M, Bali earthquake and multiculturalism

I can’t resist quoting M’s latest Facebook travel update:

Had almost 40km bicycle ride today to immigration office in Denpasar, it was interesting ride on Bali chaotic road but I feel very safe as all the drivers not aggressive and very patient and calm! Having a couple of Guinness at Kuta beach and watching sunset, actually there was a little earthquake at this morning in Bali, whole hotel was shaking I thought it was someone having sex, I was saying “ what is going on please stop it”

Also on Facebook another friend has sounded a challenging note about multiculturalism. He is referring to an opinion piece in Monday’s Herald.

Dr Justin Koonin is in a bubble and so are all advocates of multiculturalism – a political accommodation for demographic reality but like most governmental sleight of hand, unsustainable and hypocritical. Unsustainable because in a few decades our people will carry the genes from four continents and they will follow a culture that is yet to be experienced. They will not practice one or all of their grandparents customs for they will be imbued with the contemporary Anglo culture. Moreover, a culture incorporates laws governing the conduct and relations of its communities. British law reigns in all Anglo Saxon lands. There is little accommodation for any other legal code. Furthermore, the connection between Hitler and religious freedom is somewhat thin. .

Rather than picking through all that I refer you to some older posts of mine. Not all the internal links in those posts will work, though quite a few still do. That’s one of the downsides of hypertexting meeting time and net decay, but for what they are worth here goes:

personal identity

First: Malouf and Maalouf: reading July 2005. Then: 2007 — Religion: Who Needs It? — The Heathlander.

It is all very hypothetical though. Religion isn’t about to go away, not in my lifetime or probably in yours. Me, I am a believer in God who does not believe in magic books. So I agree entirely about the dubious morality of much of the Bible, but not of all of the Bible, and ditto for the Quran, though here is an interesting conundrum for the world as Muslims tend to be wedded to the magic book principle even more than Christians or Jews. Rather than go into all that here, I refer you to entries on my archive page under the tag “Bible”.

So I do not identify with this characterisation of religion:

…Rather than a rational discussion of morality culminating in a series of arguments, religious morality is just a set of rules written down on paper, with no attempt at rational explanation and no critical discussion of the issues. Moreover, believers are positively discouraged from thinking for themselves about morality, and are rather indoctrinated or terrified into blindly following whatever their “Holy Book” or “religious teacher” has to say. That’s not morality, it’s tyrannical brainwashing…

Rather, I do lean towards this comment in Meanjin Vol. 65, no. 4, 2006:

Modern-day Christians have to stop thinking that they do not need to engage in dialogue because they have found their good shepherd. Having to engage with those of a different faith is not always comfortable. But in our post-secular society, in which the boundary between belief and unbelief is much less clear than for previous generations, interfaith dialogue is the way of the future…

We are becoming a society in whch secular and religious cultures coexist, and indeed can sometimes learn from each other. In that sense we may be moving to a post-secular generation.

— Constant J Mews, Monash University

Next Is Australia a Christian country? — also from 2007.  Finally, from 2011: Being Australian 11: inclusive multiculturalism Aussie style 4.

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Something from 2009: one could despair!

Apropos of something a friend posted on Facebook, rehashing theological positions I once possibly espoused myself, I found myself trawling through some old posts. So I repost two:

Joshua to Gaza 2009

It is somewhat ironic that my private Bible reading scheme, which often follows the US Episcopalian lectionary, brought me today to the Book of Joshua.

1 Now after the death of Moses the servant of the LORD it came to pass, that the LORD spake unto Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ minister, saying,

2 Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I do give to them, even to the children of Israel.

3 Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you, as I said unto Moses.

4 From the wilderness and this Lebanon even unto the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and unto the great sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your coast.

5 There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.

6 Be strong and of a good courage: for unto this people shalt thou divide for an inheritance the land, which I sware unto their fathers to give them.

7 Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper withersoever thou goest.

8 This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.

9 Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.

The first thing that must be said is that we are reading saga and legend here, not history. One may as well take Beowulf literally, though of course Beowulf is very informative about the life and times of its culture and milieu and reflects history, which is also true of Joshua. It is pretty much certain that what really happened was nothing like what we read in this book. I don’t find that a problem, personally. One can be inspired by the words of the last verse there without believing that verses 3 and 4 represent some real kind of divine decree still relevant in 2009. Sadly, not everyone agrees.

