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The Bear Necessities

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This blog focuses on religion, science, politics and skepticism – all the things that are dangerous to talk about at dinner parties!

Oh, and the title of this blog?  It’s a mondegreen taken from the hymn, “Gladly the cross I’d bear”.

If only all religious texts could be reduced to the harmlessness of a myopic teddy bear!

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Acknowledgement

Many thanks to Glenn Watson for producing the Gladly, the Cross-Eyed Bear image and the ‘new look’ Gladly blog.

‘Attack’ Stuff-Up ‘Business as Usual’ for ACL

On Wednesday night there was an incident at the Australian Christian Lobby’s headquarters in Deakin, Canberra.

A van, filled with gas bottles, exploded outside the building that houses the ACL’s offices, blowing out the windows, causing damage to the front of the building and some furnishings within it.  The incident occurred late at night when the building was deserted.

Originally, the ACL’s managing director, Lyle Shelton tweeted:

“A vehicle has rammed our office in Canberra & exploded. All Staff are safe. I do not know the condition of the driver. Prayers appreciated.

Then, a little later:

“A closer view of the car bomb driven into the ACL office in Canberra tonight. Shocked that this could happen in Australia.”

“I’m sure it’s a message to intimidate us and cause us to be silent in the public square and that’s something we’re not prepared to do,” said Shelton in a newspaper interview.

“It’s more important than ever that we have our voice involved in the public discourse.”

Shelton went on to connect the ‘attack’ with ‘multiple threats’  the ACL had received in relation to its opposition to marriage equality and the Safe Schools anti-bullying program.

Shelton blamed left-wing politicians and activists for inciting the ‘attack’. Our sin? Accurately describing an organisation which dedicates  millions of dollars and the vast majority of its time towards attacking the LGBTIQ community as a ‘hate group’.

What has since transpired is that the ACL’s building was not “rammed”. The vehicle appears to have been parked neatly outside in a parking bay.

Nor was it ‘attacked’. After speaking to the driver and his family, Federal Police confirmed the incident was neither politically, religiously,  nor ideologically motivated.

It seems likely the driver’s only target was himself.

Now, I’m no Sherlock Holmes, but, to me, it seemed ‘elementary’ that no self-respecting terrorist was likely to stage a suicide bombing in the dead of night at a deserted building. What would be the point in killing no-one but yourself? It’s a pity Lyle doesn’t even have the reasoning skills to work that out!

And, while we might recount plenty of stories about Christians persecuting, torturing and even murdering members of the LGBTIQ community, celebrating acts of violence against them, assassinating abortionistsblowing up abortion clinics , and even whole office buildings (not enough? see more here), there’s scant evidence the allegedly ‘pink jackbooted’ gays have ever retaliated with more than a glittery parade of semi-clad, spray-tanned hotties samba-dancing down Oxford Street.

There was simply no reason to believe the ACL had been ‘targeted’. Police certainly didn’t make that assertion. But Shelton, predictably, decided the ‘truth’ must be what suited his own carefully constructed persecution complex and this was the narrative he fed to the media.

Even when it became apparent Shelton’s take on the story had no basis in truth, he refused to retract and apologise. And apologies are due.

  • He pre-empted a police inquiry into a serious incident.
  • He made hurtful and damaging assumptions about the motives and character of a person who appears to have some serious mental health issues.
  • He undoubtedly caused additional pain and suffering to an already traumatised family.
  • He slurred members of the LGBTIQ community with his insinuations.
  • And, he blamed supporters of that community for inciting a crime which never occurred.

This, of course, is Shelton’s regular modus operandi and we should not be surprised.

Shelton and the Australian “Christian” Lobby routinely ignore experts and evidence in their assertion that marriage equality and same-sex parenting is harmful to children. It isn’t. 

They routinely rely on dodgy ‘studies’ using patently flawed methodology to prop up their arguments. Or, worse, they misrepresent the findings of legitimate studies or quote outdated studies – much to the horror of the authors.

They simply don’t care about ‘the truth’. They have a narrative in their head that serves their purpose and simply will not countenance any argument (no matter how sound) that contradicts their forgone conclusions.

In his disgusting performance today, Lyle Shelton has simply followed the Australian Christian Lobby’s tried and true formula.

  • Develop a narrative that suits your ideological stance
  • Show no regard for the damage that narrative may cause innocent people
  • Refuse to listen to counter-arguments and contrary evidence from experts and credible academic sources
  • Denigrate anyone who disagrees with your inventive narrative
  • And cast yourselves as ‘victims’ despite there being no evidence to substantiate this claim.

