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Weblog Archive 

 

May 3 - May 5, 2002

 

 

Sunday 5th May, 2002

 

Shhh – Don’t Disturb the Christians

Keep it very, very quiet, but those Mayday protestors demonstrating against McDonald’s, Nike and other symbols of US-led globalisation have picked the wrong target. If you want to see some local retailers where American hegemony reigns supreme, just check out our evangelical bookstores.

 

I went yesterday to the nearby Word bookstore. There, as usual, I saw shelf after shelf after shelf laden with the latest US priorities — a large display of Prayer of Jabez merchandise, huge numbers of Left Behind books, Max Lucado books, volumes on the end times and creation science and the evils of Harry Potter, Charles Swindoll books, John C. Maxwell Christian success books, Amy Grant CDs, Christian diet books, Gaither Gospel Series CDs and videos, and much, much more.

 

Virtually all from America.

 

Of course there are plenty of other stores in Australia packed with imported goods. What about the Disney stores or the Warner Brothers stores (not to mention the Nike stores)?

 

Yes, they’re selling US brand merchandise, but most of it is made in various Asian nations, boosting the economies of those countries and providing people with much-needed employment opportunities. By contrast, most of the books and CDs and videos at Word and Koorong are printed and manufactured in America and imported from there, directly boosting the US economy. (I’m not necessarily critical. I’m pretty pro-American.)

 

There are some Australian products. There are local books, but only a few of them are displayed in any great quantity. There are also locally printed versions of popular American books. But they are swamped by American-sourced product. Only the big display of Hillsong worship CDs provides much competition. Indeed, I would challenge anyone to find a chain of stores in Australia with a higher proportion of its merchandise that’s US-made than our evangelical bookstores.

 

But wait, there are some products made in Asia. For example, there’s the Prayer of Jabez mug. And the “Let Us Fix Our Eyes” walnut cross with silver metal insert. And the Jabez notepad with magnet. And the “I Am the Vine, You Are the Branches” wall hanging. And the Jabez prayer journal.

 

They’re all made in China.

 

China, of course, is a country that is ruthless in its repression of unsanctioned Christian groups, with mass arrests, torture and execution the official policy.

 

But keep it very, very quiet.

 

Mustn’t disturb local Christians.

 

-posted 7:50pm

 

 

"As for the [Sept. 11] Tragedy, We Can't Prove That Muslims Did It"

Thomas Friedman listens to the future in Indonesia and it sounds disturbingly like the present in the Middle East.

 

-posted 2.35pm

 

 

Doctors Just Wanna Say Sorry

Most doctors would like to be able to admit mistakes, and behave as if they are human beings who don't have all the answers. Concern that they are accepting legal liability often prevents them.

 

Perhaps many doctors act like gods because we, as patients, treat them like gods. But in recent years, I think an increasing number of doctors - even surgeons, often the most maligned for their aloofness - have been prepared to reduce professional distance and reveal their humanity and "ordinariness".

 

-posted 11:50am

 

 

A Good Start

Indonesian police have arrested the head of Laskar Jihad, which has been inciting violence against Christians in the Maluku region.

 

 

Spiritual Revival

With the Dalai Lama due soon for his fourth tour of Australia, today’s Sunday Age reports again on the huge growth in Buddhism in this country.

 

The number of Australian Buddhists is believed to have increased by more than 70,000 to at least 210,000 in the past decade. The last census showed there were 2.5 times as many Buddhists as Jews in Australia, and nearly as many Buddhists as Muslims.

 

The paper interviews a local Anglican who switched to Buddhism, and implies that many other Australians are doing the same.

 

I doubt that. Most of the growth comes from the sudden surge in Asian migration to Australia during the past 15 years.

 

The real story—one that has not been picked up by the local media, which relentlessly ignores all Christian good news stories—is the amazing number of Asian migrants who are joining the church. This is real spiritual revival.

 

 

Dalai Lama, Superstar

Ticket prices for upcoming shows in Sydney and Melbourne:

 

Disney on Ice - $20.80-$49.20

Hot Shoe Shuffle musical - $48.85-$58.85

Branford Marsalis - $60

Investing & Getting Rich, with Robert Kiyosaki - $71.70

Man of La Mancha musical - $72.50-$82.50

Diana Krall - $83.65

Dalai Lama Tribute Concert - $78-$138

 

-posted 8:40am

 

 

Saturday 4th May, 2002

 

Anglican Media Melbourne - "Bias Continues"
Melbourne's Anglican Church places news reports from around the world on its website. Why do those about the Mideast conflict seem so biased against Israel? In my latest article I present my findings.

 

-posted 8:55pm

 

 

Wow, It’s Going To Be Quite a Mass

Headline from the online edition of Saturday’s Washington Post:

 

Rev. Shanley Will Stand Trial in Mass.

 

 

Compaq Computer – 1 cent

Compaq Australia has sent urgent emails to customers:

 

Unfortunately, due to a system error, certain Presario notebooks were posted to our Web Store last night (May 2) for a price of $0.01 instead of their usual sell prices of $2,799 or $3,999.

 

The company is refusing to honour contracts for $14 million worth of computers that were bought for less than $40.

 

-posted 4:35pm

 

 

Christian Bloglist

The list of Christian weblogs has swelled by one. I realised I had omitted the popular Christianity Today blog.

