Soren's birthday dinner

If they move, Baptise them!

“As they were going along the road, they came to some water; and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptised?” (Acts 8:36)

Greetings, Fighter,

If you’re not familiar with the story of Act 8, you may find the verse above a bit confusing. Who is this eunuch? Who is he talking to? Is water really the only thing you need to hold a baptism? Be assured that when you unpack the story, it becomes even more confusing!

It’s a scene from the early days of the church. Jesus has left the building yet the work continues. An angel tells the disciple, Philip, to head from Jerusalem to Gaza. We’re told, “it was a deserted road”, suggesting that, even then, not many from Jerusalem visited Gaza. Philip finds just one traveller on the road, along with his entourage. We are never told his name. What we are told is that he was an “Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of the Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of her entire treasury.” (Acts 8:28)

It is bizarre that we are never told his name as, by the end of the story, the man has been baptised into the community of Jesus’ followers, and presumably heads home to tell his friends.. According to legend, this man goes on to found the church in Ethiopia, which remains a predominantly Christian nation to this day! I’m sure Ethiopian legend supplied this man with a name but it seems that the author of the Book of Acts was more concerned with the fact that he was Ethiopian and was …. well … gender-non-specific!

From the perspective of critical social justice theory, this guy is a classic case of intersectionality. That’s the term coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw to describe how interlocking systems of power affect those who are most marginalised. Crenshaw criticised classical feminist literature as it was almost all produced by middle-class, cis-gendered white women. What about women who are also black and queer? Our Ethiopian friend ticks a lot of boxes for Crenshaw. At the same time though, there is no way you could describe this man as ‘marginalised’. On the contrary, humanly speaking, he is one of the most powerful people we meet in the entire New Testament. He was in charge of the entire treasury of Ethiopia!

There is one other detail we are told about this Ethiopian official – that “he had come to Jerusalem to worship”. Did he have Jewish ancestry or had he made a study of religions from his homeland and found something in the religion of Israel that intrigued him?  We don’t know, but we can be reasonably confident that, despite his wealth and power, he would not have been welcome in the temple.

“He who is emasculated by crushing or mutilation shall not enter the assembly of the Lord.” (Deuteronomy 23:1)

The Bible doesn’t mince words (no pun intended) when it comes to the subject of castration. If you’re not a ‘real man’, you’re not welcome. It is written!

Our emasculated friend might have found comfort in the fact that he was not the only person excluded from the temple. Blind and lame people were excluded. Foreigners were excluded. Indeed, our Ethiopian friend probably had intersectional grounds for exclusion. Even if he had not been a eunuch, he probably would still have been left outside. Most people were excluded, and this is indeed the point of today’s story. In those days, you had to jump through a lot of hoops to be a part of the people of God. In Jesus’ new community there was only one hoop. You had to have some water!

“Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptised?”” (Acts 8:36)

There are plenty of clergy today who insist on putting baptismal candidates through lectures and questionnaires and, even then, won’t guarantee them baptism unless they pass their final interview. The policy I adopted while I was still in seminary has served me well for more than 35 years: “if they move, baptise them. If they don’t, bury them.” I still believe my policy is the more consistent with the practice of the early church.

Our Sunday Eucharist

We had a dynamic Sunday Eucharist last weekend. I’m always thankful for the calibre of the people who join me on the panel, and never more so than I am for Karyn Hemming and Andrew Logan. What started as a depressing conversation about the ongoing persecution of Julian Assange, evolved into a more encouraging reflection on the number of independent journalists who are still out there, continuing to speak truth to power. Mind you, the fact that it took us less than a minute to name all these great souls reminds us that they are not great in number. Even so, Jesus extended his community to the ends of the earth through just twelve.

I’m very much looking forward to this Sunday’s gathering. I hope to have the other Andew – Andrew Madry – and my dear friend from the Deep South of the USA, Doug Pyeatt, with me on the panel. I’ve petitioned Father John Ashfield to send us another homily on the Epistle reading but haven’t hear back from him. He tends to move around Europe quite a bit and could be anywhere. Even so, if he gets the message, I’m sure he’ll do his best to put something together for us.

Either way, do join us from midday at, or on Facebook , YouTubeTwitterLinkedInor Streamyard. I look forward to sharing this Eucharist with you. 😊

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What’s On?

a much younger SorenIf you were wondering about the pic at the top today, it was my son, Soren’s, birthday last week. He’s 22 now! Ah, it doesn’t seem that long ago …

I met with Soren again for dinner during the week and he shared with me his wisdom concerning ‘shorts’.

Shorts are the new video format I’ve been trying to work with. They are no more than 60 seconds long, are in portrait format (for optimal viewing on mobile phones) and tend to include various special effects and a soundtrack.

The shorts I’ve created are getting around 10 times the number of views as my regular videos. Even so, Soren suggested that if I really wanted to hold peoples’ attention, I should try running two videos on the screen simultaneously – one for educational purposes and one purely for entertainment. After about six hours of concentrated work, I came up with this:

Let me know what you think. Does it work? Should I pour more hours into this sort of thing? Would it be fitting to combine boxing clips like the one above with serious messages about ending wars and freeing political prisoners? I’m open to your wisdom. If we are going to win this war, we need to box smarter and not just harder. Let me know what you think (and please do share the video too). 😉

We keep praying for Julian Assange and for Gaza. The darkness is great but the light continues to shine. One such shining light who encouraged me greatly this week was Norman Finkelstein.

Some of you may remember that I had the privilege of broadcasting Dr Finkelstein in Dulwich Hill back in 2010. You can watch the first video of that livestream here if you’re interested, though it’s the interview he gave to Glenn Greenwald last week that I’m recommending to you now. I reposted it on  I think you’ll find it both informative and inspiring. Click here.

That will do for this week. I need to get into the car and head out to the bush. If you haven’t joined me there yet, I would love to share a weekend of fitness and fun out there with you. Please do consider putting a weekend at Binacrombi in your calendar. We don’t know the future of Binacrombi and our work there but I am confident that if you book in soon you will be blessed with a unique experience.

May the Lord bless and strengthen you for the work to which you have been called.

P.S. It’s never too late to pick up some of Imogen’s artwork at
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Soren's birthday dinner

About Father Dave Smith

Preacher, Pugilist, Activist, Father of four

2 thoughts on “If they move, Baptise them!”

  1. That’s the great thing about Christianity. There is only one hoop through which to jump, the foundation of a free and enlightened society.

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