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Weblog Archive 


May 5 - May 9, 2003


Friday 9th May, 2003

Going Where Many Christians Won’t

Richard Hall writes about how he spoke recently at an inter-faith meeting at the University of Swansea, together with a Muslim man and a Buddhist nun.


This is certainly a controversial area for Christians. According to a recent article on Beliefnet:



[A] survey of evangelical leaders found that 77% of the nation's 350 top evangelical leaders hold a negative view of Islam, and 70% believe it is a "religion of violence." In addition, only 17% said they believe Muslims and Christians pray to the same God. And despite President Bush's repeated statements since September 11, only 10% believe Islam is a "religion of peace."


That’s why meetings and dialogue are so important. We need lots, lots more, at all levels of the church. Good on you, Richard, for going where many Christians won’t.


I touched on this topic in my book, Living Water to Light the Journey, published a few years ago.


I wrote:


Australia’s Korean population is relatively small. Yet, along with many others in our fast-growing Asian community, they hold strong views on what they see as ethical indulgence in this country, and a breakdown in community structures for the raising of children. Due to courtesy or shyness, their views are seldom heard outside fairly restricted circles.


Yet it is exactly these kinds of voices that we need to hear speaking out loudly on the pressing ethical issues confronting Australia today: voices that emerge from a tradition of a deep understanding of the human condition and a firm belief in right and wrong.


It is not only Christian voices we need to hear. Much Christian ethical teaching is derived from Judaism, especially the wisdom literature of Jewish scripture which has been incorporated into the Christian Old Testament. Jewish religious teachers have always regarded it as vital to pass down their great moral teachings to the new generations. We also have a growing number of Muslim citizens, and the Islam religion, too, is rich in ethical teachings, along with its great traditions of culture, learning and art.


…It seems that in the West nowadays, for understandable historical reasons, many Jewish leaders prefer a low profile. Islamic leaders too mainly speak out publicly on issues directly related to their own people. I believe it would be a great service to Australia if leaders of all faiths could unite more often to provide moral guidance - based on the rich heritage of their respective teachings - on all the ethical issues troubling our society today.


God knows, we need it.


Speaking of my book Living Water to Light the Journey, it’s out-of-print, and last year I put it up here (rather quietly) on my website. Now that I’ve got my novel up as well, I’ve decided to promote it more. I worked hard on writing it, and it was commercially published but sold poorly. I can see now that’s it a bit disjointed, but I still think it has worthwhile things to say about our society.



“We’re Going to Screw You”

In 1974, I found myself working as a journalist on the Sunday Mercury newspaper in Birmingham, England’s second-largest city.


We worked Tuesday to Saturday, and until about Thursday we were always scratching around for ideas for stories. The problem was that Birmingham had its own morning and evening papers, which covered the region thoroughly, and as a big city it also had reporters from all the London national papers. There wasn’t much left for us.


Usually by Friday we were starting to panic at the lack of stories. And I suspect it’s no different now.


So today, Friday, in the interests of helping out some fellow journos, I’m giving you, free, this story:


Aussie Banker to Birmingham: “We’re Going to Screw You”


A director of the Australian fund that owns the Midlands Expressway - the Birmingham bypass – has declared his intention to gouge users.


Denis Eager is director of infrastructure investment for the expressway’s owner, Macquarie Infrastructure Group, part of Macquarie Bank.


According to an interview in The Australian newspaper:


“We can put up the tolls by whatever we like and, almost as importantly, we can start the tolls on day one by whatever we like,” said Mr Eager, confirming that Midlands is one of only three toll roads in the world with such a generous concession....


Mr Eager described the terms of the toll road as a result of the "age of free enterprise" when it was believed that a free road next to a tollway would keep tolls low.


However, he admitted: "The reality is that as the free road gets more and more congested, the toll road behaves more and more like a monopoly."


MIG believes the Midlands Expressway will be the last unregulated toll road in Britain. "Never again," Mr Eager said. "We won't see anything like this ever again."


After investing $450 million in the Midlands Expressway, MIG has earned a 75 per cent stake, which will increase to 100 per cent when the road opens in January next year.


"It sounds cheap, doesn't it?" Mr Eager said. "We've done well."

Last night MIG was expecting anger about the cost of the tolls – set to start at £3 ($7.50) for peak-hour use.


"If (motorists) don't complain about it being too high, then we won't have done our job," he said.


