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“Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become more corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.” Benjamin Franklin

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Is Colin Craig the ‘Forrest Gump’ of NZ Politics?

Yesterday when the PM announced that there would be no ‘deal’ with Colin Craig and the Conservative Party, to his credit Colin Craig said he preferred it that way.  To his shame he stated the party would also consider entering a coalition with the Labour Party after the election.


Those circumstances could only arise if the Conservatives reached 5% of the popular vote and held the balance of power in a hung parliament.  A coalition with Labour would inevitably mean a coalition with the Greens and Mana, two parties that are on the Marxist end of the New Zealand political spectrum.

This begs the question, ‘what does it mean to be a conservative’?  What does the brand stand for if its politicians can equally coalesce with both sides of New Zealand politics?  On that basis, how is a vote for the Conservatives any different than a vote for Peter Dunn and United Future?

The Herald Editor suggested that Colin didn’t mean what he said.  Surely that’s nonsense.  When it comes to aspiring politicians expressing their views on forming political allegiances, we must take them at their word.

If he didn’t mean what he said, then it was a stupid statement.  It confirms my view that nice guy he may be, but Colin is a political liability - the Forrest Gump of New Zealand politics.   

Monday, 28 July 2014

Dangerous substance found in house

Once, following a failed bomb attempt, the IRA famously stated: ““Today we were unlucky, but remember we only have to be lucky once – you will have to be lucky always.”  The IRA are no longer a threat to British security, but today Britain is engaged in a new war of domestic terrorism - this time perpetrated by the followers of Islam.


Bomb disposal experts in the UK have carried out seven controlled explosions at a Derbyshire home where a highly dangerous substance was found, ITV News Central can reveal.  200 people were removed from surrounding homes for their safety.
Police say the substance they have been dealing with is so volatile that at least one of the explosions was carried out a mile away from the scene.
A 55 year old man has been taken into custody.  No name has been released, no motive given for possession of the explosives.

Update:  The police have reported that the un-named suspect was making fireworks in the flat.  Nothing to see here, move right along.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

The end of Time.

I don’t travel as much as I used to.  Back then, I would stop by the airport bookstore and pick up a copy Time magazine.  I liked the in depth coverage it gave to the news that could not be found in the daily paper.  I enjoyed the editorials and the opinion pieces.  I appreciated the international perspective.


All this changed for me when I repeated my Time purchase several months ago en-route to Australia.  It covered the plight of the persecuted Christians in the Middle East, in places like Egypt and Syria.  It implied that by ‘siding’ with oppressive dictators the Christians were responsible for their own plight. 

In other words ‘they had it coming’.

I have boycotted only a few products in my life, and that day Time Magazine joined the list.  To suggest that those minority Christian communities were responsible for their own ‘religious cleansing’ at the hands of militant Islamists was perverse and cynical.

It is the moral equivalent of suggesting that the 200 teenage girls captured by the Islamist group Boko Harem were responsible for their own plight. 

Today I discovered that I’m not alone in abandoning support for Time magazine, and it seems, other well-known publications including the New York Times because of their explicit anti-Christian bias.  Some excerpts from Rod Dreher whose entire article I encourage you to read:

