Posts Tagged ‘christianity’

#marriageequality #loveislove

Dear Reader, if you have spent any time at all reading our blog, you will be aware of two things. One, I have opinions. (Hence the name of the blog.) Two, I am a Christian.

So when the pro-same sex marriage rally was announced in Melbourne over the weekend, there was never any doubt we would attend.

Firstly, for me, equality for homosexuals has been a lifelong campaign.

My proudest “Button” in my collection of political ephemera is one that reads “Gay Liberation is Our Liberation”. (It is an ample example of how old we are now that no-one today would refer to “Gay Liberation”.)

Whenever I wore the badge, forty plus years ago, sooner or later someone would challenge me on it. I was stronger and fitter then, and ready to “look after myself” if I got a hammering. Typically some liquored-up idiot would prod me in the chest with an accusative finger and breathe “So, you’re a poofter, eh?”

This gave me the opportunity to say “Actually, no I am not. But Gay Liberation is about the heterosexual community freeing itself from our own bigotry.” This would usually result in the knuckle-scraper backing off with a confused look on his face (it was always men) and – now and again – a useful conversation. It was my small contribution to the struggle, because, of course, if a gay person had worn the badge the exchange would often have ended up with a punch in the face.

We also used to run discos when I was at University with the poster headline “Come and Meet a Real Live Queer” a decade or more before the LGBTI+ generally community worked out that they could “own” the word, and thus challenge and even change the negative connotations associated with it. Even if those days, communications was my passion.

Secondly, I have studied Christianity all my life – I have a degree in Theology – and I simply detest the way that the Church is often portrayed (and often behaves) as the home of wowsers and conservatives.

My Christianity is progressive, activist, small-l liberal and dedicated to over-turning shibboleths. I simply cannot abide the way that literal interpretations of Scripture (which are not even based on scholarship, but usually on bias and/or inaccurate translations) are used to support essentially anti-Christian behaviour – of which opposing “same sex” marriage is simply the most recent example.

Fundamentalist Christianity has been used to excuse burning “heretics”, drowning witches, slavery, banning contraception, destroying womens’ health provision, idiotic anti-scientific nonsense like Creationism, and much more. Little wonder the Church in the developed world is rapidly losing adherents.

In its blind opposition to same-sex attracted people having the same rights as everyone else it has caused huge suffering to many, including people who I know and love. The tactics used by the ugly confluence of the far-right and the fundamentalist Churches (epitomised by the often appalling Roman Catholic Church, the conservative Anglican diocese of the Sydney, and the utterly bigoted and so-called Australian Christian Lobby) seeks to portray all Christians as anti-gay.

Well we ain’t. At all. “Not in my name” comes to mind. So when the rally was announced, my attendance was inevitable.

But having decided to attend, what then? I have no standing in the Equal Love movement, so they weren’t going to ask me to speak. No public position to leverage. Was there anything I could do to help, over and above simply wearing out some shoe leather and getting some much-needed exercise?

Because I am in the comms business, I decided my brain should be given a bit of a workout as well as the legs.

I decided to actively take on the nonsense that is written about me and millions of people like me by those who should know better, or who should stop behaving so shamefully as trying to present their opinions as mine.

I decided to say, deliberately, “Hey – I am bulk-standard, standard-issue Middle Australian, and I am voting “Yes”.” With the obvious implied corollary, “You should too.”

I simply wanted to make it clear to everyone else attending the rally that the support for equal rights spreads right across the political and social spectrum. Because that’s one way to ensure that people outside of the core campaign group will be encouraged to stand up too: to come out and vote, and to campaign.

And because – above all – I think the LGBTI+ community deserves to know that the rest of us support them. They’ve been fighting this battle too long and too hard for us to miss this chance to help them get a “Yes” vote across the line. As one placard read at the rally, “I can’t believe we’re still fighting this shit”.

Quite.

Hence the placard.

Agit-Prop? Hell, yes it was.

Was I looking for publicity? Yes, I was. Not in the sense that I wanted ME to become famous. (At all. I’m too old for all that rubbish.) No, I wanted the principle embodied by the placard to become famous. Or at least, to spread out beyond my head.

Maybe a TV camera might snap it, and it could get seen? Or maybe a journo or two? Yes, I was aware of that possibility. Most of all, of course, I simply wanted to stand in solidarity with the other campaigners, and against the nonsense. But I’d be lying if I pretended I didn’t hope the placard might make some difference beyond that. Don’t ask, don’t get, eh? It’s worth trying anything to overcome naked wrongs.

As so often in life, though, what really happened was way beyond my expectations.

The moment Mrs Wellthisiswhatithink and I arrived, and plonked ourselves strategically down on a well-positioned bench, we were deluged with smiling people wanting to photograph the sign. I completely lost track of how many people did. Hundreds, certainly. We had so many ‘thank yous’, so many thumbs up, not a few kisses planted on our cheeks and plenty of “high fives”. It was really quite overwhelming, and beautiful.

At one point I turned to Jenie and said “And this is what people are afraid of? All this love? All these terrible revolutionaries seeking to undermine the very basis of society.? These are the nicest people I have ever met!” Everyone was there – families with kids of all ages, masses of young people of all apparent sexualities, gay couples, and all age groups. It was uplifting in the best possible way.

One journo asked me why I was there. I had to stop and think for a moment, because I hadn’t planned an answer. In the end I said “Freedom’s important.” She smiled and said “That’s the best reason I’ve heard today.” She went down on the list of “Positives”.

One fundo Christian with crazy eyes came up to me and assailed me with every ridiculous argument the “No” lobby have been pushing out. I politely but firmly batted back every faux Biblical quotation with another, or with a more accurate translation. Every time I did, she moved the goalposts. In the end, after quite some time, I put her down as “irretrievably No”, and asked her (nicely) to move on. “There!” she said triumphantly, “when you’re losing the debate you just back out!” I looked at her sadly, and wondered, not for the first time, when and how children turn into adults with this level of stupidity. What happens to people? She wouldn’t leave. In the end I had to say firmly, “Please: leave me alone.” She wanted off, eyes blazing with self-induced fire, muttering.

But in general, we were deluged with kindness and positivity. I will never forget it. And at this stage, let me explicitly acknowledge Jenie’s role. My lovely wife, although she has her own strongly held opinions on just about everything,  is not a natural attender at rallies – she doesn’t like crowds, or public attention for that matter – yet she was utterly supportive of my goals in going to the rally, and she engaged with journos, and our neighbours around us, she helped me hold the sign, pointed out people who wanted a photo and – a million thanks – found us a coffee. “Whaddawewant?” “ Hot coffee!” “When do we want it?” “About ten minutes ago, thanks.” Sharing this life-affirming event with her made it all the more meaningful.

Later, we discovered that the placard had been snapped by a photo journo Tara Watson, and then tweeted and posted on FB by Guardian journo and opinion leader Van Badham, and then re-tweeted by Penny Wong, and essentially, that was that.

The picture was suddenly everywhere. Jenie and I were deluged with kind and supportive messages, and when our daughter re-posted the photo and said she was proud of us, then so was she. A more practical example of the essential goodness of folk you couldn’t wish for. It was embarrassing and wonderful in equal measure.

So much, so good. So viral. The world is an interesting place, these days. I am happy so many people got to see the message, and there it is.

But two people we met stand out in my mind, and the real point of this article is to tell you about them.

No names – they didn’t ask for publicity – but their stories deserve to be told.

One guy came up, and told us about his Dad, who had recently died of Alzheimer’s at the age of 90. He had never “had the conversation” with his Dad about his sexuality, and now he never would. But after his Dad’s death, he mentioned this to one of the nurses who used to look after him. “Oh, no,” said the nurse. “He knew.”

She had been walking the old chap in the garden, asking him about his family. He had three sons, he said. One did such and such, one did such and such, and one did such and such. He’s gay, of course.” The old man couldn’t have cared less, and he knew.

