Friday, 25 May 2007

National Day of Thanksgiving Insulting

It’s National Day of Thanksgiving again, and this year’s event has sparked some intense debate – because it falls on Sorry Day.

This year they’re at least paying some tribute to our Indigenous people: here is an excerpt from the Governor Generals statement that is being read at all National Day of Thanksgiving official functions (mostly churches):

This year we honour our Indigenous people, the original inhabitants and traditional owners of the land, for their contribution to the success of modern Australia - in times of war and peace, on the sporting arena, on the land, and in many other fields of endeavour.”

But is it too little, too late? Here is an article provided by a Progression member: The National Day of Thanksgiving (NDOT), on May 26 2007, is "a unique opportunity for Australians to celebrate and give thanks for our God given heritage as a nation".

But it's a con. It's a diversion and a deliberate sabotage of one of the years most significant times for Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders (ATSI) communities. And it also should be a time of deep remorse, reconciliation and commitment by all Australians, for apologies and action. May 26 is Sorry Day and the Long Walk; the 40th Anniversary of the 1967 Referendum is commemorated on May 27, and that day also marks the beginning of the National Week of Reconciliation.This will be followed by the 50th anniversary of the National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee on July 8-15.

The paternalism and arrogance of the religious right and its NDOT is breathtaking. Challenged two years ago that they were trampling over the Indigenous communities Sorry Day, the organiser of NDOT responded, "we hadn't even thought of that,we weren't aware when Sorry Day was".
There are pages and pages on "ideas" (employers can hold morning teas for their employees); "suggestions"( a thank you morning tea for your local police); or "gift cards and ribbons" - "$2 a pack of 6" - for your boss, local police or fire brigade,but not a word about morning tea for "our First Nation".

It's white Christian triumphalism at its best. It's a time for "re-dedication of our nation to God", to declare God's "prophetic vision for our Nation", to "proclaim the Lordship of Jesus Christ over our Nation", and as one of the speakers to the Parliamentary Prayer Network prophesied, it's time for "Christians to take over the world and that Australia is on the brink of becoming a theocracy".

But there's still another agenda behind all this thanksgiving. For the organisers it's not only "a vehicle to assist in restoring Christian values", it's also "an effective tool to engage in mission and evangelism". Why then is it being endorsed, promoted and supported by the Governor General, the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition?
For "Kevin from Queensland", I guess its a matter of covering all bases in an election year; for "Jeffery of Yarralumla", anything to be noticed; and for "John from Kirribilli", anything, to divert people's attention from Sorry Day,Long Walks and Reconciliation. There's no mistaking the PM's message, it's about "recognising Indigenous Australians" and certainly not about apologies and regrets.Even allowing for the cynical use by politicians of religious occasions, their enthusiasm for the Day is intriguing.

Instead of main line churches, it's a collection of the cream of Australia's religious right. Of the sixty two, nine are companies profiting from the Day,(including a television station,five radio stations,a bookshop and a media agency); and some seventeen, are local congregations,"prayer groups" and "ministers associations". One man, founded and directs another four organisations (Australian Heart Ministries,Australian Heart Productions,, and the Fatherhood Foundation,( "women only want a sperm donor to validate their reproductive needs....and a poor sucker to pay for it"), while a woman either,directs or represents another four. Life Ministries, is closely allied to the Christian Democratic Party; Hope Generation is an "incorporated member of the Assemblies of God (AOG)", while another half-dozen organisations are led by AOG ministers. And so it goes on.

Why would the Governor General be endorsing organisations promoting Christian Zionism (Intercessors for Melbourne,Youth Arise and the Australian Prayer Network),or has kindergarten kids making banners with "the blood of Jesus Christ" on them(Miracle Education).

Why would the Prime Minister be lining up with the call for a ten-year moratorium on Muslim migration to Australia (Saltshakers, Catch the Fire)! Does he really believe the world was created in seven days as do organisations he endorses (Creation Ministries International,Campus Crusade for Christ)? And frankly, what's the Opposition Leader doing, promoting the National Alliance of Christian Leaders, which supports the "scrapping of the UN", and believes that "multiculturalism is fundamentally flawed"?

The Day of Thanksgiving will only confirm for ATSI communities what they already know, people are too busy running their own agendas, and if the religious right has it's way, Aboriginal communities will continue to stand "alone in their quest for justice". A few months after the First Day of Mourning back in 1938, Doug Nicholls, Yorta Yorta man,pastor and black activist, looked around in despair and anger, and said that nothing will change until, "White people learn to think black". It's a shameful day,this National Day of Thanksgiving, as it once again tramples over the hurt and injustice of Aboriginal Australians.

Sunday, 20 May 2007

Falwell's Legacy

There’s been a lot of talk in the past few days about the legacy of the Reverend Jerry Falwell, who died last week.

Most of us have heard of Falwell – the prominent hard-right US conservative who blamed “the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians – who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle – the ACLU, People for the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America” for contributing to the September 11 terror attacks. I can respect his commitment to his beliefs, even if I respect little else – Falwell once supported segregation, and said some really intelligent things like, “Christians, like slaves and soldiers, ask no questions” and, “AIDS is not just God's punishment for homosexuals; it is God's punishment for the society that tolerates homosexuals”. Like me, Falwell was passionate about the role of spirituality in politics. But his vision was frightening, and best demonstrated by this quote: “The idea that religion and politics don't mix was invented by the Devil to keep Christians from running their own country”.

