Category Archives: Australian Christian Lobby

Tales on a Tutu

About 12 months ago I found a photo on the internet that really inspired me. It was a photo of a fat lady in a tutu and she looked beautiful – really beautiful.

“Wow!” I thought. “Could I wear a tutu?”

I always wanted one – ever since I was a tiny little girl. But now, at Size 24, was it possible I could wear one and not look like a right dork?

I was so nervous about it, I took the photo of the lady in the tutu and photoshopped my head on to it. Could I? Could I?

I decided to take the plunge. I ordered a virtual truckload of black tulle from America, and, armed with a YouTube instruction video I began threading lengths of tulle on to an elastic waistband.

When it was finished, I was thrilled. I felt fluffy and feminine and flirty – something which is rather hard to achieve once you’ve reached the extreme end of ‘Plus Size’.

My tutu got its first outing at my friend, Vicki’s, 50th birthday party. It was an 80s theme so I dressed it up with Madonna-style net gloves and an overload of jewellery. I felt fairly confident that, in the context of a costume party I wouldn’t look silly but, there was a catch. To get to the river cruiser Vicki’s husband had booked for the party, I first had to stuff myself and my many metres of tulle into the back of a taxi and then, then, I had to walk about 300 metres through the South Bank Parklands on full display to that dreaded beast – teh General Public.

As I stepped out of the cab, I took a deep breath and said to myself, “You can do this – don’t let them see you’re nervous”.  Then I sashayed along the river walk in a fair approximation of Naomi Campbell on a Paris catwalk, and, you know, I don’t think one person even gave me a sideways glance.

Feeling a combination of relief and affront, I arrived at the appointed pier where my tutu was met with many compliments from my fellow party-goers. It was going to be a great night!

As we chugged up the river with 80s music thumping out of the sound system, I laughed, I sang, and I actually danced so hard that I’m still suffering the foot injury 12 months later! I had a ball and I felt like Cinderella in my lovely, fluffy black tutu.

Tutu - Vickis Party

Almost floating on air, I disembarked from the boat at the end of the cruise, happily anticipating some after-party drinks at a nearby pub. The crew greeted us as we left, murmuring parting greetings such as, “Goodnight!” “Hope you had a good night!” “Did you have fun?”

And then, as I reached the bottom of the gangplank to be greeted by the smiling crew, a female crew member said to me, “Are you going on from here?”

photo (56)

“Yes!” I said, “We’re going up to the Plough Inn.”

“You’re not going to wear THAT are you?” she said, looking pointedly at my tutu.

It was as if someone had taken a knife and stabbed me through the heart. If I had been a balloon, you would have heard the bang in Blackbutt.

Fighting back tears, I decided I wasn’t going to be a silent victim. I complained to the captain of the boat. I explained that I’d had a great night but his crew member’s cruel jibe had just ruined it.

I did go to the pub afterwards and I didn’t take off my tutu and again, I don’t think anyone on the walk through the Parklands or in the pub could have given a toss about what I was wearing, but it didn’t take the sting out of that one, nasty jibe.

And now, I was faced with a dilemma. I planned to wear the tutu to another event – not a costume party this time but a gala dinner. Was I just putting myself up for ridicule? I tried, in vain, to find an alternative outfit but everything I looked at in my size was unflattering, boring and had no ‘character’ at all. I sent photos of myself in my tutu to some trusted friends. Should I wear it? Would I look ridiculous? Was I kidding myself? I’m 54, size 24 and I want to wear a fucking tutu to a REALLY BIG EVENT – who am I fucking kidding?

Eventually, I decided to wear it. As I got dressed I was so nervous I was almost physically ill. I can’t tell you the effort it took to walk into that crowd of people in my tutu and I can’t tell you how gobsmacked I was when the response was neither the non-commital ‘meh’ of the passers-by at the South Bank Parklands or the sneering taunt of the tactless crew member. It was, universally, “Wow! You look a-MAZING!”  Even people I didn’t know were coming up to me just to tell me they loved the tutu.

photo (51)

My friend, Gregory, actually demanded that I remove a piece of the tulle and bequeath him with a souvenir. It has since been affixed to his mascot, Shadforth Wilbury Sheep. I feel deeply honoured.