Israel and Palestine: A Brief History – Part I on the Middle East Web captures this quite well.

The archeological record indicates that the Jewish people evolved out of native Cana’anite peoples and invading tribes. Some time between about 1800 and 1500 B.C., it is thought that a Semitic people called Hebrews (hapiru) left Mesopotamia and settled in Canaan. Canaan was settled by different tribes including Semitic peoples, Hittites, and later Philistines, peoples of the sea who are thought to have arrived from Mycenae, or to be part of the ancient Greek peoples that also settled Mycenae.

According to the Bible, Moses led the Israelites, or a portion of them, out of Egypt. Under Joshua, they conquered the tribes and city states of Canaan…

Paragraph one indicates what really may have happened; the next paragraph recounts the hallowed legend.

Leaping forward around 4,000 years we find ourselves where we are. You can trace that in varying degrees of depth on that Middle East Web, which I referred you to in my update yesterday on A whiff of sanity.

Long term the approach I commend there will be what must happen, but in the world as it is it will be a long time before such an approach is taken seriously by those in power. The point is, however, that we have been told. What looks like good strategy in current Washington and Tel Aviv or Jerusalem – which really should be an international city as the United Nations long ago proposed – or among irredentists in the Muslim world is actually short-sighted policy. Given that Israel may attain its objectives – more about that in a moment – the true cost is incalculable. In brief it involves fuelling further the problem. It inflames further the grievances that have made too many turn to terror as an appropriate response.  The present cost in human lives and suffering is only too manifest.

In today’s Sydney Morning Herald Paul McGeogh offers an interpretive report that rings true.

THE revelation of the daring objective at the heart of Operation Cast Lead calls for Israel’s air-and-ground assault on Gaza to be given a new name. As the rhetorical layers are peeled back, what we are hearing makes Mission Impossible a more worthy contender.

Tel Aviv’s early insistence that this massive military exercise was about putting a halt to Palestinian rockets being fired into or near communities in the south of Israel never rang true.

Measure it by the number of rockets – 8000-plus over eight years – and indeed it sounds like a genuine existential threat. Consider the toll – 20 Israeli deaths spread over eight years, which is about half the number of deaths in just a month of Israeli traffic accidents – and it all loses its oomph as a casus belli.

Israel does not want to deal with Hamas – it wants to annihilate the Islamist movement.

The Foreign Minister, Tzipi Livni, said as much when she dashed to Paris last week to head off a French push for a 48-hour ceasefire. “There is no doubt that as long as Hamas controls Gaza, it is a problem for Israel, a problem for the Palestinians and a problem for the entire region,” she said.

If there was any doubt after Livni spoke, it evaporated on Friday when the Deputy Prime Minister, Haim Ramon, told Israeli TV: “What I think we need to do is to reach a situation in which we do not allow Hamas to govern. That’s the most important thing.”

And at the United Nations in New York, the Israeli ambassador, Gabriella Shalev, also seemed to depart the approved script. “[It will continue for] as long as it takes to dismantle Hamas completely,” she said.

Analysis and commentary through the first eight days of this conflict have been about Israel’s goal of stopping the rockets. But if the objective is obliterating Hamas, it does indeed seem an impossible task….

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Yesterday in Sydney

Good luck to Obama. Let’s hope for some shift in US policy, which is critical; I am not totally despairing on that front, nor am I totally hopeful.

Update

See Jim Belshaw’s post this morning: Gaza, democracy and the question of world government. Very thoughtful. I think Jim and I share both a certain tentativeness on the issue – which I am sure is a clear sign of intelligence!—and a desire to get beyond the reflex responses we’ve been seeing. That Jim has used one of my photos is of course a bonus.

And:

Bad Archaeology

14 MAR 2009

And is there a lot of it around! Bad Archaeology explains itself thus:

We are a couple of real archaeologists fed up with the distorted view of the past that passes for knowledge in popular culture. We are unhappy that journalists with no knowledge of the methods, aims, techniques and theories of real archaeology can sell hundreds of times more books than real archaeologists. We do not appreciate news programmes that talk about ley lines as if they are real. In short, we are Angry Archaeologists.