He also confirmed that MIG had advised local councils on how to avoid "rat runners" by closing lanes on the adjacent A5 motorway, effectively feeding more traffic on to the tollway. "Clearly we had our own interests at heart," he said.


-posted 3:20pm


Thursday 8th May, 2003


My novel, Prophets & Loss, a Christian thriller, is now up on the website. I know that not everyone wants to read a novel on their computers, but may I ask you to give it a go. Perhaps you won’t be able to drag yourself away.


Here’s the opening to the book:


Forgiveness is the most attractive of the virtues. Until you actually have someone to forgive.


When a young detective with bad breath and acne told Melissa Stonelea that her born-again Christian husband Grant had been found strangled in the bondage room of the city’s classiest brothel, his hands trussed with S & M leathers and a page of the Bible stuffed in his mouth, she didn’t need to hear any more of the pastor’s sermons on the healing powers of forgiveness and reconciliation.


She needed revenge.


Why put a novel on the internet?


Obviously, I’ve tried to get it commercially published. I sent it to some literary agents and publishers here in Australia, with no luck (even though I’m the author of a dozen published non-fiction books).


One publisher told me that local publishers aren’t interested in Christian fiction. So I sent a few chapters to some American agents, an expensive process. Most didn’t even reply. A few sent form-letter rejections.


I’m a professional writer, and I have confidence in my novel. I think it’s a good read. But getting a first novel published is hard.


Who knows - maybe placing it on my website will attract an overseas publisher or agent? It’s worth a try.


Please try reading it. And I’d love to hear your comments.


-posted 9:15am

Wednesday 7th May, 2003


Two-Way Bet

Is Australian Anglican Primate Peter Carnley, like Bill Bennett, a secret gambler? He certainly likes a two-way bet.


Last year he issued a press release blaming the Bali bombing on Australian government support for America. Later he issued another press release denying that he’d ever blamed the Australian government.


Now he’s at it again.


He’s piled into the controversy over Governor General (and former Anglican Archbishop) Peter Hollingworth, firstly sticking in the knife, but then insisting he does not wish to offer an opinion -


Dr Carnley says the Prime Minister and the Governor General should resolve the matter quickly because it is hurting the church.


"The negative publicity that's continued is not very helpful for the church," he said.


Dr Carnley says he is only prepared to offer his opinion if Dr Hollingworth asks for his advice.


When will the church realise that silly statements by its leaders are also far from helpful?

-posted 9:50am

Monday 5th May, 2003


The Largest Brothel in the Southern Hemisphere Goes Public

For half-a-dozen years my publisher’s office was in Horne Street, Elsternwick, in Melbourne’s south. Just three doors away was a large, bland concrete building that could have been a warehouse. It was, in fact, the Daily Planet, the largest brothel in the Southern Hemisphere.


My publisher would joke, when I visited him, that he hoped my mother-in-law didn’t spot my car parked outside.


Because I usually visited my publisher for lunch, there wasn’t a lot of brothel traffic. Only occasionally would I see carloads of men wandering in or out.


Now the Daily Planet is in the news. It has just listed on the Australian Stock Exchange, apparently the first bordello in the world to go public. There was an appearance by Heidi Fleiss at the stock exchange building, and the shares are soaring. The media response is predictable.


In a few days I hope to have my novel up on this website. One of the themes is Melbourne’s legal brothels. The main character, private investigator Johnny Ravine, is trying to unravel the mystery of the brutal death of a born-again Christian, Grant Stonelea, in a leading Melbourne brothel.


Here’s Johnny:


I reflected on the brilliance of the local state government. It had concocted an amazing solution to the perpetual riddle of human sinfulness: abolish it. With brothels in the state legal, prostitutes were no longer fallen women. The Baptists and the Salvos were out of a job. Prostitution became another career option.


And yet, somehow, it was not an option that career advisers placed before teenage girls, or one that parents cared to recommend to their daughters.


I recalled one of the pastor’s sermons. “Take a bully who’s trying to ride roughshod over you. If you do the same to him he’ll start screaming blue murder about what’s right and wrong. He knows the difference. He’s got a conscience, that’s why. He may not display it in his actions, but in his heart he knows. God has given everyone a conscience. In their hearts people know what’s right and what’s wrong.”


I hope I might have whetted your taste for my novel. It’s coming soon.


-posted 11:25am