I want to say a little more about my cancelling my New York Times subscription over the Josh Barro tweet.
After I posted yesterday, I learned that my friend Alan Jacobs had cancelled his Times subscription earlier in the week, furious at a stupid and bigoted column by Timothy Egan that compared the five Catholic Supreme Court justices to ISIS and Boko Haram. Alan wrote that he’s finally had enough of the Times‘s attitude on these matters, which in his view seeks to make it impossible for traditional religious believers to live in this country (I’m paraphrasing; I can’t access at the moment the tumblr post in which he announced this.)
I completely agree with this. Nobody cancels, or should cancel, their newspaper subscription over a single offensive column, or a single arrogant tweet by a reporter. It’s far, far more true that no one should cancel a subscription to the best overall newspaper in the world over a single incident, or two incidents. And I did not. Nor, I suspect, did Alan.
What Barro’s tweet was for me, and Egan’s ope-ed for Alan, was the tipping point. I have been reading the Times as a subscriber for nearly 20 years. It sometimes made me furious, it sometimes thrilled me, it usually made me think, and I was almost always grateful for it. I started my Times subscription in south Florida, kept it when I moved to New York City, held on to it when I moved to Dallas, then in Philly, and stuck with the digital version in St. Francisville. I’ve been with the Times for longer than I’ve known my wife. We have a relationship, that newspaper and I.
It has never been friendly to conservatives, of course, and that’s just part of the deal. But the Times plays things reasonably straight — except on coverage of social and religious conservatives. This is not just my view; it’s the unapologetic view of Bill Keller, the former executive editor. A few years ago, Keller said at a conference in Austin that the paper didn’t even try to be evenhanded in its cultural coverage. [Quote]
Even though I care about culture and religion more than anything else, I gritted my teeth and read the paper anyway. It was worth it. Besides, they employ David Brooks and they hired Ross Douthat, and that counts for a lot in my book.
I’ve noticed, though, that as gay rights became more prominent in the public square, and as the Times took on a no-holds-barred advocacy role (it’s not just me saying that; two former NYT ombudsmen have made the same observation; I don’t have the links available to me, but you can easily look it up), it’s attitude toward religious believers anywhere to the right of the Episcopal Church left became increasingly nasty. Now the Times not only didn’t try to be fair, it seemed to go out of its way to be hostile. Look, I expect the Times to give ample coverage to gay issues, given the particular prominence of the gay community in NYC, and among the creative elites the paper keeps its eye on. I’m not sure when it happened, or why it happened, but at some point I started to think that the Times really does hate social and religious conservatives. I mean hate.
I worked as a newspaper journalist in New York City, and I perfectly well know that people like me – normal and mainstream in most of America — are considered freaks in that milieu. Again, it’s just part of the deal. You roll with it. Yet now, we are seeing the world change very fast, to the point where simply holding the views I do as a Christian about marriage and sexuality – views that were nearly universal when I was born, and views that are deeply and explicitly grounded in sacred Scripture – marks one as a pariah. For me, the Brendan Eich thing was a defining moment, one that told me the kind of thing orthodox Christians are going to be fighting for decades.
The Times is a cheerleader for this kind of thing. Something snapped in me when I read the Barro tweet. He said out loud what I believe most people in news and editorial at the Times say only among themselves: that people like me should be ruthlessly driven out of the public square over our views on homosexuality and related issues. When I read it, I realized that the Times is going to keep doing this, and thinking themselves paladins of virtue for doing so.
People say, “Oh, so you think we should embrace anti-LGBT bias?” There’s the rub: for one, I don’t think the kind of things I and many orthodox Christians believe constitutes bigotry, but I know that’s not an argument I’m going to win with critics. But more importantly, I think that yes, we should tolerate a certain amount of anti-LGBT bias, and anti-Jewish bias, and anti-Christian bias, and on and on, as the price of living in a pluralist polity.
Anti-Christian bias hurts communities. I wish people didn’t hold it. But I don’t believe in ruthlessly tarring people who hate Christians, and making them outcasts in society. For one thing, who decides what is malicious anti-Christian bias, and what is fair criticism of Christians and Christianity? I think it fair to say that the late Christopher Hitchens was a bigot as far as Christians and other religious people are concerned. So what? Should he have been exiled from polite society, ruthlessly suppressed, and made unemployable and despised? Absolutely not! He was about far more than his prejudices, and besides, even though I believed he was a terrible anti-Christian bigot, I sometimes learned from his splenetic criticism from time to time.
Besides, I don’t want to live in a society in which anything that offends the majority, or a powerful minority, must be hunted down and snuffed out, and the people who believe those things pushed to the margins. In my town in the 1990s, a gay man with AIDS moved to die. He was a stranger. People from at least one of the churches helped care for him and his partner until he died. Do I think those people held what Josh Barro and the NYT considers to be “anti-LGBT bias”? Yeah, many, maybe most, of them probably did. But they loved that poor man, and helped him and his partner till the very end. I’ve seen white people who are deep down racial bigots go out of their way to help black people. If you look around outside of your bubble, you will find that people who hold views you would find despicable do good and noble works.
Why? Because people are complicated.
I want a world in which LGBTs, Christians, Muslims, atheist, libertarians, socialists, and the whole lot have a reasonable amount of freedom to live and work and practice their religion (or lack thereof), without being oppressed and stigmatized. It’s not a perfect world. But we all know that people who seek perfection and purity can easily turn into monsters in the process of purging the world of evil. If I could, I would outlaw pornography. But as a conservative, I know that the process of trying to purge the world of pornography would turn people like me into monsters, and probably cause a greater evil than the one I was trying to extirpate.
The world the New York Times is trying to bring about is a world in which the only thing that matters about Christians like me is our opinion on LGBT issues. They are actively anti-religious, except for Christians (and Jews, and Muslims) who behave like good dhimmis — that is, second-class citizens who know their place and who do not challenge the social order. The Times and its reporters and writers — Barro, Egan, and all the rest — are going to continue on with their hateful and illiberal and unjust project of purifying the public square of anti-gay thought crime, and all manifestation of traditional religion that offends their progressive sensibilities.
But they’re not going to do it with my money.
…. 

