Wake up Australia

Jesus said to go into all the world, starting in your own neighbourhood. In many of our so-called middle-class communities, families are incredibly isolated. The Church has the answer.

In Brisbane this year, twin toddlers from a middle-class suburban family in Brisbane starved to death. The Australian newspaper said that this should be a disturbing “wake-up call” for middle Australia and should spark a debate about the difficulty of parenting.

The 35-year-old father of six was sentenced on Monday this week to eight years’ jail for his twins’ manslaughter, a month after his ex-partner received the same punishment. The Queensland Supreme Court was told the severely depressed Brisbane woman had refused to let friends and family into the twins’ bedroom for fear they would be removed from her care. She withdrew from social situations as her relationship with her high-school sweetheart collapsed, a result of his excessive drinking and gambling. Brain and Mind Research Institute director, Professor Ian Hickie, is one of Australia’s mental health commissioners. He said that such tragedies were becoming “all too common”, as communities became less connected. “We’ve seen situations of families living in middle-class suburbs in reasonable places coming to tragic ends and grief and death, without anyone in the surrounding suburbs or wider community being aware of the desperate state of affairs”.

If you think a friend, neighbour or colleague is struggling to cope psychologically, reach out. If we know someone is at home dealing with cancer, or severe arthritis, and really struggling, we don’t say, ‘let’s give them some space’. But mental-health remains very difficult to understand.

The Church understands how difficult parenting is and we have answers. Go into all the world.

Well done Senator!

I applaud Greens Senator, Sarah Hanson-Young for her decision to sue over a photo-shopped image of her in Zoo Magazine. The magazine demeaned the Senator and by extension all women seeking to make a serious contribution to public debate. Zoo magazine is appalling and the staff there are obviously short of ideas and creativity, so they simply decided they could separate the senator’s head from her body and replace her body with that of a bikini model.

Who gains from this? Zoo magazine must think they do.

Who loses? Well, apart from the obvious victim of disrespect, Ms Hanson-Young, every other Australian woman, old and young alike, who aspire to be taken seriously in their chosen profession.

But it’s not just the serious issue of objectifying women that needs to be pointed out here. Not only did the cut-and-paste photographic job demean Ms Hanson-Young, it also demeaned one of the most important issues facing our country. The article, titled “ZOO’s Asylum Seeker Bikini Plan” was published in July 2012, a week after the Senator, with great emotion, addressed the Senate regarding Australia’s humanitarian intake of asylum-seekers.

Shockingly, NSW Supreme Court Justice Lucy McCallum does not agree with the Senator and said this week at the hearing into the matter that she did not believe the photo made the senator look incompetent or immature. Justice McCallum, however, granted Sarah leave to argue her case in front of a jury. The case is going to be heard at a later date.

Meanwhile Zoo magazine continues to corrupt our society with immunity.

The inconsistency of modern western morality

“…you should say what you mean,’ the March Hare went on.
“I do,” Alice hastily replied; `at least–at least I mean what I say–that’s the same thing, you know.”
“Not the same thing a bit!”, said the Hatter. “You might just as well say that ‘I see what I eat’ is the same thing as ‘I eat what I see’!’.” “You might just as well say,” added the March Hare, “that ‘I like what I get’ is the same thing as ‘I get what I like’!”

I wish we all made a habit of saying what we mean and meaning what we say.  There are so many glaring inconsistencies in our society – we say we expect a certain standard in regards to behaviour, but then promote the opposite as being perfectly legitimate.. until it produces what we originally opposed in behaviour.

You reap what you sow is a modern day idiom which originates in the Bible in Galatians 6:7. It is a valuable lesson.

This year we as a nation have been shocked as we mourned together over the savage and brutal rape and murder of 29 year old Jill Meagher, and the terrible tragedy of young Joan Ryther, also raped, then murdered along with her unborn child by an 18 year old man while she was on her way to work. Her distraught husband pleaded, “Please, please don’t forget my wife, my child and please, don’t let this happen again”.  But on the very day that the memorial service was being held for Joan Ryther just south of Brisbane, on the other side of Brisbane, the Eatons Hill hotel hosted US Hip Hop entertainer, Tyler the Creator, whose lyrics include, “Rape a pregnant b*tch and tell my friends I had a threesome. You got a f*cking death wish? I’m a genie, it’ll get done”. In their promotion of the event they said they were “thrilled to have our venue chosen” and that it was “very exciting”. Murder and rape is not exciting. Rather it is widely condemned in our society. But Tyler the Creator with his message of rape and murder was ‘welcome’. This was despite a 20,000+ strong petition calling for him to not be allowed to spread his messages of hate against women. There was wide-spread, justifiable shock and outrage recently at the alleged assault by Nigella Lawson’s husband, Charles Saatchi, as we viewed in many forms of media, from many angles, photos of him mistreating her and grabbing her throat at a restaurant. As a society we took the opportunity to enforce the fact that women should not put up with domestic violence or any bad behaviour from any man. Bravo! But at the same time, our major cities, Perth, Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane hosted this Tyler the Creator man, as he ‘entertained’ all-age crowds with lyrics such as “Punch a bitch in her mouth just for talkin’ sh*t”, and we called that art. From the stage in the Sydney concert, the artist shouted out to his loyal fans, “who is going to go out of here tonight and rape and kill someone?”. The shouts of support with many fists raised in the air should send a chill through every Australian. Young people attending the Tyler the Creator concert could be justifiably confused at the outrage directed towards Charles Saatchi for a comparably minor offence.

