Controversy... me never

I have a few rants today.

Firstly it annoys me that the Sola Panel and the Briefing constantly knock things like Fair Trade Coffee. Second it annoys me that many Christians constantly knock against something as obvious as Climate Change. Thirdly it also annoys me that people are up in arms about nude child photos. I also wasn't offend by the nude picture of the girl. I saw the photo and I saw an artistic picture.

I think often Christians already come across as bunch of right wing George Bush loving, Today Tonight watching latte sippers. You can be a Christian, believe in climate change, appreciate art, drink fairtrade coffee and vote left wing too.



ckjolly said... 7/08/2008 1:43 pm  

ooo ... WATCH OUT!

Swil said... 7/08/2008 2:18 pm  

Well said Mike. If you're right wing, fine, just don't perpetuate that terrible myth that Christianity equates to right wing beliefs. It's absolute rubbish.

For people still not sure about the climate change thing, I stumbled across the following two links recently that have a lot of the facts of the matter in one place. One is NASA's climate change hub, the other is a New Scientist feature addressing a lot of the common myths regarding climate change.

I'm not wanting to get into a debate about it here with anyone who doesn't buy climate change, just provide some clarification.

Back to Mike's rant, I'm sure I'm not the only one who constantly finds the left wing better represents the Jesus I find in the gospels than the right wing ever does. I think for me it comes down to grace - and as part of that, the people he spent his energy helping compared to those he didn't bother with.

John Dekker said... 7/08/2008 3:53 pm  

I thought it was the lefties who drank lattes...?

Seriously, though, I don't really see a connection between climate change, art appreciation and fair trade coffee. They may or may not go together in people's minds, but there's certainly no necessary connection between them. And how any of those issues can be called "right wing" or "left wing" is beyond me.

Swil said... 7/08/2008 5:03 pm  

'right wing' and 'left wing' are really just clumps of ideas, you can't really talk about a 'connection' to a certain idea. It is, however, pretty clear that when it comes to a lot of the issues Mike's talking about that the right favours one opinion and the left favours the other.

Radagast said... 7/08/2008 6:44 pm  

Ok, I'll bite...

I think it's a Christian's duty to think hard about social problems, and to be a voice for truth and justice.

I think child abuse is currently one of society's most serious problems -- because children are society's most vulnerable members. I think the sale of images of naked children contributes to the problem of child abuse (and may itself *be* child abuse), and I agree with the politicians (both "left" and "right") who are concerned by such sales. If anyone I knew planned to make money by selling naked pictures of their children, I would be extremely worried.

I think unfair terms of trade do serious harm to our brothers and sisters in the Third World and I'd like to do something about it. I don't think offering coffee farmers $1.62/kg (which I believe is last Thursday's "Fairtrade" price for Arabica) is particularly generous (the reason "Fairtrade" tastes so bad is that all the good coffee is sold at higher prices). I think that Christian love involves **listening** to people, and I note that coffee-producing countries themselves don't see "Fairtrade" coffee as the answer.

I don't think "Climate Change" is at all obvious. Then again, I don't have much expertise in atmospheric physics or economics. I'm still trying to work out which (out of the many possible actions we can take) is the most cost-effective in reducing harm to the planet, and I think Christian stewardship requires answering that question. My intuition is that phasing out cars would be high on the list, and so I don't think that "Climate Change" advocates who drive a car are entirely serious about what they're saying.

I think that as Christians our philosophy should not be uncritically borrowed from the media (whether from the "left" or the "right") but should be drawn out of the Bible, out of cold hard facts, and out of some serious thinking about the issues. Any Christian (particularly a pastor, academic, or politician) who sounds too much like the non-Christian voices out there (whether "left" or "right") is probably falling down on the job -- either through laziness or through "selling out". Indeed, if either the label "left" or "right" fits us too well, there may be a problem!

To put it another way: "Side? I am on nobody's side. Because nobody is on my side, little orc. Nobody cares for the truth anymore..."

