Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Christmas Story...

The best of the Christmas stories for this year, and I fail to see how any could best it unless the Pope is caught in bed with a call-girl would have to be the brou-haha that blew up around the ears of the Vicar at St Matthew in the City.

This is a church with some personal connections; my step-mother was Deacon there for a number of years, she and at least one of my sisters were bell-ringers. It is a very handsome church, well preserved and well supported.

It is also known for being one of the more open and inclusive Anglican churches in the city. No less so this Christmas...

From Herald last Thursday (17 Dec.)
The vicar of St Matthew's, Archdeacon Glynn Cardy, said: "Progressive Christianity is distinctive in that not only does it articulate a clear view, it is also interested in engaging with those who differ.

"Its vision is one of robust engagement," he said.

But the Auckland Catholic Diocese has called the image inappropriate, disrespectful and offensive to Christians.

Spokeswoman Lyndsay Freer said that for a church to put up a poster which implied the Virgin Mary and Joseph had just had sex was disrespectful to the church.

"Our Christian tradition of 2000 years is that Mary remains a virgin and that Jesus is the son of God, not Joseph," she said. "Such a poster is inappropriate and disrespectful."

Mrs Freer said the idea that the poster was made to provoke conversation amongst non-Christians was not a defence, but completely offensive.

On Friday...
A paint-bomb attack on a controversial Christmas billboard will not stop the church from continuing its campaign, church leaders said yesterday.

A replacement has been ordered after the billboard was defaced about six hours after it was put up outside St Matthew-in-the-City in Auckland.

By Saturday...
A paint-bomb attack on a controversial Christmas billboard will not stop the church from continuing its campaign, church leaders said yesterday.

A replacement has been ordered after the billboard was defaced about six hours after it was put up outside St Matthew-in-the-City in Auckland.

The image depicts the Virgin Mary and her betrothed, Joseph, in bed together.

A person was seen defacing the image just after 4pm yesterday, covering Mary's face, Joseph's face and the slogan that read: "Poor Joseph. God was a hard act to follow."
Church leaders at St Matthew's said the point of the image was to get people thinking about the Christmas story.

Yesterday St Matthew's communications manager, Clay Nelson, said the defaced billboard would stand for a day, as a testament to the single-minded view that some people had.

"They are driven to give threats and abuse - and [yet] they say 'we love Jesus and he loves us'. I'm sorry, but they don't get the irony of their behaviour.

Earlier, the parish defended the billboard, even though the Bishop of Auckland, John Paterson, had slammed it as "insensitive" and said he was disappointed at St Matthew's decision to continue with the display.

As the story spread around the world yesterday and church staff were interviewed on American TV stations, a defiant Archdeacon Cardy told the Herald: "I know what the bishop said. But at this stage we have no plans to take it down."
Archdeacon Cardy said the billboard was designed to let people outside the church realise that many Christians and church leaders did not believe in the literal virgin birth, and didn't believe that was the true meaning of Christmas.

"We're not out just to deliberately stir the pot. We're out to critique the idea of a male god impregnating Mary and the literalism of the virgin birth.

"The topic is ... something the church has talked about for centuries, but what is new is that we have the audacity to laugh at something quite so ridiculous as a male god

OK TF, sit back and relax. I am not going to use this to make fun of the Church.

There is need though to sit back and reflect. Not just, as the Vicar of St Matthew wished, on the story of the conception of Jesus. There is a need for some Christians to examine with care the justification of fundamental beliefs, and the extent to which some believers are prepared to react to perceived slights and insults. In my mind there are people, even within the major churches, whose response brought back memories of Islam's reaction to the Mohammet cartoons of a few years back.

And as Clay Nelson said - some people just do not get it.

UPDATE Forgot the photo and discovered "some" three times in one sentence.

All of the quotes included are from NZ Herald on the days indicated. Thanks.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Well, I guess that some questions...

are just too hard to answer.

Those who read TF Stern with any regularity will know his politic, his attitude to global warming. His latest writing centres on an article reporting an incident at a press conference involving one Professor Scneider.
McAleer, a veteran journalist and film maker, has recently made a documentary “Not Evil Just Wrong’ which takes a sceptical look at the science and politics behind Global Warming concerns.

He asked Professor Schneider about his opinions on Climategate – where leaked emails have revealed that a senior British professor deleted data and encouraged colleagues to do likewise if it contradicted their belief in Global Warming.
Professor Schneider, who is a senior member of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), said he would not comment on emails that may have been incomplete or edited.

During some testy exchanges with McAleer, UN officials and Professor Schneider’s assistants twice tried to cut short McAleer’s question.

However as the press conference drew to a close Professor Schneider’s assistant called armed UN security guards to the room. They held McAleer and aggressively ordered cameraman Ian Foster to stop filming. The guard threatened to take away the camera and expel the film crew from the conference if they did not obey his instructions to stop filming Professor Schneider.

The guard demanded to look at the film crews press credentials and refused to allow them to film until Professor Schneider left the room.
McAleer said he was disappointed by Professor Schneider’s behaviour.

