The Scandal of Free Porn: we need to legislate paywalls and age restrictions

The Scandal of Free Porn: we need to legislate paywalls and age restrictions

Before Christmas last year, 23-year-old Mercedes Grabowski left the home she shared with her husband in Ventura, California, and drove 20 minutes to a public park where she hanged herself. A suicide note was found in her car. In it she apologized to her parents. Mercedes’ death might have gone largely unreported but for the fact that she was a well-known pornographic actress who had starred in more than 280 adult films under the name August Ames. Her grieving husband is a pornographic film director and former performer. In interviews, Ames had revealed she had been sexually abused as a child and that as a teenager one of her high school teachers would beg her for naked selfies before class. She said she had suffered from long-term depression because of the abuse. “Some days I’ll be fine and if I’m not doing anything I’ll get these awful flashbacks of my childhood and I get very depressed and I can’t get out of bed and cancel my scenes for like a week or two.” Ames confessed to an interviewer that she needed therapy, but was worried that a therapist would frown on her career or suggest her job was the cause of her depression. In the days leading up to her death, she was also embroiled in a Twitter war over

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If you can’t see why Black Panther is a big deal, maybe you need to check your white privilege

If you can’t see why Black Panther is a big deal, maybe you need to check your white privilege

  Recently I posted this on Facebook: Why, why, why did the most inspirational and groundbreaking cinema event of the decade have to be a stoopid Marvel movie?!!?   Yeah, it’s true I don’t like Marvel (or DC) films. And I’m not that fond of Star Wars or Star Trek movies either. I mean, I don’t hate them, and I get that lots of people really love them, but to me they’re just too repetitive and predictable. I’ve just grown weary of the two dimensional character development and the gee-whiz effects. Please don’t hate me. So when I referred to “the most inspirational and groundbreaking cinema event of the decade,” of course I was meaning Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther, the Marvel blockbuster that follows King T’Challa as he struggles to support the highly-advanced African nation, Wakanda. People of color are raving about Black Panther, especially about the amazing nearly all-black cast, and that fact that the film reflects on big topics like pan-Africanism, racial politics, and imperialism. And I do find that exciting. But, come on, it’s still a stoopid Marvel film. Of course, I was roundly taken to task by Marvel fans on Facebook (which is fine), but I found myself being even more convicted by the comments I got from people of color. They wrote about how much it meant

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Three Billboards Outside Miami, Florida: how America turned into Mildred Hayes

Three Billboards Outside Miami, Florida: how America turned into Mildred Hayes

In Martin McDonagh’s hugely successful film, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, a grieving mother, frustrated by police inaction in solving her daughter’s murder, erects three signs goading the local police chief to do something. Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand) is numb with grief. Her face is set like stone. Her manner is flinty and gruff. She’s survived a violent marriage, the violent death of a child, and now she’s surviving a sluggish police investigation. She won’t take any more garbage from anyone. The focus of her billboard rage, Chief Willoughby (Woody Harrelson) is a more sympathetic character than you first expect. After the signs go up and start causing a stir around the fictional town of Ebbing, Willoughby calls on Mildred and tries to explain the reason Angela’s murder and rape hasn’t been solved. There’s no evidence. There’s no witnesses, no DNA matches, no suspects, no leads. “Right now there ain’t too much more we could do,” he laments. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is all about unfocused grief. Mildred has no one to blame for her daughter’s death and therefore nowhere to focus her grief and her anger. So she’s angry at everyone. The billboards are the only tangible outlet for that anger. In one touching scene, Mildred squats by the billboards and starts platting flowers, as if those the

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To those who fast this Lent, don’t forget the freedom you’ve received

To those who fast this Lent, don’t forget the freedom you’ve received

It’s nearly Ash Wednesday, the traditional commencement of the Christian season of Lent, a time of fasting and repentance in readiness for Easter. I’m occasionally asked why not all Protestants observe Lenten fasts and I explain it’s basically about freedom from legalism. But it’s also about sausages. Yep, a lot of Protestants don’t observe Lent because of the humble wiener.   Way back in the sixteenth century, a dissident group of Swiss Christians were putting together a new translation of the Epistles of St Paul. The edition was being published by a very prominent citizen of Zurich, the printer, Christoph Froschauer. Printing was still a relatively new trade, and wildly popular, so Froschauer had become a wealthy businessman, prestigious and influential. He was also a Protestant, having been caught up in the liberation and excitement of the Reformation that had begun to sweep through Germany and was creeping into eastern Switzerland. Froschauer’s priest, the forceful and charismatic Ulrich Zwingli had brought the teachings of Martin Luther to Zurich, and he had seized upon the need to publish the New Testament in the vernacular, as well as distributing tracts and sermons to the citizens of the city. The priest and the printer became a formidable duo. Anyway, in the spring of 1522, as the first copies of the new edition of

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Should we prioritize Christians before helping others in greater need?

