Tag Archives: Christian

The hospital and the radio station: when management fails who pays the price?

13 Dec

Though there are many unknowns surrounding the death of nurse Jacintha Saldanha, what is starkly evident is that there are no winners in the aftermath of the prank. Images of her stricken family reveal just how badly things went wrong.

It appears that Saldanha played a very small role, merely answering the call from the two Australian DJs and putting it through to the appropriate staff member. It was not Saldanha who revealed royal medical details.

Having listened to the recordings, I understand why no one was more surprised than 2Day FM DJs Christian and Greig when their silly accents fooled staff, and they found themselves discussing the Duchess’s condition with her nurse. However, in the context, why should nursing staff be knowledgeable about silly Australian accents, and why should they be expected to be on the alert for pranksters?

Clearly hospital protocol regarding access to information about royalty and celebrity needs a review, not to protect those luminous beings, but to protect hospital staff who look after them. Surely it wouldn’t be difficult as a matter of course, to direct all inquiries to a PR professional and leave the medical staff to do their jobs untroubled by  pranksters.

It’s the nature of the prank that it takes its subject unawares, and plunges her or him into immediate confusion and self-doubt. The nurses involved may well have felt there was something amiss, and found themselves in the unenviable position of having to make a spilt-second decision that either way would backfire. What if they’d hung up on the Queen? What if they’d wrongly questioned her authenticity? The victim of a prank can never win.

I am interested to know how hospital management treated Saldanha. While a spokesman has been at pains to reassure her family and the media that she was not formally reprimanded, that doesn’t mean she wasn’t shamed in other ways within the hospital system, by administration and other staff. Was Saldanha held solely responsible because she answered the phone and put through the call? What about the nurse who gave out medical information?

DJs Greig and Christian have been widely blamed for instigating the prank that apparently led to Saldanha’s presumed suicide. However, it seems to me that like Saldanha, they are in some sense scapegoats for managerial hierarchies that have in both cases failed to adequately protect their coal face workers. Greig and Christian performed the prank, a prank that was approved by the station’s lawyers, and that was situated in a station culture of pranks. Apparently, the DJs can only air what is approved by management.

Saldanha, Christian and Greig have in common a position of being small but very visible cogs in powerful managerial wheels that are largely hidden and protected from public scrutiny.

No matter what one thinks of them, the careers of Greig and Christian may well be over. They are bearing the brunt of global fury at the dreadful outcome of the prank. At any time several layers of  2Day FM management could have pulled the plug. Nobody did. Will any management heads roll at the station?

Jacintha Saldanha is dead. Will any action be taken against the hospital management that failed to implement protocols to protect staff and patients from violation of privacy?

What is needed is an ongoing exposure of the normalised managerial culture that allows those with minor decision-making privileges to become scapegoats for the  less visible but extremely powerful individuals who are running the show. Ultimately these individuals are responsible when things go wrong, and they are responsible for the culture of the institutions they control.

Kelly O’Dwyer, Christians don’t own marriage, & goodbye Bob.

15 Apr

Shortly after Bob Brown announced his retirement, Federal Member for Higgins  and Abbott attack puppy in training Kelly O’Dwyer tweeted that we now had a female deputy PM as well as female PM. This observation prompted ABC journo Latika Bourke to ask whatever could Ms O’Dwyer know about Wayne Swan that the rest of us don’t?

Of course, Ms O’Dwyer was keeping alive the Opposition tradition of claiming that the Greens are really running the country and so their new leader, Christine Milne, is our deputy PM in everything but name.

I first noticed Ms O’Dwyer when she took part in a Qanda episode. If you’re interested, you can find this on her website. I formed the opinion then that she is given to belligerence, quite lacking in manners, and adept at the practise of  “talking over everyone else not caring if your audience hears you because your objective is to drown out all other voices not to make an intelligent point yourself.” Yes. That.

I also formed the opinion that her subtext was “Look at me Tony look at me! I’m doing it just like you! Can I have a schmacko? Please?”

Had it not been for the notice warning “Puppy in training. Not to be fed or patted by anyone other than handlers” I would have chucked her one myself, being a sucker for unrestrained approval desperation. Below Ms O’Dwyer is pictured with Mr Costello who never became leader of the pack. It looks as if he’s eating a sausage. Or perhaps he’s going to feed it to Ms O’Dwyer. I don’t know what these people get up to.

