Archive for September, 2012

On public outcry and worldview clash

Sunday, September 16th, 2012

Enough has already been said about a certain poorly done youtube video.  What I don’t think has been well understood has been why there has been such a massive response to this by muslims all over the world.  Now, on one level, there’s the fact some guys troll youtube just to find this stuff.  But what most people here I don’t think understand is why you don’t just get offended and walk away.  Like the rest of us might.  Or why you would go so far as to trash US embassies.

Once again, we are confronted with a conflict of worldview.  In this case, on both sides, there has been a non-understanding of western individualism versus eastern ‘community’ism (I’m not quite sure what the proper technical term is, but then, whatever).  Let’s start on the non-western side.  When any sort of affront, perceived or otherwise, occurs to their prophet, its taken as an affront on their religion and hence to their people and collective identity.  For these people, a religion can be ‘attacked’. And when the religion is attacked, it must be defended, even with force. At the same time, the perpetrators are taken as representing the whole of anglo-western nations, so that it is not just the work of one complete n00bazoid, but of the entire US of A.  They assume that this is how public discussion works, and think that the US can and actively do control it.
On the other hand, the constitutional right to free speech means any one can say and express whatever.  When people do express, much of the time, people generally only express to the level they are authorised to and in the context that requires it.  That is, the CEO of a company giving a talk at the AGM can be expected to be representing the official company position.  At the pub though, well, who knows what is actually coming out of the mouth. That is, in the Western world, we separate out the individual from the corporate or the community. An individual is only representative of more when they are acting more-or-less ‘ex cathedra’. So when your entire country is seemingly under attack because one idiot uploaded a tasteless video to Youtube, you have no idea why these people are destroying an embassy. We also don’t understand why they can’t simply ‘get over it’. See, because of free speech, etc., all ideas are open to debate. A set of ideas and propositions such as a religion are open to public discussion, critique, and even ridicule. A religion cannot be ‘attacked’. You can attack its ideas in that you debate it, but this is all about arriving at the truth via open academic discussion. So when anyone else says the usual lame idiocy about Christianity, we Christians sigh, know in our hearts that it ain’t true, and move along, knowing that the ‘battleground’ is not the streets of the city, but the forum of ideas.

Can we do anything about this? Well, it’s too late for this round. And I doubt talking is going to help much in the Islamic world. What I don’t doubt is that this is the last we’ll see of this. Just wait for the next incident wherein someone says, writes, or draws something involving Muhammed.

On recent … public commentary

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

In the novel I am Legend, by Richard Matheson, the protagonist lives in a world filled with vampires, but finds that society has moved on, and that it is not he who is surrounded by monsters, but that he has become ‘the monster’.

Watching Q&A last night, I silently wondered whether this is an apt way of describing the gulf of worldview that exists between Christianity and the rest of the secular world. What I mean is this: has Christianity become the boogeyman? Let me explain.

Picture medieval village, kid running around. Mum goes out and tells him not to go into the woods. Why? The boogeyman. What’s he going to do? Tie you up, stuff you in a pie, and have you for dinner, and maybe the next day’s lunch. Weird scratches in the barn? Boogeyman. Fence post fallen over. Boogeyman. Your crops failing. Boogeyman. Your daughter sick with fever. Boogeyman. The boogeyman has claws, horns, and two heads! He hunts you silently but roars very fiercely. And he really likes children. For dinner, that is.
The boogeyman is the personification of your fears, especially your irrational fears and superstition. You tell your children about him in the worst ways possible so that they won’t go into the forest. And when bad stuff happens that you don’t understand, well, as MJ said, blame it on the boogey.

So, what does this have to do with Christianity?

Well, the question I’ve been asking myself over the last little while with all this talk over our optional wedding vows is this: Who the heck does everyone around here actually think we are? Are Christian churches filled with pre-modern indentured women? Have any of these people who so abhor our wives who submit, or rather, the men who ‘make them’ submit, actually seen a Christian marriage? Do they imagine our wives chained to the kitchen, with uptight husbands who like to throw their weight around? Do they think our sermons thunder with hate-speech? And have they even visited one of these churches they think to be empty and thinning out?

Probably not. Because for them, Christianity is a boogeyman, as are its most prominent representatives. If our loudest detractors are to be believed, Christian wives are chattels, we are all homophobic, we lack rational capability, we believe in fairytales, and we hate science and sex. I don’t know if that’s better than being generalised as a bunch of terrorists.

So how do we deal with this?

Well, the answer is really just plain and simple: Live as Christ, and invite people to church. Shouting is not the answer. Calmly showing people that we are not the boogeyman the commentators, comedians, and crackpots imagine us to be is the way.

City navigation 101: My favourite back-routes, part 2

Sunday, September 2nd, 2012

This is the Erko bypass. If you plan on living in Newtown at Moore, and plan on driving, you need to know that King St sucks for traffic. Parked cars, many buses, and plenty of lights. That’s why, if you plan on thinking of driving through King St, stop now. This route is if you need to take King St all the way to the Princes Highway (e.g. to go in the direction of Hurstville or the Shire), and the principle works both ways.

The bypass starts at where King St becomes Princes Highway at the St Peters railway station. Instead of going straight through, you take a right, and then turn left at the first light. The next bit is my little light dodge. Instead of taking the left at the light at the park, you take the left at the roundabout beforehand and rejoin it by taking the lane that goes round the park. This pretty much means that you don’t have to wait for a light to switch your direction. The next bit, depending on time, probably requires a little bit of ‘assertiveness’. You take the first right after the Erko railway bridge, and then go past Mcdonaldtown station and slip onto Wilson St. From there, for most people, its ‘look for a park’ time, usually along Golden Grove or Forbes St.