As he told us this story, tears started running down his cheeks. “Good thing I’ve got dark glasses on” he said, as he wiped them away. “Thank you so much for the sign. It’s so good to know that people like you understand.”

He made his apologies, and left. It was awhile before I dared to speak again.

A little while later, a middle-aged woman came up, and insisted on shaking hands. Momentarily, after struggling to smile, she started crying too.

“I just want to say thank you. I just want to shake your hand. Our son is gay, and he gets bullied at school. Badly bullied. That’s why I’m here. I’m here with my husband. I’m so excited to see you here, making this point. It makes all the difference to me. Thank you. Thank you. Sorry. Thank you.”

She turned away, too choked to say any more. I just said “You’re welcome.” It seemed totally inadequate, and it was, but what can you do? Here was the ugly side of this debate manifested in a real person’s life, in a real person’s family, raw, and unsanitised and brutal and sad.

I felt – and feel – deeply humbled and grateful for having met these people.

I wish everyone could meet them.

This stupid, unnecessary and divisive government opinion poll would be won by a huge margin, if people could just get past the propaganda of the “No” campaign, and talk to real people who are going to be affected profoundly, for good or ill, by the judgement of their peers.

God bless you, Australia. Please vote “Yes”.

And go to the next rally. With your own sign. It matters.

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Populists, extreme right wing commentators and neo-conservatives continually seek to paint terrorism as a largely or exclusively Islamic phenomenon.

Their message of Islamophobia has been repeated many times since the George W. Bush era: their point is often simply that Islam is inherently violent, Christianity is inherently peaceful, and there is no such thing as a Christian terrorist or a white male terrorist.

But the facts simply don’t bear that out.

Far-right white male and extreme “Christians” are every bit as capable of acts of terrorism as radical Islamists, and to pretend that such terrorists don’t exist does the public a huge disservice, not to mention the hundreds of millions of Muslims who would never consider committing a terrorist act, all over the world.

When white males of the far right carry out violent attacks, media hacks, neocons and Republicans typically describe them as lone-wolf extremists rather than people who are part of terrorist networks or well-organised terrorist movements.

Lone wolf terrorists, radicalised by contact with extreme points of view, often on the internet, and attendance at training camps in remote locations – or in other words, just like the “Islamist” terrorists in France last week, in other words. Many of the terrorist attacks in the United States have been carried out by people who had long histories of networking with other terrorists. In fact, most of the terrorist activity occurring in the United States in recent years has not come from Muslims, but from a combination of radical Christianists, white supremacists and far-right militia groups.

Here are ten examples from America’s recent past:

1. Wisconsin Sikh Temple massacre, Aug. 5, 2012.

Virulent Islamophobia that has plagued post-9/11 America has not only posed a threat to Muslims, it has had deadly consequences for people of other faiths, including Sikhs.

Sikhs are not Muslims; the traditional Sikh attire, including their turbans, is different from traditional Sunni, Shiite or Sufi attire.

Sentenced to death on October 9, 2003. Re-sentenced to life in prison in 2006

Sentenced to death on October 9, 2003. Re-sentenced to life in prison in 2006

But to a moronic racist, a bearded Sikh looks like a Muslim. Only four days after 9/11, Balbir Singh Sodhi, a Sikh immigrant from India who owned a gas station in Mesa, Arizona, was murdered by Frank Silva Roque, a racist who obviously mistook him for a Muslim.

But Sodhi’s murder was not the last example of anti-Sikh violence in post-9/11 America.

On Aug. 5, 2012, white supremacist Wade Michael Page used a semi-automatic weapon to murder six people during an attack on a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin.

Wade Michael Page

Wade Michael Page – Page took his life by shooting himself in the head after he was shot in the stomach by a responding police officer.

Page’s connection to the white supremacist movement was well-documented: he had been a member of the neo-Nazi rock bands End Empathy and Definite Hate.

Attorney General Eric Holder – America’s “top cop” – described the attack as “an act of terrorism, an act of hatred.”

Again, it is likely Page was simply too stupid to know the difference between a Sikh and a Muslim, not that such a distinction matters.

2. The murder of Dr. George Tiller, May 31, 2009.

Imagine that a physician had been the victim of an attempted assassination by an Islamic jihadist in 1993, and received numerous death threats from al-Qaeda after that, before being murdered by an al-Qaeda member. Neocons, Fox News and the Christian Right would have had a field day, blaming everyone in sight from the President downwards.

A physician was the victim of a terrorist killing that day, but neither the terrorist nor the people who inflamed the terrorist were Muslims.

Scott Roeder - jailed for life.

Scott Roeder – jailed for life with a minimum of 50 years.

Dr. George Tiller, who was shot and killed by anti-abortion terrorist Scott Roeder on May 31, 2009, was a victim of Christian Right terrorism, not al-Qaeda.

Tiller had a long history of being targeted for violence by Christian Right terrorists.

In 1986, his clinic was firebombed. Then, in 1993, Tiller was shot five times by female Christian Right terrorist Shelly Shannon (now serving time in a federal prison) but survived that attack.

Given that Tiller had been the victim of an attempted murder and received countless death threats after that, Fox News would have done well to avoid fanning the flames of unrest. Instead, Bill O’Reilly repeatedly referred to him as “Tiller the baby killer.” When Roeder murdered Tiller, O’Reilly condemned the attack but did so in a way that was considered lukewarm at best.

Keith Olbermann called O’Reilly out and denounced him as a “facilitator for domestic terrorism” and a “blindly irresponsible man.” And Crazy for God author Frank Schaffer, who was formerly a figure on the Christian Right but has since become critical of that movement, asserted that the Christian Right’s extreme anti-abortion rhetoric “helped create the climate that made this murder likely to happen.”

Neocon Ann Coulter, meanwhile, viewed Tiller’s murder as a source of comic relief, telling O’Reilly, “I don’t really like to think of it as a murder. It was terminating Tiller in the 203rd trimester.”

Wiley Drake, vice-presidential candidate for the America’s Independent Party ticket in 2008 and the second vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention in 2006–2007, asked on his radio show, “Would you have rejoiced when Adolf Hitler died during the war? … I would have said, ‘Amen! Praise the Lord! Hallelujah! I’m glad he’s dead.’ This man, George Tiller, was far greater in his atrocities than Adolf Hitler, so I am happy; I am glad that he is dead.”

The right wing double standard when it comes to terrorism is obvious. At Fox News and AM neo-con talk radio, Islamic terrorism is a source of nonstop fear-mongering, while Christian Right terrorism gets excuses made for it.

3. Knoxville Unitarian Universalist Church shooting, July 27, 2008.

Jim David Adkisson - sentenced to life in jail without parole.

Jim David Adkisson – sentenced to life in jail without parole.

On July 27, 2008, Christian Right sympathizer Jim David Adkisson walked into the Knoxville Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville, Tennessee during a children’s play and began shooting people at random.

Two were killed, while seven others were injured but survived. Some 200 people were watching the performance by 25 children when Adkisson  entered the church and opened fire on the audience pulling a sawn off 12-gauge shotgun out of a guitar case and began firing. At first, people thought that the loud bangs of the gunshots were part of the play. One person was killed at the scene: Greg McKendry (60), a longtime church member and usher who deliberately stood in front of the gunman to protect others. Later that night, a 61-year-old woman, Linda Kraeger, died from wounds suffered during the attack. Others injured by the shotgun blasts include TVUUC member Tammy Sommers, and visitors John Worth, Joe Barnhart, Jack Barnhart, and Linda Chavez. Allison Lee was injured while escaping with her young children.

Adkisson said he was motivated by a hatred of liberals, Democrats and gays, and he considered neocon Bernard Goldberg’s book, 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America, his political manifesto. As he couldn’t reach his nation’s leaders he decided to murder those he saw as putting them in power.

Adkisson (who pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder and is now serving life in prison without parole) was vehemently anti-abortion, but apparently committing an act of terrorism during a children’s play was good ol’ family values. While Adkisson’s act of terrorism was reported on Fox News, it didn’t get the round-the-clock coverage an act of Islamic terrorism would have garnered.

