Vol 22 No 17
THE MEDDLING PRIEST
Exempting churches from anti-discrimination laws
Church groups in Australia have vigorously campaigned to protect themselves from particular equal opportunity laws. While there is agreement about a faith community's right to employ practising believers, there is plenty of room for disagreement as to how most prudently and charitably to exercise that right.
Conflict resolution through the arts
Conflict resolution through the arts
The tragic deaths of five Australian soldiers last week in Afghanistan highlights yet again the ongoing cross-cultural and interreligious violence that is very much a mark of our times. Usually we look for solutions to conflict through talking and negotiations. However interfaith minister Helen Summers does it through promotion of cultural activities.
Exploring teacher suicide
A teacher commits suicide in her classroom. Her replacement wants to help his students explore their grief, but is met with resistance from other staff members. There are echoes here of institutional cover-ups, where a colleague is protected at the expense of the wellbeing of children.
Human lives Australia could have saved
Australian maritime safety and border protection authorities could have saved the lives of most of the people on the boat that made two distress calls by telephone to the Australian Maritime Safety Authority early last Wednesday. Instead they passed the responsibility to Indonesia, which has none of the sophisticated resources and technologies that Australia uses - when it wants to - to locate and intercept incoming unauthorised boats.
Spiritual leader for questioning Catholics
The late Cardinal Carlo Martini reached out constantly to the young, to intellectuals, to all manner of alienated Catholics, as well as immigrants and refugees. He was explicit in expressing his view that the encyclical Humanae Vitae had done 'great damage' reaffirming the ban on contraception. To him, it was why the Church lost credibility with young people on questions of sexuality and family planning.
Life in the Ramadan fasting lane
The fasting rule is interpreted flexibly. You are free not to fast if you have to travel, are pregnant, old, little, sick, or basically have a good excuse. Ironically, Ramadan can also involve an enormous amount of cooking, late night and pre-dawn binges. Households buy up. Restaurants offer discounts. One hotel lobby was decked out like Mecca.
Not so Independent schools
Children breathe the air of protest
Children need to walk together, arm in arm with strangers, wear badges of hope and T-shirts with lifelines, sing words of wisdom and history, chant choric responses of camaraderie in a mass movement of human voices. Understand the justice of causes and the constant need for change.
Australia's nebulous borders
Looking at a map of the Australian coastline gives no clue about how far Australia's territorial claims extend. As a result, Australian policy makers aren't eager to embrace suggestions that Asian countries disputing possession of small islands and rocky outcrops should resolve their differences by assigning ownership to the closest country.
Equality within marriage is biblical
Leading Sydney Anglicans have argued for a notion of male 'headship' within marriage, taking ancient biblical authors' advice about first century existence within a given social order as a prescription for the 21st century social order itself. Most Australians, including most Christians, are rightly disturbed by such suggestions.
The Paralympics as a work in progress
The Paralympics opening ceremony shows how far we've come in reversing the exclusion of disabled athletes. But they encourage physically disabled athletes at the expense of the intellectually disabled.
Holistic cures for school snobbery
Once, my mother reprimanded a young student whom she taught at an expensive private school. The boy replied that his dad could 'buy and sell' her. As easy as it would be to conclude that private schools breed poor behaviour, rude children are just that — class has little to do with it.
Historical perspectives on Slutwalk
The post-war migration policy favoured single men as labour for the burgeoning heavy industries. By the mid-1950s thousands of lonely male migrants populated the cities, and many local women found them threatening. Like those women, Slutwalk participants defend their right to walk the streets wearing what they want without being harassed.
SBS goes celebrities over substance on asylum seekers
They stop short of calling it Go Back to Where You Came From: Celebrity Edition, but it's hard to escape the view that SBS is going out of its way to top the ratings success of the original series. There's not much insight to be gained from watching Catherine Deveny and Peter Reith snipe at each other, fun as it may be.
Walking the asylum seeker advocacy tightrope
Anglican priest Michael Lapsley lost his hands to a letter bomb during his resistance to apartheid in South Africa. His story raises questions of how white South Africans responded to what was being done in their name. Many people working with asylum seekers in Australia today ask a similar question.
Meanwhile, in Iceland ...
Anders Breivik and the insanity question
Sanity assumes purpose and responsibility; insanity its absence. This is hardly applicable to Breivik. His critique of Islam suggests a radical and violent conservative response. Conservative, Christian radicalism, that is not anti-Semitic, is on the rise in Europe, and Breivik is its foremost proponent.
Fourth grade Jesus envy
I remember Maureen McArdle's neck in front of me in the third row, that smug smarmy neck gloating and preening as she bested me in maths and social studies and science, receiving one gold Jesus after another, whereas I earned a series of silver Jesuses as long as your arm. 'At least it is not a bronze Jesus,' my mum actually said once.
Moments after meditation
Somewhere else car bombs split-screen the news. Somewhere else couples harangue vows and baggaged fears. Somewhere else children mimic fashion of what works what conceals. Here ... Silence infuses skin and thought ... Much like that pause before a newborn's first surprise of light.
How to handle workplace bullies
The Federal Workplace Bullying Inquiry has been told Australian workers are getting soft. There may be a fine line between robust performance management and workplace bullying, but international surveys have repeatedly shown Australian managers fail international benchmarks when it comes to the treatment of their people.
Rudd's forgettery and the things that don't matter
Kevin Rudd’s mother had a saying: ‘Just put it into your forgettery’. It helped him cope with criticism such as his reported tantrums and harsh treatment of staff. Julia Gillard has had her own forgettery raided by ‘misogynists and the nut jobs on the internet’ and elsewhere. Political vindictiveness is not sufficient reason to retrieve unpleasant memories from a person’s personal trash.
The upside down world of global capital
Money is not like water, that 'flows' around the world, reaching 'equilibrium', or experiencing 'volatility'. It is transactions between people, based on trust. It enables the cooperation that forms the basis of social life. Human beings should be at the centre. Yet that is the opposite of what is happening.