Lyle Shelton has, once again, proven he is unfit to lead a major lobby group, that the Australian “Christian” Lobby should not be taken seriously.

Jesus may well have been “the way, the truth, and the life”, but, in his name, the Australian Christian Lobby have perverted the cause to: “the misdirect, the mendacious and the death of reason”.

Chrys Stevenson

The Race to Irrelevancy – Shelton’s Australian Christian Lobby

horse-raceIt is now clear the Australian public overwhelmingly opposes a plebiscite on marriage equality.  But, even if a plebiscite is held, we know most people will vote in favour of reform. Recent studies show  62 per cent of Australians and all but one electorate believe Australia should have marriage equality.

Despite the millions of dollars the Australian Christian Lobby has ploughed into demonising the LGBTIQ community, it has decisively lost the battle for Australian hearts and minds. As the debate has progressed, the Australian public has moved inexorably towards treating their fellow citizens as equal human beings. The fear-mongering fanaticism of Lyle Shelton’s fundamentalist lobby group (which wants the government to spend $200 million to amplify its message of homophobic hatred) has failed to gain traction.

While children live in poverty, while gay, trans and straight kids continue to face bullying in schools, while elderly people struggle to pay their bills, while the homeless inhabit our streets and parks, while every week a woman is being killed by an act of domestic violence, while Australians continue to die from preventable diseases, while medical research institutes cry out for better funding, while climate change threatens catastrophic environmental and human devastation, while low-income families and pensioners suffer because the government ‘cannot afford’ to fund dental care, while people with disabilities cry out for improved support and facilities, while Aboriginal disadvantage is entrenched by lack of medical and education services, while we keep refugees in disgusting conditions offshore because ‘we cannot afford to have them here’, and while farmers battle to save their farms, Mr Shelton and his merry bunch of “Christians” lobby the government to spend $200 million of tax-payers’ money to fight a battle against human love; a battle they know they cannot win.

The battle is clearly lost. But will Shelton concede gracefully and lobby for those funds to be redirected to any one of a million causes that would actually relieve human suffering? No.

And the reason is this. Despite its name, Shelton does not lead a Christian lobby group. He leads an anti-gay hate group. Opposing marriage equality is a crusade for Shelton whose homophobia was learned in the cult in which he was raised. One might even call it an obsession. Under Shelton, homophobia has become the Australian Christian Lobby’s raison d’être.

acl-graph

Yet, the group does not represent the majority of Australian Christians  (or those of other religions) who support same-sex marriage. The ACL represents only the fringe view of a rag-tag remnant group of a long-since-discredited 1980s cult.

Shelton’s intransigence on this issue will have no effect whatsoever on the inevitability of marriage equality. But, ironically, in flogging this particular, homophobic horse, he has guaranteed the inevitable demise of the Australian Christian Lobby.

The race is not yet finished, but the ACL has already lost. The Australian people want marriage equality and they will get it. What purpose then for the ACL? Shelton’s cultish views have no traction in modern Australia. By holding fast to the values of the not-quite-dead Logos Foundation, he has guaranteed the ACL’s inevitable decline into abject irrelevance.

Under Shelton’s Logos-inspired leadership, the Australian Christian Lobby has lost its fight against marriage equality. It has lost its fight for a plebiscite. It has lost the respect of Australia’s Christian community. Shelton has shown himself to be even more incompetent than his predecessor at prosecuting his indefensible case against love, justice and equality.

Shelton and his ilk have done more to bring Christianity into disrepute than almost any institution outside the Catholic Church and its shameful history of child rape. They are a joke to non-religious Australians and an embarrassment to their fellow Christians.

I doubt that Shelton has the nous, the management skills or the humanity to concede defeat. He’ll carry this tired old nag over the finish line until they both buckle under the weight of public opinion. And who will mourn the passing of the Australian Christian Lobby? No-one. Because, as a “Christian” organisation, Shelton’s tired old hobby-horse is an abject failure. Not one Australian life is better for it ever having existed – and a great many are considerably worse off.

It’s one hell of a legacy, Lyle.

Chrys Stevenson

Gaynor goes gaga over ‘gay sex’

“In its mechanics, to put it politely, homosexual behaviour is like putting nature’s square peg into nature’s round hole. It simply is not what nature intended. The very fact that one has to describe this behaviour so abstractly highlights the inherent revulsion that is part of the nature of homosexual behaviour.” – Bernard Gaynor

Square-peg-copy2In a recent blog post, the virulently homophobic Bernard Gaynor displays an almost touchingly immature understanding of sexual intercourse.

