kicking against the pricks.

Even in Communist China it continues to defy logic that after 70 years of ‘enlightenment’ the number of Christians in that country continues to grow faster than in the West so much that it considered likely that it has pushed the USA into second place with its over 120 million believers.

Perhaps the progressive leaders made a mistake in allowing the Yuan rather than dogma to boss their minds by permitting printing of Bibles by its Red Army publishers in Nanjing. It is now the biggest Bible publisher in the World selling to 70 countries in over 80 languages.

In terms of manpower over 100,000 Chinese missionaries are claimed as being part of the ‘Back to Jerusalem’ evangelical outreach movement.

Similarly after the 1991 demise of the Soviet Union that had seen 74 years of atheistic policy propagating religion as the opium of the people it also surprised the successor Russian leadership to exclaim, “Ivan they still believe in God!” To date wily Putin has overseen reinstatement of 23000 disused churches.

Those two were once communist dictatorships which of course is a misnomer description but a practicality of the system with which they governed their masses. The world’s Christians in millions are: Africa 631; Latin America 601; Europe 571; North America 370 Asia 300 million.

I read in July of one phenomena about Christianity in the USA which surprised me and is well worth a read. It was at www.huffpost.com entitled ‘Behold the millennial nuns’ written by Eve Fairbanks.

A few snippets to whet your appetites:

‘More and more young women are being called to the religious life, after 50 straight years of decline. What on earth is going on?’

‘A 2008 Pew Research Center study found that Catholicism lost more adherents in the late 20th century than any other religion in the U.S. About a third of Americans raised Catholic reported that they had left the church.’

‘In 1965, America had 180,000 perpetually professed Catholic sisters, the technical term for women who have pledged their lives to chastity, poverty, obedience and serving the church. By 2010, that number tanked to fewer than 50,000. In 2009, more Catholic sisters in America were over 90 years old than under 60.’

‘In 2017, 13 percent of women from age 18 to 35 who answered a Georgetown University-affiliated survey of American Catholics reported that they had considered becoming a Catholic sister.’ That would mean 900000 possible new female workers.’

‘The average age for taking the final step into the religious life a decade ago was 40. Today, it’s 24’.

‘Patrice Tuohy, the publisher of guides for people considering the religious life, including VocationMatch.com, told me that not long ago she used to get only about 350 queries a year by phone and online. Last year, she got 2,600. And 60 percent of those women’

I acknowledge the patriarchal dominance of the Bible but don’t discount some of the interesting females that The Book invites us to read about.

My favourite story from childhood days has been the Moabite so non-believing Ruth and her famous quote showing her loyalty to her Jewish Naomi her mother in law: "Please don't tell me to leave you and return home! I will go where you go, I will live where you live; your people will be my people, your God will be my God. (Ruth 1:16 Contemporary English Version)

In the current ethos of espoused multiculturalism that’s a beaut verse. Mind The Bible is not all love and sweetness of its sheilas. Worth reading yourself as there are some interesting plots for any writer to peruse.

So hell no Phil! Outside of your big island it really isn’t all doom and gloom. Though I recall a conversation in 1980 with the Tom & Salome Hoey the missos at Mougulu since 1967 and last recorded there in their mid-80s in 2015.

Hope they are still going strong. Guess some of you may have spent far more time with them than me; possibly enjoying your times with them. One day Tom used a word that I as a Baptist hadn’t heard of: Syncretism. A fervent believer Tom was concerned for the Biami and indeed all the people who had converted to Christianity that they would not fall into that trap of trying to combine their new found faith with some or many spiritual beliefs of their unconverted days.

I’m sure that fear is still a concern to all missos, evangelists, Bishops, Padres, Fathers, Brothers, Nuns or Pastors as they see the numbers of their various flocks increase as I have suggested here.

Notwithstanding that worry and despite my being a bit of a Didymus I believe that even if someone is not a fervent believer or indeed is a non-practicing Christian the Church’s ethics he or she has inculcated are a valuable tool for social cohesion.

Indeed much of European law has been based on the Abrahamic code of conduct. That of course includes followers of Islam of which there are expected to be over 3 billion plus by 2050 and apparently just overtaking the total of all Christian denominations previously the major world religion.

That would make mean over 6 billion believers. You can add in Hindus at over billion; Buddhists at half a billion and much smaller faiths to make up 80% perhaps 90% of the world with a belief or religion which you consider irrelevant to life on this sphere or are you just afraid of your religious alma mater might have been right?

