The Good. The Bad. The Asinine.

Turn the other cheek… unless you don’t feel like it, that is

Turn the other cheek. It’s one of Jesus’ most famous pronouncements. That it’s also one of his silliest may have something to do with it being so rarely practiced by his modern-day followers.

Let’s see what the man himself had to say:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two.
- Matthew 5:38-42

Seems pretty clear to me. But I can’t believe he started two sentences in a row with ‘but’. But maybe he had a good reason.

Anyway, just in case the meaning isn’t clear, let me rephrase it for you:

If someone frapes you, give them your Twitter password ftw.

With that in mind, what do you think would be the “Christian” thing to do if you found yourself in one of the following situations?

  1. You lose an election.
  2. Someone accurately describes you through the medium of song.
  3. Your competitor is head-hunting your talent.

Don’t bother thinking too hard about it… I’ll just tell you the answers, based on what the Christians themselves did:

  1. Go to court.
  2. Call your lawyers.
  3. Complain, complain, complain.

Turn the other cheek? Pull the other one, more like.

Slippery slopes, Anglican-style

Ah, the slippery slope. It’s the argument you make when you haven’t got one; where idiocy makes its final stand; the wild, desperate haymaker of an arm-less boxer. And the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, Peter Jensen, positively loves them.

I mean, with a slippery slope argument, he can simply bypass all the normal rules of logic, evidence, and common sense, and jump straight to this:

This claim for [same-sex marriage] could open the way for other forms, such as polygamous marriages or perhaps even marriage between immediate family members.

Riiiight. Cos I’m just waiting for Bob and Gary to get hitched so I can run off and have a crack at mum.

But why stop there, Peter? With a bit of lateral thinking, you could really shake things up:

  • Ever since women got the vote, the world’s dogs have wanted it too. It’s certainly all my dog ever wants to talk about (well what did you think “woof” means?). I reckon we scrap women’s voting before cats, budgies and trees start asking for it as well.
  • Why do we allow organ donation? Yeah sure, you can only do it after someone’s dead now, but once you allow that, surely it’s just a matter of time before people start ripping kidneys out of the distracted pensioners at Thursday night bingo.
  • And what about that thing that I don’t like due to my own personal prejudices, with an astonishingly tenuous link to something that is understandably abhorrent? What are you going to do about that?

I’m sure you’ll think of something. But whatever you do, don’t use rational argument. It’s unbecoming for a man in your position.

Sometimes, democracy sucks

One of the most admirable aspects of democracy is that anyone can be elected to office. Unfortunately, democracy also possesses an almost fatal flaw – anyone can be elected to office. Step forward, Geoff Shaw and Catch the Fire Ministries.

Geoff Shaw

Geoff was elected to the Victorian lower house in 2010, as the Liberal candidate for Frankston. According to his Wikipedia page, he has a degree in Business Accounting and, before being elected, ran his own financial planning business. So far, so good.

Geoff is also an active member of the Peninsula City Church, a Pentecostal church on the Mornington Peninsula. According to their website, they “provide a place where every person is valued, regardless of their journey in life, and where each person can find a place to belong”. Well that sounds just lovely!

Then, in his maiden speech to parliament, he said that he wanted to acknowledge “the original owner of the land on which we stand”. Wow… he wanted to publicly acknowledge the Aborigines as the original owners of the land? Geoff is quite the progressive! Well, he would be, if he didn’t claim that the original owner was “God, the Creator, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of the Bible”. You might question the appropriateness of this statement in a secular parliament, but I’d be more interested in asking Geoff this: If God is only the “original” owner, who owns it now? Is it me? That would be cool.

Anyway, what little street cred Geoff had from belonging to a church that “[provides] a place where every person is valued, regardless of their journey in life” was utterly destroyed in early May, when he laid his cards on the altar for all to see. One of Geoff’s constituents, a young man named Jakob, wrote to him to express his disappointment in the Victorian government’s new, inaccurately-named anti-discrimination legislation:

I’m 20 in a week. I’m able to vote. I want to work, live and love freely during the course of my life, and I want to do that without thinking that I can’t.

That sounds reasonable, doesn’t it? Well, according to Geoff, if you’re gay like Jakob, it’s not reasonable at all:

What if I loved driving 150kms per hour in residential areas? What if there was a convicted sex offender who stated that, or a child molester? Can they still do what they want? Under your statement the answer is yes. What if one wanted to get drunk, take drugs, steal and murder? What if one loved this? Can they also do what they want without thinking that they can’t?

