Sep 23, 2008

MISSION: Can the gospel be too big?

Can the gospel be too big? For some of us in the missional church movement, this question borders on heresy. We regularly caution that the gospel is not only about what Jesus can do for me. It is primarily about the transformation of our very way of life into God's mission for the world. We resist any temptation to turn the gospel into anything that might be too "user friendly." The mission of God (missio Dei), so we proclaim, must be all-encompassing, and we must become participants in it.

Yet for all the good in this approach, there may be another heresy beneath the surface. For in protecting the bigness of the gospel, we risk making the Christian life inaccessible to those outside of it. As a result, amid the current swell of appreciation for missio Dei theology in American churches, and the outcries against a gospel that has become too small, I find myself concerned about the ways we may unintentionally be making the gospel too big.

Christianity Today 27 Aug 2008

PROSTITUTION: Joining the resistance

See something unpleasant? Click. Change the channel. See a disturbing image on a newscast? Click. Change the channel. Avoiding any contact with suffering is as easy as touching a button. For a long time, I lived my life the way I watch TV: I ignored upsetting images by changing the channel. I rationalized my trigger finger on the remote control, thinking, It's just too painful to look at. But a shocking encounter with suffering jerked me out of my apathy, so that changing the channel was no longer an option, writes Kay Warren.

Christianity Today 13 Aug 2008

ADVERTISING: The most annoying commercials in the universe

Yes, it's Ad Report Card readers' chance to sound off on commercials they love to detest.

Slate 11 Aug 2008

FREEDOM: Alexandr Solzhenitsn's death

Solzhenitsyn's death reminds us about freedom's cost and biblical purpose.

Christianity Today 11 Aug 2008

HOMOSEXUALITY: Rowan Williams on same-sex relationships

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams believes that gay sexual relationships can “reflect the love of God” in a way that is comparable to marriage, The Times has learnt. Gay partnerships pose the same ethical questions as those between men and women, and the key issue for Christians is that they are faithful and lifelong, he believes. Dr Williams is known to be personally liberal on the issue but the strength of his views, revealed in private correspondence shown to The Times, will astonish his critics.

Times 7 Aug 2008

Sep 7, 2008

POLITICS & FAITH: Sarah Palin profile

From the Pew Forum --

Alaska governor and GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin was baptized Roman Catholic as an infant, belonged to a pentecostal church for most of her adult life and now attends several nondenominational, evangelical churches. A new profile of Palin includes a concise religious biography, a summary of where she stands on a dozen values-laden issues and more.


Aug 22, 2008

SCIENCE & FAITH: Review of Ted Nield, The Upper Crust

While Ted Nield's concerns over how creationists abuse science to justify their particular understanding of Scripture are legitimate, his contempt for religion is unjustified by the history of science. Indeed, Nield and too many other contemporary scientist-authors misuse science to justify their naturalism. Let's dispose of that silly idea about religion being bad for science. History shows that good ideas eventually win over bad ideas, exemplified by Wegener's Pangaea. If science is the supercontinent, why can't religion be the ocean?

Stephen O. Moshier reviews Ted Nield, Supercontinent: Ten Billion Years in the Life of Our Planet.

CT Books & Culture Jul/Aug 2008

CULTURE & PHILOSOPHY: Jeremiah at Harvard

Thirty years ago this summer, a 59-year-old bearded dissident, whose writings helped expose and eventually bring down Soviet tyranny, stood facing rows of robed faculty and graduates at Harvard's historic Yard for its 327th commencement. Expectations ran high. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was admired for his literary achievements and lionized by the faculty, if not for his outspoken views on Communism, at least for the fact that he was an oppressed intellectual.

Solzhenitsyn delivered each line in his high-pitched voice in Russian. The translation blunted the impact somewhat—in fact, there were even sporadic bursts of applause. But soon enough, outraged professors realized that Solzhenitsyn was charging them with complicity in the West's surrender to liberal secularism, the abandonment of its Christian heritage, and with all the moral horrors that followed.

Christianity Today 5 Aug 2008

CRIMINAL JUSTICE: Admissions of failure

Thirty-three years ago, after serving seven months for my role in the Watergate scandal, I walked out of prison a free man. Not entirely free however, because I just could not get out of my mind the men I had met in prison—the hundreds of thousands like them in prisons across the country.

So, in 1977, with the agreement and great support of my wife, Patty, and some dear Christian friends, I started Prison Fellowship. Little could I have imagined back then that Prison Fellowship would one day be the largest Christian outreach to prisoners in the world.

During those early years of the ministry, we identified potential Christian leaders among inmates, we took them out of prison on furlough, discipled them, and put them back in the prisons to lead the church. Soon, we began holding discipleship seminars in the prisons. And it seemed like the ministry caught fire: We were getting more volunteers; our staff grew; we held more and more seminars in more and more prisons, reaching more and more prisoners.