One of us is Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews, who began work on a version of this site as part of his personal home pages as long ago as 1999. Keith is a local authority archaeologist in North Hertfordshire with a long-standing interest in Bad Archaeology and who has grown increasingly concerned at the profession’s evident unwillingness to deal with it. He is also worried at the growth of anti-Enlightenment attitudes during his lifetime, which he worries may return us to a Dark Age of superstition-based belief.

The other of us is James Doeser, who is currently trying to finish his PhD in government and archaeology at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London. James is interested in the way efforts to increase public understanding of archaeology (museums, media, tourism etc.) collide with a the belief that everybody has a right to understand the past in whichever way they want. We can’t all be right, can we?

Highly commended. Just to name one field, there is unfortunately a great deal of nonsense out there in the realm of Biblical archaeology. In that area you may also look at another good site, The Bible and Interpretation.

There are many other sections in Bad Archaeology. I will certainly be spending time on it.

Bad Archaeology is all around us: many of its ideas are pervasive in popular culture; its publications sell more than Good Archaeology publications; its web presence is much stronger than that of Good Archaeology. What we are trying to do with this site is to show the utter vacuity of most Bad Archaeology and provide a reference point for Good (or at least, Better) Archaeology.

At the same time, we hope that this site will be a useful resource to people puzzled by various claims about the past, about apparently anomalous artefacts, about religious claims to knowledge that are in conflict with those of science and about assertions that just seem a bit dubious.

Above all, we hope that this site will entertain and amuse you!

And from December 2008. Do visit the whole post:

From left field, off the wall, and similar Christmas musings 1

Let me remind you of my Christmas poem selection #4 from last year.

From the place where we are right
Flowers will never grow
In the spring.

The place where we are right
Is hard and trampled
Like a yard.

But doubts and loves
Dig up the world
Like a mole, a plow.

And a whisper will be heard in the place
Where the ruined
House once stood.

 Yehuda Amichai

So much one could comment on!

Been quite a few days in the news! But I will begin with nostalgia, before addressing just one item from the news:

1959shell

Here is my father’s home town, Shellharbour in 1959, when I turned 16, and here is George Street Sydney a couple of years later:

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Those years saw me in deep evangelical mode, as described in posts such as Consider–my world 1952 to 1959. Thoughts on the origins of belief, and Billy Graham dies at 99.

When I finally did go to Sutherland Presbyterian Church, however, even though the minister (Cam Williamson) had been visiting Mum from time to time, it was rather at the invitation of Ross McKay, a Sutherland Primary then Sydney High classmate – and girls were among the attractions.  So I joined the Presbyterian Fellowship Association around 1957 or 1958, and around the same time began attending the Inter School Christian Fellowship at Sydney High and reading the Bible via Scripture Union notes obtained there. I had a daggy copy of the Revised Version, a pocket edition that had been Grandpa Christison’s, and I remember being quite sneaky about reading it in bed late at night. My father caught me once and I reacted in such an alarmed way that I now think he thought he had caught me wanking. (That too, of course. I was a pubescent boy after all. But think of the guilt! You have to have lived back then to know about that!) Anyway, he looked almost relieved and told me I could read the Bible if I wanted to.

The climax – no wanking pun intended – was in 1959….

No, I didn’t go forward when the call came. I had already done that at a Fellowship Camp at Otford a month or two earlier. Oh, and in Sydney I was close enough to see the man quite close, comparatively speaking, in at least one of the meetings.

It was all rather amazing. Sydney had never seen such crowds, particularly for a religious gathering. On the last day the overflow filled the stadium next door as well as the SCG itself.

One of my teachers did mutter something about Nuremberg rallies, I recall. We thought that quite out of place at the time.

That was a profoundly emotional experience, that one at Otford. I can see now how I was in a sense set up for it, given the psychology and emotional state I have been indicating, and the fact I was rather a lonely and imaginative child.

And another post:

And my father? Very much impressed by the writings of Colonel Ingersoll, among others. Indeed it was from my father that I first heard the name. But his agnosticism – for such it was – combined with a respect for the ethics of Christianity and for much the churches did, though he, nominally an Anglican, did not really want to have much to do with them. He had seen, it appears, fanaticism in some of his family’s past – though he rarely talked about that or them. He did quote this back at me, though, when after around 1958-9 I became perhaps obnoxiously religious.

