May 20 - May 22, 2002
Wednesday 22nd May, 2002
Can Anyone Help...?
I have received an email from a lady whose husband died two weeks ago (I
presume she contacted me because I'm listed in the latest Internet for
Christians newsletter). She asks if I know "a grief website and/or
newsletter, from a Christian perspective". I don't. Can anyone help?
Papua New Guinea AIDS Crisis
On May 16 I posted a
report (scroll down) on findings that Papua New Guinea faces an Africa-style
AIDS crisis, despite allegedly being one of the most Christian countries on
earth. Hoping to initiate some discussion, I asked what on earth was going
Roy Jacobsen has some interesting
so does Ted
Esler. Check them both out.
Crikey, He’s A Christian
There’s a kind of unspoken rule about life
in Australia that no-one really minds if you’re a Christian, so long as you
don’t talk about it too much. The media here always enjoy lampooning
Americans like President Bush who speak so publicly of their faith. The
result is that Christians here are usually quick to tell the world – if
challenged – that their religion is a private matter, and not especially
relevant in their job or their dealings with the world.
Now a well-known television reporter seems
to have broken the rule, by discussing the impact of his faith on his work,
in an interview (not yet available online) with
The Catholic Leader in Brisbane.
He’s quickly been outed, by a Brisbane
journalist, who has contacted Stephen Mayne of the
Crikey website. Here’s what the journalist wrote, according to this
morning’s Crikey newsletter (available only to subscribers; click
here to subscribe):
Hi, I thought you might be interested in a feature in The Catholic Leader,
the Brisbane archdiocese's newspaper. There is a lengthy feature on Channel
10's Paul Bongiorno written by Fr Michael McGirr.
(You probably knew this already but Bongiorno was a Catholic priest from
1970 - 1974.)
How does his faith impact on his reporting?
"I'd like to say that I bring a Christian humanist perspective to what I
report, no matter what it is. I think that's important. You only have to
read the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World which came
out of Vatican II to see how deeply that approach runs in the Church's
veins. Or even Vatican II's decree on the media. They urge us to look openly
at any issue and find what is good in it and what is true."
And further on: "I still see the Church has a tremendous capacity to exert
influence for fundamental values. I often see that in my job."
You might be able to make something of it.
Crikey! A former Catholic priest who finds
his faith still has an impact on his work! (Note the unspoken assumption
that this needs to be exposed.) Will Crikey make something of it? I doubt
it, but stay tuned.
Starving in Australia
They’re among Australia’s
poorest people. The kids are malnourished and hungry. The adults spend
all day gambling. Australia’s shame, our Aboriginal health crisis,
Tuesday 21st May, 2002
Evangelical Internationalists –
Reshaping the World
A broad new trend is beginning to reshape
American foreign policy, according to
Nicholas Kristof in today’s New York Times: America's
evangelicals have become the newest internationalists.
In fact, with their emphasis on mission,
evangelicals have always been internationalists. For many decades Sunday
School kids have learned how their pennies can save lives – in this world
and for the next – for the poorest of the poor around the world.
What is claimed to be new is that American
evangelicals are no longer simply giving pennies. Now they’re pressuring
their government to initiate policies in support of, say, international
religious freedom, and against sex slavery, and to give more money for, say,
AIDS relief in Africa. Actually, I imagine they’ve been doing this for a
while. What’s new, possibly, is that with an evangelical-friendly
administration in power they’re realising some success.
The article seems confused when it
suggests that evangelicals have switched to internationalism because they
found their culture-war policies divided people. That doesn’t make sense. It
seems equally silly to suggest that a measure of increasing evangelical
influence is the sale of the “Left Behind” novels at a United Nations
newsstand. Those books are huge best-sellers. That’s what newsstands do –
they sell best-sellers.
But it’s nice to read the following:
Evangelicals are among the most generous donors….The 15 biggest Christian
charities monitored by
Ministrywatch.com collect more than $3 billion a year. Even small
evangelical funds are booming;
World Relief, with 9,000 employees, says its $40 million budget has
doubled in four years.
I've lost my cynicism about evangelical groups partly because I've seen them
at work abroad. Earlier this year, for example, I visited the Philippine
island of Basilan, home base of the Abu Sayyaf rebel group. Aid groups have
mostly pulled out because of killings and kidnappings, but I found one still
busy providing food and medicine even in the most dangerous areas. It's the
Christian Children's Fund.
various reasons for starting this website. Certainly one of those
reasons was to highlight areas around the world where Christians are
sometimes suffering, such as in Indonesia and North Korea and China. Others
are doing the same. It seems part of a movement of God.
And now the New York Times has
written favourably about evangelicals.
God is at work.