But there was one problem. States were building new prisons faster than we could get to them! The nation’s prison population was exploding—and still is, now decades later. Why? Why was the United States a virtual Petri dish for growing criminals? It was not until I read the landmark 1977 study called The Criminal Personality that I was able to begin to fully appreciate what was going on. The study’s authors, psychologist Samenow and psychiatrist Yochelson, rebutted the conventional wisdom that crime was caused by environment—like poverty and racism. It was caused, they said, not by that, but by individuals making wrong moral choices. So the solution to crime, they said, was “the conversion of the wrongdoer to a more responsible lifestyle.”

Then it hit me. Our entire penal system was seeking an institutional solution to a moral problem. My thinking was only confirmed by Richard J. Herrnstein and James Q. Wilson at Harvard, who in their 1987 book, Crime and Human Nature, determined that crime is caused by the lack of moral training in the morally formative years. Yet our nation’s entire approach to crime and criminal justice minimizes the moral dimension to the crime problem!

For years, people on the left have insisted that poverty and oppression are the chief causes of crime and that more and better-funded social programs are the answer. On the right, a lack of “toughness” was the problem. What was needed were more and longer prison sentences, both as a deterrent and to get criminals off the streets.

The result is a corrections system in crisis. Most systems are operating above safe capacity, despite the prison-building boom of the past two decades. Of the 2.3 million in prison, an estimated 700,000 will be released from prison this year unprepared for life on the outside. Two-thirds of them will be rearrested within the next three years.

That is why, this week, Mark Earley and I will be detailing this crisis and, more importantly, explaining what Christians can and are doing about it. Stay tuned, because together we can provide a moral solution to a moral crisis. And we can turn our prisons into a yet another symbol: a symbol of the hope Christianity makes possible.

This commentary is part one of a four-part series. It first aired on March 31, 2008.

BreakPoint 5 Aug 2008

SOCIAL JUSTICE & FAITH: Faith and deeds must go together, says Ralph Winter

WHEATON, Illinois – One of the world’s top missiologists reminded thousands of missionaries on Tuesday that evangelism and social action must go hand in hand if Christians are to fulfil their responsibility of bringing people to salvation in Jesus Christ.

Dr Ralph D Winter, founder of the US Center for World Mission, says the biggest trend in world mission is the polarisation occurring among mission agencies that either focus exclusively on personal salvation or, in contrast, physical needs when they should be doing both. Christians have the responsibility to not only share the Gospel and help get people into heaven, the renowned missiologist said, but also “getting God into this world” and glorifying God on Earth.

“Evangelism is the highest priority, but it becomes weak and lacks credibility if it does not generate committed believers who will tackle the world’s problems,” Winter maintained in his presentation at the Korea World Mission Conference 2008. “What is the use of evangelism if it produces Christians who don’t act, who don’t do, who don’t follow God’s will? All they do is sing in church,” he passionately declared. “It is what happens in the world that is at least as important as what happens in church."

He added, “We are getting fancier and fancier at church worship. We know how to do church, [but] we don’t know how to be the church.”

Christianity Today 31 Jul 2008

BIOETHICS - STEM CELLS & CLONING: Science almighty - adult vs. embryonic stem cells

The news is filled lately with stories about the promise of adult stem-cell therapy. Last fall, for example, researchers reported they successfully produced stem cells from adult skin cells, bypassing the need for embryonic stem cells. The Los Angeles Times reported recently that treatment using umbilical and marrow cells healed a boy of a fatal skin disease. Doctors said the treatment’s success may move that disease “off the incurable list” for other patients.

And the Family Research Council just released a report about more successes. “Currently, peer-reviewed studies have documented 73 different conditions in humans where patient health has been improved through adult stem cell therapy . . . and over 1,400 FDA approved trials are ongoing.”

The paper describes a myriad of therapies, including the regeneration of heart tissue for a man with congestive heart failure; enabling a patient with Type I Diabetes to become insulin-free; and the treatment of a bone-cancer victim, who is now cancer-free. The report also cites adult stem-cell treatments that could treat trauma injuries and help patients with liver cancer. Good news, indeed—and good news that we no longer have to wrestle with the moral question of embryonic stem cell research.

Well, not so fast . . . Both candidates for president still favor it, for they are marching to the drumbeat of those who want no restrictions on science. Michael Kinsley, for example, a columnist who himself suffers from Parkinson’s, said bluntly, “This issue [that is, embryonic stem cell research] will not go away.”

“Scientifically,” Kinsley says, “it makes no sense to abandon any promising avenue just because another has opened up . . . Every year that goes by, science opens new doors.”

BreakPoint 24 Jul 2008

WAR: The reality of Australia's collatoral damage in Iraq

Few in this country have heard of Australian General Jim Molan, despite his direct command responsibility for the brutal Coalition assault on Fallujah and other Sunni cities in Iraq in late 2004. Molan was seconded from the ADF to the US command and was the third highest ranking Coalition officer in Iraq in 2004-2005. He not only planned, but also directed, the late 2004 attacks on Najaf, Fallujah, and Samarra.

