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Andrew Bolt’s blog changed format today, making it harder to read. It also now requires registration to access, although registration is free and gives you the entire Herald Sun site. It will only be free for two months, however, after which it will cost $2.95 per week.

I never read anything in the Herald Sun except Andrew’s blog, and have no particular wish to do so. $150 per year to read a blog? I think, when that time comes, that I will no longer be amongst Andrew’s visitors.

Today Andrew wrote that Bob Katter had disgraced himself with a TV ad pointing out that a vote for Newman’s Queensland Liberals could be a vote for the legalisation of gay marriage.

Nonsense.

Bolt claims the ad is irrelevant. It is not. Queensland Labor introduced legislation permitting ‘civil unions’ between same sex couples. The Liberals do not support such unions and have talked about repealing the legislation. Campbell Newman has said he supports gay marraige.

It is entirely reasonable to create and broadcast a political ad pointing out this inconsistency.

The real question is, is the ad offensive or homophobic?

Belief that homosexual acts are wrong and harmful, and that equating homosexual relationships to marriage between a man and woman is dishonest and will undermine society may be wrong, but it is not homophobic. Simply disagreeing with the homosexual lobby does not make you a homophobe.

Bolt regularly demands that people who disagree with him argue on the facts and don’t simply call him names. He is right to do so. The same courtesy should be applied to those who have concerns about what they see as a dangerous homosexualist agenda.

If they are wrong, explain why. Don’t just shout ‘homophobe’ and think you have made a point.

The ad points up a difference between Katter’s party on one side, and the increasingly indistinguishable Labor and LNP on the other. That is what election ads are meant to do.

Bolt also complains about the images used. But these are very similar to images used by the homosexual lobby – along with slogans like “They are in love, why shouldn’t they be allowed to marry?” or “How can love be a crime?” If it is acceptable for the homosexual lobby to use such images to normalise homosexual relationships, why is it unacceptable for Katter to use them to raise concerns about that normalisation?

As for Andrew’s claim that video of Newman folding a skirt is meant to suggest he is a closet gay, the only possible response is ‘hogwash.’ That video was taken at the same time and in the same place as the other short segment where Newman says he supports gay marriage. At very most, it might highlight a contrast between Newman’s claim to be a decent, ordinary bloke, concerned about ordinary families, understanding ordinary workers (like laundry workers), and supportive of family values, and his support for what many of those same ordinary Australians see as a dangerous undermining of famliy and society.

You may disagree. But yelling ‘homophobe’ at Bob Katter, or the many Queenslanders who think he is right, is not going to convince him or them.

PS I was wrong about needing to register and pay to read Andrew Bolt’s blog. It was not entirely my fault – the blog entry I was talking about had the headline ‘Why we are asking you to register’ and did not make it clear that readers would only need to register to access Andrew’s columns and other Herald Sun print content, not to the rest of the blog. But since the columns normally make up about half the word count of the blog, this is still a blow to readers who have no interest in other Herald Sun print content. I suspect many, like me, will have trouble justifying spending $150 per year on opinion content which was formerly funded through advertising.

Soon to be Minister for Foreign Affairs Bob Carr says it is time Labor exposed Tony Abbott’s weaknesses.

He also says he will reach out to the federal opposition to try to engender a more bipartisan approach to Australian foreign policy.

Make up your mind, Bob.

With that kind of clarity and decisiveness, perhaps it is just as well he also reminded us that we should not think of him as a cure-all:

‘You don’t get saviours in politics, you just get people who are prepared to roll their sleeves up and work hard for Australia.’

Looking forward to it, Bob.

I have said this before, but campaign promises in Queensland and arguments in US about health insurance coverage make the point worth repeating.

When people say something should be free, what they are really saying is ‘Someone else should pay for it.’

When politicians say something will be free, they are really saying ‘We will make you pay for other people’s ….’

For example, Anna Bligh, soon to be ex premier of Queensland, has promised free swimming lessons for toddlers.

What she is really saying to the people of Queensland is ‘We will make you pay for swimming lessons for other people’s kids.’

When Obama says contraception should be free, he is really saying is ‘We will make you pay for other people’s condoms.’

The Australian Labor Party is the girls’ team on Celebrity Apprentice, and Lisa Lampanelli is Kevin Rudd in drag.

Kevin Rudd / Lisa Lampenelli

Lisa Lampanelli / Kevin Rudd

The Adelaide Church Guardian is the newsletter of the Anglican Diocese of Adelaide.