As an older woman, my maternal instincts kicked in. I feel Bernie needs a little tell-it-like-it-is sex education. I want to say:

“You know, Bernie, all that silly chatter you heard in the schoolyard of that Catholic school you went to, isn’t actual ‘sex education’”.

“You’re a big boy now, Bernie, and it’s time someone gave you a few facts about sex.  I know this is awkward for both of us, but it’s time you knew the truth.”

It’s a pity Bernie didn’t have parents like mine. When I was 14 and starting to get curious about sex, my mother procured a copy of The Little Red Schoolbook – a notoriously graphic sex education book being distributed, largely illicitly, in the seventies.

“This book is going to get passed around behind the toilets at school,” my mother told me frankly.

“I think it’s better if you read it, and then we can have a talk about it.”

When, later,  I asked her “What’s a homosexual, Mum?” she replied, “You know how women fall in love with men?”

“Yes”

“Well, sometimes, men fall in love with men.”

“Oh, OK.  What’s for dinner?”

I’m guessing the conversation in Bernie’s house was somewhat different.

So, Bernie, you’re a bit old for “the talk” but, let’s set a few things straight.

  1. Anal sex does not involve putting a square peg in a round hole. I’ve already had cause to write about your penis once, Bernie, and it pains me to have to do it again.  Take a look. Yes, it’s there – you might just have to scrunch over to get a good look.  Try putting your glasses on. That’s right! Got it? Now, see? It’s not square at all, is it – it’s kind of cylindrical shaped – especially when it gets hard. Yes, this is embarrassing and it’s going to get worse.
  2. Homosexuals do not have different shaped penises to you, Bernie. It’s true, theirs may be rather larger than yours but, all up, they’re pretty much the same shape – cylindrical. Only SpongeBob SquarePants has a square peg, and there’s not many gay men lining up to bonk him (although I’ve heard some rumours about him and Patrick the Starfish who has a wealth of round pegs!)
  3. Homosexuality is not ‘unnatural’. At the risk of sounding like a broken record: over 1000 different species engage in homosexual activity. Animals, routinely, engage in non-reproductive sexual behaviour. Bighorn sheep, bison, bonobos and polecats (among others) have all been observed having penetrative anal sex with same-sex partners – for bonding and for fun. Sex is not just about having babies, Bernie. It’s about feeling good, having a laugh, letting off steam, developing trust, and bonding closely and intimately with another person – or member of the same species, as the case may be.
  4. Anal sex – or any other kind of sex – is not ‘immoral’. It’s just sex! it’s a simple connection of body parts – no more moral or immoral than shaking hands. There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to have sex, providing there is no lying or deceit involved in either party’s consent to copulate and no breach of trust involving third parties. The ethics and morality lie in the context and the consent – not in the actual act.
  5. Anal sex isn’t ‘dirty’. We’re going to get a bit graphic here, love. People who know what they’re doing anticipate anal sex with some simple hygienic preparation. Let me put this delicately; one cleans out the garage before the Mercedes starts rolling up the driveway. That ‘round hole’ is perfectly capable of being multi-purposed. Believe me, people who enjoy anal sex don’t like dirty sheets and doing the laundry any more than you do. I know you’re Catholic, Bernie dear, but you do have to stop thinking about ‘poo’ and ‘sex’ being as indivisibly linked as ‘pedophile’ and ‘priest’.
  6. Anal sex is not responsible for spreading disease. People (both gay, straight or otherwise) who do not take responsible precautions are responsible for spreading disease. Importantly, the Catholic church’s opposition to sex education for both straight and LGBTIQ youth is deeply complicit in the ignorance that leads to the spread of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.
  7. Now, Bernie, I think you’d better sit down for this last point because it’s likely to shock you to the core. Anal sex is not ‘gay’ sex – it’s just another fun thing that some (but not all) people do. I know you enjoy those salacious homoerotic fantasies of yours, but not all gay men have anal sex. A survey published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine suggests roughly only one-third of homosexual men engage in anal sex. That’s about the same number of straight women engaging in (and enjoying) butt sex. A large survey by America’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention found 44 percent of straight men and 36 percent of straight women admitted to having had anal sex at least once in their lives with an opposite sex partner. And, the straight men may not just be ‘giving’ anal, it’s likely they’re receiving it as well (fingers and vibrators aren’t square either, Bernie, although it’s polite to cut one’s fingernails).

Anal sex is just a ‘thing’. It’s not a ‘gay’ thing or a ‘male’ thing; it’s not a ‘good’ thing or a ‘bad’ thing. It’s not dirty – unless you’re an uneducated, irresponsible idiot. It’s not immoral – unless you haven’t sought and obtained willing permission. It’s just another way that people – all kinds of people – have sex.

