Friday, February 29, 2008

"The Most Dejected Convert in All of England"

I must admit that many of the questions that seem to bother Christians don't seem to phase me. Questions of science, history, the Bible and even evil have never bothered me, even if the answer doesn't accord with my conservative Christian origins. But the one question I asked myself was what conversion meant if we were only converting because of the promise of heaven and the threat of hell? Wouldn't this suggest that Christians decide to convert from the motivation of pure expedience? One might go so far as to say that Christians convert because they are selfish. I took the view that perhaps Christians don't really love God, but that rather they love what God is offering them, which is no real love at all. The act of giving one's life to Christ would then be viewed as a cynical type of opportunism than in a truly enlightened spiritual insight. In response to this allegation, C.S. Lewis makes an absolutely amazing and unpredictable response. C.S. Lewis wrote some great stuff, but the account of his conversion has to be among his greatest. This is an extract from his autobiography:

You must picture me alone in that room in Magdalen, night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England. I did not then see what is now the most shining and obvious thing; the Divine humility which will accept a convert even on such terms. The Prodigal Son at least walked home on his own feet. But who can duly adore that Love which will open the high gates to a prodigal who is brought in kicking, struggling, resentful, and darting his eyes in every direction for a chance of escape? The words compelle intrare, compel them to come in, have been so abused be wicked men that we shudder at them; but, properly understood, they plumb the depth of the Divine mercy. The hardness of God is kinder than the softness of men, and His compulsion is our liberation.

The answer to my accusation to startling - what's your point? So Christian conversion might be selfish and cynical and opportunistic. Perhaps it may not be joyous or dignified. The point is not how we come to God. Rather, the point is that we come to God. I think about the story of the prodigal son and reflect upon the reason that he came back. He only came back because he had spent all of his inheritance and had no other option than to return to his father. Most likely, if the son had invested his inheritance wisely in the first century equivalent of the sharemarket he would never have gone back to his father and most likely would have felt quite justified in his own behaviour. But the point is, he made bad choices and ended up with no choice other than to return home. We too have made bad choices and as such, it is not surprising that we would return to God because it is the only real choice we have left. But in God's grace he can redeem even the desperate act of self-preservation.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Secret Men's Business

A woman has been awarded $10,000 damages and a public apology for being denied membership of a boat club because she was a woman. While most people would celebrate this ruling as a victory over sexism, others are less than impressed, with one commentator calling the result "a shame". Fortunately, this attitude is only held by a small community of individuals called complementarians. For the uninitiated, complementarians believe that a husband is called by God to lead the wife and that a wife is called to submit to his benevolent headship. They also adamantly believe. that a woman should take no leadership role in a church in which men are under her jurisdiction.

Once upon a time complementarianism made me angry, but these days I simply tend to view complementarians as a quaint little sect with less and less relevance to the world of the twenty-first century. I also tend to feel sorry for complementarian males because the world must seem a truly scary place to them. Put yourself in their shoes for a minute. You've been told to believe that men are created by God to be leaders, and all around them they see women in positions of power and leadership - in the boardrooms, in parliament and in the judiciary. These are women that are most likely more qualified, more intelligent and more successful than they are - and of course it goes without saying moreso than me. I'd imagine that it must feel fairly emasculating for them. So perhaps that's why they cling onto power so desperately in the church - they are the dying remnants of a patriarchal protest club.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

In Search of that Elusive Christian Character

I've just had the good fortune to read a rather angry post about the way in which Hollywood allegedly misrepresents Christianity, particularly in the way that they cast their characters. While I'm sure that there will always be stereotypes of Christians just as there are stereotypes of everyone else, it seems to me like Hollywood is a bit of a hiding to nothing here. Create a Christian character that isn't nasty enough and you'll have Calvinists baying for blood because the character was "too liberal". Create a Christian character who is nasty, and the same Calvinists will be spewing vitriol about being demonised and caricatured. It kind of reminds me of the situation in which a person listens to a recording of their own voice and says "That can't be me!" There's nothing quite so confronting as looking into a mirror.

Remember that movies only have two hours to present a character, so it's nearly always the case that characters will not be developed as fully as the director may like. I mean, it's not like a character is going to have a chance to read out Calvin's "Institutes" during the course of the movie, would they? I might add that even then, some Calvinists may complain that the character did not read with enough enthusiam. With that in mind, I'd be really interested in knowing whether there are any people who can point to a Christian they perceive as being properly represented from secular literature. It seems to me at the moment people are demanding a "square-circle" and are angry when they aren't produced with one.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Let Our Powers Combine ...

Rudd's "steering committee" for the 2020 Australia summit has been chosen. The 11 individuals, including the chair are as follows:

Professor Glyn Davis – Chair

Dr David Morgan – Future directions for the Australian economy

Mr Warwick Smith - Economic infrastructure, the digital economy and the future of our cities

Mr Roger Beale AO - Population, sustainability, climate change, and water

Mr Tim Fischer AC - Future directions for rural industries and rural communities

Professor Michael Good - A long-term national health strategy

Mr Tim Costello AO - Strengthening communities, supporting families and social inclusion

Dr Kelvin Kong - Options for the future of indigenous Australia

Ms Cate Blanchett - Towards a creative Australia:

Mr John Hartigan - The future of Australian governance:

Professor Michael Wesley - Australia’s future security and prosperity in a rapidly changing region and world

For some reason, Rudd left out of the "working families" area - but suffice to say it's most likely that all of the above categories shall place working families as a focus within their particular area.

I don't know why, but as soon as I heard of this steering committee, I immediately thought of Captain Planet. For the uninitiated, Captain Planet was a program where five kids from each continent (Australia did not get a start, unfortunately) each possessed special gifts to battle against a particular environmental disaster. However, occasionally the situation got too much for them and they had to "let their powers combine" to summon a blue faced, mullet sporting super hero who would save the day. Such was the success of the program that an entire generation of youngers were effectively insulated against the scourge of climate change skepticism.

I reckon it would be really cool for each of the members of the steering committee to be given a special ring to symbolise their power. Their job would be wage war on those elements in society that threaten our Australian sense of identity. When they face a task that they cannot assess on their own, they should let their powers combine to summon Captain Rudd, who would descend from the clouds. Wearing a lycra superhero suit and sporting a mullet, no less.

Monday, February 25, 2008

I'm Addicted

When I moved into my current place last June, I made the very deliberate decision not to take my television. I quite rightly reasoned that having a television would make it far too easy to waste time and not do anything of much significance during an evening. Besides, I was quite intent on spending much of my time at home reading through the classics and writing my blog articles.