4. The murder of Dr. John Britton, July 29, 1994.

Paul Jennings Hill, Christianist terrorist

Paul Jennings Hill, Christianist terrorist

To hear some on the Christianist extreme Right tell it, there is no such thing as Christian terrorism. Tell that to the victims of the Army of God, a loose network of radical Christianists with a long history of terrorist attacks on abortion providers.

One Christian Right terrorist with ties to the Army of God was Paul Jennings Hill, who was executed by lethal injection on Sept. 3, 2003 for the murders of abortion doctor John Britton and his bodyguard James Barrett. Hill shot both of them in cold blood and expressed no remorse whatsoever; he insisted he was doing’s God’s work and has been exalted as a martyr by the Army of God.

5. The Centennial Olympic Park bombing, July 27, 1996.

Paul Jennings Hill is hardly the only Christian terrorist who has been praised by the Army of God; they have also praised Eric Rudolph, who is serving life without parole for a long list of terrorist attacks committed in the name of Christianity.

Eric Rudolph after his capture

Eric Rudolph after his capture

Rudolph is best known for carrying out the Olympic Park bombing in Atlanta during the 1996 Summer Olympics—a blast that killed innocent spectator Alice Hawthorne and wounded 111 others.

But Hawthorne wasn’t the only person Rudolph murdered: his bombing of an abortion clinic in Birmingham, Alabama in 1998 caused the death of Robert Sanderson (a Birmingham police officer and part-time security guard) and caused nurse Emily Lyons to lose an eye.

Rudolph’s other acts of Christianist terrorism include bombing the Otherwise Lounge (a lesbian bar in Atlanta) in 1997, and an abortion clinic in an Atlanta suburb in 1997.

Rudolph was no “lone wolf”: he was part of a terrorist movement that encouraged his violence. The extreme religious right in America continues to exalt Rudolph as a brave Christian who is doing God’s work.

6. The murder of Barnett Slepian by James Charles Kopp, Oct. 23, 1998.

Kopp - 25 years to life.

Kopp – 25 years to life.

Like Paul Jennings Hill, Eric Rudolph and Scott Roeder, Roman Catholic James Charles Kopp is a radical Christian terrorist who has been exalted as a hero by some.

On Oct. 23, 1998 Kopp fired a single shot into the Amherst, NY home of Barnett Slepian (a doctor who performed abortions), mortally wounding him. Slepian died an hour later.

Kopp later claimed he only meant to wound Slepian, not kill him. But Judge Michael D’Amico of Erin County, NY said that the killing was clearly premeditated and sentenced Kopp to 25 years to life.

Kopp is a suspect in other anti-abortion terrorist attacks, including the non-fatal shootings of three doctors in Canada, though it appears unlikely that Kopp will be extradited to Canada to face any charges.

7. Planned Parenthood bombing, Brookline, Massachusetts, 1994.

Salvi

John C Salvi – killed himself in prison.

Seldom has the term “Christian terrorist” been used in connection with John C. Salvi on AM talk radio or at Fox News, but it’s a term that easily applies to him.

In 1994, the radical anti-abortionist and Army of God member attacked a Planned Parenthood clinic in Brookline, Massachusetts, shooting and killing receptionists Shannon Lowney and Lee Ann Nichols and wounding several others.

Salvi was found dead in his prison cell two years later in 1996, and his death was ruled a suicide. Salvi has been exalted by some as a Christian martyr and described Lowney and Nichols not as victims of domestic terrorism, but as infidels who got what they deserved.

8. Suicide attack on IRS building in Austin, Texas, Feb. 18, 2010.

The Echelon complex after the attack

The Echelon complex after the attack

When Joseph Stack flew a plane into the Echelon office complex (where an IRS office was located), Fox News’ coverage of the incident was calm and matter-of-fact.

Republican Rep. Steve King of Iowa even seemed to find the attack amusing and joked that it could have been avoided if the federal government had followed his advice and abolished the IRS.

Joseph Stack, virulent anti-Government protestor and murderer

Joseph Stack, virulent anti-Government protestor and murderer

Nonetheless, there were two fatalities: Stack and IRS employee Vernon Hunter.

Stack left behind a rambling suicide note outlining his reasons for the attack, which included a disdain for the IRS as well as total disgust with health insurance companies and bank bailouts.

Some of the most insightful coverage of the incident came from philosopher and linguist Noam Chomsky, who said that while Stack had some legitimate grievances — millions of Americans shared his outrage over bank bailouts and the practices of health insurance companies — the way he expressed them was absolutely wrong.

9. The murder of Alan Berg, June 18, 1984.

Alan Berg, murdered for speaking his mind in public. Exactly like the journalists of Charlie Hebdo.

Alan Berg, murdered for speaking his mind in public. Exactly like the journalists of Charlie Hebdo.

Liberal Denver-based talk show host Alan Berg was a critic of white supremacists who was killed with an automatic weapon on June 18, 1984.

The killing was linked to members of the Order, a white supremacist group that had marked Berg for death. Order members David Lane (a former Ku Klux Klan member who had also been active in the neo-nazi Aryan Nations) and Bruce Pierce were both convicted in federal court on charges of racketeering, conspiracy and violating Berg’s civil rights and given what amounted to life sentences. Bruce Pierce, who was incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Complex in Union County, Pennsylvania, died of natural causes at age 56 on August 16, 2010. Lane, incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Complex in Terre Haute, Indiana, died of an epileptic seizure aged 68 on May 28, 2007.

Robert Matthews, who founded the Order, got that name from a fictional group in white supremacist William Luther Pierce’s anti-Semitic 1978 novel, The Turner Diaries — a book Timothy McVeigh enjoyed. Believed, although never proven to be, a lookout in the Alan Berg shooting, Matthews was burned to death during a standoff with federal authorities on December 8, 1984, at his home in Coupeville, Washington.

The novel’s fictional account of the destruction of a government building has been described as the inspiration for the Oklahoma City bombing of 1995. (See below.)

10. Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City bombing, April 19, 1995.

Extreme right wingers and their fellow travellers grow angry and uncomfortable whenever Timothy McVeigh is cited as an example of a non-Islamic terrorist. Pointing out that a non-Muslim white male carried out an attack as vicious and deadly as the Oklahoma City bombing doesn’t fit into their narrative that only Muslims and people of colour are capable of carrying out terrorist attacks.

The face of terror. White. Christian.

The face of terror. In this case, white. And Christian.

The often claim that bringing up McVeigh’s name during a discussion of terrorism is a “red herring” that distracts us from fighting radical Islamists, but that, of course, downplays the cruel, destructive nature of the attack.

Prior to the al-Qaeda attacks of 9/11, the Oklahoma City bombing McVeigh orchestrated was the most deadly terrorist attack in U.S. history: 168 people were killed and more than 600 were injured, including nineteen children killed in the day care centre on the second floor.

When McVeigh drove a truck filled with explosives into the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, his goal was quite simply to kill as many people as possible.

Clearly, McVeigh was not motivated by radical Islam; rather, he was motivated by an extreme hatred for the U.S. government and saw the attack as revenge for the Ruby Ridge incident of 1992 and the Waco Siege in 1993. He had white supremacist leanings as well (when he was in the U.S. Army, McVeigh was reprimanded for wearing a “white power” T-shirt he had bought at a KKK demonstration). He was also bang in line with the “low taxes, small government” movement:  indeed, McVeigh wrote letters to local newspapers complaining about taxes:

Taxes are a joke. Regardless of what a political candidate “promises,” they will increase. More taxes are always the answer to government mismanagement. They mess up. We suffer. Taxes are reaching cataclysmic levels, with no slowdown in sight. […] Is a Civil War Imminent? Do we have to shed blood to reform the current system? I hope it doesn’t come to that. But it might.

