An Unholy Alliance

The populist right is forging an unholy alliance with religion

 

This … might go a long way to explain why rightwing populists have scored so many victories in recent years: populists have proven very adept at hijacking religion.

The deployment of religion is not about the doctrinal strength of religious life – religious practice continues to decline steadily in most western democracies, and most citizens are not involved in religious institutions. Instead, populists’ use of religion seems to offer a way of forging a new consensus. It is a tool to engage a society that is felt to have lost its moral centre.

The French fascist Charles Maurras said that he did not believe in God but “thought it crucial that people believed in him”. Amid the dizzying effects of globalisation, “God and country” populism offers a way of incorporating capitalism into some kind of traditional religious framework.

Read full article here:

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/jun/11/populists-right-unholy-alliance-religion

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Suppressing the Truth

Barely two weeks after the election that saw Scott Morrison, the Pentecostal PM’s government returned to power with a tiny majority; when the PM and the Home Affairs minister* (responsible for the Australian Federal police) are both conveniently out of the country…
There were AFP two raids on the media related to stories investigated and published a year ago in one case, and two years ago in the other.

In one raid a journalist’s home was thoroughly searched (yet her work office wasn’t), and the public broadcaster, the ABC had its office raided about a different matter. In the case of the ABC raid the AFP were given the right to search, remove, or to “add, copy, delete or alter” documents of interest.
These raids are being seen as acts of intimidation against journalists as much as a search for evidence.

The old stories related to this case were unrelated, but both were embarrassing to the government.

1) A report on plans to use spy agencies to spy on the Australian public (see link in comments section).
2) A report about official investigations into possible atrocities committed by Australian special forces in Afghanistan.

This government (especially the current PM and his Home Affairs minster) have a history of suppressing uncomfortable information. The case in the quote below is only one example.

[please click on, and read, both of the article links below]

It was after all under Scott Morrison’s stewardship of the immigration portfolio that the notorious section 42 of the Border Force Act was enacted, allowing for the jailing for two years of any doctors or social workers who bore public witness to children beaten or sexually abused, to acts of rape or cruelty. The new crime was not crime, but the reporting of state-sanctioned violence on the innocent.
National security was invoked then to justify the enforcement of a national silence over what were no more or less than crimes.

https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2019/jun/05/the-afp-media-raids-aim-to-suppress-the-truth-without-it-we-head-into-the-darkness-of-oppression

Also see:
https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2019/jun/06/government-leaks-like-a-sieve-when-it-suits-them-critics-of-abc-raid-say

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*The Home Affairs Minister, Peter Dutton was responsible for overthrowing then PM Malcolm Turnbull. Dutton’s challenge of Turnbull failed to give him the leadership, but resulted in Scott Morrison taking over as Prime Minister.

The Big Exhale by Farhad Bandesh

The Big Exhale by Farhad Bandesh

I am a Kurdish artist.

I am a refugee imprisoned by the Australian Government on Manus Island for nearly six years. I have released a song and music video called The Big Exhale.

Hunted like a bird
Languish in a cage
Eyes full of tears
Holes in humanity

View on YouTube to see complete lyrics.

Also see the article here for more about the song and it’s singer:

https://www.theguardian.com/music/2019/jun/04/writing-for-his-life-manus-island-detainee-farhad-bandesh-releases-soaring-new-song

Also see a related story.

“How many more people must die on Manus before Australia ends indefinite detention?” by Behrouz Boochani

Refugees were counting down the days to the election. But our hopes have been dashed and the future is grim

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/jun/03/how-many-more-people-must-die-on-manus-before-australia-ends-indefinite-detention

I have never seen the refugees on Manus so depressed. Even when Reza Barati was killed, when that innocent man was sacrificed … that time when the other refugees were bashed and beaten.

I swear, it has never been like this. Not even on Good Friday in 2017 when soldiers rained shots into the prison camp.

Even at the height of the violence and when confronted with death the refugees always maintained a sense of hope. However, the day after the election, everything sank into an abyss of darkness. The outcome of the last election extinguished the last glimmer of hope for freedom, it shut out any hope that remained after six years of purgatory. Overnight everything just slipped away.

Life Beyond Earth

One of the aims of the Mars mission mentioned in my previous post, is to seek out evidence of some kind of life on Mars.
Last year I posted thoughts about the implications of the search for life beyond earth.

https://onesimusfiles.wordpress.com/2018/07/27/life-on-mars/

Within the comments section after that article I noted that any search for life elsewhere in space has already, most likely, been compromised by the many space craft and associated vehicles that mankind has already sent out there.