Unfortunately, I've caved in and had a television and my Playstation 2 brought over to my place. What was the harm, I thought? Surely there will be times when will need to have a nice relaxing night after a hard day at work? And so it was, until I put this game called "Road Trip" in the console and started playing. Now I'm hooked. And because I don't tend to do things in halves, I've allowed playing this game to get in the way of my reading and blog writing. And things that are almost as important, such as eating.

The rationalist in me suggests that there are far worse things to which I could be addicted. But that's beside the point. I knew that this would happen if I succumbed to getting a television and that's exactly what has happened. Sophocles could not have written the script any better.

Anyway, you'll need to excuse me - I have a game to get back to.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Is Peter Jensen Really a Protestant?

These days I rarely visit the Sydney Anglicans site. Since being excommunicated over eighteen months ago, I haven't really seen the point. But I was bored tonight, so I ventured back there just for a little look around. One of the first things I saw was an article by Margaret Rodgers entitled "The Problem with Pell". It's good to see that things haven't changed over there - it would seem like the journalists at Anglican Media Sydney still have to engage in a spot of Catholic bashing at least once a week to satisfy their quota.

In discussing the issue of stem-cell research, Rodgers compares the allegedly Catholic and Protestant perspectives to Ministers of Parliament allowing their conscience to determine their vote. Presenting her disagreement with the Catholic perspective, Rodgers writes:

Where Protestant Christians, including Sydney Anglicans, would disagree with Cardinal Pell is his view that Roman Catholic MPS are obligated to follow the teaching of their Church when voting. He later told the ABC that he was saying that as a Catholic, if you violate Catholic moral principles, it has consequences for your relationship with God and the church. Those consequences follow inevitably in the heart and soul of the person who takes actions.
The Cardinal did not say that Catholics MPs voting ‘Yes’ to the Bill would be denied Holy Communion.

This is contrasted with the allegedly Protestant view:

But compare that understanding of obedience to the Church’s teaching to the comments of our own Archbishop. In expressing his profound regret about the affirmative vote for the Bill in the NSW Lower House, Dr Jensen repeated some words he spoke to the meeting of the NSW Anglican Provincial Synod.

He stressed Protestant views on the Biblically informed Christian conscience.

“The Christian in politics has a duty,” he said. “it is the same duty that we all have. It is the duty to obey God as he reveals himself to us. Our conscience must be shaped by the word of God. From time to time such a conscience may find itself at odds with the current teaching of the church on a particular subject. The choice must be made in the knowledge that neither church nor conscience is infallible.

Jensen continues by saying:

“If I understand the technology correctly, embryonic stem cell research involves both the destruction of embryos and the cloning of human beings. This is a step too far for us to take. I am aware that many of our politicians agonised over this matter and sought advice. If the decision to support this research was made in good conscience, I can only honour them for it, admitting readily that I may be wrong and that in the end it is to God that we give account.”

Rodgers likens Jensen's affirmation of the primacy of the conscience and statement that each individual has to give an account to God alone as something entirely consistent with Luther. And indeed, to that extent she is right. But surely the question must be asked: are Jensen's wider actions consistent with his own statement? I think even the most cursory glance at the evidence would suggest not. Jensen is being entirely dismissive of his colleagues in ECUSA who with good conscience come to the conclusion that there is nothing intrinsically sinful about homosexuality, even to the extent that he is quite actively taking steps to undermine the Anglican Communion as we speak. Nor has he even taken time to try to converse productively with those who hold a different perspective to him on this issue, in flagrant disregard of a motion passed at the last Lambeth. No deference is being given to the primacy of the conscience here. Jensen's somewhat selective Protestantism makes me question what principles he actually holds, if any. Does Jensen really affirm the primacy of the conscience, or is he speaking from a more pragmatic perspective, being extremely careful not to get prominent Sydney Anglican member's noses out of joint?

Friday, February 22, 2008

No Exit and The Respectful Prostitute

I took some time out last night from "Anna Karenina" to read a few plays from the French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre. I found him to be an extremely clever writer who uses dialogue rather effectively. Even without watching the roles played out, it is not difficult to understand the point that Sartre is wishing to express. The existential dilemma of being objectified by others is played out masterfully and culminates in what must be one of his better known quotes, spoken by the character Garcin:

So this is hell. I'd never have believed it. You remember all we were told about the torture-chambers, the fire and brimstone, the "burning marl." Old wives' tales! There's no need for red-hot pokers. Hell is other people!

The irony is that because no person is an island, we depend upon others to effectively bring us into existence. The only problem is that there is this eternal disconnect between the real and the apparent; the objective and subjective. In a very real way, we are what people make of us. But what is even worse is the ignorance of not truly knowing what others make of us. Quite often this means that we will project our thoughts onto others, believing that they think something about us that never came into their mind in the first place. Even when people give us a compliment, we may not take them at face value, supposing that they are being insincere. In so doing, we distort the image of others and at the same time distort our own image.

The second play I read was the lesser known "The Respectful Prostitute", which is a scathing attack on the culture of racism that pervades America. The theme of the play is wonderfully summed up in the following speech, made by Fred to the prostitute Lizzie:

I'll put you in a beautiful house, with a garden, on the hill across the river. You'll walk in the garden, but I forbid you to go out; I am very jealous. I'll come to see you after dark, three times a week - on Tuesday, Thursday, and for the weekend. You'll have nigger servants, and more money then you ever dreamed of; but you will have to put up with all my whims, and I'll have plenty!

It should be pointed out the Fred likens himself to America some lines back, suggesting that to kill him was to kill America. Lizzie seems to represent the downtrodden and oppressed, who are encouraged to believe in America as the land of the free and the land of opportunity and enterprise even for those who start from humble beginnings. But this promised Edenic garden that Fred speaks of is predicated upon a dark history, in which the affluence of America owes primarily to the exploitation of the African-American population through slavery. But they are not the only slaves. Lizzie herself is living a sham freedom in which she will be a slave within her marriage to a man that she does not even like. It would seem that Sartre is suggested that the price that Americans pay for their economic prosperity is that they are ruled by a corrupt government that restricts their freedom and encourages them to maintain their myopic worldview. Ignorance is bliss, and the empty rhetoric of freedom and liberty serves only to reinforce the status quo where justice, freedom and opportunity is available only to the most privileged, while most Americans have to make to with that enduring, though false perception.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Double Standards in the Sexual Revolution - In More Ways Than One

I was reading the Opinion page in the Sydney Morning Herald when I came across this article by Andrew Cameron, the Chairman of the Social Issues Executive for the Sydney Diocese. In short, it is a response to Paul Sheehan's article about middle-aged women who have been unfaithful to their husbands. The article was particularly well written, and I found the following comment to be quite insightful:

But sexual politics can blind us to the obvious. Put his rhetoric of liberation on hold and consider: what would we have thought if the cardigan-wearing cynic, and the fat slob with the remote, were women? What if men were urged not to pretend they are "middle-aged", and to go forth and renew their sensuality with nubile young things?

