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Happily it’s Friday again. Especially happy for all of you who’ve taken the day off to make it a four day weekend (I didn’t even take yesterday off, but I’m happy nonetheless). Things seemed a bit quiet on the blogosphere this week, or perhaps I was too busy doing other things (did I mention my sister got married on the weekend). Still, I’ve got a bit of a theme this week: sacrifice.

On Anzac Day

McCrindle Anzac day: Second only to Christmas. That’s right 30% of Australians feel that Anzac Day is the most meaningful public holiday to them.

Stanley Hauerwas Telling the truth about the sacrifices of war

The sacrifices of war are undeniable. But in the cross of Christ, the Father has forever ended our attempts to sacrifice to God in terms set by the city of man. We – that is, we Christians – have now been incorporated into Christ’s sacrifice for the world so that the world no longer needs to make sacrifices for tribe or state, or even humanity. Constituted by the body and blood of Christ we participate in God’s Kingdom so that the world may know that we, the church of Jesus Christ, are the end of sacrifice.

Nicholas Herriman gives us an anthropologist’s view of Anzac Day – Is Anzac Day really unique?

On the atonement

John Goldingay Sacrifice and the death of Christ

Seeing the way the relationship between God and Israel worked helps us see why the cross was necessary. Through God’s life with Israel God was paying the price for that relationship, making the sacrifices to keep it going. God’s people keep doing their worst to God, so eventually God paid the ultimate price for them. God showed that even killing God cannot put God off from relating to them. God will just come back from the dead.

Scot McKnight Centre of atonement

On atheism

Scott Stephens Can a religious believer be a serious journalist? Richard Dawkins and the unbearable smugness of tweeting

On maturity

Mike Wanted: adult faith in a youth culture

I’m done with an approach to the faith that flies by the seat of its pants and calls it “spiritual.” Gatherings that feel like pep rallies, youth conventions, or pop concerts hold no appeal. I need to be humbled, not enthused.

On sexuality

Mary DeMuth I’m sick of hearing about your smoking hot wife

There’s been an interesting series on sexuality and the Christian body over at Rachel Held Evans’ blog by Richard Beck. Part 2 is Grace and Election.

Our bodies are not our own. They are “community property.” I share my body with my wife. And it doesn’t end there. My body belongs to the community of faith. I don’t wholly control my own time, money, efforts, or talent. The community has a claim on me. Ultimately, because these loves–for my wife and for the world–are simply reflections of my love for God. As Paul writes: “You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.”…

God’s marriage to his people is what makes sense of human marriage… God’s grace is experienced in God’s own choosing of a people. God chooses Israel to be his bride. And in this choice Israel is found to be an occasion of joy. Israel experiences God’s grace.

Rowan William’s essay, which inspired all this, is The Body’s Grace.

On a very hungry caterpillar

Tomcat The very hungry caterpillar

The Very Hungry Caterpillar is a phantasmagoric bodyshock horror story that focuses on the tenets of extreme gluttony and one creature’s psycho-compulsive desire to consume the world around him.

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Happy Friday everyone. My fabulous sister gets married tomorrow so it’s a particularly happy Friday for us, I hope you’ve got a good weekend lined up too.

On celebration

Ben Myers Letter to the Chinese student, baptised on Easter Sunday

I worry that we will sing our songs and pray our prayers and have our tea and biscuits and then all go home afterwards without actually celebrating anything. This worries me especially here, in Australia, where (you will have noticed) we are not very good at celebrating things. On occasions when other people would celebrate, we Australians mill about uncertainly, hands in pockets, vaguely or acutely embarrassed. You can turn up to a wedding, a funeral, the birth of a baby, even Easter Sunday, and you’ll always find us standing about like that, exchanging dry remarks about the traffic and the weather, just when we ought to be shouting, weeping, rending our clothes, kissing strangers, firing pistols in the air. We like the idea of celebration, we have heard of it, but it is a language we never learned, and our bodies don’t know the rules.

On Thatcher

Timothy Lynch The death of Margaret Thatcher and the legacy of Thatcherism

John Milbank Thatcher’s perverse victory and the prospect of an ethical economy

On doubt

There was a bit of a blog-quake this week in response to a post by Derek Rishmawy called ‘who are you sleeping with?‘ based on Tim Keller’s talk at the Gospel Coalition conference. Rishmawy summmarised Keller’s message that when young people have doubts, the doubts almost always originate in their sexual sin. The college students are having sex and then, because they discover they like it, Christianity becomes doubtful.