There is an article in the February/March edition called ‘Christenviron’ Inclusive Church.

The article, by Fr David Thornton-Wakeford, argued that there should be no requirement for either party to a marriage to be baptised before the marriage can be solemnised in a church.

This was my reply:

I have the highest regard for Fr David Thornton-Wakeford. He prepared my wife Kathy for confirmation over thirty years ago, when she was a worshipper at St George’s Cathedral in Perth, and I was in my first year at St Barnabas’s College.

Much as I hate to disagree with him, his recent article in The Guardian obliges me to do so. Especially since the Guardian is the diocesan newsletter, and its articles may appear to have the Archbishop’s approval, or to be the official position of the diocese.

My understanding of the basis of Fr David’s article is that the Church should be as inclusive as possible, should open its doors as wide as possible, and should not put unnecessary barriers in the way of those who come to us for ministry.

All of that I agree with. Where the lines are drawn, I suspect, is a product of differing understandings of the mission of Jesus and therefore the mission of the Church, and of the nature and purpose of Christian marriage.

Rather than construct a separate argument, I will simply work through Fr David’s essay and point out some of those lines of difference.

“As a priest, if I am with a person at hospital, church, roadside, wherever, and they want to make their confession, I never ask if they are baptised.”

Why not? Of course you don’t ask whether someone is baptised before listening to them and caring for them. But the only way we can give people any assurance of forgiveness and salvation is by talking with them about their relationship with Jesus. If we are talking with them about their relationship with Jesus, how can we not talk to them about baptism? If we anoint people and make promises of forgiveness without doing this, we are short changing the people who come to us, and treating with contempt the costly grace which has lead them to that point.

“Marriage is a human sacrament before it is Christian.”

I am not sure what this means. If Fr David is saying that there are some material things which also offer spiritual or emotional comfort, and that a loving relationship between two people is one of these, then that is true, but it hardly seems relevant, or worth making a point of. If he means that people got married before Jesus was born and the true meaning of marriage was revealed, that is also true, and also irrelevant. Neither of those things is what the word “sacrament” means. It means an outward and visible sign through which the grace of Christ is ministered. By definition, there cannot be a sacrament which is not Christian.

“The bride and groom are the celebrants… “

Indeed. Exactly. Precisely. A Christian marriage is entered into because a Christian couple believe God is calling them into married life. They are called to minister Christ’s grace to one another and so to grow in love and into the likeness of Christ that their marriage becomes a sign to the world of the relationship between Christ and His Church. A conscious choice to enter into such a vocation can only be made by a Christian, and being a Christian means being baptised.

“Being baptised or not has no influence or control over God.”

Did anyone ever suggest it did? But we are commanded to proclaim the Gospel and to baptise all peoples. “Whoever believes and is baptised will be saved.” Mk 16:16. Of course in extreme circumstances someone who trusts in Jesus for salvation and accepts Jesus as Lord may not be able to be baptised, and we can still have confidence in God’s saving love for that person. That very rare circumstance does not dispense with the obligation for believers to be baptised.

“May God have mercy on me… when it comes to placing any stumbling block upon anyone who knocks on the church’s door.”

Quite right. Except for the stumbling block, the skandalon, of Christ himself. Jesus did not say to the woman caught in adultery, “Go on then, if that’s what makes you happy.” Nor did he tell Matthew he could continue being a tax collector if that is what suited him. Jesus talked repeatedly about hell, and gave people the stark choice between life – accepting Him – and death – going their own way.

Following Jesus is not easy. We certainly need to seek God’s forgiveness if we put unnecessary stumbling blocks in people’s way. And equally if we do not share the Gospel with those who come to us, and are not honest with them about the cost – their entire lives and selves – of accepting the Gospel.

I could perhaps be swayed if there were evidence showing that the undemanding approach Fr David suggests really bore fruit in encouraging people to become part of the Church family, to give their lives to Christ and to be baptised. But the evidence seems to suggest the opposite.

Opening the doors so wide that we pretend no commitment is required and that there is no cost to following Christ does not bring people into the Church, or into Kingdom of God. Instead, they seem to go away comfortable in the belief that the ceremonies are nice and the stained glass windows make for lovely photos, but Jesus is an optional extra.

The churches which grow are the ones that consciously, faithfully, deliberately proclaim the Gospel, and which do not make light of the gulf between being saved and unsaved.

A Christian marriage is a life-long vocation entered into by Christians. If we are not honest about that and what it means, then when we officiate at a wedding of two people who have knocked at the door we are not celebrating and blessing the beginning of a Christian marriage, but offering people a wedding in a church for a fee. To confuse the two is a travesty and a fraud.

