Category Archives: Current Events

Sanctuary—Christendom Again? Some Reflections

Last week church leaders all over Australia began to offer sanctuary in their church buildings to 267 people seeking asylum whom the government is planning to deport to the detention centre on Nauru. The offers have increased in number over the weekend, and it is now approaching 50 congregations involved.

One blogger suggested this offer was, “Invoking a practice from the Middle Ages during the height of Christendom.” His comment reflects numerous criticisms that have appeared on social media. So, is the Christian invocation of sanctuary an appeal to a dying age of Christendom?

I don’t take these critiques lightly—after all, I am an Anabaptist. But critiquing particular acts of churches and Christians as being rooted in Christendom is fraught with difficulty. “Christendom” is a complex reality, denoting multiple dimensions of a lengthy historical situation. It can simply refer to those lands in which Christianity was dominant from Constantine, through the Medieval period, up until the present day. It might also refer to those arrangements between the church and state during this period that bestowed on the church a privileged status in society.

Is sanctuary a product of this latter definition of Christendom simply because it arose during the height of Christendom? Read the rest of this entry

budgetary nihilism: a response to the deferral of foreign aid

Courtesy of the ABC: http://www.abc.net.au/reslib/201305/r1115368_13599551.jpg

Yesterday I was privileged enough to have an article of mine appear on the ABC Religion and Ethics website.

The article is entitled Budgetary nihilism: Deferring foreign aid signals a distorted moral vision. It discusses the recent budgetary decision to defer Australia’s foreign aid commitments under the Millennium Development Goals to 2017–18.

[In this decision to defer our foreign aid commitments] there is, it seems to me, no clearer indication of the nihilism that now permeates politics, for what other than political nihilism could account for the moral obstinacy of diverting foreign aid to help cover a perceived budgetary shortfall? The obscenity of this decision is only compounded when one realises that this shortfall is itself a product of the irrational rhetoric and shameless opportunism of political parties scrambling to annihilate one another and appease a shrill and self-interested minority.

On top of all this, there is the inescapable irony that Prime Minister Julia Gillard recently assumed the role of co-chair of the UN Millennium Development Goal Advocacy Group, charged with “building political will, rallying additional support, and spurring collective action to achieve the [Millenium Development Goals] by 2015.” It is unclear how a leader of our country can do this with any integrity or credibility, given the immorality of one of the world’s most prosperous countries diverting promised money away from programs for the world’s most vulnerable people.

The piece goes on to discuss an approach to the underlying ethics of foreign aid, particularly from a Christian perspective.

The article was also discussed on ABC’s Radio National Drive program (in which I am referred to as a “fiery … obscure PhD student”, which made me laugh).

The article on ABC R&E is largely an updated version of my essay from this time last year (also in response to aid deferrals in the budget) entitled Foreign aid and moral vision.

Enjoy!

MCA

Feature image: http://www.abc.net.au/news/linkableblob/4689470/data/swan-gears-up-for-budget-data.jpg
Small image: http://www.abc.net.au/reslib/201305/r1115368_13599551.jpg

the polluted sexuality of conquering: a response to the gospel coalition

This is old news now, and I hate to be jumping on the bandwagon, but here it is anyway…

Jared Wilson’s post over at the Gospel Coalition entitled The Polluted Waters of 50 Shades of Grey, Etc. has received a lot of attention. In the post, an apparent response to the new-book-on-the-block “50 Shades of Grey”, Wilson approvingly provides a lengthy quote from Doug Wilson’s thirteen year old book Fidelity: What it means to be a One-Woman Man. The quote addresses rape and sexual authority. I will also quote the passage in its entirety:

A final aspect of rape that should be briefly mentioned is perhaps closer to home. Because we have forgotten the biblical concepts of true authority and submission, or more accurately, have rebelled against them, we have created a climate in which caricatures of authority and submission intrude upon our lives with violence.

When we quarrel with the way the world is, we find that the world has ways of getting back at us. In other words, however we try, the sexual act cannot be made into an egalitarian pleasuring party. A man penetrates, conquers, colonizes, plants. A woman receives, surrenders, accepts. This is of course offensive to all egalitarians, and so our culture has rebelled against the concept of authority and submission in marriage. This means that we have sought to suppress the concepts of authority and submission as they relate to the marriage bed.