I was a little concerned by the message because, as someone who often wrestles with doubts and questions, I worry that if I approach people for answers, they’ll presume my doubts really come from some sin and fail to take my questions seriously. I worry because, if they thought that about me, they’d be right! My doubt often stems from my pride, my failure to take advice, my stubbornness and I know it. But knowing this doesn’t deal with the doubt. The relationship between sin and doubt is complex and the assumption that doubt is merely a way of dealing with some hidden sin won’t encourage doubters to seek help.

Rachel Held Evans Is doubt an STD?

Nick Tim Keller, sex and the scandal of religious doubt?

Rachel Held Evans Some helpful critiques of yesterday’s post ‘is doubt an STD?’

On asylum seekers

Sienna Merope The economic cost of our asylum seeker policy

On euthanasia

Tim Dunlop Future generations won’t go quietly into that good night

On the ‘Jesus Juke’

This one’s just plain manipulation. John Acuff You don’t have to attend choir practice

A Jesus Juke is a phrase I came up with to describe that moment when you’re talking about something normal and someone tries to juke in some Jesus out of nowhere. The first one recorded in history is when I saw a guy next to me at the airport doing pushups in the terminal and someone said, “Don’t you wish we were all this disciplined with our Bible reading.”

On inviting Jesus into our hearts

Ben Myers Come into my heart, Lord Jesus; Origen and Augustine on the roomy heart

I suppose it’s good to learn that sort of thing when you’re still a child, before you get too disillusioned about the capacities of your own (or anybody else’s) heart. It never occurred to me to doubt that my heart was spacious enough to accommodate a person like Jesus, or that it was the kind of place a person like that would want to live…. Nor did it occur to me that he might want to buy the house (like so many people in my neighbourhood in Sydney) only in order to demolish or renovate – that he might show up on the first day with trucks, sledgehammers, men in hardhats; that he might be the kind of homeowner who tears out the kitchen sink and knocks down walls.

On writing

Jack Shepherd 30 indispensable writing tips from famous authors

ImageOn leadership

The moonbat The alienating myth of leadership

On work

Sarah Burnside The indignity of work

On gonski funding

Yes, I’m self-interested in posting these ones, but the announcement made me really angry. You’re not doing today’s school kids any favours if you fund their schooling at the expense of their tertiary education.

Andrew Norton Should universities suffer to pay for school funding?

Richard Hill The case for academic disobedience

On gendered products

The Hoopla The women’s shampoo ad effect

and here’s Barbie without make-up:
barbie

On photography

Alison Zavos Flesh Love: photographs of vacuum-packed Tokyo couples by Haruhiko Kawaguchi.

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abortion – not a victory for feminism

Abortion’s been in the news a bit this week. There’s the Gosnell trial and Tasmania’s bill to legalise abortion passed in the lower house. Now I’m a feminist. Feminists have a bad name among Christians for various reasons, a lot of it has to do with the conflation of feminism with being pro-abortion.

You may be surprised then, when I say that I think that the pro-choice lobby is actually anti-feminist. I’m an anti-abortion feminist. The way I see it, abortion might be a win for individualists, but it’s not a win for feminists.

Let me explain.

Our society is a masculinist or androcentric society. Masculinism is the privileging of masculinity and ‘masculine’ activities over femininity and ‘feminine’ activities. That is, we tend to value the masculine over the feminine (hence mateship, footy, ANZAC).

The thing with being pregnant, giving birth and breastfeeding is that they’re very feminine activities. Only women do these things. I’m hardly one to essentialise femininity and say all women are ‘x’ or ‘y’, and don’t hear me say that giving birth is what makes women women (because plenty of women don’t). But men simply don’t get pregnant (except Arnie) . In fact, the process of being pregnant and giving birth is probably the most feminine activity in our culture because men can’t do it. And it’s pretty amazing – getting pregnant, making a baby inside your own body is an incredible ability of women’s bodies.

Breastfeeding

Back to abortion.