Friday, 25 July 2014

Preston City Lancashire becomes Gaza for a day.

Several weeks ago, when the Scots City of Glasgow, presently hosting the Commonwealth games, decided to allow the two minute Islamic call to prayer to be broadcast over the city during the games I said: “It’s all very well to play nice with Islam but to what end? When the black flags of Islamic conquest fly over the Glasgow Council Chambers will they play nice with us? "


In a ‘truth is stranger than fiction’ moment, the Preston City Council in Lancashire England has announced that it will be flying the Palestinian flag above the town hall tomorrow as a mark of solidarity with the people of Gaza.

So what’s happened to those British coal miners that has caused them to reject the legitimate right of Israel to defend themselves against the continuous rocket attacks from Hamas, and now support the Islamic jihad?

What’s happened is that the demographics of Preston City have changed.  Today 8% of its population is made up from Muslim immigrants and their children.  With changing demographics comes changing political realities.

Preston City Lancashire becomes Gaza for a day, the first step towards becoming Gaza forever. 

‘Death to the Jews’ echoes once again through the streets of Germany.

When Hamas supporters cry ‘Death to the Jews’ we expect it.  After all, their founding charter states they are committed to the destruction of Israel and its people. It is a message contained within the heart of Islam and supported by the Quran. It was exampled by their Prophet who was personally responsible for the murder of hundreds of captured Jewish prisoners.  

‘Death to the Jews’ is to Islam what the Pope is to Catholicism.


We remember the horrors of WWII and the Nazi concentration camps for Jews.  Who of us expected to hear ‘Death to the Jews’ being shouted on the streets of Germany and France once again in our lifetime?  Who expected to witness angry mobs attacking Synagogues and Jewish businesses in France in 2014?

How could this happen again so quickly, in the space of just 70 years since the Holocaust?

In 2014, Islam has become Europe’s new Nazism. 

And not just in Europe.  As Lord Sacks, the recently retired head Rabbi in England pointed out, the followers of Islam in Iraq have ‘religiously cleansed’ all Christians from the city of Morsul, a place where there has been a continuous Christian presence for almost 2,000 years.

The wave of attacks against Christians would, he said, be viewed as “one of the crimes against humanity of our time”.

What are the chances of the UN setting up a permanent department focused upon the restoration of Morsul to the Christian community, a people displaced from its traditional homeland in no lesser way that the Palestinians from Israel?

For the progressive Left, for the UN, for the Western media, the blood of Jews and Christians counts for less than the blood of Palestinians.  Their support of a worldview that is so completely in line with the teachings of Islam is chilling.

Are we in the west about to enter a new ‘dark age’?  One characterized by religiously motivated hatred and violence on scale not seen for sixty years.


Thursday, 24 July 2014

Calvary - the movie

We flew over to Sydney this morning to attend a family celebration.  On the plane the movie ‘Calvary’ was showing, you can view the trailer below.




