Welcome to Upsy Down Town by Stephen Rockwell

My kids like to sing a song about a fictional world where everything is upside down.  It’s called Upsy Down Town – you may know the song. If not, then here are the words:

In Upsy Down town,
The sky is in the sea,
The sea is where the sky should be.
The rain is falling up instead of falling down,
Down in Upsy Down town.
In Upsy Down town,
The sky is in the sea,
The rabbit’s in the nest where the birds should be,
You walk upon your nose instead of on your toes,
Down in Upsy Down town.

It’s occurred to me recently that, well to put it bluntly, Upsy Down Town doesn’t seem to be all that fictional.  In fact, in the world of morality we might argue that we’ve almost moved into Upsy Down Town and taken up residence!

Just think about some of the headline news that’s been hitting our world over the last few weeks.  We’ve been told that a luxury swimming pool for the President of South Africa is a fire reservoir necessary for the protection of the head of state. The following internet spoofs show that people have seen through this hypocrisy. But that Jacob Zuma expects to (and probably will) get away with it shows something of the kind of world we’re living in.

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But that’s not all!  The head of arguably the most corrupt organisation in the world gets re-elected unopposed, only days after the FBI arrest several of the organisation’s key leaders for corruption.  Sepp Blatter has subsequently fallen on his proverbial sword (which I believe he was given in Qatar on a recent trip!), but his election says a lot about the world in which we now live.

In Sydney, Australia, there has always been a lesson of Special Religious Education timetabled into every student’s week at every public school in the State.  Parents choose which religion they want their child to be taught about. There has recently been a growing movement to stop Christians teaching kids in Christian SRE the long-established Christian sexual ethic of sex being best appreciated in the context of the lifelong, monogamous, heterosexual union of marriage.  More than that, this practise of abstinence is now being lauded as damaging to young minds and detrimental to the good of society as a whole.

And to top it all off, despite the long-standing battle against the fake photo-shopped images of women on magazine covers, a man who has undergone many different surgeries on his face, forehead and throat, who is covered in make up, has hair extensions, and whose chest has been enhanced by hormone pills, Photoshop and silicon is now found on an international magazine cover. What’s more, he is being hailed for his brave new female identity!  Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner has broken the Twitter world records over the last few weeks and is in line for the ESPN’s bravery award this year.

Each of these issues would be worth exploring in themselves, but they serve as examples of a far great reality – Upsy Down Town exists!  In fact, to misappropriate a classic quote from the Pirates of the Caribbean – “You’d best start believing in [Upsy Down Town], Miss Turner … you’re in [it]!”

Fifty years ago the Christian world view was accepted as the norm by most of the western world.  Twenty years ago it was tolerated as the view of some.  Today, in Upsy Down Town, if you want to stand for the Christian way of thinking on almost any ethical issue, expect to be swimming against the tide.

What does this mean for the Christian today, and looking into the future? I think it means, amongst other things, that we should gird our loins.  We need to get some resolve and be prepared to be laughed at, or worse, actively attacked or even persecuted for holding to what was once considered the “moral” way of living.  But more than that we need to be prepared to defend our own points of view winsomely and graciously in an ever increasingly graceless world (remember grace is a Christian idea that’s getting turned upside down in Upsy Down Town).

But to be prepared to defend our own points of view means that we first need to know what they are, and where they come from!  In the past Christians could easily swim along with the general Christianised tide of their culture, not really needing to know why they thought what they thought because everyone else thought the same thing.  But in today’s world, it is crucially important to know why we think what we think, and more than that, how to defend those thoughts.  In short, it’s crucial that Christians today have a sure foundation in their faith that is rooted deeply in the gospel that they were taught (Col 2:6).

Because it’s the everyday Christian who is ever increasingly the one facing this opposition, it’s the duty of the everyday Christian to be ever increasingly certain of what they think and why they think it.  How are we to prepare ourselves for such battles?  Well with the sword of the Spirit, the word of the Lord (Eph 6:17) – that has to be our sure foundation.  That will mean getting involved in your local church, and getting into the word of God as deeply there as you can.  And I suspect that it will mean more and more people going to theological college to study God’s word in a full time capacity for a year or three – not necessarily even with the thought of going into full time ministry, but simply for the sake of living faithfully for Christ in Upsy Down Town.


Stephen Rockwell is a husband of but one wife, father of four boys, supporter of all things Australian and New Testament Lecturer at George Whitefield College.