Shadforth Wilbury Sheep

Now, of course, there may have been a lot of people at the function who didn’t notice the tutu at all. There may have been lots who took one look at the big girl in the phoofy dress and had a little snort of laughter to themselves. But, I didn’t feel embarrassed at all. I just felt like I’d worn an outfit that reflected how I felt about myself and that people had responded well to that – and perhaps admired the teensy little bit of bravery that it took to wear it.

The tutu has had another outing since then. I wore it recently to an marriage equality rally. And really, if you can’t wear a tutu to a gay rights rally, where the hell can you wear it? I felt I’d brought my own little bit of Mardi Gras to Toowoomba and, once again, the tutu was accepted in the spirit in which it was worn.

photo (12)

And, all this stemmed from a woman who I didn’t know putting up a photo of herself on the internet.

After I made the tutu I tracked down her blog and sent her a note to let her know how she’d inspired me. Later, I sent her a photo of myself at the gala dinner. We became ‘Twitter’ friends and, as it turns out, she lives in south-east Queensland, so I had planned, at some time, to get to know her in person.

The lady in the tutu, I discovered, is a ‘fat activist’. As an activist, myself, I admired her for taking on what is possibly the Western world’s last acceptable form of discrimination and saying, “This is not right!”

It’s an uphill battle. I’ve found even members of the skeptical community – who would have a fit if someone made a racist, sexist or homophobic comment – will happily post photos of fat women on their Facebook page so that their friends can join in a fat-shaming-fest.

From time to time, I’ve taken them on. But, I’m just one woman with only so much time and ‘religion and politics’ is my chosen area of activism, so I don’t blog or write a lot on the discrimination suffered by many people who don’t conform with society’s idea of ‘acceptably svelte’. That doesn’t mean I don’t think it’s an important issue. It’s just that I can’t fight every injustice in the world. However, I was happy to network with and support a person who had, apparently, taken this on as her chosen crusade.

Mercifully, I suffer very little discrimination because of my weight. My friends and family love me as I am and if people stare, point and whisper about me when I’m out in public, I have to say I’ve never noticed it.  And it’s not as if I dress to be ignored. I am the atheist ‘bling queen’ – there is no subtlety in my fashion choices. I like to stand out in a crowd. I like to be noticed. If I saw someone doing a double-take as I walked past them, I’d generally assume it was just because I looked FABULOUS!  That’s not to deny the experience of others, but for me, the cruel barb from the crew member was the exception, not the norm.

The only other overt insult I can recall is a disgruntled neighbour who once shouted across the back fence, “Fat bitch! You’ve never done a day’s work in your life!” Ah, if only that were true! If others have had similar uncharitable thoughts about me, they’ve been kind enough to keep them to themselves.

I guess one’s romantic life tends to suffer when your belly ceases to be flat and your boobs head south, but then by the time the weight had reached “Big Girls’ Department’ proportions, I’d really lost as much interest in men as they had in me. There were a couple of dopes along the way who had problems with my expanding waistline. The first, a multi-millionaire from Western Queensland, murmured in my ear, “What happened to you? You used to be so beautiful.”

I replied that I still was beautiful and sent both him and his millions packing. Mother was devastated!

The second suitor, not exactly a sylph-like figure himself, decided that my figure just didn’t ‘do’ it for him, so I returned to Queensland and left him to his one true love – the bottle.

So, although I’ve got off lightly in the fat-discrimination stakes, I’m not completely oblivious to the indignities suffered by larger women (and, I expect, men). Having befriended a self-confessed ‘fat activist’ it seemed natural to share examples of ‘fat’ abuse when I came across them. After all, this is how my activism works. I depend on my network to keep me informed. Many of the things I write or campaign about come from readers of this blog, or from Facebook or Twitter contacts saying, “Hey, Chrys! Have you seen this?”

Of course, just because someone sends me a link to something, it doesn’t mean I feel compelled to act on it. If I did, I’d be working 442,023 hours a day. In most cases, I take a look. If it’s interesting, I might share it with my network. If I find myself really ticked off, I might write about it or take some other positive action. If I don’t have the time, I may send it off to someone else in my network and ask if they can respond. I certainly can’t act on every ‘tip off’ and I don’t think my network expects me to.

So, when I recently sent my  ‘fat activist’ friend a  link to an article which castigated Elton John for hiring – gasp! – overweight nannies for his children and appended it with the acronym “WTF?” it wasn’t with any particular expectation that she would take up the cudgel on my behalf.  I wasn’t delegating a task to her. I just thought that, as a fat activist (her words, not mine) she would be interested in the subject matter.