McVeigh’s biographers, Lou Michel and Dan Herbeck, quote McVeigh, with whom they spoke for 75 hours, on his attitude to the victims. His lack of remorse was chilling and sociopathic:

To these people in Oklahoma who have lost a loved one, I’m sorry but it happens every day. You’re not the first mother to lose a kid, or the first grandparent to lose a grandson or a granddaughter. It happens every day, somewhere in the world. I’m not going to go into that courtroom, curl into a fetal ball and cry just because the victims want me to do that.

McVeigh exhibited exactly the same warped desire for martyrdom that is seen in suicide bombers the world over. Of his impending execution he said:

I knew I wanted this before it happened. I knew my objective was state-assisted suicide and when it happens, it’s in your face.

Having failed to set off a popular revolution, McVeigh was executed on June 11, 2001. We believe he should have served life without parole instead, as a living reminder of the type of viciousness of which the white, organised “Christian” extreme right is capable. Terry Nichols and Michael Fortier were also convicted as conspirators in the plot. Terry Nichols was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

It should be noted that McVeigh was of above average intelligence with an IQ of 126, and psychiatrist John Smith concluded that McVeigh was “a decent person who had allowed rage to build up inside him to the point that he had lashed out in one terrible, violent act.”

Many other examples are available, even of extremists linked to “Christian” organisations who attack people who they think are Jewish and end up murdering other Christians. They are not limited to America, they occur everywhere.

This is the point. No self-respecting Christian would tolerate being tarred with the same brush as these lunatics, and nor should they. 

Similarly no self-respecting Muslim should be expected to apologise over and over again for the madness of so-called Islamic terrorism, which also, we should remember, is far more likely to be targeted at other Muslims than it is at Christians or the West. Whatever the loathsome ageing owner of Fox News thinks.

Marginalised, ignorant, warped and sociopathic individuals of all religions and none are capable of horrific violence.

As we write this article new emerges of TWO THOUSAND villages slaughtered by Boko Haram in northern Nigeria. An ethnic, anti-Western group hijacked by the proponents of extremist Islam, in fact the group is little more than a warlord-lead regional force dressed in religious clothing.

As we write news has emerged of TWO THOUSAND villages slaughtered by Boko Haram in northern Nigeria. An ethnic, anti-Western group hijacked by the proponents of extremist Islam, in fact the group is little more than a warlord-led regional force dressed in fundamentalist religious clothing. It’s resort to extreme violence has snowballed and continues unabated.

The war against terror is not against Christianity, or Islam, or any other religion for that matter.

It is against those who teach that violence is the solution to political and economic problems, whether that violence is turned inward on a community, or externally, against other communities.

VIOLENCE is the enemy.

Get that clear, and say it again and again.

Just like three million people in Paris did today.

#jesuischarlie #wearenotafraid

(With thanks to Raw Story and others)

In a case which has shocked the world, CNN reports a Christian in Sudan has been sentenced to death for her faith; ‘I’m just praying,’ her husband says.

Watch this video

STORY HIGHLIGHTS

  • Meriam Yehya Ibrahim’s lawyer says she refused to recant her Christian faith in court
  • Husband tells CNN: “I’m so frustrated. I don’t know what to do.”
  • Ibrahim, 27, has been convicted of apostasy and sentenced to death
  • She considers herself Christian, but a court says she is Muslim
Hours after a Sudanese court sentenced his pregnant wife to death when she refused to recant her Christian faith, her husband told CNN he feels helpless.

“I’m so frustrated. I don’t know what to do,” Daniel Wani told CNN on Thursday. “I’m just praying.”

This week a Khartoum court convicted his wife, Meriam Yehya Ibrahim, 27, of apostasy, or the renunciation of faith.

Ibrahim is Christian, her husband said. But the court considers her to be Muslim because her father was.

The court also convicted her of adultery and sentenced her to 100 lashes because her marriage to a Christian man is considered void under Sharia law.

The court gave her until Thursday to recant her Christian faith, something she refused to do, according to her lawyer.

During Thursday’s sentencing hearing, a sheikh told the court “how dangerous a crime like this is to Islam and the Islamic community,” said attorney Mohamed Jar Elnabi, who’s representing Ibrahim.

“I am a Christian,” Ibrahim fired back, “and I will remain a Christian.”

Her legal team says it plans to appeal the verdict, which drew swift condemnation from human rights organizations around the world.

In the meantime, Ibrahim, who is eight months’ pregnant, remains in prison with her 20-month-old son.

“She is very strong and very firm. She is very clear that she is a Christian and that she will get out one day,” Elnabi told CNN from Sudan.

Ibrahim was born to a Sudanese Muslim father and an Ethiopian Orthodox mother. Her father left when she was 6 years old, and Ibrahim was raised by her mother as a Christian. However, because her father was Muslim, the courts considered her to be the same, which would mean her marriage to a non-Muslim man is void.

The case, her lawyer said, started after Ibrahim’s brother filed a complaint against her, alleging that she had gone missing for several years and that her family was shocked to find she had married a Christian man.

A family divided

The court’s ruling leaves a family divided, with Ibrahim behind bars and her husband struggling to survive, Elnabi said. Police blocked Wani from entering the courtroom on Thursday, Elnabi said. Lawyers appealed to the judge, but he refused, Elnabi said. Wani uses a wheelchair and “totally depends on her for all details of his life,” Elnabi said.

“He cannot live without her,” said the lawyer.

The couple’s son is also having a difficult time in prison.

“He is very affected from being trapped inside a prison from such a young age,” Elnabi said. “He is always getting sick due to lack of hygiene and bugs.”

Ibrahim is having a difficult pregnancy, the lawyer said. A request to send her to a private hospital was denied “due to security measures.”

There also is the question of the timing of a potential execution.

In past cases involving pregnant or nursing women, the Sudanese government waited until the mother weaned her child before executing any sentence, said Christian Solidarity Worldwide spokeswoman Kiri Kankhwende.

Rights groups, governments ask for compassion

Amnesty International describes Ibrahim as a prisoner of conscience.

“The fact that a woman could be sentenced to death for her religious choice, and to flogging for being married to a man of an allegedly different religion, is abhorrent and should never be even considered,” Manar Idriss, Amnesty International’s Sudan researcher, said in a statement. ‘Adultery’ and ‘apostasy’ are acts which should not be considered crimes at all, let alone meet the international standard of ‘most serious crimes’ in relation to the death penalty. It is a flagrant breach of international human rights law,” the researcher said.

Katherine Perks with the African Centre for Justice and Peace Studiessaid the verdict goes against Sudan’s “own Constitution and commitments made under regional and international law.”

“Meriam has been convicted solely on account of her religious convictions and personal status,” she said.

Foreign embassies in Khartoum are urging the government there to reverse course.

“We call upon the Government of Sudan to respect the right to freedom of religion, including one’s right to change one’s faith or beliefs, a right which is enshrined in international human rights law as well as in Sudan’s own 2005 Interim Constitution,” the embassies of the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and Netherlands said in a statement.

“We further urge Sudanese legal authorities to approach Ms. Meriam’s case with justice and compassion that is in keeping with the values of the Sudanese people,” it read.

‘Egregious violations of freedom of religion

Attempts to contact Sudan’s justice minister and foreign affairs minister about the Ibrahim case were unsuccessful.

Sudan is one of the most difficult countries in the world to be a Christian, according to international religious freedom monitors.

Under President Omar al-Bashir, the African nation “continues to engage in systematic, ongoing and egregious violations of freedom of religion or belief,” the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom said in its 2014 report.

The country imposes Sharia law on Muslims and non-Muslims alike and punishes acts of “indecency” and “immorality” by floggings and amputations, the commission said.

“Conversion from Islam is a crime punishable by death, suspected converts to Christianity face societal pressures, and government security personnel intimidate and sometimes torture those suspected of conversion,” said the commission, whose members are appointed by Congress and the president.

The Sudanese government has arrested Christians for spreading their faith, razed Christian churches and confiscated Christians’ property, the commission said.

Since 1999, the U.S. State Department has called Sudan one of the worst offenders of religious rights, counting it among eight “countries of particular concern.”