Fallujah is particularly notorious for the widespread and well documented allegations of serious atrocities, if not outright war crimes, committed by Coalition troops under Molan's command. Noam Chomsky (in Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy) has described these allegations as “far more severe than the [Abu Ghraib] torture scandals”.
Molan has just released a book, entitled Running the War in Iraq. An edited extract from the book, "Reality of Collateral Damage" appeared in The Australian on July 19.

Chris Doran writes.

Online Opinion 4 Aug 2008

HUMAN RIGHTS: The Olympics, human rights, and holy love

Life magazine said it was one of the most influential images of the 20th century. Two African Americans and one white Australian took to the winner’s dais and, motivated by their shared faith, all wore Olympic Project for Human Rights buttons while the black Americans raised their fists.…The actions of all three men cost them dearly. As documented in Matt Norman’s brilliant new film, Salute, Tommie Smith and John Carlos were kicked out of the athletes' village, suspended and banned from the Olympics. For the Australian Peter Norman, participating in the organised action cost him his athletic career and he was not chosen for the next Olympics despite being one of the fastest men in the world. Jarrod McKenna writes.

BeliefNet 1 Aug 2008

POLITICS & FAITH: Americans don't do atheism

According to a Gallup/USA Today poll last year, Americans would rather vote for a presidential candidate who was Catholic, black, Jewish, female, Hispanic, Mormon, thrice-married, 72 years old, or homosexual than they would one who was an atheist. Small wonder then that both John McCain and Barack Obama have been keen to parade their Christian credentials, writes Nick Spencer.

Telegraph 23 Jul 2008

ANIMAL WELFARE: The great vegan honey debate

There's never been a better time to be a half-assed vegetarian. Five years ago, the American Dialect Society honored the word flexitarian for its utility in describing a growing demographic--the "vegetarian who occasionally eats meat." Now there's evidence that going flexi is good for the environment and good for your health. A study released last October found that a plant-based diet, augmented with a small amount of dairy and meat, maximizes land-use efficiency. In January, Michael Pollan distilled the entire field of nutritional science into three rules for a healthy diet: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." According to a poll released last week, Americans seem to be listening: Thirteen percent of U.S. adults are "semivegetarian," meaning they eat meat with fewer than half of all their meals. In comparison, true vegetarians--those who never, ever consume animal flesh--compose just 1 percent.

The flexitarian ethic is beginning to creep into the most ardent sector of the meat-free population: the vegans. In recent years, some in the community have begun to loosen up the strict definitions and bright-line rules that once defined the movement. You'll never find a self-respecting vegan downing a glass of milk or munching on a slice of buttered toast. But the modern adherent may be a little more accommodating when it comes to the dairy of the insect world: He may have relaxed his principles enough to enjoy a spoonful of honey.

Slate 1 Aug 2008

Jul 31, 2008

CREATIONISM: The creation of creationism (review)

The Rt Revd Lord John Habgood reviews a "definitive study" of Creationist attempts to reconcile geology and Genesis. "It is a remarkable story of passionate believers with, at the start, few scientific qualifications, barnstorming their way into popular consciousness, on the basis of ideas which were at best perversely ingenious, and frequently based on very dubious evidence," writes John Habgood.

Times Online 23 Jul 2008

ECUMENISM: Pope Benedict XVI addresses leaders of other churches in Sydney

On Friday, 18 July, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI addressed an ecumenical gathering during a service in the Crypt of St Mary's Cathedral, Sydney. The Covenant signed by the member Churches of the National Council of Churches in Australia was specifically recognised by His Holiness as an example of the common commitment of Australians to "cordial and frank discussion."

For the full address check out the following link:http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/speeches/2008/july/documents/hf_ben-xvi_spe_20080718_ecumenism_en.html

ESCHATOLOGY: Left behind or left in cyberspace?

As a teenager, when a friend first told me about the rapture, in which Christians will be miraculously transported to heaven while sinners remain on earth to suffer a variety of tribulations, I was quite sure that, sinner that I was, I was destined to be the one member of my family and friends who would surely be "left behind." My psychology teacher later assured me that considering oneself the "chief of sinners," as the apostle Paul did, was a normal response, since we each know our own peccadilloes far more intimately than we know those of others.

Apparently, however, not everyone shares this proclivity. For forty dollars a year, those who are relatively assured of their own salvation can now leave a final e-mail to less fortunate loved ones who might be left behind during the rapture. A new web site, Youvebeenleftbehind.com, allows users to compose a final message that will be sent to up to sixty-two recipients, six days after the rapture occurs. These messages might be used to pass on information, such as bank account numbers and passwords, but the site stresses the opportunity to leave a letter begging those who remain to accept Christ, a last chance with one's loved ones to "snatch them from the flames."

This raises a host of questions, both practical and religious.

Sightings 17 Jul 2008

CLIMATE CHANGE: Penny Wong releases climate change green paper

The Federal Government today released its green paper on climate change. Addressing the National Press Club, the Minister for Climate Change and Water, Senator Penny Wong, said the Green Paper “sets out options and identifies the Government’s disposition and preferred positions on emissions trading and the support proposed to help households and businesses adjust to this.