Apparently not. I later noticed that she had unfollowed me on Twitter. “Strange,” I thought. It wasn’t a big deal, but I hadn’t fallen out with her and I wondered why. I checked her account – it had been made private. I’d done that once when I was being bullied and I worried that she might have had a similar problem.  When I dropped off the internet a couple of years ago, I was sustained by the number of people who actually noticed and took the time to contact me privately to ask why. So, I emailed her and said, “RU OK?”

“… just thought I’d check to see that everything’s OK with you – and between us. Have you been bullied? Anything I can help with?” I said.

I was stunned to receive a very terse response telling me that it was ‘unacceptable’ to send her a link to an article about fat hate; that she was ‘sick of people sending me links to articles about fat hate and expecting me to be their bullhorn, to take on the issue or to be the voice of fat activism with absolutely no thought how that fat hate may affect me’.

When I had retrieved my jaw from the carpet, I went back and checked her blog. And yes, it was still there. And yes, her “About” blurb still said, “My name is … and I’m a fat activist”.

I read her latest blog. It was about a fat-hate issue she’d been alerted to due to a number of retweets and shares on the internet. Was I missing something?

I wrote back to her saying I was sorry I had upset her by sharing the link, but I felt she was sending mixed messages. How can you style yourself as an ‘activist’ and then castigate people for sharing information about the very issue you claim to be campaigning about?

Apparently, I was supposed to know that she doesn’t want to be an activist 24/7 – just when it suits her.

Boy, can I relate to that!

When I’ve sat up until 2am writing a blog post or article and someone notices I’m still online and sends me an email or Facebook message saying, “By the way, can you look at this?” or “Should my school be able to do this?” or “Can you write an article about this?”  I sometimes think – “Give me a break! Do you know what time it is?”

But then, I realise that I chose this. I chose to be a public commentator. I chose to be an activist. I chose to put my shingle up on the internet. Nobody forced me into it!

And, if, having styled myself as an activist,  people treat me that way, I have no call to complain. Having established my areas of interest as religion and politics, skeptical issues and alt-med, it would seem pretty churlish to start unfollowing people who wanted to share information on those subjects with me!

From time to time, there has been the odd person who has demanded that I should write about a particular subject. “Why don’t you attack Muslims?” is the most common complaint; to which I reply, “Why don’t you do it and send me the link – I’ll promote your work.” No-one’s ever taken me up on it!

But ultimately, this is the thing. You’re either an activist or you’re not. You can’t be an activist on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 10am until 3pm and then expect people not to bother you outside of those hours. You’re either in it boots and all, or you should really take down your shingle.

And I’m not against that, either. I’ve taken mine down before when it all got too hard. This is a voluntary job for the most part and it does wear you down after a while. But the responsibility rests on you to take yourself away from it. You can’t say, “I don’t know how many times I’ve told people not to …” This is the internet. We all deal with a surfeit of information. Most of the time people don’t read what you’ve written. Indeed, I was shocked to discover recently that not everyone I know reads everything I write! They might be equally shocked to discover I don’t read every tweet in my timeline!

The internet gives you the tools to control input from others – you really can’t expect others to filter their activities according to your whims.

So, today, I’ve lost a friend – or at least, a potential friend – because I had the temerity to send her a link to an article on the subject of her activism. Apparently, I should have known it was unwelcome. How, I’m not quite sure. It makes no sense to me.

I can only say that, it seems to me that if you style yourself as an activist, you implicitly invite others to send you information relevant to that cause.

I guess it’s akin to wearing a tutu. You are implicitly – or perhaps explicitly – saying, “Look at me! Notice me!”

There is no subtlety in a tutu and there is no subtlety in being an online activist.

In life, you have two choices. You can fly below the radar, or you can bling up and say, “Here I am world! Look at me!”  And whether you do that by being an activist, by dying your hair a shocking pink, by wearing outrageously large earrings, or by looking absolutely fabulous in a tutu – you’d better be prepared for the world to respond to your invitation.

It’s always sad to lose the friendship of someone you admire. But I will always be grateful that I found the photo of that gorgeous, large lady in a tutu on the internet. She inspired me. She made me brave. She helped me reconnect with my femininity. She has substantially influenced my subsequent fashion choices. I feel better for having known her. There are very few people who ‘change your life’ – but I think that she really did change mine.