“The government at times enforced laws against blasphemy and defaming Islam,” the State Department said in its most recent report on religious freedom, from 2012.

The State Department’s other countries of concern, all of which impose strict penalties on Christians or other faiths, are: Myanmar (also known as Burma), China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan.

Among all religious groups, Christians are the most likely to be persecuted worldwide, according to a 2014 report by the Pew Research Center.

Between June 2006 and December 2012, Christians were harassed by governments in 151 countries, Pew reported. Islam was second, with 135 countries. Together, Christians and Muslims make up half of the world’s population, Pew noted.

Lawyer says he’s gotten a death threat

Elnabi says he got a death threat a day before the controversial court hearing, with an anonymous caller telling him to pull out of representing Ibrahim or risk attack.

“I feel very scared,” he said. “Since yesterday, I live in fear if I just hear a door open or a strange sound in the street.”

Still, the lawyer said he’ll continue representing Ibrahim.

“I could never leave the case. This is a matter of belief and principles,” he said. “I must help someone who is in need, even if it will cost me my life.”

As soon as we discover where people can register a protest against this barbaric judgement, Wellthisiswhatithink will post the details. If you happen to know, please tell us.

UPDATE We are indebted to Marian for providing us with this link to an Amnesty USA PDF which refers to the case and provides email addresses for the relevant Sudanese officials. We urge you to email them politely asking for the ruling to be reversed.

http://www.amnestyusa.org/sites/default/files/uaa11814.pdf

Please share this story as widely as you can.

UPDATE It has been reported that Meriam has had her baby in prison, where her 22 month old is also living with her. Her husband was not allowed to attend the birth.

Five Christians were arrested after their group held a prayer vigil in reaction to what they described as Australia’s “cruel treatment” of asylum seekers on March 21.

Christians released

Commonsense prevails. They look like dangerous violent radicals, don’t they?

A spokeswoman for the group has said the charges were dismissed after they pled guilty to trespass in Sutherland Local Court this afternoon.

She said the magistrate noted that the protest was peaceful. “This was the other end of the scale to the Cronulla Riots,” she said.

Earlwood resident Justin Whelan, 38, was one of those who faced court over the protest he described as an appeal to Mr Morrison to “rediscover the ideals of his maiden speech”.

“I have witnessed first-hand the conflict and suffering in Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine I feel compelled to take action to draw attention to the plight of asylum seekers,” he said.

He was joined in court by Blue Mountains resident Donna Mulhearn, 45, Zetland resident Jaxon Jennings, 21, and Woolloomooloo resident Jody Lightfoot, 28. The fifth member of the group, 33-year-old Midland resident Jarrod McKenna, did not appear in court.

The group was supported by approximately two dozen protesters who gathered outside the court to hold another “asylum seeker prayer vigil”.

Protest spokesman Matt Anslow said the vigil participants had come from different Christian denominations, including Catholic and Uniting Church, as well as non-Christians.

Mr Anslow said his group had not had any contact with Mr Morrison since the March 21 protest.

“We recognise that we’ve been a party to allowing our government to continue these policies,” he said. “Today is less about an outcome, it’s about support”.

He had told the media that the March protest was not intended to target Mr Morrison in a negative way.

If ever a man needed praying for, it's this guy.

If ever a man needed praying for, it’s this guy.

“We were praying also for Mr Morrison, not in a way that was condemning or judgemental,” he said. “We were actually praying that Mr Morrison might have a change of heart. In his maiden speech for Federal Parliament, Mr Morrison gave a really amazing outline of his vision that included justice and compassion for vulnerable people. For us, we were hoping Mr Morrison might have a change of heart and join us.”

Wellthisiswhatithink has another and less gentle point to raise. What on earth were police officers doing wasting their taxpayer-funded time arresting these people in the first place? And once arrested, why on earth were they taken to court and not simply released? Who took that ludicrous decision?

I am reasonably sure the Christians who “invaded” Morrison’s precious little office would have left quietly if asked to do so, or would have allowed themselves to be moved outside, even if resisting passively. That should have been an end to the matter.

In a free country, people are free to say what they like, where they like, even if that causes minor inconvenience. What an utter nonsense this all was. Will the police in charge at this and other protests be counseled to show a little more restraint, and commonsense? Like hell they will. Will the prosecutorial authorities get dragged over the coals for wasted time, money and effort. No, they won’t.

Ridiculous.

Adam and Eve debate the finer points of theology. By Rubens. Except they never did. No, the serpent never beguiled Eve, nor was Adam ashamed of his nakedness. Whatever next?

I have decided to republish this post for a couple of reasons.

  • It was very popular last time.
  • A Catholic Bishop in America says voting for Barack Obama will imperil your immortal soul. (But he isn’t telling his parishoners how to vote, mind you, despite the fact that this presumably only leaves them the option of supporting a billionaire cult member who thinks when he dies he gets a whole planet to himself plus forty wives to play with. Plus Anne Romney, who I can see liking that idea. Not.)
  • And just the other day the Pope also expressed the opinion that gay people were not whole human beings. (They are therefore sub human, presumably. And we know where that led us with Cardinal Ratzinger’s countrymen last time around …)

So, my question is simply this: What are the people on?

The original article begins here:

In a comment that will rock the confidence of many traditionalist or literalist Christians of all denominations, Australia’s Roman Catholic Cardinal George Pell – one of the most conservative Roman Catholics in a senior position worldwide, and a possible future Pope – has publicly described the biblical story of Adam and Eve as a sophisticated myth used to explain evil and suffering rather than a scientific truth.

Cardinal Pell appeared on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s “Q&A” TV chat show, where he was debating British evolutionary biologist and celebrity atheist Richard Dawkins.

Cardinal Pell said humans “probably” evolved from Neanderthals (this is not strictly true*, but at least it concedes that mankind has a long history) but it was impossible to say exactly when there was a first human. “But we have to say if there are humans, there must have been a first one,” he said.

(By the way, this is widely considered, in the case of homo sapiens, to have been a female from Africa, if the DNA sampling of the world is understood. Originally, we were all Africans.)

According to Genesis, God created Adam and Eve as the first man and woman.

Asked by journalist Tony Jones if he believed in the existence of an actual Garden of Eden with an Adam and Eve, Cardinal Pell said it was not a matter of science but rather a beautiful mythological account.

“It’s a very sophisticated mythology to try to explain the evil and the suffering in the world,” he said.

“It’s certainly not a scientific truth. And it’s a religious story told for religious purposes.”

The interesting issue is that when a senior Churchman concedes one story in the Bible is mythology – meaningful, but mythology, nevertheless – then we must ask, what else is?

Noah and the Flood is one biblical story which is clearly ludicrous, unless you think he also collected two by two of every grub, bacteria and virus on the planet.

Critical theologians have long demonstrated that some of the chronology of the Old Testament – especially concerning Moses and Joshua, is not literally true. Once you remove one brick from the wall, the edifice of the literal 100% truth of the Bible collapses – correctly, in my view – and we can start to apply a modern mind to the writings of the past.

This, of course, is why so many Roman Catholics and evangelical Protestants are hysterical about not reducing the verisimilitude of the Bible by a single word. What, for example, of the argument that the Bible says nothing at all about homosexuality when it is read in the original languages, even Pauline comments in the New Testament which appear irrefutable.

Will we next see Pell refute his implacable opposition to homosexual communicants and priests?

Will we see him weaken his opposition to female celebrants? (The Catholic Church long ago quietly forgot that women were supposed to stay silent in Church, and wear hats, of course.)

Pell directly contradicts the Catholic Catechism

As others have pointed out, this commentary on Adam and Eve also violates the Catholic Church’s official attitude toward the Primal Couple.  The Catholic Catechism, for example, states:

390 The account of the fall in Genesis 3 uses figurative language, but affirms a primeval event, a deed that took place at the beginning of the history of man. Revelation gives us the certainty of faith that the whole of human history is marked by the original fault freely committed by our first parents.

