Over at the Gospel Coalition I’ve written a piece, reflecting on an important ABC article that raises the issue of abuse toward women by ‘Christian’ husbands.
Last night on live television Clementine Ford called fellow journalist, Miranda Devine, “a c**t”. The ABC has today publicly apologised to Devine, although Ford has begun moving through the expletive vocabulary as people on twitter dare suggest that a civil society requires civil discourse.
The topic for last night’s episode of Hack Live was, Is Male Privilege Bullsh!t?” With such a cleanly articulated topic for conversation, should anyone be surprised that one of the program’s guests took liberty with language?
Only hours earlier The Age published a piece by Andrew Street, asking the question, ‘Why do atheists have to behave like such jerks?’
Andrew Street bemoans the behaviour of some of his fellow atheists including the likes of Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins. Summarising a piece by Mark Oppenheminer, Street admits that such behaviours are a massive problem in the international atheist community. His particular and present concern is the treatment Clementine Ford has received since being invitated to speak at the Atheist Global Convention in Melbourne. Without question, the online abuse is appalling. Street quotes the moderators of the Convention’s Facebook page, ”we have been deleting specific rape and death threats as they occur… there have been substantial numbers”. There is no justification for such demeaning and disgraceful threats and language, and I’m pleased to hear Andrew Street confronting it.
Toward his conclusion, Street makes a swipe at ACL, trying to analogise ACL with the crude atheists attacking Ford. This comparison is sadly predictable, and greatly misplaced:
He writes, “It also means such groups end up much like the Australian Christian Lobby: filled with reactionary voices that don’t remotely represent the diverse community for which they’re claiming to speak.”
The Australian Christian Lobby may not share views on sexuality and marriage that many atheists hold, but they do not resort to vulgarity, and they are known for their advocacy for women against sexual exploitation. One may not agree with ACL but one cannot associate them with the kind of vitriol that Ford has been subjected to and has also dished out.
Street’s article is revealing, for he is rightly concerned about the attitudes and behaviour of his fellow atheists, but he doesn’t recognise how their creed gives no protection from such assaults, indeed atheism gives license to demean and hate. Not for a second do I think that this is a problem exclusive for atheism, we should keep in mind that the same can also be said of many religions.
While Street’s article doesn’t dig so deep, it helpfully reminds us that worldview matters and that from the heart we speak.
“For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of” (Matthew 12:34).
Much of Australia’s intelligentsia insists that there are few if any axioms and that ethics is mostly freelance. We cannot however do away with them and the most convinced anti-theist recognises that there are right ways and wrong ways to treat people. This deeply rooted belief doesn’t stem from atheism but from Christianity.
We often treat people in ways similar to how have been treated, and it is a vicious cycle. With a decisiveness and efficacy that makes the Hadron collider appear like recycled garbage, Jesus Christ broke the cycle. He showed us how to live and he lived that life on our behalf. He made himself a substitute, not returning hate for hate but enduring it on the cross. This grace and kindness does more than give us the example par excellence for public conversation, for he liberates the human heart from hate, as well as from pride that stems from forced adherence to cultural conventions. No doubt Christians have at times forgotten this good news, and even proven themselves unChristian by using speech that contradicts the character of Jesus Christ. This love given by Christ changes attitudes and behavior, such that we show respect toward those with whom we have significant disagreement, not because society demands civility, but because we wish to share this infectious love that God has given to us.
Who can live and not see death, or who can escape the power of the grave? (Psalm 89)
Pastors are one of the few professions who travel with people from birth through to death. It is a privilege to minister to people who are facing their final weeks and days. Sometimes it is a brief period of illness, other times it is an elongated time of suffering. I have known people in their final days who were keen, not to die, but to see their suffering come to an end and to see their hope in Jesus Christ realised. It is an extraordinary privilege to sit beside a person who in approaching death is joyful and at peace. I have also witnessed people wrestling with their own mortality and doubts of what lies beyond death. A pastor’s care in such circumstances also extends to a spouse, to children and friends. Indeed, for many pastors, these relationships are not merely ‘professional’, for those whom we serve are much loved, and they are our friends and family.
Several members of my family work in the medical field, including my wife who worked as a nurse for 10 years, spending much of that time caring for patients with terminal and chronic illnesses. On more than a few occasions she would come home after a shift in tears, having witnessed a patient die.
I wanted to begin by mentioning the above contexts because it would be wrong to assume I am writing from a distance. Indeed, I appreciate that there are many personal stories, from people who hold to various views on euthanasia, and while these stories are all important, stories alone are not suffice for creating law.
If there is common ground to be found in the debate on euthanasia, albeit a rather morbid commonality, it is agreement that death is a terrible reality in the human experience.