AustralianPolitics.com 17 Jul 2008 [mp3]

SECULARISM: Religion and reason can coexist

Religion and reason co-exist, according to Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. Addressing the opening ceremonies for World Youth Day, in Sydney, he welcomed Catholics from around the world.

AustralianPolitics.com 15 Jul 2008

POLITICS & FAITH - U.S.: Believer in Chief

During the last five years numerous books and articles have analyzed the faith of American presidents, focusing on one or several chief executives or considering the broad sweep of the presidency. Randall Balmer's God in the White House: How Faith Shaped the Presidency from John F. Kennedy to George W. Bush is a welcome addition to this literature. Balmer, a professor of American religious history at Barnard College, Columbia University and a leading scholar of American evangelicalism, traces how Americans moved from disregarding religion as a principal consideration for voting in 1960 to expecting candidates to reveal their religious convictions and explain their relationship to God by 2004. He analyzes and deplores both the "politicalization of religion" and the "'religionization' of politics" during these years.

CT Books & Culture Jul/Aug 2008

BIOETHICS - STEM CELLS: Storms over stem cells

Richard P. Novick tackles the biological, political and ethical implications of stem-cell research: "if the soul is immortal, whether the conceptus is flushed down the toilet or used for the production of stem cells, would it not go on to eternal salvation? So what's the problem?"

Times Online 2 Jul 2008

EVANGELICALISM: Global evangelicals don't vote like U.S. evangelicals

Landmark studies by Philip Jenkins, David Martin, Lamin Sanneh, Dana Robert, and Andrew Walls have powerfully described the move of Christianity's center of gravity from the Christian West to the Global South. Now comes an extraordinarily valuable book series titled Evangelical Christianity and Democracy in the Global South (5 stars), which includes volumes on Latin America (Paul Freston, ed.), Africa (Terence O. Ranger, ed.), and Asia (forthcoming, David Halloran Lumsdaine, ed.). The series heralds a new day for understanding the contemporary realities of world Christianity. With funding from the Pew Charitable Trusts, and under the leadership of Timothy Samuel Shah, scholarly teams were commissioned to produce studies that examine the diverse ways the world's newer evangelical communities relate to currents of political democracy.

The teams provide diligently researched case studies explaining what life on the ground has really been like in this era of rapid evangelical expansion. There are five for Latin America (Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Peru, and Brazil) and six for Africa (Nigeria, Kenya, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and South Africa).

With an impressive display of careful research, the books' chapters explore a series of complex yet very important questions: Have the evangelical movements of the majority world contributed to the strengthening of democratic institutions and practices? Has American influence made evangelicals elsewhere in the world dupes for regimes propped up by American military aid or multinational business interests? Does it make a difference whether evangelicals are Anglicans (say, in Kenya or Nigeria), Pentecostals (in much of Latin America), or neo-Pentecostals with an emphasis on health and wealth (in many African and Latin American regions)?

Christianity Today 1 Jul 2008

CLIMATE CHANGE: The green inquisition

We're being force-fed vastly over-hyped scare stories which block out sensible solutions to climate change, writes Björn Lomborg. It is hard to keep up the climate panic as reality diverges from the alarmist predictions more than ever before: the global temperature has not risen over the past 10 years, it has declined precipitously in the last year and a half, and studies show that it might not rise again before the middle of the next decade. With a global recession looming and high oil and food prices undermining the living standards of the western middle class, it is becoming ever harder to sell the high-cost, inefficient Kyoto-style solution of drastic carbon cuts. A much sounder approach than Kyoto and its successor would be to invest more in research and development of zero-carbon energy technologies Рa cheaper, more effective way to truly solve the climate problem.

Guardian 14 Jul 2008

Jul 10, 2008

HOMOSEXUAL RIGHTS: How same-sex marriage will harm the church

It is all about equal rights, the gay “marriage” lobby keeps telling us. We just want the right to marry, like everyone else. That is what they are telling us. But that is not what they mean. If same-sex “marriage” becomes the law of the land, we can expect massive persecution of the Church.

As my friend Jennifer Roback Morse notes in the National Catholic Register, “Legalizing same-sex ‘marriage’ is not a stand-alone policy . . . Once governments assert that same-sex unions are the equivalent of marriage, those governments must defend and enforce a whole host of other social changes.”

The bad news is these changes affect other liberties we take for granted, such as religious freedom and private property rights. Several recent cases give us a sobering picture of what we can expect if we do not actively embrace—and even promote—same-sex “marriage.”

BreakPoint 1 Jul 2008

MARRIAGE: What McCain could have said

It was one of the more awkward moments in the presidential campaign. Senator John McCain was appearing on the Ellen DeGeneres Show, and she was asking why McCain did not support same-sex “marriage.” A well-prepared DeGeneres made the usual arguments about inclusiveness, and compared those who reject same-sex “marriage” to those who once refused to allow women or blacks to vote. It was all about fairness, she said.

