What do we say to those who feel Christianity has no place in modern Australia? Social commentator and CEO of Olive Tree Media, Karl Faase, has just released a DVD series which looks at how Christianity has shaped our moral roots in ways that even the secular world treasures.
Find the DVD and other resources here.
KARL FAASE ON VOICE FOR VALUES
TUESDAY 9TH AUGUST 2016
Lyle Shelton: Well hello and welcome to Voice for Values. It’s Lyle Shelton from the Australian Christian Lobby here today and we’ve got a very special edition, well they’re always special but particularly this week, I have with me on the line Karl Faase who is just fresh from launching his latest video production. It’s called ‘Jesus the Game Changer: How the life and teaching of Jesus changed the world and why it matters’. Karl, welcome to Voice for Values.
Karl Faase: Lyle, great to be with you today.
Lyle Shelton: Well Karl it’s fantastic to have you here. I got a hold of this latest production. It’s a ten-part series and I have to confess, Karl, I binge-watched the whole lot in one night til about midnight but I was riveted. I just loved every minute of it. Now a lot of our listeners are going to be wondering what on earth we’re talking about. Karl, just tell us why were you motivated to produce a ten-part documentary on the life of Jesus?
Karl Faase: Lyle, as you know in your experience with ACL and many of our listeners will know, there’s a lot of contention in countries like Australia, but we shouldn’t pretend it’s just Australia. I mean, most what we would describe as free western democracies, there’s this idea that the Christian faith needs to be pulled out of the public square and it comes from this concept that we need to pull out of the public square cause the Christian faith is a negative influence on the communities around the world and this comes for all sorts of reasons. Mostly it’s this idea that religion is a negative influence therefore Christian faith is a negative influence, but Lyle just a little bit of reading, you don’t have to be a genius or professor of anything that will tell you that the values that most of these western democracies like Australia are based on didn’t just come out of thin air. They actually came from somewhere and some history will show you that it came from the person of Jesus, the teaching and the life of Jesus. There’s a wonderful quote by a guy called Jaroslav Pelikan who talks about quoting another guy, Alfred North Whitehead who talked about the fact that when we discuss ideas in any particular period of time, what we often discuss is contentious ideas. What we don’t discuss is the underlying foundations that give us that set of ideas to discuss. Does that make sense?
Lyle Shelton: Absolutely.
Karl Faase: And so here we have in a country like Australia, a whole bunch of foundational ideas that everybody thinks that everybody’s a) always had or b) all have it around the world now, and neither of these things are true, and so what we’re trying to do is give people look at how did Jesus’ life and teaching actually change the kind of framework, the foundational ideas of His time, how does it echo through to our time and how is that even different from other countries around the world right now, and that ends up being a pretty interesting look at how Jesus changed our world.
Lyle Shelton: Well this is a monumental piece of work that you’ve done, Karl, which does go to these very foundations. It’s things we take for granted like how did we end up with a democratic and free society? Why is it that women are treated equally in western civilisations? Why do we believe in humility and leadership, science and reason? Why do we have healthcare? Why do we have wealth? I’d love to unpack some of these things but all these basic values which, as you say, you and I take for granted which most of our population take for granted, come from the life of Jesus and yet Christianity is given such a bad rap. I really think you’ve pulled the rug from under this toxic narrative that’s crept into our society and I’m sure that was your aim in producing this.
Karl Faase: Yeah. I mean, a wonderful book that just come out in the last couple of years, I’m actually just trying to re-read it because it’s so good, it’s by an Oxford professor called Larry Siedentop. Now I’m not even sure if Siedentop’s kind of faith perspective. He’s just looking at, and the book is called ‘Inventing the Individual’. If you’re a reader out there and you want to read it.
Lyle Shelton: I’ve just started reading it myself, actually.
Karl Faase: It’s a great book, Lyle and especially the first chapter says you know you’ve got the enlightenment period, French enlightenment period, 18th century, they dislike the Church enormously, even more than those in the current commentaries dislike the Church then, and then what they were doing was saying okay there’s this Dark Ages and we are to reach back before Christian faith and see what the Greco-Roman philosophers said and that’s what gave us this idea that the individual’s important. Siedentop spent 300 pages basically showing that that’s just a myth. It’s simply not true, and people weren’t treated equally in Jesus’ and it was actually the Jewish faith coming into Christian faith which gave us the equality of all people which is a foundational idea for something like democracy.
Lyle Shelton: Yeah it’s so clear when you read it and it’s a shame I guess Sidentop didn’t make this current production but perhaps next time.
Karl Faase: Yeah well the reason he didn’t, Lyle is cause we were in England and we had him lined up and he was really unwell.
Lyle Shelton: Okay. Wow.