It touched upon a number of issues I have been thinking about lately, including reproach, blame, violence and forgiveness.  These are not trivial abstract ideas that can be confined to the context of dry academic discussion.  They are the stuff of life.

Imagine being a sincere and reputable Catholic priest in Ireland today. There are probably less than 2% of your colleagues who have been involved in the sexual abuse of minors, albeit 2% too many, but you carry the weight of their reproach with you every day.  You have a choice to make; either accept it without argument, even though for you personally it is misplaced, or to engage in self justification.

This was Jesus dilemma.  He was reproached as a drunkard and a sinner by the religious authorities of the day because he chose to engage with the disreputable element of society.  Would he absorb the reproach, or engage in self-justification?

What happens if someone transfers the blame for the actions of others onto you personally?  Will you accept the blame, even though you are blameless, or will you defend yourself?  Will you absorb the hurt, the suffering the pain of others in your own body, in order to bring the cycle to an end, or will you resist fully justified in the knowledge you have done nothing wrong.

Will you go so far as to suffer violence for the pain caused by others, even though you are innocent of perpetrating the crime that caused the pain?

Could you go one step further and forgive the one who unjustly chose to inflict their pain upon you?

This is the path Jesus walked, and the one to which he calls his disciples. 

It is the road to Calvary. 

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

A suggested replacement for Parliaments opening prayer.

The formal prayer at the beginning of each Parliamentary session since the beginning of New Zealand’s founding as a democracy, with wording that has been unchanged for more than forty years is apparently up for review.


This will be ‘interesting’ on a number of levels.

Post Christian Nation

First up we are explicitly a post-Christian nation and our Parliamentary prayer is explicitly Christian.  Men and women who understood the Bible and who believed in God established this nation.  Even if they were not ‘church attendees’ they understood the role that Scripture played in shaping our legal and justice system, along with our cultural mores.  Like American colonist John Adams, they understood that: “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

This was still the prevailing view in 1967 when the prayer was last updated.

But, times have changed.

Moral and cultural relativism

While 50% of New Zealanders still self identify as ‘Christian’ at the national census, we are predominantly a secular country, and nowhere is this more evident than in the ideological makeup of our parliamentarians. 

Unlike America where there is a need to declare a belief in God, and a mandatory “God Bless America” at the end of every significant speech, New Zealand politicians view religious affiliation as the ‘kiss of death’ and would prefer to be known as promiscuous homosexuals than a Bible believing Christian.

That would place them on the ‘right side of history’ whereas expressing faith in Christ would define them as myth believing, credulous flat-earthers - untrustworthy and unelectable.

In addition we have embraced non-judgmental moral and cultural relativism.  That is to say, all cultures are of equal value, and produce equal outcomes, and even if they didn’t it would be inappropriate to say so in polite company.  Furthermore, we no longer believe that the stigmatization of any social behaviour is appropriate, unless it is smoking, or the obvious religious bigotry of opposing gay marriage.

Therefore, any prayer, if indeed we should have one, should embrace all religious worldviews, including those of the atheist.

Possible prayer?

In view of these realities, I’d like to suggest the following prayer as a potential replacement for the one presently used to begin parliament each day, which embarrassingly mentions “Jesus Christ our Lord”.

It could go something like this:


"Our deity your existence we doubt, we don’t know thy name.
If you are there, then hear our prayer, either way it’s just the same.

Muslim, Christian, Atheist we, gather at your feet
In the bonds of genderless love, and trans-everything we meet.

Grant us this day our cargo cult of material goods and gain.
Deliver us from reality, eventual death and pain.

Help us to decisions make that glorify ourselves.
As we debate important matters, with constantans and vowels.

Oh deity, oh deity whose existence we do doubt,
Let brotherly love, equality and conformity break out.

Keep it green, keep it clean, our image please promote.
Don’t let the people oppose our way with democracy and the vote.

Amen."

Islamic schools in New Zealand - what do they teach?

In a previous post I discussed the announcement of a proposed Islamic boarding school for boys being established in Dunedin.  At the time I raised concerns with the Minster of Education, and subsequently the Ministry, asking what reasonable assurances could be given that this school would not promote misogynist views that are inherent in Islam?