I used to be a blogger like you, until …  well, you know the rest.

I have been too involved with family and business over the last month to spend any time updating this blog.

For the last three years it has been like another, unpaid, job.

My real job has to take priority. Over the last four years we have built up quite a good little business here on Kangaroo Island.

We are not making vast amounts of money, but we are not going backwards.

KI is a small, isolated community. Its residents have very low average income by national standards. We rely on primary industry and tourism, and transport to and from the island is expensive. Any increases in travel or energy costs hit us very hard. A number of businesses have closed over the last year.

Our approach to business is simple; every person who comes into the shop is important. It doesn’t matter if he or she buys anything or not, or speaks English or not, or lives on the island or not. People are important because they are people, and not because of any possible benefit they can provide to us.

That means that we do our best to be competitive with city and online prices, that we tell people if someone else has an item on special and cheaper than us, that when doing repairs we do what we would want done if it were our computer or camera, that we give people options and encourage them to decide based on what is in their best interests, that we complete work as quickly as we can, etc etc.

We don’t do any of this because it makes sense from a business point of view, but because each person who comes in has value for who they are, and deserves to be treated respectfully and honestly.

But the funny thing is that although it is not our purpose, working in this way does seem to bring in more business. We are busier than ever, to the point where we can start to take a out a wage. It is only a minimal amount. We hope to be able to take out $1500 per month – $18,000 per year. We’d be better off on the dole, but the the shop gives us opportunities for service, and of course, the self-respect that comes with feeling we are making a contribution.

All this means that I am pretty constantly busy during the day, and I need the evenings to eat, spend time with family, and to read and continue my other writing projects.

So my arrow in the knee is my business becoming busier.

This blog will be only intermittently updated from now on.

Thank you for visiting.

Siri on the meaning of life

Something is coming that will leave the world a different place. Not something wicked perhaps, though made necessary by wickedness. Certainly something sad, bad and dangerous.

I wrote a couple of days ago about what I thought was a likely sequence of events leading to a major war in the Middle East in 2012.

The initiating factor (underlaid, as always, by longstanding hostility and mistrust) is the imposition of stronger sanctions against Iran.

President Barack Obama has just signed into US law the strongest sanctions yet against any trade with Iran’s central bank. These sanctions are not only against Iran, but against any country which trades with Iran through its central bank. The US is effectively saying, you either trade with us or Iran. You can’t trade with both.

Meanwhile, the EU continues to consider sanctions specifically against Iranian oil. EU foreign ministers will meet again on January 30th to try again to formalise an agreement.

When imposed, those sanctions will cause huge difficulties for Greece, because Iran is the only major oil exporter still willing to offer Greece credit. Greece will need to be plied with promises of support and energy supply before it will agree. Some of those promises will not be kept, because when the time for payment comes, countries that made the promises will be in such financial straits they will be struggling to pay their own energy bills.

Meanwhile, Iran is flexing its muscles in the Straits of Hormuz, test firing a new medium range anti-radar missile, a weapon that could strike a US aircraft carrier, or more easily, other major shipping including oil tankers carrying Saudi or Kuwaiti oil.

Europe is weak. It has spent the last twenty years undermining the strength of its democracies and economies, and handing power to a bunch of mealy mouthed bureaucrats.

The US is economically weaker than at any time since the 1930s, and is lead by an ineffective and ill-informed president.

The West, in the sense of the world’s liberal democracies, will win. But the fight will be economically crippling, and tragically costly in human life.

By Bishop N.T. Wright at Durham Cathedral. Read the whole thing. It is a reminder that despite its mad follies and unfaithfulness, the Church of England still has men who care about the truth, and stand for it with courage.

John’s Christmas message issues a sharp and timely reminder to re-learn the difference between mercy and affirmation, between a Jesus who both embodies and speaks God’s word of judgment and grace and a home-made Jesus (a Da Vinci Code Jesus, if you like) who gives us good advice about discovering who we really are.  No wonder John’s gospel has been so unfashionable in many circles.  There is a fashion in some quarters for speaking about a ‘theology of incarnation’ and meaning that our task is to discern what God is doing in the world and do it with him.  But that is only half the truth, and the wrong half to start with.  John’s theology of the incarnation is about God’s word coming as light into darkness, as a hammer that breaks the rock into pieces, as the fresh word of judgment and mercy.  You might as well say that an incarnational missiology is all about discovering what God is saying No to today, and finding out how to say it with him.  That was the lesson Barth and Bonhoeffer had to teach in Germany in the 1930s, and it’s all too relevant as today’s world becomes simultaneously, and at the same points, more liberal and more totalitarian.