In the 60s on an almost vertical cliff in a gorge in a South Wales valley some despondent out of work atheist had carefully hand painted ‘God is Dead’ way up high on the rockface. Here’s the rub though - even higher somebody had painted in beautiful Gothic letters. ‘Oh No He’s Not’ .

Philip Fitzpatrick

Social evolution, just like biological evolution, doesn’t proceed in straight lines, there are stops and starts, divergences, reversals, regressions, regional differences and sometimes dead ends.

Just as we are not on a path of natural evolutionary improvement neither are we on a natural path of constant social improvement.

Biologically we are pretty much equal the world over but socially we are much more diverse. This diversity is sometimes referred to as our cultural differences.

That said, there is still something of a symbiotic relationship between our biological state and our social condition.

A good example of this relationship is our biological ability to think and reason. Thinking and reasoning largely drives our social development.

And, of course, our ability to reason is dependent upon the information we have to hand.

In the distant past we didn’t have much accurate information to work with and our reasoning was often flawed.

In those days we had to deal with a lot of unknowns, which we often interpreted inaccurately.

In the modern age we have vastly more information to work with and our ability to reason is much better.

Nowadays our interpretations are a lot more accurate.

If you look at our current state of social evolution you can see this access to information at work.

The evolution of religious belief is a good example.

When we knew little and were surrounded by many unknowns, some of which appeared threatening, we developed beliefs in the supernatural to explain them.

Without anything to otherwise reveal why something happened we explained it in terms of magic, sorcery and witchcraft.

To counter the more malignant aspects of these supernatural beliefs a system of ethics slowly began to evolve.

This system of ethics, while still carrying a large parcel of supernatural belief, created many of the religions of the world, including Christianity.

In the modern world our access to information and the ability to reason better is slowly seeing these religions fall away, especially in the western world.

The supernatural aspects of religions are being dropped but many of the useful ethical beliefs are now being carried forward into an increasingly secular world.

With greater access to information, especially in the form of education, many people are abandoning their religious beliefs but still hanging on to the ethical base that originally informed them.

This form of social progress is by no means universal. There are still large blocks of old fashioned religious belief in existence.

In developing countries, for instance, where those early supernatural beliefs are still influential the ideas promulgated by religions are still attractive.

This can be seen in countries like Papua New Guinea and those in the Pacific region where supernatural beliefs are still present.

No doubt these places will eventually develop, as the populations are educated, into something similar to the increasingly secular west.

For the time being, however, religion and its’ ethical base is a good fit and with care should do no irreversible damage.

In this sense, secularists in the west have no right to be critical of the religious third world.

What they should be doing instead is refining and developing their own ethical base.

No one can dispute that this is becoming an urgent matter.

At the peak of the Cold War the Doomsday Clock read four minutes to midnight. According to the experts it now reads two minutes to midnight.

Chris Overland

I doubt that the meek shall inherit the earth, irrespective of what condition it is left in by those who follow the new neo-liberal religion that venerates money above everything else.

The late Lord Bertrand Russell, (1872-1970) 3rd Earl Russell, perhaps the greatest British philosopher of the 20th century and winner of the Nobel Prize for literature, wrote a book about Christianity called "Why I am not a Christian", first published in 1927.

In his book, Russell described Christianity as a religion of slaves, which impeded knowledge, fostered fear and dependency and was responsible for an enormous amount of death, destruction and despair.

Naturally, his views were not popular with the British establishment, which had devoted several centuries to the task of exporting Christianity across its expansive Empire.

Like Russell, I think that the history of Christianity, along with all other exclusivist, monotheist religious beliefs, reveals it as mostly a blight and curse upon humanity.

Whatever slight consolations that might be attached to its pious bleating about love and compassion, history tells another story entirely.

Such blemishes are typically written off as the evil doing of humans, with the omniscient and omnipotent Deity miraculously found not to have any responsibility for the ghastly deeds performed in his, her or its name.

This sort of intellectual gymnastics is a specialty amongst the religious. It has to be lest they be obliged to confront the many logical inconsistencies, and more than a little outright nonsense, that are inherent in their belief systems.

So, far from inheriting the earth, the role of the meek is to serve their masters with humility, submitting to their whims and fancies, in the forlorn hope of eternal life post mortem.

Good luck with that.

Better by far to follow Phil's admonition unless and until the money lenders are once again cast out of the temple, when the meek may well very well find that they do indeed inherit the earth, or what is left of it.

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