I received the standard bland boiler-plate assurances from the Ministry in keeping with its politically correct orthodoxy.  It will be interesting to see how effective the Ministry is when it comes to including its anti-discriminatory ‘LGBT friendly’ requirements into the schools Islamic charter. 
What has made this conversation pertinent in recent times has been the ‘Trogan Horse’ revelations in the UK.  In so-called secular state schools, Islamists have taken over their governance and appointed teaching staff.  Unsurprisingly, this has resulted in their employing staff who personally embrace and promote those very same misogynist views that prompted my original letter to the Minster.
Why should we believe the situation would be any different in explicitly Islamic schools here in New Zealand? From the Telegraph:
Teachers in schools at the heart of the “Trojan Horse” plot set up a secret social networking group that called for the “eradication” of homosexuality and claimed that the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby was staged, the review ordered by the Government found.
The teachers, at least two of whom are still in their positions, used an instant messaging service to post thousands of comments that demonstrated extreme “anti-Western, anti-American and anti-Israeli” views.

Peter Clarke, the former terrorism chief who conducted the review, was passed transcripts of a WhatsApp group called the “Park View Brotherhood” during his investigation.

The 3,000 messages posted by 55 teachers include suggestions that a women’s role is to “serve men” and for boys and girls to be taught separately.

They also suggest that the education system is “crooked” and needs more Islamic history.
The teachers proposed using schoolchildren in political campaigns against the English Defence League and posted offensive images of toilet rolls imprinted with the Israeli flag.

The group was set up and administered by Monzoor Hussain, the acting principal at Park View school. One of the biggest contributors is Razwan Faraz, the vice-principal at Nansen Primary School, who posted more than 400 messages. Members of the group will be referred to the teacher disciplinary body and are likely to face the sack.

Lee Rigby murder

In April 2013, the group circulated links to videos suggesting that the Boston marathon bombing was a hoax and that the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby by Islamic extremists was staged as part of an “attack on Islam”. One teacher suggested that the “masses are in a trance” for accepting that Drummer Rigby had been killed.

The teachers also shared links demonstrating “proof” that the Boston marathon bombing, in which three people were killed and 264 injured, was a hoax. It suggests that the bombers were “FBI patsy operatives”.

The group also held an animated discussion about a Birmingham mosque that was raising funds for the Help for Heroes charity. Mr Faraz greets the message by saying: “These Uncle Toms were bound to get exposed, even if it were by their own doing.”

Another teacher wrote: “How about a fundraiser to equip the soldiers with more condoms so they don’t leave our sisters pregnant after ravaging them.”

Mr Faraz also posted a link to a scheme encouraging soldiers to teach in schools. “So the government wants killers to now teach our children,” he said.

Homosexuals are 'animals’

In May 2013, Mr Faraz posted a link to an article about same-sex marriage that stated: “These animals are going out full force. As teachers we must be aware and counter their satanic ways of influencing young people.”

In a later posting about homosexuality in Pakistan he said: “May Allah further expose this and give us the strength to deal [with it] and eradicate it.”

The teacher who posted the link said: “If you have just eaten read after two hours ... caution advised.”

Mr Farwaz later added: “This is the challenge in these testing times. The end of times are near. I pray we remain conscious of what we are here to do and are guided to the path of our beloved prophet.”

Women 'must serve men’

The WhatsApp group was exclusively male, and filled with examples of misogyny.

In July 2013, members held a discussion in which Mr Farwaz suggested “they’re in the kitchen” and that they have a “perpetual role serving men”.

Mr Faraz also suggests that pupils should study Ibn Khaldun, the 14th-century Arab philosopher. “Studying him will straighten the crooked and debased backs caused by this Eurocentric education system.”

Speakers mentioned in the WhatsApp exchanges included one who reportedly advocated wife beating and another said to have called on God to “destroy the enemies of Islam”, the report said.

Teachers also discuss segregating children in their schools to prevent “flirtatious behaviour” and attack the “pro-European bias” of world history.

The teachers

Nicky Morgan, the Education Secretary, announced yesterday that the teachers will be referred to the National College for Teaching and Leadership. The Telegraph understands that Mr Faraz and Mr Hussain are likely to be suspended by the Park Educational Trust in the next few days.