Equating a consensual love between two adults that, with the right amount of lube, hurts no one, with the extremely harmful crimes of pedophilia, drug-taking, theft and murder is exactly the kind of logic we need in our elected representatives. Presumably, since Geoff was courageous enough to proclaim the equivalence, he will now be doing everything he can to ensure homosexuality is just as illegal as pedophilia and murder. At least the parliamentary debate will be entertaining. You see, as a Pentecostal, Geoff can speak in tongues… you know, like this.

Catch the Fire Ministries

These are the kind-hearted people who blamed the devastating Victorian bushfires, in which 173 lives were lost, on Victoria’s abortion laws. They also blamed the Brisbane floods on Kevin Rudd or obesity or something.

For their next foray into the world of prejudicial idiocy, they’re forming a political party. Yippee!

Their policies are rather interesting. See if you can pick the pattern:

  • Establish full employment ▪ Reduce the cost of living
  • Maintain freedom of religion ▪ Reaffirm our Judeo-Christian heritage
  • No religion to be forced on anyone ▪ Schools to have faith-based chaplains
  • Maintain the family unit ▪ Give parents the right to discipline their children
  • Immigrants are free to celebrate their own backgrounds ▪ People who live in Australia should become Australian
  • Aborigines were the original owners of the land ▪ Aborigines should thank us for everything we’ve done for them
  • Free chickens for all ▪ Chickens to cost one million dollars each

OK, that last one was made up, but you get the idea. And that’s not all they’re doing. They’re not afraid to tackle the big issues:

13. Protect children from homosexuality as it creates health problems.
15. We advocate no Centrelink benefits for polygamists.
19. All elected Members of Parliament for RUA Party are encouraged to donate a percentage of their salary to the poor and the needy.

They at least seem to have caught the fire of originality. But given that their slogan is “To reach people from all walks of life into the Kingdom of God”, they should perhaps Catch the Grammar instead.

A chaplain is the last thing they need

There are many things wrong with the National School Chaplaincy Program (NSCP), but I find one issue in particular extremely troubling – what advice would a chaplain give to a teenager who is confused about their sexuality?

The issue was raised late last week by Labor Senator Gavin Marshall, but was also discussed earlier in the week on the letters page of the Sydney Morning Herald.

An article in Saturday’s Herald regarding the NSCP in general, and an imminent High Court challenge to its consitutional legitimancy in particular, resulted in this letter to the editor from Col:

Many parents would be happy to see more resources devoted to issues such as stress management, anger management, grief management and emotional support in general, but do not understand why a religious background is a prerequisite for the providers of that support.

Hard to argue with that… but Barbara thought she’d have a go anyway:

Jesus’s preaching was for a society in which all people, regardless of race, creed or age, loved and respected each other; were non-judgmental, sharing and caring. Those who have committed their lives to these principles are ideally suited to provide the services under the job description of school chaplain. It seems the difficulty [Col] … has in understanding why a religious background is the prerequisite for this role is more a lack of acceptance of the concept of unconditional love.

Barbara’s letter required several readings, mostly just to ensure it really was irony-free, but also to figure out which of her bone-headed platitudes to attack first. In the end, I settled on this (which, happily, was also published):

Conspicuously absent from [Barbara's] umbrella of non-judgment is sexual orientation. I shudder to think how the Christian version of “unconditional” love will be employed by a chaplain confronted with a confused and anxious homosexual teenager.

To wit:

  • Suicide is the leading cause of death for 15-19 year olds, accounting for 20% and 13% of all deaths for males and females respectively (Source).
  • In a 1997 survey, nearly 30% of same-sex attracted youth reported that they had experienced abuse as a result of their sexuality, with nearly 70% experiencing the abuse at school (Source).
  • Another survey showed that young gay men are two to three times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers (Source).
  • Over 98% of school chaplains in Australia are Christians (Source).
  • Christians think homosexuality is wrong, in accordance with the divinely-inspired word of god (Source 1, Source 2, Source 3, Source 4), Wikipedia, and this apocalyptic old bigot.

The dangers of having this type of “unconditional” love let loose on vulnerable, confused teenagers should be obvious. Or, perhaps not, if Robin’s letter (which appeared the next day) is anything to go by:

It’s obvious [Barbara] means well but, apart from the fact that being a non-judgmental, caring person is not solely the province of committed Christians, is the concept of non-conditional love the best starting point for constructively helping troubled students?

Well, no, Robin, that would be a psychology degree.

The Trinity explained… sort of

If you find the Trinity a little difficult to understand, this might clear things up.

The Trinity explained... sort of

What goes up, must come down (and then go back up again)

So, what do you do if you see an ad promoting safe sex? Not much, you say? OK then, what if the safe sex being promoted is a bit icky?

Well, if you’re Wendy Francis from the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL), and the ickiness is in the form of consensual, adult man-love, you instigate a co-ordinated campaign to pressure the ad company into pulling the ads from public display. And then you lie about it.