The Borg said... 7/08/2008 6:46 pm  

I'm all for Fair Trade Coffee (but Rainforest alliance is even better), I'm agnostic about climate change* and I think nude child "art" is a delicate and problematic area**.

So where does that put me??

*Should be spelled in lower case, it's not a proper noun.

**It's easy to justify something that is at best morally ambiguous, because you've labeled it art.

Radagast said... 7/08/2008 7:25 pm  

Well Shy, I guess you just passed my little test: neither the label "left" or right" fits very well, and you've obviously thought about the issues.

I'd like to hear more about your assessment of the Rainforest Alliance, though.

And I tend to agree on "art". "Triumph of the Will" is a brilliant piece of film-making, for example, but more than a little morally ambiguous. I would never ban a book, but I certainly think there's a point at which photographs should be banned. But where is that point?

Mike Brady said... 7/08/2008 11:10 pm  

Fair Trade coffee is fine and well worth supporting, but there are systematic problems with coffee farming that need a broader vision. Climate change comes into it to.

The new International Coffee Agreement is being ratified at the moment. But it doesn't look like it will do much at this stage to improve the lot of farmers, as it does not look at addressing over supply - which is encouraged by the coffee roasters to keep prices down. Instead it says: "Members shall give due consideration to the sustainable management of coffee resources and processing..." How far will that get us? See more details and suggestions for how to solve the coffee crisis at:

aus_chick said... 7/08/2008 11:34 pm  

does this whole child photography debate extend to Anne Geddes? I haven't seen the pics from the controversial art show and magazine, but my thinking is that people are overreacting.

As for who Christians should vote for in an election, I get a bit frustrated with a couple of my friends over here who argue that Republicans are more "Christian" over Democrats. Their argument usually falls back to be guns v abortion. Christians should not feel that they should be tied to one specific party, just because the conservatives tell them they should be. [end rant]

Mikey Lynch said... 7/09/2008 9:51 am  

i am impressed and surprised that the comments have become increasingly thoughtful rather than increasingly reactionary... poor mike thought he was starting a flame war!

Mikey Lynch said... 7/09/2008 9:54 am  

... BUT I do feel that on a image-branding sort of style level the Briefing crew seem to have positioned themselves in a conservative and reactionary way.

i think blogging sceptically about fair trade and climate change in the first few months of a new blog is a bad move, unless you are deliberately putting yourself in a box.

i also think the fact that people can be as irrational about their political beliefs as they can about their religious beliefs can be pretty lame point to make.

ckjolly said... 7/09/2008 10:50 am  

A church I was a partner of in the States determined whether or not they were reaching the whole community by whether or not the number of democrats and republicans represented in the church matched the percentage in the community. I learned so much from other Christians who held differing political opinions to myself.

One Salient Oversight said... 7/09/2008 11:42 am  

I am not an expert in climate science. Nor am I an expert in medicine. However if a doctor recommends a course of treatment I listen to him. If a Climate scientist says something important then I listen to him.

If you don't like what you hear, it's always good to get a second opinion. If you quiz climate scientists about global warming, you'll notice that about 99 out of 100 have the same opinion.

If you want to read stuff written by climate scientists about the current debate, go here. The guys who write this stuff are all PhDs and professors with years of experience behind them. It can be a little hard to understand sometimes (it can get technical) but they always work hard at simplifying stuff for non-scientists.

And, lastly, I don't take medical advice from mathematicians or statisticians or engineers. What I mean by that is that I'll listen to their suggestions but, in the end, it is the doctor's opinion that counts. In the same way, when it comes to climate science, don't always take advice from mathematicians or statisticians or engineers - listen to them, but consult with the experts always.

onlinesoph said... 7/09/2008 1:56 pm  

Wow, go Mike! You have the guts to say what I've been thinking for AGES but have been too timid to say:)

fional said... 7/09/2008 2:21 pm  

And back to the art. I *finally* had a look at the photos, and I guess my first reaction is to be glad that they are worthy of controversy. I don't think that it has been a case of Christians (or anyone else for that matter) being over-conservative or reactionary.

