Sunday, 29 April 2007

Where do you sit politically?

I recently found this website,, which proved to be very interesting. After answering a few questions, you can pin point where you are on a political graph (see image above). Not only does the scale tell you where you in the "old" terms of Left/Right, it also shows where you sit in terms of the Authoritarian/Libertarian scale. The rationale behind having a graph, instead of a straight-line scale makes sense. The traditional Left/Right line fails to take into account that we someone may have traditional left-leaning views when it comes to social liberty, for example, but still support a free market and a capitalist economy. And we can't put Stalin and Mandela in the same "Left" basket without acknowledging the massive differences between the two, namely Stalin was Authoritarian Left and Mandela Libertarian Left. Out of interest, when I did mine, I was right on Mandela's pin point.

Where our current crop of leaders falls is interesting. That George W Bush is way out there in "right field" shouldn't surprise anyone, but what did startle me was how many of our leaders are up in the Authoritarian Right (including our PM). Does this, I wonder, have any correlation to the fact we're all so gung-ho at the moment? That we've now engaged in another never-ending war?

I'd be interested to hear your thoughts.

Wednesday, 18 April 2007

Jim Wallace on ABC

Jim Wallace, head of the conservative Australian Christian Lobby, was featured recently on the ABC's Difference of Opinion panel.

The topic was Muslims in Australia, and Mr Wallace was joined by three other panel members - a Muslim woman activist, an ex-Muslim psychologist and a non-believing Jew.

While the discussion was generally positive about how to reach out to moderate Muslims, bridge cultural differences in society and so forth, Mr Wallace made two comments that should be investigated further.

Firstly, he condemned moderate Muslims for not speaking out against the hard-right of their religion. Good and well, but Mr Wallace did not at any stage in the course of the debate speak out against the hard-right of his own religion, either. It seems a little arrogant to criticise Muslims for being silent when it comes to the radical fundamentalists of their religion, when Mr Wallace has chosen not to distance moderate Christians from groups such as the Christian Democrats. When Fred Nile issues press releases with "No More Muslims" plastered across the top, and calling areas where Muslims live places where "Aussie values are despised", the Australian Christian Lobby has a duty to speak up and censor this kind of inflammatory, bigoted, ignorant garbage. After all, they claim to be representing moderate Christians.

Secondly, Mr Wallace made the claim that the problem was with Islam itself - that if someone was taken through the teachings of the Koran, they could either become a peaceful loving person, or a hard-right fanatic. But if someone was taken through Christianity - more specifically the teachings of Jesus - then they could only end up a peaceful loving person. Well, firstly I'm not sure where Mr Wallace has been living for the past few years, but as a member of the audience pointed out, Christians have been plenty responsible for the violence in the Middle East (this lady was herself a Christian, and had lived in the Middle East for the past 10 years). They've just recently put the civilian death toll in Iraq at 250,000 conservatively, but probably more like 600,000. A war that was justified and lauded by the Religious Right.

The Bible has been used to justify slavery, murder of homosexuals, torture...the list goes on. To a certain extent I agree - the teachings of Jesus are peaceful and loving. I only wish Christians would pay a bit more attention to what Jesus actually said. But they don't, and therein lies the problem.

So come on, Mr Wallace. If the Australian Christian Lobby doesn't want to be seen as just one more step in the rise of the Religious Right, speak out against the fanatical right of our own religion, and own up to some of its ugly truths. Only then can true change occur.

Values Checklist

so, apparently these are the Christian Values you should be using to inform your voting choices.
And, it's just so obvious why we're looking at these things, because Jesus almost never shut up about important issues like the Age of consent and the immorality of Drug injecting rooms, right?
And, am I just too cynical when I think that they've just shoehorned renewable energy and God's environment into a list.
Oh and 'they' in this case is The Australian Christian Values Institute.
Well, OK we could just ridicule these things. But can we come up with a better list?
What would Jesus Vote?

