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Tag Archives: christian

That white man’s dystopia

When one belongs to the dominant group, it is very easy to define other people’s wellbeing as trivial. The ultimate identity politics in the west – that of the white Christian man – becomes invisible because it is “normal.” Other people have accents; we don’t. Other people have cultures; we just live our daily lives. Our needs are the only needs. It takes an effort to see beyond these inner certainties, and some strongly resent being asked to do so.

When a white Christian man experiences a career setback, some portray it as “dystopia.”

Andrew Thorburn abdicated from a leadership role at Essendon Football Club when asked to choose between it and another job. His decision to remain leading a church business has created an outpouring of fear and anger in the conservative punditry, and the social media commentariat.

Over and again disingenuous columnists in News Corp pages asserted that Thorburn was sacked for his “faith” or his membership of the church. Neither is true. Thorburn was offered the choice of which business he wanted to lead, as the two institutions, Essendon now felt, were incompatible.

Chris Kenny took the matter further raging that it is only Christians that are “fair game.” He asserts no conservative Muslim or Hindu would be treated in this way. The honest amongst us know that no conservative (or even liberal) Muslim or Hindu will be offered the position anytime soon. We also know that such a candidate with a leadership position at a conservative religious body would not be contemplated for an instant. The reason Essendon did not consider Thorburn’s other job an impediment is precisely because Christianity is dominant and taken for granted here.

Thorburn mourned that “my personal Christian faith is not tolerated or permitted in the public square.” This is incorrect. As he repeatedly pointed out, he manages to keep the less tolerant beliefs that his faith might dictate utterly private if he holds those views at all. It was the leadership role at a crusading church that provoked the temporary uproar and the choice he was given. Barney Zwartz inadvertently underscored this point. By asking why Dan Andrews can continue to lead Victoria as a Catholic if Thorburn could not lead Essendon, he illustrates what is clear to the rational: it is not the faith but the role that was in conflict.

The News Corp Dog Line howled over and over about how the hypocritical “priests of tolerance” were driving us into an almost Stalinist dystopia. Janet Albrechtson ludicrously thundered they would demand a “clean sweep of practising Catholics” from every institution. Kevin Donnelly sited the authoritarian left’s viciousness in their descent from the French Revolutionary Reign of Terror. Andrew Bolt declaimed that the “‘tolerance’ gestapo” and “‘diversity’ thugs” were damning Christians to Hell. Shannon Deery’s column repeats Victorian Opposition Leader, Matthew Guy, querying whether everyone would be banned from attending the services of their chosen faith. Operatic registers of imagined victimhood spilled over thousands of lines of print.

The ABC’s Ita Buttrose bemoaned that what had been a private matter – one’s faith – was now inescapably public. This is not, in general, the case. Leaders in Australian politics, business and social institutions are still mostly men, still mostly white, still mostly culturally Christian. Nobody comments on their church attendance or mere celebration of Christian festivals. The discussion about their faith arises when they are closely associated with a religious institution that would actively impinge on secular society and the rights of others.

Geraldine Doogue hosted a debate on the topic between the IPA Senior Fellow John Roskam and Dr Leslie Cannold. Roskam repeatedly dwelt on his frustration at liberals forcing social institutions and corporations to deal with politics.

The example that provoked one of these outbursts was telling. Doogue gave an example of some big American corporations choosing to pay for employees to travel to have an abortion because their resident state had banned the procedure. This offer might reflect that it is better economic sense for corporations to help employees end unwanted pregnancies, but it also underlines the crisis that Roskam reduces to “politics.”

Abortion is a life-or-death healthcare matter for those with the capacity to become pregnant. Around 800 people die each day from complications in pregnancy and childbirth, with 20 times as many seriously harmed. Some Republican-dominated American states have maternal mortality rates equivalent to the least safe nations. Doctors in Republican states are being recorded refusing to treat a failing pregnancy for fear of being arrested. Women in America have been monitored for menstrual cycles by “conservative” state officials to catch them pursuing a criminalised abortion. Pregnancy can also cripple an individual’s financial situation.

Access to abortion is not politics; bodily autonomy is at the core of our sense of self and wellbeing. The fact that a safe healthcare procedure has been made into a political weapon by men literally selecting the issue as the galvanising force of their Moral Majority political movement illustrates the manipulation. White supremacists and Men’s Rights activists both attend anti-abortion rallies because they know how effectively removing women’s bodily autonomy restricts women’s freedom and opportunities. It is not surprising that the same states banning abortion in America are beginning to talk about banning contraception. Without control of our reproductive functions, women and AFAB cannot be equal.

Anthony Segaert at Fairfax wrote of his pain at the Thorburn debacle. He knew he sounded foolish when he wrote he fears “could I be next?” He is indeed foolish. If an employee insists on expressing views in their workplace that make colleagues feel unsafe such as “Homosexuals are going to Hell,” they might indeed be censured, whatever their motivation. If they keep such beliefs to appropriate settings, nobody gives a damn.

For LGBTQI people, however, the fears are real. Neo Nazis conducted a protest with Nazi salutes at a park in Moonee Ponds in Melbourne recently. They were intimidating a youth Queer event, signalling their intent to bring the Christian Fascist terror from America to Australia, to drive LGBTQI people back into the closet (at least worst). The American politicians that share their beliefs are trying not only to reverse marriage equality but make homosexuality illegal. For LGBTQI Americans, the question is genuinely becoming “could I be next?”