397 Man, tempted by the devil, let his trust in his Creator die in his heart and, abusing his freedom, disobeyed God’s command. This is what man’s first sin consisted of. All subsequent sin would be disobedience toward God and lack of trust in his goodness.

398 In that sin man preferred himself to God and by that very act scorned him. He chose himself over and against God, against the requirements of his creaturely status and therefore against his own good. Created in a state of holiness, man was destined to be fully “divinized” by God in glory. Seduced by the devil, he wanted to “be like God”, but “without God, before God, and not in accordance with God”.

399 Scripture portrays the tragic consequences of this first disobedience. Adam and Eve immediately lose the grace of original holiness. They become afraid of the God of whom they have conceived a distorted image – that of a God jealous of his prerogatives.

402 All men are implicated in Adam’s sin, as St. Paul affirms: “By one man’s disobedience many (that is, all men) were made sinners”: “sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned.” The Apostle contrasts the universality of sin and death with the universality of salvation in Christ. “Then as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men.”

403 Following St. Paul, the Church has always taught that the overwhelming misery which oppresses men and their inclination towards evil and death cannot be understood apart from their connection with Adam’s sin and the fact that he has transmitted to us a sin with which we are all born afflicted, a sin which is the “death of the soul”. Because of this certainty of faith, the Church baptizes for the remission of sins even tiny infants who have not committed personal sin.

As one commentator remarked: “I wonder if the good Cardinal will now be excommunicated? Don’t count on it – the Vatican tends to turn a blind eye toward these local violations of dogma.”

PS Some Days Later and more than 4,500 hits later:

This article has been criticised on some (predominantly atheist) forums because it ignores the logical argument that if Adam and Eve was bunkum then “Original Sin”  is bunkum too, and therefore the redemptive power of Christ’s sacrifice is a nonsense, so, logically the whole of Christian religion is nonsense.  (The point made in 402 and 403 above.)

To my mind this interpretation sheets home to some atheists as much obsession with literal interpretation as I criticise in some Christians. Indeed, sometimes when I see leading atheists and leading believers go at it hammer and tongs, they remind me more of each other than anything else. Anyhow: “Original Sin” – being a description of humanity’s essentially imperfect state – does not, in my opinion, need to be established by the literal truth of the Genesis story. I am quite content to assert that humanity is flawed, (just look around you), and that Christ was not (read the stories).

When, how, and why humanity became flawed and why God chose the unique nature of Jesus to correct the matter can, for me, wait until I no longer see as through a glass darkly, which I do not expect to be anytime soon, and certainly not in this life.

Meanwhile, the facts on evolution as far as our God-given brains can discern them …

*While human evolution begins with the last common ancestor of all life, it generally refers to the evolutionary history of primates and in particular the genus Homo, including the emergence of Homo sapiens as a distinct species of hominids (“great apes”). The study of human evolution involves many scientific disciplines, including physical anthropology, primatology, archaeology, linguistics, embryology and genetics.[1]
Primate evolution likely began in the late Cretaceous, 85 Ma (million years ago) by genetic studies and no later than the Paleocene by the fossil record 55 Ma.[2][3] The family Hominidae, or Great Apes, diverged from the Hylobatidae family 15-20 Ma. Around 14 Ma the Ponginae or orangutans diverged from the Hominidae family.[4] Later the gorilla and chimpanzee would diverge from the lineage leading to the genus Homo, the latter around 5-6 Ma. Modern humans evolved from the last common ancestor of the Hominini and the species Australopithecines some 2.3-2.4 million years ago in Africa.[5][6]In the Hominini tribe, several species and subspecies of Homo evolved and are now extinct or introgressed, and only one species remains. Examples include Homo erectus (which inhabited Asia, Africa, and Europe) and Neanderthals (either Homo neanderthalensis or Homo sapiens neanderthalensis) (which inhabited Europe and Asia). Archaic Homo sapiens, the forerunner of anatomically modern humans, evolved between 400,000 and 250,000 years ago. Examples of archaic humans generally include Homo heidelbergensis, Homo rhodesiensis, Homo neanderthalensis and sometimes Homo antecessor and Homo ergaster.[7] Anatomically modern humans evolved from archaic Homo sapiens in the Middle Paleolithic, about 200,000 years ago.[8] Behaviorally modern humans developed around 50,000 years ago according to many although some view modern behavior as beginning with the emergence of anatomically modern humans.[9]

Time magazine has a go at explaining, er … time. Lots and lots of time.

One view among scientists concerning the origin of anatomically modern humans is the recent African origin of modern humans hypothesis (the “recent single-origin hypothesis” or “recent out-of-Africa” model),[10][11][12] which posits that Homo sapiens arose in Africa and migrated out of the continent some 50,000-100,000 years ago, replacing populations of Homo erectus in Asia and Neanderthals in Europe. An alternative multiregional hypothesis posits that Homo sapiens evolved as geographically separate but interbreeding populations stemming from the worldwide migration of Homo erectus out of Africa nearly 2.5 million years ago. Evidence suggests that several haplotypes of Neanderthal origin are present among all non-African populations, and Neanderthals and other hominids, such as Denisova hominin may have contributed up to 6% of their genome to present-day humans.[13][14][15]

Jim Wallace ACL

Look closely, children. Can you say B-I-G-O-T?
— noun
a person who is intolerant of any ideas other than his or her own, esp on religion, politics, or race
[16th century, from Old French: name applied contemptuously to the Normans by the French, of obscure origin]


As a Christian, I am embarrassed by the likes of Jim Wallace.

As a Christian, I think he’s going to hell for the crap he says and for the damage he does Christianity with his intemperate nonsense. Yesterday, debating Greens leader Christine Milne, he again quoted out of date statistics to defend his bizarre views.

The excellent website Crikey.com has systematically demolished his views. I repeat their story here because I cannot do as good a job as they have, and I probably cannot control myself from the defamatory things I want to say about Jim Wallace. I will say this: in my opinion, the biggest problems gays face – and the largest cause of depression and suicide in their community – is the evil mouthed nonsense spewed against gay people by straight people.

Before his views take root in the Christian community, read this:

Get Fact: do gays have more health problems than smokers?

by Andrew Crook


Yesterday, Australian Christian Lobby boss Jim Wallace told an audience debating gay marriage at the University of Tasmania that taking up smoking was a comparatively better lifestyle choice than engaging in the salacious activity associated with same-sex marriage.

“I think we’re going to owe smokers a big apology when the homosexual community’s own statistics for its health — which it presents when it wants more money for health — are that is has higher rates of drug-taking, of suicide, it has the life of a male reduced by up to 20 years,” he said. Smoking, by contrast, led to a reduced life expectancy of between seven and 10 years.

This morning, Prime Minister Julia Gillard pulled out of next month’s ACL conference in Canberra, condemning Wallace’s comments as “heartless and wrong”. How wrong? In another instalment of Crikey’s Get Fact series, we put Wallace’s claims to the truth test.

There are a mountain of studies reporting poorer health outcomes among the gay community — gays are more likely to be smokers, to use and abuse drugs and to attempt suicide. In a follow-up ACL press release this morning, Wallace pointed to Canadian data sent to that country’s human rights commission showing troubling rates of alcohol use, depression, a lack of access to care, higher cancer risk and violence.

But what about life expectancy? Smokers may go to the grave a decade earlier but is a same-sex attracted person really likely to have their lives cut short simply because of their sexual preference?

Wallace’s claim about mortality  — which he previously trotted out in The Australian last year — is repeatedly used by American anti-gay groups to ratchet up political support for the sanctity of marriage. But the foundation for the statement is dubious and contested.

Much of the “data” supporting that claim relates to gay men in an urban HIV subset (as opposed to say, lesbians in a civil union), and is at least 20 years old.

Wallace’s life expectancy claims could stem from a 1997 study in the International Journal of Epidemiology which concluded that “in a major Canadian centre (Vancouver), life expectancy at age 20 years for gay and bisexual men is eight to 20 years less than for all men. If the same pattern of mortality were to continue, we estimate that nearly half of gay and bisexual men currently aged 20 years will not reach their 65th birthday.