McCain’s response? “I just believe in the status of a marriage between a man and a woman . . . We just have a disagreement.” Maybe, given the sensitivity of the situation, that was the best answer Senator McCain could come up with. But suppose the senator and Ms. DeGeneres could talk backstage, away from the glare of TV lights. What could he say to seize the moral high ground? To start, he could discuss the true meaning and purpose of marriage.

In his book, The Clash of Orthodoxies, Princeton professor Robert George writes that matrimonial law reflects a moral judgment. That judgment is that marriage is inherently heterosexual, monogamous, and permanent—a union of one man and one woman. This judgment is based on both the biblical and natural law understandings—that marriage is a two-in-one flesh communion of persons. This communion is consummated and actualized sexually. That is, marriage is made real by acts that are reproductive, whether or not these acts result in children.


BreakPoint 30 Jun 2008

POLITICS & FAITH - US: Evangelicals need to be centred on faith, not politics

In May, a steering committee of nine prominent evangelical leaders and about 80 charter signatories issued an Evangelical Manifesto. In an era when most Americans think of evangelicals mainly as a voting bloc, these leaders tried to refocus the meaning of evangelical identity.

This manifesto had three aims:

  • To tell the world and remind evangelical insiders that our identity is centered not in political activism (however positive that activism may be) but in our faith in Jesus and in his radical call to discipleship.
  • To tell ourselves that we in many ways fail to live up to our calling in Christ, and that we need to reform our lives and our churches. Without such reform, we can hardly be surprised at the negative stereotypes that abound about North American evangelicals.
  • To rethink our place in the public square and to stop exacerbating the political and cultural polarization of U.S. society.

When public perceptions of evangelicalism are created by the harshest and most strident voices, it is important to create an evangelical culture of civility. The document stirred a lot of discussion and criticism. Much of the discussion missed the document's main thrust.

Christianity Today 26 Jun 2008

WOMEN - MINISTRY: Wounds of a friend

Wounds of a Friend: An unexpected exchange on the women's leadership debate.

Complementarians need to recover a fully biblical view of women—and of handling theological disagreement. By John Koessler

Egalitarians should rely more on careful exegesis and less on political ideologies. By Sarah Sumner

Christianity Today 25 Jun 2008

POLITICS & FAITH - US: Dobson says Obama distorting the Bible

A leading conservative evangelical on Tuesday said Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama had distorted the Bible and espouses a "fruitcake" approach to the US Constitution.
The comments by broadcaster James Dobson are among the sharpest religious attacks to date on the Illinois senator, who will face Republican John McCain in the November election.

Christianity Today 25 Jun 2008

CULTURE & FAITH: The Better Hour

For almost 2,000 years, Christians have been the primary shapers of Western culture. In the sixth-eighth centuries, it was the Irish monks who copied the Scriptures—and other manuscripts of the Western world—and preserved them, and Western learning along with them. It was Christians who founded the great medieval universities at Bologna, Paris, Oxford, and Cambridge, where students and faculty explored the wonders of creation. In the 16th century, John Calvin introduced universal education in Geneva. The great scientists—Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, Kepler—all were believers. And there is no denying the influence of Christianity on America.

BreakPoint 24 Jun 2008

BIOETHICS - STEM CELLS & CLONING: Public Opinion and the Embryo Debates

Our political debates about stem cell research in recent years have stood in a peculiar relation to public opinion. Rather than seek to marshal public sentiment, or even quite build public support, all sides have wanted to claim a preexisting bedrock of widely shared attitudes backing their favored policy outcome. “By the latest poll,” Senator Dianne Feinstein (D.-Cal.) told her colleagues on the Senate floor in 2006, “72 percent of Americans support stem cell research.”

Her colleague Senator Sam Brownback (R.-Kans.), meanwhile, argued in the same debate that a large majority of Americans oppose all human cloning. The Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research argues that seven in ten Americans want to eliminate restrictions on public funding of embryonic stem cell research, while the Conference of Catholic Bishops points to a poll showing six in ten oppose such funding altogether.

In all of these scenarios, the American public is taken to be moved by clear and strong opinions on the vexed questions of stem cell research, human cloning, and related practices just past the horizon. But attempts to actually study these views, and to pin down the meaning of the large majorities cited by the various parties to the political arguments, have been vanishingly rare.

New Atlantis, Spring 2008

TIBET: Why care about Tibet?

The absolutism of China's stance has stifled debate; but Tibetan culture produces its own leadership, writes George FitzHerbert, surveying several new books about the Tibetan question. FitzHerbert considers the role of foreign writers in creating our most controversial Shangri-La, and sends a warning note to China: "The Chinese would do well to recognize that in Tibet they do not bestow power, they can only acknowledge it".