In 2010 I wrote this article for On Line Opinion titled “Reclaiming marriage from the great big Christian hijack.” I wrote: Marriage has existed a whole lot longer than Christianity. The Chinese philosopher Confucius, born in 551 BC, offered this delightful definition: “Marriage is the union of two different surnames, in friendship and in love.”

Two years down the track and because our PM made a point of reassuring us the day after she took office that there would be no change in the Marriage Act to accommodate same-sex unions, we are no further ahead. It is rumoured that Ms Gillard was compelled to make this otherwise inexplicable statement  by the Australian Christian Lobby. (I claim her statement was inexplicable at the time because Kevin Rudd had only just been rumbled, and the last thing on anybody’s mind was gay marriage.)

What remains inexplicable to me is that Ms Gillard is a professed atheist and personally uninterested in marriage. Some 60 per cent of Australians approve of same-sex unions and there are Christians among them.

Why the ACL should have such influence over Ms Gillard is also inexplicable, and quite unacceptable. Frankly, I’m a bit fed up with public Christians at the moment. That appalling performance by Cardinal Pell on Qanda did it for me. In the On Line Opinion essay I wrote:

Perhaps what is required from Christians these days is a little humility. An acknowledgement that they haven’t got everything right, indeed there are things they have got horrifically wrong, and that there is a collective as well as an individual responsibility for this that must be addressed before they can legitimately turn their rigorous attention to the maintenance of a broader human morality.

If I were imagining a god, she/he would care a whole lot more about believers destroying the bodies, hearts and souls of children than about preventing same-sex marriage, and same-sex adoption. If my god was going to smite anybody, I hope she/he would be smiting the perpetrators of those crimes against children, and those who enabled and protected those perpetrators and denied their crimes. I hope she/he would take positive action to enlighten those who would deprive children of love and legal security, solely because these people are unable to personally deal with the concept of love between same-sex partners.

My god would teach that loving one another is the only thing that matters, and from that all else will grow.

She/he would also be smart enough to admit that loving one another is the hardest thing we’ll ever have to do on this planet.

“Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another,” said Christ.

“We must love one another, or die,” said the poet, W.H. Auden.

“If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal,” warned St Paul.

It’s time to reclaim marriage from the Christians. They can’t claim it as their own. It belongs to everybody. Marriage in Australia in 2010 is about loving one another, whatever gender the other happens to be. It is about hope, and deeply good intentions. It’s about wanting to be the best a human being can be. It’s about wanting to create a living, breathing mystery, day by day, with the person you love and who loves you.

How may times must these sentiments be expressed, and by how many people, before politicians take heed?

Christians, your noisy gongs and clanging cymbals are making my ears bleed.

Finally, adieu Bob Brown. There are many ageing white males in positions of power that I can think of who would do well to emulate Brown, and bugger off. Knowing when to go is a rare talent, whatever your field of endeavour.

I have no idea if this is the beginning of the end for the Greens. As the philosopher Emmanuel Levinas observed about death: One does not know when death will come. What will come? With what does death threaten me? With nothingness or recommencement? I do not know.

And that, my friends, is why I can’t call myself an atheist, for I do not know. While this is unkindly described as “fence-sitting” by some, I argue that it is a sign of maturity to learn to become comfortable with uncertainty. Only children demand certainty. The adult knows there is none. Nowhere. Ever. Ever. I know that for sure.

Bob and Paul

When it’s ethical to disclose your religious beliefs

11 Feb

I grew up in a nominally Christian household. I was educated at a boarding school run by Anglican nuns. As a young mother I had my sons baptised. Soon I’ll attend the baptism of my infant grandson.

In my early thirties, I ceased to believe in the Christian God and organised religion. A few years later feminism gave me the analytic tools to deconstruct religion and reveal it for the powerfully oppressive force it can be for women.

I look back to my time with the nuns with great gratitude, but I no longer subscribe to their beliefs.