  1. Feeds widows and orphans

in response to Fred Nile's "No More Muslims"

Last month prominent conservative Christian politician Fred Nile issued a press release with these words emblazoned across the top: “No More Muslims”. In the release Mr Nile called for an immediate moratorium of all Islamic immigration, claiming instead that Australia should provide refuge for Christians who were being persecuted across the world at the hands of Islamist nations. He also stated that within New South Wales, Islamic communities were places where “Aussie values were despised (CDP, March 11).

While reading the release, I was reminded of an incident which happened a couple of years ago, when I was a journalist with my local newspaper. At the time I was covering the police rounds, which meant every Monday I would sit with a senior police officer, trawl through the week’s worth of crimes and note down any which were considered newsworthy. One morning we had flicked through 30 or so crimes when we came across a crime that had been committed by a young Aboriginal man. The police officer turned to me and said, “See, you let them in and they just cause trouble.”

I found this remark astounding – not merely because of the officer’s rank and position – but mostly because of how completely groundless his observation was. We had just finished sifting through more than 30 crimes, most of which had been committed by white men. In the past few months I had covered police stories, I couldn’t remember another single one which had been committed by an Indigenous person – certainly, no serious crime that had been worthy of a newspaper’s attention. It seemed to me that if we were to seek out who was really causing the trouble, it was white men between the ages of 25 and 30. And yet, in this police officer’s mind, the incident had merely confirmed his deeply-held belief – the Aboriginal population was what was wrong with the local area.

Humans need a victim. In his brilliant article “Violence and the Scapegoat”, ex-CEO of World Vision, Phillip Hunt quotes French Catholic academic Rene Girard. Girard states, “Violence in a society is resolved by blaming a victim. A victim is identified. They are accused as being responsible for the violence in society.” (Hunt,Violence and the Scapegoat). Hunt explains that when a victim is identified, something amazing happens – the community can be of one mind. There is a common purpose and social cohesion, as a community bands together against a common threat. Anyone’s who’s read “1984” can identify with this – while there is a simple, common enemy, society can rest easy.

This “victim” changes according to the current age, and specific society. It has been communists, Hindus, Buddhists and black Americans. Once, it was the Jews. Martin Luther, the father of Protestantism, had this advice in how to deal with the Jewish people, “…set fire to their synagogues or schools and to bury and cover with dirt whatever will not burn, so that no man will ever again see a stone or cinder of them.(reference)” Luther’s words were later used by Nazi Germany to justify their extermination of the Jewish people.

Now, right across the western world, it seems the Muslims have taken the place of “victim”. One example is Professor Raphael Israeli, from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, currently traversing the globe claiming Muslims make life untenable. No one would disagree that Islamic extremism is dangerous, nor that controversial Sheik Alhilali’s comments about Jews, women and the west are ignorant, racist and unhelpful. However, to condemn an entirety of people because of the extremism of a minority is ridiculous. Are all pro-life activists to be judged because of James Charles Kopp, who murdered Dr. Barnett Slepian because he performed abortions? Are Indian Christians to be judged because the Christian terrorists of the National Liberation Front of Tripura gunned down more than forty non-Christians in 2005?

Not only does Mr Nile vilify an entire group of people with his comments, he also makes a remarkable suggestion that Australia should deny clemency to refugees based on their religious affiliation. This, to me, sits at odds with Jesus’ claim, “Love your neighbour.” There are no qualifications to Christ’s claim. Love your neighbour…if they believe what you believe. Love your neighbour…if they belong to a group pf people who share the same values as you do. Love your neighbour…if they haven’t done anything to upset you. No. Christ’s call is simply this: “Love your neighbour as yourself”. It’s as startling now as it was 2000 years ago, because it makes no sense to the world, and it’s pretty tricky to achieve.

