Sunday, June 28, 2015

'The Killing Season'

There's a brouhaha at the moment about the ABC favouring left-wing politics. However The Killing Season, a three part Television special from the ABC, is a fascinating overview of the brutal, messy, sometimes noble and often grubby story of the Rudd & Gillard leadership saga. There are a number of interesting aspects; for political junkies you get a great fix re-visiting all the key moments and getting reminded how different parts of our parliamentary democracy works. For those interested in politics more generally it's a great insight into the last decade of the Labour party and it gives you an insight into some of it's present day players, such as Bill Shorten. It's also a very intriguing portrayal of human nature and leadership. This particular leadership struggle played out in a unique way but leadership struggles and dirty political leadership struggles are never unique. In way it was good to watch and analyse human nature without the horror of actual death that often accompanies a leadership change throughout most of history. I recommend the show for political junkies, leaders and those interested in the machinations of the Labour party, for good or for ill.

Just a thought on leadership; I wonder if there's a good and a bad way to do politics, in its very broadest sense of managing expectations, relating to other leaders and making decisions. Early in the series Kevin Rudd refers to it with a knowing smile as the "dark arts." At what point does networking, publicly presenting information, making plans, appointing leaders, having discussions and releasing information become corrupted and descend into full-blown sinful conniving? For example, can you give a candid assessment of a rival leader without being slanderous or maneuvering for some personal gain, present or future, obvious or implicit? If the acid test is a question of who has or wants power, then we'd need an imaginary alternative world without leaders. Nor can you pretend to be above the fray, "factions you say ... what factions, we're all friends here." Is politics, like warfare a necessary but temporary part of life on this side of eternity? Is it an Ecclesiastes type of living, being wise with what you have "under the sun"?

Friday, June 5, 2015

Today in the Wimmera Mail Times

You might have noticed a bit of back and forth in the Mail-Times recently about a controversial advertisement from PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) condemning shearing. The original ad emphasised the cruelty sometimes suffered by sheep during shearing. PETA as an organisation seems philosophically opposed to using animal products. For example PETA’s website states that “Animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, use for entertainment, or abuse in any other way.” However, shearing is part of the human stewardship of creation. It’s abuse is not an argument against shearing but an example of human corruption and only Jesus solves the problem of human corruption.

God made the world as a good gift, from God to human beings. Originally it was undamaged by evil. God then gave human beings the job of being stewards to care for creation. To build houses, name plants, plough fields, play music and shear sheep. The world is ours to care for and cultivate and this includes animals. Animals are different to people, we have a moral conscience and a capacity to reflect on our own instincts in a way animals cannot. They, like us, are part of creation but we have different places in it.

Sadly though, not only do people hurt each other but they also sometimes abuse animals. This can either be when people cut corners in their care for animals or deliberately harm them. This mistreatment of animals and the example of rogue shearers targeted by PETA are a product of human corruption. Stewardship implies care, not harm. Mistreatment of sheep by itself however is not a good argument to stop shearing. The cultivation of sheep for shearing is part of our stewardship of the world. The wool sheep provide and our fair treatment of them together contribute towards human flourishing.

While groups like PETA may raise awareness of cruelty to animals and organisations like the RSPCA may help stop some abuse, human corruption will remain as a problem. We need a solution that deals with the cause of animal abuse. God’s good gift of creation foreshadows the good gift of salvation. If human corruption is the problem that damages both us and animals, Jesus is the solution. Jesus solves the problem by being the king who will restore the world to its original goodness and the saviour who will rescue us from corruption.

Rev Luke Isham, Horsham Presbyterian Church on behalf of the Horsham Minister's Association.

[No links for the opinion pages.]

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Productive citizens

"Increased child-care benefits for working parents." Great news on the face of it, but behind it sits the notion that Australian parents should be economic units contributing to the greater financial well-being of Australia. The child-care package announced today (on Mother's Day!) by Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison is designed to help trim the Budget, for example tighter benefit caps, while also encouraging parents (mainly, but not always mums) to re-enter the workforce. Amy and I are happy to receive welfare if we qualify, but the underlying assumption is that it's better for Amy to be in the workforce. With steep house prices, Amy may end up doing that and extra childcare benefits could be very helpful.
"[However] the extra spending of $3.5 billion over four years is contingent on the Senate passing cuts in last year's budget to Family Tax Benefits, including stopping payments entirely to single-income families when children turn six."
If governments have a role in protecting and encouraging human flourishing then why must it be measured financially? Why is it that single income families can't flourish? This is because financial prosperity is the matrix of progress in much of the secular world. One of the challenges of Christianity to help challenge this status quo and carve out cultural territory that is not measured financially. Books read, songs sung and people loved.