“Under even the most liberal assumptions, gay and bisexual men in this urban centre are now experiencing a life expectancy similar to that experienced by all men in Canada in the year 1871,” the study said.

But the data in that study was collected between 1987 and 1992, well before advanced treatments for HIV were developed. In 2001, its authors published a follow-up study blasting “select groups in US and Finland” for exploiting the research to “suggest that gay and bisexual men live an unhealthy lifestyle that is destructive to themselves and to others”. They wrote:

“If we were to repeat this analysis today the life expectancy of gay and bisexual men would be greatly improved. Deaths from HIV infection have declined dramatically in this population since 1996 …

“It is essential to note that the life expectancy of any population is a descriptive and not a prescriptive measure. Death is a product of the way a person lives and what physical and environmental hazards he or she faces every day. It cannot be attributed solely to their s-xual orientation or any other ethnic or social factor.”

A 2009 Danish study published in the American Journal of Public Health found that while death rates among same-sex married couples was a third higher than the general population from 1989 to 2004, after 1996 the mortality rate among gay men in same-sex marriages was similar to heterosexuals.

Another source favoured by gay marriage opponents is Cameron, Playfair and Wellum’s widely debunkedgay obituary” study published in 1994 in the Omega Journal of Death and Dying. It concluded gay men have an average lifespan of 43 years. The study involved researchers consulting the death notices — mostly AIDS-related — in the urban gay community press.

The problem was the study suffered from what statisticians call a “non response bias” — that is, the sample was corrupted by the non-inclusion of gay men who were still alive. According to statisticians from Columbia University, the average age of AIDS victims is about 40. But even before new treatments became widely available, only about 20% of gay men were likely to die of AIDS.

Cameron, the founder of recognised hate group Family Research Institute, followed that up with this pseudo 1998 study, “Does Homosexual Activity Shorten Life”. That was again based on dubious surveys of gay obituaries and other “random surveys” and found the “medium age of death” for homosexuals was less than 50 years. The evidence was “consistent with previous findings suggesting that homosexual activity may be associated with a lifespan shortened by 20 to 30 years”.

Even excusing its dodgy methodology, treatment advances have rendered the conclusions defunct. As Andrew Carr, director of the HIV, immunology and infectious diseases unit at St Vincent’s Hospital, told The Sydney Morning Herald in July: ”Once upon a time the average person who got HIV had a life expectancy of about 10 years. Now, if you get HIV and go on treatment your life is still probably shorter than if you had never had the virus, but maybe only five to 10 years less.”

Carr said that when groups prone to HIV are stripped out, notably injecting drug users, then the difference becomes even smaller. And in the US, the death rate from HIV was nine times higher in 1990 than two years ago.

One of the other studies cited by Wallace in the past — a 2003 Dutch study  — found on average gay relationships only last 18 months. Those findings, published in the journal AIDS, were based on a cohort of young Dutch gays aged 18-21 residing in the middle of Amsterdam.

In fact, other research, including a study in the US state of Vermont  — the first state to legalise same-sex civil unions — showed civil union households seemed to mirror that of the general population. Crucially, the data did not require “participants” or volunteers that skewed the result — it was a simple reading of the information collected by state bureaucrats.

In fact, it is likely that dubious media interventions like Wallace’s may in fact perpetuate many of the health problems he is himself referring to. A recent study from the University of Queensland, The Psychology of Same-Sex Marriage Opposition, showed that individuals exposed to media articles bagging same-sex marriage were more likely to report feeling negative and depressed and more likely to feel distressed, upset, guilty, scared, afraid, ashamed and nervous. They wer more likely to report loneliness, more likely to report they felt weak and powerless — and less likely to report feeling happy or positive.

A recent Psychologists for Marriage Equality submission to the Senate inquiry into the gay marriage bill cited a 2007 study showing the phenomenon of “minority stress” means “social prejudice, discrimination, and violence against lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals play a significant role in the mental health outcomes” of these groups.

So, while the gay population does appear to experience a disproportionate prevalence of negative health effects brought on by others, the evidence that gays die earlier than straights is dubious at best. Accordingly, we rate Wallace’s claims as mostly rubbish.

 

This is what a bigot looks like.

A North Carolina pastor has launched a shocking homophobic rant, calling on gays and lesbians to be put in an electrified pen and left to die.

The pastor has been identified as Charles L. Worley of the Providence Road Baptist Church in Maiden, North Carolina, with the sermon believed to have been filmed on May 13.

http://au.news.yahoo.com/world/a/-/world/13750950/pastor/

A disgrace. How is this not hate crime?

You are an idiot, Mr Worley. You don’t even know your theology.As I explain clearly here: https://wellthisiswhatithink.wordpress.com/2012/05/01/why-is-the-church-anti-gay-if-the-bible-isnt/

In my humble opinion, this man is going straight to Hell, and good riddance, assuming it exists.

These views are evil, evil, evil. This man does not speak for me, or any Christian I know. On behalf of Jesus Christ, I apologise to every gay, lesbian and transgendered person on the planet. And yes, I have that right. Read your Bible …

As a Christian on Easter Day, I saw this on a website, and I fell to thinking. Especially because the final line on the poster I saw, underneath the hands, said, forcefully and somewhat cynically, “So don’t tell me about the power of prayer.”

I was confronted. Made to think. So good on whoever devised the poster, rather agressive though it was. We all need to be made to think, at Easter-time more than ever. An aside to my religious friends: atheists have their messages for us, too.

But, of course, its core proposition is unfair.

When religious people pray, we frequently ask for other things other than peace, an end to violence, an end to sadness and despair, and end to hunger, a fair sharing of the world’s resources, and so on.

In fact, generally, being only human, we are usually asking for messes that we have created in our own personal lives to get cleaned up, or for health and happiness, or even for wealth.

And sometimes, because we ask for things we don’t really need, and as God knows this, then sometimes his answer is therefore silence, or, simply, “No”.

So I cut the bottom line of the poster off. And this Easter Day, when Christians celebrate the simple but astounding belief that death is not the end of life, but rather the beginning, I would like us all to consider that, if we are to spend 10 minutes praying, then we need to spend them praying for others, other than ourselves.

And we then need to spend an equal amount of time, or more, campaigning against the evils of this world. In Jesus’s name, and in the name of our common humanity.

Because if Jesus of Nazareth was anything, he was an agitator. Knowing more than any man before or since how the world could be, he refused to accept the world as it was. He refused to accept violence, and hatred, and selfishness, and pomp and ceremony, and misrule and exploitation of the poor, the weak, the persecuted.

So spend time on your knees, by all means. But spend an equal time or more arguing with our fellows for what Jesus taught us.

Yes, Christians need to get into Church more often, but also to get out of Church more often, into the community. That might be as simple as speaking to friends or work colleagues. Not about how much we’d like to see them in Church, but how much we’d like to see more of Jesus in ourselves, and in them.

That way, we may repair some of the damage done to Jesus’s Church by scandal, selfishness, greed, and pomposity.

And on the need to heal the world, all Christians can agree. The religious and the secular can agree. Christians and Muslims and Jews and Janes and Buddhists can agree. That would be a good start. It might even lead us to heaven on earth.

I believe in the power of prayer. I have seen it wreak incredible, mystifying, astounding and inexplicable things. Not once, but often.

But I believe in the power of people modelling Christ much more.

obama in church

Obviously a Muslim. You can tell. Aren't his eyes a bit too close together?

More than half – you heard that right, more than HALF – of likely Republican voters in Mississippi say they think President Barack Obama is a Muslim, according to a survey conducted by Public Policy Polling.

Fifty-two percent said that Obama practiced Islam, while just 12 percent said he was a Christian. Thirty-six percent said they were not – really – not sure.