Can it be guaranteed that on all of that space-borne equipment not a single element of biological contamination has taken place? That every mission sent from various nations hasn’t transported a viable population of bacteria to the planets that were being explored?

No it can’t be guaranteed.

surevyor 3.jpgIn fact life has already been found on the moon, by the Apollo 12 mission. They retrieved equipment from the Surveyor 3 spacecraft that had previously landed on the moon. Upon that equipment they reportedly found biological contamination, the common bacterium Streptococcus mitis, possibly deposited by a technician sneezing on it during its preparation for launch.
Later assertions have been made that the contamination was caused during or after the return to earth – but could that be a case of attempting to convince the public that the stable door had remained securely closed, and that the bacterial horse had not actually bolted?

No matter how strenuous those assertions may be, it is clear that the possibility of contamination from earth remains a viable possibility.

…despite using plasma (matter composed of electrically charged particles), intense radiation and heat to sterilise the components, and using special “clean rooms” to assemble them, it has proved impossible to construct a microbe-free spacecraft. The heat, cold, vacuum and harsh radiation encountered during spaceflight will kill most of them, but some will probably remain alive long enough to reach the destination. Experiments on the International Space Station have proved that spore-forming bacteria can remain viable in space for at least as long as it takes to get to Mars. [my emphasis in bold – onesimus]  (from https://phys.org/news/2017-06-strict-contamination-hamper-exploration-life.html )

ISS photo.jpg

In last year’s blog post I suggested why the search for life beyond earth is so important to many people.

If life could spontaneously start on earth without the need for Divine involvement then surely it ought to have started elsewhere too.

The more widespread life is out there in the universe, the more it could seem to legitimize the possibility that life doesn’t need a God to create it.

On the flip side – a completely barren universe (apart from earth) would tend to legitimize the Bible account of Creator God. If life can spontaneously come into being, why hasn’t it done so elsewhere? Why earth only?

Therefore scientists with an atheistic bent are desperate to find life elsewhere. It NEEDS to find evidence of widespread universal life.

Maybe there’s a degree of irony in the possibility that mankind’s attempts to find definitive, incontrovertible evidence of extra-terrestrial life is being made impossible by the search itself.

Destination Mars

Gloria and I have our places booked upon the Mars 2020 space craft, due to be launched in July next year. Here is my boarding pass.

Tim BoardingPass_MyNameOnMars2020 EDIT

NASA are launching this new mission to Mars and have invited the public to submit their names to be sent on the Mars 2020 Rover.

The Microdevices Laboratory at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, will use an electron beam to stencil the submitted names onto a silicon chip with lines of text smaller than one-thousandth the width of a human hair (75 nanometers). At that size, more than a million names can be written on a single dime-size chip. The chip (or chips) will ride on the rover under a glass cover.

https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-invites-public-to-submit-names-to-fly-aboard-next-mars-rover

Souvenir boarding passes can be downloaded by everyone who registers.

I’m now considering how to make the best use of my frequent flyer points.

“Messiah” From the Shire?

Against all the opinion polls, against all of the bookmakers odds, Scott Morrison, the Pentecostal PM has won his “miracle election” so the government can continue to avoid taking any action on climate change (and other things)

The return of Scott Morrison’s Liberal/National Party government is being portrayed as a massive victory because the result went against all expectations of Labor winning significantly.

Morrison is being lauded in one Murdoch newspaper as “the Messiah from the Shire”*.

But, in reality, at the moment, it seems that the parliament will be practically the same as it was after the last election, with a Liberal/National government having only the same one or two seat majority they started with three years ago. Rather than a significant victory, Morrison has won the status quo.

My pre-election thoughts were that a return of the Lib/Nats under Scott Morrison would be along similar lines to Trump’s win and Brexit. ( I’ve now seen that Trump himself has made that comparison regarding Morrison’s victory). It would be the return of a disorganised schism-ridden government that would increase national turmoil. The focus would remain upon $$$$, in a way that would leave the more vulnerable behind.

scomo-coalAnd then there’s the climate change issue – with the Pentecostal PM well known for gleefully waving a lump of coal around during debate in parliament, and his government having a fixation on building coal fired power stations.

There are far too many problems with this government and its members to write about in a short blog post; including some very dodgy dealings with “environment policy”, in which record payments were made to companies with connections to those politicians awarding the payments.

However, that’s what the voting public, including the Pentecostal churches, have
supported.