Should we prioritize Christians before helping others in greater need?

Should we be helping other Christians before we help non-Christians in greater need? This question came into even sharper focus recently when the Trump administration announced that its nominee to become director general of the United Nations’ International Organization for Migration (IOM) was Ken Isaacs. The IOM has an annual budget of over $1 billion and is tasked with providing secure, reliable, flexible and cost-effective services for those needing international migration assistance. Refugees, basically. So alarm bells started sounding for some when it was revealed that Ken Isaacs, currently the head of international relief for Franklin Graham’s Samaritan’s Purse, has made comments that in some cases Christians should receive preferential treatment when being resettled from hostile areas. These comments appear to have been made on social media, reflecting on the persecution of Christians in the Middle East, and were coupled with disparaging references to Islam as a violent religion. Mr Isaacs has since apologized for these remarks and said, “I pledge to hold myself to the highest standards of humanity, human dignity and equality if chosen to lead IOM.” Okay, give the guy his due. He has been committed to helping refugees and has a long history of assisting those who are suffering. But his remarks, though retracted, reveal an underlying belief within the Christian community that we should help Christians

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A Misplaced Habit: the slow death of the newsagent (and the church?)

A Misplaced Habit: the slow death of the newsagent (and the church?)

When I was a kid there were all sorts of shops that don’t exist today. And I don’t mean a few local stores went out of business. I mean those kinds of shops hardly exist any longer. Our town had a little local hardware shop and a plant nursery, both of which were gobbled up by a big box hardware store and garden center. The haberdashery store closed. So did the pinball parlour and the billiards hall. The local post office closed and moved into a tiny shop above a Chinese restaurant. I get it. Things change. I guess there were blacksmiths and coopers before my time. But there is still one last vestige of the 19th and 20th centuries holding on, although I think it’s days are numbered. I’m talking about the once ubiquitous newsagent’s shop. The newsagent’s shop is a particularly British thing. North America has its newsstands, but in Britain and Australia we had these stores that sold newspapers, magazines, cigarettes, snacks and sweets. They were usually dark because their windows were plastered with newspaper advertising. They doubled as the local stationers, the only shop where you could get your school supplies like pencils and pens, exercise books, cardboard, glue, and plastic for covering your textbooks. The newsagent’s was a place of fascination to children, a darkened room full

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Do we really need a war on “manophobic hell-bent feminist she-devils”??

Do we really need a war on “manophobic hell-bent feminist she-devils”??

“We’re in a vicious war about the structure of reality.” – Jordan Peterson   Some time ago, in an era before there was any such thing as the alt-right or fears about “cultural Bolshevism,” our three daughters went to a single-sex high school named after the Australian writer and poet Dorothea Mackellar, most notable as the author of My Country. Born in 1885, Mackellar was a young woman of independent means, fluent in French, Spanish, German and Italian, who hosted luminaries and dignitaries in her handsome home at Lovett Bay. She dabbled in acting, enjoyed horse-riding on her country estate, and broke off two engagements when the blokes threatened to cramp her style as a writer and diletant. So you can imagine that at a girl’s high school named after her, the memory of the formidable Dorothea Mackellar was invoked at every prize-giving night, graduation and school performance. In the late 1990s and 2000s, I lost count of the times I heard my daughters and their classmates being reminded that, like Ms. Mackellar, you girls can achieve whatever you set your minds to. In fact, the school motto was “Girls Can Do Anything!” (I’m not sure if there’s an exclamation point in the motto, but there should be). We thought it was great. But that was before people like Jordan

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We stole your land, your language and your wages, but hey let’s celebrate!

We stole your land, your language and your wages, but hey let’s celebrate!

“To change the date of Australia Day would be to deny the complexity of our national story and seek to remodel our national identity on an overly simplistic narrative of shame that denies all that we have achieved together throughout our history”. – Owen Laffin   “Australia Day is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate all of the things we’ve achieved.” – Tony Abbott   Whichever way you choose to look at it, everything changed for Aboriginal peoples on January 26, 1788. Their land was stolen from them on that day, and more of it would continue to be stolen for generations to come. The first fighting in what would become known as the Frontier Wars took place several months after the landing of the First Fleet. That fighting would continue for another 146 years, resulting in the deaths of at least 20,000 indigenous Australians (some estimates go much higher) and around 2,000 Europeans. The loss of land meant the loss of Aboriginals’ traditional hunting grounds, which led to their starvation. And the introduction of European diseases like smallpox, the common cold, flu, measles, venereal diseases and tuberculosis, hitherto unknown by Aboriginal peoples, had an even more devastating effect. Smallpox alone is estimated to have halved the Aboriginal population of eastern Australia, even before settlers crossed the Great Dividing Range and

