Monday, July 20, 2009

David Gazard, Politics, the Church and feeling sorry for christians

(Above: Life of Brian. Blessed are the cheesemakers, and if you think that's a typo for peace makers you haven't read David Gazard. Enough with your UN talk of peace making with black helicopters, what about the sterling work of cheese makers feeding the poor as small businessmen facing the crushing burden of socialism).

When you look at The Punch often enough, Australia's dumbest conversation, the befuddled editorial policies tend to come into balance.

Throw in a bit of populism (MasterChef), a Labor politician or two for balance, a Liberal to tip the scales the other way, then flavor it with a soup├žon of loon.

David Gazard does nicely as a prime contender for loon pond gold status with his contribution Churches pray for terrorist and ignore a businessman, which yet again recycles comparisons between locked up in China businessman Stern Hu, against locked up in Guantanamo Bay David Hicks.

Gazard's target is Christians and their churches - and who can argue with that - but his argument is so full of holes and illiberal illogic that you just wish there was some other character roaming around the temples taking on the money lenders.

Let's cut to the chase here:

As a person of faith who holds a deep interest in politics, I think it is in our nation’s interest for the church to help fill the moral and spiritual vacuum. And there are a great many churches out there doing just that.

But if the traditional church is to succeed, it must get back to doing what it does best, delivering a spiritual message, not attempting to replicate a Left-of-centre political party or Greenpeace.

WTF? Oh yes, I can just imagine Gazard way back when writing an editorial for the Jerusalem Times reporting that a strange figure was seen roaming around the temples over turning tables and benches and getting upset about a few guys selling a few doves (and won't someone speak up for the doves).

If the traditional Mr. Christ is to succeed in his new ministry, Gazard might harumph, he needs to get back to doing what he does best - you know, miracles and stuff, and spiritual messages about Christmas and Easter, not attempting to replicate some kind of socialistic agenda about innocent money lenders and dove and rug dealers doing a bit of business in the temples. 

It's that kind of Greenpeace Gaia nonsense, Gazard might continue in his op ed,  which makes me wonder if he's the right kind of character to fill in the moral and spiritual vacuum around town. I've even heard he's used his skills to create wine, and I understand he keeps the company of peasants and prostitutes, rather than upstanding company directors and honest traders.

But wouldn't you know it. The brand new nineteen sixties moral and spiritual vacuum was created by Marxist baby boomers. Good news for vegan Adolf Hitler, and no need to worry about breaking Godwin's law:

The retiring Bishop of Rochester, Dr Nazir-Ali traces the decline of the church in Britain back to the 1960s when there was a steep decline in Christian worship.

Marxist students encouraged a “social and sexual revolution” to which liberal theologians and Church leaders “all but capitulated,” he says.

“It is this situation that has created the moral and spiritual vacuum in which we now find ourselves. While the Christian consensus was dissolved, nothing else, except perhaps endless self-indulgence, was put in its place.”

Oh yes, if you want wild sexual liberation, go to Russia and China and see how exciting it gets there. Luckily the United States has nothing to do with endless self-indulgence, given it never fell to Marxism. 

What's that you say? How dare you equate my plasma screen and playstation box with mindless self-indulgence.

You see, there's endless self indulgence, and then there's mindless self-indulgence, and you must always be ready to separate the two.

And then of course there's the indulgences you can buy (any good church will sell you one), and the indulgence of being born gay or a woman, and really complicating matters. 

The next thing you know Christians will be ordaining gays to take a place in the church. Or -s steady, don't faint - women. Why on earth can't the traditional church agree on a traditional social agenda. You know, Islamics terrible and gay people even worse. Women a necessary evil.

Lordy, some of these clerics can't even agree on whether god actually exists. Or if he or she is an actual sex, or whether (s)he is some kind of bizarre TG kind of creature, or whether (s)he might be a socialist marxist or even worse a one legged lesbian whale lover.

But back to the beginning. Gazard opens in best debating school manner:

I keep waiting for the traditional church to launch its campaign against the government’s treatment of boat people.

Perhaps Stern Hu needs a rocket launcher to get the churches' attention

After all, boats carrying asylum seekers keep entering Australian waters in greater numbers, there are allegations that boats are left to drift and, worst of all, some have perished along the way.

I glance skyward in Melbourne, looking for the immense banner hanging from the spire St Paul’s Cathedral, like there was a few years ago. Instead of “Justice for David Hicks”, it will read “Justice for SIEV 624”.