Chrys - tutu

Chrys Stevenson

Left Right Out by Labor

I was just 14 years old when Whitlam’s Labor Government stormed into office in 1972, but I still remember the feeling of excitement and anticipation that ‘something big’ had just happened and that Australia would never be the same again.

Once in office, Whitlam set to implementing his policies with iron resolve and an almost unseemly haste. Well may we question the fiscal responsibility of the Whitlam government but we still live with the benefits of their brave, take no prisoners reforms: multiculturalism, Medicare, free university education and the first moves towards Aboriginal reconciliation to name just a few.

I felt the same sense of breathless anticipation when Rudd was elected. He was young, energetic, ambitious and seemed intent on sweeping aside the crushing conservatism of the Howard years, just as Whitlam had done thirty-five years before. He started boldly with an apology to the Stolen Generation – surely this foreshadowed a commitment to other social justice issues? He followed with the 2020 summit, giving ordinary Australians input into building a vision for Australia’s future. We dared to hope for an inclusive, representative government that would actually listen to what the ordinary citizens of Australia really wanted.

Sold a Pup

Do you know the feeling when you see a trailer for a movie and think ‘that’s going to be amazing’, but when you actually see the film you realize the only good bits were in the preview and even they don’t move the story along much? That’s how I feel about the Rudd government. We were sold a pup. Up front we got a big, glossy, exciting bells-and-whistles wind-up, but the whole thing just turned out to be a disappointing flop that failed for want of good direction.

Rudd may have patiently listened to your views at the 2020 summit but he has since rejected all of your silly ideas and just gone on his own merry, conservative, non-consultative way.  He may have apologised to the Stolen Generation, but what has he done for indigenous people since?

The Rudd government is not the reformist government we expected.  Rudd is not the alternative to Howard we were promised.  Rudd is just Howard in a blonde wig.  He has sold out the Labor left.  Indeed, there are even some of us who considered ourselves more centrists than lefties – and even we are left feeling that the political rug has been pulled out from under our feet.

The overwhelming feeling of those who have been hung out to dry by a party many have supported all their lives is anger, betrayal and dismay.

Prior to his election, Rudd claimed to be a Christian socialist. He now claims he has never been a socialist. (I’m just waiting for the day he concedes he’s never been a Christian either!) Citing Bonhoeffer as his inspiration, Rudd had us believing that his was a religionless Christianity steeped in a commitment to social justice rather than religious dogma. We expected a liberal Christian – what we got was a new best friend for the arch-conservative extreme right-wing religious nutters at the Australian Christian Lobby.

The Exclusive Brethren and Other Cults

Prior to his election, Rudd denounced the Exclusive Brethren as a ‘dangerous cult’.  After his election Rudd’s government continued to provide millions of dollars to the cult enabling them to keep their children isolated from the general population and actively dissuade them from pursuing tertiary studies.  Further, Labor has refused to support the inquiry into the tax status of Scientology proposed by Senator Nick Xenophon, frightened that it may open a Pandora’s Box regarding the tax-exempt status of more mainstream  religious institutions.  Neatly brushing the issue aside, Senator Ludwig said that the government preferred to wait for the results of the Henry Tax Review – the recommendations of which have since been substantially rejected.

Bill of Rights

In more sleight of hand, Rudd agreed to a public inquiry into an Australian Bill of Rights. Ignoring the blatant conflict of interest, he appointed Father Frank Brennan to head the inquiry, despite the Catholic Church’s official opposition to the concept. Reflecting the strength of feeling encountered in the public consultations, Brennan’s National Human Rights Consultation committee recommended the adoption of a Human Rights Act but Rudd’s government refused to accept the recommendation of its own inquiry. Adding salt to the wound, the Liberal Party controlled Menzies Research Centre claimed the defeat of the Bill of Rights as ‘a significant victory for the Menzies Research Centre and the Coalition’. Just remind me, who is Rudd supposed to be representing – the Labor party, the majority of Australians or the Liberal conservatives?

Asylum Seekers

With a self-confessed Christian socialist in charge, we may well have hoped that the Rudd Government would foster a kinder, more understanding public response to refugees rather than pandering to ill-informed populist scare-mongering. Perhaps they might launch an education campaign to explain why asylum seekers are neither ‘illegal’ nor ‘queue jumpers’. But no. Rudd’s approach to refugees has ceded to the same conservative populism which fed Howard’s policies. In fact, more and more, the Rudd solution leans towards the Howard government’s inhumane position of indefinite mandatory detention.

