The Shadow of the Fear-vangelicals

The Shadow of the Fear-vangelicals

In the conservative Australian state of Queensland it was recently decided to remove any reference to a person’s height or gender on their driver’s licence. That’s actually no big deal to those of us from other states where height and gender hasn’t been included on our licences. But among the ultra-conservative evangelicals in that state it was cause for moral outrage. One local morals crusader called it all a “cruel lie” and posted this anxiety-inducing click baity news headline: She wrote: “Truth no longer matters in Qld. Only YOUR truth. Which may or may not actually be truth. But everyone is expected to nod politely and go along with it.” The ensuing comments were really something to behold. “The reality-denying madness of the sexual revolutionaries is now at fever-pitch.” “Shocking to behold…” “…crazy…” “… godless lunacy.” “… the whole world has gone completely mad.” Did you get that? The whole world has gone completely mad because the only state in Australia to include height and gender on driver’s licences has decided to remove them. Other comments were Islamophobic: “So what do they put as ID for a muslim woman wearing a burqa?” And homophobic: “What is so hypocritical, is the push by the new state religion of ‘gayism’, to remove the relevance of a persons sex/gender in regards to marriage and

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“How long do we keep punishing him for?”

“How long do we keep punishing him for?”

Punishment is not for revenge, but to lessen crime and reform the criminal. ~ Elizabeth Fry, Quaker, and Prison Reformer   A lot of people won’t know who Matthew Lodge is, something Matthew Lodge is no doubt pleased about. A few years ago he committed a heinous act of violence against an innocent family in New York City. Now he just wants everyone to forget about it so he can move on with his life and his football career. First, you need to know that Matthew Lodge is a very big, imposing man. He stands 191 cm tall (6 ft, 3 in) and weighs 118 kg (260 lbs). He’s a professional rugby league football player in Australia and could have a promising career ahead of him. Except for what he did in the early hours of October 16, 2015. That night, Lodge approached a German tourist, Carolin Dekeyser on the streets of New York City and began physically harassing her. Terrified, Dekeyser started frantically pressing the doorbell of a nearby apartment complex. Lodge kept menacing her: “Do you think you’re going to die? This is the night you’re going to die.” Inside the building, a resident, Joseph Cartright heard the bell and went to see what the commotion was about. Finding Ms Dekeyser outside in a terrified state, he let

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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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