Respect for our Australian military took a dive this year with more sex scandal details revealed, resulting in the dismissal of five officers. Women had once again been treated as objects rather than equals with some degrading behaviour. This is a huge disappointment to Australians who, every year on Anzac Day, rightly celebrate the bravery, the courage and the heroic behaviour of our soldiers past and present. When those who we look to for protection act in a way that takes advantage of vulnerable people, our national sense of security and pride dissipates because we all acknowledge that there is nothing courageous or heroic about misogyny. But, in the closing hours of the very week that the sexual misdemeanours were revealed, and Australia’s top military representatives were using every means available to convey the message to the public that this behaviour would not be tolerated under any circumstances, a strip club billboard was erected opposite the Gallipoli army barracks in Enoggera, Brisbane. Objectifying women and treating them as less than equal is unacceptable in our culture and we expect more of those in positions of trust. But our Government advertising watchdog dismisses all complaints when a huge brightly lit billboard appeals to our military officers, after a week of scandal, to relax by coming along to a club to objectify women.

We allow the grooming of our society to accept the objectification of women through our advertising and then we are shocked at the outworking of that culture.

But it’s not just the military that is impacted by this sexual advertising. The exact same strip club billboard had been removed weeks before from outside Brisbane Boys Grammar School, 8km away. This was not because the Advertising Standards Board had said it should go. They dismissed all complaints. In the end it was taken down on the back of a successful petition, signed by thousands. If this billboard was deemed to be unsuitable for Spring Hill in Brisbane, why would it be suitable for Enoggera, Brisbane? Both locations are within 500 metres of local schools and kindergartens and are situated on main thoroughfares.

What sort of society is it where we do not allow advertisements showing a person smoking a cigarette and yet it is permissible to portray explicit sexual advertising to children that objectifies women, sending messages that contribute to eating disorders, depression and self-harm?

It’s time we matched our messaging with our expectations. To say what we mean, and mean what we say. Otherwise it’s just too confusing.

A comment on tolerance from George Pell

Diversity and tolerance are obviously valuable and indispensable features of a free society. As words, they have become part of the mantra of an officially sanctioned view of democracy. However, religious freedom issues tend to highlight just how limited the appetite for genuine diversity and tolerance is in some quarters. For example, it is interesting and significant just how little tolerance there is for diversity if this means (as it should) making room for people whose convictions lead them to oppose abortion or contraception or the promotion of homosexual activity. George Pell

Do you understand Australia’s Preferential Voting system? I do.

You’re about to exercise your free and democratic right to vote – something that millions around the world can only dream about. So it’s an important privilege that’s worth understanding. Let me explain quickly!

If you are not completely sure, you are in good company. Me? I’m a bit of a political junkie. I get excited about my democratic right to vote and I use the preferential voting system to make sure that my voice is heard. Bear with me! It might be politics, but it’s fun to understand things like this – honestly!

In the federal election on September 7 the voting system is compulsory preferential, which means you have to preference every candidate on the House of Representatives green voting slip. The winning candidate needs to secure either an absolute majority (50% + 1) of the first preference vote to win, or alternatively an absolute majority after the distribution of preferences.

At 6pm the polling booths close and the voting boxes are opened. Counting starts immediately. Every valid green voting slip is put into piles and counted, sorted by the number 1 preference. So, if there are 6 candidates, there will be 6 piles. Informal votes are set aside and not counted. If you don’t number every square your vote will be informal.