Gay Marriage

And so to homosexuals. In his article, “Faith in Politics”, Rudd said: “I see very little evidence that this pre-occupation with sexual morality is consistent with the spirit and content of the Gospels. For example, there is no evidence of Jesus of Nazareth expressly preaching against homosexuality.” But, when Rudd’s liberal views on homosexuality were put to the test, he folded. Rather than support the ACT’s move to allow gay marriage as a positive reform, Rudd’s government overturned it.

Climate Change

On climate change Rudd came out with all guns blazing. Climate change, he said, striking a statesmanlike pose, is ‘the great moral and economic challenge of our time’. His government’s Emissions Trading Scheme, he assured us, was one of the ‘most important structural reforms to our economy in a generation’. When getting the ETS through became too hard, however, Rudd did a Scarlett O’Hara – “Oh, fiddle-dee-dee, I’ll think about that tomorrow” – and stuck his climate change reforms in a drawer marked 2013. I have a vision of Rudd in a Scarlett O’Hara bonnet, driving his carriage out of town lickety-split as Atlanta … er …  Australia burns behind him.

Internet Censorship

The Rudd government’s $43 billion National Broadband Network is already being criticized as an outdated white elephant – even before the scheme has been introduced. Further, Senator Stephen Conroy, Rudd’s Minister for Communications is pushing a hugely unpopular, $125.8 million mandatory internet filter which will put Australians’ freedom of information on par with countries like China and Iran – and, if the IT experts are correct, substantially slow internet speeds. And it’s not just a few computer geeks grumbling about the assault on Australians’ freedom. In January, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that internet freedom was central to American foreign policy and that the US would actively resist efforts by governments seeking to censor the internet. Subsequently, the Obama government has raised its concerns about the plan with the Australian Government while child protection agencies have noted that the filter will have no effect whatsoever in protecting children from sexual predators or abuse.

Many rank and file Labor voters are astounded that a Labor government would even consider a policy that undermines Australians’ basic freedoms and dismayed to find that Rudd and Conroy are working, hand in glove, with the right-wing Australian Christian Lobby on the implementation of the scheme. In fact, in December it was revealed that the results of Conroy’s internet filtering trial had been shared exclusively with the Australian Christian Lobby – leaving other stakeholders out in the cold.

One has to ask what backroom deals have been done between the Rudd Government, Conroy, Family First Party Senator Fielding and the Australian Christian Lobby to make Labor ignore the advice of IT experts and child welfare agencies and risk the ire, not only of the vast majority of internet users but the American government? Is the Labor government selling us out to the right-wing conservatives for 30 pieces of electoral silver?

National School Chaplaincy Program

And then we have the National School Chaplaincy Program (NSCP). This ridiculous scheme was instituted by the Howard Government. According to the Australian Secular Lobby, even the Coalition never intended it as a long-term policy. But, to the dismay of Labor voters, it has not only been continued, but expanded under Rudd. I am sure I’m not the only one who shudders to think what the evangelical chaplains provided by the Scripture Union are telling young people who confide in them about same-sex attraction, pre-marital sex, or unwanted pregnancies. If our children need support and advice within the school system surely this should come from qualified, unbiased counselors – not from largely unqualified people with a clear religious agenda? The NSCP is yet more evidence that Rudd has sold out the Labor party to the conservative right.

As the Australian Secular Lobby rightly says:

“The question for ordinary tax-paying Australians must be, “Do we elect politicians to make decisions in the openness of parliament and in the full glare of the media, or are we happy to have secretive evangelical groups undertaking ‘quiet work’ to determine what is, or is not, in Australia’s ‘national interest’?”

Left Right Out

In the Sunday Age today, national political reporter, Josh Gordon writes:

“Understandably, the left today might be feeling a tad disillusioned and disenfranchised … One prominent Labor backbencher said there was a growing perception that Rudd had sacrificed the aspirations of traditional rank-and-file supporters in a Howard-esque pitch to swinging voters.
”We are getting quite a lot of emails which are critical of the positions that have been taken about carbon trading and asylum seekers,” the MP said. ”If you show up at ALP branch meetings you do see a certain amount of frowns and folded arms and so on. I think there is some concern among the leadership base about those things.”

