Monday, September 21, 2015

Changing Flags & Governments Down Under

I am relishing my holidays while it lasts. I have some free time to follow my other passions, news from Down Under while at the same time resetting my schedule for the next couple of weeks. After the public holiday on Thursday I shall be back to work. First up, on Saturday two lectures in a Youth Conference on "The Origins of the Bible." I will be preaching on Sunday and next Wednesday. I am chairing a leaders' meeting on Sunday, probably deciding then whether we are taking the next door unit for church expansion. The rent is a bit high but without space, we can't grow any further. This will be followed by an End-time Seminar in Bundu Tuhan (near Kinabalu Parks) on 3rd October. On the next public holiday on 14th October I will lecturing on "The Role and Function of Elders" and "Holy Communion" for a Church Sacrament Seminar held by Ranau District. We are expecting 150 participants, pastors (18), elders (30) and deacons (100) to turn up from all 26 local churches. In the past few days, I have been following news from Down Under. First, Aussie Jason Day becoming World no.1 Golfer. With Lydia Ko, a New Zealander becoming the youngest female major golf winner and youngest ever world no. 1 before going down to no. 2 at present, You can only be amazed at how two small countries (Australia is a big country but small in population of 22 million) can produce world champions.
Australia maybe becoming the only country in the world that changes Prime Ministers like people change handphones. 4 PMs in 2 years, worse than Japan in recent years. But I am thrilled with democracy at work. If you don't perform, you are out. Politics is brutal, they say and sometimes I wish the church is as disciplined as worldly governments. There is too much deadwood in church. Leaders who don't perform stay on forever. Yes, we talk about grace and mercy. But what about bearing fruits and abundant fruits? What about performance and track record? Did not Paul say that "elders that rule well especially those who labour in preaching and teaching are to be rewarded twice as much" (the Greek word there could mean honour and remuneration, most likely both meanings are present in Paul's mind).

Australia's Tony Abbott was a tenacious politician but no surprises that he was booted out by his colleagues. Prime ministerial qualities don't come too easily with Abbott with his gaffes, policy flips, and awarding Prince Philip a knighthood only invites ridicule and disbelief. I am relieved that Malcolm Turnbull is now the Australian PM and I hope he will last until January 2017 when the 3-year election cycle comes round again.

New Zealand PM, John Key survived his pony-gate (pulling a young woman's hair is most unbecoming of anyone let alone a Prime Minister). It proved the popularity of Key that he not only survived that unscathed but thrives in his third term as PM. All bets are on that Key's National will win a fourth term, a rarity in NZ politics where even the most popular government runs out of steam in the 3rd term at the latest.

But there is one event that could derail Key's 4th term ambitions. Changing the national flag in the beginning was a fairly popular move. After 11 years in NZ and considerable time in Australia, I still could not tell the difference between the Aussie and Kiwi flags. But if you look more closely it is telling. The stars are red and there is this popular sign, Southern Cross.

What about the four flags shortlisted to replace the current one? In fact, I picked up the Kyle Lockwood's designs long ago (see photo). I thought they would make the shortlist. But after reading recent commentary I am beginning to have a change of heart. Initially I thought changing the flag was a good idea like John Key. But what about the alternatives? None really stood out. No wonder the flag committee was severely criticized for its lack of design acumen. None of the 12 members is a designer. If I were a Kiwi I would have a tough decision to make. A flag is probably one of the most enduring and important national symbols. The flag design must be symbolically rich to mark out NZ identity, culture and nationhood and artistically pleasing plus it must be recognizable when it is flying in the wind or not.

Two referenda, first to choose one flag over the other three or to rate the four flags according to preference. Then, the second binding referendum to choose between the present flag and the flag that tops the poll in the November referendum. If given the vote now, I will choose to retain the current flag, not because it stands out but purely because the alternatives do not convince me as a better flag seeing that only a stand out option could replace the current flag that has flown for more than a century in New Zealand's honour.

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