Times Literary Supplement 18 Jul 2008

Jul 8, 2008

CLIMATE CHANGE: Act now or face disaster, Garnaut report warns

PETROL should be included in Australia's carbon emissions trading scheme, but low-income households should be compensated for higher power and fuel bills, the nation's top climate change expert has warned. Issuing a stern challenge to the Rudd Government to include petrol in the scheme, when it begins in 2010, Ross Garnaut warned of dire consequences for Australia's natural icons unless urgent and decisive action is taken.

Age 5 Jul 2008

CLIMATE CHANGE: Australia's harsh reality: adapt or perish

AUSTRALIANS must pay more for petrol, food and energy or ultimately face a rising death toll, economic loss and the eventual destruction of the Great Barrier Reef, the snowfields, Kakadu and the nation's food bowl, the Murray-Darling Basin. That is the stark ultimatum presented yesterday by Professor Ross Garnaut in the first comprehensive assessment of the impact on the country of climate change.

Arguing that Australia must introduce an emissions trading scheme in 2010 to discourage the use of polluting forms of energy, Professor Garnaut said the more forms of energy encompassed by the scheme, the lower the price rises would be. This included petrol and other transport fuels.

SMH 5 Jul 2008

DEATH & DYING: Alan Jones confronts cancer

Yesterday, Alan Jones called a press conference to announce that, like many men of his age (he's supposedly around 65), he had prostate cancer. He will temporarily quit 2GB to undergo surgery at St Vincent's Hospital on July 18. "I won't be away for all that long but it will be weeks, it won't be months," he said. "You lie around and you wither."

Jones pointed out that millions of people were worse off than himself but the main thing was to remain positive. "As I said to someone the other day, we don't do dying around here, we just try and make the most of living," he said. SMH 4 Jul 2008

HOMOSEXUALITY & FAITH: US Anglicans look to the world

Some Western Christians have lost the plot and need a steadying hand. There is a saying in financial circles that when Wall Street sneezes, Australia catches a cold. Such is the global dominance of North America that whatever happens within its shores reaches ours eventually. This is true as much of cultural and ideological matters as it is of finance. What's more, much of this influence is imperceptible until you look back and see how far the ground has shifted, writes Peter Jensen.

Age 4 Jul 2008

ABORIGINAL & INDIGENOUS AFFAIRS: Aboriginal suicide rates 'at crisis point'

SKYROCKETING suicide rates among Aborigines in Western Australia have prompted a call for the closure of some remote indigenous towns. Sixteen Aborigines have committed suicide in the Kimberley since February, along with five Aboriginal men in the town of Narrogin, the Kimberley Aboriginal Legal and Cultural Centre said.

In a final submission to an inquest into five Aboriginal deaths in the town of Oombulgurri, KALACC said suicide rates among young Aborigines had reached a crisis point and the viability of towns must be considered. Of the dead, one 15-year-old boy was found hanging outside a house, and a 15-year-old girl, who was in a relationship with a 22-year-old man, also hanged herself.

Age 4 Jul 2008

GAMBLING: Problem gambling put back under spotlight

PROBLEM gambling will once again come under the Productivity Commission's microscope with the economic think tank to update its landmark 1999 study that found 2.1% of Australian adults were addicted to the pokies. A communique after yesterday's Council of Australian Governments meeting in Sydney said that almost a decade after its first study, the commission would do new work to quantify the extent of problem gambling. State governments collect billions from gaming revenue.

Age 4 Jul 2008

INTERNET: Social networking with a foetal attraction

Social networkers have found a new frontier for the ever-blurring line between inner and outer worlds: ultrasound photographs. Browse through MySpace profiles or the blogosphere and you can find an expansive collection of in utero snapshots at various stages of the foetus's growth, from grainy, barely readable pictures to the much more vibrant 3D and 4D pictures that show depth and movement.

Many mums-to-be say posting ultrasound photos is an easy way to announce an exciting piece of information to lots of people all at once. But some warn that sharing foetal pictures could be oversharing - like posting drunken makeout photos and fret about what happens if the pregnancy goes wrong.

SMH 3 Jul 2008

ANGLICAN CHURCH: British hear Jensen's rebellious voice

THE Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, Peter Jensen, has emerged as the latest Australian to be found in the thick of British politics - only what is at stake this time is the future of the church rather than that of state. The outspoken archbishop denies he is leading a movement designed to split the church over issues of homosexuality and the ordination of women ministers.

SMH 3 Jul 2008

SEXUALLY TRANSMITTED INFECTIONS: Sexual infections rise among Gen Y

In the past decade, the number of sexual infections in Australia has skyrocketed, with doctors calling it a "mini-epidemic". Nearly every type of infection has increased in prevalence, with the most common, chlamydia, going up by 300 per cent in the past nine years. Last year alone, there were 51,00 new cases notified to health authorities. The people most affected by the dramatic rise are Generation Y, those in their late teens and 20s. Doctors estimate that one in ten people in this age group have a a sexual infection.

SMH 3 Jul 2008

BIOETHICS - ORGAN TRANSPLANTATION: PM donates $136m to lift organ transplants

TEAMS of specialist staff in hospital intensive-care units and emergency departments will be the main focus of a push to increase Australia's flagging organ donation rate, which is one of the worst in the world.

