Thursday, April 04, 2019

Jesus in New Zealand

A reader asked if an article claiming that reference to Jesus was taken out of the parliamentary prayer after the massacre at the Christchurch mosque is true.

The article twists the truth to push an untruth.

The speaker of the New Zealand parliament changed the prayer that is prayed at the beginning of each session back in 2017. He removed the words “in the name of Jesus” and reference to the “honour of the queen”. The reason given was that a Christian prayer did not reflect the "the rich and varied religious and spiritual life in New Zealand".

The decision had nothing to do with the recent mosque shooting in Christchurch. It occurred nearly two years earlier.

I have no problem with the change in the prayer. In the 1960s, when I was growing up, many MPs attended church. One Prime Minister carried a copy of the Ten Commandments in his briefcase. That has all changed. Christians are now a minority in New Zealand. There are now very few Christian MPs in the Parliament. Those that are there tend to give their allegiance to their party, rather than to a Christian perspective. There several MPs from other religions. In my view, it would be hypocritical for them to continue praying in the name of Jesus, when they do not believe in him.

The current prayer is as follows.

Almighty God, we give thanks for the blessings which have been bestowed on New Zealand. Laying aside all personal interests, we pray for guidance in our deliberations, that we may conduct the affairs of this House with wisdom and humility, for the public welfare and peace of New Zealand.
In my view, it is hypocritical for Parliament to be praying at all when most MPs do not believe that prayer is effective. Asking for “wisdom and humility” is quite ironic.

Last year, Christians marched to Parliament and asked for the name of Jesus to put back in the prayer. Their efforts gained very little traction and did not change the mind of the speaker of the Parliament.

Using a picture of the Prime Minister wearing a headscarf in the article was mischievous. It has nothing to do with the change in the prayer in Parliament. She wore it to express sympathy to the victims of the shooting. She has not become a Moslem. The Prime Minister grew up in a Mormon household and was active in Mormon activities as a young adult, before becoming an agnostic.

Some time ago she said,

I have a real respect for people who have religion as a foundation in their lives, and I respect people who don’t.

I’m agnostic. I don’t spend a lot of time trying to figure it out. I just think people should be free to have their personal beliefs and not be persecuted for it, whether they be atheist or staunch church members.

The article's claim that the name of Jesus cannot be used in New Zealand is nonsense. Ironically, people use the name all the time as an expletive. There are no restrictions on using Jesus name in everyday speech.

New Zealand has become more secular, and more religiously diverse. Christians may not like it, but they have to take responsibility for that situation. We have the best gospel ever and the Holy Spirit to empower it. If we cannot persuade people to accept it, we cannot blame them.

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