But we cannot make gravity disappear just because we dislike it, and in the same way we find that our banished authority and submission comes back to us in pathological forms. This is what lies behind sexual “bondage and submission games,” along with very common rape fantasies. Men dream of being rapists, and women find themselves wistfully reading novels in which someone ravishes the “soon to be made willing” heroine. Those who deny they have any need for water at all will soon find themselves lusting after polluted water, but water nonetheless.

True authority and true submission are therefore an erotic necessity. When authority is honored according to the word of God it serves and protects — and gives enormous pleasure. When it is denied, the result is not “no authority,” but an authority which devours.

A number of high profile bloggers have responded critically to Wilson’s post Read the rest of this entry

through the waters: unchristians as exiles & strangers

I was a slave
…..toiling under the gaze of the empire.
And I was heard by a liberator
…..led
through the waters,
through the chaos.

I was a wanderer
…..toiling under the gaze of the nations.
And I was guided by smoke and fire
…..led
through the waters
through the homelessness.

I was a mother
…..toiling under the gaze of a king.
And I was guided by an angel
…..led
through the waters,
through the escape.

I was an exile
…..toiling under the gaze of the empire.
And I was found by a baptiser
…..led
through the waters
through the resurrection.

I am a stranger
…..toiling under the gaze of the economy.
And I was found by heaven
…..led
through the waters
through death itself.

I am unChristian

Dedicated to Anthony John Abbott.

MCA

churches unite!: getting our priorities straight

Yesterday Christian leaders from a range of denominations in Sydney, including Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican and Baptist, joined together in a show of unity.

So what has the power to unite the largest branches of Christianity in Australia?

Is it global poverty and the recent deferral of Australia’s foreign aid commitments? No.

Youth homelessness? No.

Problem gambling? No.

Youth suicide? Australia’s failure to sign the ban against cluster bombs? The danger posed to the Great Barrier Reef and other natural beauty by mining companies? Australia’s role in unjust wars in Central and South-West Asia? Closing the gap on Aboriginal life expectancy?

No.

Australia’s treatment of refugees? Wealth disparity? Racism? Climate Change?

No, no, no and no.

Instead these Christian leaders united to oppose same-sex marriageRead the rest of this entry

on the bridge between reconciliation and refugee

Many of you would have been aware that 27 May-3 June was National Reconciliation Week in Australia.

Many would also be aware that coming up from 17-23 June is Refugee Week.

As we find ourselves positioned in the middle of these two weeks it seems as good a time as any for a point of reflection.

Within our collective consciousness, deep in the spirit of this nation, lies a fear of the refugee “threat”. This is no doubt energised by

Read the rest of this entry

abc religion and ethics: foreign aid and moral vision

Yesterday an article I wrote was posted on the ABC Religion and Ethics website entitled Foreign aid and moral vision. Here is an excerpt:

…This leads me to the second reason why we should question that aid is about the wealthy sacrificing their wealth to the poor: the assumption that aid is about charity and generosity. When such intentions, however virtuous and commendable, become the sole moral lens through which foreign aid is viewed, the criticism that aid is really a form of the “White Saviour Complex” can become all too accurate. The truth is that aid is not primarily about generosity – it is about reparation.

In this construal, the “White Saviour Complex” is in fact a “White Sinner Complex,” and it is not inappropriate that we should suffer from it. In truth, the way each of us lives is in some way connected to a global economy that exploits someone on the other end of the production chain. As Thomas Pogge has written:

“affluent countries, partly through the global institutional order they impose, bear a great causal and moral responsibility for the massive global persistence of severe poverty. Citizens of these countries thus have not merely a positive duty to assist innocent persons mired in life-threatening poverty, but also a more stringent negative duty to work politically and personally toward ceasing, or compensating for, their contribution to this ongoing catastrophe.”

That every major world religion ascribes in some way to the ethic of “love your neighbour as yourself” should lead us to deep moral reflection: Who is my neighbour in such a globalised world?

You can read the rest here.