What I learned about being a Christian is that a follower is expected to live his or her faith. It isn’t some abstract concept that is trotted out on Sundays. It’s supposed to imbue every aspect of life, every action the believer takes is to be taken in God’s light, and when a Christian encounters difficulties of any kind, a Christian prays to God for guidance and sustenance. No matter what one’s profession, one is expected to perform it as a Christian, according to Christian values.

I don’t know if all Christians learn this, but we certainly did.

Followers are also expected to identify themselves in the hope that others will “see their good works and glorify their father in heaven.” And, hopefully, join the religion.

These seem to me a commendable set of expectations. Transparency, honesty, willingness to share, and to extend invitations to others to join you in what you believe to be the best way to live a life here on earth.

As long as they remain strictly invitations.

So I am entirely unable to comprehend the attitude held by Melinda Tankard Reist that her religious faith distracts from her work and she doesn’t want to talk about it for fear of being “labelled.” Labelled what, I’d like to ask. Labelled Christian? How and why does Tankard Reist believe that being labelled as a Christian distracts or detracts from her work?

In an interview with Reist on Mia Freedman’s website mamamia is this observation: Ms Reist herself has said in the past that she is reluctant to discuss her stance on religion because people tend to use it to ‘colour’ the rest of her work.

My understanding is that a Christian is supposed to “colour” their work, indeed colour their whole lives with the presence of God. Why is this “colouring” regarded as negative by Reist to the degree that she is reluctant to discuss her religious views and appears to distance herself from them when the question of their influence on her work arises?

In the same interview a comment from Herald Sun journalist Jill Singer:

Worst of all, in my view, is that Tankard Reist protests robustly if anyone dares question what it is that informs her strongly held opinions. Specifically, she gets very, very edgy if anyone dares suggest her Christian beliefs influence her opinions.

If you are proud of your beliefs, and are living a life based on them, why would you become “very, very edgy” if anyone suggests those beliefs influence your opinions?

As she is a Christian we can legitimately expect that Reist comes to her morality influenced and guided by the morality of her faith. If this is not the case, then one has to wonder what kind of Christianity she practices, as the concept of a Christian who is Christian in everything other than her morality is somewhat baffling.

When Reist in her role as the morals police seeks to influence public morality and public policy, it is entirely reasonable for her audience to ask if her morality is influenced by her Christian beliefs. Christians have very specific moral positions. They are not all the same, and unless Reist reveals what hers are, we can only make assumptions. To claim, as does Reist, that her Christian beliefs are in some way different from her moral campaigns and can’t be discussed as they will “distract” from those campaigns, is more than a little bizarre.

Ethically, Reist is required to reveal how her Christian beliefs influence her opinions.  The public is not required to sit meekly by and unquestioningly accept a social order likely designed according to Christian morality, particularly if that morality is in some way concealed.

My Christian upbringing taught open-ness, pride, and joy in that faith. The idea that faith would detract from a moral message is simply incomprehensible. Does one build compartments, then? In here my faith, in there my morality and the two have no relationship?

The ethics of the situation are obvious. If Tankard Reist is a practicing Christian then there is no doubt that her faith guides her moral values. If she has a relationship with God in which she seeks through prayer advice and instruction on her work, as Christians are required to do, then she is ethically obliged to disclose this.

If she is seeking to morally prescribe for the public then we need to know if she does this in conjunction with her relationship with the Christian God, or if she is acting entirely alone.

Why? Because there are millions of us who do not believe in that God and do not wish to be forced to live our lives subject to any Christian morality. We have a human right to live free of religion and the imposition of religious morality.

We have the right to ask, is Tankard Reist acting in the best interests of human beings or in the service of her God? Because the two do not always coincide. The bottom-line with just about all religions is what many of the followers perceive to be God’s will, and not necessarily the welfare of human beings. We have overwhelming evidence of this priority.

If anyone seeks to morally prescribe from such a position, I am entitled to know that and to make my decisions accordingly. In those circumstances it is, to my mind, completely unethical to refuse to discuss one’s relationship with religion and its influence on one’s very public work.


Become a school chaplain: no qualifications needed, just believe in God

28 Jun

Here is the description of the School Chaplaincy Program taken from website of the Department of Education,Employment and Workplace Relations:

This voluntary program assists schools and their communities to support the spiritual wellbeing of students. This may include support and guidance about ethics, values, relationships, spirituality and religious issues, the provision of pastoral care and enhanced engagement with the broader community.