You may remember Wendy as the Family First candidate who, in August 2010, tweeted this:

Children in homosexual relationships are subject to emotional abuse. Legitimising gay marriage is like legalising child abuse.

Yikes.

Anyway, you can probably now imagine her horror when she stumbled across this bus shelter ad.

Wow… they’re practically rimming.

John and Jane Average, overwhelmed by a moral outrage appropriate for such public fornication, clutched their pearls, grabbed their smelling salts, and proceeded to overwhelm Adshel with complaints. There were whispers of involvement by the ACL, but that rumour was quashed, first by Wendy, and then by Adshel:

All complaints were made by individual members of the public; none were identified as stemming from the Australian Christian Lobby.

Well, except for all the ones that did. You see, later in the day, Wendy admitted that the complaints had been co-ordinated by the ACL. I guess lying is all in a day’s work, if that work is the Lord’s.

Wendy’s admission, coupled with a lightning-fast social networking backlash, prompted an abrupt about-face from Adshel:

Following ACL Queensland director Wendy Francis’ acknowledgement that the complaints received by Adshel, Brisbane City Council and the Advertising Standards Bureau regarding QAHC’s campaign have been orchestrated by the Australian Christian Lobby, Adshel is reinstating the ‘Rip and Roll’ campaign.

That’s great, but there are a few troubling aspects of this whole saga:

1 – The ability to whinge is not an argument
The decision to withdraw the ads (and the subsequent reinstatement) should always have been based on the merits of the complaints received, not the volume. Presumably Adshel wouldn’t pull an ad for toilet paper simply because 10,000 people objected to Labrador puppies. It seems that they would, however, pull the “Rip and Roll” ads back down if they received the same number of complaints again, this time from individual members of the public.

The only thing stopping that from happening is that the campaign is due to finish in two days. Yes, that’s right… Adshel went to all this trouble for a campaign that was coming down in two days anyway.

2 – Disguising bigotry as concern isn’t an argument either
Perhaps we shouldn’t be too hard on Wendy. After all, she was only thinking of the children:

“I think people would be supportive of the message [the ad] is promoting but I don’t think … people want safe-sex messaging placed on bus shelters where schoolchildren wait for the bus. The message is OK, the placement of the message is not OK.”

Oh, and she also said this:

They show two young homosexual men in some sort of act of foreplay.

Hugging is foreplay? Well… I guess it could be counted as foreplay… in the same way as looking at each other, or brushing your teeth.

What else you got, Wendy?

It’s talking about a sexual act and I don’t think that’s appropriate for the general public. If something’s not allowed in a children’s timeslot on TV, I don’t think you should put it on a billboard or where children are waiting for the school bus.

Yes, no doubt some children will see the ads, but I think the benefits of a few less people getting AIDS might outweigh the awkwardness a parent feels when asked “Mummy, why are those two men hugging?”. On the plus side, Wendy, it will give you another opportunity to yell “BECAUSE THEY ARE EVIL!”. So… you know… swings and roundabouts…

3 – Did someone say Barbara Streisand?
Speaking of swings and roundabouts, thanks to the Streisand effect, Wendy has given the issue more attention than the “Rip and Roll” people could have ever imagined.

4 – Hypocrisy, anyone?
If you’re worried about your children seeing the ad, Wendy, you could always throw them a bible. There, they will find such child-friendly topics as murder, incest, and genocide, all of which are routinely featured on children’s TV.

Fortunately for your child, however, none are as disgusting as two men hugging.

Time to grow up

Two recent incidents have rammed home the utter juvenility of our elected representatives.

The first incident can be summarised as follows:

    MPs are carrying on like screeching monkeys.

    The (Labor) Speaker issues a warning that the next monkey who screeches out of turn will be tossed out of the House.

    The (Liberal) Monkey for Paterson, Bob Baldwin, thinks that sounds like a lark, so he screeches out of turn.

    Speaker makes good on his promise, leading to a vote on whether the Monkey for Paterson should be ejected.

    With two independents absent from the chamber, the (Liberal) Opposition, and not the Government, win the vote.

    Speaker announces his intention to reconsider his position, in light of parliament not following his recommendation.

    Opposition realises this would temporarily elevate the (Liberal) Deputy Speaker to Speaker, costing them a vote in the House.

    Leader of the Opposition therefore calls a motion of confidence in the speaker.

    Prime Minister seconds the motion.

What fun!

As for the second incident:

    Finance Minister, Penny Wong, is speaking.

    Penny is interrupted.

    Penny asks if she can finish her sentence.

    Liberal Senator David Bushby makes a “meowing” sound.

I can’t decide which is worse – the rampant sexism or the unabashed immaturity. Either way, isn’t it nice to know that we have such intelligent, dignified people running our country?

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