Your first preference (your number 1 vote) determines which pile your voting slip will be put into. And that candidate benefits from your vote. But that’s not all. If your number one preferred candidate does not have enough first preference votes to win, they are eliminated and your voting slip is then moved to your number two preferred candidate. The entire vote. And this process keeps going until your vote sits with the candidate who is not eliminated. This is particularly important to benefit minor parties. Many Australians think that if you vote for a minor party who have very little chance of winning, it is a wasted vote. But I hope you can see from what I’ve just explained that this is not the case. If you vote for a minor party and they do not win, your entire vote moves to your next preference. And so on. But the great thing for minor parties is that candidates who receive at least 4% of No. 1 votes receive government funding for their party which in turn gives them a voice post election.

Party politics are unforgiving

I do not know Geoff Lake. So this thought comes without any bias, either personal or political. Until recently, Mr Lake was the ALP candidate for Hotham in Melbourne. But his aspirations have been cut short because of a mistake he made over 10 years ago. When he was 22, yes – 22, he verbally abused a fellow councillor in awful language. I do not condone his behaviour; it was awful. But I don’t see any consistency in this decision. If unwise and cruel words spoken at the age of 22 are sufficient reason for termination of his candidacy, which one of us could dare to stand for office? Yes, we do want men and women of integrity as our politicians. And we want high standards. But Geoff, still a young man in his 30’s, apologised a decade ago and has done so again recently.
Forgive and you will be forgiven. Luke 6:37

A Girl Like Alice

Alice: Sometimes I believe in as many as six impossible things before breakfast.

The Mad Hatter: That is an excellent practice.

In Lewis Carroll’s story of Alice in Wonderland, we meet an inquisitive, bold and brave young girl who believes in the impossible. I identify with Alice in so many ways – I love an impossible project! There’s a lot that puzzles me in life. Sometimes I look around and think the world has gone mad! I am prepared to fight for what is right. I value friendship. I tend to take people on face value. And I hate injustice.

My favourite part in Alice’s story is when she comes face to face with the arch enemy, the Jabberwock, who is the champion of the red Queen. Alice has no idea how she will defeat this formidable foe but then the white Queen hands her the Vorpal sword – the only thing that can defeat the evil Jabberwock. As Alice takes the sword, the Queen tells her that it will know what to do and it will win the battle for her. Once on the battlefield, the dialogue between Alice and her foe is fabulous.

Jabberwocky: So my old foe, we meet on the battlefield once again.
Alice: We’ve never met.
Jabberwocky: Not you, insignificant bearer. My ancient enemy, the Vorpal one.

And so, trusting in the sword in her hand, she steps up to the fight. And after a fierce battle, OFF goes the Jabberwock’s head!

I grew up in a godly, loving home with four amazing sisters who I love very much. My husband and I have been married for 34 years, we have 3 married children and 10 amazing grandchildren. Add to that the blessing of being Australian. In this wonderful country, I don’t wake in the morning wondering whether there will be a long wait at the well when I go to draw water for the day. At the upcoming federal election I will not experience any undue pressure to vote a particular way. Neither do I expect to be in any danger when I turn out to vote. I go shopping and eat out without fear. I have access to good doctors and hospitals. Yes, I am blessed indeed.

In the book of Luke in the Bible we read, ‘From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.’  I feel this weight of responsibility that comes with great blessing. But Jesus has promised that His yoke is easy to bear and the burden He gives us is light.

In Matthew 25 we read a story that Jesus told his followers of a master who is going away on a trip. Before leaving, he gives to three of his servants an amount of money according to their ability to use it wisely in his absence. Those who enlarged the original gift were rewarded, but the one who buried the gift was sent away in shame.

Each of us are created with a purpose, with God-given talents to use for His glory and for the good of others. And when I am using those gifts, I feel the wind beneath my wings. It’s not that life is easy. I, like so many others, have experienced deep and intense sorrow. But I am convinced that God’s plans for me are for my good and not for harm. They are where I will find hope and a future.

From a professional background in University and Church management roles, God placed on my heart a deep concern for the families and children in our society who do not know Him. So many are hurting. Badly. Our foster system is failing. One in four of our Qld children are known to child services. In high risk areas this rises to two in every three. Our society is so hyper-sexualised that our children’s mental and physical health and wellbeing is being affected with the rise of eating disorders, depression and appearance anxiety. Their cognitive and emotional development is being affected, they are having sex younger and they do not understand gender roles.

The mantra that I seek to live by is to “Speak the Truth in Love”. We are called to be salt and light and to bless the place where we live (Matthew 5:13-14); to work for its peace and prosperity (Jeremiah 29:7); to free the captives. This is a spiritual battle. And there is so much that each of us can do. Like Alice, there is only one weapon that can win the battle. But unlike Alice, our weapon is real. It is our sword – The Word of God (Ephesians 6:17); it is God’s Truth. And as we take up the sword, we watch as God does the impossible “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26).