The MP is right and I have some inside information that an internal Labor Party poll shows that Rudd’s overt religiosity and pandering to the religious right is a matter of considerable concern within the party. Traditional Labor voters are disillusioned, disenfranchised, angry and betrayed. Rudd has left the left right out. He promised a Labor government and delivered a Liberal conservative government in all but name.

Further, Rudd’s efforts to woo the ‘moral majority’ for Labor doesn’t seem to be doing him much good. This week’s Newspoll results show the Rudd government trailing the Coalition on a two-party basis (49-51 per cent) with an 11-point drop in the PM’s satisfaction rating to 39 per cent. Fifty per cent of voters, it appears, are dissatisfied with Rudd’s performance. Seems those votes the Australian Christian Lobby promised you just weren’t worth the price, Kev!

A vote for the Greens may well be a vote for Labor – for now – but the Greens are gaining in strength, attracting a broader base and, at the next election, it is highly likely that Labor’s left will desert in large numbers. Rudd and his cronies would do well to look at the UK election results in which the Liberal Democrats now hold the balance of power and will largely determine who leads the country. The left may be disenfranchised, Kevin, but we don’t necessarily need you to win.

Chrys Stevenson

First-time comments on this blog are moderated but will be approved and published as soon as possible.

Read Also

Abbott’s Contrasting Role Revealed in Black and White by Leslie Cannold for a similar analysis of the Opposition leader.

Sources

The Legacy of the Whitlam Government – Modia Minotaur – Friday, November 11, 2005

Are Asylum Seekers Illegal? – Asylum Seeker Project – Hotham Mission

Politics and religion: crossed paths – David Marr, Sydney Morning Herald, 25 December 2009

A matter of church and state, Amanda Davey, Mosman Daily, 5 April 2010

Faith in Politics, Kevin Rudd, The Monthly, October 2006

Rudd’s dangerous climate retreat, Paul Kelly, The Australian, 29 April 2010

US reveals concerns over Conroy’s net filter plan, Paul Colgan, The Punch, 29 March 2010

Conroy will be censoring people, not the internet, Nina Funnell, Sydney Morning Herald, 17 December 2009

Rudd praises ‘quiet work’ of evangelicals: evangelicals undermine Liberal Party and ‘national interest’, Australian Secular Lobby

Figures prove hard for PM to swallow, Michelle Grattan – The Age, 5 May 2010

Policies Overboard, Josh Gordon – Sunday Age, 9 May 2010

Further Action

1. Consider supporting the Australian Greens at the next election – particularly in the Senate. It is not a ‘wasted’ vote, if your Green candidate fails to win, your full vote will go to your next preference. You do not have to preference according to the Green’s ‘how to vote’ card – you may choose your preferences according to your own wishes. If Labor only wins because of Green’s preferences that sends a strong message to them about where their support is coming from.

2. Write to your local Federal Labor representative stating your dissatisfaction at the direction the Rudd Labor Government has taken.

3. Donate to the High Court Challenge which seeks to expose the government’s National School Chaplaincy Scheme as unconstitutional. (Paypal now available.)

4. Electronic Frontiers provides a list of ten things you can do to stop Conroy’s internet censorship scheme.

5. Write to Senator Nick Xenophon stating your support for an inquiry into Scientology and other similar organizations.
Senator.Xenophon@aph.gov.au
Level 2, 31 Ebenezer Place, Adelaide 5000

6. Collect signatures on a petition for Equal Marriage Rights in Australia

7.  Join the Facebook Group Kevin Rudd’s Lies and Broken Promises and invite your friends to join.

Gladly’s Book Recommendations

Gladly reckons his crossed eyes make him lean towards the left. He wonders if Kevin’s lurch toward the right and apparent short-sightedness might be corrected with a visit to a good optometrist. If you liked this article you might be interested in reading further from Gladly’s favourite online bookstore, Embiggen Books.