“Excising islands and placing boat people in New Guinea and Nauru and so removing them from access to the Australian legal system was too clever and inhuman. Have we no sense of shame as a nation?” asked the Most Reverend Peter R Watson, then the Archbishop of Melbourne in 2004.

Surely Rev Watson, or his successor Dr Philip Freier, who defended the “Justice for David Hicks” banner, will be out of the blocks soon to criticise the fact that boatpeople are dying and to demonstrate the traditional church’s deep adherence to social justice is non-partisan.

Err, actually it seems Gazard hasn't read Piers Akerman. 

Once you've done that, you know that the current government is way too soft on illegal asylum seekers. Akkers is outraged at the way the government has helped out these wretched aliens. So what's for the clerics to protest at? All's peace and love under the christian Chairman Rudd.

Could it be that - gasp - Akkers is wrong. The government is still being tough? Gazard seems to think so, in which case me and Akkers must have missed the mail. I find it hard to believe, but that would certainly give the clerics some work to do.

Well, err actually that might explain why some of the clerics do think the government is still being too tough. Gazard doesn't seem to notice that the wretched do gooders and soft sook Christians are still out there raging at the government for being too hard on asylum seekers. But I guess they do it in publications that Gazard doesn't bother to read (on pink paper). 

I guess if it's not in a huge banner on a cathedral these harmless do gooders going quietly about their work are invisible.

But then there's nothing like conflating a businessman held in prison in the one party state of communist China (still not up to a month) versus the treatment handed out to David Hicks (years and years) - and many others, innocent and guilty - by a country which is supposedly the leader of the free world, and which in this matter and the question of torture should have known better.

How about using hanging as a metaphor to make your point? Sure thing:

Or how about this for something really radical, seeing as the Melbourne Anglicans felt that a self professed terrorist needed support because he was held without charge: “Justice for Stern Hu.”

I’m not going to swing by the neck waiting.

Well I'm not going to state the obvious, which is that high church types seem to love supporting the pillars of state, and think the church should be one of those pillars, so that then the true believers can berate all the do gooders and lefty activists. Just like Gazard:

The point of this column is not to state the obvious. That the social justice wing of the traditional church is infected with Left-wing activists, many of whom would be agnostics at best or atheists at worst is well known and well documented.

And it’s not to have a crack at the social justice agenda or the people deeply committed to making their society or community a better place. And it’s not to make the argument that the church should never involve itself in politics. That would be ridiculous.

Yep, that's the christian church all right. Infested with agnostics or atheists. In fact atheists can't think of anything better to do with their time than go along on a Sunday and stand shoulder to shoulder with a bunch of Ned Flanders. 

Which is terrible when you think about it. Because the church should of course support right wing politics, as natural and relevant today as part of Christ's message when he was way back riding donkeys and saying things about the ease with which rich people could get through eyes of needles straight into heaven (while the poor would be left waiting to collect two hundred dollars from go or Old Kent road). 

After all, General Franco was a jolly good Catholic and he ran Spain in fine style. Back then the traditional church was really relevant. Right now?

... the traditional church is ushering itself to irrelevance.

I write this in the full knowledge that the church has made a big difference for the better on some big political issues, the abolition of slavery for one.

Not that in the old days the church had any understanding of the policy positions in relation to slavery, or the expertise to push any position at all when you remember that slavery successfully underpinned several economies. 

And still does, and still can if we had only a modicum of policy sanity in the church. Unlike the festering lovey dovey position in relation to gays and women, two groups who seem to think that somehow they deserve equality in all things, when we know that doesn't serve the bible or the economy.

But on some issues, the church has no business pushing any position. It does not have policy expertise to do so. It’s trenchant opposition to the GST, for instance, proved that.

And there’s a big difference between slavery and garden variety political issues of the type that the church involves itself with more and more these days.

Yes, they should stick to tea and cheese and cucumber sandwiches.

Stop globalisation rally, the church will be there. Walk against the G8 Summit, the church will be represented—along with every other activist group and ratbag anarchist.

Leaked union documents before the last election showed the ACTU had a deliberate strategy to infiltrate churches in a bid to get them to push a pro-union message.

And, of course, the church did.

Pro unionist lick spittle lackeys. That's the christians. In fact it might not be so bad to have an honesty survey at the front door of the church, and if we find a unionist pretending to be a christian, he can be prevented from entering the service. Come unto me little children, but you have to draw the line somewhere and it may as well be big fat surly union thugs of the CFMEU kind.