Obama, whose father and stepfather both came from Muslim backgrounds, is, however, a practicing Christian and was a member of Trinity United Church in Chicago before he was president. Indeed, his membership of that Church was frequently criticised by – yes – Republicans, because of the nature of the sermons preached there.

The poll, conducted by telephone of 656 likely Republican voters in Mississippi on March 10 and 11, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.8 percentage points.

In Alabama, the same poll found that 45 percent of likely Republican voters believed Obama to be a Muslim and 14 percent said they considered him a Christian.

The group conducted the polling in advance of the Republican presidential primaries in Alabama and Mississippi, which will be held on Tuesday.

On the left, an apparently typical southern Republican voter. On the right, an alien captured yesterday in Jackson, Mississippi. You be the judge.

Well, thinking about it, I think more than half of intending Republican voters in the deep south are obviously aliens.

I have no reason for believing this whatsoever, of course, just bigoted blind opinion, but I ask you to look at the evidence. I just think they clearly bear no relation to what I understand as even minimally educated adult humans.

Accordingly, I demand that they should all produce birth certificates before being allowed to vote. Before being allowed to leave home, unattended, actually. And those certificates should need to be stamped “tested: human”, not just identify where they’re from.

I repeat: I have no evidence for this point of view, but if I say it often enough, and with enough faux indignation, then obviously people will come to believe it.

Next week: your fearless reporter reveals the truth. “Rick Santorum is actually the anti-Christ”.*

*We have no evidence for this whatsoever, either, it’s just a really fun thought. Spread it around.

Meanwhile, in case any Republicans care to argue that Obama really is a Muslim, they might like to consider his words from 2007, regarding his enthusiasm for Christianity.

“Around this time that some pastors I was working with came up to me and asked if I was a member of a church. “If you’re organizing churches,” they said, “it might be helpful if you went to church once in a while.” And I thought, “Well, I guess that makes sense.”  

So one Sunday, I put on one of the few clean jackets I had, and went over to Trinity United Church of Christ on 95th Street on the South Side of Chicago. And I heard Reverend Jeremiah A. Wright deliver a sermon called “The Audacity of Hope.” And during the course of that sermon, he introduced me to someone named Jesus Christ. I learned that my sins could be redeemed. I learned that those things I was too weak to accomplish myself, He would accomplish with me if I placed my trust in Him. And in time, I came to see faith as more than just a comfort to the weary or a hedge against death, but rather as an active, palpable agent in the world and in my own life.  

It was because of these newfound understandings that I was finally able to walk down the aisle of Trinity one day and affirm my Christian faith. It came about as a choice, and not an epiphany. I didn’t fall out in church, as folks sometimes do. The questions I had didn’t magically disappear. The skeptical bent of my mind didn’t suddenly vanish. But kneeling beneath that cross on the South Side, I felt I heard God’s spirit beckoning me. I submitted myself to His will, and dedicated myself to discovering His truth and carrying out His works.”

Barack Obama, June 23rd, 2007

A political candidate quoting Jesus Christ and meaning it. Whatever next?

To the bemusement of viewers all over America, and all over the world, Republicans in the audience for the South Carolina Fox/Twitter Presidential debate loudly booed the Golden Rule in the context of foreign policy January 16.

Libetarian Texas Congressman Ron Paul was talking about respecting the sovereignty of other nations when it comes to American military action:

“My point is that if another country does to us what we do to others, we are not going to like it very much. I would say that we maybe ought to consider the Golden Rule in foreign policy. Don’t do to other nations what we don’t want them to do to us. We endlessly bomb these countries, and then we wonder why they get upset with us?”

Why, indeed? Yet Rep. Paul’s remarks set off some of the loudest “boos” of the evening from the Republican audience, as well as mockery from his Republican opponents.

The Golden Rule is a key part of Christianity and all other major world religions. Perhaps the key part. In Christianity, Christ commands the Golden Rule twice, most noticeably in Matthew 7:12 but also in Luke 6:31. In Matthew 7:12, Christ says, “Do to others whatever you would have them do to you. This is the law and the prophets.”

The controversy which resulted in the massive booing of the Golden Rule originated with a misleading accusation by Fox News anchor and moderator Brett Baier. Baier asked (or rather stated):

“In a recent interview, Congressman Paul, with a Des Moines radio station, you said you were against the operation that killed Osama bin Ladin. You said the U.S. operation that took out the terrorist responsible for killing 3,000 people on American soil, quote, “showed no respect for the rule of law, international law.” So, to be clear, you believe international law should have constrained us from tracking down and killing the man responsible for the most brazen attack on the U.S. since Pearl Harbor.”

Rep. Paul responded that Baier was mistaken about his assertion:

“Obviously, no, and that’s why I did not say that. After 9/11, I voted for the authority to go after him.”

Paul clarified that he believed that Pakistan would have turned over bin Ladin to the United States alive if the Obama administration had requested him.

“KSM, (Khaled Sheik Mohammed) his colleague, was in Pakistan. And we communicated with the government of Pakistan and they turned him over. And what I suggested there was, if we have no respect for the sovereignty of another nation, it will lead to the disruption of that nation. Why can’t we work with the government?”

Paul followed with his Golden Rule statement, suggesting we wouldn’t want other countries such as China coming to the United States in search of dissidents and bombing us.

He also suggested that the United States follow its own constitutional requirement to give a trial by jury whenever possible:

“Think about Saddam Hussein. We captured him, the government tried him and he got hung. What’s so terrible about this? What’s this whole idea that you can’t capture people? Just think, Adolph Eichmann was captured. He was given a trial. What’s wrong with capturing people? Why don’t we try to get some information from him?”

(A very important point, in my opinion, that has been virtually ignored in the celebration of Bin Laden’s death.)

Watch Paul’s comments here:

But Rep. Paul’s Republican opponents pounced on his advocacy of the Golden Rule as a sign of foreign policy “weakness.”

“He’s not a Chinese dissident. The analogy that Congressman Paul used was utterly irrational,” Newt Gingrich responded to Paul, suggesting that trials and honouring the 6th Ammendment to the U.S. Constitution are unnecessary. “Andrew Jackson had a pretty clear idea about America’s enemies. Kill them.”

The 6th Amendment, to save you looking it up, reads “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.”

Essentially, it establishes the right to a trial. It is one of the most important things that all Americans are supposed to hold as an inviolable concept, to be defended at all costs.

Yet, “Speaker Gingrich is right,” Mitt Romney agreed. “Of course, you take out our enemies, wherever they are. These people declared war on us. They’ve killed Americans. We go anywhere they are and we kill them. And the right thing for Osama bin Ladin was the bullet in the head he received. That’s the right course for people that are killing American citizens.”

Texas Governor Rick Perry (who with breathtaking idiocy also chose to condemn the elected government of NATO ally Turkey as “Islamic terrorists” at another point in the debate, and later confirmed that this was, in fact, his view) continued the mockery, saying to Baier (about Paul), “I was just thinking that the noise you were looking for was a gong.”

As Thomas Eddlem at the New American pointedly asks, “With Republicans so resoundingly booing the Golden Rule, one really has to wonder: Whatever happened to the religious right part of the Republican Party?”

A very good question. And the answer of course is simple. Politicians in the United States are religious when it suits them, and not when it doesn’t. And primarily, when it doesn’t is when standing up for principle might cost them red-neck votes.

Of course, this distasteful behaviour is not just evidenced by Republicans, and nor is it limited to the United States. It is just more obviously demonstrated by the bulk of the buffoons that the “Grand Old Party” – to their shame – currently have standing for the Presidency.

Whilst I don’t think Ron Paul has a snowball in hell’s chance of winning the Republican nomination, (and nor should he, as his economic ideas are delightfully lunatic), his confronting and ruthlessly honest candidacy is the most refreshing thing to happen to American politics in years. And yes, that includes the election of Obama.

Those standing against him should consider what comes next in Matthew’s gospel.

“Enter through the narrow gate;for the gate is wide and the road is broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many.

How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few.”

I think Ron Paul found the narrow gate last night. And they hated him for it.

(New American and others)