ted steve paul

Those of you familiar with the biographies of John Stott will remember that he once had a Kiwi curate at All Souls' named Ted. Ted had the gall one day to criticise Stott about his preaching being beautifully biblical, but unconnected with the wider world. As the story goes, it was this interchange that became the seed for Stott developing his "double listening" metaphor (and the "bridge-building" one) whereby a preacher must listen to both Word and World on the journey to the sermon.

At more than one point in the various biographies, Ted is described as a "brash Kiwi". Maybe it was just Ted, in that unevenly sanctified state which can mark a curacy ... or is there more to this? Is there something inherently brash about Kiwis? That would be a big call to make...

But this week Steve Williams and Paul Henry haven't exactly helped to dilute that impression.

Four days after the words were spoken, Stevie's comments about Tiger Woods were still the top two most-viewed sports stories on The Guardian website in the UK. That included a weekend of football action - incredible. The story redefined "going viral". Given the global popularity of golf, Stevie is almost certainly more famous than Richie - and maybe even the most recognisable Kiwi name/person in the world today. Sadly, he has a track record of headline-grabbing ugly brashness. This cartoon, entitled 'the most appalling hole in golf', captures it well.

Less widely known beyond NZ is the media personality, Paul Henry. He had to leave his broadcasting job after a series of gaffes which included naming one woman as retarded and another as having a moustache - before setting his brand of humour on two respected leaders of Indian heritage, as he made fun of names and disrespected ethnicity. In the end he had to be sacked - but then he reappeared on our screens with indecent haste and now he has just landed a huge job in Oz. [NB: I am not dignifying his gaffes by providing links for you].

A few reflections:

1. Both Williams' language and Henry's humour are silly, juvenile and over-the-top. It is reminiscent of what one might find on the playground at a primary school. I found both to be ugly and brash, leaving me feeling embarassed to be a Kiwi.

2. At this point many reach for 'political correctness' and ask why we have to be so precious about certain things. 'Where is your sense of humour, Paul?' Although political correctness can squeeze us into thinking more narrowly about the issues, my interest is more with theological correctness. Whichever way you look at it, abusing or mocking people in ways that relate to their ethnicity and/or gender that causes offense is theologically incorrect. For this reason I have been surprised how many fans of Paul Henry I have encountered within the Christian community. I don't get it.

3. All my life I have watched Kiwis engage with Aussies, Brits and Americans - and vice versa. It reminds me of a family. Kiwis are kinda like the little kid brother, by virtue of size and location. I think if we let them, we might become a favourite little brother - but instead, at the first hint of being ignored or forgotten, we break out into all kinds of attention-seeking behaviours. We can become noisy and ill-mannered - as the brash and the ugly surfaces. We see it in the sporting world. We see it in the media. More sadly, it can be discovered within inter-cultural mission teams at work around the world where poor relationships between mission partners is reputed to be the biggest reason for people returning home.

Is Ted a bit like Steve and Paul?!
It couldn't be so...that is why we met him only on a first name basis.

Are Kiwis inherently brash?!
Probably not (although I've seen enough to make me wince) - but we should still take care.

Thankfully, oh so thankfully, the All Blacks won the World Cup - with the brashness and ugliness saved only for the build-up to the game against Australia(!) and only among the supporters, not the team.

nice chatting



Greg said…
Interesting thoughts, Paul. I like the little brother image. It's very hard to generalise though, I guess. Do you think that Kiwis are more brash than Aussies. Not my experience, but that might depend on the people I associate with here and there.

Having said that, as I was reading your piece it reminded me of being in Australia recently during the final stages of the World Cup, and many, many Australians suggesting that, while Quade Cooper had certainly done some dumb things, the whole "public enemy No 1" theme in NZ had been taken way too far. They seemed quite disappointed with New Zealand on that front, to be honest. I guess that backs up your point a bit.
Paul said…
Greg, my experience would be that at the Aussie:Kiwi interface it is the Kiwi who tends to be more brash than is often recognised as they seek attention from the big brother who ignores them...
Paul said…
Paul said…
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