Mr Faraz was yesterday unavailable for comment.

Mr Hussain claimed that the purpose of the group was to give “ideas for stories to say in [school] assemblies” and said he had deleted it a year ago. In fact, he changed the name to Park View News a year ago and only closed it down in March this year.

….

Perhaps it is time senior Ministry of Education staff in New Zealand, went on a ‘fact finding’ tour to the UK, to best understand the challenges that Islam presents in education.  I’m not a great fan of these trips generally, but if it gave them cause to reconsider the risk to civil society that the teaching of ‘Islamic values’ has to civil society, and to western cultural values, it would be money well spent. 

Does anyone have the right to discriminate for any reason?

On the matter of discrimination, particularly in reference to employment by religious organizations and the LGBT community, there is an excellent article today by Rod Dreher in the American Conservative.  He reports on a Gay Jewish women’s insightful reflections on the subject. 
The article also asks the question “Can a group, a church or religious charity, that opposes gay marriage keep its tax exemption if gay marriage becomes the law? “That,” says Stern, “is the 18 trillion dollar question.”
“Gay rights supporters often try to present these laws as purely neutral and having no moral implications. But not all discrimination is bad,” Feldblum points out. In employment law, for instance, “we allow discrimination against people who sexually abuse children, and we don’t say ‘the only question is can they type’ even if they can type really quickly.”
To get to the point where the law prohibits discrimination, Feldblum says, “there have to be two things: one, a majority of the society believing the characteristic on which the person is being discriminated against is not morally problematic, and, two, enough of a sense of outrage to push past the normal American contract-based approach, where the government doesn’t tell you what you can do. There has to be enough outrage to bypass that basic default mode in America. Unlike some of my compatriots in the gay rights movement, I think we advance the cause of gay equality if we make clear there are moral assessments that underlie antidiscrimination laws.”
But there was a second reason Feldblum made time for this particular conference. She was raised an Orthodox Jew. She wanted to demonstrate respect for religious people and their concerns, to show that the gay community is not monolithic in this regard.
“It seemed to me the height of disingenuousness, absurdity, and indeed disrespect to tell someone it is okay to ‘be’ gay, but not necessarily okay to engage in gay sex. What do they think being gay means?” she writes in her Becket paper. “I have the same reaction to courts and legislatures that blithely assume a religious person can easily disengage her religious belief and self-identity from her religious practice and religious behavior. What do they think being religious means?”
To Feldblum the emerging conflicts between free exercise of religion and sexual liberty are real: “When we pass a law that says you may not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, we are burdening those who have an alternative moral assessment of gay men and lesbians.” Most of the time, the need to protect the dignity of gay people will justify burdening religious belief, she argues. But that does not make it right to pretend these burdens do not exist in the first place, or that the religious people the law is burdening don’t matter.
“You have to stop, think, and justify the burden each time,” says Feldblum. She pauses. “Respect doesn’t mean that the religious person should prevail in the right to discriminate–it just means demonstrating a respectful awareness of the religious position.”
Feldblum believes this sincerely and with passion, and clearly (as she reminds me) against the vast majority of opinion of her own community. And yet when push comes to shove, when religious liberty and sexual liberty conflict, she admits, “I’m having a hard time coming up with any case in which religious liberty should win.”
Everything that has happened in the eight years since this conference vindicates the views of the pro-gay progressives. The right has been routed in the courts. Marc Stern, the general counsel of the American Jewish Congress, predicted then that some massive legal cases would be coming.
Stern notes "the big question on everyone’s mind. Religious groups that take government funding will almost certainly be required to play by the nondiscrimination rules, (In New Zealand think Salvation Army and others) but what about groups that, while receiving no government grants, are tax-exempt? Can a group, a church or religious charity, say, that opposes gay marriage keep its tax exemption if (when) gay marriage becomes the law? 
“That,” says Stern, “is the 18 trillion dollar question.”

Twenty years ago it would have been inconceivable that a Christian or Jewish organization that opposed gay marriage might be treated as racist in the public square. Today? It’s just not clear.