Returning violence for violence only multiplies violence

Returning violence for violence only multiplies violence

When I was a kid, I gave an opposing player some lip on the rugby field and he punched me in the face so hard and so quickly I didn’t even see it coming. One minute I was trash-talking him and the next minute I was on my butt, my head spinning, watching him run back to join the flow of the game. It was embarrassing. I remember how for weeks (months?) later I kept fantasizing about how I could have got back at him. I imagined clobbering him, humiliating him in front of others as he had done to me. The impulse to respond to violence with violence is primal. It’s almost involuntary.   When we feel personally assailed we want to return fire, to make our attackers suffer as much, or more, than we have. It’s a very human, visceral reaction. Even when we see horrible acts of terrorism perpetrated in cities like Paris or London or Nairobi, that same impulse rears up. We feel threatened, and we clamor, “Do it back to them. Return violence for violence. If they’re trying to kill us we should kill them.” Whole nations can become inflamed by this hunger for revenge. After the September 11 terror attacks on New York and Washington, the US responded by bombing Afghanistan and invading Iraq.

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What would you know about fair play, Mr Turnbull?

What would you know about fair play, Mr Turnbull?

Warning: this post contains references to an archaic and almost unwatchable game still played by a few British Commonwealth nations.   Cricket. It’s like baseball, but on valium. It’s slow. It’s boring. And no one outside England and a few of her former colonial outposts play it. But it’s come to epitomize the best of British values like tradition, gentility, and insouciance. Cricketers use quaint terms like tally-ho, and pucka, and huzzah. Okay, I made that bit up. But they should. And so it pains me as an Australian to admit that this great and ancient game has been brought into disrepute by my own countrymen. While playing our fellow former colonial outpost, South Africa, the Australian cricket team has been caught ball tampering. I know the term ball tampering doesn’t sound like the worst crime in the world. In fact, it sounds a bit comical. And I don’t fully understand it myself, but apparently you can fiddle with the ball in such a way as to make it fly at the batter in less predictable ways. And in the world of cricket, it is a complete no-no. The rules state: “The Laws of Cricket allow for manipulation of the ball to some degree, but there is a definite line that must not be crossed. A match ball may be

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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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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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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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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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Why should women have all the fun smashing the patriarchy!

Why should women have all the fun smashing the patriarchy!

It’s patriarchy that says men are stupid and monolithic and unchanging and incapable. It’s patriarchy that says men have animalistic instincts and just can’t stop themselves from harassing and assaulting. It’s patriarchy that says men can only be attracted by certain qualities, can only have particular kinds of responses, can only experience the world in narrow ways. Feminism holds that men are capable of more – are more – than that. ~ Chally Kacelnik   In my previous blog I identified how our culture is shaped by patriarchy and how Jesus’ teaching on the kingdom of God totally subverts the patriarchal system. But I didn’t offer much practical advice on how to actually do that, so a few male readers asked me for a follow up article. I’ve read a few posts recently, offering advice on how to move forward on this, and gleaned ideas from a few sources. Here are some suggestions. After all, why should women have all the fun smashing the patriarchy! 1. Take seriously the fact that Jesus instituted a new family of God, one that included Gentiles, foreigners, widows and orphans. This isn’t to say he rejected the Jewish understanding of marriage. Actually he reinforces the sanctity of marriage in his teaching on divorce. But he sees marriage operating within a broader, new context, a

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#MeToo: Don’t just say sorry, smash the patriarchy!

#MeToo: Don’t just say sorry, smash the patriarchy!