Is the church the winner in any of this? Not if you count numbers, it isn’t.

While traditional church leaders might get a thrill out of seeing themselves in newspapers commenting on “cutting edge issues”, the sad reality is that people are staying away in droves.

Ah yes, cutting edge issues. Like those vexatious gay and noisy harridan women.

Not that this might have anything to do with people actually stopping believing in god or preferring material things or discovering different kinds of spirituality. No, it's because people would much prefer to join the Greens, with their weird religious faith and capable campaigning style:

This makes sense because other organizations are better equipped to run political campaigns.

If you want liberal policies and political campaigns, you go to the Greens website, not waste your Sunday morning on a Uniting Church pew listening to environmental policy.

The Greens don’t bother with rhetoric about saving souls on the way to figuring out how to save a tree.

And dammit christians shouldn't go on about saving a tree when they should be saving souls. After all, the tree can be chopped down and turned into something useful, like a crucifix.

So in persistent advocacy of secular issues, the church has willingly allowed itself to become no different to most of the other voices across the Left of the political spectrum.

And that means that, in the political cacophony, it carries a diminished voice, because it has no specific expertise, no particular skill set with which to argue its case.

Yes, and I've always found the word of god to be singularly useless in understanding the world or why we live in it, and isn't it particularly pleasing that Gazard notes that as policy advice the bible is hopeless, and that his church - even with the bible to hand - is absolutely lacking in specific expertise and skill sets. Christ is just another socialist dipstick, the Lenin to God's rampant Marxism.

And there you have it. What a great rant. 

For a moment I almost felt sorry for the soft core christians being given a lashing by Gazard. After all, it takes a particularly peculiar kind of understanding of spirituality to think that somehow it's like the inside of a walnut, capable of being separate from the world, whether that be left of centre or right of centre, or outside or inside of politics, as if the word of god should have no impact on the ways and means of how you make your way through the world. 

You know, like you loot and pillage the earth and humanity, and then you front up at the end, cheeky and bold as brass, and you get a cadillac class trip to heaven, with gold handles (no gilt please) running on good old fashioned 12 miles to the gallon leaded petrol. As  if there's politics and religion and never the twain should meet, and never have done in the past and never will in the future, unless the politics are Gazard approved political stances. As individual as a cloning stamp.

After all, we all know that Christ said give to Caesar what is Caesar's and unto God what is God's. But that was just a cunning answer to avoid being trapped by lawyers, priests and politicians. You will note he didn't say exactly what was Caesar's and what was God's. For that you have to look at his ambit claims and they were pretty wide. Like life and love and death and the whole damn thing.

For example, want Christ's views on the military and on theft and on being forced to go an extra mile?

If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. (Matthew 5:38-41)

Oh yes, it's a tough religion all right, and Gazard doesn't have a clue, so why am I unsurprised to discover he's worked for Peter Costello, who you will recall hung around with clap happy types until they decided the Victorian bushfires were due to abortion law reform.

And at that point I thought what the heck. Let Gazard tear the christians apart like a lion in the colosseum. Where's the harm in that? A few less christians, and more memberships for unions, socialist parties, lefty wanker go gooder revolutionary parties, greenies and Greenpeace. 

Because if a high church is a place for high dudgeon, Gazard's welcome to dwell there with any like mind he can find ... while the rest of us can get on with the tricky business of living and not getting the neighbors too agitated ...

And now we turn to the text for the day:

Mrs. Big Nose: [trying to hear Jesus' sermon on the mount] Oh, it's blessed are the MEEK! Oh, I'm glad they're getting something, they have a hell of a time.
Reg: What Jesus fails to appreciate is that it's the meek who are the problem.

Brian: No, no. Please, please please listen. I've got one or two things to say.
The Crowd: Tell us! Tell us both of them!
Brian: Look, you've got it all wrong. You don't need to follow me. You don't need to follow anybody! You've got to think for yourselves! You're all individuals!
The Crowd: Yes! We're all individuals!
Brian: You're all different!
The Crowd: Yes! We're all different!
Man in crowd: I'm not...
Man in crowd: Shhh!
Brian: You've all got to work it out for yourselves.
The Crowd: Yes! We've got to work it out for ourselves!
Brian: Exactly!
The Crowd: Tell us more!
Brian: No! That's the point! Don't let anyone tell you what to do! Otherwise - Ow! Ow!

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