Karl Faase: That’s why we didn’t actually interview him. We actually spoke to him on the phone. He’s quite elderly now so a tad frail from a health perspective but we would have loved to have interviewed him because his input would have been wonderful.
Lyle Shelton: I’m only about a third of the way into his book but he really does blow away this myth that it was somehow the enlightenment and rational thinking that gave us these values when really it was Judaism and then Christianity coming after and the apostle Paul and of course your video series takes up a similar theme but Karl, what really struck me is just the incredible production values and the excellence with which you and Jane, your wife Jane and the team have put this together. You start of in this intriguing location in Bath in England. Tell us why you start there in these ancient Roman ruins. Well, they’re not even ruins, they’re still there 2,000 years later.
Karl Faase: Well we were filming in Bath and we had the opportunity to interview a guy from Exodus so Bath was the best place to meet and Jane my wife, who heads up the production for ‘Jesus the Game Changer’, was chatting to the location people. It’s a bit of a funny story really, Lyle and the location people said well we can get you into the Roman baths before anybody else is there so get it to yourselves from seven o’clock in the morning and so we were filming there and that’s where we come up with this idea that, you know, the Roman baths in Bath in southwest England, were actually built at 70A.D., the kind of bath itself, not all the buildings that now exist. They were added later. At the same point at the Roman Empire, 2,000 kilometres from Rome, is building baths in Bath in England. There’s a small group of people following a person they believe was the Messiah Jesus in the backlogs of the Roman Empire around Palestine and the point we open with is, if you were to think who’s going to last, this tiny group of Christians in this small place in Palestine or the empire that is able to build these Roman baths 2,000 kilometres from Rome, who would you have thought would last? And the point is Christian faith is now the faith of two billion people.
Lyle Shelton: Wow.
Karl Faase: It’s grown over all these years and now Rome is just a subject of history and nobody, nobody would have picked that at the time. So the question all of us need to ask is why was Jesus foundational, as we’ve said before Lyle, but why did it last? Why is it still here? Why did this small group of people who didn’t grow out of military might or influence or power just are following this person of Jesus but it was the ideas and the power of the spirit of God and the ideas they were communicating that actually made the difference.
Lyle Shelton: Amazing. Hold that thought, Karl. We’re coming up to a break. My guest is Karl Faase. He and his wife Jane have just released a new video documentary series ‘Jesus the Game Changer: How the life and teaching of Jesus changed the world and why it matters’. Don’t go away.
Well I’ve got with me on the line Karl Faase. He’s the host of a new video series ‘Jesus the Game Changer’ and Karl, just before the break you were telling us about the opening scene. You shot this documentary on location at various exotic places around the world which really put us in the picture of what it is you’re trying to communicate and I know in that opening scene with you standing there in these old Roman baths in Bath in England explaining the link between you know, Jesus’ followers which were just getting going at that time and the Roman empire. It really made the hair on the back of my neck stand up as you bought that alive and you interview people like Rodney Stark who was a great sociologist and historian from that period. Just tell us the sort of things that Rodney Stark unpacks as to why this group of Jesus follows outlasted the might of Rome.
Karl Faase: Rodney Stark’s a wonderful guy and anybody who’s done any reading in sociology and history will know his name and he just started researching the growth of the church and Rodney Stark makes number of points and he comes out as a sociologist with a historical background and also as a researcher and Rodney Stark talks about the fact that the values that the earliest church picked up from Jesus meant they were completely different to the values of the community. Let me take two examples, Lyle. One is caring for people. They were a group of people that remember that Jesus said that whatever you did to the least of these my brethren or these my people, you did for me, and so in 165 A.D. and 251 A.D. there were two massive plagues where 25-30 per cent of the whole population of the Roman Empire was wiped out. The pagan priests ran to the hills. The politicians and the wealthy people ran to the hills out of the towns cause that’s where the plagues hit the hardest. Who stayed? Christians stayed, Lyle. And Christians helped people and they didn’t just roll people out on the street when they were sick and when you help people get better, it was a bit like that was a real anathema compared to the whole of the community because the whole of the community was, you look after yourself and those who were kind of most in need in the community well that was, to be frank, almost bad luck or bad karma using a Hindu term. The second is the whole issue with women. Rodney Stark and John Ortberg both make the point that women n the Greco-Roman world just had a tough life and they were often married very young, twelve, thirteen, fourteen. They were often married to older men. They had absolutely no rights at all. They were there to produce male children for their husbands and that was their lot in life. In fact, John Ortberg gives us the point that they look at the time and believe that there was probably for every one million women there was about 1.3 or more million men so why did the disparity? Well because women weren’t honoured and women were often seen as a kind of economic dead weight to a family. If you were poor or even if you were struggling and you wanted a boy and you got a girl, what you often did and this is well attested to from many different writers that they basically exposed these children. They take these little girls out and they’d leave them on the street or leave them…
Lyle Shelton: Infanticide.
