I just read this article in the Age (thanks for the tip off Cheryl). From the article:
Asked in a new book about his community role, Mr Harvey said giving to people who “are not putting anything back into the community” is like “helping a whole heap of no-hopers to survive for no good reason”
“He said it was arguable that giving charity to the homeless was “just wasted”. “It might be a callous way of putting it but what are they doing?” he said. “They are just a drag on the whole community.”
This statement could only come from someone someone who has never known what it is to struggle. And someone who is totally ignorant of the issues that result in homelessness. Nothing like the billionaire armchair perspective on society’s most vulnerable. If someone’s intrinsic value is only based on what he or she can put in to the community, we can all be written off at one stage or another of our lives. Yes Harvey, it was callous. Not to mention Darwinian. And your stores won’t be getting another cent from me.
I have had a frantic day today spent madly packing. Tomorrow we are leaving for a family holiday – a road trip to Adelaide, followed by a flight to Alice Springs. We will be camping along the way in a teeny tiny hiking tent. Murray-Sunset National Park is sure to be a highlight, and I hope to get some great desert photos there. Getting ready to go away is always painful.
I have been a bit quiet here, partially because I have started another blog (related to my job, which, I am excited to say, had 145 hits on one day after being up less than a month). I guess I have also posted less because I er, haven’t had much to say. As is abundantly clear from this post thus far. I hate writing without a bit of fire in my belly about something.
However, there is one thing bugging me at the moment. I have put off writing waiting to see how it pans out. For those of you who read my blog and live outside Australia, I apologise for the ‘localized’ flavour of my next few thoughts.
I feel stirred up about the recent legislation passed concerning the Northern Territory. I spoke to an Aboriginal friend of mine tonight, and her grief runs deeply. After all these years, countless stories of sorrow and horror, ‘white’ Australia is again enacting to ‘protect’ the aboriginals by taking control of their land, their children, and their right to administer their own communities. And it is all packaged neatly in an emotional box labeled ‘abuse’. I do not doubt there is abuse of children in Aboriginal communities. Just as children are abused in Melbourne. In Canberra. Where-ever there are people, there are children being abused. And I do not question the need for our country to protect its most vulnerable citizens. But I can’t imagine children in suburbs like Kew or Croydon being forcibly checked for abuse under threat of taking control of resources of the family. It wouldn’t .happen. But it is happening to those counted among “the least of these” in our country. Those with the smallest voice, the least economic and social power. For how long will we repeat the mistakes of our past? When will the plundering cease?
I am someone notorious for lateness. Late arrivals, late returns of books, dvds. I have been fined many a time, and in the past avoided the library for years for fear of the fines that awaited me. Currently (thanks to a name change) I am in the clear. The library chute was my friend, providing a faceless opportunity to return that book that had graced my shelves for a year or so, with accumulated fines that could have bought the book two or three times over. So I am all for chutes. But for babies?
Let me explain. I read the paper today accompanied by an excellent latte at my favorite cafe in Belgrave, Earthly Pleasures. Today’s paper seemed littered with stories about unwanted children. In Perth a dead baby was found in a plastic bag, in a handbag, at the tip. I feel horrified even typing out these words. They are real, the picture devastating, but true. A couple of articles later, a five year old boy murdered by his substance addicted father. A few pages more I learned that in Germany and Italy, hospitals now have chutes for unwanted babies. They provide an opportunity for mothers to safely and discreetly deposit their unwanted babies. This saddens me greatly. Not that Germany has taken this initiative, for surely it is a better alternative than the fate of the little baby boy from Perth, but why is such a thing necessary? How can our ‘advanced’ western society have broken down to such an extent that a mother unable to care for her baby has no option but to “dispose” of the infant? I understand that there are many reasons that may lead a woman to make such a decision, and it is tragic, for both mother and baby. But even more lamentable is a society that can be so disconnected that a tiny boy can be thrown out in the garbage with no-one knowing, and no-one offering an alternative to support the mother, either in keeping or relinquishment, or caring for her if the boy was stillborn. When the church engages with the issues of mothers and unwanted babies, too often the focus is restricted to strong stands against abortion. The church (once again) is noted more for what it is against in this issue, rather than being part of the answers to the social/political/economic/psychological issues that lead to unwanted pregnancies, unwanted babies, and the need for chutes.
On my way home from work today I listened to Triple J’s ‘Hack’ , and heard an interview with an American about survival schools and torture. The aim of the survival schools is to equip specialized troops to cope with torture by torturing them, thus reducing fear of the unknown. His comments on torture laws in America shocked me. Torture is defined as the intent to cause someone grievous harm, and if mental, must cause prolonged harm. The issue is the word “intent”. If the intent is to obtain information, it is not considered torture in an illegal sense. I find that disturbing. How far can one degrade and deeply abuse another before the legal system comes to the defense of the victim? The attitudes underlying decrees such as this shed ominous light on the recent declaration by David Hicks that he was not tortured while in Guantanamo Bay. Is his comment a true reflection of his treatment, or merely in line with the US definition? It is hard to believe that a Christian nation can justify torture of God’s own reflected image in the name of information gathering.