Discovering what God is saying No to today, and finding out how to say it with him.

I am not sure ‘earns’ is the right word, but it is, as Governor General Quentin Bryce noted in her congratulations to John Howard, ‘a rare and singular honour for his service to Australia.’

It is rare in that only 24 persons can be members at any one time (other members include Baroness Thatcher, Prince Charles, and Tom Stoppard), and singular in that he is the only Australian politician to whom this honour has ever been granted. Other Australians admitted to the Order of Merit include Howard Florey, Sidney Nolan and Joan Sutherland.

If you are not sure why he deserved to be honoured in this way, why not buy his autobiography?

The Kindle edition is only $15.25. It is a great read. Not only is Howard a good writer, but he is consistently fair to both colleagues and political opponents.

Or not…

Runaway Global Warming promises to literally burn-up agricultural areas into dust worldwide by 2012, causing global famine, anarchy, diseases, and war on a global scale as military powers including the U.S., Russia, and China, fight for control of the Earth’s remaining resources.   Over 4.5 billion people could die from Global Warming related causes by 2012, as planet Earth accelarates into a greed-driven horrific catastrophe.

OK, so The Canadian is hardly renowned as a careful and accurate purveyor of news.

But just as Christian and other groups are rightly criticised when they make end-time predictions that fail, so scientists should  be subject to criticism when their end-time predictions fail. Two things that characterise science are its basis in real world evidence, and its predictive power. The IPCC’s version of climate science has neither.

So it is doubtful whether global warming alarmism counts as as science at all. What happens in the real world continues to refuse to conform to the computer models on which the AGW (anthropogenic global warming) scare is based, and prophecies based on AGW theory continue to fail at a rate of 100% – a rate that would embarrass even Harold Camping.

Unlike Harold Camping’s fantasies, however, global warming alarmism costs billions of dollars every year. Those billions of dollars, if they had been spent on real problems, could have eradicated polio and malaria, and provided permanent clean drinking water for every person on the planet.

Now if only we can get these enthusiastic sceptics to be sceptical about something that is worth being sceptical about!

Not sceptical enough!

 

I wholeheartedly wish and pray for my readers and all people of goodwill, a happy, purposeful, peaceful and prosperous New Year.

But I don’t think it is going to happen.

Over the last six years the UN Security Council has passed four resolutions calling for economic sanctions against Iran, primarily relating to trade in nuclear technology. Various individual countries including the US and Australia have imposed wider sanctions. The US sanctions amount to an almost complete ban on any financial interaction with Iran.

These sanctions are motivated by disgust with a violent and oppressive regime, by growing concern over Iran’s refusal to wind back its nuclear programme, by Iran’s support for terrorist groups, and its threats against other nations.

Iran’s economy depends almost entirely on oil. EU foreign ministers, along with the US, Canada, Japan and Australia and other nations, have begun to wonder whether the only way to to encourage regime change without military intervention, or at least, to force Iran to shut down its nuclear programme, is to impose even tighter sanctions on Iran’s oil exports.

This would bring Iran’s economy to a grinding halt. Iran has said it will regard such sanctions as an act of war. It has promised that if oil sanctions are tightened, it will close the Straits of Hormuz. It could easily do so. The Straits are only about thirty miles wide.

Closing the Straits of Hormuz will not only stop the movement of Iran’s oil, but also most of Saudi Arabia and Iraq’s oil, and that of some smaller states like the UAE and Kuwait. About 35% of the world’s oil travels through the Straits of Hormuz on its way to Europe, Asia and the Americas.

If tighter oil sanctions are imposed and remain in place for any length of time, Ahmadinejad and the ayatollahs will believe they have nothing to lose. Even allowing for Russia’s likely refusal to co-operate, Iran will become unstable, and regime change will be inevitable. Iran is unlikely to back down from its threat.

Industrial nations will not be able to accept a 35% reduction in world oil supplies. The Saudis will not tolerate a complete stop to their oil exports.

Military intervention will become inevitable. Barack Obama has seen Wag the Dog. He will be desperate to look strong and decisive.

Iran will resist any foreign forces on its territory, and they will not hesitate to use chemical or any other weapons at their disposal. They will also attack Israel, in an attempt to draw other islamic nations into the conflict. This did not work when Saddam Hussein tried it. Given Iran’s influence in Syria, Lebanon, Gaza, and now Egypt, it may well work when they try it.