School chaplains are not required to have any qualifications at all, in any field. Yet they are charged with the responsibility of “guiding” students through the minefields of relationships, ethics, values and spirituality.

It’s intolerably negligent of the government, and schools participating in this program,  to permit any one in a school community to “provide guidance” to school students in the complex and sensitive areas of ethics, values, relationships, and spirituality, without any training at all in these areas, or any other for that matter.

The provision of these unqualified “support” chaplains in our schools is costing us $165 million over three years.

Do we have unqualified nursing assistants in hospitals? Do we have unqualified teachers’ aides in schools?

The program overview continues:

While recognising that an individual chaplain will in good faith express his or her belief and articulate values consistent with his or her denomination or religious belief, a chaplain should not take advantage of his or her privileged position to proselytise for that denomination or religious belief.

I read this with utter incredulity. The chaplain is not required to have any qualifications, but the chaplain is permitted to articulate beliefs and values consistent with his or her denomination or religious beliefs.

As the school chaplains have no qualifications in the areas in which they are supposed to provide “guidance” for students,one can safely assume the the government doesn’t really expect them to do that. Or if the government does expect them to do that, this is a bigger scandal than that of the unqualified installers of pink batts.

Scripture Union of Queensland is a prominent supplier of school chaplains.From their website:

Working alongside other caring professionals, SU QLD Chaplains care for young people’s spiritual and emotional needs through pastoral care, activity programs, community outreach and adventure-based learning.

Most importantly, SU QLD Chaplains provide a personal point of Christian contact, care and support for students, teachers and their families within their schools.

And there we have it. School chaplains are in public schools to promote Christianity. That’s the only thing they are “qualified” to do. All the job requires is a belief in the Christian god.

It’s dangerously negligent for the government and schools to let  untrained chaplains loose in schools, giving them an entirely unearned privileged position advising students on relationships, ethics, values and spirituality. The only thing they can possibly do is advise students from a Christian perspective. In the wider world, we have a choice about who we go to for guidance and advice. Nobody forces us to go to the Christians or any other religious group. Yet in our public schools students have as their source of guidance the unqualified religious?

What happens to, say, a student struggling with their sexual identity who thinks they might be gay? Given the dominant Christian perspective on homosexuals as articulated by the Australian Christian Lobby’s Jim Wallace, which is to lovingly expel them.

The questions for Minister Peter Garrett are: why isn’t this money being used to provide more qualified counsellors in schools? Why is the government financially supporting religious activity in public schools? Why is the Minister putting children at risk by offering them guidance from people who are totally unqualified to give it?

This is a completely unacceptable situation from every perspective. Our students are entitled to qualified non-religious counselling when they’re in difficulties. To offer them religious proselytising instead is despicable.


Reclaiming marriage from the great big Christian hijack

10 Feb

This essay was first published by Graham Young in On Line Opinion, December 2010

In view of the scare tactics employed by the Australian Christian Lobby in their new petition to prevent the legalisation of gay marriage, it seems timely to publish it again.

by Danny Hammontree via flickr

 

 

Judging from the flurry of articles that have appeared recently written by Christians against same sex marriage (as well as same sex adoption, in which many similar religious justifications are invoked) one can be forgiven for thinking that many Christians believe their god invented the institution.

This could not be further from the truth. Marriage has existed a whole lot longer than Christianity. The Chinese philosopher Confucius, born in 551 BC, offered this delightful definition: “Marriage is the union of two different surnames, in friendship and in love.”

Indeed, there is considerable historical evidence that in Greece, Rome, China and Europe same-sex marriages were celebrated along with the heterosexual unions deemed necessary either for economic purposes, or for men to ensure (they hoped) the parentage of children.

For a period in our history marriage had little to do with romance and love, and much to do with economic and physical survival. The spiritual and emotional dimensions of marriage that many Westerners feel are at its core are relatively recent developments.

Christians imposed their beliefs on an institution that was already long in place, and called this fallacy god’s will. Instead of acknowledging that Christian marriage is but one example of that institution, they appear to deny validity to any other and thus attempt to reify their singular take on the concept.