After the marriage equality vote success, LGBTQI Australians spoke of the simple pleasure of being able to hold their partner’s hand in the street without feeling unwelcome or endangered.

Such trivial everyday actions are taken for granted by men such as Roskam. Other people’s life and death issues are just “identity politics” for them. The gains of the civil rights era and beyond impinge on their right to dictate hegemonic truths and that feels like an assault. Other people asking them to respect different lived experience is an imposition and threat.

A private faith can be succour and guidance, and a blessing. That kind of faith is not a matter for public discussion. It is a disingenuous tool of the culture war practitioners to cry foul, disguising a new more theocratic ideology as that “private faith.”

By preventing discussion of the religious and post-liberal right’s oppressive aims, they intend to muddy debate and allow the creeping threat to grow into the nightmarish situation so many Americans are facing.

We “others” exist, and we demand that our life and death struggles be considered without the usual suspects exploding into outraged expostulation that they are being forced to live in a diversity dystopia.


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Religion… What is it good for?

On the latest available research approximately 84% of the world’s population identify themselves as believing in, (or at least being affiliated with) one religion or another. Yet as the world reels in shock at the latest brutal fundamentalist attacks I find myself drawn to question whether or not the religions of the world, as self described moral arbiters, are now (or have ever been) truly fit for purpose?

From the crusades to the inquisition, from the burning of witches to the ritual sacrifice of children, from the institutional pedophilia of the catholic church to the slaughter of young girls for the “crime” of learning to read, there can be little argument that human history is replete with a litany of barbarous acts carried out in the name of religion.

jesus to jail

But what is it about religious faith that drives some people to embark on murderous repressive rampages against their fellow human beings? Is it their faith that actually drives them, or are they simply consumed by homicidal fantasies and religion conveniently allows them to cloak their dark desires in a veil of piety?


Jonestown massacre – suicide

If religions are, as they claim, providing the moral structure and framework under which human societies can and should live, then how exactly are we supposed to interpret, understand and deal with the actions of those who repress, brutalise and kill predicated on the belief that it will please their God, (and/or secure them some lavish reward in the afterlife)?

Seriously, what traits and characteristics can we reasonably attribute to an entity (divine or otherwise) that would engage in, or be delighted by such atrocities? Because to my mind merciful, benevolent, loving, and kind are not topping the list.



Admittedly these are not new questions, the ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus was posing such questions as far back as 300BC:

“Is God willing to prevent evil but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able, and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither willing nor able? Then why call him a god?” Epicurus

But with 84% of the human family still adhering to the idea of a sentient, all knowing, personality based deity these questions remain just as relevant today as they were two to three thousand years ago.

As there has never been any definitive earthy proof as to the existence or form of God, it could be argued that each of us is free, within the bounds of our chosen faith, to define God in accordance with our own preferences. Even within the confines of a particular faith’s scriptures there is a smorgasbord of choices from which we can construct our own personal versions of God.

As a Christian you are free to choose the angry, vengeful, jealous God of Deuteronomy or the loving God of John 4:16 or Galatians 5:22-23.

As a Muslim you could go with the God of Quran 2:191, “And kill them wherever you find them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out. And Al-Fitnah [disbelief] is worse than killing… or you could align your heart with the more moderate God of Quran 25:63: The worshipers of the All-Merciful are they who tread gently upon the earth, and when the ignorant address them, they reply, “Peace!”


I have never met two people who have the exact same idea of who or what God is, and thus it appears to me that regardless of brand affiliations, God is pretty much what ever we want God to be. Kind of like the Subway sandwich of spirituality, we can put whatever we want into our God, and leave out or ignore any bits that aren’t to our taste.

But surely, if we are to assign responsibility for determining our ethical structures and moral conduct to a God, (or a set of scriptures, or a particular religion), then we need to be very wary of being seduced by our own subjective desires and interpretations.

twin tower pencils

If we accept the premise that any God we hold is actually a mirror reflection of our own preferences and tendencies, then how can we possibly use such a God or religion to accurately determine what is right or wrong without being swayed by our own predilections?

The fact is we can’t. With or without God, when it comes to determining what we hold to be right or wrong we are fundamentally on our own! What Gods and religions do seem to do for us however, (if we chose to interpret things that way), is grant us a free license to perform actions that are clearly harmful to others, blame our victims, and envelop ourselves in a shroud of moral righteousness and respectability while we are about it. It’s like the ultimate get out of jail free card.

That said, the search for absolute truth has always been difficult, and there are very few things that can be readily accepted by all peoples as unquestionably true, but I have managed to find a few. For example:

1.Human beings can not live in an atmosphere of liquid methane.

2.Human beings are not fish.

3. If you stop breathing you will eventually die.

4. If you do not eat you will eventually die.

5. You will eventually die.

Admittedly these “truths” are not really all that helpful when one is seeking to define indisputable parameters for righteous moral conduct, but then again on all evidence neither is God or religion!

No matter what we believe we all must take responsibility for our actions. If we go forth into the world with the will to harm others, then we need to understand that we are ultimately acting out the violence, hatred and defilements of our own hearts and minds. God and religion have nothing to do with it!

religion war

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