We reject this argument for men. Why accept it for women? It is patronising to uncritically approve for women what we despise in men.

I would suggest that Cameron is right when he infers that society still looks down on men who have left their wives to have an affair with a younger woman. It would be strange then that the type of behaviour that is condemned in men is somehow celebrated in women. That said, I wonder if that is the primary response to such a phenomena? I'd suggest that the primary line of demarcation between middle-aged men and middle-aged women in this respect is that while the societal perception is that is unsurprising for a man to have an affair with a younger woman, it is almost unthinkable that a middle-aged woman would leave her husband for her young Latin lover Juan or Pablo. It is almost as though there is this perception that beyond 30, woman no longer have sexual needs of their own.

While reading the article I could help but realise that this is not a new phenomenon - indeed the diagnosis of the problem is not at all recent either. One of the major storylines of "Anna Karenina" involves a woman who leaves an unsatisfying marriage with an undesirable and emotionally distant husband for a passionate affair with a younger man. This affair is in no way romanticised, with Tolstoy's protagonist causing great suffering for herself, her lover, her estranged husband and her son among others. Indeed, this is also a theme that Cameron picks up upon:

Yet again we fail to notice the influence, power and impact of a woman's actions on the people around her. The unilateral abandonment of a failed husband detonates an emotional shrapnel-bomb in his life, whether or not he "deserved" it. Sheehan pays no attention to the significance of the women in the lives of these men, pathetic though each man has become.

Yet Tolstoy's analysis is deliberately ambiguous. Was Anna solely to blame for the destruction she caused in her own life and those around her, or should her husband also take some of the responsibility for what happened. And regardless of the question of blame, could Anna's husband have prevented this hellish descent by responding more fully to the sexual and emotional needs of Anna? Fortunately, Cameron picks up on this theme and comments:

It would be foolhardy to deny there are blokes who don't seem to have a clue, and who haven't begun to learn the basics of taking their wife seriously, and making real changes. If anything, Christianity relelentlessly goes after their kind of selfishness and "hardness of heart".

Their wives would probably have preferred long-term loyalty, "cherishing" and honour over the too-cute praise of infidelity, which will only ever be a fall-back position of extreme sadness and desperation. Are there really so many happy divorcees in this world?

Perhaps this newly emerging paradigm of middle-aged woman in search of their toy-boys is not so much something to celebrate, so much as a sobering wake up call to a society that has long downplayed both the sexual and emotional needs of woman. I'd agree with Cameron that marriage need not be an intrinsically anti-female construct, but that in ways our understanding of marriage by religious and non-religious alike has been warped into something that does not truly do justice to the institution of marriage. In some ways we are perhaps still beholden to the Victorian understanding of marriage which seems to be little more than a contractual exchange in which the man gets his "pretty little thing" in return for providing the woman economic security. Clearly, not only are these days past us, but this conception of marriage seems to a detour from the originally intended purpose of such a relationship. It would seem then that the institution of marriage needs to be redeemed and restored so that it adequately addresses the needs and desires of women more fully rather than simply being cast on the scrapheap as an antiquated religious notion.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Armchair Critics in the Age of Wikipedia

The development of technology into the coverage of cricket is somewhat of a mixed blessing. On the positive side, improvements in technology have allowed spectators to feel closer to the action than ever before. Undoubtably, this has had the effect of vastly improving the viewing experience to such an extent that watching the coverage on television is superior in many ways to watching the action live. More negatively, however, the technological advancements that have improved the viewing experience have also endowed viewers with the self-belief that they are both entitled and qualified to make criticisms of what is happening on the pitch, whether it relates to a fielding change made by a captain, or an LBW decision made by the umpire. With the benefit of replays, slowing down the footage and innovations such as Hot Spot and Hawkeye, a generation of previously ignorant boofheads have become supposedly enlightened experts. Perhaps the most notable example of this was in the Second Test between India and Australia at the SCG where West Indian umpire Steve Bucknor was later hauled over the coals and then decommissioned for the next two Tests for what were essentially two bad decisions in the course of an otherwise reasonable game. In the excitement of the mob lynching, it was forgotten that what the public were able to see repeated ad nauseum, slowed down to one frame at a time with the assistance of technology had to be assessed by Bucknor in a fraction of a section, with the naked eye, in the pressure of the moment. In many ways, Bucknor was on a hiding to nothing. This is the age of instant information in which we live.

Armchair criticism may be one thing when it comes to discussing the cricket over a barbecque, but it takes on a sinister new dimension when it comes to discussing more substantive issues of public policy. With the help of Wikipedia, knowledge that was obtained by specialists over a lifetime of study is accessed by the "lay expert" in a matter of seconds. The lay expect, then believing that "they have done their research", feels sufficiently qualified to enter debate in areas where they previously had no grounding. Indeed, I'd argue that they are entering into a debate where they still lack sufficient grounding to make informed comment about the issues that they are seeking to discuss. For instance, as someone who is now recognised formally as a lawyer, it never ceases to annoy me when the media and the public at large make certain criticisms of the legal system, especially with respect to sentencing principles. Indeed, the principles of sentencing are such a complex and indefinite art that they are left to judges and not to your rank-and-file lawyer, and only then with reference to sentencing in comparable cases.

My argument may seem a little elistist, so let me explain where I am coming from. As a lawyer who has studied for near on seven years to become admitted as a solicitor, I think I am sufficiently qualified to make at least broad statements about the law and the legal system in Australia. To some extent, I am qualified because throughout my study I have had to digest and process a massive amount of information. But information alone does not make a lawyer. This information must be assessed within the context of a number a factors, including the history of the law, jurisprudence more generally and the way in which this information works out in practice. In short, not only do I need to have information in the first place, but I also need to know what to do with that information and how to sort the wheat from chaff, the cream from the crap, as it were. During my studies, specific focus was placed on being able to critically analyse the information we read. At the same time, however, these specifically legal skills do not perfectly translate into other areas of expertise. They are useless, for example, for the purpose of assessing the relative merits of arguments made in a scientific journal because I lack the basic grounding that professional scientists possess. While I try to educate myself about issues such as the environment, the arts, science and the economy, I know all too well that if I were to presume I had any great knowledge about these areas, as opposed to information, I would be deluding myself. As such I am very reluctant to comment upon such issues and much more eager to listen to those who know what they are talking about.