So successful has this reification been that there are people who want to marry in churches, even though they never set foot in them before or after the ceremony. Many people feel an understandable desire for their marriage to be “blessed,” and there’s no doubt the Christian ritual can be quite beautiful.

I’ve no wish to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

But people marry for all kinds of reasons. For example, it’s estimated that some 200,000 marriages per year take place in the United States expressly for the purpose of obtaining a Green Card for the spouse who is not a US citizen. There are marriages made in Australia for the same pragmatic reason. These unions apparently disrespect the Christian god’s purpose for marriage, and ought to cause offence to believers. However, they don’t appear to be anywhere near as offensive to Christians as are same sex marriages, chosen on the basis of love, and the desire for commitment and family.

On the other hand, marriage between blacks and white in the US southern states (miscegenation) was illegal until 1967. Not only did the Christian god demand that marriage only take place between a man and a woman at that time, apparently he needed them to be the same skin colour as well.

It took that country’s Christians some 276 years to overthrow that particular racist injustice.

Christian beliefs about marriage change, as the above example demonstrates. Presumably, this is as a consequence of god changing his mind, and somehow relaying that change to the faithful who then update the law.

But what a truly intolerable state of affairs, that the lives and futures of many same sex couples are at the mercy of the arbitrary decisions of a transcendental exteriority that many citizens don’t believe exists at all, or not in the form touted by Christians.

This state of affairs is undemocratic. It breaches the human right to have freedom from religion as well as to have freedom of religion.

As some 60% of Australians are in favour of same sex marriage, it is puzzling that the two major parties continue to believe they can afford to ignore this majority. One can only conclude their mutual fear of offending the religious vote is stronger than their fear of offending the 60%, who they probably assume will not rate this issue highly on their wish lists of what they want governments to change.

One person’s god is another person’s superstition. Christians are not renowned for their democratic principles when it comes to the many varieties of spiritual practice at work in the world. Who can forget the scary tale of Mother Theresa baptising dying Hindus who were too ill to protest?  An act of spiritual terrorism by stealth if ever there was one.

The problem with many believers (not just Christians) is that their belief prevents them from respecting another person’s point of view. Non- believers are dismissed as simply wrong headed. They’re on their way to hell in a handcart, and they will be sorry when they get there that they didn’t listen when they had the chance.

There’s no reasoning with this mindset. Once you come up against the tunnel vision of implacable belief (often known as “faith”) you’ve come to the end of the discussion, and all that’s left to do is to walk away.

Then there’s the question of Christian credibility. The churches currently have a very bad reputation to overcome. The appalling incidence of sexual, physical and emotional abuse of children in their care, and the equally appalling attempts to cover up and deny these abuses, have gone a long way to undermining the churches’ credibility in any thinking person’s mind.

It was Jesus who said “It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he be cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones.”

Yet while ordinary Christians are more than willing to speak out against same sex marriage and same sex adoption, among many other issues of which they disapprove, they are bone-chillingly silent when it comes to protesting the evils perpetrated in their own back yards. Has there ever been a better illustration of Burke’s maxim “All it takes for evil to flourish is for good men [sic] to remain silent?”

Perhaps what is required from Christians these days is a little humility. An acknowledgement that they haven’t got everything right, indeed there are things they have got horrifically wrong, and that there is a collective as well as an individual responsibility for this that must be addressed before they can legitimately turn their rigorous attention to the maintenance of a broader human morality.

If I were imagining a god, she/he would care a whole lot more about believers destroying the bodies, hearts and souls of children than about preventing same sex marriage, and same sex adoption. If my god was going to smite anybody, I hope she/he would be smiting the perpetrators of those crimes against children, and those who enabled and protected those perpetrators and denied their crimes. I hope she/he would take positive action to enlighten those who would deprive children of love and legal security, solely because these people are unable to personally deal with the concept of love between same sex partners.

My god would teach that loving one another is the only thing that matters, and from that all else will grow.

She/he would also be smart enough to admit that loving one another is the hardest thing we’ll ever have to do on this planet.

“Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another,” said Christ.

“We must love one another, or die,” said the poet, W.H. Auden.

“If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal,” warned St Paul.