 

-posted 1:55pm

 

 

“To be degraded with one's full permission is still—well, degrading”

It’s scary the stuff you know without even wanting to know it. Partly it’s a consequence of spending so much time on the internet. But how come I knew so much about the first series of the Big Brother TV programme, without ever watching? (Last night I watched 20 minutes of the latest series, and was amazed at the tedium of it.) Now I find myself knowing a lot about an American reality dating show The Bachelor, even though it hasn’t been screened here on Australian TV.

 

Gina Dalfonzo has a comment on it

 

It may seem likely that cultural garbage will never go away, but without people willing to point out that it is garbage and needs to stop, the likelihood becomes certainty. Shame isn't dead—yet. But the day that not one person can be found to say, "In the name of Christ, forbear," it will be.

 

-posted 9:20am

 

 

Friday 3rd May, 2002

 

How a Stamp-Collecting, Church-Going, Teetotal Suburban Solicitor Got Me into Blogging

I was hoping that the Good Weekend cover story on Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock would go up on the website of The Age or the Sydney Morning Herald, but it hasn’t. Never mind. I can still comment on it.

 

With the sub-title, “How a stamp-collecting, church-going, teetotal suburban solicitor became one of the most controversial ministers we’ve ever had”, it attempts to explain how this seemingly gentle and compassionate Christian man could preside over what many (including myself) believe to be cruel and heartless policies towards refugees.

 

It is not just that the policies themselves—locking children in detention centres for years, refusing to allow refugees in leaky boats fleeing oppressive Middle Eastern regimes entry to Australia for processing—have been cruel. But Ruddock himself has been a crucial part of a sneaky campaign of lies and misinformation, along with the demonisation of the refugees.

 

The article, spread over six pages, doesn’t really manage to explain all the contradictions of the man, and I’m not about to try. I’m writing this commentary because it was partly due to Philip Ruddock—a Christian, as is the Prime Minister John Howard—that I started this blog.

 

When the Tampa crisis erupted last year—a Norwegian freighter had picked up hundreds of refugees trying to reach Australia and whose boat was sinking, leading to a major Australian military operation to stop the freighter from entering Australian waters—I was appalled at the policies of our government.

 

As a Christian I thought Jesus had commanded us, in the story of the Good Samaritan and elsewhere, to help the stranger in trouble. For the first time in my life I wrote a letter to my Member of Parliament.

 

My MP, Kevin Andrews, is a prominent Christian. He led the fight to overturn the legalisation of euthanasia in the Northern Territory. I appealed to him as a Christian to take a stand against the Government’s policies. The reply I got was bland in the extreme, noting my concern and telling me what the Government was doing.

 

I found it hard to believe that so many Christians supported—often with enthusiasm—policies that demonised refugees, that refused them entry to Australia (that is, refused them entry to Australia just for processing; if they turned out not to be true refugees then of course I believed we had the right to send them home again), or that locked them up, sometimes for years, in outback detention centres.

 

For example, the leader of Australia’s Christian Democratic Party, Reverend Fred Niles, issued a disgusting statement on the refugees, a statement that I feel is tinged with hatred.

 

A leader of the Salt Shakers Christian ethics group wrote sarcastic letters to the press against the refugees and against those Christians who supported their cause.

 

I kept wondering.

 

How can parts of Australian Christianity maintain a huge infrastructure of high-fee private schools that may once have provided the masses with an opportunity for a Christian education but which now exist mainly to help the elite of this country—and increasingly, the elite of Asia—get into the best universities?

 

How can parts of Australian Christianity support chains of large bookstores that lavishly promote the latest American fashions—Prayer of Jabez merchandise and books on the evils of Harry Potter—but where you struggle to find information on the suffering Christians of the world?

 

Why do so few Australian Christians seem to care that Jihad is occurring against brother and sister Christians, just across the waters in Indonesia?

 

Why are so few Australian Christians excited beyond words about the revival taking place in the Chinese church and the huge growth in Chinese congregations in Australia?

 

I wondered what had happened to the message of Jesus.

 

So I started this website.

 

-posted 4:55pm

 

 

Jihad

Jihad isn’t occurring only in the Middle East, says the Wall Street Journal, which looks again at Indonesia.

 

-posted 4:35pm

 

 

Christian Bloglist

The list of Christian blogs has edged up to 120. I could be dreadfully wrong, but unless I get another mention on InstaPundit or somewhere similar it’s probably not going to grow too much bigger. The point now is what to do with it. I’m hoping to write thumbnail reviews of as many of the sites as possible, to be included in the list. But even if I can manage two or three reviews a day, it’ll still take a couple of months to get through them all. Stay tuned.

 

-posted 10:50am

 

 

Purely Genocidal

Christianity Today reports that Christian leaders have issued a Statement of Conscience, accusing North Korea and the Sudan of massive human rights violations.

 

The torment "suffered by faith communities of Sudan and North Korea may be more brutal, more systematic, more deliberate, more implacable and more purely genocidal than those taking place anywhere in the world today," according to the statement….

 

Norbert Vollertsen, who as a visiting physician has documented numerous North Korean abuses [see yesterday’s post, below], told those in attendance that the country's regime is an updated composite of the world's worst dictators. The government of Kim Jong-il views Christianity as the worst kind of subversion of the communist state, he said. Missionary pastor Tim Peters, who has helped run an underground railway through which North Koreans escape the country, added: "The fury with which North Korea meets Christianity is hard for us [in the West] to understand."

 

-posted 8:55am