It is of paramount importance that we recognise that the State exists not only to protect life but to enable human flourishing. Similarly, our health system exists to save human life and to bring healing of body and mind. Introducing law that permits taking a human life is no small thing.
Physician assisted suicide not only contravenes the very purpose of our health system, it would require medical professionals to discard both the Hippocratic oath and the Declaration of Geneva. Such a law would introduce to society the morality of taking human life, legislating that our society condones the killing of another human being. Again, this is no small and insignificant line in the sand.
Dr Michael Bird recently made the astute observation that Victoria could potentially have two hotlines: one for suicide prevention, and the other, suicide permission. The conflict is clear for everyone to see.
I am not unsympathetic toward those who wish to end their lives; I hate human suffering and long for the day when it will desist forever. I do not however believe that euthanasia is either morally right, nor is it the only option available for terminally ill Victorians. We have been led to believe that the only choices available are either ongoing treatment or euthanasia, but there is a third option, and one that avoids unnecessarily prolonging a patient’s life and avoids actively killing them, palliative care.
Palliative care is designed to provide the greatest possible comfort for patients, without undue intervention and causing protracted suffering.
Dr Megan Best is a senior lecturer at the University of Sydney Medical Faculty and works as a palliative care physician in Sydney. In a recent article Dr Best has argued that a better way forward is to provide adequate resources for palliative care. She says,
“While services such as palliative care and hospice can do much to relieve the distress dying people experience, many still do not have access to it. We must do better.”
It is a travesty that many Victorians cannot currently access proper care that they deserve and need at such an urgent time.
Similarly, Dr. Ian Haines is a medical oncologist, and he believes,
“Like Andrew Denton and others who have observed unbearable suffering in loved ones and the terrible failures of modern medicine in the past, I had once believed that euthanasia was the only humane solution.
I no longer believe that.
The experiences of countless patients and families should be the inspiration for continuing to improve palliative care, for general introduction of advanced care plans and not for euthanasia with its openness to misuse.”
In other words, our Government would do better to invest properly into palliative care, providing the kind of support patients and their families need at such a time.
The model of euthanasia being considered in Victoria is that which is currently practiced in Oregon, USA. The process involves a Doctor prescribing a lethal capsule to a patient who has been diagnosed with a terminal illness that will lead to death within six months.
In a report recently published by the Health Department in Oregon, are a series of startling revelations regarding doctor assisted suicide in Oregon: First, 49% of patients state as a major reason for taking their own life, the belief that they are being a burden to their family. Second, once the doctor has prescribed the capsule containing secobarbital or pentobarbital, there is no guaranteed follow up in patient’s home where most are said to take their life, with no safeguards to ensure only the patient can consume the lethal dose. Third, patients with non-terminal illnesses have been given access to these lethal drugs and taken their own life.
Both Dr Megan Best and Dr Ian Haines, are among numerous medical professionals who believe the introduction of euthanasia will leads to abuses and even to amendments and extensions down the track.
Dr Best explains,
‘It upsets healthcare providers when their patients are distressed. Don’t tempt them. You can’t rely on the rules. It is not possible to write a law that can’t be abused. That’s why euthanasia bills get defeated in parliament. Because, even though we ache for those who are suffering and desire to die, we feel responsible to protect the vulnerable who would be at risk of dying under the legislation if it were to pass. Surely the worth of a society lies in how it treats those who can’t care for themselves.’
Does this not at least raise questions in our minds, if not grave concern? If medical professionals working in palliative care are already communicating that the rules will be broken, we ought to take notice.
And for to those who allege slippery slopes are mythical, have they not looked to Northern Europe, and seen how euthanasia laws are now regularly broken and expanded, to include killing children, killing people with mental illness and dementia and even gender dysphoria?
Behind the debates on many ethical issues including euthanasia, is what is known as utilitarian thinking, most notably advocated by Professor Peter Singer. Utilitarian ethics ditches belief in the inherent value of every human life, and instead determines moral good by what the greater number of persons believe will maximise their happiness. In other words, for example, killing unborn children is a moral good when the mother believes the child will not add to her own happiness. This is one of the chief reasons why the number of children with Downs Syndrome has decreased significantly in Western societies, because the vast majority are now killed in the womb.
There are Parliamentary members across the spectrum who are expressing support of a Bill legalising assisted suicide, and similarly across the parties are members who disagree and are concerned. We have all heard heartfelt stories being told from different viewpoints, but we must judge what is right. There is an overarching principle with which the State of Victoria must decide, is it the role and right of Government to introduce law that permits the killing of human life? If so, what promises will be given that no further legislative changes will be made in the future?
When society cuts our humanity away from the imago dei, we always slide down a path toward dehumanisation. Bringing the two together again requires humility, and more. It requires the loving actions of God to restore and heal this broken image. Is this not the wonder of the Easter event?