“It was a press conference. Climategate is a major story – it goes to the heart of the Global Warming debate by calling into question the scientific data and the integrity of many scientists involved.”

“These questions should be answered. The attempts by UN officials and Professor Schneider’s assistant to remove my microphone were hamfisted but events took a more sinister turn when they called an armed UN security officer to silence a journalist.”

TF followed this line with a fairly heated line on suppression of the freedom of the press, and leading to the failure of the media to give the fullest publicity that he felt the incident deserves.

(Right so far TF?)

Now there are two parts here as far as I am concerned.


The first is the nature of a press conference; its purpose and the rights of those involved. If one takes the time to watch the process rather than the just letting it flow over there are three things you will note;

1. The process has a purpose, an objective. It is to pass a message to the media. In this instance the professor was publicising the release of his latest book.

2. There are standards of courtesy that are usually observed. Those courtesies generally tend to favour the person presenting the conference. It is little different whether the person is presenting a scientific paper, a political statement or a religious sermon.

3. One of those courtesies relates to the asking of questions, the presentation of responses to those questions, and allowing a range of questions to be asked.

Think for a moment about the normal (usually weekly) press conference held by a very senior politician; I am thinking here President or Prime Minister. The press conference is a very good mechanism for the presentation of current action, flying future kites, and generally making the politician look good. The other side of the rostrum is looking for that vital piece of news that is going to headline the 6 oclock news on tv, or the front page of the next morning's newspaper.

Now think for a moment what might happen if a journalist or media publisher were to not observe the niceties, the courtesies of the press conference. In the extreme, he/she could be banned from the process leaving them without the direct contact with the "news maker". I can think of one instance here, a famous one in NZ, where a Prime Minister refused to attend his own press conference "as long as that charlatan is in there. Get him out!" The clash began with a series of questions at an ealier press conference and a rather inflamatory editorial piece combined with an excellent lampoon of the PM (the journalist was/still is an excellent cartoonist). I can recall "exclusion" being threatened by GWB against one journalist and his network for similar incourtesies. It is not all that uncommon.

So I arrive at the second part.

How does this apply to the situation that started TF's rant?

The Professor, whose conference was disrupted, was faced with a person whose intentions were (very obviously to my mind) to disrupt the proceedings, to use it to present his own and very contrary views, to suppress as far as possible the publication and dissemination of the proceedings of the true purpose of the conference.

In my mind the Professor's inital response to this un-house-trained puppy was polite and controlled. The repetitive, long-winded, and loud demands from the floor very quickly passed any acceptable limits. No one else in the room could ask a question simply because they were being shouted down.

Another parallel for you, TF. If I were to walk uninvited into your family Christmas celebrations and began preaching atheism through a megaphone with a mate videoing your and your family's reactions for the news I can imagine your reaction. I would be lucky to leave the room intact, if at all with my life.

The professor, rather than taking that extreme himself relied upon the (very tight) security being provided for all of the participants at the Copenhagen shindig.

To summarise -

If that wally, that rude, persistent, totally unwanted, self-appointed, self promoting idiot, that moron wishes to present his personal views he has the right to freedom of speech. He can without fret nor favour hold his own press conference. He might even be allowed to hold it as part of the Copenhagen conference.

What would be really interesting (if he were to do this) would be the attendance at his press conference. I think that if I were a journalist at Copenhagen I might be tempted to go. But the resulting article would be very similar to Tom Scott's views on Rob Muldoon.

Friday, December 04, 2009

On matters of health - and great fortune...

I make little secret of the fact that, at age 13, I became epileptic. I had what I know as "Juvenile onset gran mal". I also know that I am one of the very lucky ones who "grow out of it".

There are many others who are greatly less fortunate.

I saw the headline link at (what used to be)Jack Grant's Random Fate blog.
My chest was to his back. My right leg was thrown over his right hip. At first he made a smacking noise with his lips, as if a cow was chewing his cud beside me. I thought I heard him ask for something. I might have just been falling to sleep myself. But this mouth thing caught my attention. My arms tightened around him. He started to shake. I thought, "Is he having another one?"

"I'm right here with you baby." I held him even tighter. He'd told me to hold him tight if this ever happened when we were together.

Read the whole article. It is sensitively and well written.

I want to pick up on the end of it.
He's had epilepsy for over fifteen years. He lost his license and his job fifteen years ago. Medicare says he's not "disabled enough." He has no insurance because after rent he has three hundred dollars per month on which he keeps himself alive. He goes to the free clinic every three months to wait in line for four hours to see his doctor and get his meds.

This is how a man who was Varsity all three years, MVP'd often, who then drove heavy machinery fifteen years for a city he loved, fell through the cracks. He's not disabled enough to receive any help from our government. This is the land of the free and the brave? I don't think so.

Those who fight and bellow at the perceived injustices of social health programmes might like to explain how their ideas would provide this man with the health services he requires.

Oh and so that you know, my health insurance carries a 5% loading for my juvenile epilepsy. I was able to get my driving license at 22, after 3 years clear of fitting and not being on (some fairly scary) drugs including phenobarbitone (barbiturate). I am lucky indeed.