Myself when young did eagerly frequent

Doctor and Saint, and heard great argument

About it and about: but evermore

Came out by the same door wherein I went.

With them the seed of wisdom did I sow,

And with mine own hand wrought to make it grow:

And this is all the Harvest that I reap’d —

I came like water, and like water, and like wind I go.

And my Grandfather Christison, though the son of a woman of faith for whom he had enormous love and respect, was also truly an agnostic, at least as far as the institution of the church and the Holy Scriptures were concerned.  He loved his Dickens.

“…while I clean my boots keep a eye upon your mother now and then, and if you see any signs of more flopping, give me a call. For, I tell you,” here he addressed his wife once more, “I won’t be gone agin, in this manner. I am as rickety as a hackney-coach, I’m as sleepy as laudanum, my lines is strained to that degree that I shouldn’t know, if it wasn’t for the pain in ’em, which was me and which somebody else, yet I’m none the better for it in pocket; and it’s my suspicion that you’ve been at it from morning to night to prevent me from being the better for it in pocket, and I won’t put up with it, Aggerawayter, and what do you say now!”

Growling, in addition, such phrases as “Ah! yes! You’re religious, too. You wouldn’t put yourself in opposition to the interests of your husband and child, would you? Not you!” and throwing off other sarcastic sparks from the whirling grindstone of his indignation, Mr. Cruncher betook himself to his boot-cleaning and his general preparation for business.

A Tale of Two Cities

On “flopping” he once told me that when you see someone praying you should watch out for the knife in the other hand. He also deconstructed for me, as we might say now, quite a few of the stories in the Bible…

The following is not mine, but there is nothing in it that I would not have heard in Sutherland and in the Sydney University Evangelical Union in the early 1960s:

My response to the question is what I believe God’s plan is for all sinners, according to my understanding of my Bible teachings, specifically 1 Corinthians 6: 9-10:

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor the drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

I do not know the person who asked the question, but that didn’t matter. I believed he was looking for guidance and I answered him honestly and from the heart. I know a lot of people will find that difficult to understand, but I believe the Bible is the truth and sometimes the truth can be difficult to hear.

I think of it this way: you see someone who is about to walk into a hole and have the chance to save him. He might be determined to maintain his course and doesn’t want to hear what you have to say. But if you don’t tell him the truth, as unpopular as it might be, he is going to fall into that hole. What do you do?

Yes, that is Israel Folau in April 2018. The Tongan-Australian Rugby player has just got himself into much hot water over this:

Screenshot (247)As in the post I just cited, really he is just quoting St Paul, but…

What do you think? Does he deserve to be sacked? Is it an expression of hate, or something else? Is this contrarian view right? Though I do baulk at the word “totalitarian”.

Update 15 April

Actually, that last cited link is a farrago of cliches, though the questions I raise remain valid to me. Interesting to read this NZ Christian minister: Izzy’s Little List:

While personally I totally reject Mr Folau’s certainty that all unrepentant gays are destined to hell, I suspect Izzy’s main fault was uncritical acceptance of the teaching from a whole series of conservative Church leaders, and further, I suspect he was unaware just how out of step his Church’s teaching is with modern mainstream Christianity.

In short, a majority in the wider community now no longer accept that all ancient Bible verses represent universal and timeless truths that should apply to all people for all time.

I accept Izzy Folau was quite correct that even St Paul in his letter to the Corinthians not only consigns unrepentant gays to hell but also suggests a similar fate for the sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, thieves, drunkards, swindlers and the greedy (and those with haughty eyes!!). But don’t forget that if we accept all other New Testament passages, presumably we might have to question the rather generous pay for sportsmen like …ahem….Folau, which might make Izzy himself rather difficult to squeeze through the eye of a needle along with Bishop Brian Tamaki and most of the TV preachers of the mega Churches even as they echo Folau’s same concern.

One thing leads to another … treasure!

This post caused a slight stir as I was rather dismissive of Dyson Heydon’s “The New Struggle for Religious Freedom”, recycled in the current number of Quadrant. However, that lecture has prompted some interesting further reading, including Civilising a colony? Sir Richard Bourke and the Church Act, NSW, 1836 ~ Siobhan Whelan. Must explore that blog further!