If the moral compass of our State is utilitarian ethics, which certainly appears to be the case, then further expansion of euthanasia laws is almost inevitable, as is happening across many countries who’ve already taken the pledge to kill. Indeed, I have already been informed, on sound advice, that the Bill shortly to be presented to the Victorian Parliament will be in the first place be a conservative pro-euthanasia Bill, but the intent will be to extend it 3 to 5 years down the track.
When we begin defining the value of human life by the kind of utilitarianism pursued by Peter Singer and others, we should not be surprised to find ourselves in a few short years permitting and even pressuring the expungement of all manner of people whom society deems a burden. I realise all this sounds rather Stalinesque and outrageously impossible; we would never traverse such dreadful ground. But look to Belgium and the Netherlands, and consider how our own society has already deemed moral, killing unborn children, and possibly now, those who are at the end of their days.
“Have you journeyed to the springs of the sea
or walked in the recesses of the deep?
Have the gates of death been shown to you?
Have you seen the gates of the deepest darkness?
Have you comprehended the vast expanses of the earth?
Tell me, if you know all this.” (Job 38:16-18)
Are we prepared to cross the line, or instead, can we do better by providing improved and greater resources in palliative care?
Where are we leading our children?
The Safe Schools Program made the front page of my local newspaper this week. One of the local councillors, Paul Peulich, raised concerns over the program at a recent Council meeting. He proposed a motion to bring attention to the issues with Safe Schools, but it was met with ‘silence’ from his fellow councillors.
Following the failed motion, another Councillor, Steve Staikos, referred to Mr Peulich’s comments as ‘disgraceful’, and Kingston Mayor, Tamsin Bearsley, said no local resident had raised Safe Schools with her as an issue.
The lack of letters and phone calls to the Mayor’s office is probably due to the fact that Safe Schools is a State and Federal issue, rather than one for local Council, but we are mistaken if we believe that Kingston City residents are not profoundly concerned with Safe Schools.
While the Federal Government has proposed revisions to the program, parental concerns have been repeatedly ignored by the Victorian Government. Disappointingly, rather than responding to questions with reasoned argument, Government members persist with name calling and accusations of phobia and bigotry.
It is one thing to discount the views of opposition politicians, and even to spurn the concerns of families; but it will be interesting to see what will happen in light of an academic paper that was published last week, The Controversy over the Safe Schools Program – Finding the Sensible Centre.
Professor Patrick Parkinson AM is one of the nation’s most respected legal academics. He has been researching Safe Schools and has deemed it ‘dubious’, ‘misleading’, and ‘containing exaggerated claims’.
To be begin with, I fully affirm Professor Parkinson’s words, “it is axiomatic that children and young people should be protected from bullying.” As a parent (and as a Pastor), I do not wish to see any child suffering from bullying. Our schools, churches, and communities ought to be safe places for children.
Throughout the 32 page paper, Professor Parkinson gives detail of the research used by La Trobe University to form the basis of Safe Schools, and what he reveals is shocking.
First of all, the numbers don’t add up. Safe Schools material claims that 10% of the population is same-sex attracted, 4% are transgender or gender diverse, and 1.7% are intersex. None of these statistics are true, in fact all these numbers of wild exaggerations.
For example, when it comes to transgenderism, if 4% was true, it would mean that 1 in every 25 students (approximately one child per classroom) would be transgender. We know anecdotally this is not the case. Where does this number come from? The only citation offered by Safe Schools is from a New Zealand study, which, when read, does not purport that 4% of people are transgender.
Professor Parkinson then quotes the actual report, which says,
“About 1% of students reported that they were transgender (a girl who feels like she should have been a boy, or a boy who feels like he should have been a girl…). Ninety-six percent were not transgender and approximately 3% were not sure.”
Parkinson then states, ‘To count the 3% who answer ‘not sure’ as being ‘gender diverse’ is academically irresponsible. People who answer ‘not sure’ in surveys do so for a variety of reasons, one of which is that they don’t understand what the questioner is asking.’
He then follows to summarise a series of notable studies, none which found more than 0.52% of people are to some extent transgender.
He concludes the section with this damning assessment:
“A likely explanation for the exaggeration of transgender and intersex conditions is that it is regarded as necessary to support the authors’ belief system to show that gender is “fluid” and can even be chosen.”
This is not science, this is uncontrolled ideology, and one that is aimed at our children.
Professor Parkinson also demonstrates how Safe School’s depends on theories of sexuality that counter best knowledge and practice in psychology and medicine, how it offers flawed legal advice, and how it is creating unsafe environments for children and families who don’t adhere to the program’s contentious views. He even argues that Safe Schools poses genuine risk to students who are struggling with aspects of their psychosexual development.