I found this article about a new Bible translation hailing from the Netherlands (thanks to a post from from Backyard Missionary). The Western Bible. Holier than swiss cheese, the Dutch have boldly gone where no-one has dared go before – at least in print. Don’t want to give your goods to the poor? Do you feel that dying to self is a useless construct drowned out by the western mantra where the most important person in the world is YOU? Get your hands on the Western Bible. The thoughtful translators have saved us the effort of ignoring or trying to rationalise these difficult passages by simply leaving them out. Chunks of the beautitudes, ten commandments, proverbs, anything to do with justice or selfless living has got the axe. Jesus obviously didn’t study economics, according to De Rijke. The rationale? “We don’t use them anyway”. Ouch. Interesting that these passages have to be removed from the bible before we sit up and take notice, and that would appear to be the point of the whole exercise. You can read more here. Here’s the challenge – what bible do we live by?
My posts on morality have sparked the most conversation I have had on this blog so far, and I can’t resist having a final word or two. Morality. It seems to be the issue that drives and divides Christian politics, and self-righteous Christians everywhere. I have high moral standards for myself. As much as I possibly can, I strive to do what is right – not just for me (as in if it feels good do it), but what I believe to be right as a Christian. However, I would like to add that morals upheld by Christianity are not exclusively found amongst Christians. They are represented in various ways across all societies and cultures, perhaps as a marker of how we are all created in God’s image, and all of us reflect this in some way. Back to the point: I work on and value my “personal” morality. I am growing in my awareness of what it means personally to practice “public” morality. I think there is a distinction, and it is not necessarily best reflected in the areas of legislation that typically dominate the Christian political landscape that have already been discussed on this blog. Morality is about right and wrong conduct – constructs that are very much shaped by our underlying value systems. Christians seem proficient on advocating for personal morality, but how do we fare on public morality? By public morality I mean “right and wrong” on a societal level. Do we fight for equality? Freedom from poverty, oppression, exploitation? How loudly are our voices heard crying out for justice? Does our justice roll on like a river (Amos 5:24)? Chapter 5 has a lot to say about trampling of the poor, injustice. God speaks out that he hates the religious feasts (I reckon this could relate to Sunday church in our context) etc (verse 21), but wants to see justice and righteousness. For those of us who have a political voice, let justice be our cry. Let our actions be likewise. Let us be slow to speak in judgement over others, but quick to stand up for those who our society considers least.
Much of the thread that I commented on yesterday focuses on “pro-life”, with abortion standing out as a significant issue. One person made a comment that I think should both encourage and sober anyone who professes to hold a view on this topic. The commentor writes the following:
“If you are on this comments list and you are vehemently pro-life… kudos to you… but if you do not participate in one or more of the following: adoption, foster care, helping provide babysitting for low income families and single parents… helping out pregnant teens… than frankly, your opinion is just that: an opinion. How many opinions did Jesus have without actions?”
You can read the rest of her response here. Where is the church (as in you and me) in this? Do we hold opinions and opinions alone? Where is the action?
Please don’t interpret my title here to mean that I am opposed to morality. I am not. However, I do object to Christian meddlings in politics seeing morality as the beginning and end to the Christian response to what is wrong in our society. Not even morality in the broader sense of what is right or wrong, but generally fixated (a nice Freudian term) on sexual matters and unborn babies. This fixation elevates one area of human conduct above others whilst ignoring the richness of human conduct that the term should encompass. This is certainly the case in Australia. If as a Christian, I want to vote for a political party that professes to believe in Jesus, I have no choice other than to vote according to this blinkered view of morality. Surely as Christians we have something deeper, more holistic, and hopefully Christlike, to bring to the political arena.
I have been watching a blog called God’s politics, and noticed today that Brian Mclaren has joined in the debate with a conversation on values voters should consider. You can read it in full here.
In summary, Brian identifies stewardship of the earth, justice for the poor, and reconciliation with “God and neighbour and enemy”. The last is a pertinent sticking point for our society at the moment with its manic fear of terrorism and demonisation of people defined as “other”.
I don’t hear Australia’s most recent Christian party to gain recognition (Families First) going anywhere near these issues. It seems that they are still stuck in “the bedroom”, so to speak. Where are the Christians speaking out about loving our enemies? Feeding the poor? Responsible tending of the earth so that those who come after us have a fighting chance?
l live and work in the outer eastern suburbs of Melbourne. A number of Sudanese refugee families have moved into the area near my work. l have not had opportunity to chat with them. lt is wonderful to see them in the midst of an otherwise fairly homogenous community. While on a lunch break l noticed a beautiful girl sitting alone on the bench. She wore a blue t-shirt with the following words in black – ”NO PICTURES PLEASE.” I felt saddened that these people who carry themselves with incredible dignity need to ward off locals snapping their pictures as though they were exotic exhibits. We are not very good at relating to people who we perceive as different to us. We pull away, or act like facinated (but wary) tourists. Sadly, even in the church.
I went to work early this morning so I could stop at the local coffee shop to read the paper. I found another article about a man who was deported because of mental illness, drug addiction, and associated criminal activities. Another man homeless and becoming increasingly unwell. Another decision to terminate citizenship because of issues in the "too hard basket". Interestingly, it was a decision that went against the immigration board recommendations. When will it end? We need to start dealing with the cause of societal problems, and not just simply ban problematic individuals from our country. The recent shameful events at Cronulla provide ample evidence of our need as Australians to address simmering racial tensions. I am astounded that Howard can boldly declare that we don't have racism in Australia. I did not intend this to be a political blog, but we seem to be galloping from one instance of injustice to another at the moment.