There is a strong possibility of a major war in the Middle East in 2012.

O magnum mysterium et admirabile sacramentum,

ut animalia viderent Dominum natum,

jacentem in præsepio.

Beata virgo, cujus viscera meruerunt portare Dominum Christum,

Alleluia!

O great mystery and wondrous sacrament,

that animals should see the newborn Lord lying in their manger.

Blessed is the Virgin whose womb was worthy to bear the Lord Jesus Christ.

Alleluia!

It certainly isn’t getting any warmer here, with the coolest start to Summer in Australia for the last fifty years. But according to the alarmists, that’s just weather.

Ed Caryl suggests that most of the land based warming recorded in the USA over the last 60 years can be traced to the influence of nearby heated buildings, with measuring stations more than 100 metres away from a heated building showing cooling rather than warming over the same period.

As can be seen on the plot, town population made almost no difference to the trend. The dots are nearly completely random with respect to population. On the other hand, the distance from a heated dwelling made a much larger difference. The two coolest sites were more than 100 meters from the nearest building. Within the population limits of this study, the Urban Warming Influence is simply the distance to the nearest heated building, not the size of the city.

This phenomenon is the reason for much of the Arctic warming. Urban Warming in the Arctic, and indeed in the Antarctic, is an occupied-building-to-temperature-sensor distance problem. In the polar regions, the temperature differential between occupied buildings and the outdoor temperature sensors is much greater than in the temperate mid-west U. S., so the distance must be greater to avoid the UWI problem. But man doesn’t like digging long cable trenches in ice or permafrost (it’s like concrete!), or walking long distances in –40° weather, so the measurements are not done properly.

It is clear to this author that measured “Global Warming” is simply due to increasing nearby energy use and the temperature sensor proximity to the resulting heat.

In other words, as Ed himself points out, if you heat up your thermometers, you will find warming.

It is a tad disappointing that church leaders trot out the same bland comments about illegal immigrants year after year. You might hope that if all they can up with is platitudes, they could at least try to find some new ones.

But no. This year, yet again, we heard that Jesus was a refugee, and that this means we have an obligation to be warm and welcoming to anyone who arrives here, no matter where they come from. We are asked to imagine the fear felt by Jesus’ family as they fled the violence of Herod’s persecution, and to understand that refugee families feel the same fear and desperation.

These are worthwhile thoughts. Or they would be if church leaders had not battered us with them every Christmas for the last twenty years.

Just as cliches in writing are to be avoided like the pox, cliches in preaching are to be avoided like polio, and for the same reason. Cliches become cliches because they express a thought strikingly. They make you think. As soon as they become cliches they cease to express anything very much. They are just boring and predictable and don’t encourage thought at all. It is the same with lazy, cliched preaching.

Church leaders who talk year after year about the need to be compassionate to refugees are not going to convince anyone, because everyone is already convinced. We all know we need to find a compassionate way to deal with refugees, including those who make their way to Australia illegally.

What most Australians understand, but which seems to have escaped the bishops and moderators, is the complexity of going from good feelings and wanting to do the right thing, to formulating and enacting policy which really does do some good.

Under the Howard government, people smuggling and illegal immigration had slowed to a trickle. That left more resources for the Department of Immigration to allocate to refugees who were in greatest need, and to supporting those refugees in their transition to life in Australia. When Labor was elected there were fewer than 400 people in immigration detention. Now there are over 4,000. That number is growing rapidly as new boats arrive every week.

At least 400 people have died in transit since Labor came to office. Yet there has been no acceptance of responsibility, no acknowledgement that the kinder policies demanded by churches and refugee advocate groups have been responsibile for the current cruel and expensive mess. Instead, the same people are serving up the same tripe about the ‘need for compassion.’

A lack of compassion is not the problem. A lack of willingness to think is. If church leaders really want to help, they need to stop the reflexive bagging of conservative politicians and recognise that it is possible for politicians on both sides of parliament, and for ordinary people, to feel the same depth of concern, but to have completely different ideas about the best way forward.

The best way forward, of course, is the one that works. What works is stopping illegal immigration, and concentrating resources on bringing to Australia people who are most in need, and who are most likely to share, or to come to share, Australia’s key values of rule of law, equality for men and women, freedom of religion, freedom of expression, fair work for fair pay, generosity and ‘having a go.’

And by way of contrast, thank God for Queen Elizabeth.