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Losing the Battle for Hearts and Minds

Losing the Battle for Hearts and Minds

It’s greatly concerning to learn that during the very period the church has most aggressively pursued a strategy that emphasizes growth in numbers, it has also seen continued and exponential decline in size. In a previous post, I compared this situation with the American policy of relying on body counts during the Vietnam War. As Ken Burns’ recent documentary series points out, while the body count made it look as though the US was winning the war, they were in fact heading toward certain defeat. That was in part because of the American inability to win the hearts and minds of the people of South Vietnam. Not that the USA didn’t know this at the time. They had instituted an operation called “Winning Hearts and Minds” (yep, the acronym is WHAM) to pacify the increasingly disillusioned South Vietnamese. After all, there was no point killing more North Vietnamese forces if the very people you’re fighting for – the South – despise you. As we now know, that was exactly the situation. American ignorance and arrogance put the South Vietnamese off-side from the beginning. So did their support for a corrupt and incompetent South Vietnamese government. But one of the greatest problems for Operation WHAM was the immorality of the American GIs. Saigon was turned into a cesspool of prostitution and

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Body Count Syndrome:  How both the Vietnam War and the Church Growth Movement failed

Body Count Syndrome: How both the Vietnam War and the Church Growth Movement failed

I’ve been watching Ken Burns’ new documentary series, The Vietnam War. It’s ten hours of unrelenting political/military folly and unadulterated human misery. But it’s fascinating. I was intrigued to discover in Episode 4 that one of the biggest challenges for US military leaders in Vietnam was figuring out how to assess their progress (or lack thereof). Vietnam was like no war before it. Those Americans who waged it were World War II veterans who were used to assessing the progress of a military campaign by how much ground had been taken from the enemy, by how many of their cities had been captured, and how many military and industrial installations had been destroyed. But none of that applied in Vietnam. The Viet Cong and the regular North Vietnamese army waged something more like a guerilla campaign. They would ambush American forces, attack them swiftly and then melt away into the jungle. If the Americans bombed their networks of trails and tunnels, the North simply built more nearby. There was no traditional “front”, so there was no way to measure whether the Americans were advancing. No one could tell if they were winning the war or not. Back in Washington, Defense Secretary Robert McNamara and his coterie of whiz kid number-crunchers needed data desperately. With the anti-war movement building, they wanted to

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What Oprah 2020 tells us about the power of the spoken word

What Oprah 2020 tells us about the power of the spoken word

The whole lesson of history is that preaching doesn’t work. – Alan Watts   When Alan Watts made that claim in his provocative talk “Preaching is moral violence” he was convinced by his reading of history that no meaningful change in human conduct ever occurs as a result of listening to a speech or lecture or sermon. He’s not the only one. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been told that preaching is redundant in the age of Google, that it’s an inefficient method of education, that digital natives are used to interaction and can’t understand monologues, etc etc. But then along comes a moment like Oprah Winfrey’s triumphant acceptance speech at the 2018 Golden Globe awards. Her rousing presentation resembled a sermon or a political stump speech more than a Hollywood acceptance speech. She wove together her own rags-to-riches story with references to Sidney Poitier, Rosa Parks and Recy Taylor, as well as exhortations of press freedom, justice for sexual assault victims, and the contributions and sacrifices of ordinary women around America. As Dahlia Lithwick wrote for Slate, “It was mesmerizing, pitch perfect, and gave voice to many lifetimes of frustration and vindication with eloquence and a full authority she has earned.” It put me in mind of the then Senator Barack Obama’s keynote address at

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Misspeaking in a Post-Christian Culture

Misspeaking in a Post-Christian Culture

It’s common to refer to contemporary Australian society as post-Christian, and while shifting moral values, church attendance, as well as the lack of interest in statements by church authorities, would bear that out, it’s not like some switch got pulled at the turn of the century converting us from “Christian” to post-Christian. Neither should post-Christian be equated with non-Christian or even anti-Christian. At Christmastime, two very public Australian Christians made ham-fisted statements about their faith and both were taken to task for it. But interestingly, the reactions of journalists and social commentators to those statements showed the range of understanding of the Christian faith in our so-called post-Christian society. The first case was the admittedly awkward Christmas greeting by the conservative National Party politician, Bob Katter. He was captured on film by Channel 7 News wishing the people of Queensland a happy Christmas and finished his greeting by saying, “Joy to the world, the Lord has come. And we don’t have to die. That’s the important message.” Now, to the ears of churchgoers that sounds like a pretty standard salutation. Nothing too odd about it. Aside from Bob Katter’s usual ineptitude as a communicator. But the social media boffins at Channel 7 posted it online as “Bob Katter’s bizarre Christmas message – complete and uncut”. Bizarre? Oh, you mean that

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