When feminists praise abortion as the solution to women’s inequality, I believe they’re selling women short. When abortion is presented as the solution to the injustices and inequalities faced by women it plays into the lie that women only deserve the same treatment and opportunities as men when they become like men. The way you get a qualification, get a job, succeed at your career, whatever, involves not being pregnant. By treating pregnancy as an obstacle to be overcome, women’s bodies and their feminine attributes become the problem. Women’s bodies become the source of women’s inequality. Femininity is to blame. The problem of our society which rewards masculinity and men over femininity and women is ignored and obscured.

I looked at a Melbourne Uni report from 2009 on Women’s Experiences of Unplanned Pregnancy & Abortion59.5% of abortions were women aged 18-29.

In considering their own needs, desires, and capacities, the well-being of potential children, and their responsibility for children and adults already in their lives, these women were making considered decisions to terminate or continue their pregnancies, based on multiple and contingent factors. Each woman assessed her capacity to be a good mother and to provide adequately for the potential child; women thought about their relationships and the man concerned; and those with children considered their needs. some women said explicitly and others implied that their pregnancy occurred at the “wrong time”; had it happened at a more propitious time, they could have continued.

Some of them would have liked to continue the pregnancy but, due to complex social and financial circumstances, felt they could not. But given the circumstances of many in this age-bracket, who could blame them for feeling like they had no real choice? The uni-student who worked hard to get into medicine or law and finds herself pregnant . Even if she could get a childcare spot for the child, the fees were more than her rent and certainly impossible on Youth Allowance. Her course – like many of the most competitive courses – has no flexible or part-time option.  It’s drop out,  give all she’s worked for, or abortion. Is that a choice? The young worker, just starting her career, on a casual or short-term contract. There’s no maternity leave for her. It’s the job or the baby, and how would she care for the baby? Is that a choice? The 20-something who lives in a sharehouse and there’s no way she’d be able to get a rental place on her own in the current market. Move cities to live with her parents, away from work and friends? Or abortion. Is that a choice?

When our masculinist society measures ‘success’ mainly in terms of work and career – no wonder women feel they have no choice but abortion to be ‘successful.’ But the choice is one that erases any trace of femininity, that makes ‘feminine’ activities the barrier to ‘success’. If abortion continues to be the default option for women in these difficult positions, we’ll fail to address the structural issues which make women feel like they have no choice but to abortion. It will seem like the problem is gone, but we’ve just swept it under the rug.

So while many consider abortion to be a feminist victory, I don’t see it as the solution to inequality. Instead, it reinforces our cultural preference for masculinity over femininity.

Instead of making abortion the solution, I want better access, improved efficacy and education about contraception (bring on the male pill too, I say). More importantly, I want a society where being pregnant, or nursing a child is not a ‘disadvantage’. That would mean better childcare options, maternity leave, flexible study options, affordable housing, reversing the casualisation of the workforce (gen Y want jobys!). It would mean a much healthier respect for ‘feminine’ activities of giving birth and caring for children (at the moment we live in a culture where mothers and pregnant women are constant targets of criticism – they can never get it right. How about showing them some respect!).

There’s a role for churches too. Instead of moralising, telling women off and getting into debates about when personhood begins, we could re-focus on supporting mothers, removing any stigma of single motherhood and helping create real life-options. This would take a lot more than just organising a meal roster.

But what about women’s right to choose, to have autonomy? I’m very sympathetic to this argument because I believe women can and should make choices, but as I see it, this is an individualist argument, not a feminist argument. It’s an argument about individuals in a free market with ‘choice’ as the highest good (mistaking ‘choice’ for freedom). Feminism is a movement fighting to give women full opportunities, rights and respect as women, not merely as ‘individuals’. This means undoing our preference for all things masculine, creating a society where ‘feminine’ is not an antonym to ‘successful’.

Here’s more, if you’re interested, Pro-life feminism.

(for the record, I believe abortion should be safe, legal and as rare as possible; that it is never desirable but sometimes is the lesser of many evils; that women, when properly informed, can and should make complex moral decisions for themselves; and finally,  that God is judge, not me, not anyone else)

when it’s Christian vs Christian

A few weeks ago there was some confusion in the Briefing as to how Christians should debate when we disagree. First was an article on playing the man and not the ball arguing against ad hominems. Then a couple of days later on second thoughts seemed to endorse personal attacks, stating that ‘it is impossible to tackle an argument without tackling the person putting it forward, with the all consequences that flow from that.’