Because of that, I consider the election result is very likely God’s judgement on this nation and on the church – just as I see Trump’s election was in America.

As disappointing as it is to see the way things have gone – I would have preferred to see a government take steps to address the nation’s economic inequalities, as well as do something rational with climate change policy – I know very well that any such steps would only be a temporary reprieve from the inevitable.

Before Jesus returns things are NOT going to get better, society is not going to become more equitable. Terrible, destructive changes to the climate and environment WILL happen no matter what steps humankind might take.

We also know that attitudes to God, to Jesus, to followers of Jesus will become more hostile and persecution of believers will be an increasing reality.
I think the actions and attitudes of the public face of “the church” will play a significant part in increasing that hostility.

I have seen what people are saying about the “Christian” Prime Minister in public discussion forums.
While those commenters are clearly, already, God-haters, the expression of Christianity they see through the Prime Minister’s example, gives  fuel to their hostility and makes their message easier to be swallowed by others: very much in the same way that evangelical support of Trump provides fuel for an anti-Christian hostility in the US

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* “Messiah from the Shire”, not a Hobbit/ Lord of the Rings reference. “The Shire” is the nickname of the southern suburbs of Sydney where Morrison lives.

An alternate nickname he has been given is “Liar from the Shire”.

Responding to Secular Politics

The LAST thing Australia, and its Christian residents, needs:

“Martyn Iles, the ACL’s (Australian Christian Lobby’s) new managing director… wants to transform it into a US-style conservative activist group”

Full Article

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We now have a week before our Federal election and Scott Morrison our Pentecostal Prime Minister seems to be running a one man team, with the majority of his ministry in hiding (apart from several who deserted his sinking ship by retiring from politics). All he can offer is billions of $$$ tax cuts, more than $80 billion going to the wealthy, but he has given no plan for how he will pay for those cuts.

Of course, he will be the political darling of the Australian Christian community, in particular the Hillsong types (he belongs to a Hillsong-like church in south east Sydney)

I have been following discussion about the election campaign in the media, and one regular comment I frequently see relates to the incongruity of Morrison’s (alleged) lying with his professed Christianity.
While anti-Christian rhetoric can be expected in a secular society, Morrison’s example is drawing increasing expressions of (non-rabid) distaste from less hostile commenters.
Are the accusations of lying valid? Let me say that I find him less than straight forward with the truth.

Politicians and politics can offer no long-term answers to a country or the world – but unfortunately our response to them can affect the image of Christianity (and the gospel) they see.

While both major sides of Australian politics are far from perfect, running up to this election I find it blatantly clear that one side is far more interested in (and currently capable of) effective, stable government, and the other (Morrison’s party)  is a total mess with no policies, beyond giving massive tax cuts to the wealthy.
Their only other offering is a scare campaign: that says things will only get worse under the other lot.

Scott Morrison seems to have forgotten Jesus’ words about being unable to serve two masters, that we can’t serve both God and money. His emphasis is always primarily on “the economy” and not on the people affected by “the economy”. Basically, his message is that if he takes care of the economy, the economy will take care of the people. As if the economy is a benevolent cognisant entity needing to be placated.
Especially ignored are those who have not benefitted from the prosperity allegedly being enjoyed by the nation due to the claimed current strong “economy”. It is clear that IF the strong economy exists (and is to be continued) it bypasses most, although not the already prosperous.

The group mentioned in the article linked at the top of the page are focused on issues of moral behaviour but they avoid a significant moral, political  failing – of not addressing the poverty experienced by an increasing number, while others receive and hoard more than they can ever use.

In my view, secular politics is not a tool that Christians can manipulate in an attempt to legislate morality. It often (inevitably) takes immoral directions, reflecting the secular, increasingly immoral society that it represents.
But it is something that has the potential to be used to make sure no one needs to be homeless or go hungry through no fault of their own.

While a perfect outcome is “pie in the sky” – Jesus said the poor will always be with us – I think from a Christian point of view, steps to aid the poor are more in line with Jesus than steps to further enrich the wealthy in the hope that they will share that wealth.

A commonly used quote to criticise welfare is “If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat” – but the use of that phrase is rarely turned the other way to recognise its valid application to the idle rich who prosper from the work of others.

So what approach can Christians take while acknowledging the limits of secular democracy?
Make choices that reflect the character of Jesus within the secular society we temporarily inhabit.
Look at the kind of people Jesus ministered among and treat them as HE would treat them.
If political options can realistically help us along that path, we should make the most of them.