Gullible Journalists Abandon the
Once again lazy journalists are failing to
carry out their responsibilities in the stem cell debate. Angela Shanahan
Beguiled by a passion for heart-wrenching stories, members of the media have
become gullible spokesmen for the people set to make the money, replacing in
the public mind the yuk-factor attached to destroying embryos with the
bedazzling prospect of Superman walking, or some mite cured of diabetes.
[Senator] Boswell put it like this [in a recent speech]: "Imagine debating a
bill that could make a select group millionaires but not identifying who
those people might be or ascertaining whether it is just that they so
profit. Imagine if the potential millionaires were the primary source of
information on the issue and no one knew of their vested interest."
Internet for Christians
Thank you to the
Internet for Christians newsletter for featuring this site in their May
20 edition. The newsletter also, as usual, contains links to a ton of other
online Christian resources.
Esler Fried weblog (still don’t quite get the significance of that name)
is one of the most interesting of the rush of new Christian blogs, and not
just because Ted is so complimentary about me. Right now he’s engaged in a
stimulating analysis of the book
A New Kind of Christian, and I can see the makings here of an Andrew
online book club for Christians, with interaction between blogger,
writer and readers. But it would need quite a critical mass of reader
support to make it work.
Ted says I need to add a comments function
to my site. I must say that I never read the comments section of other
bloggers’ sites, and never send in comments to them, either. If I want to
say something I send the blogger an email. But I guess it’s something to
In 1998 and 1999 members of the
Rainbow Sash gay rights movement invited the media to watch Catholic
Archbishop Dr George Pell refuse them communion in Melbourne. Dr Pell has
now moved, and last Sunday
movement members invited the media to watch him
refusing them communion in Sydney.
They don’t have Anglicans in Sydney. They
have Sydney Anglicans. They’re a breed apart, stalwarts, preservers of the
faith, or at least that’s how it sometimes appears to anyone outside that
city who takes an interest in these things.
The Tablet in Britain has
taken an interest, and is disturbed that the “hardline” Anglican archbishop
of the city, Dr Peter Jensen, is not alone:
The Anglican evangelicals of Sydney are in a category of their own. The
city’s archbishop sees himself as upholding the true Puritan tradition. And
he has now found something of an ally in his Catholic counterpart….
Hardline churchmen are two a penny. This is not the first example of the
curious, and curiously distasteful, resemblance between extreme evangelicals
and traditionalist Catholics. There is a striking affinity between the two
camps in their hatred of liberalism, and their unyielding and often
self-gratifying definition of the kind of doctrines that exclude and divide.
But do they have to use history as an excuse?
Dr Jensen says that he suspects that, as a child, he belonged to perhaps the
only family in Australia that used to argue about the relative merits of
Charles I and Oliver Cromwell. His father would defend the royalist view
against the more parliamentarian sympathies of his two sons. History like
this does indeed lend itself well to family squabbles, and there are
squabbles now within the larger families of Sydney’s two respective
Monday 20th May, 2002
Not Trusting God Much, Either
More thoughts on why Australia seems
immune to the “European virus” of extremist ideologies and political
assassination, from Sydney Morning Herald commentator
The curse of dogma has touched Australia only lightly and thus the curse of
political instability has passed us by. We have never been afflicted with
the extremes of corporatism or communism or any of the isms in between. We
don't trust God much, either. Australia's place as one of the world's most
durable, stable, prosperous and open democracies has been built by the
victory of pragmatism over ideology.
It’s worth repeating my comment of two
weeks ago, when commentator Gerard Henderson expressed similar sentiments.
My wife and I often bemoan the weakness of Sunday worship in this
country—the lack of passion or real joy, the utterly sensible approach to it
all. And then we look at countries where people do get passionate about
their religion—Northern Ireland, the former Yugoslavia, the Middle East—and
we have to think that Australia really is the Lucky Country.
Happy, Useful, Meaning, Life
The Dalai Lama spoke in Melbourne last
night to a packed tennis arena.
The Age was there:
There certainly was something vaguely ironic about the Dalai Lama's theme,
Happiness in a Material World. Money does not necessarily buy happiness, but
it did get you some Dalai merchandise yesterday. Dalai Lama Tour 2002
T-shirt? $25, thanks. Coffee mug? That'll be $20. Fleecy beanie? Also $20.
Feeling more benevolent towards Buddhism? Take the fleecy vest for $50, and
help cover the costs of the tour.
The Dalai Lama attracted the most stratified cross-section of the Melbourne
population since the post-September 11 memorial service. Dreadlocks lined up
next to expensive overcoats and robed adherents of the spiritual contingent
mingled easily with seculars in slacks and cardigans.
Meanwhile, the material world was functioning well, if the vendors' queues
were any indication. It was an entirely multicultural experience to watch
people lining up for cappuccinos as they waited to greet a wise old man from
From Australia, the Dalai Lama heads to
New Zealand, where the organising committee is
selling for NZ$30 a T-shirt with the religious slogan, “Happy, Useful,