It’s time to reclaim marriage from the Christians. They can’t claim it as their own. It belongs to everybody. Marriage in Australia in 2010 is about loving one another, whatever gender the other happens to be. It is about hope, and deeply good intentions. It’s about wanting to be the best a human being can be. It’s about wanting to create a living, breathing mystery, day by day, with the person you love and who loves you.

It doesn’t always work. Hearts get terribly broken. We dust ourselves off, and sometimes have another crack at it, because we are very brave, and we are full of hope, and we have a vision of enduring love that keeps us going, no matter what form our marriages take, or even if they end.

We do this whether we are Christians or not. We do it because we are human beings who at our best are capable of living out these wonders regardless of gender, and oftentimes in spite of the difficulties gender can create for us.

I’m perfectly happy to let Christians conduct their marriage ceremonies according to their beliefs. And every other religious group as well. They don’t have to celebrate same sex marriage in their own places of worship if they don’t want to. This is one of the freedoms our democracy guarantees. I don’t wish to take that freedom away from Christians or any other religious group.

But what no democratic government should tolerate is Christians, or any other religious group, defining marriage and dictating its practices in this country. Government decisions must not be based on religious belief in our pluralist society. They must be based on what is fair, what is just, and what is non-discriminatory. Democracy is inclusive. Christianity, sadly, increasingly demonstrates that it is not.

Same sex marriage and same sex adoption are not dangers from which governments need to protect us. But the tyranny of religions destroying anybody’s democratic rights to these things, most certainly is.

What gay activists and Melinda Tankard Reist have in common

7 Feb

 

 

 

 

 

Bearman via flickr

 

Whether it’s the petition by Christian activist for women and girls Melinda Tankard Reist, aimed at banning rapper KanYe West’s latest video, or the efforts by some gay rights activists to close down the e-journal On Line Opinion, the price of freedom of speech and expression for those who care about it certainly is eternal vigilance.

The author of the offending OLO article expressing anti gay marriage views, (some of them written by gays) is Bill Muehlenberg, spokesman for the Family Council of Victoira, and a religious ethicist.

Some gay activists, enraged at his article and subsequent forum commentary, have successfully lobbied the ANZ bank and IBM to withdraw advertising from OLO, leaving the popular blog about politics and society in a critical financial state.

Tough if you’ve loved reading and writing for OLO,folks. Some gay activists are trying to take it away from you. Rather than addressing the commentary that offends them, they’re just pulling the plug on the whole deal, and who cares if anybody else suffers, and if many other serious issues don’t have a airing in the future?

And this regardless of the fact that there are more articles in OLO that support their position than against (including two written by me), and that the forums are also full of supportive commentary that confronts the prejudices and ignorance of discriminatory comments.

Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face.

These two apparently disparate causes, “family “values and pro gay marriage,  have at least one thing in common: they want to silence those who disagree with them, and they want to ban that with which they disagree.

They want to tell all the other adults on the planet what it’s acceptable for them to read, watch, discuss and write about. They want you to see everything through their eyes, that is, if they tell you something is offensive, you have to share their perception. Doesn’t matter if it doesn’t seem that way to you. Or even if it does seem that way and you don’t choose censorship as a means of addressing the offense.

You don’t have a choice anymore, because they’ve made it for you.

This is going to be difficult for humanity. The perceptions of a Melinda Tankard Reist and the perceptions of pro gay marriage activists are not always in sync.

The ANZ bank has apparently capitulated to the threat of the removal of the pink dollar from their business, as has IBM.

I doubt that the petition against KanYe West will have the same success. I don’t see the music industry capitulating anytime soon. I’m glad about that, because no matter what I think of his music video, I don’t have the right to tell other adults they can’t watch it.

If you should feel moved to express your opinion to the ANZ bank, here is the link to their complaints form. You don’t have to be a customer.http://www.anz.com/common/forms/default.asp?intID=174

What is always under threat is freedom of speech and expression. It comes at times from the most unexpected quarters. Who would have foreseen this attack on OLO?

Is this a rite of passage for some gay activists? They now have the economic power and influence to bring about the financial destruction of one of the most popular online journals in this country? Does this mean the marginalized  have arrived at the centre?

What better way to demonstrate their arrival. Censorship. A tool of the hegemony.

Oh, brave new world, that has such people in it!

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