As a society we live in an age we have much more access to information than ever before, but are fundamentally ill-equipped to adequately deal with this epistemological onslaught. Furthermore, greater access to information invariably tends to mean that we will also have greater access to marginal views. Sometimes these views become marginal because of the marginalised position of those who hold them, but sometimes views are marginal because they have been largely discredited by specialists working within a particular field. Especially when one is ill-equipped to deal with specialised information, knowing when marginal views are marginal for a very good reason is often difficult to assess. The unfairly maligned and marginalised position is often indiscernable for the absurd position that is sustained primarily through rhetorical force. Without the tools to effectively assess which is which, the absurd position can look much stronger than it really is. Human prejudices being what they are, this often means that people mistake the position that they would like to believe is true for the strongest position.

As negative as this essay sounds, I am glad that I live in a society and in an age where information and debate is relatively free. A society that is more enlightened about the issues that intimately impact upon their lives will inevitably be more democratic. At the same time, we need to be more discerning about what we read and realise that not all that glitters is gold. But more importantly, we need to be more discerning about our own judgment, especially in areas where we have no real specialist knowledge. We are less saavy and objective than we may think, more prone to swallow rhetoric than we may wish to acknowledge. Simply because we have accumulated information doesn't mean that we have knowledge, and it certainly doesn't mean that we have wisdom.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

I Can't Make Anything With This Junk!

"Oxidize" was the word staring Homer right in the face when he gave up in disgust because he thought he has lousy letters. I just played "Oxidizes" and picked myself up 138 points. Nice.

Counterfeit Faith

It is true that Karenin was dimly aware of the shallowness and error of this idea about his faith. He knew that when, without thinking that his forgiveness was the act of a Higher Power, he gave himself up spontaneously to this feeling, he had experienced more happiness than when, as now, he was every moment thinking that Christ dwelt in his soul and that by signing official papers he was carrying out His will. But it was necessary for Karenin to think like that; it was so necessary for him in his humiliation to possess at least this imaginary height from which he, despised of all, could despise others, that he clung to his sham salvation, as though it were true salvation.

Leo Tolstoy, "Anna Karenina", Book 5, Chapter 22

Monday, February 18, 2008

"Not in My Backyard", says Jerusalem Archbishop to Schismatics

First, it was decision of Peter Jensen to snub the Anglican Communion by boycotting Lambeth. Then, it was the decision to further undermine the Anglican Communion by holding a rival conference, "GAFCON", specifically for disgruntled conservative Anglicans. Now it is discovered that Jensen and other organisers did not even bother to consult with the Archbishop of Jerusalem, Suheil Dawani, before deciding to hold their conference in his Diocese. Understandably, Dawani would prefer that this conference be held elsewhere and says that Jerusalem is currently facing pressing issues of its own.

These revelations should not be surprising to those who have examined the behaviour of the Sydney Diocese over an extended period of time. Not only has it been suggested that the Sydney Diocese have disrespected Diocesan boundaries by planting churches in other Dioceses, it has also been alleged that the Sydney Diocese and other members of the Global South have aggressively been trying to poach disgruntled parishes from America. Interesting question though, what would happen if ECUSA wanted to have a conference in Sydney, for whatever reason? Would the Sydney Diocese lovingly embrace ECUSA, or would they be doggedly holding to their territorial sovereignty? For some reason, I get the idea that it's more likely to be the latter.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Johnny Cash - Hurt

I hurt myself today,
to see if i still feel,
I focus on the pain,
the only thing thats real,

The needle tears a hole,
the old familiar sting,
try to kill it all away,
but I remember everything,

what have I become,
my sweetest friend,
everyone i know,
goes away in the end,

and you could have it all,
my empire of dirt,
I will let you down,
I will make you hurt,

I wear this crown of thorns,
upon my liars chair,
full of broken thoughts,
I cannot repair,

beneath the stains of time,
the feelings dissapear,
you are someone else,
I am still right here,

What have I become,
my sweetest friend,
everyone I know,
goes away in the end,

and you could have it all,
my empire of dirt,
I will let you down,
I will make you hurt,

if I could start again,
a million miles away,
I will keep myself,
I would find a way,

Saturday, February 16, 2008

The Secret is Out

For those of you who have been wondering about my current station in life, my information is now on "the authoritative online directory of New South Wales solicitors who hold a current practising certificate":

Up until this point in time I've been relatively cagey about where I work, especially on a forum as public as my blog. In reality, there was no great problem in divulging this information, but I felt that it was much safer not to be so explicit about my workplace. As it turns out, this is not so much of an issue now that this information is on the public record. This said, I will continue my policy of not writing anything at all about the daily operations of my workplace, even with respect to the vaguest or most irrelevant details. One never knows when disclosing how one's colleagues prefer their eggs cooked will come back to bite you or someone else.

Friday, February 15, 2008

I've Been Officially Lawyerised!

My official lawyerfication occurred today in the Supreme Court as His Honour Chief Justice Spiegelman admitted me as a lawyer in New South Wales. I didn't have to do or say very much except bow at the appropriate time and say "So help me God" when the oath and affirmations were read out. Chief Justice Spiegelman then gave a speech about the profession that we were entering into, giving a bit of history of the admission ceremony which goes back some 180 years in New South Wales and reminded us of our ethical obligations and duties to the Court. This included maintaining our convictions even when the public sentiment was against us. I then had to sign the "Roll of Lawyers", after which I had something to eat at the cafe upstairs. I am now also the proud member of a practising certificate, which will be going straight into the office and not the poolroom.

I must say, after seven years of working towards this moment, I sense of real satisfaction of what I have achieved, but more than that, sheer relief. This has been the biggest and longest project in my life thus far and I am glad that I have attained the end to which I have strives. I've had many role models and mentors along the way, but none have been more influential to me than Jarrod Rebecchi aka "Toadie" from "Neighbours" and the late Lionel Hutz from "The Simpsons". They have both been sources of inspiration for me and have truly set the benchmark for my future practice as a legal practitioner.

