Let’s be freed from our obsession with the bad president

Let’s be freed from our obsession with the bad president

Let’s get a little perspective, people. I’m just getting so tired of all the ire and high dudgeon. It’s exhausting. The anti-Trump outrage is at fever pitch at the moment and it’s making my ears ring. The fury and the intensity of the attacks on Donald Trump are becoming so frenzied I fear we’re all starting to lose perspective. And I say that as someone who has been more than willing to criticize the President.   In the 90s it was the Republicans who were in full outrage mode. Remember when Kenneth Starr was the Robert Mueller of the Clinton administration? The news cycle was dominated by Whitewater, the firing of White House travel agents, the alleged misuse of FBI files, and the sexual harassment lawsuit filed by Paula Jones. And then along came Monica! The anti-Clinton rhetoric was venomous and relentless, and lasted for years. But by 2004, it was the Democrats turn. Michael Moore released his incendiary film Fahrenheit 911 alleging presidential incompetence by George W Bush for his response to the September 11 attacks and the hastily cobbled together Coalition of the Willing’s invasion of Iraq. And then the so-called evidence for there being WMDs in Iraq all came to nothing. The attacks on Mr Bush’s character and intelligence were unending. The critics claimed he was surrounded by

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Don’t let policymakers tell you we don’t care about the poor

Don’t let policymakers tell you we don’t care about the poor

“It’s an 80-percent issue, people want to close down the borders.” – Deputy White House press secretary Hogan Gidley   “80 percent of Australians do not support any further spending on foreign aid.” – Australian minister for international development and the Pacific, Concetta Fierravanti-Wells   Sometimes, when you read the studies into attitudes toward the most needy in our world you wonder where all this heartlessness has come from. We’re told people want DACA dismantled and immigrants deported. We’re told people want a great big wall on America’s southern border. We’re told Australians want refugees incarcerated on Pacific islands, and cuts to foreign aid. When did everyone get so stingy?   LIES, DAMNED LIES AND STATISTICS Relying on a Lowy Institute poll that said 80% of Australians supported reductions in overseas aid, the Australian federal government recently did just that. They lowered the level of foreign aid in the national budget. In fact, the minister responsible for international development quoted the poll itself to justify the cuts. Which must have made the folks at the Lowy Institute a bit uncomfortable. Being cited while they take money away from the neediest people in South East Asia and the Pacific wouldn’t sit well with me either. So they decided to dig a bit further. And what they found surprised them. Yes, it’s

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Tis Merely a Flesh Wound: when Social Justice Warriors feel like the Black Knight

Tis Merely a Flesh Wound: when Social Justice Warriors feel like the Black Knight

It hasn’t been a good week to be a social justice warrior. And I don’t use that term in its pejorative sense. To me, a social justice warrior is what the term suggests at face value, a person committed to fighting for justice. I know Twitter has turned “SJW” into an insult to describe young progressives, offended by everything, incapable of reasoned debate, blah, blah. But for me, fighting the good fight for justice and peace in this world is exactly what Jesus calls us to, and what his followers have been doing for centuries. Being a social justice warrior shouldn’t put you on the left or the right. It shouldn’t deem you a liberal or a conservative. Rather, it should put you firmly in the will of God. The kind of religion the Bible advocates is rooted in justice that flows from the heart of God. It seeks to bring all things into the wholeness of God. As one justified by faith in the God of all justice, I believe we are to experience the wholeness God brings and extend it to others.   This week, those of us committed to that task were dealt a crushing blow when the richest nation in the world, and the one most likely to refer to itself as Christian, enacted a policies that

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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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