A Certain Grandeur: Gough Whitlam’s Life in Politics by Graham Freudenberg
It’s Time Again: Whitlam and Modern Labor by Colleen Lewis and Jenny Hocking
Dear Mr Rudd: Ideas for a Better Australia by Robert Manne
Exit Right: The Unravelling of John Howard by Judy Brett
God Under Howard: The Rise of the Religious Right in Australian Politics by Marion Maddox
Beautiful Lies: Australia from Menzies to Howard by Tony Griffiths
Behind the Exclusive Brethen by Michael Bachelard
The Statute of Liberty: How Australians can take back their human rights by Geoffrey Robertson
The Purple Economy: Supernatural Charities, Tax and the State by Max Wallace
Realizing Secularism: Australia and New Zealand by Max Wallace
Scorcher: The Dirty Politics of Climate Change by Clive Hamilton

In Which We Speak of Militant Atheists, Australian History, Girlie Magazines and the Christian Pot Calling the Atheist Kettle Black

Australian Christian Lobby spokesman, Jim Wallace, shares his views (below) about the Global Atheist Convention held in Melbourne in March 2010.

I claim a right of reply.

“2,500 for an international conference … is not incredible … the national conference for these atheists some two years ago only had about 19 people there.”

Hmmm – from 19 people to 2,500 in just two years.  I’m not sure that a meeting of 19 people can be claimed as a ‘conference’ but still,  if Jim’s right, a 13,000 percent increase in just two years seems a rather remarkable rate of growth to me. Consider, the first Hillsong Conference had only 150 people and took 20 years to build to 30,000.  So, 2,500 as a starting point for future atheist conventions augurs well for the future.

“… what came out of this [the Global Atheist Convention] was a new militant atheism.”

Militant, eh?  Militant as in lobbying the government to deny basic human rights to Australian citizens?  Militant as in trenchantly opposing freedom of information?  Militant as in trying to force your values on people who don’t share them through government legislation?  Militant as in denying the rights of our elderly people to choose to die with dignity (meaning that many of them hang themselves instead)?  Yep – that’s militant, Jim but – oops, sorry – that’s the Australian Christian Lobby isn’t it?  Not the atheists.

“… this [the growth of atheism] is going to threaten our Christian heritage.”

Sorry to break this to you, Jim, but Australia doesn’t have a Christian heritage – it has a secular heritage (which, admittedly, you and your mate Mr Rudd are doing a fine job of destroying).

The convicts who came to Australia in 1788 despised the clergy for their corruption and their alignment with the status quo.  (Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose, eh?)  The early governors were so disinterested in religion that after waiting for years for the government to build him a church, the first chaplain finally paid for one out of his own pocket.  When the prisoners were forced to attend, they burned it down.

The bushmen immortalised by Banjo Paterson and Henry Lawson were practical atheists.  History records that travelling outback preachers were the subject of disdain – there are even stories about them being paid to go away.

The Chartists, whose British movement inspired the Eureka Stockade, were largely atheists.  The founding fathers of Australian Federation fought for a secular nation – not a Christian one.  While people like Alfred Deakin, Sir Samuel Griffith and Andrew Inglis-Clarke toiled hard to draft a secular Constitution, church leaders busied themselves by bickering over who should have precedence at the Federation ceremonies.

Many of our finest Prime Ministers and political leaders have been atheists. For example, we owe our national health system and the beginning of a more respectful attitude towards Aborigines to atheist, Gough Whitlam, and his largely atheist cabinet. (You might recall, Jim, it was your Christian missionaries who stole children from Aboriginal parents causing untold misery for thousands.)

Today, Australia is one of the most secular nations in the world with less than 8% of its population regularly attending a place of worship.

“… Richard Dawkins was worried about the decline of the church and what might replace it.”

You’re clutching at straws, Jim.  I don’t recall who mentioned this at the Convention – I doubt it was Dawkins.  But, whoever said it, the context of the remark was simply that many of the people rejecting the church in their droves are turning to new age ‘woo’ which has no more evidence than religion – but is probably a damn site less harmful. Your implication that Dawkins was afraid that what might replace religion may be much worse is deliberately misleading.  After all, I haven’t noticed too many psychics or astrologers blowing up abortion clinics, being involved in long-term institutional child-abuse, or starting bloody protracted holy wars.

“… the West’s wealth [in comparison to non-Christian countries] … we say, is the blessing of God, because it’s maintained its Christian heritage.”

Really, Jim?  So it isn’t hundreds of years of Western imperialism, the bloody invasion of foreign countries, the exploitation of their resources and cheap labour, control of global markets and the bully-boy tactics of Western governments that has made the West wealthy, but God?  Geez, you learn something every day.  It must be nice, Jim, to feel so smugly deserving while your ‘loving God’ condemns children in third-world countries to starve to death because their countries aren’t Christian.