Following the allegations against Hollywood producer, Harvey Weinstein, women who have been sexually harassed have been tweeting or posting the hashtag “Me too” to show the mind-blowing magnitude of sexual assault. And men are also showing they are prepared to listen and believe the women who report harassment and assault, and to say they’re sorry for the abuse they’ve experienced. It feels like a new day is dawning, a day in which men are finally acknowledging the scale of sexism and mistreatment perpetrated against women. This week, Christian blogger John Pavlovitz, speaking for all men, wrote, We are the other side of the #MeToo stories. We are the writers of these awful stories. It’s time we owned this sickness. It’s time we stopped it. But I wonder whether mere acknowledgement is enough. Will anything substantive change while ever we operate in a patriarchal system like ours?   WHAT IS PATRIARCHY? It’s not just that our society is male-dominated, or that most of our politicians and CEOs are men. And it’s not just about the gender pay gap and the glass ceiling. These things are symptoms of a more pervasive system called patriarchy. We live in a patriarchy because our society has been shaped by European culture, which was organized around the centrality of paternity. The lineage of the great houses

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Bear Arms and Submit: the strange schizophrenia of the American evangelical soul

Bear Arms and Submit: the strange schizophrenia of the American evangelical soul

There is a strange contradiction at work in the American evangelical soul. I see it emerge every time there’s a discussion about either gun control or public protest. And as one who has promoted the benefits of strict gun control and who has been involved in my fair share of public protests, I have heard both of these seemingly opposing arguments many times.   FIRST, THERE’S THE RIGHT-TO-BEAR-ARMS AMERICAN When the topic of gun control comes up, some evangelicals are quick to defend the 2nd Amendment, saying that banning firearms from law-abiding citizens would only give the state the advantage to rule over and dominate them. In claiming this, they echo the American Founding generation’s deep mistrust of governments and their standing armies. Having just freed themselves from English colonial rule, many Founders believed that central governments simply couldn’t be trusted not to oppress the people. They figured if they could limit the new American government from having a standing army, the chances of an oppressive regime emerging to dominate their citizens would be reduced. But what if a foreign adversary were to invade? How would America defend itself without a standing army? Simple. Guarantee the citizens the right to bear arms and to organize into a “well-regulated militia” whenever such an emergency arose. As a non-American, it sounds pretty dicey

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Sometimes you need to start an argument with the idols of our age

Sometimes you need to start an argument with the idols of our age

Early Christians rarely grew in number because they won arguments. – Alan Kreider   My friend and colleague Karina Kreminski wrote a very helpful blog for Missio Alliance earlier in the year, entitled Five Real (and Risky) Ways to Start Peacemaking in Your Neighborhood. It’s really good. Her five ways are super practical and I can attest to the fact that she’s trying to live them out in her own neighborhood. But it was the last line in the article that seemed to strike a chord. I saw a bunch of people tweeting and sharing her restatement (taken from Alan Kreider) that the early Christians didn’t grow by winning arguments. And it got me thinking. Is that true? I’m definitely all across Karina’s argument that peacemaking and reconciliation were central practices for the early Christians. And I loved Kreider’s book, The Patient Ferment of the Early Church. I’ve previously blogged about it here. But is it true that the early church didn’t grow in some measure due to their participation in arguments? We know that Paul’s ministry of preaching against the gods of Greece and Rome stirred up a riot in the city of Ephesus when the local idol-makers union became incensed. Paul eventually had to be smuggled out of town. Then, on another occasion Paul attacked the Lystrans’ worship of

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When your monuments lie and your national day offends, change them

When your monuments lie and your national day offends, change them

What does it say about a modern liberal democracy when its memorials don’t accurately portray its past and its national day ignores the plight of its oppressed citizens?   Can you ‘discover’ something that other people already own and love? I mean, if you claim to have discovered something – like a cure for cancer or a new species of frog – it usually means no one else knows or has seen that thing before you. Right? Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin. Albert Einstein discovered the theory of relativity. The moons of Jupiter were discovered by Galileo. So, if you saw a statue of a very jaunty looking naval captain atop a huge plinth with the inscription, “DISCOVERED THIS TERRITORY 1770” you’d think that he, well, discovered the land you were standing on. Yeah? I’m referring to the rather dramatic depiction of Captain James Cook, telescope in one hand, the other held aloft, his palm facing the heavens. He seems pretty pleased with himself in his plus-fours and formal coat, the master of all he surveys, which in this case is Hyde Park in downtown Sydney. It looks like he’s announcing, “Ta-da, here I am!” So he discovered Australia in 1770, did he? Well, only if you don’t count the 60,000 years Aboriginal peoples inhabited this continent. Inspired by America’s current

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