I also was reminded what treasures exist in our various universities in the form of Ph.D. theses, often readily available for free download. Such a treasure is this from the University of Newcastle (1991).

Screenshot (199)

Dr Patrick, who passed away in 2013, was a treasure of the Adventist Church — hence one strand of that thesis. And a great thesis it is, remarkably clear-eyed and objective.

The adherents of an ideology usually possess common ideas and values, and tend to cluster together as a subculture. Consequently they often experience difficulty in relating to the wider society which exists in the same time and place. Early in its history, Christianity encountered relational problems with Jews and pagans; controversies also developed amongst rival Christian groups. The persistence of this
conflict caused H. Richard Niebuhr to call it ‘the enduring problem’; he also identified a range of typical responses, particularly in Western civilisation. On the two extremes are those Christians who withdraw and accommodate; occupying the middle ground are dualists, synthesists and conversionists. These solutions may be held in their pure form or in a variety of combinations. They may be influenced by a range of ideas about salvation, the church, eschatology, the relations of church and state, Christian history and patterns of thought in society.

The Christianity which was transplanted into colonial Australia was derived from Northern Hemisphere denominations, and experienced the persistent effects of distance, dependence and sectarianism. Divided by national and religious loyalties and antipathies, and challenged by a desacralised society, the churches . tended to develop a conservative ethos which failed to address crucial religious and social questions. Denominational attitudes toward educational, economic and political issues may be used to identify the various stances which were present in New South Wales near the end of the colonial period. Selected Roman Catholic, Church of England, Wesleyan Methodist and Seventh-day Adventists perspectives are explored in the light of Niebuhr’s typologies….

The game goes on…

And Tones is still doing excellent impressions of a Cheshire Cat! Mr Turnbull meanwhile hangs on, for now. This is the man of the hour. God help us all, I still say! And speaking of which…

WIN_20180822_09_41_03_Pro

I find myself drawn to page 10! ‘Gullibility eroded’: Why a generation chose science over God.

Creationism continues to thrive in Professor Archer’s home country, where about 40 per cent of people still believe God created man. Surveys like his are rare outside the US.

Census data also indicates Australians are becoming less religious. In 1966, 0.8 per cent said they had no religion; by 2016, that number had risen to 30 per cent.

A spokesman from UNSW Campus Bible Study, the biggest religious group on the campus, said “we are thankful that God created us in his image, so that our lives have value and worth”.

Now in the event we soon have a Potato Head government, and some things get uglier than they are now, I file these:

If anyone should want to ban Muslims it would be me – but I don’t.

….I cannot deny that at least three Muslims are directly linked to my father’s death. His murder. I cannot deny that they self-identify as Muslim. Nor can I deny that Islamic State is the violent propaganda machine behind their twisted ideology….

We who seek to see the best in what Australians stand for must believe otherwise.

I support that those responsible need to be punished. I support law and order. I believe that inclusion, acceptance and respect are the most important values we all need to display to create the society that we can all thrive in. Arbitrary cuts to immigration will not do that.

However, I will admit that I am tired. I am tired of needing to explain to adults that the actions of these individuals cannot be attributed to an entire group of people. I am tired of explaining that terrorism is a criminal and political phenomenon, not a religious one. I am tired of explaining that despite my unfortunate tragedy at the hands of Islamic extremists, it is those in my life who just so happen to be Muslim who make me understand the richness of the human spirit. My best friend is of a Muslim background. I have met inspirational students, teachers, activists, and politicians, who just happen to be of a Muslim background. Being a Muslim doesn’t make them a good friend or person. In the same vein, being a Muslim doesn’t make you a terrorist.

If I, of all people, can think this way, then sure as hell our “elected” representatives can think this way too … and while they are at it, cease the never-ending scapegoating. …

Amen to that! And next:

Thousands of Muslims gathered together on Tuesday to show solidarity with drought-ravaged farmers as they celebrate Eid Al Adha.

More than 30,000 people attended Lakemba Mosque in Sydney, to conduct a special ‘rain prayer’ during the annual Eid celebration…

The ‘rain prayer’ comes as 100 per cent of NSW is declared drought-affected and has received less than 20 per cent of its usual rainfall since January.

This is also the warmest and driest July in 20 years….