Safe Schools must be challenged, because our children matter and because truth matters. No doubt a reader will inevitably mis-hear and accuse me of hating LGBTI people; for their good and the sake of all children, should not our education programs be grounded in proven research? Should we not frame school curricula with the best available research, rather than ‘erroneous information’?
Mr Peulich’s concerns have been substantiated, and rather than being met with silence, we must speak and address this, and we must resolve these issues before we abuse a whole generation of children with unscientific pop-psychology. We want effective anti-bullying programs in our schools, but Safe Schools is not it.
For too long we have assumed that violent societies are to be found somewhere else, in lands distant and less developed than our own. The reality is, violence is an everyday occurrence in the suburb or town where we live. And the statistics are simply horrifying
The home should be the safest and happiest place in the world, but for many Australian families it is filled with fear and uncertainty. After working in the Mentone community for 10 years I have seen and heard the damage caused by men who will not control their anger, and of the fear and shame that they have inflicted onto their families. The shame belongs to these men alone, but often they are very effective at adding psychological scars to those physical injuries
At Mentone Baptist we oppose any and all violence toward women and children. We also recognise that there are circumstances where a woman is abusing her husband. And abuse is not limited to physical violence, but includes sexual, psychological and financial abuse.
We want Mentone Baptist Church to be a safe church for victims of domestic violence. This includes:
The expectation that the Bible lays on husbands is incredibly high; we are told that husbands are to love their wives as ‘Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her’ (Ephesians 5:25). How did Christ love the church? He sacrificed all he had for her good. He laid down his life for the church, and he continues to care for and to provide for the church’s needs. The word used in verse 27 is ‘radiant’, and speaks not so much of physical beauty, but of inner beauty. The Lord Jesus is committed to seeing the church grow in its glory, and husbands are to live similarly for their wives.
There is no place for violence or harsh words or manipulating for sex or controlling money or making threats. Blaming tiredness or stress, or alcohol and drugs doesn’t cut it. These things are symptoms of a deeper issue in the heart of the abuser. All such things are inexcusable and fail to live up to the example that the Creator of marriage has set for husbands.
The bar is set high, but God also promises to provide us with a helper, the Holy Spirit. And through the Gospel God also promises forgiveness to those who fail; it is why Jesus died. However, forgiveness is conditioned by repentance, and repentance means genuine change of heart and action. Forgiveness does not mean that everything is ok. Forgiveness does not mean that there are not criminal consequences or that spouses should remain living together.
Through the web of cultural and psychological fears, and even religious blackmail, women can feel as though there is no escape, but there is.
If you need to talk to someone please follow this link for the Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria. There are people trained and ready to help you.
If you live in or around Mentone and would like counselling, please contact our counsellor at email@example.com
Scientists have discovered that babies in the womb, as young as 16 weeks, respond to music by ‘dancing’.
“The foetuses responded to the music by moving their mouths or their tongues as if they wanted to wanted to speak or sing,” said one of the researchers, Marisa Lopez-Teijon. The research has been published in journal of the British Medical Ultrasound Society, Ultrasound.
What this means is that babies’ cognitive faculties, creative faculties, and listening and communication skills are more highly developed at 16 weeks than previously thought.
The more scientists study human beings in the womb, the more wonder, beauty and complexity we discover. As scientific research advances, the findings increasingly demonstrate that embryos are not less human but fully human, and from the very earliest stages.
I am reminded of the words spoken by one excited mum, ‘As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy’ (Luke 1:44).
It was interesting to note that the article in The Australian, while sometimes referring to embryos, also addresses them as babies. The days when scientists and proabortionists justified abortion by claiming embryos were not human has long gone.
This latest research makes the reality of abortions even more appalling. It is a dreadful paradox of our society, that a child who enjoys listening to music in the womb can, on the same day, be killed in the womb.
How can we justify killing a child who in their first weeks of life is being moved by the sounds of Mozart and Bach? Not that responding to music defines their humanity but it further proves their humanity. He or she is not potential life, but is life with a mind and body that is active and alert.
Science is showing us the ignominy of our attitudes toward the unborn, but will we listen? We have longed turned deaf to the Bible’s pleas about the sanctity of life, and I suspect that we will also turn a blind eye to these amazing revelations that are being proven through empirical research.
Through music, science is affirming an ancient theological truth, embryos are people like us. But will we listen?
If you are reading this as a pregnant mum and you are questioning whether you should keep your baby, please talk to someone. We have a trained female counsellor at Mentone Baptist who is available to listen and help – faye.Ludik@mentonebaptist.com.au.
If you are reading this post as someone who struggles with a past decision to undergo an abortion, I want you to know that the good news of Jesus Christ means that real forgiveness and healing is promised through him. Abortion is wrong, but it is not the unforgivable sin. Again, please contact our church counsellor. If you don’t live near Mentone but are keen to find out more, please contact us and we’ll try to find a suitable church near where you live.