Is this the end, or simply a new beginning for me? Truth is, I don't like false bifurcations, especially when I'm feeling exhausted from the events of the day. I'll give everything a little time to sink in before I make my decisions about where to go from here. I only have one ambition at this stage - to go to the Bar, where I hope my learned colleagues will be shouting.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

A Valentine's Day Treat From Flight of the Conchords

Here are Bret and Jermaine, doing something special for all the ladies of the world:

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

"I'm Not Racist, But ..."

Perhaps one of the more sobering things to come out of the day when Australia finally said sorry is the realisation that an undercurrent of racism still pervades Australian society. I've been reading some of the comments under the ABC news stories and while there seemed to be a great deal of support for the apology, there are still many individuals who resent the fact that the apology even occurred in the first place. The most common statements seemed be: (1) Aborigines already have a pretty good deal; (2) Aborigines should just get on with their life / should stop playing the victim; (3) It's just all about compensation; (4) What have I done wrong? and (5) I've struggled in my life and fought through it, so should the Aborigines. On this last point I remember a conversation with a friend about a well to do associate who made comments to this effect, lamenting the fact that his parents never bought him a car and how he had nonetheless worked his way up from nothing.

Many people opposed the apology on the grounds that it would be divisive. Strictly speaking, these people are right. It is at times when such grand gestures are made that people will be provoked to react to what they regard as "political correctness". It is during these times when latent racism begins to surface and rear its ugly head. However, the mere fact that such sentiments are expressed is not a compelling argument against such gestures because made. To do nothing because we are concerned about creating consternation is to argue for the status quo, which is frequently unacceptable. More importantly, submerging racism so that it becomes largely dormant does not solve the problem, nor prevent new problems from springing up. I cannot imagine that a single person in Australia would have become racist as a result of the apology and Rudd's speech. Rather the speech gave rise to the dormant racism that already existed in the hearts and minds of some Australians.

So, what do we about those that resented the apology? Well, unfortunately there are always going to be people would are not interested in moving forward as a nation and nothing will make their marginalised, white, male, Anglo-Saxon, middle-class existences more bearable. However, for most attitudes will change through time, in the same manner that it did for issues like slavery and the role of women. In this respect education, patience and persistence is the key.

A Great Day to be Australian

For the first time in ages, I'm actually proud to be known as an Australian. After all the embarrassment that Australia has suffered over the last decade or so on the international stage, it looks as if we have finally turned a corner. I was in Martin Place today as Prime Minister Kevin Rudd made the formal apology to the indigeneous peoples of Australia. It was truly spine tingling stuff. Here's the text of the apology:

Today we honour the Indigenous peoples of this land, the oldest continuing cultures in human history.

We reflect on their past mistreatment.

We reflect in particular on the mistreatment of those who were Stolen Generations – this blemished chapter in our nation’s history.

The time has now come for the nation to turn a new page in Australia’s history by righting the wrongs of the past and so moving forward with confidence to the future.

We apologise for the laws and policies of successive Parliaments and governments that have inflicted profound grief, suffering and loss on these our fellow Australians.

We apologise especially for the removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families, their communities and their country.

For the pain, suffering and hurt of these Stolen Generations, their descendants and for their families left behind, we say sorry.

To the mothers and the fathers, the brothers and the sisters, for the breaking up of families and communities, we say sorry.

And for the indignity and degradation thus inflicted on a proud people and a proud culture, we say sorry.

We the Parliament of Australia respectfully request that this apology be received in the spirit in which it is offered as part of the healing of the nation.

For the future we take heart; resolving that this new page in the history of our great continent can now be written.

We today take this first step by acknowledging the past and laying claim to a future that embraces all Australians.

A future where this Parliament resolves that the injustices of the past must never, never happen again.

A future where we harness the determination of all Australians, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, to close the gap that lies between us in life expectancy, educational achievement and economic opportunity.

A future where we embrace the possibility of new solutions to enduring problems where old approaches have failed.

A future based on mutual respect, mutual resolve and mutual responsibility.

A future where all Australians, whatever their origins, are truly equal partners, with equal opportunities and with an equal stake in shaping the next chapter in the history of this great country, Australia.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Radiohead - Street Spirit

I don't know why, but every time I listen to this song I get this feeling on an impending apocalypse. Time becomes short, and everything I do takes added significance. I see the forces of evil mounting against me and everything I stand for. I must fight this force regardless of the cost and apathy is not an option. I must summon whatever little strength I have for the battle ahead.

There are many enemies, but there is none greater than that in myself. I realise that all those who take up the sword against this oppressive being risk being consumed by the evil that they are trying to fight against. Looking into the heart of evil I must not blink, for by doing so I will be swallowed whole.

I realise that I am outflanked and outgunned. My only artillery is love and grace and even then I am not always a particularly accurate marksmen. They may not be the weapons of the world, but I must have faith that the weapons I do have are more powerful when they are shot true and straight.

Monday, February 11, 2008

My New Work Motto

All the question had received excellently drafted answers, and the answers were not open to doubt because they were not the work of human thought, always liable to error, but werre all the work of bureaucratic officialdom.

Leo Tolstoy, "Anna Karenina", Book 4, Chapter 6

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Rome, Sweet Home?

By sheer good fortune I found out about a talk that was taking place tonight entitled "Why am I a Catholic?" Perhaps what I found most interesting about the prospect of going to this talk was the fact that the speaker, Dr Robert Tilley was a convert from Protestantism. Having been interested in Catholicism for at least the last few years, I was quite interested in what would have to say. Just for the record, I am very uncomfortable using the term Protestant to describe myself these days because I believe that I find myself much more closely aligned with the doctrines of Catholicism than I do with mainstream Protestantism. The only reason I could be called a Protestant is by virtue of the fact that I am not yet Catholic. I ditched the title "Evangelical" some time ago and don't wish to be associated in any way, shape or form with the theological movement.

Dr Tilley started talking about a visit made to Australia by the newly appointed pope, Pope John Paul II in 1979. He spoke of a newspaper article that talked about the thousands that flocked to the Sydney Cricket Ground and photograph of one lone protester holding the banner "The Pope is the Antichrist and the Mass is Blasphemy". It was a nice rhetorical approach which got the attention of the mostly Catholic audience. Perhaps more startling was the revelation that the protester in that photograph was in fact himself. It turned out that he had come from the ranks of Reformed Presbyterianism and took both his Calvinism and his objection to Catholicism seriously. I was really interested in hearing the story about how these beliefs started capitulating and how he began to become involved and finally gave in to the Church he has previously despised. Unfortunately, that wasn't the tack that he took during his talk which was a bit of a disappointment on a personal level.