They're ambiguous photos that will come across differently to different people. I think their very ambiguity means that it has been appropriate to have a public debate - especially given that at this time in our country we are wanting to steer clear of any potential/actual child abuse.

I think the public resolution of this debate has been the appropriate one - while ambiguous, the photos are not clearly sexualised, and thus will not be banned. That leaves each person to soberly judge whether it is suitable for them to see the photos. Some people can appreciate them innocently, others cannot.

Angus said... 7/09/2008 5:23 pm  

Just because there is clearly too much love up in here... ;)

I flicked through the Climate Change Myths that Shaun linked to, and it's very compelling. However it didn't address the one question I've been keen to understand.

"Why should we kill our economy, just to somewhat reduce emissions, when China, Russia, and India won't?"

I'm still looking for a common sense answer that isn't some variation on "As civilised white people, we're meant to set an example to the barbarians."

Honestly - looking for a compelling answer on this one. Any help?

Swil said... 7/09/2008 6:05 pm  

I'm still looking for a common sense answer that isn't some variation on "As civilised white people, we're meant to set an example to the barbarians."

So unless everyone does something about climate change no one should do anything?

Angus said... 7/09/2008 7:03 pm  

So unless everyone does something about climate change no one should do anything?

Look at it this way - would the Empire have been defeated if maybe one or two of the smaller Ewoks got together and started throwing rocks at storm troopers? I think not. It took all the Ewoks, including their biggest and strongest, to win the battle. If the Ewoks had tried, one at a time, to defeat a stormtrooper legion, they would have all been slowly killed. Instead, they worked together and did the job.

The problem, as I see it, is that we don't have a global equivalent of Han Solo or Chewie (or C3PO) to convince the Ewoks that working together is the best idea.

One Salient Oversight said... 7/10/2008 12:39 pm  

Wow. What a compelling argument.

The Ewoks did their part to defeat the empire, but it was really in the hands of the Rebel Alliance.

But let's not forget the fact that millions of Ewoks would have died from the wreckage of the Death Star impacting Endor.

As Neil says "Some metaphors don't bear close resemblance"

Sherrin said... 7/11/2008 4:50 pm  

Is this post meant to be offensive, or is it an accident?

It strikes me that someone looking for financial support might want to be a little more careful about displaying contempt for the views of a whole lot of Christians.

kath said... 7/11/2008 10:35 pm  

yes, it may be risky, but i have a lot of respect for someone that will challenge the prevailing 'christian' view on things.

honesty is cool. go mike.

for what it's worth, i thought the pics were art and have no issue in portraying kids, but it's the wellbeing of child models i'd be most concerned about.

we should do something about climate change for the sake of our own nation, if nothing else. cleaning up our own air can't be a bad thing, and will reduce the effects of the rest of the world's nasties.

oh, and fairtrade coffee is on the right track. not perfect, but the right thinking. i still drink the other stuff though but that's cos i'm just hypocritical.

mq2 said... 7/13/2008 2:19 pm  

This post isn't controversial. But thanks for sharing your popular thoughts.

I haven't seen the photos - so can't comment on them specifically. Perhaps I'd find them to be beautiful.

But I don't think people care whether or not you are offended by them Mike. You are not the issue.

The child(ren) in such a photo are the issue.
As christians we are meant to protect the weak & the vulnerable. ie. children who are not old enough to make decisions with lasting consequences.
(aside: isn't protecting the weak, a left wing thing? - heavens forbid the right wing should be into such a thing!)

So if the aforementioned photographs are even slightly ambiguous, of course you will have christians sitting on either side of the fence.
It seems you are on the side of the fence where you might choose to have your child (congratulations) photographed in a similar fashion. Power to you.

I love the way you 'rant' like a right wing man - just on different issues. :)

The Borg said... 7/13/2008 4:46 pm  

Before we run and jump into bed with secular humanists on issues of "art" we have to put first, as mq2 pointed out, our responsibility as Christians to protect the weak and the powerless (children).

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