More organ-transplant doctors, counsellors and organ-donation co-ordinators will be employed in public and private hospitals to work with dying patients and their families as part of a $136 million package of reforms announced yesterday by the Prime Minister. Until now, funding for organ-donation programs has focused on education campaigns, but they have failed to boost the number of people willing to become donors.

SMH 3 Jul 2008

ALTRUISM: Doing nothing is not an option

Humans are more than flesh and bone. A helping hand can lift a spirit. Not only does it take a village to raise a child, I've come to the conclusion that it also takes a village to raise an adult. We never stop growing up. We're never finished. We're all works in progress just trying to do our best and not always succeeding. We're human. And that's what humans do. Stuff up. And try again. Catherine Deveny writes.

Age 2 Jul 2008

CLIMATE CHANGE: Climate strategy 'already obsolete'

TWO days before Ross Garnaut releases his draft report on climate change, a leading Australian researcher says it will almost certainly be obsolete.

Andrew Macintosh, from the ANU's Centre for Climate Law and Policy, told The Age the two climate change scenarios being modelled by the Garnaut Review and the federal Treasury have been rendered out of date by advances in climate science.

Professor Garnaut and the Government are developing two scenarios: one that would limit carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to 450 parts per million; and one that would limit it to 550 parts per million. Mr Macintosh said much greater emission cuts than previously thought would be needed to achieve this. He said 450ppm was "nigh on impossible", meaning there was little chance of restricting global warming to less than 2 degrees.

Age 2 Jul 2008

RACISM: Prejudice against gypsies acceptable, say Italian judges

ITALY'S highest appeal court has ruled that it is acceptable to discriminate against gypsies on the grounds that they are thieves. The judgment comes amid a nationwide clampdown on gypsies, also known as Roma, by the Government of Silvio Berlusconi. Last week the Interior Minister, Roberto Maroni, announced plans to fingerprint all of Italy's Roma, including children.

SMH 2 Jul 2008

ISLAM - AUSTRALIA: Law and the wives of others

HOW does a modern, plural democratic society deal with the desire of some minority groups to observe cultural norms at odds with the law of the land?It is a question that has been asked with increasing force in recent years. The debate in Australia about polygamous marriages for Muslims is simply the latest in a series of conflicts over how to manage diversity in a modern democracy.

Traditionally, anti-racist campaigners have insisted that the law should be blind to a citizen's skin colour, culture or faith. Racism worked precisely by treating different groups differently, most grotesquely through apartheid or the Jim Crow laws in the US. Anti-racism was therefore about challenging such differential treatment.

Increasingly, though, this idea of equal treatment has itself come to be seen as racist. Rather than demanding that people be treated the same despite their differences, multiculturalists demand that people be treated differently because of them, hence different laws for different groups, writes Kenan Malik.

Aust 28 Jun 2008

SEXUALISATION: Sexualisation and children: it's time people acted their age

THE Senate committee that inquired into the sexualisation of children in the media is right to hesitate before calling for tighter regulation of the way young children, particularly girls, are presented. The committee has made recommendations: a longitudinal study of the effect of the process on children, the rating of suggestive music videos and magazines, the vetting of advertising. Sex education aimed at helping children understand the complex messages with which they are bombarded is another worthwhile idea. The measures are sensible as far as they go, but their scope is modest. As the committee says, preventing the premature sexualisation of children is a significant cultural challenge. Parent activists are not impressed.

SMH 28 Jun 2008

ECOLOGY & ENVIRONMENT: The day the tide turned

Twenty-five years after the Franklin River dam campaign changed Australian politics, Matthew Moore paddles down a river of memories.

Hobart's swanky Hotel Grand Chancellor is an unlikely venue for what may be the largest gathering of former prison inmates Australia has seen. They're coming from all over the country, and even from as far as Britain, participants and supporters of the Franklin River blockade that led to 1272 people being arrested and hundreds jailed, that saved the river, tore Tasmania in two and has made preservation of Australia's environment a mainstream political issue ever since.

SMH 28 Jun 2008

CATHOLIC CHURCH: Celibate equals sexless equals an unholy mess

The change-oriented Catholics who crowded into Geoffrey Robinson's talks applauded him for his bluntness. Months ago, Robinson had told an audience in Australia, "John Paul II could have stopped this scandal, and he did nothing." For this he was accused of heresy by a ranking cardinal in Rome and told to scrap his US tour. He came anyway, with a speech in his pocket that blamed the last Pope for contributing to the sex scandal that has shaken the church as seismically as Luther shook it more than 500 years ago.

Robinson told his audiences he had great admiration for much of what John Paul II did during his 26-year papacy. "But before they make him a saint, they ought to ask what he did to correct this scandal." He didn't know why the Pope was so silent about the scandal or why he failed to even ask questions about its cause and its cure. He explained, "It's very difficult - even for a Pope - to change the culture."