In his article, Hunt also quotes Gil Bailie, who sums up the Gospel in these words, “The Gospels tell a perfectly typical story of victimisation with astonishing insight into the role of religious zeal and mob psychology played in it…the story is told from the point of view of the victim.” Christ has always sided with the oppressed and the victimsed. Mr Nile’s assertions that Muslims should not be let loose in Australia does two things: it undermines the truth of the gospel, and it creates an “Us and Them” mentality based on fear and distortion of the truth. How can mainstream Muslims assimilate into society when they are accused of “despising Aussie values” based on nothing more than they are Muslims? It closes the door of acceptance in their face, and if Christians honestly believe they want to “convert” Muslims, insulting them seems a strange way to go about it. We all want open discussion and productive dialogue, and we want to find ways of living together. But this press release seems to do nothing but incite more contempt and misunderstanding. Is this what “Christian politics” has sunk to in our country? Cheap points scored with a society desperate for a victim on the basis of fear and hatred? Again, the commandment to “Love your neighbour” seems so distant.

Still, there are pockets of hope: inter-faith dialogue being one. For example, the National Council of Churches and the South Australian Jewish Community Council have received significant government and community support to genuinely engage in discussions between Muslims, Jews and Christians. On a more populist note, the recent U2 concerts across the globe saw Bono wearing a “co-exist” sign, featuring a crescent moon, a Jewish star and a cross. Hunt closes his argument with another Bailie quote, “empathy for the victim and the needs for our rituals of victimization are incompatible”. (reference). I hope that as Christians we would chose to identify with Christ, with the victim, and not become part of the victimizing culture that leads nowhere, except to more violence.

Where Have All the Leaders Gone?

It could be the cry of those of us who have set up this blog, and are working on setting up a Christian Lobby Group which isn't all about abortions and gay marriage.

But in fact it isn't, it is the cry of Lee Iacocca, American industrialist and Republican supporter. He has just co-written a book of that title, which in part deals with the political messes that the neo-conservatives of the US have made for themselves and which the neo-cons of Australia have happily jumped into whole heartedly.

I'm going to quote from some of it here, because while he is talking about American political leaders, there are a lot of things he says which could well apply to the Christian right in Australia.

...So here's where we stand. We're immersed in a bloody war with no plan for winning and no plan for leaving. We're running the biggest deficit in the history of the country. We're losing the manufacturing edge to Asia, while our once-great companies are getting slaughtered by health care costs. Gas prices are skyrocketing, and nobody in power has a coherent energy policy. Our schools are in trouble. Our borders are like sieves. The middle class is being squeezed every which way. These are times that cry out for leadership.

But when you look around, you've got to ask: "Where have all the leaders gone?" Where are the curious, creative communicators? Where are the people of character, courage, conviction, competence, and common sense? I may be a sucker for alliteration, but I think you get the point.

Name me a leader who has a better idea for homeland security than making us take off our shoes in airports and throw away our shampoo? We've spent billions of dollars building a huge new bureaucracy, and all we know how to do is react to things that have already happened.

Name me one leader who emerged from the crisis of Hurricane Katrina. Congress has yet to spend a single day evaluating the response to the hurricane, or demanding accountability for the decisions that were made in the crucial hours after the storm. Everyone's hunkering down, fingers crossed, hoping it doesn't happen again. Now, that's just crazy. Storms happen. Deal with it. Make a plan. Figure out what you're going to do the next time.

Name me an industry leader who is thinking creatively about how we can restore our competitive edge in manufacturing. Who would have believed that there could ever be a time when "the Big Three" referred to Japanese car companies? How did this happen—and more important, what are we going to do about it?

Name me a government leader who can articulate a plan for paying down the debt, or solving the energy crisis, or managing the health care problem. The silence is deafening. But these are the crises that are eating away at our country and milking the middle class dry.

I have news for the gang in Congress. We didn't elect you to sit on your asses and do nothing and remain silent while our democracy is being hijacked and our greatness is being replaced with mediocrity. What is everybody so afraid of? That some bobblehead on Fox News will call them a name? Give me a break. Why don't you guys show some spine for a change?

Had Enough?

Hey, I'm not trying to be the voice of gloom and doom here. I'm trying to light a fire. I'm speaking out because I have hope. I believe in America. In my lifetime I've had the privilege of living through some of America's greatest moments. I've also experienced some of our worst crises—the Great Depression, World War II, the Korean War, the Kennedy assassination, the Vietnam War, the 1970s oil crisis, and the struggles of recent years culminating with 9/11. If I've learned one thing, it's this: You don't get anywhere by standing on the sidelines waiting for somebody else to take action. Whether it's building a better car or building a better future for our children, we all have a role to play...