For some, anal sex has no meaning beyond a fun frolic – and that’s totally cool. For others, anal sex conveys a hugely deep level of trust and intimacy between two people in a loving, committed relationship. Believe it or not, there’s something deeply spiritual about that, whether or not you are ‘religious’.

Either way, there are no sharp corners involved. It all goes together quite neatly with a little lube. You and the missus should give it a burl now you understand the mechanics a little better.

Bernie? You seem distracted. Oh, I see! You’re still mulling over point one. Yes, dear, that’s your penis and no matter how much you play with it it’s just not going to go square. That would be kind of … unnatural.

Now, just before we go, let me have a last word about what is dirty, immoral and unnatural: That would be closeted same-sex attracted men, so entirely fucked up with ingrained Catholic guilt, they project their internalised anger onto LGBTIQ men (and women) who have the courage to live their lives openly in the way that is natural to them. What is un-Godly, Bernie, are social commentators peddling self-serving, hateful, wildly inaccurate, hurtful propaganda – completely ignoring the wealth of well-researched, peer-reviewed accurate data which contradicts their ideological position.

When this ‘square peg’ propaganda is thrust, without consent, into the round hole of public debate, it tears at the fabric of vulnerable people’s lives and leaves them bleeding. Specifically, it contributes to the toxic environment that leads innocent young LGBTIQ people to alarmingly high rates of mental illness, drug and alcohol abuse, self-harm, suicidal ideation and death.

That, Bernie, is far more offensive to me – and I’m betting to your God – than a little innocent butt-play.

Chrys Stevenson

Orlando Vigil – Charlie’s Speech

Last night, I attended the Sunshine Coast vigil for the victims of the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando, Florida.
I was particularly moved by a speech by a young woman called Charlie Maycraft.
Charlie has kindly given me permission to share her speech with you.
Chrys Stevenson
Vigil Speech for Orlando
Cotton Tree Park, Maroochydore
Tuesday, 14 June 2016
by Charlie Maycraft

Orlando: I blame you, Lyle

An Open Letter to Lyle Shelton, Managing Director of the Australian Christian Lobby

rainbow flag halfmastAs I write, 50 LGBTIQ people are dead and at least another 53 wounded; shot down by an Islamic terrorist in Florida.

Florida is a long way from Canberra, Lyle. And you are a Christian, not a Muslim. You were nowhere near the Pulse nightclub when Omar Mateen took out an assault rifle and a pistol and began firing indiscriminately into a club packed with the kind of people your Australian Christian Lobby spends so much money to vilify.

And yet, Lyle, I blame you for the horror which occurred in that nightclub. Because it is you, and people like you, who actively fuel the homophobic culture which helps unhinged people like Mateen justify their actions as ‘right’ and ‘holy’.

Omar Mateen was not born in a Muslim country. He was born in New York. He is as much a product of a Western religious culture as Muslim one.

Just like you, Lyle, Mateen appears to have been influenced by a father with extremist religious views. It is true, Mateen’s homophobia was fomented in a mosque rather than the Toowoomba City Church as yours was. But, the message preached from his imam is not a great deal different to the message preached from the pulpits of churches like your father’s. It differs little from the propaganda the Australian Christian Lobby spends millions of dollars to disseminate in Australia.

  • Homosexuality is not natural.
  • Sex between people of the same gender is ‘dirty’ and sinful.
  • Advertisements which seek to educate and protect homosexual people from sexually transmitted diseases should not be allowed in public.
  • Homosexuals are the same as pedophiles.
  • Children should not be exposed to homosexuality.
  • Homosexual love is unnatural and sinful.
  • People who are gay should somehow ‘become’ heterosexual or resign themselves to lifelong celibacy.
  • Gay families are not ‘real’ families.
  • Homosexual couples cannot parent as well as mixed-gender, married couples.
  • The children of homosexual couples are disadvantaged.
  • Homosexual couples should not be allowed to adopt.
  • Children should only be raised within a marriage – but homosexuals must never be allowed to marry.
  • Australian ‘values’ and public morality will suffer if homosexuals are allowed to marry. People will want to marry their pets and farm animals and men will begin to take multiple wives (just as they did in the Bible).
  • Anti-bullying programs which seek to educate and protect LGBTIQ children should be ruthlessly attacked with propaganda in case nice, heterosexual children are lured into the dark world of homosexuality.
  • Homosexuality is a choice – a sinful one.
  • Nice, white, heterosexual, Christian people will suffer if homosexuals are given full equality.