I was quite surprised by the whole thing. In the gospels, the ad hominem attack seemed to be the Pharisee’s favourite way of avoiding something they didn’t want to hear (‘you were steeped in sin at birth!’ ‘are you from Galilee too?’ ‘you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed!’). It’s not presented as great way of listening or responding. I was thinking of writing a response to the Briefing but hardly knew where to start.

So instead I found an example of disagreement done well.

Against and For Calvinism

Roger Olson is an Arminian. Michael Horton is a Calvinist. They’ve gone head to head in their books For Calvinism and Against Calvinism. But interestingly, each wrote the foreword to each other’s book.

Here’s an excerpt of Olson’s forward to Horton’s For Calvinism

High, federal Calvinism, the theology expressed in this book, necessarily makes God the author of sin and evil… I worry that this theology undermines the goodness of God’s character.

So you think he’s banging the heresy gong. You’d think he and Horton could never be reconciled. ‘Farewell Michael Horton’ would be the tweet.They’re probably enemies. But no, he recommends the book.

Anyone interested in reading the best case possible for Calvinism must read this book… After reading the book I can recommend it whole-heartedly with the reservation that I strongly disagree with its central claims. In today’s climate of theological controversy many people with think that inconsistent. Well they’re simply wrong. It is possible to be committed and fair, critical and generous.

Far from insinuating that their disagreement arises from some terrible flaw in Horton’s character, causing him to distort the truth, Olson has only praise for Horton’s character, calling him ‘one of the kindest, gentlest true Calvinists around’, someone who writes ‘without arrogance or hostility’ towards those who disagree.

Horton doesn’t hold back either. In his view, Olson’s position denies the sufficiency of Jesus’ death for our salvation.

If Roger followed Arminiamism to its logical conclusion, he should go on to deny that salvation is entirely of God’s grace; that Arminianism leads inevitably to human-centred rather than God-centred convictions.

Ouch! You’d think he’d be about to declare an anathema!

Yet Horton takes care to mention that he and Olson agree on some very important things.

At the end of the day, Roger and I share the most important agreement: namely, that the crucial questions involved in this debate must be brought to the bar of Scripture. We both believe that Scripture is clear and sufficient, even if we are confused and weak. We are all pilgrims on the way, not yet those who have arrived at our glorious destination. Only by endeavoring more and more to talk to each others as coheirs with Christ instead of about each other and past each other as adversaries can we engage with serious disagreements – and with the hope that we may also be surprised by felicitous agreements along the way.

Horton and Olson debate in a way which aims to build up, not to tear down. They value humility, gentleness and generosity in the way they debate. They correct each other, but do so in love and without denying that Jesus has made them brothers.

The whole sports metaphor of ‘playing the man or the ball’ misses the point. Actually, it’s unhelpful to understand debate among Christians in terms of a potentially violent competition. Watch out if you don’t want to get hurt – only the toughest guys play this game! As Horton puts it, we’re all pilgrims. We’re not in competition. We’re on the same team. It’s possible to disagree in a way which values truth but which honours our underlying unity.

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Happy Friday everyone. My question of the week is could you imagine such a response if one of our own politicians passed away – both the vitriol and the admiration? Perhaps John Howard would get it. Perhaps it’s a good thing that our politics are comparatively bland (better bland than Maggie Thatcher I suppose), though our can’t say our blandness comes out of consensus or cooperation, it’s probably just apathy.

On marriage

Eric Simpson The purpose of marriage is not procreation. I can’t say I entirely agree with what he says the purpose is, but we agree on what the purpose isn’t.

This one pretty well represents my view at the moment. I don’t think that a secular state should legislate on marriage – it should limit itself to civil unions. Roger Olson A question for conservative Christians and GLBT rights advocates: why not civil unions?

On the Eurozone crisis

This is the best explanation of what’s going on that I’ve seen – BBC What really cause the Eurozone crisis

On language

Megan Garber ‘Ogooglebar’ and 14 other Swedish words we should incorporate intoEnglish immediately

Google has officially objected to one of the best words that has ever graced this planet: ogooglebar, which translates — if such a glorious word must be subjugated to the indignities of translation — to “ungoogleable.”