Karl Faase: Yep and that idea that you can just, you know, you can just leave children out there well Christians just came with a different view. Women were honoured. When Paul says, you know, men treat your wives basically as an equal and serve her like Christ serves the Church, that was an unbelievable idea at that period, where there’s young women married to older men and these older men who had the idea that his woman was my cattle, I own her and I can basically divorce her on a whim is now being told you’ve got to look after her. You’re not to sleep with other people. You are to look after every child, male or female, abled or disabled. All of those ideas were completely new ideas at that period of time and that shifted what Christian families looked like as opposed to the rest of the families within the Greco-Roman world.
Lyle Shelton: Yeah. Christianity was such a radical movement which just upended the way of life and of course we take all of these things for granted today. Another thing that we take for granted is the idea of equality between the races and in the documentary you make a pilgrimage to a place where I made a pilgrimage two, three years ago and that’s to Clapham Common where William Wilberforce and his friends worshipped at the church there at Clapham Common and conspired as to how to end the slave trade.
Karl Faase: Yeah and that’s just a fantastic story because we cover not just William Wilberforce that everybody knows but John Thornton who lived in Clapham Common, was a very wealthy businessman and through his life gave away six sevenths of his wealth. He kept one for himself. Six sevenths he gave away.
Lyle Shelton: Gee, different concept of tithing, Karl?
Karl Faase: I mean I’ve got a feeling his one seventh was probably more than mine but he built the church at Clapham Common but he funded William Wilberforce. We also talk about Hannah More, a poet, an incredibly successful poet that outsold I think Eric Metaxas says Jane Austen ten to one but these people, Granville Sharp, somebody from the Wedgewood family, Josiah Wedgewood, these people gathered together to make sure there was a change in the society and the change was that you couldn’t trade people. You can’t bring people from Africa and sell them. They’re people. They actually matter. They’re human beings and that was not given to them by humanist idea. That was given to them because they were all followers of Jesus.
Lyle Shelton: People don’t know these stories and they need to know them and you help bring them alive. Another one of the great things from history that you draw out is the interview with another one of my heroes is Vishal Mangalwadi and just how and this was a flow on affect from Wilberforce and Thornton and these guys and the impact that they had on Vishal’s home country of India.
Karl Faase: Yeah and you see the East-Indian Trading Company were not behaving particularly well and what the Clapham sector were actually doing as well was putting pressure on them to say the sati, the burning of widows with their husband when their husband dies has to stop. Now people don’t realise this and even Vishal Mangalwadi stood against a case that was in the last 20 years where an 18 year old girl is burned on the funeral pyre with her husband and what people in our community don’t get is that you don’t have equality in a place like India if you follow to the letter of the law Hindu philosophy which says karma, your last life through reincarnation affects your present life. If you’re in the Brahmin class, you have the total sense that this is my right. I’m entitled to my position and those in the lowest or below the lowest class who had no opportunity and live a dreadful life, you don’t really help them up because you don’t need to because they’re working their karma out and there’s a place where you’ve got institutionalised inequality throughout the community where it’s basically the Christians that came in and made the difference rather than they themselves helping out those in their community.
Lyle Shelton: Well Karl there’s so much more we could say. This is a ten-part DVD series. It’s called ‘Jesus the Game Changer: How the life and teaching of Jesus changed the world and why it matters’. I can’t recommend it highly enough. We need to know these things, particularly in the face of much of the narrative in today’s society that says that religion and Christianity is insignificant and didn’t shape our values. It clearly did. Karl, where can people get a hold of this resource?
Karl Faase: That’s a great question. If anybody’s near or normally deals with a Koorong store, Koorong stock this product but also there’s a website, jesusthegamechanger.com, jesusthegamechanger.com and you can buy copies on there. We’ll post them to you or if you’re savvy, you can actually get digital downloads. You can actually buy a digital download and download it directly to your computer and to keep in mind, for everybody that does this, it’s a small group, you can buy a discussion guide but there’s also an app that’s free so you just go to the iTunes store and the discussion guide is on an app and details about all the guests so if you go on the iTunes store, search for ‘Jesus the Game Changer’. The app is there for free.
Lyle Shelton: There you go, folks. Please go out now to Koorong and buy your copies of the DVD and the discussion guide. Go online jesusthegamechanger.com. Download the app. Let as many people know about this. It’s an important resource. Folks, if we don’t know this stuff in today’s cultural environment, we will be very ineffective witnesses of Christ. Our world needs to know these stories. We need to know them as Christians. Karl thanks for bringing this alive to us and thanks for being out guest today on Voice for Values.
Karl Faase: Pleasure to be with you Lyle.