It got me thinking about what our role – as Christians – should be in the political forum. I found this quote by the Catholic Bishops, which to me summed it up perfectly – our faith should be “principled but not ideological, political but not partisan, engaged but not used”. If we join church and state, as Falwell would have us do, we kill grace. We become the Pharisees, we become rules and regulations. We cannot give voice to the powerless and the dispossessed, because they are now under our power and we have dispossessed them. We play politics rather than speaking truth. We give up intelligent, lively, truth-seeking debate for party lines.

The death of Falwell made me think about the other prominent hard-right public figures – Pat Robertson, James Dobson, Fred Nile – and it struck me that they’re getting older. I don’t doubt they have young men and women in the wings being groomed to take their places – but it does give me hope that maybe our generation can be engaged – really engaged – in ways that matter. I suddenly caught myself humming the John Mayer tune, “We just feel like we don't have the means/to rise above and beat it/so we keep waiting/waiting on the world to change/one day our generation/is gonna rule the population, so we keep on waiting/waiting on the world to change.”

One day our generation really will “rule the population”. Hopefully, it will be a new generation of switched-on Christians and non-Christians alike– and we have a big responsibility.

Thursday, 17 May 2007

We're in the press

From the Hawkesbury Gazette 16 May 2007

Christian voice from right-wing wilderness
Gail Knox

FORMER Hawkesbury resident Emma Whale has joined forces with fellow Christian John Chisholm to help battle the right-wing hijacking of the Christian voice in the lead-up to the Federal Election.

A Blue Mountains resident and mother-of two, Mrs Whale and Mr Chisholm last week launched the Progression: Christians for Social Justice lobby group, and urged anyone, Christian or not, to log on and find out more about their campaign for a wider Christian voice to be heard.
"We feel there are so many Christians not only not represented, but actually misrepresented by conservative Christian lobby groups and conservative Christian political parties," Mrs Whale said. "We also believe the Gospel is misrepresented and Christianity is misrepresented to mainstream Australia... The impression people have is that if you say you're a Christian, then you must be conservative.
"There are so many Christians who don't think like that, but they have don't have a voice. Their voice is drowned out by the monologue of the religious right. "That's all anyone hears. "The conservative groups have hijacked the Christian voice."
Mrs Whale said conservative groups had reduced Christianity to a "very narrowly defined set of moral values". "We're concerned there is an over-emphasis on sexual issues," she said. "Jesus spoke out again and again about oppression, about the poor and social justice issues. He never mentioned homosexuality and abortion. "If you've got a real conviction on those issues, that's fine, but they shouldn't be the defining issues (for Christians). "We've got people in our group who are morally conservative, but they don't believe it's their right to impose their opinion on others."
Mrs Whale said protecting the environment was also a moral and ethical issue. She said she realised the Australian Christian Lobby group was opposed to homosexual marriage. "But why should we prevent homosexuals having the same civil rights as other people?" she asked. "It's not our duty to legislate for other people's morality. "Homosexual couples don't have access to a lot of legal rights. How can Christians be in favour of marginalising groups is beyond me." Mrs Whale said her new group was also "very concerned" about Christian Democratic Party leader Fred Nile's attitudes on a range of issues, particularly towards Muslims. "We worry Christian politics is polarising people.
How can Christians be in favour of marginalising people, of creating dissension and division in society? "That's not in keeping with Christ's message of 'love your neighbour as yourself'. "It's all based on fear – fear of homosexuals, fear of Muslims, fear of the unknown." Mrs Whale said being a Christian was "essentially about a change of heart". "It's about living life in as loving and peaceful way as you can. Marginalising people is doing violence to them. "You can't legislate righteousness. "
Mrs Whale said the Australian Christian Lobby had not spoken out against "hard right fanaticism", such as Mr Nile's position. "And Family First always run an anti-Green campaign, so it's as if you can't vote Green and be a Christian at the same time. "But a lot of Greens' policies are shaped by social justice concerns."
Mrs Whale said such a black-and-white approach polarised people. "People with left leanings are immediately turned off Christianity. "They think they would have to be like Fred Nile. It's such a travesty. It's locking people out of Christianity. "Our faith informs what we do, but anybody passionate about social justice issues can join our non-denominational group. "This will be an exciting journey. Please join us."

Tuesday, 8 May 2007

Newsletter and a few thoughts

We've put together our first newsletter for Progression, so if you'd like to read it, drop a line to and we'll email you a copy. If you like it, then you can become a member of Progression and we'll send you them on a regular basis.
If you disagree with us passionately, feel free to keep logging on to the blog and engage us in some debate in the comments.

So, if we're sending you a newsletter, then what is this blog? Well, it is a bit of a testing ground and a bit of a communication tool. We're hoping people find us here and think about what we have to say and then consider joining us.
It is also a way of inventing ourselves, you see Progression has been formed out of several conversations about the role of Christians in politics, the role of the right wing in Christianity and the role of Generations X and Y in Christian political thinking. Those of us who are involved in the group all know what we believe, but the posts on here will help us build a comprehensive idea of where the group stands on a variety of issues.
Members are able to put things up here for purposes of debate, to play Devil's advocate, to inspire discussion and to work out the group's position (perhaps with fear and trembling).
Some of these posts might make it into the newsletter, others might allow us to decide we don't, corporately, hold a particular view or feel the need to argue a particular case.
In short, it is our think tank and we're letting everyone in to see our thought processes and our genesis as an organisation.

Perhaps this is a dangerous thing, but we're in favour of debate and we'd rather have honest and open dissent amongst Christians than live in a fairy land where we pretend all Christians agree on everything. Politically we're hoping to be neither left nor right, but as the right is currently carrying the Christian debate, you might find us favoring the left while we try and find that balance.

So, regardless of your political leanings, feel free to join us.