On racism & multiculturalism

Waleed Aly Curse of Australia’s silent pervasive racism

Ghena Kryem The challenges of being a Muslim woman in a multicultural society

On prison

Lisa Wade Prison labour

American companies that once looked to places like Mexico and China for cheap labor are bringing those jobs back to the U.S.  Why? Because prison labor is much, much cheaper.  Paid between 93¢ and $4.73 per day, and collecting no benefits, prisoners are a cheap labor source for about 100 companies.

On beauty

Mr Toledano A new kind of beauty. It’s beautiful pictures of people who have had quite dramatic plastic surgery.

Beauty has always been a currency, and now that we finally have the technological means to mint our own, what choices do we make?

Eddie Ndopu A black crip’s perspective on fashion and embodied resistance

When I wore sweats and lounging-around-at-home clothes in public, the gawks I got from non-disabled strangers were slightly more condescending than the gawks I got when I wore trendy, fashionable clothes. Over time, I realized that non-disabled folks re-inscribed my casual attire with a social meaning that rendered my body the personification of dishevelment and neglect. I think this is largely because, within the able normative imagination, a visibly disabled body clad in sweats and lounging-around-at-home clothing invokes a longstanding and recycled representation of Crips as the objects of deprivation and targets of charity.

On demographics

McCrindle Research Easter, Australians and Christianity

ABS Australian social trends has just come out. We’ve discovered that the ‘average’ Australian is a 37 year old woman working as a sales assistant. Sydney had the highest proportion of people reporting a religion (75%). Hobart had the highest proportion of people with no religion of any capital city (29.1%), just ahead of Canberra (28.9%)

On evangelism

Tamie Davis Re-thinking a ‘worldview’ approach to evangelism

On Mr Abbott

Address to Institute of Public Affairs – worth reading if you want to work out how he thinks and his priorities for government.

church in Australia

  • 88% of aussies who don’t go to church regularly still believe that church is good for the community
  • the term ‘practicing Christian’ has positive connotations, whereas ‘evangelical Christian’ is perceived negativeley
  • People would rather have a community centre or a youth centre than a church (though carparking would be even better) in their community, they would prefer crisis support services over spiritual serivces.

What do you think that means for ‘practicing Christians’? How can we use this knowledge to serve people’s and honour Jesus?

The infographic is from mccrindle research.

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On easter

Michael Bird Raised for our justification

ABC Radio The cross and the atonement with Ben Myers, Chris Flemming and Michael Jensen.

On busyness and laziness

Morgan Guyton It’s okay to be Martha

On advertising

cars

Tracey Spicer Chicks sell cars, not drive them. Duh

On sex & porn

Alyssa Goldstein When women wanted sex much more than men – and how the stereotype flipped

On apologetics

John Lennox has a website now – johnlennox.org

On disability

This is just appalling. City Rail claimed it was unreasonable to do audio announcements so that people with vision impairments can use the train. They lost. Jacob Saulwick Disability case costs Railcorp $420,000

On euthanasia

You may have missed the story this week about Beverly Broadbent – the healthy, apparently happy 83 year old who recently took her own life. She had no terminal illness or disability. These were her words:

I can’t understand why people who really want to can’t have the means to go with the help of a doctor in a dignified manner at the time that they choose. ‘They are not asking anybody else to do it, they don’t want to pressure anyone else to do it, they just want to have the right to do what I’m doing. I hope people can see how sensible it is and that I’m not stupid, I’m not depressed, I’m not sad. I’m having a good life that I’m enjoying right to the last minute.

Michael Vagg Choosing when to go… the human right that nobody can work out how to give

On Alzheimer’s

Ellen Painter Dollar Meet David, as he blogs his way through Alzheimer’s

David Hilfiker was diagnosed with Alzeimer’s last year. He blogs at Watching the lights go out

We tend to be scared of Alzheimer’s or embarrassed by it. We see it as the end of life rather than a phase of life with all its attendant opportunities for growth, learning, and relationships. We see only the suffering and miss the joy. We experience only the disappearing cognitive abilities and ignore the beautiful things that can appear. This memoir, I hope, will not be a sugarcoating of these next years. I wish I did not have Alzheimer’s and would sacrifice a lot to be rid of it. But that’s not one of the possibilities. So I will welcome this period of my life. In fact and unbelievably, this has so far been one of the happiest periods in my life.