So lets take Lee's alliteration and run with it,
Do the current crop of Christian Leaders in Australia have CURIOSITY?
Are they CREATIVE?
I guess they all have a healthy dose of CHARISMA, but are they COMPETENT and do they have COMMON SENSE?
To see how Lee defines these qualities he believes all leaders should have, take a look at his book. But as far as I can see, we are distinctly lacking in leaders with curiosity, who are creative and who have courage. In fact the one thing we have in good supply is charisma, but that on its own is a poor reason to follow anyone else's vision.

Tuesday, 17 April 2007

All Christians are Wankers?

Somewhere around 2000 years ago a man was (to quote from an atheist) nailed to a tree for saying how nice it would be for people to be nice to each other for a change. On the surface, not such a bad idea. But since then millions of people have been nailed to things, screwed to things, had hot things stuck up their nether regions and been killed in never ending wars all because the followers of the 'nice' man found their lack of faith disturbing.

Now, much of that can be put down to the power mad members of human society who were probably going to be power mad nut jobs no matter which religion they were pretending to follow (I'm talking to you cardinals Fang & Biggles). We can probably disregard the religiopolitical desire to promote conformity in order to control people but that is unfortunately not where this ends.

People, who otherwise seem like ordinary members of their society, have been grabbing the wrong end of Jesus' metaphorical stick ever since he prematurely declared "It is done". And 2000 years of human development and/or evolution hence the world is now full of cock sure morons whose fanatical dedication to the ideals of Christianity is such that they are willing to ignore all of its tenants in order to ensure that it survives.

So before presenting the proof of the wankerdom of all Christians, we need to consider what is Christianity?

  • a Jewish sect believing that Jesus was the prophesied Messiah.
  • a monotheistic system of beliefs and practices based on the Old Testament and the teachings of Jesus as embodied in the New Testament and emphasizing the role of Jesus as saviour
  • the world's largest religion, based on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ as described in the New Testament of the Bible.
  • a religion derived from the teachings of Jesus Christ.
  • the belief in Jesus Christ as Saviour of the world.
  • the Christian religion.
  • the faith system of people who believe Jesus was the Son of God.

Seems clear?

But is Christianity; a set of beliefs, a community of people or a way of life? Because how we perceive this determines how we award wanker points.

As a set of beliefs, Christianity differs little from any of the world's major religions in that the arguments used to support the beliefs are for the most part circular. We know Jesus was God's son because the Bible tells us, we know the bible is God's word because it is infallible, we know that it is infallible because God wouldn't let it be otherwise…

Pointless. And besides there is so much room for interpretation that even if we are happy to accept the text as inspired, how we look at it can vary so much that it is near impossible to find two people who approach the text in the same way. Young earth creationists clearly argue that without a literal interpretation of the Genesis story the whole definition of sin is void. Yet those of a scientific mindset can maintain their religious beliefs by accepting this as a parable designed to make a point to an ancient people to whom a scientific creation story would have been unintelligible.

As a community of people Christianity falls into the trap of being indistinguishable from a society. So a nation (America I'm looking at you) can claim to be Christian without having to monitor its performance by the teachings of Jesus. Just loud proclamation of Christianity without any real evidence or worse still, without any conscious thought by individuals.

So, what about a way of life? Hell, that'd be hard to do if you were having to measure yourself by those wacko benchmarks Jesus set down. And that is unfortunately where Progression sets its self. We are hopeful that Australia's Christian leaders, rather than loudly scream Christian Values and then press their own cases, can measure itself by benchmarks that Jesus himself set up.
Do we help the less fortunate?
Feed the hungry, house the homeless, fight for the oppressed, defend human rights...
If we are using this measure of our success, then it becomes less relevant that our laws enforce a Christian morality. Instead we have to ask, do I personally live my life to its fullest. Am I making the right choices and that's a harder path than just legislating against homosexual adoptions and shouting CHRISTIANITY any time anyone assks you why.