The focus on his talk on the nature of individualism and the way that this inevitably led to a consumerist mentality that produced standardisation and conformity. In contrast to this, he talked about the diversity and yet the unity in the Catholic Church. I must admit that I tend to agree on this point. Contrary to the stereotype about Catholicism being a dogmatic and inflexible religion, my experience has been that there seems to be much greater intellectual freedom in Catholicism than pretty much all of Protestantism. Even in Liberal Protestantism, where I would nominally place myself at the moment, there is tremendous pressure to tow the party line, or else face stern criticism. That is, if you don't join the rest of these people and be take the same progressive, supposedly non-comformist stance, then you risk being labelled as just another fundamentalist. It has always impressed me how strongly liberal Catholics can have the freedom to strongly oppose the stance of the Church with respect to homosexuality and yet be archetypically conservative on the issue of abortion. This intellectual freedom seems to translate into the quality of Catholic theology and I've long thought that Protestant theology was generally quite inferior due to the fact it become no more than glorified apologetics because of its defensive nature.

Perhaps one area that I disagreed with Dr Tilley was in respect to Protestant ecclesiology. While it is true that for many Protestant denominations the Church is seen as little more than incidental to one's faith, I believe that the ecclesiology of some Protestant denominations is much more nuanced than Dr Tilley was acknowledging. As much as I dislike to defend Calvin, he himself had much to say about the centrality of the Church and the significance of the community of believers in the context of the Christian faith. At the same time, it is quite true that this ecclesiology in theory does not always translate over neatly in practice.

The natural question that many would ask at this point would be why I am not yet a Catholic if I see myself so closely aligned to Catholic theology. Indeed, a number of people have suggested to me that I am somewhat more Catholic than most Catholics that they know, so what is it that holds me back? I suspect there are a few niggling reasons which warrant more time and energy than I currently have at the moment, but I wish to write an article about "Why I am not yet a Catholic" when I get a chance, as well as "Why I may one day become a Catholic". Stay tuned.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Why I am Still a Christian

Some days I don't know why I just don't pull the plug on my faith. Over the last eight years I would suggest that I have seen and experienced enough that would seem to justify this decision. During this time I have become more aware of the relentless miseries which plague this world unabated, have been embarrassed by the sexism, homophobia and racism of Christians and have cringed as they claim that they represent my faith. Other Christians have denounced me as a heretic, have silenced me, have suggested publically that I am mentally unstable and have announced quite proudly that I am not a Christian. On my less mentally stable days I begin to wonder whether they are not correct. I have doubted more often than I can remember, have sinned so regularly and so horrendously that I have wanted to forget and have been depressed far so regularly than there has often seemed little left to live for. Far beyond this, I have hypocritically accused people of acts I have known far too well that I am guilty of committing. I have descended down to the very depths of my soul and have seen very little to commend myself; very little to show that I embody the character traits that would show that I am a Christian or have taken the Christian faith to heart.

And yet it seems that however hard I try, I simply cannot emphatically and finally renounce my faith, however much I may want to. Why this grace, and yet ungrace from God? Why this perfect blessing and yet this horrendous curse? Why this blessed emancipation and yet this accursed condemnation? I think and yet I cannot answer until I am made to think of this quote from one of my favourite authors, Fyodor Dostoevsky:

“If someone proved to me that Christ is outside the truth and that in reality the truth were outside of Christ, then I should prefer to remain with Christ rather than with the truth."

I cannot think I understand, and words no longer take on any significance and meaning. My Christ, the Exemplar I so rarely follow is far too absurd for words and yet it is only with and in him things begin to make perfect sense. When I see him I am blinded by his dazzling light and yet it is only by being struck blind that I begin to see a path ahead. When I see his character, that paradox of divine humanity I am forced to see my naked wretchedness and yet I have faith beyond faith that I shall one day be clothed in glory and transfigured.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Never a Frown

I've been wanting to share my love for the song "Golden Brown" with my readers for a while now. It's an absolutely amazing song and an equally amazing film clip. The only thing that disturbs me is that so many of my favourite songs seem to have obscure references to drugs in them.

That aside, enjoy.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

The Twentieth Century Defended

Earlier this week you may remember me talking about how I believed that the nineteenth century far outshone the twentieth in terms of its greatness. At least one person who has read my list has chastised me because I inexplicably left out some fairly memorable figures that I should never have forgotten. As it turns out, a friend of mine has compiled a list of her own to counter my slanderous allegations against the twentieth century. With her blessing and the guarantee that I wouldn't add Peter Andre to make a mockery of the list, I've seen fit to make a few additions of my own:


Louis Armstrong
Irving Berlin
David Bowie
Leonard Cohen
Bob Dylan
Duke Ellington
Brian Eno
Ella Fitzgerald
John Lennon
Paul McCartney
Joni Mitchell
Cole Porter
Elvis Presley
Paul Simon
Stephen Sondheim
Karlheinz Stockhausen
Brian Wilson

Novelists, Poets and Playwrights

Jorge Luis Borges
Bertolt Brecht
Miles Davis
T.S. Eliot
F. Scott Fitzgerald
Günter Grass
Ernest Hemingway
Aldous Huxley
James Joyce
Milan Kundera
Arthur Miller
George Orwell
Harold Pinter
J.D. Salinger
Tom Stoppard
Kurt Vonnegut
Virginia Woolf
W.B. Yeats

Philosophers and Theologians

Theodor Adorno
Karl Barth
Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Rudolf Bultmann
Jacques Derrida
Albert Einstein
Michel Foucault
Mahatma Gandhi
Jürgen Habermas
Stanley Hauerwas
Jacques Lacan
Marshall McLuhan
Jurgen Moltmann
Reinhold Niebuhr
Karl Rahner
Edward Said
Jean-Paul Sartre
Gloria Steinem
John Howard Yoder

Politicians and World Leaders

Yasser Arafat
Winston Churchill
Adolf Hitler
Saddam Hussein
J.F. Kennedy
Ayatollah Khomeini
Vladimir Lenin
Martin Luther King
Nelson Mandela
Benito Mussolini
Pope John Paul II
Pol Pot
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Josef Stalin
Mao Tse Tung
Malcolm X