But there are more important things to worry about than starving children, aren’t there, Jim? Let’s worry, instead, about well-fed Western children glimpsing a bit of bum or boob in girlie magazines. Far more important!

“We’ve all gone into petrol stations and the like and we’ve seen these [pornographic] magazines which are there … at very low level … even a child’s level … they should be only sold in adult stores.”

Interesting point.  You have to be 17 years old to drive a car, why would a small child be in a petrol station without a parent or adult present?  If your point is that children should be better supervised, I’m right with you, Jim.  But, tell me, just how many unattended 6-10 year olds have you noticed loitering around your local petrol station?

Actually, if you want to start protecting children from dangerous and unsuitable literature, may I suggest you start with your own holy book which contains some of the most ghastly, bloodthirsty, unjust violence ever described, reportedly perpetrated by, or at the instructions of, the God you want innocent children to worship.

This is the book which commands that children who curse their parents should be put to death  (Leviticus 20:9), which describes (with no condemnation) how Lot’s daughters got him drunk and had sex with him (Genesis 19:30-38), which tells of how Elisha, beloved of God, cursed some children who were teasing him for being bald and how the Lord sent two bears from the woods to maul forty-two of the children (Kings 2:22-24). I could go on, but really, it’s not just unsuitable literature for children, it’s pretty sickening for adults too.

The truth is, Jim, I find the literature that you tout offensive and dangerous, violent, racist, homophobic and sexist.  It’s certainly literature I wouldn’t want children exposed to – but you don’t see we ‘militant atheists’ campaigning to ban the Bible, do you?

“… the Australian Christian Lobby has been very much against the growing sexualisation of children in our society …”

Jim, perhaps you should take a closer look at some of those magazines. There are photos of naked, consenting adults in there, not naked children. It’s highly dishonest of you to conflate the availability of adult magazines to adults and the sexualisation of children.  They are two, completely separate issues.

Or rather, why don’t you just give up this obsession you have with girlie magazines and take another look at your Bible – which actually has some diamonds among the dross.  Here’s a useful passage for you:

“And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?” (Matthew 7:3)

Chrys Stevenson

See Also:  ACL must stand up against “militant atheism” by Sean the Blogonaut

We have to oppose this Atheist Movement – Jim Wallace, by Distroman, Distro’s Blog

Further Action:

1. Learn more about the Australian Christian Lobby and let others know it is not a community lobby group.

The Australian Christian Lobby likes people to think that it is a community lobby group, but this is not the case. In fact, the ACL is is a privately owned, legally secretive, company, which has ‘supporters’, not ‘members’. It is the private board of the ACL which makes decisions about what issues they will lobby on – they do not have a democratic structure in which members can vote and directors are invited on to the board by the board itself – they are not elected by any membership. Read more here.

2. Write to the Prime Minister and tell him you object to the Australian Christian Lobby’s undue influence on the Labor Government and let him know it will effect your vote at the next election.

Prime Minister
PO Box 6022
House of Representatives
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

Email

2. Join a group which opposes the ACL’s aims to de-secularise the Australian government and impose Christian values and prejudices on all Australians – regardless of their own beliefs. These may include an atheist, rationalist, freethought, humanist, secular or even a skeptics group.

3. When you see the ACL campaigning against the rights of Australians to freedom from religion, write a letter to the relevant politician and/or a letter to the editor of the newspaper you read the article in. Make your voice heard.

Gladly’s Book Recommendations

Gladly is a gentle, atheist bear who acts according to his own conscience, not the directions of a violent and capricious deity.  Gladly would not even consider mauling a child because they called some old guy ‘baldie’.

If this post has given you ‘paws’ for thought, Gladly thinks you might enjoy the following further reading:

Evil Bible

The Skeptics Annotated Bible

A Secular Age by Charles Taylor

American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America by Chris Hedges

Holy Hatreds: Religious Conflicts of the 90s by James A Haught

Beyond Belief:  Skepticism, Science and the Paranormal, by Martin Bridgstock

Australian Legend by Russell Ward, Oxford University Press

Convicts, clergymen and churches : attitudes of convicts and ex-convicts towards the churches and clergy in New South Wales from 1788-1851, by Allan Grocott, Sydney University Press, Sydney, NSW.

Religion books, secular books, and history books are all available online from Embiggen Books, Australia.