SMH 1 Jul 2008

GENOCIDE: Appeal will test genocide court

PHNOM PENH: The former Khmer Rouge foreign minister appeared before the United Nations-backed Cambodian genocide court yesterday to appeal against his detention, in a case that poses the first big test for the tribunal. Ieng Sary, 82, is one of five top regime cadres detained for crimes allegedly committed during the Khmer Rouge's 1975 to 1979 rule over Cambodia.

SMH 1 Jul 2008

GAMBLING: No proper checks on chronic gambler: court

A SUSPENDED lawyer who placed bets of more than $14 million in five years was a "chronic" gambler who should never have been given access to a credit betting facility, a court has heard.

SMH 1 Jul 2008

ABUSE - CHILD: Child abuse is a blight on us all

OVER many months we have witnessed the surfacing of truly saddening and horrifying stories of child abuse, neglect and death. As The Age editorial (26/6) pointed out, these are only the tip
of the iceberg. We have been forced to acknowledge that this is a problem with no boundaries. It is happening in all sorts of suburbs — comfortable and poor, remote and urban, non-indigenous and indigenous. It is happening in single-parent families and in families with two parents. It could be happening in our community, on our street, right next door. Rob Moodie writes.

Age 30 Jun 2008

HUMAN RIGHTS & FAITH: Religious condemnation of homosexuals denies human rights

Most of the world's great religions are founded, ultimately, on simple principles of loving God and one another. It is from those principles that religious tolerance derives, writes Michael Kirby.

The Nobel laureate and religious leader Desmond Tutu recently wrote a foreword to the life story of Bishop Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop in the Anglican Church. Tutu declared his acceptance of the authority of Scripture as the word of God. But he has not forgotten that the Bible had been used to justify racism, slavery and the humiliation of women. He declared: "I could not stand by whilst people were being penalised again for something about which they could do nothing — their sexual orientation."

The big challenge before us is to telescope centuries of experience, law, culture and tolerance in the West into a few decades in the rest of the world. Unless we do so, the mixture of religious intolerance and weapons of mass destruction will be a great threat to the world and everyone in it.

Age 30 Jun 2008

CHILDREN: Rudd calls for national child protection system

PRIME Minister Kevin Rudd has called for a national child protection system following disturbing cases of abuse and neglect. Police in Queensland, South Australia and the ACT are investigating separate cases of children allegedly being left without food and in squalid conditions. In Brisbane, the emaciated bodies of 18-month-old twins were found in a cot.

Age 30 Jun 2008

EUTHANASIA: I wanted to end Mum's misery: Spicer

THE newsreader Tracey Spicer has revealed that she came within moments of suffocating her mother, an admission likely to further ignite the debate over whether euthanasia should be made legal.

SMH 30 Jun 2008

Jun 26, 2008

CLIMATE CHANGE: Blueprint for sustainability plan

MEETING the challenge of climate change will demand a COAG-led national sustainability policy similar to the national competition reform process of the 1990s, according to a team of Victorian academics. The sustainability challenge will shape every aspect of our lives from food security to trade to medicine, they argue, with no single policy able to respond.

Aust 26 Jun 2008

ZIMBABWE: Tutu hits out at Mugabe as UN pressure builds

ONE of Africa's most revered leaders, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, has compared Robert Mugabe to a Frankenstein monster and urged the world community to send peacekeeping forces into Zimbabwe to head off a Rwanda-style genocide.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has also move to step up pressure on Mr Mugabe, signalling last night that Australia would formally push the United Nations Security Council to take tougher action against the regime.

Age 25 Jun 2008

HEALTH: Australia now second in life expectancy stakes

AUSTRALIANS are now the second-longest-living people on earth with falling death rates for cancer, heart disease, stroke and injury, but the indigenous population continues to die earlier.

The latest comparative study of the nation's overall health by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) - the government body responsible for compiling health statistics - shows that a baby born in Australia today can expect to live for 81.4 years, with men expected to live for 79 years and women for almost 84. Australians' life expectancy is bettered only by the Japanese at 82.2 years.

But according to the Australia's Health 2008 report, indigenous people continue to trail in life expectancy and mortality rates.

Age 25 Jun 2008

WORKPLACE RELATIONS: Gillard insists work laws swing to the centre

THE union movement should not expect the Government to go further than "bringing the industrial relations pendulum back to the dead centre", Workplace Relations Minister Julia Gillard warned yesterday in a clear signal the Federal Government would not be bullied over its industrial relations changes.

Age 25 Jun 2008

ZIMBABWE: UN council condemns Mugabe

ZIMBABWE'S opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, was assessing his safety in Harare yesterday while declaring the President, Robert Mugabe, had to heed a United Nations Security Council resolution calling for an end to the violence engulfing his country.

As international pressure mounted on Mr Mugabe, Senegal's President, Abdoulaye Wade, and the South African ruling party leader, Jacob Zuma, called for Friday's presidential run-off to be postponed. Mr Zuma, the leader of the African National Congress, called for regional and UN intervention.

SMH 25 Jun 2008