Wassily Kandinsky
Paul Klee
Pablo Picasso
Jackson Pollock
Andy Warhol
Paul Klee

World Events

World War I and II
The Russian Revolution
The 1929 Wall Street Crash and the Great Depression
The Holocaust
The bombing of Hiroshima
The cultural revolution in China
Decolonisation and Globalisation
The rise and fall of the Berlin Wall
The Cold War and the Cuban missile crisis
Vatican II
The assassination of John F. Kennedy
The Vietnam War
The Iranian Revolution
The invention of television
The birth of feminism
The civil rights movement
The space race
The invention of computers

Well, I'm sure that more could be added, especially with respect to movie icons throughout the twentieth century, which weren't added because no comparison can be made with the nineteenth century. This said, I think that this is a somewhat more comprehensive list than I gave for the nineteenth century. I think the biggest difference between the nineteenth century and the twentieth is that with the rise of true globalisation in the twentieth century, significant events began to have worldwide ramifications. I suspect now that my comments were born primarily out of the fact that I am currently going through a phase where I am becoming quite enamoured with nineteenth century literature. While I still lean toward the 19th century at the moment (I should point out however that I am yet to read James Joyce's "Ulysses"), I think it is clear that the jury is out for at least the next century or so.

My Ash Wednesday Adventures

In what can only be described as serendipity, I had to make a trip to the Supreme Court yesterday and saw on my way that St James King Street was holding a Choral Eucharist with the Invocation of Ashes later that evening. The timing was just perfect, allowing me to finish work, have a celebratory beer with a work colleague and then walk across the city. Had I not had to go to the Supreme Court (and I rarely do, since most of my engagements are in the Downing Centre Courts) then I would never have known that the service was on.

I must admit that I've never been inside St James King Street before, but I was very impressed with what I saw. While lacking the grandeur of St Mary's Cathedral, there was a real understated elegance about the church. No Mary's and no huge crucifix in the centre. Just a lot of candles. Just the way I liked it.

As the service began the procession entered with the mysterious smell of incense. Not long after the choristers began singing in earnest. They sung the forbidden music which must not be sung within the walls of St Andrew's Cathedral in a liturgical context. I closed my eyes and let the harmonies seep into me as I was thankful to God for his gift of music and thankful that such music could still be heard in at least one church.

We had a few Bible readings before we received an ash on the foreheads in the sign of the cross as a sign of our repentence. I reflected upon my sins of the past years, some of which I was still struggling with. We then received the Eucharist from the same bread and the same cup. All and sundry came to share regardless of their age, sex or calling in life. It was an appropriately solemn occasion.

As the service ended and we walked out, we discovered that it was pouring down with rain. As I walked to the bus stop on George Street, I was quite appropriately baptised in the torrential downpour. It seems to be quite fitting, both as a sign of our mourning, and as a sign of a new birth and a new start. All that is own has become new.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Blessed Are Those Who Mourn: Tips For Lent

For those of you who don't know, today is Ash Wednesday and the start of the Lenten season of the liturgical calendar. While the practice has it roots in Catholicism, I'd suggest that the idea is somewhat older than that, going back to at least as far as the Jewish festival Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement. I'd like to suggest that Ash Wednesday and the period of Lent, in which we are to nominate something to give up can be a valuable spiritual discipline no matter what Christian (or indeed, other religious) tradition you hail from.

My first thought is that Ash Wednesday can be seen as the polar opposite as New Year's Eve. While the idea of New Year's Eve seems to be to celebrate in drunken revelry, Ash Wednesday requires us to reflect sombrely. Furthermore, while the idea of New Year's Eve seems to be to forget the past and make a fresh start, we are meant to look back at the past year on Ash Wednesday and remember how we may have acted more appropriately.

I'm sure that there are a lot of misapprehensions and confusion about Lent, so I've thought that maybe the following tips would help:

(1) Don't see Lent as a ritual - Don't take part in Lent because you believe this makes you a good Christian or because you believe this you are obligated to do so - indeed, if this is your motivation, your experience will probably end up being counterproductive. Take part in Lent because of the opportunity that it will give you to grow spiritually and draw closer to God.

(2) Draw clear boundaries - decide on clear parameters about what you are giving up beforehand. This may sound legalistic, but drawing clear boundaries beforehand helps you to avoid making legalistic loopholes later on. This might sound silly, but for instance, does giving up chocolate mean giving up chocolate milkshakes and mochas? Is Sunday going to be a Feast Day (when you break Lent to celebrate Christ's resurrection), or is it business as normal?

(3) Reflect on the meaning behind the sacrifice, rather than the sacrifice itself - Lent is not about giving up something for the sake of giving it up. There are many ideas behind sacrifice, but I can think of two off the top of my head. Firstly, sacrificing something that is valuable to us allows us to appreciate God's provision all the more. That is, it helps us to avoid taking our many blessings from God for granted. Secondly, sacrificing something should turn about attention to the ultimate sacrifice made by Jesus himself.

(4) Spend (extra) time with God as well as giving something up - Try to use Lent as a period of prayer, sabbath and Bible reading at the same time you give something up. In particular, if you are giving up something that involves the expenditure of time, think about using the time that otherwise would have been spent on this activity to spend with God instead.

(5) Give the fruits of your sacrifice away - I've saved money in the past during Lent by sacrificing something that cost money. This didn't end up seeming like a sacrifice at all because I'd profitted financially from the experience. To avoid this and to help you appreciate how a small sacrifice from you can really help others, think about giving the money you would have spent on that sacrificed item away.

Well there are a few of my thoughts, for what it is worth. If anyone has any other helpful tips, please share them with us.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

My Posts Deleted by Craig Schwarze

I've given some degree of thought to how I should respond to the many posts that I have made that have been deleted by Craig Schwarze of "Craig's Blog". I've concluded that the best way of doing this is to compile an index of posts that have his purged from history because of Craig's editorial excesses. This would achieve two things. Firstly, it will allow readers of "Craig's Blog" to access the posts that Craig doesn't want you to see. Secondly, it will serve as a "Hall of Shame" if you will - a monument to the defensiveness that pervades Craig's thinking. I tend to ask some fairly difficult questions of Craig at times, and it seems preferable to Craig that my posts be removed than for the fraility of his position to be exposed. A link to this index will be available on the front page of my blog at all times for all to read.

Of course, it could be that Craig gets wind of my plans and that he decides he will not give me ammunition by deleting any further posts of mine. If so, I will be most pleased to be corrected. Either way, I have come to the conclusion that this is currently the best way to speak truth to power.