All of these messages. All of this false, hateful, filthy propaganda adds to a culture which dehumanises LGBTIQ people and makes them vulnerable to attacks from people like Omar Mateen. And this, Lyle, is the Australian Christian Lobby’s stock-in-trade.

These messages are not messages of love, and tolerance and beauty. They are messages of ignorance, hate and irrational fear.

Ignorance, hate and irrational fear. This is what drives terrorists to blow up planes, tube stations and entertainment venues. This is the impetus behind a young American man of Afghan parents walking into a nightclub and opening fire under the delusion it was the ‘right thing to do’.

But this was not just any nightclub. This was a club full of people Mateen had been taught were evil, dirty, dangerous, less than human and an affront to God.

Who taught him these things? Possibly his father, certainly his Abrahamic religion, and undoubtedly the culture created by the Christian fundamentalist, right-wing Americans who inspire your organisation’s own homophobic propaganda here in Australia.

Let me be clear, Lyle. Regardless of whether they came from Muslims or Christians – and it is clear he was influenced by both – messages no different from those disseminated by the Australian Christian Lobby convinced Omar Mateen LGBTIQ people deserve to die. The same kind of religious zealotry you and the Australian Christian Lobby embrace, convinced Omar Mateen God would reward him for his service in ending their lives.

I blame you, Lyle.

You did not buy the guns. You did not pull the trigger. But you, and religious fundamentalists just like you (both Muslim and Christian), as sure as hell provided the psychological ammunition.

Words are weapons, Lyle. You and your ilk armed that young man to the teeth with everything he needed to become a terrorist – ignorance, hate and irrational fear.

If the Coalition wins the election on 2 July, Australia will face a plebiscite to decide the issue of same-sex marriage. The Australian Christian Lobby has called for anti-discrimination laws to be suspended to allow you to go for the jugular in your attacks on LGBTIQ people and rainbow families.

Psychologists have warned the harm done to the LGBTIQ community from your campaigning will be immense. People will die as a result of your campaign, Lyle; as surely as if you walked into a gay bar and opened fire on them.

You may not kill them directly, by pointing a gun and pulling a trigger, but the result will be the same. Your attacks will be the final straw for some LGBTIQ people who have spent a lifetime dealing with the kind of hateful ignorance you peddle for fun and profit. And your views will convince some young people they’d be better off dead than having to deal with a lifetime being vilified by people like you.

If you had one shred of decency, you would look at the events of the last 24 hours and put out a statement:

“The Australian Christian Lobby wants no part of the homophobia, hate and religious zealotry that led to the attack in Orlando, Florida. As Christians, we do not want to fuel that kind of fear and intolerance here in Australia. While we remain opposed to homosexuality and same-sex marriage, we accept our views are not shared by the majority of Australians and we are content to let the Australian parliament decide this issue. We will no longer add to the rhetoric that drives people like Omar Mateen to commit atrocities, or drives LGBTIQ people to addiction, self-harm, mental illness and suicide.”

Of course you will say nothing of the sort. Because, Lyle, at your core, you are Omar Mateen with a veneer of respectability.

You have no interest in the truth. You have no empathy for those who do not conform to your narrow, extremist, religious views. You believe in a righteous God, not a loving God. And you are happy to sacrifice the lives and happiness of the people you target in the interests of your own religious delusions.

And that is why, when I watch the footage of the carnage in Orlando, Florida, I blame you, Lyle.

I blame you.

Chrys Stevenson

Perverting ANZAC Day for Jesus

I attended my first (and last) Dawn Service this morning.

I respect our diggers and I am not an ANZAC Day hater.

But ANZAC Day does not belong to the religious right and they should not be allowed to hijack it for their own purposes.

Here is my rant on Doug Pollard’s “The Stirrer”.

Perverting ANZAC Day for Jesus

 

Chrys Stevenson

 

Mamamia Promotes Godless Goodness

matthews-baby-feature-picture-720x547Those of us involved with the Jode Matthews Cancer and Family Appeal are delighted to see Jode and Adam’s story shared today on Mamamia.

It’s a great boost for the Appeal, but also fantastic PR for the Australian atheist, skeptical and secular community which has dug deeply to contribute over $18,000 in  just 12 days to help fund vital medical treatment for Jode.

Please share this good news story with your own networks.

Beautiful proof that you don’t need to be religious to be charitable:  “When prayer won’t cut it, practical people need to pitch in.”

“Fortunately for the Matthews …. their community has rallied around them in a touching show of solidarity and altruism.

“Other people might reach out to their church, their service club or sporting organisation,” Adam Matthews tells Mamamia. “When we realised that, in order to save Jode’s life, we needed far more money than we could manage, we reached out to the Australian secular and sceptical community.”

Read more here.