On childcare

Andrew Whitehouse Child care and the damage myth

On rabbit hunting

breaking my Christian music drought

It’s time I blogged about something positive. Enough of criticism and over-analysis – it’s not good for me. Here’s something I like.

Firstly, I discovered my very own next-door-neighbours are bloggers (it’s amazing who you meet on the internet) at hebel and Spally’s Journal.

Secondly, they’ve broken the Christian music drought in my life and directed me to something I just might listen to: the Welcome Wagon’s new album Precious Remedies against Satan’s Devices.

Welcome-Wagon

I’m a little slow to the Welcome (band?)Wagon. I’d heard of them but thought of them as mainly a Sufjan spin-off. But this album has its own sound and maturity to it. It reminds me a little of Fleetwood Mac, sometimes Band of Horses, Iron & Wine and yes, often of Sufjan. Vito (remember him? Vito’s ordination song?) and Monique sing together as a husband-wife team. I like that. Some of the songs are more folksy, some even a bit country. There’s a sickly sweet version of God be with you till we meet again (and I thought it was a funeral song), but it seems to work in the arc of the album structure.

That’s because the other thing I like is that the album has what they call a ‘liturgical structure’. It fits together and takes you on a journey, through a narrative, and it’s about Jesus.

Vito explains: “This album has a somewhat liturgical structure, ordered loosely like a worship service. It begins with the existential and cosmic dread of ‘I’m Not Fine,’ immediately followed by ‘My God, My God, Parts 1 & 2,’ a prayer that rails against God’s seeming absence from this world and our lives.  The words are adapted from the prayer of Jesus while he hung on the cross.

“It continues with the assurance of redemption , which then extends to friendship with God and with one another.”

About those last two titles . . . “Rice & Beans (But No Beans)” is a whimsical ditty about how community helps us thrive in difficult circumstances: “Phone cut off, worn through shoes / Check may bounce, rent come due / At the end of the day I’m glad to have a friend like you.” And then there’s “High,” a 1992 classic from The Cure. Vito sings it mostly as a love song to Monique – “When I see you take the same sweet steps you used to take / I know I’ll keep on holding you” – but says “it could be any kind of love or friendship. It’s a key part of who we are and what we do in our church service. After the confession of sin, we say the assurance of pardon: ‘Because we’ve been reconciled to God through Jesus Christ, we can also be reconciled to one another. The peace of the Lord be with you. Greet those around you with the sign of Christ’s peace.’ I think of this part of the record as an affirmation of the ability to love – your husband or your wife or your friend or whatever, because you’ve been reconciled to God in Christ…”

Still, we need a “Remedy” – here, a cover of a 2007 David Crowder song of the same name (“The broken and used / Mistreated, abused . . . / He is the remedy.”) And “Would You Come & See Me in New York?” is a tribute to Vito’s late father – and to “any people you wish could be with you, even people you might never see again in this life. There’s a certain sadness to it.” Ditto “My Best Days, Parts 1 & 2,” which acknowledges life’s struggles, culling its lyrics from John Donne’s “Holy Sonnet 19” (“Those are my best days / When I shake with fear”).

Ah, but then an explosion of celebration, as the album rolls into a string of tracks bursting with hope, joy, and resurrection: “Lo, He Comes with Clouds Ascending” (adapted from several 18th century writers, including Charles Wesley), “Draw Nigh & Take the Body of the Lord” (from a late 7th century manuscript by Irish monks), and “The Strife Is O’er” (from a 17th century German Jesuit collection). And then, as any proper church service does, it ends with a benediction and a postlude, respectively: “God Be with You Until We Meet Again” and “Nature’s Night,” the latter which Vito calls “a quiet snapshot of what this music sounds like when it is being born in the Aiutos’ home.”

You are the one
Who has saved us
You are the one
Who forgave us
You are the one who has come
And is coming again
To make it alright
Oh, to make it alright
You’re the remedy
Oh, in us
You’re the remedy

There’s another review of the album here at mockingbird