Monday, February 04, 2008

The Calculus of Vengeance

I must admit that it is sometimes difficult for me to know when I should rebuke a lack of charity and when I should show grace to those who are oppressing others. This world is a complex place and it not always possible to define people as being either oppressors or oppressed. Quite often, it is the most oppressive people who are at the same time the most oppressed, either by present circumstances, by their past, or by others. When it comes to oppression, the root cause is often several generations deep.

I guess I have always believed that there is a time for war and a time for peace. I have believe that sometimes it is appropriate to speak to the oppressor's better instincts, while sometimes it is appropriate it name oppression for what it is. For some reason I seem to have developed an overdeveloped sense of justice. Sometimes this is the burden that I carry, sometimes it is the burden carried by others.

Given that this issue has been one that I have had to consider recently, one of the quotes that was in the handout I picked up when going to Mass on Saturday night was quite enlightening:

My own temperament inclines me towards compliance and a readiness to appreciate the good side of people and things, rather than to criticize and pronounce harsh judgments. This and the considerable difference in age, mine being more full of experience and profound understanding of the human heart, often make me feel painfully out of sympathy with my entourage. Any kind of distrust or discourtesy shown to anyone, especially to the humble, poor or socially inferior, every destructive or thoughtless criticism, makes me writhe with pain. I say nothing, but my heart bleeds. These colleagues of mine are good ecclesiastics: I appreciate their excellent qualities, I am very fond of them and they deserve all my affection. And yet they cause me a lot of suffering. On certain days and in certain circumstances I am tempted to react violently. But I prefer to keep silence, trusting that this will be a more eloquent and effective lesson. Could this be weakness on my part? I must, I will continue to bear this cross serenely, together with the mortifying sense of my own worthlessness, and I will leave everything else to God, who sees into all hearts and shows them the refinements of his love.

Diary entries Paris, 1948
Blessed (Pope) John XXIII, "Journey of a Soul"

For what it's worth, you may be interested in knowing that the introductory quote for "Anna Karenina", the book I am currently reading is "Vengeance is mine; I will repay", quoting Romans 12:19. Maybe there's something in that for me to think about.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

As One Abnormally Born

Last night I had the good fortune of watching "La Boheme" with a few of my friends in the Domain. It was a typically high-brow affair, allowing us the opportunity to sample some wine while talking philosophy and literature. For some reason, I made the fairly audacious claim that "nothing worthwhile really happened after the end of the nineteenth century". Of course, this was a deliberate exaggeration, and my friends were quick to come to the rescue of the twentieth century citing names such as Virginia Woolf and James Joyce. While I agree that my sweeping claim was rather unjustified, I still maintain that the twentieth century and the years beyond have been somewhat less prolific than the nineteenth century. It's worth having a look at some of the significant cultural, political and technological contributions made by this great era:

Novelists and Poets

Jane Austen
Charlotte and Emily Bronte
Charles Dickens
Fyodor Dostoevsky
Victor Hugo
John Keats
Alexander Pushkin
Arthur Rimbaud
Robert Louis Stevenson
Leo Tolstoy
Mark Twain
H.G. Wells
Walt Whitman
Oscar Wilde

Philosophers and Theologians

Charles Darwin
Georg Hegel
Soren Kierkegaard
Karl Marx
John Stuart Mill
Cardinal John Henry Newman
Fredreich Nietzsche
Fredreich Schliermacher

World Leaders and Prominent Politicians

Otto von Bismarck
Napoleon Buonaparte
Benjamin Disraeli
Thomas Jefferson
Abraham Lincoln
Queen Victoria
William Wilberforce


Ludwig van Beethoven
Johannes Brahms
Frederic Chopin
Claude Debussy
Antonín Dvorak
Edvard Grieg
Franz Liszt
Piotr Tchaichovsky
Giuseppe Verdi
Richard Wagner


Paul Cezanne
Vincent van Gogh
Claude Monet
Edvard Munch
Pablo Picasso
Camille Pissarro
Pierre-Auguste Renoir
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

Of course, there are many more individuals that could be added to this list. I haven't even mentioned Waterloo, the end of slavery, the invention of the telephone, the discovery of electricity, the American Civil War, the start of universal suffrage, Vatican I, the birth of the union movement and of course the start of cricket and the first test match. I've started to become quite fond of the nineteenth century and I'm starting to wonder whether I wasn't born at least a century later than I should have.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Archbishop Jensen Sings His Brother's Praises

Following comments by Peter Phillips that the Jensens has vandalised church music and made the working conditions of the last choirmaster Michael Deasey so difficult that he had to leave (see my original article here and the interview here), Archbishop Peter Jensen has seen fit to step in and defend his brother. Most notably, he suggests that there are "inaccuracies in the reports about which I will say nothing". Seems like a fairly weak response to me. Archbishop Jensen, what exactly are these inaccuracies with which you speak? Is it true that opportunities for the choir to perform in a liturgical context have been reduced, or is Michael Deasey lying about this?

Archbishop Jensen also states that "no opportunity was given to respond to these remarks before they aired". While this is true, strictly speaking, Jensen's inference of bias is incredibly misleading. At the end of the interview, Crittenden comments:

On PM on the same day as this programme, the Jensen brothers declined PM's request for an interview about that story but the Anglican Dean of Sydney, Phillip Jensen, issued a statement saying that "the church's mission is for all people, not just those who follow an elitist repertoire of church music".

Shame Jensen, shame.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Peter Cameron on Fundamentalism

I've just had another post deleted at "Craig's Blog". This is getting to be quite a habit and as such, I'm starting to get used to this behaviour from Craig. Dissent to the fundamentalist (and let's make no bones about it - Craig and his sect are indeed fundamentalists) is unthinkable and must be stopped at all costs. Peter Cameron makes some very interesting comments about this phenomenon:

Argument, debate, the possibility that they might be wrong - these are not on the agenda. In any other walk of life they would be regarded as unhinged. Very few of them have ever been exposed to the simplest form of bible criticism, yet they feel qualified to tell people who have spent half a lifetime on the subject that they are barking up the wrong tree. It's rather like witchdoctor medicine confronted with real medicine. The primitive reaction is one of fear, suspicion and hostility - out with the spears and shields. And the witchdoctors themselves, of course, have vested interests to protect: their positions of control and authority. Naturally they resist. ... Fundamentalists need an enemy: an enemy both gives them their own identity and unites them. ... they stand for nothing positive at all - simply obedience to rules and the condemnation of those who break them.

- "Fundamentalism and Freedom", pp 13-14 (Doubleday:1995)