MCA

deferring aid in 2012-13: embodying the alternative

Disclaimer: The views expressed on this blog are my own and do not reflect the opinions or policies of any group or organisation, including my employers, unless otherwise stated.

The 2012-13 Australian Federal budget, just announced, has incited an outcry from those in and around the aid and development sector who had hoped that the Labor Government would keep its promise to raise the overseas aid budget to 0.5% of GNI by 2015.

In the last fortnight the #DontCutAid hashtag has managed to trend consistently on Twitter as those passionate about alleviating poverty spoke out about Australia’s need to do its fair share. It seems that even in the face of a constant barrage of public messaging (and even public-funded major newspaper spreads) the Government decided to significantly reduce the proposed growth in the aid budget (by $2.9 billion) in order to bring the Federal budget back to surplus.

This insistence on bringing the budget back to surplus has been a recent hallmark not only of Australian economic matters but politics in general. Both sides of politics have communicated the need for a surplus as quickly as possible, and both have expressed a willingness to cut what is necessary to get there despite the widespread criticism of mainstream economists.

Some have called the trading of Australia’s aid commitment for a surplus “immoral” and have already shown signs of continuing to fight for increased aid in line with Australia’s commitment to the MDGs. Read the rest of this entry

anzac day: what does a myth do?

As ANZAC Day comes upon us again many Australians find themselves, for a variety of reasons, in an especially reflective mood.

Last year I reflected on the myth of violence inherent in ANZAC Day, and I don’t think it necessary to tread that ground again this year. What I am thinking about in 2012 is the function that the ANZAC myth plays in Australia (not by any means a unique thought).

There has been a reasonable amount of commentary floating around that suggests ANZAC Day was and is a reinforcement of common identity in Australia. In Eureka Street on Sunday, Benedict Coleridge wrote:

By paying tribute to the Anzacs, Australians reinforce their sense of common identity: in doing so the Australian nation is imagined as a sovereign and limited community defined by certain ideals.

Arguably this focus on ideals is what makes Anzac Day so popular. Day to day political affairs and cultural and social debate is often antagonistic — democracy as a process of public argument rather than public reasoning. And in the realm of morality, modern life is defined by a plurality of moral perspectives so that it is difficult to form a moral consensus on a wide variety of issues. Anzac Day, by contrast, is an occasion for public concord and consensus — it is marked by displays of solidarity.

I can’t agree more. My recent post on political disillusionment in Australia made similar points – nihilism has so pervaded our collective life that there is no foundation on which to build a common future.

In comes ANZAC Day, a commemoration that has the potential to bind us together under a common history of struggle and sacrifice for freedom. The only problem is that this is a historically problematic conclusion. Read the rest of this entry

cover the night: #kony2012 and the challenge of activism

Disclaimer: The views expressed on this blog are my own and do not reflect the opinions or policies of any group or organisation, including my employers, unless otherwise stated.

As with my original post about #Kony2012, I write this post with a fair amount of trepidation since I learned from that episode just how emotional this topic can be. My aim here is merely to reflect on what we can learn from the ‘Cover the Night‘ event, not to criticise it, and I will attempt to be as sensitive as I can. For this reason I will not be commenting on the content of the Kony campaign; in any case I have done that previously.

The first thing to note is that the Cover the Night event was highly successful, at least in relation to Invisible Children’s initial expectations prior to the release of Kony 2012.

These expectations included that half a million people would watch Kony 2012. However given that the video became the most successful social media campaign to date, with over 100 million views, the results embodied in Cover the Night were quite disappointing. In my hometown of Sydney 19,000 people clicked on ‘attending’ for the Cover the Night Facebook event, though one report claims only 25 or so people were present at Martin Place, the event’s main centre.

That is not to say it’s all over. The campaign has not ended just because IC’s main event has passed by; there is still the opportunity for further advocacy. However judging by the take-up rate of Cover the Night this seems unlikely.

This is not a reflection of Invisible Children so much as the current state of popular activism; Invisible Children is merely the most publicised instance of the difficulty in translating social media popularity to on-the-ground work. Indeed, many I know who shared the Kony video and criticised those offering a critique stayed home on Saturday night… This is not a problem with IC, but the state of young generations (of which I am part).

So what have we learned from this episode?

Read the rest of this entry

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